If you follow the CA & TX based Schiit Audio product launches with any type of regularity, you might notice that some of their releases don’t always follow that perfect stepping stone tiering of “good, better, best” that so many brands strive for. In the case of the new 10 tube Folkvangr headphone amplifier, founder Jason Stoddard even goes so far as to bring the randomness of a $1.8k headphone amplifier from a notoriously budget amp lineup straight into the light.
From his morning email: “So, how do you explain a 10-tube headphone amp that, gets super hot, measures terribly, connects your headphones directly to the tubes, and is launching at a time when tubes, well, are still kinda stinky to get ahold of? In short: you don’t.”
Tube shortages are no doubt playing big role in market pricing and supply – check out The Occasional Podcast’s episode on the matter – so the timing isn’t ideal, but the amplifier also brings into both an OTL and OCL (output capacitorless) design into the fold. At almost 2k, it is nearly 4x more costly than the next most expensive headphone amplifier that Schiit Audio makes. The brand has a very loyal (and comparatively large) following however, so the limited run of 250 units shouldn’t take long to run its course.
More in the press release:
FOLKVANGR: INSANITY, LIMITED
Schiit Introduces Limited Edition, 10-Tube, DC-Coupled, OTL Tube Amplifier
June 27, 2022, Valencia, CA. Today, Schiit Audio announced its first limited-edition amplifier, the 10-tube Folkvangr. The first DC-coupled, output transformerless (OTL) and output capacitorless (OCL) headphone amp, Folkvangr also includes an 8X impedance multiplier to increase versatility with low-impedance headphones. Folkvangr is limited to a 250-piece run. It’s priced at $1799, including a full complement of input and output tubes. It’s available today for purchase at schiit.com.
“Folkvangr is completely bonkers,” Jason Stoddard, Schiit’s co-founder and head of analog development, said. “There’s no other way to put it. There’s no reason for a 10-tube amp that dissipates 100 watts at idle, to produce only about a watt or so at its best. It measures very badly, and it’s not what we’d use for any kind of IEM. But it’s the answer to a question that’s bugged me for years–what do tubes really sound like–and, at least to me, it sounds very good.”
Stoddard further explained that he’s always wondered what a direct-coupled tube amp would sound like, so, a few years ago, spurred on by their surplus stock of 6N1P and 6N6P tubes, he decided to design one. Design iteration led to what he considered a great-sounding amp, so he started the process of putting it into production.
“We didn’t intend this to be a limited-edition amp at first,” Jason admitted. “But tubes have become more expensive and much harder to get. So, to keep classic designs like Valhalla 2 in production, we decided to limit the number of Folkvangrs we would make.”
Jason also explained he didn’t expect Folkvangr to be a big seller in any case, since it’s a very hot-running, impractical amplifier that doesn’t put out an especially large amount of power. “On paper, Vali 2 beats it,” he said, laughing.
For those who are interested in Schiit’s all-out tube headphone amp, Folkvangr uses a total of 10 tubes–two matched 6N1Ps for input and voltage gain, and eight 6N6Ps for output. Eight separate DC servos keep the output tubes at a low level of offset, and an analog-computer-style protection system monitors and mutes the output in case of any tube mishaps. At idle, the 10 tubes run 7.2A of heater current and 100mA of standing bias.
In addition to the tubes, Folkvangr offers a switchable impedance multiplier—an electronic circuit that operates similar to a transformer. Stoddard emphasizes this is “not a buffer, it’s output is in parallel with the tube stage, and has the same distortion profile.” The impedance multiplier makes 32 ohm headphones look like 256 ohm headphones to the amp, which is a much better load for tubes. The impedance multiplier is also completely switchable out of the circuit, so owners can choose to use only tubes.
Folkvangr also features an oversized, 400VA transformer and discrete-regulated high-voltage rails at +/-100V and +200V. Coupled with over 10,000uF of filter capacitance (yes, on a tube amp), Folkvangr is truly overbuilt.
Prospective customers may also notice the new-style, new-form-factor chassis design, which provides maximum tube exposure for best heat dissipation.
Like all Schiit products, Folkvangr is made in the USA—specifically, designed and and built in California. The vast majority of the total cost of the product, including chassis and PC boards, go to US-based companies manufacturing in the USA.
Folkvangr is available to order now at Schiit.com for $1799.
More info: Schiit Audio Folkvangr