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Schiit Audio Jotunheim

  1. reddog
    A sweet sounding mid level balanced amp
    Written by reddog
    Published Nov 9, 2017
    Pros - Small, balanced, can come in black, heavy metal industrial design, 1/4 th and XLR headphone out. The SE architecture is Schiit audio’s best design to date.
    Cons - The little mark on the volume knob can be hard to see in a semi dark room, especially after a shot of chartreuse.
    81F0D1C1-005B-4F9A-9EF0-984BD462ABFF.jpeg I have been into this amazing hobby for about 4 years now. I have bought all of my own equipment and my reviews and impressions are my honest opinion. I am a amp collector, and feel a person can not have enough amps, especially good mid level headphone amps. I have been watching a lot of Netflix and wanted to use my headphones, without using my TOTL amps. I am a fan of Schiit Audio and own a lot of hot Schiit. And when I heard about Schiit Audio’s balanced Jotunheim, I snagged one in a New York minute. I chose to get my Jotunheim in black. I chose only to get the amp only.
    I really like the heavy metal/. Industrial design of the Jotunheim. This amp is nice and heavy and will stay on the desk and not readily slide about. This plucky black amp even seems impervious to the antics of my fat cat Kali. On the back side of this amp, is the Power button, single end RCA/ unbalanced inputs and XLR balanced inputs as well as RCA pre outs. On the front there are two switches and a volume knob. One switch allows for the selection between the phono, dac and amp functions. The other switch is for Low or high gain.
    The Jotunheim balanced amps sounds very, very nice indeed. If this amp had been out, when I started this wonderful hobby, I would not had gotten the Schiit Audio Asgard 2, Lyr 2 or my Cavalli Audio Liquid Carbon. This sweet little amp has almost every connection that a fellow audiophile could need.. It has SE and balanced inputs and SE and XLR headphone out jacks. And more importantly the Jotunheim has plenty of power to drive any headphone. Furthermore the Single end audio architecture is the best found in any Schiit Audio Amp. The previous Sumpter circuit was alright but the new design just sounds much better to my humble ears.
    And to my humble ears the Jotunheim sounds quite good. The bass is nice and impactful, The mids are sweet with just a touch of edginess. The treble is good and was not sybylant. The sound stage is nice and the imaging is fairly detailed. Furthermore this amps has plenty of power and could drive all of my headphones. I really like how my Audeze iSine 20 and Mr Speakers Aeon Closedback sounds out of this amp.
    I am very impressed with Schiit Audio’s Jotunheim. This black beast of a amp sounds great and can drive any IEM or headphone one should have, This solid stage amp is versatile and has plenty of inputs and outputs. I think the Jotunheim is a great sounding mid level amp, especially for the money.
    I used the following equipment for this review.
    DAP: Questyle QP1R
    DAC: Schiit Audio Yggdrasil and Gungnir
      trellus and Wildcatsare1 like this.
    Schiit Jotunheim review - climax of shit jokes
    Written by SOULSIK
    Published Jul 23, 2017
    Pros - absolutely awesome for the price
    Cons - on/off switch at the back



    Schiit audio has been gaining some great reputation for coming up with the best bang for the buck dacs and amps. They do not produce too many dac/amp combos, rather, they like to go and build individuals amps and dacs. Jotunheim is one of their two dac/amps, the other being the Fulla. Nevertheless Jotunheim is not your daily dac/amp, these surprised many audio enthusiasts with its performance and I will tell you why in this review.


    from their website:

    Schiit got started in 2010 when two audio industry veterans decided it was time to shake things up a bit. The two audiophiles are Jason Stoddard, formerly of Sumo, and Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta. Together, they have designed dozens of audio and A/V products, from the Andromeda III to the Cobalt 307 to the DS Pre and Angstrom 200.

    So, yeah: fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps. the first DTS home theater surround processor on the market . . . we’ve done a ton of stuff.

    In the old days, audiophiles went up the food chain from the table radio to the console stereo to separate speakers the size of refrigerators and monoblocks that would cook a cat. Today, nobody starts with a table radio. Everyone—and we mean everyone—starts with headphones.

    So, yeah. We do a lot of headphone stuff. Or “Personal Audio,” as they’re starting to call it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have products that are totally comfortable in a speaker-based system, from all of our DACs, to the Mani phono preamp, to the Ragnarok integrated amp. Whether you’re looking at personal audio or at a speaker-based system, we have fun, affordable products that’ll put a smile on your face.

    Mike Moffat separately aligns each molecule of every JFET, using a special Absolute Zero containment suit…er, well, no. What makes them special are three things:

    Unique Multibit DAC and Digital Filter Technologies
    Today, virtually every DAC uses a reduced-bit technology known as “delta sigma.” Multibit DACs have largely gone by the wayside, thanks to less-expensive delta-sigma technology. The few multibit DACs that exist either use NOS (new old stock) D/A chips, one of two or three still-extant multibit chips, or build their own R2R ladders at high cost. We’ve always believed that multibit DACs provide the best sonic performance, especially when coupled with Schiit’s unique, DSP-based closed-form digital filter. This is why we created two entirely new multibit DAC architectures using current-production, medical/military grade D/A converters that have linearity specs far exceeding any audio DAC. If you’d like to learn more, read about Yggdrasil, Gungnir Multibit, or Bifrost Multibit.

