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Ragnarok is the first truly universal amplifier, fully capable of powering everything from IEMs...

Schiit Audio Ragnarok

Rating:
4.75/5,
  • Ragnarok is the first truly universal amplifier, fully capable of powering everything from IEMs to loudspeakers. With up to 100 watts per channel into 4 ohms, 3 selectable gains, a sophisticated relay-switched stepped attenuator volume control, complete microprocessor management of all operational points, including bias and DC offset, and Schiit’s Crossfet™ circlotron-style output topology, Ragnarok completely befits its name—in Norse legend, Ragnarok was the “end of the world.”

    From IEMs to Loudspeakers
    Go ahead. Plug in your sensitive headphones and set Ragnarok’s gain to 1. You’ll enjoy a silent background, and the fine control that a 64-step attenuator can provide. Or run it with the most power-hungry orthos you know. With gain set at 20, and 15W RMS into 32 ohms, you’re ready for an amazing performance. Speakers? No problem. With 60W per channel into 8 ohms, Ragnarok delivers amazing performance with most popular speakers.

    A Complete Integrated Amp
    Ragnarok includes 5 relay-switched inputs—two balanced and three single-ended, as well as balanced and single-ended preamp outputs for use as a preamp. For outputs, both balanced and single-ended outputs are provided for headphones, and balanced speaker terminal outputs for loudspeakers.

    Nothing In the Signal Path Except Signal
    Ragnarok is an "intelligent" amplifier, using a microprocessor to oversee every aspect of its operation—from quiescent bias, to DC offset, to complete fault protection. It’s also designed so that any major problem mutes all the outputs and reverts the amp to its low-gain, zero volume mode. This means we can dispense with coupling caps and DC servos entirely, for a gain stage that has nothing in the signal path—except for your music.

Recent Reviews

  1. Army-Firedawg
    The epitome of a purest amplifier
    Written by Army-Firedawg
    Published Mar 15, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Power for days, can play very nicely with sensitive c/iems, inputs/outputs galore, extremely transparent sound, solid build, wonderful looks,
    Cons - loud clicking noise when adjusting volume (it's supposed to do that however [attenuation]), bottom does get hot (not what people make it out to be thiug)


    This beautiful beast (and please take that word seriously) of a product is one that I was rather surprised to be humbled with an opportunity to review. You see, while trying to get some interest and vendors to attend or show interest in the audio meet I was putting together I reached out to Schiit on just a pure whim and hope. And my goodness am I glad I did for they were such an incredible pleasure to work with. The representative I spoke to was full of energy and had a very splendid attitude and sense of humor (quite befitting of a company called Schiit). Anywho’s, she mentioned that they would be glad to send us their Schiit Kit once it was finished with another audio meet being held just prior to mine and even offered to send us their flagship products with the Ragnarok of course being the amp. So to say I was overjoyed and honored would be a vast understatement. But with the introductions aside, please allow me to now give my thoughts and impressions on the headphone/speaker amplifier that has taken root in a many of totl end game setups.



    A little about me

    I would like to say that first and foremost I am NOT an “audiophile” but rather an audio enthusiast. I listen to music to enjoy it. Do I prefer a lossless source? Yes, of course. But I can still be very happy streaming from Pandora or even my YouTube “My Mix” playlist. I also prefer equipment that sounds the best to me personally regardless of what frequency response it has or rather or not it's “sonically accurate” and I always have and shall continue to encourage others to do the same.

    I'm a firefighter for both the civilian and military sector and the cliché of wanting to do this since I was born couldn't be more present with me. I've worked hard over the last several years to earn this position and now it's time for me to work even harder to keep it.

    My interests/hobbies are powerlifting, fishing and relaxing to audio products and reviewing them to help other decide on what products would work for them. Few things make me as an audio enthusiast/review feel more accomplished than when someone tells me that I helped them find the type of sound they've always been looking for.

    Now, the sound signature I personally favor is a relaxing, warm and sensual sound that just drifts me away in the emotional experience of the music being performed. Yes, accuracy is still important but I will happily sacrifice some of that if I'm presented with a clean, warm sound that can wisp me away into an experience that makes me yearn for more.

    My ideal signature are that of respectably forward mids and upper bass range with the bass being controlled but with some slight decay. I like my treble to have nice extension and detail reveal with a smooth roll off up top as to not become harsh in the least. Examples of products that have given me chills and keep giving me the yearning for more feels are the (in no particular order) Bowers & Wilkins P7, Oppo PM-1/2, Empire Ears Hermes VI & Zeus XIV, Audeze LCD-XC, Meze Headphones 99 Classics.

    Equipment used at least some point during the review

    -Headphones

    -Sennheiser

    -HD800 S

    -HD650

    -Hifiman HE560

    -Audio-Technica

    -ATH-ADX5000

    -ATH-W5000

    -Fostex/Massdrop TH-X00

    -Empire Ears Hermes VI

    -Focal Clear

    -Oppo PM-1

    -D.A.C.(s)

    -PS Audio Digital Link III w/ Cullen Stage 4 upgrade

    -Schiit Yggdrasil

    -iFi Micro iDAC2

    -Sources

    -LG V20/HP Pavilion

    -Playing Pandora, YouTube, and various format personal music

    -Microsoft Pro Tablet

    Disclaimer

    I am by no means sponsored by this company or any of its affiliates. They were kind enough to send me a product for an arranged amount of time in exchange for my honest opinion. I am making no monetary compensation for this review.

    The following is my take on the product being reviewed. It is to be taken “with a grain of salt” per say and as I always tell people, it is YOUR opinion that matters. So regardless of my take or view on said product, I highly recommend you listen to it yourself and gauge your own opinion.



    The Opening Experience

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    Why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience

    Please allow me to explain why I feel so strongly about the initial unboxing experience with a product. Maybe it’s due to my southern roots in the hills of eastern Kentucky, but I’ve always been raised under the pretense of when you introduce yourself to someone for the first time you present yourself with confidence, class, character, pride, and competence. You greet the other person with a true warm smile, eye contact and a firm handshake. Anything less or short implies to other person that you either don’t care about them, are too full of yourself, too busy to be bothered by the likes of them, or worse, just generally disrespectful.

    As a consumer, I take this same belief to when I open a new product. Why? Because think about it this way. How else can a company introduce themselves to their customers? How do they present their products? Are they packaged with pride and presented in such a way that makes the listener eager to listen to them? Or maybe they’re just wrapped up and placed in an available space. How about the box itself? Is it bogged down with jargon that says look at this, look what I can do. I’m better than anything on the market and here’s why read this and check out that. Or, is the package clean, simplistic and classy? As if saying to the customer ‘Good day, pleasure to meet your acquaintance. Please give me a listen and allow me to show you what I can do and allow my actions to speak louder than my words.’

    This is why I feel so strongly about the initial presentation of a product, and I feel it’s truly a shame more people don’t. But with all that aside, let’s discuss how this products introduced itself shall we?



    *Now, to disclaim, the box that I received was that of a plain box and was a loaner unit for the purposes of the Carolina CanFest 6 audio meet. A purchased unit may have some minute differences but from viewing pictures of others unboxing the product as well as reading through the forums, I believe the difference would be nil. Well, I also doubt your purchased box will have various tested dates written in marker on the front flap, so there’s that :p*


    It’s rare that I find myself really impressed by the unboxing of amps or dacs. More often than not they’re delivered in a fairly plain *insert color* box with nothing on it. Usually I like this setup for to me it tell the listener to just experience the product vs letting it brag what it claims it can do. Well, that’s where the buildup ends unfortunately. Once you open the box, there’s the Ragnarok, inside of very protective foam and a power cord (at least they included a power cord with their products unlike a certain equally priced combi unit I purchased), a buyer would also get a user's manual and warranty guide but my loaner unit did not come with this. However a user manual can easily be found here.

    So nothing to really write home about with its initial experience other than being just impressed by the sheer size and weight of the unit. But Schiit does take very good care in the delivery of their products to ensure they arrive in perfect condition to their customers and that is something most admirable. And honestly, though I wasn’t overly impressed with the unboxing, I can’t really think of a way to improve it because it’s not like imma be carrying it around in a carrying case. And if you could just carry this thing around willy nilly then by goodness, all the power to you cause you is a BEAST haha.


    Construction

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    The build quality of the Schiit Ragnarok, like its Yggdrasil counterpart, is second to NONE. The entire thing is aluminum and solidly built in terms of both strudyness and weight. At the top of the unit you’ll find the Schiit logo and passive vent to let some of the heat the Ragnarok produces escape, which on a note, is NOWHERE near what I read about in the forums. Yes, the Ragnarok gets a little toasty, but to the analogy of frying eggs is just overkill (yes even when used in satire). I’ve had mine on for over 2 weeks straight and being all but constantly used so I would like to state that this thing does not get as hot as people are making it out to be. But any who's, looking at the front of the behemoth of an amp. you’ll find the (starting from the left) input selector button (with 5 FIVE different input options), the power gain button, the super smooth volume knob that actually has a physical start and stop point, the power gain indicator lights (interesting they put it next to the volume and not the power gain button but no biggy), the balanced and then single ended OUTPUT (in my unboxing video I brain farted and said they were inputs but since I haven’t received any wtf comments I’m pretty sure everyone knew what I meant). Before I move on, I want to make another note on the volume knob. When you turn it, it makes a clicking noise. I confirmed with Schiit that it is completely normal and supposed to do that.

    Moving to the back, as stated above, you’ve FIVE input options to choose from. 2 balanced XLR and 3 single ended RCA. 2 outputs, 1 balanced XLR and 1 single ended RCA. You’ve a SPEAKER output, yeah like actual speakers (I did NOT use these during my time with the Ragnarok). Then lastly you’ve the power input and on/off knob.

    Just like the flagship Yggdrasil, there’s so much to the Schiit Ragnarok that it’s no wonder this beast is so massive and so darned heavy. It’s also accomplished something that I thought was all but gone in today’s market. They made this beautiful piece of art in AMERICA, and yes, I take personal pride in that. But my final thoughts on the Ragnarok’s build is that I personally couldn’t have asked for any better. I have ZERO thoughts that those who are fortunate enough to be able to own one of these, so long as you truly love the solid state sound, will be happy with in indefinitely. Rather it be mechanically or physically I don’t foresee any issues (other than general wear and tear) happening with the Ragnarok. And heck, even if something does, if purchased through Schiit, you’ve a 5 year warranty as a nice backup.



