More power, lower noise, same price — the three axes about which Schiit Audio’s announcement for its Vali 2+ hybrid headphone amplifier rotates. According to the unit’s designer Jason Stoddard, Vali 2+ has enough power on tap for hard-to-drive planar headphones – 1.5 Watts into 32 Ohms, 50% more than the Vali 2 – but is quiet enough for sensitive IEMs: a 10dB reduction on the Vali 2 issued five years ago.
What the Vali 2+ does not offer – and Schiit wears it proudly – is low distortion. From the press release: “Vali 2+ is not a low-distortion design. It is designed to reflect the distortion of its tube gain stage, so total distortion is high, but it also falls off sharply for higher orders. The distortion performance is better than Vali 2, yes, but we’re still talking 1000x to 10000x higher distortion than our low-distortion amps like Magni and Magnius.”
This single tubed ‘Coherence’ hybrid design is fully discrete and operates in current mode to include a driver stage and matched paired devices in the output stage. According to Schiit, it’s an amplifier recipe that loads in plenty of second-order harmonic distortion to thumb its nose at low-THD obsessives and to remind us that THD figures can be highly misleading when read in isolation: as a single figure, we know not if the distortion being summed is mostly odd order or mostly even order.
Moreover, a tube opens the door to tube rolling (aka experimental fun). The included NOS 6BZ7 tube can be swapped out (like a light bulb) for ECC88, 6922 and 6CG7 options to realise different distortion profiles and, therefore, different sound.
Schiit is also keen to point out that the Vali 2+’s power supplies (inside and out) are all linear, that its board is populated with Nichicon capacitors and precision thin-film resistors and that the volume pot is a ‘custom-taper’ ALPS that will adjust the gain on the rear panel’s RCA outputs as well as the 6.4mm front-facing headphone socket.
Designed and built in California. Price? US$149. Availability? Now.
Further information. Schiit Audio
Photo credit: Lee Shelly