    Innovative Analog Approaches
    On the analog side, we’ve also taken innovative approaches, each uniquely designed for the task at hand. Even our least expensive headphone amplifier is essentially a miniature, fully discrete, DC coupled, Lin-topology power amplifier. We’ve introduced unique output stages to wring more power out of Lyr 2 with its Dynamically Adaptive output, re-introduced inherently balanced topologies like the circlotron in Mjolnir 2, and created unique “analog computer-style” protection systems. For Ragnarok, we introduced the entirely new concept of 100% intelligent microprocessor management of the entire amplifier–from bias to DC level to overcorrect protection…and included a relay-switched stepped attenuator, for perfect channel matching and no ICs in the signal path…and also created an amplifier that’s comfortable driving everything, from tiny IEMs to giant speakers.

    Designed for the Real World
    The real world is a complex place, which is why all of our products are overbuilt. Pick up one of our affordable Valhalla 2 or Lyr 2 amps, and marvel at the weight, heft, and solidity (each of those two amplifiers use two separate transformers with real high-voltage supplies—an approach that’s usually far beyond their modest price. Then, we test them extensively with Stanford Research audio analyzers (and our ears), and we burn-in every product from Asgard 2 on up for a minimum of 1 day to help catch any early failures. (Ragnarok and Yggdrasil get 4 days each). We also keep very close tabs on any service and support needs, so you can rest assured of years of great sound.

    And—it bears mentioning—we believe that close-coupled, local control of all of the aspects of production delivers better products. That’s why we design and produce our stuff here in the USA, with the vast majority of parts cost going to US-based companies manufacturing in the US. We need all of that clarification in there because some people have played games with what “Made in USA” means. When we say it, it means that our chassis guys are right over the hill in the San Fernando Valley, our transformers are made here in California, our boards come from the east coast (of the USA), and we design, assemble, and test everything here in Valencia, California.


    This unit was purchased for review purposes. As usual, my reviews are unbiased.



    Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 2Hz-700KHz, -3dB
    Balanced Headphone Output:
    Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 7500mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 5000mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 3000mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 900mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 500mW RMS per channel
    Single-Ended Headphone Output:
    Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 2500mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 1500mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 800mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 350mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 175mW RMS per channel
    THD: <0.001%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS
    IMD: <0.0015%, CCIR
    SNR: >109db, A-weighted, referenced to 1V RMS
    Crosstalk: >-70dB, 20 Hz-20KHz
    Output Impedance: Less than 0.1 ohms, balanced or SE, at both gain settings
    Gain: 2 (6dB) or 8 (14dB), selectable via front switch
    Inputs: Balanced XLR and Single-Ended RCA, selectable via front switch
    Outputs: Balanced headphone (4-pin XLR), single-ended headphone (1/4” TRS), balanced line preamp, single-ended line preamp
    Optional Inputs: AK4490 Balanced USB DAC or Passive MM Phono
    Gain Stage: Proprietary Schiit Pivot Point™ fully discrete differential current-feedback topology
    Power Supply: One 48VA transformer with 6 stages of discrete or integrated regulation and over 70,000uF total filter capacitance

    Optional Dual AK4490 DAC:
    USB Input Receiver: C-Media CM6631A
    D/A Conversion IC: AK4490 x 2
    Input Capability: up to 24/192, including 24/176.4
    Analog Output: fully differential, passive summing and passive filtering
    Frequency Response: 20Hz-20KHz, +/-0.1dB, 2-100kHz, -3dB
    Maximum Output: 2.0V RMS
    THD: <0.0015%, 20Hz-20KHz, full scale
    IMD: <0.002%, CCIR
    S/N: >106dB, referenced to 2V RMS, unweighted

    Optional Passive Filtered Phono Stage:
    Gain: 42dB
    THD: <0.01%, A-weighted, at 1V RMS
    SNR: >80dB, A-weighted, inputs shorted
    Crosstalk: -70dB, 20-20kHz
    Sensitivity: 2.3mV for 400mV output
    Overload Margin: >20dB
    Input Impedance: 47k ohms
    Input Capacitance: 100pf
    RIAA Accuracy: +/- 0.25dB, 20-20kHz
    Topology: Fully passive RIAA network with AD8599 gain stages and PET film capacitors throughout, DC coupled, with DC servo

    Power Consumption: 25W typical
    Size: 9” x 6” x 2”
    Weight: 6 lbs

    Balanced and quarter inch input for headphones in front of the unit


    Balanced input and output / RCA input and output at the back of the unit


    full metal/aluminum design. Very sturdy with thick rubber feet installed. The design is simple with 2 gain setting (low/high) and a switch to change options (user manual is useful for this).

