Schiit Folkvangr Review - Measures like shit, but sounds GRRREAT

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Jun 30, 2022.

  1. will_f

    will_f Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2019
    Likes Received:
    900
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    USA
    Looks like the FV is mostly gone / sold out

     
  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    12,231
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    I'm surprised the Folkvangr seems to be generating relatively little buzz on SBAF. A limited run, 10-tube headphone amp without output capacitors or output transformers? Not something you see all that often in the marketplace, if ever. It's totally impractical and definitely crazy, but in the best possible ways. This is a really special amp, and it sounds awesome too.

    @schiit Seriously, thank you making this amp happen. I've admittedly been feeling rather discouraged about the hobby and industry lately, so it feels good to recapture some of that almost unbridled excitement and enthusiasm I used to have for the hobby. Seeing "this is a crazy idea, but what if..." projects come to fruition is always exciting for me, and the Folkvangr nicely encapsulates that.

    Google, in its infinite wisdom and graciousness, advertised the product's launch to me, thankfully, since I've been on a hiatus from the community. I wouldn't have realized it launched otherwise, and I'm glad to have been able to get one. I really like the Folkvangr.

    Keep in mind I tend to only use high impedance, dynamic headphones when reading my impressions. I can't speak for much else outside of that. Folkvangr is definitely a good option if you use similar headphones.

    - Easily one of the best amps I've heard, at least for high impedance dynamics. I would not hesitate to put this up there with the Eddie Current tube amps in terms of overall quality and "wow" factor. Not saying it sounds like EC necessarily, just that it's similarly impressive...and EC amps all have varying sound anyway.

    - Give the stock tubes some time before listening too critically. Seriously. Sounds kind of nasty out of the box.

    - Don't be afraid to try different input tubes to tune the sound a bit to your preferences, but don't go wild.

    - Sound has this sort of big, bold, almost aggressive presentation. Somewhat calls to mind my brief time listening to the ZDS.

    - Despite the aggressive/forward presentation, there is decent stage depth and layering. It's like sitting closer to the stage but without things collapsing into a 2D plane. Nonetheless, if you like your stage to be nebulous, this isn't the amp for you.

    - Timbre is very good almost across the whole range. It has this sort of purity or clarity to the sound that reminds me of the Shortest Way 51+, but, you know...bigger and better.

    - Tone is almost spot on. There's plenty of heft to the sound signature, but it's not bassy...it's not warm...it's not mid-centric. I'm going to make up a term called "bold honesty" for the Folkvangr.

    - Minor nitpick in the timbre/tone space is that treble can have a very slight amount of glare at times even after tubes are burned in. You will likely need to spend a small amount of time playing with your source, input tubes, and headphones to get it just right. I am absolutely not saying this is a "situational" amp or one that requires specific tastes or a specific setup.

    - It will definitely emphasize source differences.

    - Great sense of dynamics, drive, and liveliness. It's not quite at the level of the Mjolnir 2, but it's no slouch. It's not an amp that wants you to sit and listen passively.

    - Surprisingly good bass quality. I hear very little in the way of bloom, smearing, bass-to-mid bleeding, or general lack of articulation.

    - The impedance multiplier is...strange. I can't tell if it makes the sound slightly louder on my JAR600. It does seem to make the upper-mids more forward and makes the stage more 2D. I don't really have a reason to use it.

    I'm not really sure what else to say about it. Folkvangr brings a lot of "enthusiasm" to the table. It sounds very big and bold, yet still with correct tone and timbre. It sounds technically proficient in most ways.

    It's like if you took a lot of the main strengths from the ZDS, Valhalla 2, SW51+, and Mjolnir 2 and made them all work in harmony in the Folkvangr. Yes, each of those amps, even the cheap ones, do some specific things a bit better (or different), but the Folkvangr handily pulls off something akin to a "best of" compilation.

    And, yeah, it's just a really fucking cool amp. I love the idea behind it. Thankfully, it sounds great too. Wake the fuck up, SBAF!
     
    • Like Like x 22
    • Epic Epic x 16
    • List
  3. will_f

    will_f Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2019
    Likes Received:
    900
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    USA
    I’m generally skeptical of tube burn in, but the amp did seem to improve quite a bit over the first 30 hours of play.

    It really is a cool (figuratively speaking) amp. I have a serious weakness for steam-punk and the black version definitely has a steam-punk meets ultra- modern vibe.

    Re buzz- I think with uncontrolled inflation and the stock market fall, people just don’t feel like ponying up $2k for an amp. I probably wouldn’t either if I hadn’t already convinced myself in 2021 I was going to buy it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2022
  4. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    12,231
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Truly new, unused tubes I think benefit from some run time, but I don't subscribe to any special numbers or techniques. The amp sounded noticeably better after playing for a few hours.

    You are probably right about economic factors to some degree, yet I saw plenty of buzz over other, more expensive, and arguably less exciting or special products released within the last few months. Then again, a lot can change in a couple months...
     