    Specification (Copied straight from the Schiit website)

    Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.25db, 2Hz-110KHz, -3dB

    Maximum Power, 4 ohms: 100W RMS per channel

    Maximum Power, 8 ohms: 60W RMS per channel

    Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 15W RMS per channel

    Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 10W RMS per channel

    Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 1.7W RMS per channel

    Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 850mW RMS per channel

    THD: Less than 0.006%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS

    IMD: Less than 0.008%, CCIF at 1V RMS, high gain mode (worst case)

    SNR: More than 103db, unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS, in gain = 1 mode

    Crosstalk: Less than -80dB, 20Hz-20KHz

    Output Impedance: 0.03 ohms

    Input Impedance: 10K ohms

    Gain: 20 (26dB), 5 (14dB), 1 (0db) via front panel switch.

    Topology: Fully discrete Crossfet™ circlotron-style output stage with solid state voltage gain stage, microprocessor management of quiescent current and DC offset, as well as discrete summing stages for single-ended output

    Protection: microprocessor monitoring of fault conditions including DC, overcurrent, and transient phenomena, with relay muting on any fault.

    Power Supply: 400VA transformer with 4 separate circlotron output rails, plus 56VA separate transformer for high voltage rails; seven separate regulated supplies for front end and control section; over 100,000uF filter capacitance total.

    Power Consumption: 75W quiescent, 500W max

    Size: 16 x 12 x 3.75”

    Weight: 32 lbs

    Features

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    For the mostish part the Ragnarok is a fairly straight forward amplifier, but it does offer some pretty sweet perks that, IMO, set it apart from most other audiophile amplifiers. The first one being that it can be used as a power amplifier for speakers as well as headphones (rather it be one or the other or both at the same time). Admittedly, this is not anything new or even remotely unique to the Ragnarok but the majority of the time, headphone amps with outputs can only “power” powered speakers. The Ragnarok is not in this category, for the Ragnarok can deliver up to 60W of power into an 8ohm load. Now, I was unable to test this feature during my time with the Rag. for I’ve no speakers but this is still a very impressive feat IMO.

    The next perk that I was particularly impressed that’s in the Rag is its ability to play quite nicely with my hyper sensitive Empire Ears Hermes VI ciem. Another feature that isn’t unique or uncommon to the Ragnarok. But Schiit, has the best results of any desktop amplifier I’ve ever tried. I was able to listen to my ciems surprisingly efficient and what more is that I was able to, on low gain, increase the volume knob to about half way. I’m by no means an engineer as to how this is possible without frying my super sensitive gear but I’m going to give the credit to the 64 step attenuator. For it’s like (again, I’m no engineer so this is how I BELIEVE IT WORKS) the Rag is reading the low power requirements and only using like its first couple attenuator things (which I think are like power restrictors) thus only sending a fraction of the power to the ciems. But I’ll end that here and I’ll talk about the results of which later in the sound section.

    So like I said earlier, it’s a fairly straight forward amp but it does have a few perks I wanted to give special notions to that I feel others will be able to really appreciate the Ragnarok having.



    Sound

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    The sound on the Ragnarok is, to my ears, non existent. No, I don’t mean it doesn’t do anything but there is no sound that the Ragnarok adds to the music. It’s so transparent that the amp just disappears and all you hear is the music played as natural as I can fathom possible, minus the sound characteristics of your chosen headphones (or speakers). The Ragnarok emits, to my ears, a pitch black background completely void on any noise. Because of this I was able to, quite consistently, hear new nuances in music that I’ve listened to several hundred times, and this experience didn’t just sit with me but many who listened to the Ragnarok at CanFest 6. I’m aware that the Dac also plays a role in hearing new music details but I mix and matched the Rag/Yggy with other amp/dacs. as to isolate whether or not one of them was the sole benefiter.

    This actually brings me to something that I’ve learned about the Ragnarok, it’s a purest amp. This amp is by no means musical, this is a pure, straight to business powerhouse that doesn’t make any excuses. Those who are stereotypic audiophile (not used in a negative connotation), who wants to listen to their music as accurately as possible, not necessarily accurate like how it was originally recorded but as if you were physically at the performance, then the Ragnarok is very likely going to be one of, if not the, most impressive amplifier you’ll ever hear.

    In a lot of forums I read about the Ragnarok, a lot of the focus is on super named headphones that are prominently power hungry or picky to pair with. It’s honestly a rarity that I find anyone discuss its ability to power the complete opposite end of the spectrum, the c/iems. Now granted, I understand why because not too many people are going to buy a powerhouse of an amp to power what a phone can do just fine. But still, the curiosity for me is there. So I turned the volume completely down and selected the lowest possible gain. After letting it sit for a couple seconds I swallowed hard, said a small prayer, and plugged in my hypersensitive Empire Ears Hermes VI customs. Leaving everything where it is I pressed play on my selected song and then put the ciems up to my ear hoping I would still hear something. To my sweet relief I heard that lovely sound I love so much. On the flip side of that, I also heard that almost unanimous sound with everything I ever plug these things into, humming. Yeah, it’s not really noticeable at all with music playing, but I was still hopeful.

    With the above being said, it also is its own negative. For those who watched my Hifiman Edition X review (shameless plug) you’ll remember me comparing it to a coworker who is exceptional at their job. They do it incredibly well, much more than they get paid for. However, said employee is all work oriented and doesn’t really have much of a personality, they’re just work and go home. And the Ragnarok is just that. It performs its job and that's it. I never, in the vast amount of hours I listened to the amp., had a feeling of wanting to come back to it. It never gave me an experience that I personally enjoy. I never had a smile be forced on my face when music was played through the Rag. Why? I can’t explain it. Every spec of detail that I’ve never even heard on other, even more expensive, amps. was revealed and the positioning of individual pieces has only been this pinpoint accurate on a very small select few products. So why did the Ragnarok just not really do it for me personally? The only conclusion I can come up with is the unknown factor of peoples individual tastes. I really couldn’t find anything bad about the Ragnarok’s performance, it’s outstanding. The darned thing never flinched regardless of what headphone, or headphones (running both balanced and unbalanced outputs simultaneously), Not once did I ever feel like I was giving the Rag a workout, from Focal’s to Hifiman’s the Rag just laughed and asked is that all ya got? Pompous little bastard.




    Conclusion

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    The flagship amplifier of the Schiit brand is truly one incredible machine. The Ragnarok is very reminiscent of an African Elephant. Massive, beautiful, highly intelligent and despite also having the ability to completely overpower virtually any adversary, it can control its strength and power and finesse it where needed. I already stated it above, but the Ragnarok I believe to be the pinnacle of what a purist amp is. Sure, there’s amplifiers out there that cost multiples more than the Ragnarok, but I strongly doubt they’ll perform much, if at all, better. And though my personal tastes didn’t align with this amp. it is, to me, what solid state amplifiers strive to be.






    Also, make sure to check out my unboxing and review videos. They’re pretty awesome AND you getta put a face to the Army-Firedawg name. If this review helped you out at all please hit that thumbs up button for it really helps me out a lot. Till next time my friends, stay safe.

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      mangus and volly like this.
  2. Trerit
    One amp to rule them all.
    Written by Trerit
    Published Nov 14, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Drives speakers, drives any headphone. Drives audiophile speakers and headphones!
    Cons - Sounds best after heating up. jack output ain’t as jacked as the balanced.
    For a couple of years, I have been wanting a better speaker amp and been looking at Hegels H80(cheap in my country). Then last year I bought the Magni 2U/Modi 2U stack because it was well reviewed and most people said it was the best entry level head-fi gear you could get. And I was pleasantly surprised! It was my first pure headphone amp/dac and a step away from using the “convenience” jack-out on stereo receivers, or straight out of the computers minijack. Because of this purchase I started looking at some schiit and spotted the Ragnarok. An amp that could do both well, not just speakers or just headphones. Read some review online and that’s when I decided to buy it.
     
    Gear
    I don’t have much to compare with or against as I skipped straight from the beginning to the end of schiits amp product line. Modi 2U>Ragnarok/Modi 2U>HE-400i cans/LS50’s speakers. This is everything I have.
     
    Sound
    On both jack and balanced I noticed the sound improve more to my liking after it had heated up. It probably took around 10-30minutes, never timed it. As for speakers, I never tried them from a cold Ragnarok.
     
    1. Jack: 
      After listening sessions lasting 2-3 hours I started getting a headache. This might be because I had to put the gain up to 20 and turn the volume to around 12 o’clock to run my headphones. Might have boosted some headache promoting inaudible frequency? If this is from the DAC, power grid or amp itself I have no clue and I lack the gear to find out. Despite this headache I still feel it improved the sound over my Magni 2U, I just cannot put my finger on it and I never bother doing a side by side comparison with the jack. I look at the jack is a convenience port and it was mighty convenient as I was waiting 1 week for my balanced cable to arrive.
     
    1. Balanced: 
      Once I got my balanced cable the difference between the Ragnarok and the Magni 2U became apparent. Sounded as it had more control over the lows to upper mids(female vocals). Highs sound quite similar as the Magni 2U, that might be because I’m using a HE-400i and I find their highs are lacking. I suspect the cans are turning the highs into a sludge of some sort that no amp can improve upon. And yes, the headache problem disappeared with a balanced cable. 
     
    1. Speaker: 
      Blows everything I have previously owned out of the water. Which is no feat at all as I have owned some AKAI system, Denon home cinemathing and a borrowed Yamaha RX-V1800(returning it promptly). I bought a pair of LS50’s together with the Ragnarok so I also had a major speaker improvement. Can only say it’s good, really good, best speaker system I have heard. I like the sound of the LS50’s better through the Ragnarok than when I auditioned the LS50’s at a hifi store, and suspect they were connected to something fancy. Didn’t have my own tunes at the store so that might have played a major role.
       
    Design, UI and heat
    1. I wanted one in silver, but the only one available for me was black. Still looked a lot better than expected with the grey/silver details on the black. That I have this “limited edition” black might become a problem if I buy an Yggdrasil someday.
    2. The source button labelled with numbers only is awesome.
    3. The minimalistic 3 buttons on front is to my liking as I don’t like a clutter of buttons to ruin somethings sleek design.
    4. Once I got used to switching between headphones/speakers with the source button hold, I liked it. Was kinda weird at first.
    5. When people said it got toasty I was a little worried, turns out it’s not that hot. I have had hotter laptops, measured at 88celcius. This amp probably only goes to 55ish celcius (going by feel here).

    Would I recommend this amp?
    For me its the best amp i know of for my needs, headphone and speakers at one place. So if you want a high-quality amp for speakers and headphones, then this is the amp you want. Feels like quality, looks like quality, sounds like quality and has all the features I need. Everyone with a typical "boys room" setup with speakers and headphones would love this.