    What I have here is only the amp itself, but you can get a balanced dac or phono option for extra 100 dollars.

    my only complaint is that the on/off switch is at the back, making it inconvenient for those tucking it in somewhere.


    Clean and powerful. Neutral with a hint of warmth. Trying with multiple dacs, the conclusion was that the amp is very clean but does lack the ability to really dig in and extract the last bits of details/dynamics of the music. However, the amp should be able to run anything clean and effortlessly. I wish I had a pair of he6 to test that theory.

    Overall Thoughts

    Best price for a truly balanced amp. Truly amazed.
      reddog and the finisher like this.
  3. genclaymore
    Great unit at an good price
    Written by genclaymore
    Published May 24, 2017
    Pros - Sounds great, Even more in balanced,Muiti In and out connections,AIO dac/amp with module,Great Build Quailty.
    Cons - Have to unplug headphone when you want to use speakers, Can't mute the separate HP jacks, Drivers could be better
    It been a while since I had an All in one Dac/amp setup, Last time I had one this was some years ago when I owned an Audio-GD NFB15.32. The Schiit Jotunheim had all of the features I wanted in an All in one.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    For headphones the front of the unit has a 6.3m connection which is your standard headphone jack, most people will need to use a 3.5 to 6.3m adapter to plug their headphones. On the right side of it is the XLR 4 pin balanced connector, which is where those with headphones that need far more power then what the standard jack provide. Usually people would need to rewire there headphones to use it, unless you own headphones that are design with removable cables, which means all it would take is a cable swap to use it.


    Single-Ended Headphone Output:
    Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 2500mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 1500mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 800mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 350mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 175mW RMS per channel

    Balanced Headphone Output:
    Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 7500mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 5000mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 3000mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 900mW RMS per channel
    Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 500mW RMS per channel

    As you can see it has plenty of power for most headphones, Even IEM's will work but I suggest you check the volume, so you don't blow your ears off the side of your head, when you start up your favorite song. The last thing you need is being blasted with piano's or bass.

    Both output's did not give me any issues at all, no hissing, one warning both will play sound at the same exact time, so if you happen to have another pair of headphones that are easier to drive then the other. Then it be best to remove them, before you use your hungry pair of headphones. That way you wont damage the other pair of headphones. A switch to allow you to select the headphone jack would be useful, so you wont have to unplug headphones.

    On the left side of the headphone jacks, is where the volume knob, the Low & High gain and last the input connector. The upper position is for USB, the Mid is for XLR and the bottom is for RCA, the USB is only usable when the dac module is installed, while the other two is for using the Jotunheim as a headphone amp with an outside source. I had some issue with the USB input but due to the drivers, I had to add a hardware ID from an older driver, for the latest ones to install for some odd reason. But other then that, no issues from using the USB input it self.


    Speaking of the input's it turns out that even if you're using RCA input, due to the amp design it will still give you true balanced sound, which I found out when I happen to see some one running the jotunheim from an modi multi bit on a forum. I didn't believe it at first til I messaged schiit, what do you know it was true. This is another bonus feature for those who can run balanced with their current non balanced Dacs. Meaning you can plug in any RCA source and still get balanced, due to the differential amp design that the Jotunheim uses.

    On the rear of the device you will find the power switch, XLR/RCA Input and output, and the power connection. Like the headphone jacks, both XLR and RCA output's also play audio.

    Here something that I did not know, I found out recently that the low and high gain settings don't just effect the headphone jacks, but also effect the XLR and RCA on the rear. I figured it out when I was trying to see what was causing my speakers to output at low volume even at the volume settings on the front of the unit. I gonna guess that the reason this is, is to let you control the power that is being sent to the speaker rather they are passive or active.

    The jotunheim does get warm but not burning hot like amp’s or dacs that I own before, I could keep it on for days and it still warm to the touch, it has a nice weight to the unit, it also doesn’t feel or look like it was cheaply made.


    I will be using the USB input of the jotunheim with the latest drivers installed on windows 10. The headphones that I will be using are, The Audio Technica Ath-AVA 400 which is unbalanced, The R70X which is also from AT in unbalanced and balanced and last my speakers the JBL 305’s that will be plugged into the rear XLR connectors.


    For music playback I will be using music-bee with it set for ASIO to have bit match playback. The music are in lossless format.


    Gorillaz – Let me Out

    Max Cooper & Toms Hodge – Remnants

    Liquid Stranger – Bomb The Block

    Com Truise – Du Zirconia


    Audio Technica AVA-400

    Gorillaz – let me out

    The voices are done really well for this headphone, with nice amount of bass behind the voices because of that they are not thin at all. The voices are also projected from the center of me and spread out to the front of me to the sides. The whispers on the sides are heard but there times where they are not, when they are heard its when there isn’t much going on. Due to the bass being too much, they end up getting hidden behind the bass. The separation is good in this song but not perfect.

