Schiit Vali 3

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by yotacowboy, Apr 8, 2024.

  1. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Since there is increasing chatter in the profile posts and @atomicbob's system synergy thread, I think Vali 3 should have a dedicated thread.

    Pics for clicks
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    [​IMG]


    TL;DR
    For high impedance dynamic headphones, Vali 3 is shockingly good, even with the stock tube. Roll in a $25 GE 5670W and be prepared to get off the sub $1k amp merry-go-round.

    Impressions
    I'm very interested to read other's comparisons with other big-boi or FOTM gear. I share @atomicbob's opinion that Vali 3 offers almost the same level of midrange magic as my slightly modded EC Af, both being driven by BF2 OG, and both driving JAR650B/V2. The differences between these two amps is so slight that I absolutely wasn't kidding in my profile post; EC Af is really, really looking like an unnecessary extravagance; I haven't turned Af on in a week... All of my listening with Vali 3 so far has been in high gain, and swapping tubes makes for shifting flavors to suit varied music; i don't really have a "favorite" tube so far.

    I was also looking forward to comparing to my MJ3, but MJ3 will be off to Schiit for repairs soon, so that's that.

    Later this week I'll be listening to the Vali 3 with HD800S and ETA Ada and will update this post with more in depth impressions.

    Seriously, if you're new to this audio game, or a level-27 wizard, you should spend some time with this $150 amp.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2024
  2. Brian D

    Brian D Facebook Friend

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    Argh, I really have been tempted by this but every time I get a headphone setup it just sits. Maybe this time? Very interested to hear more, I wonder if I shouldn't sell my Modi just yet? I would be curious as to thoughts about compatibility with the ETA Ada phones, I need to do some research. Thanks for starting just a little sliver of nervosa!

    Edit-Missed your last sentences, really looking forward to comparisons!
     
  3. ilikebananafudge_

    ilikebananafudge_ Friend

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    I wasn't a huge fan of the Vali 2+ I had briefly, it sounded too muted to me. How does the Vali 3 compare to the Vali 2+ or 2++?
     
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  4. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Compared to Vali 1, Vali 3 opens up the headstage considerably, and is less murky. Compared to Vali 2++, Vali 3 is less grainy, less boom-tizz, and the midrange is smoother and less recessed. Headstage from Vali 2++ to Vali 3 is also considerably improved.
     
  5. JK47

    JK47 Friend

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    What's the scoop with the MJ3? The bulging caps?
     
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  6. edd

    edd Almost "Made"

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  7. miter53

    miter53 Friend

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    I've been listening to the Modi MB > Vali 3 (w/ 5670 tube) > ETA Ada combo for a week or so, and it's shockingly good. Does not sound murky to me at all. I've also been playing around with running the pre out to a pair of Mackie powered speakers, which works quite well also, though my speaker placement at my work desk is less than ideal.
    IMG_3662 1.jpg
     
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  8. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I think the Vali 3 is an improvement in every way. It has more clarity by far, more dynamics, more dynamic contrast by a long ways, more resolution. The Vali 2++ is duller and more smoothed over, less resolving, less fine detail and grit.

    The Vali 3 has a bit of that Jason hyper dynamic sound to it, but not nearly as much as Jottenheim or Mjolner3. But I still hear it there a bit. Most people like this, I'm not a big fan of this hyper contrast though and can still detect a bit of it.

    My Drop TA-84 which costs $350 plus about $300 in NOS tubes to get it sounding it's best (the tube bias it is set to [or something] burns regular 12au7 tubes, it needs 5814 or 12au7a or some kind of ruggedized 12au7, all el84 tubes I've tried have been fine) as the stock Psvane tubes really lack in technicalities. So getting NOS tubes in it is more expensive than the Vali 3.

    But it is smoother, more refined, with much better sense of space and sound staging and better subtitles and nuances to its sound compared to the Vali 3. It might come off as slightly muted in comparison to the Vali 3 but I think that's because of that extra bit of dynamic contrast In the Vali 3 which I don't consider natural.

    I'd say the price difference is appropriate. Vali 3 is less than half the price even when NOS tubes are considered. But the TA-84 is still a budget friendly amp and one I hope SBAF gets to hear when Drop makes a new batch in late July and will send us a loaner unit.

    So far I think WE397a, Raytheon, and Bendix all sound pretty similar, a bit different but the amp definitely has a sound that tubes don't change. I can't get it to beat the TA-84 even with the best tubes so far. I still have some to try though like the GE 5 star.