    Now I just need to save some money for a balanced DAC and probably upgrade my cans as well...
  3. reddog
    a versatile, Natural sounding amp
    Written by reddog
    Published Aug 13, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - power, control, transparent, neutral
    Cons - runs a bit hot, wish the knob had a more distinct indentation/ indicator.
    The Schist Audio Ragnarok is a powerful, versatile amp.   When I recieved  the Rag, in late November of 2014, I was impressed by its large neo-spartan industrial design.   it seems every aspect of the Rag is functional, not much fluff about it.  On the Rag's brushed aluminum front plate are two buttons, one volume knob, eight small indicator lights; as well as a XLR balanced and 1/4 single ended headphone outputs  One button controls the five inputs: two balanced, three single. The second button controls the gain setting.  The back of the Rag is the same type of design.   I appreciate the large beefy design of  this amp, although I feel it runs warm and I made small table for it, so its heat would not bake any gadget.    
     
      
    Now that I have briefly described  the physical attributes of the rag, I can get on to what really matters, how does this large beast of a solid state amp sound?    The Ragnarok is very powerful, yet the sound signature  is very natural, revealing and transparent.   For instance, when jamming out to Frank Zappa's  " Make Jazz Noise Here", the instruments sound natural, and transparent, no hint of colorization, a guitar sounds like a guitar, a bassoon sounds like a bassoon.   On my Pioneer receiver, the instruments would sound artificial or analytical; the Rag never sounds artificial, just revealingly neutral/ natural sound.   
    The bass on the Rag is powerful,  yet tight and controlled, it does not bleed into the mids.   I have listened to rock, Jazz, blues, classical and rap and the bass has always been spot on perfect.  For example, Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp' the bass is so good, but does not leak into rest of the sound.  
    The mids on the Rag are smooth and lush, yet ever so detailed.    Vocals and instruments sound  ever so smooth but the subtle details in the music is not lost. Yet to my ears the mids  are ever so musical,  and  even with the revealing detail, the mids never sound dry or analytical.   Likewise the treble on the Rag is  natural and revealing , no sign of undo brightness or sibilance.  Kate Bush sounds perfect, nothing fatiguing abut her voice.  Likewise the treble in certain instruments sounds perfect to my ears, no indication of undo brightness. The soundstage is large and holographic, and this is do, the Rags great, powerful bass, lush, detailed mids, and non fatiguing highs.
    the Ragnarok sounded  best using the XLR balanced output.   Headphones, that use a balanced connection benefit from the total power of the Rag.   I have driven the following headphones, through the Rag: Audio-Technica ATH-m50x,   Beyerdynamic  DT 880 600 OHM, OPPO PM-3, MrSpeaker's Alpha Primes, MrSpeaker's Ether,  HIfiman HE1000 , and AKG K7XX.
    The ATH-m50x sounded very nice, through the Rag, on gain setting one or two.   The m50x were my first headphones and seemed to like the power and control of the rag.   The DT 880 sounded alright,  but to my ears the DT 880 sounded better on my Lyr 2.   The AKG K7XX sounded very nice through the Rag, especially on power gain setting 3.    The OPPO PM-3's sounded incredible through the rag on gain setting 1 or 2.   The Alpha Primes are greedy for power, and sound great through the rag on gain setting 3.   Likewise my Ethers like the power of the Rag, mostly on gain setting 2, though, I do use gain setting 3.   Finally the HE1K's love the power and control of the Rag.  I mostly listened to the HE1K on gain setting 3.  
    I did try out a pair of cheap IEM's and background was nice and black.   But I admit I disliked the ear buds/ IEm's so much, I turned the Rag to power gain setting 3 and turned up the volume and fried the suckers lol. I have never used the rag, to listen to speakers.  
     I feel the Ragnarok is a very versatile amp that can run most types of headphones.  The rag is a powerful extremely transparent amp,  allows the music to sound so great without any colorization of the sound.  The Rag does run a bit warm and is best put in a good ventilated place.   In winter, beware ones cats might like to sleep onto of the warm Rag.   I highly recommend the Ragnarok to anyone who is looking for a top tier product, that gives you lots of bang for your money.
      Argo Duck and Burson Audio like this.
    1. UELong
      Enjoyable review, concise and to the point without fluff.  Love to drive a couple of speakers for my desktop setup.
      Hope you do more reviews like this.
      UELong, Aug 14, 2015
    2. Pidgeon
      Thanks for your impressions!
      Pidgeon, Aug 14, 2015
    3. pbui44
      Heh heh, you should put those dead earbuds in a leather case, put it on top of the Ragnarok, and place a paper tombstone that says:

      *Whatever earbuds name*
      Date of Purchase- Date of Death
      "Bzzzt."
      pbui44, Aug 14, 2015
  4. rrahman
    My New Gold Standard
    Written by rrahman
    Published Jan 18, 2015
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Perfect Headphone SQ, Exceptionally versatile amp,
    Cons - Clunky interface, Needs a remote
    I have had my Ragnarok for 2 weeks now... 
     
    SQ wise this amp delivers. Simply the best headphone amp I've ever heard with both my LCD3 and HD800.  Spot on neutral to my ears, dead silent, quick w/o an edginess, very euphonic sound like a tube but still exceptionally resolving w/ no distortion.  I prefer it to the WA22, GSXmk2, Liquid Glass, Mjolnir, and Auralic Taurus Mk2.  There really isn't much to say here, the bar has been raised.
     
    With speakers, I prefer my Parasound Halo A21, but they certainly aren't a slouch with the Magnepan Mini's.  I can confirm excellent synergy, but not as open sounding or quick as my A21.  I also felt I had to crank the knob >2/3 on high gain to get appreciable volume for my large room.  For nearfield purposes which the Mini's were designed for I think this is more than sufficient.  Bass and treble extension were comprable.  When I get my Magnepan 3.7i's I'll use this amp with my Mini's primarily w/o a desire to upgrade.
     
    My criticisms having nothing to do with SQ.  I wish I had a remote.  I wish the interface was easier to navigate.  I wish there was more resistance to turning the volume knob w/ physical clicks instead of audible ones.  I wish when switching between sources, gains, and outputs there was no risk of damage to headphones, speakers, or IEMS.  I wish a more noticeable notch on the volume knob.
    IMG_24441.jpg
    1. View previous replies...
    2. rrahman
      rrahman, Mar 26, 2015
    3. olor1n
      "But if after 100 hrs of burn in it has a sleek interface and remote, I'll be a believer."
       
      LOL. I love the Ragnarok, but this is where the remote for my NAD M51 is invaluable.
       
      Thanks for the link to the risers too.
      olor1n, Apr 15, 2015
    4. steventc93
      Hi, thank you for the review. I ended up ordering one from reading yours and other reviews. Can I ask where did you get the glass rack to put the Ragnarok on? I ordered both the Yggrasil and rag and I want a small desk rack to separate the two. Also, where did you get your blanced xlr cable? Thanks for your informative review.
      steventc93, Oct 21, 2015
  5. atubbs
    A Versatile, Neutral, Universal Amplifier
    Written by atubbs
    Published Dec 10, 2014
    4.5/5,
    Pros - drives anything (from IEMs to speakers) well; jack of all trades, great value, fantastic gain control
    Cons - so-so industrial design & UI, versatility comes at a cost (weight, size, heat, neutrality, dollars, whatever; pick your poison)
    METHODOLOGY AND GENERAL DISCLAIMER
     
    DSCF0152.jpg
     
    I did not do any blind comparisons with this amplifier. My observations are subjective and biased. Nothing in this review should be trusted. I am not a professional.
     
    I used the equipment mentioned in this review to evaluate the amplifier and I compared it directly with the equipment mentioned in this review. Most of my comparative listening experience (i.e. in the same environment, with the same software, with the same equipment in the stream) is on a HeadAmp GS-X (mk II modules), Oppo HA-1, or Inspire IHA-1. There is a huge and broad world of equipment out there. Any generalizations I make are based on a narrow slice of that world.
     
    I will update the review as details or impressions change. I do not anticipate violent changes in perception, but I'm still getting to know this amplifier.
     
    PACKAGING, FORM FACTOR
     
    My Ragnarok was delivered ahead of schedule via FedEx. The amplifier is nestled inside a plastic bag and protected by two foam inserts. Also joining it in the box is an owner's manual and power cord. The box is snugly double-boxed, and while my external box suffered a bit in delivery, the internal box and amplifier were both immaculate. Removal from the box is easy and the packaging material is high-quality and worth retaining. Since the amplifier has decent size and mass, the packaged amplifier is somewhat large and heavy. Compared to most headamps and DACs it is a bit unwieldy. Compared to comparable integrated and power amplifiers, it is not particularly large or heavy.
     
    In fact, I find the amplifier compact for its mass (dominated by the giant transformer). Positioning it for wiring is not a two-person job like it can be with larger and heavy power amplifiers. As with many aspects of this amplifier, expectations need to be adjusted: This is an integrated amplifier. It is quiet enough to drive virtually any headphones. It has a broad range of gain and great delineation of gain, allowing not just use in that regard, but viable use. That's a lot of capability in one box, and it costs in several dimensions. Look elsewhere if size and weight are dominating concerns over capability, but I don't think you're going to easily find many other examples of this much capability in a single compact box.
     
    VISUAL AESTHETIC, BUILD QUALITY
     
    Schiit carries a common visual aesthetic through its products. It's designed to keep costs down, look decent, and have practical (i.e. heat dissipation) benefits. I think it looks good, if a bit utilitarian. It doesn't feel cheap but it also doesn't feel like a luxury hifi product. Does this particularly matter? Depends on the purchaser, I guess. For me it's not a big deal: I'm here for the sound. Provided a component is solidly built and not outright ghastly, I'm satisfied so long as it sounds good.
     
    For Schiit's higher-priced components, the exterior is wrapped on three sides by a rolled aluminum shell. It appears at first to be a single continuous piece but in fact is made in two parts, with a seam tucked into the bottom panel. This seam is only obvious when looking at the amplifier from the side or bottom, which isn't too common. The wrap is substantial and thick. The finish of the aluminum is a bit rough and the edges are sharp. I would not characterize contact with the edges as pleasant, but I also wouldn't class it outright dangerous. The most irritating instance of this is the edge around the control buttons, where fingers are likely to interact more often. It's not a big deal, but it feels a little cheap and unfinished. 
     
    DSCF0133.jpg
     
    My biggest industrial design gripe is the volume knob. It has a small indicator on the front. It has a hole for a set screw. The set screw hole is far more distinct and large than the indicator. I would rather either do away with the indicator (just leveraging the set screw for indication) or better hiding/disguising the set screw hole. The set screw hole in my example also has a burr that is unpleasant to touch. Again, think this just makes the amp look and feel a bit cheaper than necessary.
     
    The jacks, connectors, power switch, and inlet are all solidly affixed. These things all look pretty parts-bin, but this is not an unfamiliar appearance to those familiar with Schiit's industrial design.
     
    The bottom of the amplifier features screwed-in feet instead of the adhesive stickies present in cheaper Schiit products. They are fine, though users wishing for better damping, isolation, coupling, or relief may be inclined to use tweaks and aftermarket products.
     