    Max Cooper & Tom Hodge – Remnants

    Separation in this song is done really good on this headphones, You are able to hear each instrument separately due to them not being overlapped. The sound image comes off as being large with the sound spreading around the channels, sounds spacious in this song, Even with the AVA-400. The piano sound like a piano, you can hear the light and the heavy notes, along with the drum kit that is being played as if you’re standing between them. The only thing is at times when the piano is hit hard, the bass has a slight boom to it, which also includes the low end bass. While there is a bit of brightness in the highs, even tho it has nice amount of details.

    Liquid Stranger – Bomb The Block

    This song was selected for its amount of bass and it mid and low bass. The first thing you notice is the mid bass which has a good amount of impact to it, which doesn’t static. The low end bass comes off as hard hitting at times, other times it comes off as being too boomy.

    The highs are not that good in this song due to some kind of tinny sound that I hear, and like other songs there is a slight brightness to the song.

    Com Truise – Du Zicron

    There is a nice airily sound to this song at the start, but right away you can hear the brightness in the highs, its very noticeable but its not super bright, it’s def not smooth, sadly the tinny sound is also still there. While the rest of the song is perfectly fine, The bass hits very hard while having a slight boom to it like a sub-woofer.

    Even the snare’s share the same brightness issue and the tinny type of sound. Even through the imaging was very good with space between the sounds.

    Audio Technica AT-R70x(Unbalanced)

    Gorillaz – let me out

    On this headphone I feel like I am sitting in a chair, with the singer in front of me on stage. The whispers almost sound like they’re being spoken into my ears. The claps are heard from the center as well, the bass does a good job going deep, accurate and not bleeding into the other freqs. I find the separation to be good even, there are times where its hard to tell something apart, but its minor.

    Max Cooper & Tom Hodge – Remnants

    Other then being able to hear every thing clearly and clean with good separating and imaging, nothing else sticks out to me. I guess you could say that every thing else is neutral. But it still sound good to me.

    Liquid Stranger – Bomb The Block

    The bass sound good, going deep while at the same time hitting hard, the snares and hit hats are detailed, not too much and not bright at all. I feel like the drums set is in front of me. You can hear the guitars as they being played which are not thin including the synth. The sound image is outside of my head.

    Com Truise – Du Zicron

    The start of the song has an open type of sound with the synth, the bass also goes deep, while still hitting with a bit of an impact. Like the other songs there is no brightness, while having some amount of detail from the snares, as it pans around the channel.

    Note: While it did sound good, I feel running the headphone unbalanced is holding it back. Which I notice when I was listening to the other songs it felt off. At times it was a little hard to hear what was going on in some parts of the songs, other times it wasn't.

    Audio Technica AT-R70x(Balanced)

    Gorillaz – let me out

    The first thing I notice is how well every thing songs in compared to the SE output, the singers locations in the song is imaged greatly. I hear each of the different people who are singing separately and cleanly with very good projection of the voices. The whispering even sound like they are besides my head whispering into my ear.

    The sound stage comes off as being spacious to me, the bass goes deep with good feeling to the tone. The whole song sounds really good, better then what I ever heard before.

    Max Cooper & Tom Hodge – Remnants

    Every thing sound so clean, the instruments can be heard exactly the way they are being played, with very good spacing. The piano can be heard as you can hear how hard and how soft the keys are being pressed and how fast or slow he releases them. The sound stage is spacious as well, The piano is in front of me and the reverb spreads thru the sides with the drum-kits on my left and right with an overall 3Dish type of sound. Sounds really great to me then before.

    Liquid Stranger – Bomb The Block

    Same results as the other songs I tried, very good sound image nice and spacious with great separating. The bass goes deep as well have a nice impact to it, not too much either which is good which means no sub woofer bass any where.. The synthesizers sound great as do the drums including the snares which all have the right amount of detail to them. Even the little spoken words in the song sound just as good as it does in the rest of the songs.

    Com Truise – Du Zicron

    Same every thing is so clean, clear and really spacious with drums that hits really hard with good impact. Bass goes deep with the hit of the drum kits. The panning of the hit hats can be heard along with the rest of the song with very good detail, nothing is blending in to each other, so the separation is also good..

    JBL LSR 305's

    Gorillaz – let me out

    The voices are really good coming from the center of the sound field, it’s like I sitting in the front row with the image of them singing to me. With the whispers on the side of the channels, which I can hear really well, nice and clear. The lows goes deep and hit hard without any of that muddy or sub-woofer type of bass. Even the voices are not tinny, there isn’t too much bass in the mids. There is no brightness issues any where in the song. None of the singers or the instruments are over lapping each other which is great, as they have their own room.

    Max Cooper & Tom Hodge – Remnants

    The sound field is very spacious in this song while having great separation and details. The drums kit comes across being clean as it heard across the sound field. You can hear how hard and soft the piano is being pressed, including the piano pedal. The imaging is really great in this song. That was the first thing I notice. There nothing wrong I can say about this song as it plays on my JBL 305’s, it sound that good to me. It’s like I am sitting in the front of the piano hitting the notes my self.

