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Head-Fi Buying Guide (Desktop Amps & DACs) 2
Last edited: 11/28/16
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New Schiit! Ragnarok and Yggdrasil - Page 113
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For about 5 posts.
(see how this is going)
(Ok, I'll stop now )
(But you can't promise us impressions and leave us hanging like this!!!! It causes seriously bad mojo! )
Edited by TwoEars - 5/6/14 at 5:22pm
Then I won't add that Voltage X Current = Power:eek:
From my experience, more the wait = better the end product.
Right you are! Just put yer $$$ down on a BHSE. He-He.
FYI, I just like to give Jason a buch of sh****t from time to time.
Keeps em on their feet mon.
Minor correction - horsepower is work done over time, torque is twisting force. The engine produces both, the gearbox/diff merely transmits them to (hopefully) best effect. Interesting factlet - power and torque figures are always identical at 5252 RPM.
Back to Rag - I was only trying to illustrate that different speakers present different challenges to an amp. While you can wire any speaker to any amp, synergy is just as important as it is with headphones. Lord only knows how many people have declared their amps or speakers to be garbage, when they were really only mismatched. And while few headphones demand much current (possible exception of HE-6 or old AKG 1000 and excluding stats) some speakers need that kick in the crossover.
If there is a sonic argument against high current, I am unaware of it. I just happen to feel it's a bit like money in the bank - hard to have too much.
Why do I start these things?
Because I'm evil...
“Be very careful when using balanced headphones—Ragnarok can deliver its full output power into them!”
— From the Ragnarok Owner’s Manual
At first blush, one might think, “How could that possibly be bad?” When I read that warning, I’m reminded of those Viagra commercials that say to call a doctor if you have an erection lasting longer than four hours—with wisecrackers often joking in response that they’d call their girlfriends, not their doctors, if met with such a fortuitous condition. However, like priapism is in actuality, too much power dumped into your headphones can also be dangerous, and very painful; so Schiit Audio’s warning should perhaps be heeded with the same seriousness as Pfizer's. Recklessly abuse the Ragnarok’s volume control in its high-gain mode, and this beast of an amp can hurl up to 100 watts RMS through your headphone’s cable to the inevitable slaughter of your headphone’s drivers. Fortunately, the extensive logic that Jason Stoddard and his team built into the Ragnarok is designed (among many other things) to help make the most of the Ragnarok's potency, with some safety measures included.
And this makes me think of still another commercial—the Pirelli Tires one where they say “Power is nothing without control.” The Ragnarok is a spectacularly powerful headphone amp, and one that easily exceeds the prodigious power demands of two of my hardest to drive headphones (that also happen to be two of my favorites) in the HiFiMAN HE-6 and the Abyss AB-1266. And what I’ve found, especially with the HE-6, is that properly powering it is almost like taming a wild horse. It’s probably hard to appreciate the beauty of a wild horse when it’s kickin’ yer ass; and if it's underpowered (and/or poorly matched), the HE-6 will buck you off with brightness, hardness. The right kind of power, though—and at least part of that means enough power—and the HE-6 bends to your will and sings. If you’ve heard the HE-6 out of amps like the Ray Samuels Audio Dark Star, the Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold, or HiFiMAN’s own EF-6, then you know what I’m talking about.
Given my love of the HE-6 well-driven, the Ragnarok with this headphone alone is already a must-add to the Head-Fi HQ amp library. Compared to the EF-6 (which we also have here), the Ragnarok lets the HE-6 breathe a little more freely. If I'm going to stick to the wild mustang analogy, I'll say the Ragnarok lets out the reins a notch or two in comparison, allowing the HE-6 to run a little faster. With either amp, the HE-6, to my ears, imparts no harshness that isn't in the recording; and, in terms of tonal balance, both are the equal to one another (which is to say largely neutral'ish)--but the EF-6 seems to me to have more of a smoothing effect on the HE-6 than the Ragnarok, which I sometimes prefer. The Ragnarok has the advantage, to my ears, in terms of resolving power with the HE-6, which I also sometimes prefer. With the HE-6 specifically, I have some difficulty choosing between them.
As far as its performance with the Abyss AB-1266, the Ragnarok makes me wish I still had the Cavalli Audio Liquid Gold here for comparison, because the Ragnarok is also something very special with the AB-1266. The Liquid Gold was the best I’d heard with the AB-1266, and may still be—it was a clear step above the amp I’d most been using with the AB-1266, the Schiit Audio Mjolnir. After I sent the Liquid Gold back to Cavalli Audio, I went back to the Mjolnir for the AB-1266, and it’s been a good enough pairing to keep me happy, even though memories of the Liquid Gold have beckoned strongly. I know for certain, though, that the new flagship Schiit would be a far more formidable competitor for the big Cavalli than the Mjolnir.