    OPERATION
     
    The volume knob is novel. It uses a potentiometer and has hard bottom and top stops. The potentiometer's level is interpreted by the control circuitry to set gain via relay-switching resistors. When spinning the dial the amp (itself, not the sound coming out of it) sounds a bit like the smoke monster from Lost. My significant other thinks it sounds terrible and like something is broken, but I find it charming. With that said, if for some reason an amplifier making clicking noises when changing gain is a problem, look elsewhere. I am not in love with the knob feel, but it does not feel at all loose or under-damped. With my headphones, speakers, and sources, I find a decent amount of gain has to be dialed in before the sound becomes audible. With that said, I find there is plenty of precision available to find-tune the level once I reach the desired gain. I've never run into the "but I really want the level in between those two clicks" problems that can sometimes plague stepped attenuators.
     
    There is a decent amount of conversation in the forums about the heat of the amplifier. When I was using it at home with the Reference 3As, it barely got warm. It was on the top of a stack with good ventilation and in a room with good air circulation. At the office, it's under a desk in an equipment rack with about three inches of headroom. With the LS50s and HE-6 plugged in and it just idling, it gets toasty. The volume knob (and rest of the user interface) never gets dangerously warm, but it trends into the somewhat unpleasant range. I raised the amp slightly with a set of vibrapods and cones; this seemed to have a dramatic effect on the temperature. I am not sure why this is as there are no intake vents under the amplifier. My best guess is that a significant amount of the heat is radiated through the bottom of the chassis. Having a little more air helps dissipate this (and diminishes the heat soak into the shelf below). Incidentally, because of the uneven weight distribution in the chassis, just propping it up on vibrapods (at least up to #3) is going to make the amp sag to the left. 
     
    DSCF0143.jpg
     
    Here's the thing: Compared to a large power amplifier, the Ragnarok does not generate that much heat. If anything the actual waste heat output at idle is similar to a small incandescent bulb. What is different, I think, is that there aren't huge heatsinks evacuating the heat from the chassis because the chassis is the heat sink. And, while it does a good job of spreading the heat out, it doesn't seem to be quite as effective at evacuation as a large finned block of aluminum (especially those mounted to the outside of the amp). That said, there are plenty of large fin-happy power amps (especially pure-class-A designs living snugly within their thermal design) that feel like they could cook dinner. The Ragnarok has vents over the transistors but a lot of heat seems to be radiated directly through the chassis itself. Schiit designs its products this way on purpose and it's a functional approach. What it does not yield is a cool-to-the-touch user interface panel.
     
    At the end of the day, I don't care how warm the amp gets. It's an amplifier and I'm not going to rest my head on it while trying to nap. It generates heat. It doesn't get hot enough to be dangerous. But, if a warm-to-the-touch amplifier is something that makes people uncomfortable, it's probably best to look elsewhere. If wasting power isn't somebody's thing, same thing. I would be cautious about assuming that a cooler-running amplifier with similar circuit design and specs is less wasteful, however; it's likely just better at getting the heat away from the amp.
     
    The power switch is on the back of the amplifier. This makes sense in practical terms, I presume (since it's next to the AC inlet), but it is somewhat inconvenient. Those not desiring always-on operation may find this troublesome. With that said, the amp should have a decent amount of vertical airspace above it for ventilation. Any reasonable interpretation of this will make it easy to reach and throw the switch.
     
    Switching inputs is simple and straightforward. While not a new trend, I appreciate they aren't labeled things like "CD" or "tape." Just simple numbers, 1 through 5. Solid.
     
    Setting the gain level is similarly simple and straightforward. Hit the gain button and the appropriate indicator lights up. The gain button is on the other side of the volume knob as the indicator. This looks nice but seems a little visually confusing -- where the input selection button is adjacent to the input indicators, the gain button is on the opposite site of the volume control. 
     
    DSCF0148.jpg
     
    This brings us, then, to the most frustrating and inexcusable thing about Ragnarok's user interface: output selection. Holding the input button down for a long push switches the output mode of the amplifier (headphones + speakers, speakers, headphones). There's no way to know what mode the amp is in at any given time just by looking at it. For people that always operate it in a particular mode, this is a non-issue. I switch modes regularly and it drives me nuts. Adding one more button and two LEDs (headphones hot, speakers hot, light both up for both hot) would be a tremendous improvement. I am happier to have this approach than an auto-sensing switch (i.e. when I plug in headphones the speakers mute), but that's about the nicest I can say about it. If there's a minor (or major) hardware/chassis revision to the amp, this needs to be addressed. I would prefer the gain setting/button as the "hidden" UI if room had to be made.
     
    AS A HEADPHONE AMPLIFIER
     
    Enough with the unimportant stuff, let's talk about sound. I'll cut to the chase: Ragnarok is a good universal headphone amplifier with neutral sound profile. Ignoring electrostatics, it drives anything I could plug into it well.
     
    First off, let's talk about noise. There isn't any. Ragnarok is dead-quiet at all gain levels with all the headphone devices I've tried. According to Stoddard, this is an amp that is sensitive to noise on the AC line but I haven't run into any problems on this front. Maybe my AC just isn't that noisy. My Ragnarok sits behind a high-current power conditioner (20A) and a moderate-current isolation transformer (10A). I didn't find an appreciable difference versus just plugging it into the wall.
     
    Power? It's got it. The amp can definitely drive the HE-6 to loudspeaker levels. Easily. In low gain. In fact, I've only used the gain selector switch to verify it works, I leave the amp in low gain at all times. See rant above about my wish that it was replaced with the output selection system. NB I'm driving the amplifier with balanced input and relatively high-voltage ones at that. Those using low-voltage sources and/or unbalanced signals may need more gain from the amplifier itself. This isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, but it's a thing. Where one's volume control ends up and whether or not they need a gain setting has more to do with the upstream component chain than anything else.
     
    Control? Check. Without it, the power's useless, after all. It does well with high-impedance loads. It does well with low-impedance loads. It does well with highly-sensitive loads. It does well with insensitive loads. 
     
    Delicacy? No problem. Plug in those sensitive CIEMs with aplomb. It's all going to be alright.
     
    I have a hard time describing the sound signature of the amp as anything but neutral and clean. It reproduces music reliably and faithfully. It's not warm. It's not cold. It's not sterile. It's not dark. It's not rainbows and unicorns. It resolves plenty of detail but never comes across as harsh or fatiguing. It doesn't sound much different whether it's on for a minute or a day. It doesn't seem to have changed in sound signature over the weeks I've owned it. 
     
    Some of the forum feedback is that the amp has tube-like characteristics or sound. I don't know that I'm in that particular camp; while I have zero experience with OTL tube amps, direct comparisons with the WA7 and IHA-1 leave me feeling the amp is not particularly tube-like. It doesn't seem to be coloring the music with pleasant (or unpleasant) harmonic distortion. It doesn't seem to be an off-neutral presentation of tone with "great tube bass" or "tube-like warmth" or any other common tube epithets. In fact, I would argue the amplifier sounds like wire with gain more than anything in particular.
     
    DSCF0134-Edit.jpg
     
    Best headphone pairings? Hard to say. I'll start by talking about the three which with I've spent the most time so far, but I can't say that anything thus far sounds less than "good" with the Ragnarok. That's a bigger compliment than it sounds.
     
    Probably the closest to "match made in heaven" is the HE-6. Nothing else in my stable controls it as well. And, with the HE-6, that is always the challenging part: Enough power and good control of that power? Check and check. I like the HE-6 with relatively neutral amps and signal chains and feel like it is capable of magic under the right circumstances. This combination does not disappoint. Run, don't walk.
     
    The HD800 is a fickle creature in a very different way than the HE-6. I'm happy with the combination, but I'll be honest: it's a very neutral amp with a set of headphones that strike me as somewhat clinical at times. The pair is not kind to poorly recorded or mastered material. Detail and resolution is fantastic, but the pair is far kinder to the mid range and human voice than software with a ton of high-frequency or low-frequency material. For folks that love the HD800s with solid state amps, Ragnarok does not disappoint. For folks that love warm tube amps with HD800s, this is not a warm tube amp.
     
    The LCD-3F does rather well. I find these headphones sometimes end up a little bass-heavy or treble-light (or both) depending on the amp. Thus, I like the presentation of the Ragnarok here. Bass is controlled and present but not over-emphasized. Treble isn't missing but also isn't excessive in any way. I think this is a solid performance.
     
    a note about the single-ended output
     
    The single-ended output of the Ragnarok is provided, I believe, as a convenience feature. Since the amplifier is balanced end-to-end, a hardware signal summer is necessary in order to produce a single-ended signal (running single-ended termination out of the balanced output is bad news; on the upside it will safe the amp rather than do bad things). 
     
    I have identical balanced and single-ended cables for my PM-1 headphones, so I took the time to verify single-ended operation and see if there were any obvious differences. While I don't think cables are at all a dominating factor, I can't say precisely the same for any headphone I own otherwise -- the cables are different. I'll note that the PM-1 is an incredibly easy planar to drive and that, like with much of this review, this is anecdotal. Results may vary and all that jazz; notably the output level is much higher through the balanced output, so level matching is not guaranteed when trying to A/B.
     
    So with all of that disclaiming out of the way, my initial take is that the single-ended output sounds fine, but not quite as tight as the balanced output. Most notable in attack/release of lower-octave material. Confirmation bias may be at play here, but I think you're giving up some of what you've paid for if you're only using the single-ended output. If you're primarily using this as an integrated amplifier with the headphone feature as a convenience, your mileage may vary.
     
    AS A PREAMPLIFIER
     
    I don't know how Ragnarok fares as a preamplifier. I have not tried to use it in this capacity. I intended to and I forgot, and now I don't have a convenient amp nearby. "The manual says it should work" is about the best I can offer.
     
    AS AN INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
     
    Let's pretend for a moment that Ragnarok is just an integrated amplifier. Here are two concrete anecdotes:
     
    Compared to a push-pull valve amplifier at a similar price point and power output (Rogue Atlas Magnum, unbuffered stepped attenuator, unbalanced operation, short low-capacitance cable runs), I think the Ragnarok fares pretty well. It has great detail and neutral response across the frequency band. It doesn't sound like this tube amp, but I have a hard time saying that the tube amp had the upper hand in any particular area beyond looking amazing in the dark. It's a bit of a different animal, but not better. I have a romantic fondness for the tubes here, but I feel the Ragnarok is just a far more honest interpretation of the music.
     