    I so far do not think it is a giant kiler, I think the Zana Deux is far superior for example than the Vali 3. The Studio B and Aficionado I would say are far superior as well, though the Vali 3 has better tone as I find those 2 amps unbearably dry in tone and the Vali 3 is not dry at all.

    I also thought the Ampsandsound Kenzie Ovation was superior in every way to the Vali 3. But it is way more expensive.

    I think it's a great amp for $150 and will beat a lot of amps priced under 1k but so far it's not going to beat or replace TOTL amps for me at least.

    Cheers, hope this helps some peeps.
     
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  9. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    I mostly agree that Vali 3 isn't a giant killer, but I also think this term is overused (not by you Whitney, just in general) and it doesn't tell anyone anything about how something sounds.

    All I can speak directly to is A/B comparison to EC Af with Duelund copper + silver bypass caps (that add some welcome meat to the bones), the main difference is in how Vali 3 handles the freqncy extremes. EC Af is certainly more authoritative in the lowest bass, and treble air and space sounds more composed and graduated/delineated. Where Vali 3 is just so slightly less composed is all throughout the midrange. Bass punch, tactility, and pitch definition into the midbass, is close enough between the two that it's just kind of unsettling looking over and seeing a 4" box powered by a wall wart providing this much midbass control and resolution. Couple the excellent midbass/midrange of Vali 3 with it's ease in the upper midrange into the lower treble and it, when taken as parts to the whole, is something that makes up most of what I refer to as "midrange magic". I'm not the most experienced in terms of gear (hat tip, @rhythmdevils), but of what gear I've heard so far it's this "midrange magic" that seems to elude literally every amp I've heard under $1k.
     
  10. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    I guess I don't hear the Vali 3 being as good as you do, with the utmost respect to your brilliant mind and ears @yotacowboy . :piratemug:

    I hear it being a bit congested and rough around the edges. Transients are a little sharp or rough I feel, not as refined as they could be. And there is something kind of "square" about the sound, hard to describe, I can't think of a better word. The TA-84 for example, presents instruments as whole bodies in tone and imaging much better, where in comparison the Vali 3 seems to compress them into slightly inorganic shapes and tones that feel forced to me. It's like it has an enhanced clarity affect that tries to impose the "enhanced dynamic contrast" that I hear in the Jottenhiem especially but also in the Mjolner3 and in doing so it creates a bit of a hard edge to everything. I think a lot of people will just hear this as clarity (not pointing at you @yotacowboy) judging by the love for the Jottenhiem and Mjolner3 and lack of the complaints I have about these amps and this high dynamic contrast.

    But to me it ruins subtleties in the sound, leading edges to notes sound rough a bit and lacking the finesse of better amps where the edges of notes go on much further and are fully fleshed out but also smooth and organic sounding.

    I agree about the term "giant killer" I was mostly using it in the opposite way it is usually used to say I don't think there is TOO much hype to be had here. Just trying not to hype the new amp for more than it deserves.

    I think it's a great amp for the price but once you get past a certain price point I think there are other options that are much more refined and expansive and natural and let you explore the soundscape and various instruments much more easily.

    Also the soundstage is pretty small FWIW. When I switch to the TA-84 everything expands and is separated out in space better.

    And I think the TA-84 has noticeably better bass control.

    Sorry I wish I could describe this better, that's the best I can do at the moment, if I think of better terms or descriptions I'll post again.

    Sorry

    All listening was done with my RD-S12 which is a great test headphone because it doesn't have special power requirements like an HD650 or HD800 so I'm hearing the amp's sound rather than incompatibility due to weird technical requirements. IME
     
  11. Joshvar

    Joshvar Almost "Made"

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    Not usually one to add uninformed commentary but I'm laughing that the reviews basically read like "it is only competitive with amps + tubes 4x-8x the price, once you get to 12-20x it get dominated" ends up being how we are tempering expectations these days. Amazing time to be a value shopper.
     
  12. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Actually I was, well, at least trying to say that I disagreed with the sentiment expressed by @yotacowboy that it sounds close to an amp like the Afficianado. Clay has the Afficianado right there to compare to and has great ears and ability to discern what he's hearing so take that into account, but from my memory the Afficianado is a much better amp technically. I prefer the tone of the Vali 3, but in all technical areas I remember the Aficionado sounding much better in every category. Except for that dry tone of the AF.