    Liquid Stranger – Bomb The Block

    The bass hits really hard in this song, with nice impact, the lows goes deep while the mid bass sound really good in the voices and the ambient guitars. The snares sound really clear and detailed and even then, there is no brightness, including the synth but it is a little too detailed in some parts of the song. The low end bass has very good impact to it, while not being muddy. None of the instruments invaded on each other space, each of them can be heard clearly and clean.

    Com Truise – Du Zicron

    This song also have that type of airily sound that I heard from Remnants including it’s separation and details. The main differences is that you can hear the snares in crazy detail in this song including how hard its being hit and how soft. Also the Bass goes very deep with force, but its not too much force to the point of it going boom or muddy up the sound. It has great amount of impact behind it.

    Now there does sound like there is a little too much details in the snares and the synth, but that doesn’t really bother me as I like that amount of detail in my songs. But it might be too much for some people.


    Schiit Jotunheim worked very good with the range of different gear that I tried with it rather it was my JBL 305’s, My Audio Technica AVA500’s or my Audio Technica ATH-R70X’s. What surprise me the most is when I connected my R70X to balanced, The amp paired great with the headphones like it was a perfect match.

    Now I did have a little problem with the drivers which I fixed by editing the ini, but still after that it worked great. I do wish you could switch between the 6.3 and balanced headphone jack to stop from plugging and unplugging different headphones even going far as being able to mute the jacks, when you’re using the speakers without having to unplug stuff.

    Back to the driver’s one major improvement that I can see which can be a benefit to the module, is to move away from C-media and to something else, such as Xmos or some other USB chip, because the drivers is the major downside, That’s really need to be improved.

    Other then that my gear sound wonderful which causes me to really enjoy it a lot no regrets at all.
      trellus likes this.
  4. Ancipital
    This changes everything? Well, nearly..
    Written by Ancipital
    Published Sep 13, 2016
    Pros - Clean, powerful, detailed, fast, balanced, remarkable value
    Cons - Shallow sound stage. Slightly metallic sheen to the highs. Only internal DAC option is D/S, no option to add a second SE input.


    (Jotunheim stacked with a Modi 2 multibit, lurking on the desktop)




    Schiit Audio are the darlings of the affordable head-fi world. Their line-up of amps and DACs run from the tiny and budget (Fulla, Magni) to "serious" kit like the Yggdrasil, which is arguably the equal to competitors many times the price.
    They're remarkably straightforward about specs and performance, and unlike some manufacturers steer clear of the more fanciful claims of outright audiofoolery. While they've had a few duff efforts (the notorious early Lyr, for example), they have plenty of happy customers, who value bang for buck, and not being sold wild claims for silly prices.
    The pre-launch hype for the Jotunheim was quite extreme, Schiit claiming that mysteriously that "this changes everything".
    The resulting device is certainly.. interesting. A $399 fully-balanced solid state amp with tons of power, and an expansion slot- that can take a small D/S DAC or phono stage running as a balanced source. It can take balanced or single-ended inputs, has both balanced and single-ended outputs, and has both balanced and single-ended pre outs. Phew. That's quite a list- though as anyone who has ever accidentally bought Behringer "professional" kit will tell you, sometimes the length of the list of features can be inversely proportional to the quality of implementation; particularly on a budget.
    The objective measurements of this amp are already online (I can't link to them here, but google is your friend). Spoiler: They're very good indeed. Because of that, I don't feel any pressure to even attempt some lousy amateur RMAA measurements or similar. I feel absolved of any guilt for being subjective and descriptive. In any case, lot of the questions about asked about it seem to invite a subjective answer.
    There has been a lot of discussion about the suitability of using this amp with the Sennheiser HD650, which is famously good value for money, but notoriously demanding of its amplification to sound its best. It just so happens that I was looking for an amp to drive these classic cans, so I will be mostly addressing this obvious pairing.

    Old kit

    I am a lazy git. Despite running the belov'd HD650, I don't like the idea of valves. I detest the over-excited "tube rolling" discussions, and the idea that bits of my amp are an expensive consumable that I could fully expect to crap out, or that only a percentage of a purchased batch would work to spec. I'm someone who wants to listen to my music, rather than my equipment- so a direct rate to enjoyable sound without bankrupting myself is generally what I'd shoot for.
    I'd doubtless enjoy the sound of a good valve amp, if it wasn't too coloured, maybe if I was richer and wanted to spend more time babying an amp I'd get more out of it. However, my inclination and prejudice is to stay solid state, for simplicity.
    I have been running a budget Schiit stack on the desktop, a Magni 2 Uber and Modi 2 Multibit, and/or a Chord Mojo used as a DAC, or occasionally as an amp on its own with some headphones. Most of the time, I have been using Sennheiser HD650 or Hifiman HE400i.
    The Magni 2 Uber has plenty of power to drive any of my headphones, and is ludicrously cute, stacked with the Modi 2 Multibit. The price and tiny footprint certainly are attractive, and noise is impressively low. However, the Magni 2U isn't perfect- though you wouldn't expect it to be at the price. It's not (vague term alert) a very "resolving" or "fast" amp. It was amazing for the price, but I knew that my headphones (and thus my music) could sound better. While I was enjoying listening to the little stack, I was on the lookout for something better. My HD650 sounded a bit "veiled" or "soggy", especially regarding details in busy tracks, and my HE400i sounded a bit more harsh than they have from some other sources (including right out of the Mojo).
    (The Magni 2 Uber/Modi 2 Multibit stack.. stacked the wrong way around for the picture.. Doh.)
    So when Schiit released a new affordable balanced amp which measures excellently (I'm not allowed to link to that site, so google), as well as garnering some extremely positive subjective impressions, I was interested. So interested that I ordered one directly from Schiit in the US. It felt like an extravagance, so I was really hoping that the subjective improvement would be closer to the usual delicious audiophile hysteria than most upgrades tend to be.