    Compared to a class-AB solid state amplifier at a higher price, class-A bias, and power output point (Bryston 4BSST2, unbuffered stepped attenuator, balanced operation, short low-capacitance cable runs), The Ragnarok does respectably but is situationally bested. With a pair of Reference 3A loudspeakers, I have a hard time saying I preferred one amp to the other. With a pair of KEF LS50 loudspeakers I have to give the edge to the Bryston. These are not speakers with dramatic bass extension to begin with, but I preferred the Bryston's control of frequencies below 100Hz. Despite this, I'm leaving my Ragnarok wired to the LS50s. For my needs in that particular system, the benefits of convenience and simplicity are trumping dragon chasing the ultimate in sound quality.
     
    Beyond that I have a lot of short- and long-term memories of equipment, but I don't think those should be considered reliable.
     
    Generalizing these anecdotes is a tenuous exercise at best. About as far as I'm comfortable going at this time is that I believe the Ragnarok represents a great value as an integrated amplifier, too. This amp deserves serious consideration for anybody shopping for an amp/integrated at this price/specification point, whether they care about headphones or not.
     
    ALL TOGETHER NOW
     
    DSCF0146.jpg
     
    Here's where I end up on balance: Ragnarok provides a capable integrated and universal headphone amplifier. It provides the ability to drive sensitive and demanding headphones with control and low noise. It provides a great range of volume control for each of these scenarios. This is a tremendous amount of capability and versatility in one box. The amp is a jack of all trades. Is it the master of none? The end of the world? Considering it can drive many speakers and virtually any non-electrostatic headphone well, it's a steal at the price point. Want to run headphones or speakers, spend less than $2000, and spend zero time thinking about it or worrying which headphones will work? Buy this amp. Want a speaker playback system and want to spend about $3200? Pick up a pair of LS50s and call it a day. Want to try to optimize for a particular load, headset, or capability? Probably a somewhat more difficult exercise. This is a great starting point, but there may be some other options to consider depending on one's listening preferences or designs on space, heat, or capability.
     
    SOME OBVIOUS QUESTIONS WITHOUT ANSWERS
     
    How does this amp sound versus the Mjolnir? I have no idea. I don't have a Mjolnir. I wanted a single box that could provide both the integrated amp and headamp capabilities. For that matter, I have not done in-depth comparisons with any headamps with the same environment and gear except for the GS-X, IHA-1, and HA-1. Versus the Mjolnir, this amp can deliver more power, can drive speakers, takes a different approach to handling bias, has more inputs, has single-ended output, and has a fancy gain attenuation system. It's also heavier, bigger, and costs more. That's about all I know.
     
    How does this amp sound with the HE-6 versus plugging it directly into the back of a First Watt J2 or F1J? I wish I knew! If you would like to send me yours I will tell you. What I won't do is promise to return it. In general, see the above. I don't know and my speculation isn't going to be useful.
     
    How does this amp sound with a pair of Fostex TH-900s? I don't know. I don't own them. With a Beyerdynamic T1p? Same idea. No clue. Abyss? See offer about the First Watt above. If it's not in the list of equipment below, I haven't tried it.
     
    ASSOCIATED EQUIPMENT
     
    The amp was evaluated in two different environments, so it's a bit of a mess:
     
    Power Cables: Pangea AC14SE, Stock Cable
    USB Cables (don't make a difference, but they look pretty): Wireworld Ultraviolet
    Line-Level Cables: Kimber Kable Timbre (balanced), Better Cables Silver Serpent (unbalanced)
    Phono Cables: Kimber Kable TAK-Cu
    Power Conditioner: Furman P-8 Pro Series II + Torus Power IS10, Torus Power RM15Plus
    Digital Chain: Macbook Pro, Audiophileo1/PurePower, NAD M51 (balanced), Schiit Bifrost, Schiit Wyrd
    Analog Chain: Sumiko Blackbird, Pro-Ject RM-10.1, Simaudio Moon 320S/310LP (balanced)
    Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD-3F/LCD-XC, Hifiman HE-6, JHAudio JH13Pro, Oppo PM-1
     
    CRITICAL LISTENING SOFTWARE
     
    The following are the recordings I focused on when listening critically; have put a lot of additional software through the amp when I was just listening to the music. Except where noted, I auditioned each in both vinyl and red book from my own CD rips.
     
    Opeth - Pale Communion, Ghost Reveries                           
    Porcupine Tree - Lightbulb Sun
    Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing
    Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks (Digital copy is direct FLAC)
    Aphex Twin - Syro
    Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite (Reference Recordings, analog only)
    Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
     
    UPDATES
     
    20141211 - added some commentary on single-ended headphone output; fixed several typographical quirks
    20141214 - a little commentary about how the required gain may vary with upstream components
     
    TODO
     
    Things I definitely want to do, beyond revise this as more time develops:
     
    1. Specific feedback on JH13Pro, PM-1, LCD-XC?
      iamjaymo, Argo Duck, olor1n and 5 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. olor1n
      This was a great read. Your conclusion perfectly describes my own justification for pulling the trigger on the Ragnarok. I don't like rolling through headphone amps so I should be set with the Ragnarok for a while. Looking to now add a turntable and KEF LS50 speakers.
      olor1n, Apr 15, 2015
    3. reddog
      A great review of the Ragnarok, it was very informative.
      reddog, Apr 15, 2015
    4. lukeap69
      Any loss in SQ if paired with SE DAC?
      lukeap69, May 1, 2015
  6. Maxvla
    Top Shelf Solid State with HD800s
    Written by Maxvla
    Published Nov 1, 2014
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Input and output flexibility, sound quality, value. Build quality.
    Cons - Big and heavy, need to read the manual, hard to read lettering on face in home environment.
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/740568/top-shelf-solid-state-with-hd800s
    1. bagwell359
      A great headphone amp when using balanced connection.  Senn HD-600 is about as pure and flat as you could hope for in gain setting 1.  Want a little more bass and  set the gain to 2.  The unbalanced is fine, but if you are going this far, go balanced.
       
      As a speaker amp if you've got an average sized room and speaker over 92 db/spl gain 2 will do for all but symphonic levels.  Gain 3, you get more but it's not as special sounding, not class A.  It's got a real vivid sound  (gain 2) - drenched in detail but also spunky and alive, but not harsh or clinical.  It's no tube, but has a coherence as a power amp from top to bottom that you have to spend more to get from tubes, and it certainly doesn't have any tubbyness in the bass.  In fact the attack in the bass is notable - powerful, dynamic, and well damped.
       
      The amp is so good that I'm ready to sell my Pass X-150.
       
      The weakness sonically is the pre-amp.  It's not as good as a Pass P (by a fair margin).  It's not as good as my GFP-750, but, it's somewhat close.
       
      The amp/pre-amp together seem to mitigate some of the lack of stage size and depth of the pre-amp.  Well paired.
       
      Sonically for what I want it for it's a full 5 stars, even if it cost me $3k.
       
      Issues:
       
      A remote would be helpful, but if it cost another $200 not sure it would be it.
       
      It does run hot, very hot.  Give it a lot of space. 
       
      Doesn't fit in a rack, fine, I don't use rack(s).
       
      One does have to turn it very low or off when changing gains when headphones are plugged in.  A careless jump to gain 3 with the dial up even 1/3 could be fatal.  A 3 way rotary switch might cost another $25 but it would be worth it.
       
      I have a Gumby DAC and between that and my phono the Ragnarok seems to handle whatever comes it's way, and do it with aplomb.  What else could one want?
      bagwell359, Jan 19, 2017
  7. ogodei
    Ragnarok and initial comparisons with GS-X mk2
    Written by ogodei
    Published Oct 26, 2014
    4.0/5,
    Pros - TOTL & possible 'end game' amp at a very reasonable price; Great feature set, inputs and outputs; It does speakers!
    Cons - Awkward design for rack placement; Slightly finicky controls; And, uhh, whats that buzzing in my IEMs?
    UPDATED:   I posted further research and a solution of sorts for that ‘left-channel buzz’ at the bottom of this review.
     
    Introduction
    This review covers the practical aspects of the Ragnarok that I’ve encountered in my two weeks with the amp, comments on casual listening with a variety of headphones and sources, and some critical listening I did against my HeadAmp GS-X mk2.  This review will not cover all the technical inner workings of the Ragnarok.  I have not opened this unit and you can find those details easily enough at Schiit.com.  Although I hooked up speakers to verify functionality of the speaker outs, all listening for this review was done with headphones.  I don’t have much experience with tube amps so I won’t make any comparisons there.
     
    Disclaimers
    I have no relation to Schiit Audio, was not in any beta test for the amp, and purchased all equipment used in the review myself.
     
    This is a great amp but I’m not going to use any superlatives to describe it.  I have no idea what words like ‘chocolatey’, ‘juicy’, ‘perfervid’ or ‘luscious’ have to do with amplification so I won’t use them.  I also only vaguely get how a ‘macro-detail’ is supposed to differ from a ‘micro-detail’ so technical-sounding jiggery-pokery is also out. What’s left?  Not a lot, so look for that somewhere else. It’s out there or will be shortly.
     
    Gear \ Tracks Used
    The Ragnarok was tested free standing on my desktop for heat measurements, then placed into my sturdy yet amazingly ugly test rack and provided with active cooling (silent fans).  DACs used included a Questyle CAS192D, Schiit Gungnir Gen2 USB, a Mytek 192 Stereo DSD and a Modi.  I threw a Technics SL-1200MK2 TT & pre-amp at the RCA inputs occasionally, otherwise all cabling was balanced (no-name from Markertek) running through an external balanced stepped attenuator.  All full sized headphones (Senn HD 800 & 600, Alpha Dogs, TH900s, LCD-X, OPPO PM-1s) used balanced connections primarily, except the TH-900s (stock SE cables).  All IEMs used were single ended. Everything was fed by a laptop running JRiver20.  During amp-to-amp listening a passive splitter was used to send the signal to both amps.
     
    Test tracks used are listed at the bottom of this review. I also listened to various other material over the last few weeks.
     
    For reference I usually listen at low to moderate volumes (about 57 dB casual listening, maybe 67 dB rocking out). Preferred music genres are 70s rock & progressive, electronica, dubstep, female vocals.   I have been listening to a GS-X mk2 or an Audio-gd Master 8 as my primary amps for a while.
     
    Design \ Build Quality
    The Ragnarok continues Schiit’s family of brushed metal U shaped enclosures, no surprise there. The front has more features than their other amps with input and gain selector buttons set in a darker gray insert which also houses LED indicators and both headphone jacks. The polished nickel knob is fingerprint central.  It’s a not a bad look in the bigger form factor except for the SE headphone jack, which appears to be piece of threaded rod with a nut on it.  Sticking out of the front of the box it seems a bit DIY and looks out of place on a product Schiit touts as their “ultimate” amplifier. Otherwise the unit feels like a step up from their normal ‘value’ positioned gears.
     