    Schitt amps always punch above their price technically, the question is always whether you like their sound signature. And I have some issues with the signature of the Vali 3 as expressed above. Now that I think about it, I did not have these issues with the Vali 2++, it was smoother and did not have the new Schitt contrast effect. But the Vali 3 is technically a big step up.

    It doesn't take 20x the cost to beat the Vali 3, the TA-84 is about 3x the price with the best NOS tubes in both amps. And is better in every way IMO

    Also, Schitt's own Mjolner 3, even the "broken" unit that I had on loan was a much much better amp than the Vali 3 IMO. Despite having more of that "high dynamic contrast" that I don't like.

    I hope that is more clear.

    TLDR: the Vali 3 IMO is a really great amp for the price, but there are much better amps starting with the Drop TA-84 but especially amps above 1k. And probably others I have not heard.

    Maybe I'm not in the best headspace to be writing clear reviews haha I'm trying though!
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2024
  13. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    Had a look at the TA-84 on the DROP website. There are 6 reviews, 2 of which are negative due to noise. This could be a manufacturing issue and not design; but I'd say worth waiting until more are delivered and see what folks are saying.
     
  14. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Always a good idea. I am a bit skeptical because I have more noise issues in this house than anyone in the history of mankind and my TA-84 is dead silent. Even with my space heater on that causes noise in a lot of amps for unknown reasons.

    You can’t buy one now anyways until the new batch end of July and we’ll hopefully be getting one of those as a loaner.
     
  15. Biodegraded

    Biodegraded Friend

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    Speculation: are different transducers leading (at least partly) to the different impressions? @rhythmdevils listened with his S12s (planar IEM with 16 Ohm impedance - I measured 13 on the pair I had) vs @yotacowboy listening with JAR650 (moving-coil, 300 Ohms nominal with an extra bump in the bass). Quite different loads for the amp to drive...
     
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  16. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Definitely possible! I’m in low gain mode too.

    Hey, I do like the Vali 3 a lot! I just don't think it competes with amps like the Aficionado (form memory but again, remember that @yotacowboy HAS one right there to compare to directly so maybe you should all listen to him not me ;) or Studio B or Liquid Crimson or Stratus or many other tube amps in that range. Or the Mjolner 3. But it's a great amp especially for the money! Not perfect or jaw dropping but really good.

    I prefer it to the Jottenheim 2 because of the crazy dynamic contrast of that amp which is way to pummeling for me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2024
  17. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF's Mr. Bean

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    Just curious @yotacowboy, have you heard the SW51? I'm not sure if we have the same definition of "midrange magic," but this is a headphone amp under $1k that I would describe as having midrange magic in spades.

    Both you and @rhythmdevils makes me nearly curious enough to buy one for myself to compare to the SW51 I have at home, except I told myself that I will not be making any more audio purchases this year. Not going to break that to sate idle curiosity even though the Vali 3 is pretty cheap.
     
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  18. roshambo123

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    Think we're overdue for an updated Schiit spider chart
     
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  19. JK47

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    With special guest appearance by Nitsch Piety and Maximus
     
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  20. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    Already mentioned in the OP but here are my thoughts about Vali 3 with GE JAN 5670W tube vs Studio B with the same GE 5670W tube and Elrog 300B: System Synergy - Special Sound

    Some further comments.
    I've listened with HD6x0, HD800-JAR, and S12.
    All sound well balanced, no noise, no hum or hiss. Simply great engagement with the music.
    Special note about the S12:
    I am not an IEM person. I use them when the situation demands, otherwise I prefer over ear headphones.
    With S12 in ears connected to Vali 3 in my lab with ambient of less than 15 dBA, 25 dBC I can hear:
    1) pops from movement of cervical vertebrae in my neck
    2) air movement from respiratory effort
    3) when very still, my heart beat
    4) no noise whatever from Vali 3
    Which is why I am not a fan of IEMs.
    Active amps on lab bench include Vali 3, SW51+, MJ2, Studio B with Elrog 300B, Zana Deux ZDSE
    Each has their respective strengths and weaknesses. All render music to my satisfaction. So Vali 3 gives me pause to realize I can enjoy music recreationally with such an inexpensive design proposition. If critically listening, then the MJ3, and EC amps have greater technical performance. But damn, I don't want to be listening critically all the time. All of the amps above allow for great recreational listening.

    Final note. Don't rob the market of WE396A tubes for Vali 3. It really isn't warranted. GE JAN5670W is a great tube for $20US.
     
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