    • Agreed, ditto, +1 Agreed, ditto, +1 x 4
    • List
  5. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    May 26, 2018
    Likes Received:
    1,754
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Now that the amp seems nearly sold out I'll share my reasons for returning it.

    1. $2k price tag with uncertain cost of upkeep was not justified sonically. It was a high bar, I love my Mjolnir 2 and the things Mjolnir 2 does better are more important to me : air, slam, focus and control. I wasn't willing to go down the tube rolling rabbit hole to see if things improved. The Schiit return window would have closed and I'd have possibly increased the cost of my mistake by buying more tubes.

    2a. FV isn't balanced and I don't do outboard transformers (desk clutter). I want to put Yggdrasil balanced signals directly in.

    2b. What Folkvangr did was not interesting enough to justify changing DACs. Again, high bar, I love my Yggdrasil, both A1 and A2.

    3. Tube nervosa / my own personal issues. Schiit has so far (to my knowledge) chosen to not supply Folkvangr buyers with the option to buy tubes from them. I am aware tubes are widely available all over (for now). However, that Valhalla 2 buyers can buy tubes direct but Folkvangr people that purchased something 5x more are locked out struck me as unfair and there is a little butthurt on my part. I understand the probable business decision but almost all of Folkvangr's 6N6P power tubes have been (to my knowledge) only available out of Russia and future availability is questionable. Schiit being tight with their stocks just made me more nervous. Is tube availability ever actually going to be a problem here? No idea, but this point was relevant to me.

    So anyway, yes, it's a fabulous, fabulous amp, but it wasn't for me.
     
    • Like Like x 15
    • Epic Epic x 4
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2022
  6. Gazny

    Gazny Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    May 11, 2020
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    SoCal
    I wanted to add my limited experience with it. But my long term experience with Valhalla (my beloved, fact it was my first post ever here and I did break the rules because of it).

    it is BIG.
    But the heat rises and chasis is relatively cool. I enjoyed all the headphones I tried with it. And it was really nice. I used to roll my Valhalla 2 a lot. But had given up on that. The FV is a real nice amp and I have no impulse to roll the tubes. And the power and authority is great. Something about more power some times that really grabs the music. I mean this is I love it, it flows with ease and those extra tubes do put in work.

    listening to it I had felt calm. I really loved the Valhalla and the FV is to me a clear step up.

    if you loved Valhalla this is an easy choice. I never thought the crowd favorite could be improved.

    I only wish I had remembered to take a photo :punk:
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2022
  7. Woland

    Woland Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2021
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    a friendly land
    Thanks. I was hoping for a post exactly like this from you! Especially point 1.
     
  8. will_f

    will_f Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2019
    Likes Received:
    900
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    USA
    I think once you have a system you’re really happy with, buying new gear is a little like chasing rainbows. Maybe the journey is worth it, but probably not because of what you find at the end.
     
    • Like Like x 9
    • Agreed, ditto, +1 Agreed, ditto, +1 x 4
    • List
  9. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,476
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Jason told me at the meet half the run has sold already... so people are definitely buying it. There is plenty of buzz on sbaf about it. Head-fi doesn't count (to me).

    I didn't listen to it long enough at the meet to provide any kind of informative "review", but it left a strong impression on me and if I didn't have a Zana Deux I'd be angling to get one.
     
  10. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2019
    Likes Received:
    686
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    About where I am on this. I'd been looking forward to the Folkvangr for a long time. It sounds like it's awesome. But when it finally arrived, well, I've got two tube amps I like a lot already--Starlett, Studio Jr.--and a third just seems unnecessary. Never mind the expense. At a certain level, it seems to be mostly trade-offs and side moves rather than leaps or even increments.

    Though lord knows I wouldn't mind a Stellaris.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2022
  11. joch

    joch Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    the other side of the big ocean
    I'm more with @Hands and got the FV because it's unique. OTL OCL WCF -- you don't see this type of amp at this level. To get to the next level of performance (or craziness), you're probably spending a lot more.

    My nitpick is the size, but it's hard to go smaller with 10 tubes. Otherwise, it's a beautiful piece of equipment--IMO the prettiest creation coming from Schiit.

    I've considered a Woo amp, but their tube upgrades are really not cheap. The FV is asking for only for a pair of matching 6922/6h23p/6n1p/6dj8, and as Purr1n said you don't need to go exotic with those. The ones that Schiit provided are actually pretty good. The only concern is the 6n6p, but these don't need matching, and I believe you can put in some Shuguang 6n6 if Russian sources are limited.
     
    • Agreed, ditto, +1 Agreed, ditto, +1 x 2
    • Like Like x 1
    • List
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    82,491
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Padre Island CC TX
    The Folkvangr was the busiest station at the Texas Audio Show, along with @CEE TEE's table with Magni Piety. It was nice to finally meet you. You are a strapping dude and thought you were a movie star from El Lay!
     