    The Ragnarok’s foot print and weight put it squarely into racked speaker amp territory, but the lack of a power switch on the Ragnarok’s front asks you to run it from your desktop.  The rocker-style power switch (located on the top-back of the box, new for Schiit I think) is more useful for the reach-around than the low-placed switches on their other units.  Placing the Ragnarok into a rack requires you to have access around the back to flip it on and off, unless you hook up an alternate switch solution (easy enough) or are OK with leaving it on all the time.
     
    Given the size and weight (16” x 12” and 32lbs) a rack solution is highly recommended if you want to stack gears.  The main heat vents on the Rag are at the top of the unit and should have several inches of clearance from other objects (Amplifier 101 here), so no putting other gear directly on top of it. The Gungnir, a large-ish DAC, is 16” by 8” inches deep so stacking the Rag on it would be a bit precarious.  Would be stackers, stop now and measure your own DAC.  Yeah.  Plan on a rack or perhaps some cones or lifters for placing other gear on top of the Ragnarok. 
     
    Function
    The plentiful inputs and outputs are nice, and of course you get speaker outputs which is unique-ish for “headphone” amps. I would have loved memorized volume levels for each input but that’s not part of the design. There’s no indicator as to which output method is selected (speakers only \ Speakers + headphones \ headphones only).  This makes it a little hard initially to choose your correct setting & troubleshoot issues (is the DAC not working or is this thing on the wrong output?  Is JRiver set wrong or is it the amp output? etc.).
     
    The gain button is hair-trigger, I was almost convinced it was a capacitive surface with how little pressure is needed to activate it.  It occasionally cycles through 2 or even 3 gain settings before I can get my finger off it, and this behavior may be worse when the unit is warm.  It requires a delicate and possibly more patient touch than mine.
     
    The relay stepped volume control gives a precise channel balance at even the lowest levels, always nice, especially for IEMs. However it made it impossible to level to hit an exact desired volume level at times.  This was only an issue when trying to level match against another amplifier and I don’t expect it to interfere with normal listening.  Interestingly, stepping down the relay volume control doesn’t always seem to jibe with its pattern on the way up.  If one click up raises the volume by 2dB, one click down might lower it by 1dB. This might be a limitation of my SPL meter, or possibly a function of the gain setting.
     
    The clicking of the relays is concerning for a few minutes until you get used to it.  The clicking over the headphones when near the top of the volume range is still a bit off putting. Per the user manual, the “muting” volume relay clicks are expected.  OK. But with my 800s plugged in, balanced or unbalanced, I could reliably create distinct static pops over the cans when changing volume near the top of the range if the gain was set to High.  So, don’t do that.  This is NOT an issue with gain set to my preferred Low, so I don’t count it as a problem.
     
    Not going to say too much about power except that the Ragnarok has it.  Enough to power whatever headphones you throw at it and more. Low gain is all I needed to get into ear-bleed levels with all the balanced cans I listened to.
     
    As expected for a speaker amp, the box does indeed get hot.  After being on for a few hours on a desktop with volume at around 3 o’clock position it was uncomfortably hot grasping it from the sides in order to move it.  The top and bottom were too hot to handle.  I don’t consider the heat to be an issue but again don’t expect to stack anything directly on top of the amp.  If this will be placed in a closed rack you will need an active cooling solution. In my test rack the fans can be easily removed and replaced which helps a lot with the awkward placement of the power switch here. 
     
    Sound
     
    Full Sized Cans
    Primarily I used HD800s to critically listen for everything I could think of then, I threw other cans into the mix to focus on specific areas (bass extension on the Fostex and Audeze, mid-range on the OPPOs) as well as to get an overall feel for handling of the various cans.  Again, all full sized headphones are balanced except the TH-900s with stock SE cable.  All IEMs were single ended.
     
    On low gain the noise floor is excellent (except for an issue I ran into with IEMs on the SE jack, as explained below), and low gain is all I needed to get into ear-bleed levels with everything balanced I listened to.  On medium gain the floor increases slightly but is certainly not objectionable for a TOTL amp.  On high gain the noise floor rockets up into the stratosphere, so don’t do that with headphones.  Overall noise floor is on par with the best amps I have listened to.
     
    With balanced full-size headphones the Ragnarok handled everything I threw at it with confidence and plenty of control.  Everything performed well and at a level I’m used to hearing from other high-end SS amplifiers.  DACs and source gear performed predictably with no surprises or revelations.  Extension is good at the bottom end, nothing is missing up top or in the middle.  I warned you, a boring description but as far as I’m concerned boring is good here.
     
    HD800s were handled admirably with no unexpected sharpness, shrillness or breakaways from control that sometimes occur with lesser amplifiers. Notice the word unexpected: Running the usual suspects of poorly mastered tracks and highly-compressed MP3s through the 800s makes them sound like… well, like an 800 playing poorly mastered tracks. The Ragnarok presents these cans as well as I have heard them (with perhaps one exception) but performs no miracles.  Smooth, controlled sound, a very good match and with these cans.
     
    LCD-X.  The LCD-X’s low end is kept in check but is not reduced, with good control of what I feel is a sometimes smeary can in the lows and mids. The Ragnarok brings out the top end as well as I have heard it. Again no miracles but a solid performance.
     
    Fostex TH-900. If I can get any guiltier than spending thousands of dollars behind my wife’s back on audio equipment, the TH-900s are my extra guilty pleasure. This can with the Ragnarok and Gungnir DAC is as much bass and right on the edge of control as I’ll ever need. The SE output on the Ragnarok will exist solely for this purpose.
     
    Alpha Dogs. These don’t get listened to much.  Nothing wrong with these cans, they are just outperformed in one way or another by other headphones I have. IMO they need something other than any of my solid state amps (including the Ragnarok) to really bring something special to them.  Ragnarok handled them well, it just didn’t find anything new in there.
     
    OPPO PM-1.  Great performance with this can, the amp brings out the best I have heard of it in the SS realm.
     
    HD600s. Always amazed when I put these cans back on after a while. I listened to this with the Gungnir, Questyle (balanced), Modi (unbalanced) & my turn table (through a crappy ARTcessories DJ PREII pre-amp). Loved the tone through this amp on every single source. As usual. The amp wrought out every bit of performance the cans & gear are capable of.
     
    IEMs
    Listening to IEMs was not as successful as full sized cans. IEMs require the gain to be set on low or medium (at High the noise floor rockets into the stratosphere). On Low gain you have plenty of volume dial action (the knob goes to about 12 o’clock position for my normal listening level) and at lowest position there is still enough signal to produce sound, it never truly mutes.
     
    In every IEM I tried I got a slight buzz from the left channel of the SE output.  This was worst with a pair of ancient Shure EC3s but was present with all four IEMs I tried (HiFiMan RE-400s, Samsung no-names, and a pair of Skull Candys some niece or nephew must have left here). It was almost un-noticeable with the HiFiMans; I don’t know if I would have heard it if it hadn’t been so apparent with the other IEMs, and I never heard it any full sized cans plugged into the SE output (TH900s, HD800s).  It’s not present on the balanced output.
     
    I won’t be using IEMs on this amp so I don’t mind much.  And, apart from the buzz, the noise floor in the right channel is almost silent and would be completely suitable for IEMs (at least the ones I tried). I will be checking with Schiit to see if this is just my unit.
     
    UPDATED:  I posted further research and a solution of sorts for the ‘left-channel buzz’ at the bottom of this review.
     
    DACs
    The amp paired well with everything I attached to it (all balanced except the Modi and the turntable pre-amp). Favorites were the Gungnir and the Questyle (apodizing filter) but this isn’t a DAC review.
     
    Comparison to the GS-X mk2
    I’ve been listening to the HeadAmp GS-X mk2 for just under 3 months now as my primary amp. The GS-X mk2 is a fully balanced, pure class A, solid state JFET amplifier & pre-amp, a review of which can be found here. The GS-X reasonably can be considered among the top U.S. made amplifier choices for dynamic headphones today so comparisons to the Ragnarok are in order.  Currently the GS-X price is about 1/3 more than that of the Ragnarok, but I consider equating price with value in audiophile gear a mistake.
     
    Design \ Build Quality
    A simple summing up of the GS-X mk2 look is “Oooh, shiny!"  Its polished anodized aluminum faceplates are available in a variety of colors (special order required) and these things just stand out from other utilitarian amps at shows. It’s sexy as hell.  While the Ragnarok is no ugly duckling (and I do think the Schiit U-shaped unibody looks even better at this size), on looks alone the GS-X is hard to beat.
     
    Build quality is top notch on both amps. Switches on the GS-X are heavy duty and function well, everything is well spaced and labeled, and obviously no expense has been spared on materials and parts. I sometimes do worry about scratching the beautiful front plate on the amp when moving too fast with a headphone jack but that’s a welcome concern.  Likewise, on the Ragnarok the chassis and back panel give the overall impression of quality. On the front only one function is not clearly labeled (switching from speakers only \ Speakers + headphones \ headphones only). Once you know that process (RTFM) everything else is exceptionally clear.  My one nag:  The extending threaded pipe on the SE jack. Out of place on this amp.
     
    The single-box design of the Ragnarok makes it the better choice for a crowded desktop, especially if you are willing to stack other gear on top of it (see my notes above on the advisability of stacking with this amp).  The GS-X’s two-box design (the PSU is housed separately) requires more desk space unless you stack, and stacking is definitely NOT advised with the GS-X.  Placing PSU and the amplifier directly on top of one another produces a distinct unpleasant noise floor which in my case requires a vertical gap of at least 5 inches to remove.  So although the Ragnarok is big by desktop amplifier standards it still requires less room than the GS-X for desktop placement.  (Note that the GS-X boxes can be placed immediately next to each other without any noise issues).
     
    If you plan to place the amplifier in a rack (including a desktop rack) the GS-X is the slightly better form factor, due to that rear power switch on the Ragnarok.  The units are both much smaller than the Ragnarok making for easier rack placement and the long umbilical is clearly designed for this purpose.  
     
    Function
    The GS-X offers 4 pin, 3 pin, and dual SE outputs for maximum compatibility, while the Ragnarok offers single 4 pin and SE outputs.  Practically, a 4 pin adapter will even up this disparity. The Ragnarok’s two sets of balanced inputs is a welcome upgrade over the single balanced set on the GS-X and offers more functionality for people with larger \ more complicated rigs.  The Ragnarok also offers one more set of RCA inputs than GS-X (3 versus 2) so you can likely get away without an external switch in a larger set up. The GS-X offers both loop-back and pre-amp balanced outputs, while the Ragnarok offers balanced outputs and, yes, speaker outs.  Your choice on a ‘winner’ as far as outputs go will depend on your specific needs. But if you want those speaker outs the choice is clear, and on inputs the Ragnarok offers greater value as well.
     
    A note on those speaker outputs: You only need them for speakers with this amp. Any headphones you may now be running with speaker taps can be run from the headphone jack (preferably the balanced jack), because Ragnarok is not limiting power out of these jacks. So for speaker taps guys, the Ragnarok has you covered.
     