    Options, options

    The Jotunheim is available with either a DAC, a phono stage or an empty expansion slot. Both the DAC and phono stage are balanced (of course). The DAC is a 4490-based D/S part, and allegedly sounds perfectly reasonable for what it is. However, because I already have a couple of very decent DACs, I didn't pay the extra for another. Because I am not a vinyl maniac, I didn't need a phono stage, so I'll restrict my remarks to the "basic" Jotunheim without extras.

    Jotunheim sound, general

    When the Jotunheim arrived, and I hooked it up, the difference was striking- and not just because I no longer had a neat little stack. The sound was gratifyingly full and detailed right out of the box. Almost everything I plugged into it* sounded fantastic. IEMs were nice and quiet, harder to drive headphones were driven like they were trivial. I kept getting the "oh yeah, there's some acoustic guitar in the background there" effect- a less scary version of the infamous "where did those children come from?" phenomenon.
    * The exception was my Shure SE535. They're dodgy multi-driver balanced armature IEMs, with super-tizzy highs. While they didn't suffer any noise issues, they sounded thin and dull on the Jotunheim.

    Jotunheim sound through the HD650

    This was the main event- I had heard H650 out of some expensive amps in the past, and they scaled crazily well. I knew that they could sound fantastic for their price, and that I wasn't getting the best out of them with my little stack.
    I had two cables ready for the HD650- two of the standard 3m cables, one of them re-terminated with a 4-pin Neutrik plug, to allow balanced operation.
    Single-ended, the HD650 sounded fantastic. Initially, there was so much more detail than I was used to, I found it a little overwhelming, it almost made me wince. I had to give it some time to let my brain adjust before I could really make a subjective call. Once my brain had stopped keening and flopping about, and everything settled down somewhat, it sounded fantastic. The sound was clean, powerful, details and possibly a touch warm. This isn't unexpected, I am using unmodded HD650, which are famously tuned to be a little warmer. However, that's actually why I chose them in the first place-  a slightly warm signature is very comfortable for non-fatiguing listening. The HD650 over SE sounds fantastic, and if it was an SE-only amp at this price, it'd still be notable.
    I swapped the cable for the balanced one, and buckled up slightly apprehensively. Logically, I wasn't expecting a huge difference- but I was hoping for something, and preferably something positive. Oddly, that wasn't a bad guess. The difference with balanced isn't, as some excitable souls like to claim (about nearly everything) "night and day". However, it's noticeable- a general increase in fine detail across the board. Sharp transients were the main beneficiary. The xylophones low in the mix in Bowie's "Word On A Wing" are a good example. They sound clear and pleasant on the Jotunheim/HD650 in general, but the percussive attack of the sound is more pronounced when you're going balanced. It's a small difference but worth having for the price of a cable with the right termination.
    Bass was particularly gratifying- while you expect fairly powerful bass from dynamic headphones, the bass is not just present but surprisingly textured and detailed. The smearing of ragged, distorted electric bass that I was used to on the Magni 2 U was replaced by snarling, chewy low frequencies that cut through a busy mix without apparent difficulty. 
    The gulf between Magni 2 Ultra and Jotenheim was surprisingly large. The differences between SE and balanced with the Jotenheim are more subtle, but still noticeable.
    It's quite a high bar for a solid state amp, sounding good and interesting through the HD650. The Jotunheim completely nails this particular challenge in some style, but does so for a lot less than you'd expect.