  13. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,855
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Aurora, CO
    Home Page:
    Hell, I'm a tube fool; I'm always drawn to the less common architectures, tubes, etc. I had to have the Folkvangr because it's so damn unique. I was very pleasantly surprised to fine it stunningly musical without giving up technicalities. I'll get around to writing a review soon.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2022
  14. likearake

    likearake Acquaintance

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2015
    Likes Received:
    92
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Location:
    Australia
    A very specific question, but does this make Folkvangr the best big boy amp for the X series Grados? And is it a big step up, or is it just not terrible, compared to a good simple solution like iFi Go Blu or Vali 2+?

    Is there much noise floor? Room to move on the volume knob?
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    82,491
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Padre Island CC TX
    I did not hear any noise or hum with Grados. The later measurements taken with the Telefunken driver toobs showed much less noise, -90db with a 0.775Vrms signal. That's just how it does with tubes, some have more hum than others. Even with the old tubes which the hum was measured at -75db, I didn't hear any.

    I use high gain all the time because it sounds more energetic and doesn't crush the microdynamics. At high-gain, I didn't have an issue with the volume knob, although it was kept more or less just above the area where we could have issues with channel balance. I tend not to worry about 0.5db inaccuracies. It's a tube amp and the driver tubes are likely not to be exactly matched with respect to gain, even those sold in "matched pairs" really aren't.

    Grados X series (with the F-pads) still have those midrange and mid-treble bumps. It's just that they are much toned down. The richness (or specific distortion characteristics) of the Folkvangr helps to take the edge off. The other thing is that Grados are like the Focals, in that they can sound dry, likely something to do with their incisive transient response. This dryness is offset a bit by the this richness coupled with a small amount of tube bloom or wetness. The relatively high impedance output helps to slow things down a bit too.

    That being said, bassier Grados like the SR325X go better with a cleaner brighter tube such as the Genalex Gold Lions. With the stock complement or a Telefunken 7DJ8, I didn't have any issue using the F-cushions with the SR225X, RS2X, HF3. I generally stay away from bright headphones anyway. If anything I prefer a darker sound.
     
    • Like Like x 7
    • Epic Epic x 3
    • List
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2022
  16. Chittagong

    Chittagong Rando

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2017
    Likes Received:
    61
    Trophy Points:
    13
    Location:
    London, UK
    160A86A4-C60E-4D12-A47F-BFF98715D2FE.jpeg

    My Folkvangr arrived in London yesterday (along with the Amex bill). I will get back there in a month. Planning to hook it up to my Yggdrasil and test Hifiman HE1000s and E-Mu Teaks. Also pondering whether I should bring my Sennheiser HD820s with me to London to test with it.
     
  17. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    1,855
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Aurora, CO
    Home Page:
    So look. I'm a tube guy. Someone could strap 20 tubes onto a breadboard amp in some sketchy topography, and I'd have to check it out. Seriously, I have no fewer than 8 tube amps right now (including my Uber7, DG 300b, TU-8900, FV, and an assortment of legacy stuff).

    Schiit. Folkvangr. 10 tubes. 6DJ8 inputs (which I have a nice cache of assorted NOS stuff). Sign me up. Apart from the sheer gratuitous appeal of 8 output tubes, I've done some reading over the years on OTL / OCL amps (there aren't many of them out there, with most of them being pre-amps), and as a builder, have been curious how they would sound. Hell, any of use who have spent stupid money for silver coupling caps have wanted to hear more of the tube(s), and less of the cap(s).

    Anyway, ordered pretty early, and have been listening to FV for some weeks in my chain (HQP, Roon, M1 Mini (USB), Spring3 KTE, Empyrean Elite), alternating between my TU-8900 & FV. How well it'd drive the Elites was an open question, and I'm happy to report that given the Elite's efficiency, it drives them quite well thank you (low impedance, no multiplier). TU-8900 has quite a bit more power, and might just have the very slightest tighter grip on the drivers. Honestly, the (grip) delta is so small that I'd chalk it up to amp differences (tubes, topography, etc.)

    I'n not going to wax on about technicalities too much (I need to get to finishing up my Taboo writeup), so I'm going to dump a bunch of words.

    Fun. Engaging. Dynamic. Tonally accurate. Deeper than wide. Accurate width. First or second row. Layered staging. Fun to roll those input tubes (differences seem more apparent vs. other topographies). Fun (yea, that fun). 10 tubes. Thank you @schiit. It's staying.
     
    • Like Like x 34
    • Epic Epic x 2
    • List
  18. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    4,476
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Wish more reviews were written like this.
     
    • Like Like x 4
    • Agreed, ditto, +1 Agreed, ditto, +1 x 3
    • List
  19. Paul Scandal

    Paul Scandal Rando

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2021
    Likes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Location:
    Florida
    I find FV still on the desktop, taking all the work from other, extremely capable (and in many respects, more capable) amplifiers.

    p.s. rolled in some tubes. first set seemed to sound better, second set duller. Totally random thoughts and fairly random tubes.
     
  20. joch

    joch Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2015
    Likes Received:
    239
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    the other side of the big ocean
    I have a silly question. Say you use the amp for a while (a year) and one or several of the output tubes go bad, do you just swap out the bad with new ones, or would you change the whole lot?
     

Share This Page