    Regarding heat: Both are full sized, class A amps for headphone use (Ragnarok can go to class A\B for speakers), both get hot, both need ventilation space or an active cooling solution if placed in a closed rack.  Nuff said.
     
    The Alpha pot volume control on my GS-X mk2 can be adjusted with more precision than the Ragnarok relay.  When level matching between the two I was usually forced to adjust the GS-X’s volume to match wherever the Ragnarok landed, which was often a dB above or below my target.  As mentioned above this is unlikely to have consequences in real-world listening to the Ragnarok.  The down side of the GS-X’s Alpha potentiometer is a slight channel imbalance at the absolute lowest levels on the volume dial (and perhaps a theoretical channel imbalance at higher levels as well), so a stepped attenuator is arguably the better design choice than the pots for powerful amps used with IEMs.  I don’t find that to be the case with the GS-X and IEMs however, it plays them beautifully on low gain without any imbalance. And I should note that the standard GS-X mk2 ships with a stepped DACT attenuator, just like the Ragnarok. My choice of the Alpha was an option.
     
    Both amps offer Low, Medium, and High gain settings. The gain button on the Ragnarok is fussier than the GS-X switch, taking longer to change (relays) and requiring a bit more patience and a light touch to get it where you need it to be.  In fact, that’s how I would sum up the entire control scheme of the Ragnarok.  Very usable, just slightly more finicky than the simple toggle switches on the GS-X.
     
    On both amps, Low and Medium offer exceptionally low noise floor levels. Being so low, noise floors on both amps are quite susceptible to noise in the equipment chain.  I found the Ragnarok never to be completely silent on Low gain, but so much so that any noise was usually muffled by general ambient noise in my office. On Medium gain the noise floor was minutely higher and increased only slightly with volume. At High gain the inevitable happens.  But you’ll never need High gain.  On Low gain, the GS-X mk2 is silent. Dead silent. Increasing it all the way up on Low gain it doesn’t do much to effect that. But on Medium and High gain it becomes more susceptible to equipment noise than the Ragnarok. With either amp I can clearly hear what noise is being added to the system from individual pieces of gear, but the effect is worse on the GS-X mk2 at Medium or High gain.
     
    To summarize on Gain: The GS-X mk2 has a lower (non-existent) noise floor on low gain, but the noise floor on the Ragnarok is so low as to be negligible compared to other equipment running in your listening space, even my ‘silent’ fans. The GS-X mk2 is more susceptible to noise from the gear chain (in my rig at least) when at the top end of volume on the Medium or High gain setting.  But again, you’ll never do that.
     
    Sound
    I level matched each amp\headphone combination with pink noise to 70dB (for PCM files) or 80dB (for DSD files) before listening.  Volume was than handled off-board the amps with a balanced stepped attenuator when doing A\B listening.  DACs used for A\B listening were primarily the Mytek192 DSD DAC (slow filter) and a Schiit Gungnir USB2, both running balanced to the amps.
     
    The GS-X mk2 is one of the best SS amps I have listened to so the Ragnarok had a big challenge to meet.  It met the challenge but didn’t run away with the competition.  Frankly, when comparing level matched cans and the same chain & DAC through both amps I was hard pressed to find differences.  Both amps have a relatively silent sound floor on low gain, allowing me to clearly hear the noise floor of each track.  Bass, mids and treble appear to be handled equally well and with no obvious gaps (see notes with individual cans below).  Both amps have more than adequate power for all my headphones: Dynamics, Openness, and Imaging were directly comparable to my hearing.  Attack and transients as well.
     
    Full Sized Cans
    HD800s.  Occasionally (ok, over the course of a few hours one evening) I thought the treble region was minutely louder (maybe one or two dB) on the GS-X using the Mytek DAC (“Freewheel", “Ben's Farm in Vermont”).  However listening again the next day, no treble bump. At no time did I perceive treble as out of control on the GS-X, just possibly more forward.  Otherwise no apparent difference, cans exhibit same their same dynamics, openness, and imaging on both amps. At this time the verdict is: they sound the same.
     
    TH-900s. Sounded the same on both amps, U shaped and wonderful. Performance was consistent with the DAC feeding it across both amps. That is: if the DAC emphasized the bass (Gungnir) it sounded that way on both amps. A flatter DAC (Mytek), flatter performance on both amps.  Neither amp added coloration or could save that god-forsaken mid-range.
     
    LCD-X, Alpha Dogs, OPPO PM-1, HD600 -  No readily apparent differences in performance.  I can’t write verbiage on performance differences when I hear none. Again, both amps made clear every piece of the equipment chain, especially the DACS, but the sound difference between the amps themselves seemed minute if existing.
     
    IEMs
    I am going to delay my comparison on IEMs against the GS-X until I can determine if the buzz is just my unit.  I will say the GS-X is fully capable of playing IEMs although the volume range is small, maybe a 8th of the volume dial on low gain (a little more with DSD tracks).  The Alpha pot does NOT affect channel balance even at that low volume, and the noise floor is effectively non-existent. My opinion, the GS-X is a good choice for IEMs if a little (ok a lot) overkill.
     
    Summary
    I fully expect in a comparison soon someone will use the phrase “beefier” to describe the Ragnarok compared to the GS-X.  Just looking at the form factor begs you to.  The Ragnarok has several ticks for it in the form factor camp but my use of a rack pretty much negates that.  I think clear advantages for Ragnarok are the extra inputs (no external switch needed) and speaker outputs which are going to drive some speaker purchases.  All that, the power ratings (again, I didn’t measure it and it was not needed for the listening I did), and the price point make it a very attractive purchase. As for sound: I couldn’t trust myself to tell the difference blindfolded, at least at the volume and with the materials I used to listen. Other people with better ears and equipment than mine, please chime in now and tell me where I’m mistaken.
     
    Test Tracks Used
     
    BassYello – The Eye- Track 5 - "Junior B"
    Dianne Reeves - Never Too Far - Track 2 - "Never Too Far"
    Wiz Khalifa - On My Level
    MidsSteely Dan - Gaucho - Track 1 "Babylon Sisters"
    Steely Dan - Aja - Track 2 "Aja"
    TrebleKishi Bashi - 151a - Track 2 - "Manchester"
    Paper Aeroplanes - The Day We Ran Into the Sea - Track 2 - "Free Wheel"
    VocalsThe National - Trouble Will Find Me - Track 1 - "I Should Live In Salt"
    Allison Krause & Union Station - New Favorite - Track 1 - "Let Me Touch You For A While"
    Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 10 - "How Can I Be Sure"
    Johnny Cash - Tennessee Stud
    OpennessKishi Bashi - 151a - Track 2 - "Manchester"
    Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 10 - "How Can I Be Sure"
    Dr. Chesky's Ultimate Headphones Demonstration Disc - Track 8 - "Whip-poor-will"
    Noise Floor Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin  - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"
    ImagingPink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon (30th Anniversary Edition) Track 3 - "On The Run" (SACD)
    Shelby Lynne - Just A Little Lovin - Track 7 - "Willie and Laura Mae Jones" (DSD)
    Opus 3 - Test Record 1 - Side B, Track 1  - "Invention no. 14" (J.S.Bach)  (LP)
    Dr. Chesky's Ultimate Headphones Demonstration Disc - Track 1 - "When the Saints Go Marching In"
    DynamicsOpus 3 - Selections From Test Records (CD) - Track 10 - "  'Taint Nobody's Bizness" (Tomas Ornberg's Blue Five)
    Attack \ transient responseDianne Reeves - Never Too Far - Track 1 - "Hello (Haven't Seen You Before)"
    The National - Trouble Will Find Me - Track 3 - "Don't Swallow the Cap"
    Nu Shooz - Pool Side  Track 1 - Dont Let me Be The One
    Other Test MaterialsRives Audio Test CD 2
    Finlandia Surround Test CD
    Steely Dan - everything

     
    Update on the Ragnarok’s ‘left-channel buzz’
    I stated above that I'm getting a buzz from the left channel of Ragnarok over IEMs.  Researching the interwebs indicates that it's not just my unit. Some beta-testers have reported the same buzz: Left channel, volume of buzz doesn't change with adjustments to the amp’s volume or gain setting. While I heard the buzz only through the SE output when using IEMs, these reports indicated it occurred on both balanced and SE outputs with sensitive headphones.
     
    A few people have suggested it's related to AC line noise and that the circlotron-style design of the Ragnarok might be sensitive to this issue. Technical analysis of power supplies & output stages or whatever is a bit beyond me so no comment there. Testing I can do though, so I hooked the amp up to a Tripplite SU750XL double-conversion UPS (perfect sine wave AC output at 120V AC +/-2% ) to test out the theory.
     
    And the buzz went away. Well, not entirely away, but so much that people might look at you funny if you ask them if they hear it. So much that it really doesn't matter anymore after you turn the volume up to listening levels. I could not reliably hear it on anything except those ancient Shures, though on them I could still determine the right from left channels by the buzz alone.
     
    My AC power is not especially noisy AFAIK and I have not experienced this problem on other audio equipment on the circuit, including both my GS-X mk2 and Audio-gd Master 8 amps.  Given that other people have independently reported this and that it's occurred on both beta and production units of the Ragnarok, I’m gonna go with ‘It’s the amp, not just my crappy power’.  People experiencing this issue should consider some good power conditioning (not just power isolation) to feed the amp.
     
    For perspective on this entire issue, read my full review above. I don’t find this to be a deal breaker with any full sized cans, including my stock TH-900s.
     
     
    Edited to re-spell the word "Chocolatey".  How the heck are you supposed to spell "Chocolatey" anyways?
    Edited to change the link for details on the GS-X mk2. The previous link showed specifications for the original GS-X.
    Edited to add research and findings on 'left channel buzz'.
      arnaud, madwolfa, calaf and 12 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. NA Blur
      Thanks for the review. I found similar noise issues with the one I tested.
      NA Blur, Jan 9, 2016
    3. Jota64
      I'm not sure what was more pathetic about this amplifier, the results of the tests at Stereophile or the excuses offered by the company for those results which went along the lines of, well we've got this algorithm that acts weird when it doesn't detect music and only detects single tones which causes the amp to produce massive distortion.  So, because of that algorithm thingy it can never, ever be measured against all the other amplifiers in the world. So, the distortion and poor results wasn't because it's a not very good amp, it's because of this bit of maths we stuck in there.  Honest.
       