If you power the AB-1266 well (and the affordable Mjolnir can certainly do that), the AB-1266’s sense of dynamism and impact is among the best I’ve heard from any headphone, period. Through the Liquid Gold, it took on still more life, conveyed more detail, and projected a stronger, more lifelike image. The Abyss headphone is one of the best imaging headphones I have, bringing a sense of spaciousness that rivals the HD 800, but with more solid images in that space—that is, both headphones project big, airy headstages, but the Abyss is more earthly, the HD 800 more ethereal. And that’s why it’d be fun to compare the new Ragnarok with the big Cavalli, as this is also how I’d describe the AB-1266 driven by the big Schiit.
In addition to being a tamer of the most demanding headphones, one thing the Ragnarok may also end up being is one of the most versatile headphone amps I've used--keep in mind, though, that these are still early impressions. (Also keep in mind that I'm so far only evaluating my early experiences with the Ragnarok from its balanced headphone out.) Also, from its balanced headphone output, the Ragnarok, in terms of self-noise, has so far been silent with the headphones I've driven it balanced with.
Despite its ability to push out big power, the Ragnarok is not the headphone amp equivalent of an engine that needs to be revved to the redline to get its best performance. No, the Ragnarok is like an engine with an extremely wide powerband, giving you its strengths at perhaps any RPM. Compared to the two headphones I’ve talked about so far, the Sennheiser HD 800 is certainly an easier load, in terms power demands. In my experience, however, it is no less picky when it comes to amp matchmaking for it. A great HD 800 amp pairing can result in sound that rivals virtually any other headphone rig, regardless of price. A poor pairing, on the other hand, can sound brassy, strident, bright. Thankfully, the Ragnarok is fantastic with what might be my most used flagship headphone in the HD 800. Schiit’s Jason Stoddard told me—after I’d told him how outstanding I found the Ragnarok to be with the German flagship—that the HD 800 was perhaps the most used headphone at Schiit for Ragnarok testing and evaluation. Danke, Schiit!
I’ve found some of my favorite amps with the HD 800 to be tube amps that impart some lushness to it, perhaps as a sort of hedge against what might be perceived as a tendency of the headphone to otherwise step out of line into harshland. Last year, however, Sennheiser released its own solid state headphone amp called the HDVA 600 (and a DAC’d-up version of that same amp called the HDVD 800), and it has become one of my go-to amps with the HD 800. Somehow, Sennheiser’s amps are able to extract what my ears hear as harshness-free, ultra-revealing sound from the HD 800, with a little of the sweetened tone of some OTL amps I’ve heard with the HD 800--yet without any sense of overt smoothing or softness. And that is more along the lines of the Ragnarok’s performance with the HD 800. I’ll have to do more direct comparisons between the Schiit and Sennheiser amps with the HD 800 to come to firmer conclusions between the two; but I feel safe saying the Ragnarok’s handling of the HD 800 is more along the lines of the HDVA/HDVD than it is a lusher sounding tube amp. I'm thrilled to have another option here that can drive the HD 800 well, as it's still a club that, for me anyway, not too many amps belong to.
Other headphones I've been using out of the Ragnarok's balanced output so far include the OPPO PM-1, Audeze LCD-X, Audeze LCD-3, and the MrSpeakers Alpha Dog. For now, I’m not going to go too heavily into discussing any of these headphones with the Ragnarok, because none of the four of them are known to be difficult to drive or match. However, as reference-class as these headphones are, having an amp that’s fantastically detailed and transparent serves them all extremely well.
And this brings me to my in-a-nutshell description of the Ragnarok’s sound signature, in consideration of the headphones I’ve tried with it so far: though there’s a smoothness to its delivery, it is not a romantic sounding amp. The Schiit Audio Ragnarok is neutral and dazzlingly revealing of the music you feed it. It’s capable of lifting veils you may not have known were there, and scaring away the discordant sounds of bad pairings with a few headphones that have earned reputations for being very challenging mates. When it does these things—when it allows the great headphones to be great—it’s capable of helping convey some pretty heady high-end Summit-Fi sound.
Going forward, I'll push a wider variety of headphones with the Ragnarok. Again, Jason Stoddard designed some incredible control and logic into it, one of the goals being to allow the user to make the best use of the Ragnarok's wide powerband, no matter what he chooses to drive with it. So after I return from the Tokyo Headphone Festival, I’ll do more to see just how versatile the Ragnarok is, by using its single-ended headphone output to drive an even wider variety of headphones (including some very sensitive headphones, just to see how gracefully the Ragnarok can rein in its behemoth power to drive them). Also, I’m hoping the KEF LS50 loudspeakers I ordered will also be here by then, so that I can hear how the flagship Schiit’s power and sound translate to loudspeaker driving.
Anyway, I hope you find these first impressions of the Schiit Audio Ragnarok useful.
NOTE: While I'm gone, the Ragnarok is being sent back to Schiit to make some adjustments to bring it to current production qualifier spec.
Yikes. Yeah, I didn't fully realize how long it was until I hit the "SUBMIT" button and saw what came up. I just wanted to be as thorough as I could, since I won't be able to answer too many questions while I'm at the Tokyo Headphone Festival.
- New Schiit! Ragnarok and Yggdrasil
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