    Jotunheim sound through the HE400i

    Through the Magni 2U, the HE400i sometimes sounded a little harsh or bright on some material. I'm not sure if this was a frequency spike or the effect of some transient overrun (are there any good atomicbob-style measurements of it available, with commentary? I'd love to know).
    Going SE through the Jotunheim, the HE400i sounds a lot more sane. Being planar magnetic, they were always fast and clear- even if held back a little by the amp. Out of the Jotunheim, there's more to hear- more detail, but they don't sound nearly as harsh. It's a much easier listen- laid-back but quite detailed.
    They're pleasant midfi headphones, with a lovely crisp sound- but I'd say that the HD650 are more attractive more of the time on the Jotunheim- it's just such a great pairing. There are still times when I pull out the HE400i for specific albums, and always enjoy listening to them. The irony is that they sound better than they used to through the Magni 2U, just that the goalposts have been moved. It's a nice problem to have.
    These aren't particularly hard to drive headphones, so it's no surprise that they sound good through this little beast of an amp. For the sake of completeness, I will get the HE400i running with a balanced cable, just to see what happens. I'd be very surprised if the story wasn't similar to what happened with the HD650- a small incremental improvement, but nothing world-shaking. I'll try to update this when I know more.
    OK, I spent a bit of a time swapping cables around on the HE400i. My first comment is that the Jotenheim does a very solid job on both SE and balanced on the HE400i. If you own these headphones, you won't be too outraged if you only have an SE cable to hand when you first plug it into this amp. There are differences, but they're slight. I'm afraid I'm reduced to describing specific pieces of music, like a hack. Please don't point and laugh.
    However, there is a noticeable improvement in detail, width of sound stage and instrument separation when you go balanced. It's not the infamous "night and day" here, either. Fire up a good recording of "Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity" by Holst as an example- and draw yourself a little picture of where various parts of the orchestra are in front of you. Wait a few minutes and re-listen with the other cable, and a new bit of paper (wow, so science, much method) and draw your diagram again.. you might be surprised how much they vary. At the same time, separation of instruments and general clarity is slightly improved- timpani rolls are more distinct and less of a low-frequency grumble, for example.
    Highs sound better controlled, too- in Radiohead's "Airbag", a surprisingly harsh track, they're less grating, but the very quiet shaken percussion comes through clearly, where it it wasn't really possible to pick it out of the mix easily single-ended.  Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb", a very familiar track, at also just tightens up all-round. The first big guitar break doesn't seem to push the quieter details in the percussion down in the mix. The sound is wider, more detailed, instruments more distinct.
    Essentially, there's a small but valuable increase in detail, sound stage and instrument separation, at the very least. I might be suffering expectation bias at this point, but I don't think so. Again, differences are minor, so supply your own scepticism. However, if you own headphones that are trivially easy to run balanced, and have access to a balanced amp, why wouldn't you?

    Jotunheim sound with Mimby/Mojo

    The two DACs that I use most of the time are the Modi 2 Multibit ("Mimby") and the Chord Mojo. I tended to use the Mimby more, as the Mojo sounded a little smooth through the Magni 2 U. The difference was actually surprisingly audible, for a pair of comparable DACs.
    Through the Jotunheim, they both sound really nice. There is an audible difference, though it's subtle. The Mojo still sounds more laid-back, especially in the highs. I suspect that may be deliberate, that Rob Watts has tuned the filters to be more relaxed, for pleasant non-fatiguing listening. Either way, it doesn't feel like a deficiency. The Mimby sounds a little forward, the Mojo a little more smooth. However, they both sound lovely and detailed, and don't add any extra tizz or problems. We are living in a bit of a golden age for mid-priced DACs right now, it seems, and I could listen to either for hours.
    I originally bought the Mimby because the Mojo can shut down if charging and playing at once on a warm day, which is really irritating. This, combined with the slightly more acute detail rendition in the sound of the Mimby mean that I tend to leave it plugged in to the Jotunheim more of the time. As with the HE400i, it's nice to have options, to change the sound slightly as the mood takes you. I'd be happy with either of them, if I had to made do with only one- but it's nice to have the convenience of a true desktop DAC and the option of a tiny portable DAC/amp for travel use.


    It's really hard to think of any substantive downsides of the Jotunheim, it's a surprisingly solid and competent fully-balanced solid state amp that beats many others both on paper and subjectively, arguably including some of Schiit's own more expensive offerings. Their willingness to disrupt their own markets as well as that of the competition is amusing. Many manufacturers would segment product line-ups though deliberate over-pricing or crippling, but Schiit are apparently content to just let the pieces fall where they will. I suppose it's a strategy that is working well for them, making affordable no-nonsense versions of what are normally high-end equipment. Things like the Jotunheim or the Mimby sell extremely well due to their impressive price to performance ratio, and act like a gateway drug.
    If I had to be hyper-critical and picky, I'd say that it would have been nice to have the option of a second SE input in the expansion slot. This would allow me to keep both my DACs connected, without having to add yet another box to switch between them. I'm probably not the only one with a use for an extra SE input; maybe Schiit will offer one in future. Also, however well-implemented it is, the Delta/Sigma DAC option won't be everyone's cup of tea; some people have very strong feelings about this. It's a compelling option for people looking for simple all-in-one for the office, but we're a spoiled lot now, in this era of affordable high-quality R2R DACs.

    Update - Long term listening

    This is a decent solid state amp, and sounds... like a solid state amp.  The sound stage is wide, but very shallow. There isn't much "depth" to the sound, as you'd get from a tube amp. It also has a very slight metallic sheen to the highs, though oddly this reduces when everything reaches thermal stability. If you leave the amp on for a couple of days, it's reduced. 