      Aye, ok.
      Jota64, Jul 29, 2016
    4. clarkie
      I have a Rag and now I have 4 weeks on it. It is still betting better. For me it is a better speaker amp than headphone. This is based on my listening with Sennheiser HD600's. It's good on headphones...just a little 'thick' in the upper base...could be my cables though... and It may continue to break in. I am extremely pleased with my purchase.
      clarkie, Feb 21, 2017
  8. goldendarko
    Endgame Headphone Amplifier, And One Of the Best Values Around
    Written by goldendarko
    Published Sep 18, 2014
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Excellent Musicality, Dynamics, Wide Soundstaging and Great Bass
    Cons - Runs Very Hot and Hums When Turned Off

    Schiit Ragnarok: Is It Love, or Is It Just Schiit?
     
    ragnarok_fp.jpg
     
     
    002.jpg
     
     
    Introduction:
     
    This part is just to give you some background on my experience and how I’ve arrived at the Schiit Ragnarok before I delve into my full review, obviously feel free to skip ahead if you just want to hear about how the Ragnarok performs.
     
    I am a 29 year old audiophile that’s been listening to music for as long as I can remember, but I really got into music when I was about 13 years old and my Dad gave me my first classic rock CD, Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks”.  Ever since then, I’ve been hooked, collection hundreds of CD’s over the years, and recently making the transition to a fully digital, and mostly hi-res, music library in the past 2-3 years. While I have been lurking the Head-Fi forums for the past 10 years or so (gosh, that sure sounds creepy), I have only become an active member in the past year or so. I have slowly been acquiring better gear and upgrading components over the past 15 years, searching for something I could: A) Live with for a long time and B) Afford. After spending most of my time with lower end gear, I’ve begun getting into the higher end of things recently, looking for a pair of headphones and amp that paired well together and had that sound I was searching for that I could live with for a long time. I started with a pair of Audeze LCD-2’s and a Schiit Lyr amp. I thought that was a fun combo, but it was ultimately too tubey and thick sounding for me, and certainly wasn’t the last word in resolution. The next amp I tried was the Burson Conductor, which I read was an excellent pairing with the Audeze’s. And it was, and so I enjoyed that combo for a good 6 months or so, but ultimately that amp never really drew me and just felt cold & metallic to me after a while, and when I began using my portable combo more than it (The excellent Fiio X5 DAP & E12 portable amp), I decided the Conductor had to go and the search had to continue, cue wife sigh.  I tried getting different headphones to pair with it first though; to see if that could get me closer to what I was looking for, a setup that had excellent resolution, clarity and control but also great musicality, tone and warmth. I purchased a pair of HD-800’s, LCD-3F’s and a pair of Mr. Speakers Alpha Dogs as well. The LCD-3F’s getting closest to the sound I was craving but still not quite there. After selling the Burson Conductor I began to look into endgame amps, figuring if that didn’t get me what I wanted then nothing else would. I was mainly considering the ALO Audio Studio Six, Cavalli Liquid Gold and the Auralic Taurus MK II. I hadn’t actually even been considering the Schiit Ragnarok, though I was aware of it, and only signed up for the Beta mainly because I figured it was no commitment to try some new gear, and I already knew I liked the Schiit Lyr, so maybe it would be worth it so see what Schiit could do with solid state. I thought it would be a pretty good headphone amp, but I wasn’t sold on it as a speaker amp, given that I have a pair of relatively inefficient speakers (KEF LS50’s – 85 dB sensitivity). But, I figured I would just give it a shot, and assuming it wouldn’t be sufficient to power the speakers or wouldn’t be quite the sound I have been searching for in a headphone amp, and figuring I would just return it after the 2 week trial period. Well this little piece of Schiit really dug its claws in me because it isn’t going anywhere. The Schiit Ragnarok is the endgame amp I have been searching for, and offers even more than I had thought it would.
     
    Associated Equipment:
     
    004.jpg
     
     
    Source: Windows PC using JRiver PC
    DAC: Auralic VEGA
    Speakers: KEF LS50’s (in a near field setup)
    Headphones: Audeze LCD-3F’s, Mr. Speakers Alpha Dogs & Shure SE-846 (IEM’s)
    Cables: Audioquest USB & Interconnects, Shunyata Power Cables & Stock headphone cables (working on upgrading those next)
     
     
    Cons:
     
    Though I think this the best amp I’ve ever heard, nothing is perfect and so there are a few negative things I found about it so far in my limited time with the amp, and in all honesty they are really just nitpicks for me, but they may be deal breakers for others so I will list them all in the order of most negative to me.
     
    1.)    There is definitely some hum going on with this thing, thankfully not when it’s on though, only when it’s turned off. But when it is off you can hear it in the other room, so it’s pretty loud. If anyone has any recommendations that may help reduce the hum though I would gladly try them.
    2.)    There’s also no way around the fact that this thing runs hot, like seriously HOT, even the volume knob gets warm. It’s certainly not enough to burn your hard or anything, but it can certainly warm a room up a bit, so on the bright side it may save on your electricity bill in the winter.
    3.)    The button to change from speaker to headphones and also to speaker/headphone output is also the input button, and there is no way to tell which mode you are switching to. This is also not a big deal for me though because I’ve already memorized the order the outputs go in, but still a switch or a dedicated button would have been nice.
     
    So, that’s it for the negative aspects for me. Like I said nothing that was a deal breaker for me, but like anything it’s not perfect and those were the biggest turnoffs for me. On to how it performs as a speaker amp.
     
    Speaker Amp Impressions:
     
    005.jpg
     
    Like I said earlier, this is the part of the Ragnarok that I thought would struggle, I honestly thought it was a headphone amp with a speaker amp section tagged on just because. Boy was I wrong; this thing has got serious guts! Not just guts though, it brings a level of refinement that matches or betters my Peachtree Audio 220 watt power amp. While the Peachtree amp can certainly go louder, the Rag certainly went loud enough for me to handle and brought better dynamics, tone and soundstage than the Peachtree offered, right out of the box, and even now I probably only have about 25 hours or so on it as I’ve only had it about a week (but have been using it a lot J) Color me impressed right way, because I was wrong about the Rag as a speaker amp, it is more than capable, it is exceptional. I was also impressed because I have a REL T-7 subwoofer that gets its power from the same cables delivering power to the speakers and even that still sounds excellent, robust and I am still able to enjoy individual notes as they are being played, so it’s certainly got power to spare.
     
    Headphone Amp Impression
     
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    Single-Ended Headphone Output:
     
    Next up is the single ended section of the amp. I tried all my different headphones with this section of the amp next, and had there never been a balanced output to try as well I think I would still be very happy with this amp and could even see myself living with it long term. It has plenty of power to drive everything from my Shure SE-846 IEM’s to my Audeze LCD-3F’s. It provides a good soundstage, excellent dynamics, very tight controlled bass and has an excellent inviting tone. I wasn’t aware that this amp could drive both single-ended and balanced headphones at the same time so I was delighted to find out that it could so both my wife and I were able to listen to it at the same time! I listened via the balanced out with the LCD-3’s and her with the Alpha Dogs and the single ended output. I will note that there was a volume mismatch, due to the fact that the single output puts out less power, so even though I did not notice any loss in dynamics when plugging in the Alpha Dogs, I had to crank my volume a bit higher to get it to a good level for her. This may mean some better headphone matching is in order, maybe using something harder to drive with the balanced output, like the LCD-3’s, and something that is easier to drive, like the LCD-X or XC’s for the single ended output. This may be something I will have to explore more in the future, probably with the XC’s though because I don’t think 2 open backed cans right next to each other is the brightest idea obviously. Anyway, it’s a neat feature I wasn’t even aware of and one that I can see us both getting a lot use out of once I find a better match. Now on the final and best section of this amp.
     
    Balanced Headphone Output:
     
    So I wasn’t sure what to expect when trying the balanced output, which I saved for last because I was hoping it would be the best and brightest part about this amp, and right I was. I figured it would be just like the single ended output but with more power, but it is clear right away that it is more than that. This is, to me, what an endgame amp should sound like. Black background, wide and almost 3D like soundstage, excellent dynamics, wonderful blooming bass, lush and warm midrange and non-fatiguing treble. There is so much space between instruments that I’ve never heard before in any amp, you can focus on bass player’s line and let the other instruments swirl around your head, it’s incredible. I’ve never heard my LCD-3’s like this before, which means I never truly was hearing them at their best, and this amp is capable of showing you what your system is made of for sure. In terms of content, I will say it is very easy to notice the difference between your source files. I tried many DSD albums which all had a lovely analog sound to them with the black background and wide soundstages. Most of my other hi-res tracks (24/96 & 24/192 downloads) were about the same, if only slightly less dynamic. Lossless CD rips at 16/44.1 sounded excellent also, though the soundstage definitely tightens a bit more noticeably. And lastly, lossless Spotify streams are shown to be what they are, not very good. I would save that for casual background listening only via the speaker outputs because the balanced output is a bit too revealing for poor quality material.  This amp will bring out the best in your music if you feed it high quality sources, but it will also reveal poor recordings as well so it may be best to make sure the rest of your music library is in order first before trying the Ragnarok.
     
    Closing:
     
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    So, as I said earlier, I went into this Beta testing program thinking this would just be a good opportunity to try some new gear and broaden my horizon a bit more, thinking that I had my mind made up on the “true” endgame amps. Well, considering the fact that in only one week of living with it I’ve already listed my Peachtree gear for sale and have decided this thing does headphone amplification and speaker amplification than gear I had paid a total of $4200 for (the Burson Conductor and Peachtree setup) and that this was only going to be $1700 (well actually only $1500 because I got picked to beta test it, lucky me J) It is also a very non-fatiguing amp, unlike the Conductor was for me, and I found myself listening for 4-5 hours at a time. I will note that it does need some warmup time to sound it’s best, at least 30-45 minutes or so, but once this thing gets hot enough to cook on (you think I’m joking!) then it starts making wonderful sounding music.  So I have found my endgame amp and I would just like to say hats off to Jason and his team at Schiit, the Ragnarok is an amazing amp and deserves a place among other true endgame amps and perhaps offers the greatest value and versatility of them all, well done!

      arnaud, madwolfa, mthucs and 6 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Pidgeon
      @Full777Metal I would be interested in hearing an answer, too! :)
      Pidgeon, Oct 8, 2014
    3. BeyerMonster
      If the Ragnarok gets as hot as my Mjolnir does, you probably don't want to stack your DAC on top of it. :)
      BeyerMonster, Nov 2, 2014
    4. bobbmd
      goldendarko: nice review what do i do with my 2013 gungnir dac? still use it ie send usb out from my mac mini then rca out to the'rag'? i listen to hifi TIDAL hifi Qobuz and low fi spotify and my itunes aiff cd collection and use amarra Sq+/obviously will not need my schiit magnir anymore
      what about apple tv toslink out to the gungnir and out to the 'rag'( i want to watch movies,netflix and most importantly BeatsMusic ie my 450 MOG transferred playlists
      will i be able to send dts signal somehow to the gungnir to decode dts to the 'rag'? you can't do that now
      let me know bobbmd
      bobbmd, Apr 18, 2015

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