    General conclusion

    "This changes everything"? Maybe not- that is probably still hyperbole. However, this amp really does bring a "better than mid-fi" option to the table at a distinctly mid-fi price. It's not the best amp I've ever heard, nor does it and my HD650 constitute the best headphone listening set-up that I've ever heard. However, to get something this good at this price does switch things up noticeably.
    For once, the FOTM that people are losing their minds over does actually live up to most of the hype. The Jotunheim is a great-sounding, well-made and extremely keenly-priced desktop SS amp. Pair it with HD650 (possibly with a balanced cable), and you have a remarkably respectable set-up for an unusually keen price. It may not be your only amp, you may like to pair it with someone packing some tubes, but this unit will scratch your solid state itch smartly for a good price.
    If you're in the market for a solid state desktop headphone/preamp that costs less than a small horse, you could do a lot worse than give the Jotunheim a listen. It's not perfect, but it's really decent. For the price, it's killer. Highly recommended.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Road77
      Thanks for the excellent review! I was seriously considering the Asgard, but now I am teetering on the edge of buying the Jotie.
      Road77, Sep 17, 2016
    3. Tuneslover
      I too have the Magni2U and HD650 so your impressions were interesting. I prefer the 650's on my Lake People G109S which makes me wonder how this very able amp compares with the Jot. I find that the bass through the M2U is a bit too underwhelming but it sounds like you're finding it to be better through the Jot. Nice review!
      Tuneslover, Sep 26, 2016
    4. Pink Freud
      Hi there! Can I ask how the mojo amp compares to the jotunheim when driving the hd 650?
      Thanks a lot!
      Pink Freud, Dec 19, 2016
  5. chicken beer
    The Jotunheim 2 will be a great amp/DAC for minimalists. This one, please pass.
    Written by chicken beer
    Published Apr 1, 2017
    Pros - Balanced. Powerful. Versatile. Size is small.
    Cons - DAC is not good. HOPELESS EM shielding. A little hot. Takes an hour after turning on to sound good.
    I suggest people who respect their work and value their hard-earned 500 bucks at all, to skip this and buy something else or buy Jotunheim 2, which should come out soon if Schiit respect their products at all. If money is not an issue, then feel free to try it.
    This is an unfinished product, although I gotta say it's quite good. Great is the word to describe (Spoiler I'm gonna use 'Great' a lot in this minireview)
    1. People who need a speaker amp can take this. It will be simply amazing.
    2. But as the way the great market requests, people who need a DAC/amp on their desk will find better options at $500 price range if they are not crazy about the balanced voodoo. Those who really need balanced output can take this one as a compromise. And if you ain't a minimalist, you WILL upgrade sooner or later, because this is not a sound you will settle with.
    3. People who have some headphones with low efficiency can take this as an option, but just an option.
    4. The overall design and features fit the market well. Not quite the sound which is just ok for a $400 amp.
    5. Overall, this is a Frankenstein, yes a 'Jotunheim'. Huge but in weird shape in terms of features. Which is probably why its features can compliment with what people already have.
    6. Overall, this is a great amp. The design can use some improvements. I listed most of them in the Cons (please fix them if they are general), and can add the fact that the size is really small, which is good, but Schiit can slightly increase their size standards. The size is unquestionably limiting the potential of the Jotunheim. I can see a much better design and less compromises that shorten the life of the Jotunheim. Also please give more space to the modular thing, you never know if next year a better DAC design could come up. 
    7. I tried Schiit Modi, Vali, Mjolnir before, and they are all great. Greatly built and great sound. Their customer service is sublime. Their products and the way they present them to customers are great and reasonable. What I really like about Schiit is that they are all made in the United States (less the accessories, so it's thoughtful the way it is on their website). As a Chinese, I wish to say thanks to Schiit for making an effort in reducing environment pressure in China.
    8. The Jotunheim does not sound good in the first ~20 minutes since you turn it on to my normal ears. If this is not a general issue then it's just my unit, I will base my impression on the Jotunheim turned on overnight.
    It's a very good solid state sound and it is not soft and smooth. Quite neutral, quite clear. It sounds great with my HD800, and sounds even better with my DUM Elear (both from 4-pin XLR, but I did not find audible difference in the SE port). I tried Grados, Focal Elear, Beyerdynamic T90 and various IEM's and earbuds on the SE port and gotta say it sounds great. The IO options are perfect: RCA in, balanced in, DAC in, gain switchable, balanced out and SE out. 
    9. After all, this balanced DAC/amp represents the best value from Schiit and it should be easy to recommend. For SE options, I still regard Chord Mojo a better sounding DAC/amp (through headphones), to my ears, as an overall package, and they achieved great sound and much higher versatility at 1/20 the size of the Jotunheim. Yes, and to my ears, Mojo did that with no compromise in sound quality: it's full-sounding and still resolving enough.
    Buying a Modi 2 multibit + a Valhalla 2 will also probably be a good value.
    10. I spent 14 hours (with 2 hours head on time) and wrote this mini-review in 30 minutes. There are people who literally need 20 days to write one, and it's quite appreciable for them to do so to reach a solid conclusion.
    I am doing this mini review fast because someone needs to know a different opinion.