Schiit Ragnarok 2 Amplifier Review

With a firm desire for innovation and iterative design, Schiit are a company which have taken the world of high-end personal audio by storm one product at a time.

Their latest creation comes in the form of the Ragnarok 2 – an integrated amplifier which improves upon the original with its modular design, heatsink components and remote control tracked to the 128-step relay attenuator. For now, the Ragnarok 2 can be purchase without multiple add-ons for $1499 or for $1799 with an inbuilt MM phono card and Multibit DAC.

The Ragnarok 2 doubles as both a speaker and headphone amp with up to 60W of output for 8 Ohm speakers and 100W for 4 Ohms. This means the amp can provide power for the most demanding of headphones. The “Nexus” topology allows balanced and single-ended operation with the differential gain stage providing easy conversion between them.

Schiit Ragnarok 2

Packaging and design

The Schiit Ragnarok 2 comes well packaged in cardboard box with foam inserts. The amplifier comes with its respective power cord (UK, US, Australian or Euro) as well as a user manual.

In terms of aesthetics, the Schiit Ragnarok 2 comes in a brushed aluminium chassis which is much like its predecessor and the rest of Schiit’s other line of products. However, it borrows from the Vidar look with its heatsink components. Although practical and very much needed, the heatsink does disrupt the uniform design and perhaps could have been implemented in the back of the device.

Internals

Much like its predecessor, the Ragnarok 2 is a powerful integrated amplifier with the ability to drive headphones as well as loudspeakers. It now adopts an improved 128-level relay-switched stepped attenuator much like the one used in Schiit Freya 2 pre-amplifier. This allows smooth volume operation and “perfect channel tracking down to very low levels”. The added convenience of the remote and motorized pot is also welcome for those whose amplifier tends to be out of reach. There is a click every time the dial is turned which some may find distracting but in my opinion is pleasantly tactile and reminiscent of a typewriter.

The unique Nexus differential gain stage allows single ended inputs to be converted to balanced outputs and vice versa without gain differences between modes. This seamless interaction allows better volume level matching when using multiple sources.

The modular nature of the Ragnarok 2 allows different combination of units working in tandem. However, Schiit have decided to keep things simple for the time being only two potential topologies: the amplifier itself or a fully loaded version including MM phono card and multibit DAC.

Build & Features

Front

On the front of the Ragnarok 2 is a 5 input switch with LED indicator, gain switch, potentiometer, single-ended and balanced headphone output. The potentiometer is very tactile and smooth to the touch. It implements the aforementioned relay-switched attenuator which results in normal clicking when the volume is turned up. The process is surprisingly satisfying to use and is reminiscent of a typewriter in action.

An important point Schiit have drawn attention to is that care must be taken when using the balanced headphones. This is because the Ragnarok is a powerful amp and can deliver its full output power when using such configurations.

The Ragnarok 2 comes with a remote control which its predecessor does not have. The remote is similar to the ones included with the Saga and Freya but instead comes with an additional gain button. Other buttons include input, volume up/down, speaker/headphone selector and mute.

Rear

The rear of the Ragnarok hosts a wealth of options for the user. Examples of this include the 2 sets of balanced inputs, singled-ended inputs, a single & balanced preamp output, speaker outputs and a power switch.

Sound impressions

The Ragnarok 2 amplifier, like its predecessor, has a very transparent, rich and clear tonality. In all gain settings, the Ragnarok 2 demonstrates excellent ability in delineation with quick transients and separation. The amplifier is not really recommended for in-ear monitors due to the overwhelming power outputs and high noise floor. Instead, headphones and speakers are the best pairing options with the Ragnarok 2 able to drive both with authority and depth.

Unlike the Violectric V281 which possesses more tube-like qualities with an analogue and smooth signature, the Ragnarok 2 opts for more of a resolving and precise sound. This allows tracks to sound intelligible and clean without being clinical or disengaging. Part of the charm of the Ragnarok is its ability to resolve with pinpoint accuracy and micro dynamic gradations.

Paired with the SVS Wireless Speaker system, the Ragnarok 2 commands authority with great dynamics, stereo separation and a rich sound that fills the room. Compared with the Mjolnir 2, the Ragnarok 2 sounds more vivid and characterful with a holographic layering that defines the Schiit house sound. Paired with the Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2 DAC, the sound becomes faithful to tracks, highlighting every miniscule detailing and nuance in its glory without covering or misrepresenting poorly mastered tracks. For that reason, the Ragnarok 2 makes an excellent addition for any consumer or professional wishing to master music or for those seeking a neutral but accurate sound.

However, the soundstage could be improved upon compared with the likes of the Auralic Vega and even Mjolnir 2 which render better sonic projections in the dimension of width. While note sizes are overall large, the field of sound is not the largest for headphones which may be a disappointment for those interested in wide soundscapes. The Ragnarok 2 trades harmonic distortions for a more lively and impactful sound which any speaker owner would be happy to hear.

The Ragnarok 2 pairs well with planar headphones such as HiFiMAN’s Susvara, HE-1000 V2 and Meze Audio’s Empyrean. The sound rests very much in line with the original signature but with added focus, sharper transients and a very multi-layered field of sound.    

The inbuilt Multibit DAC card turns the Schiit Ragnarok 2 into an all-in-one solution which is great for saving space. However, for those with the extra cash and space, a dedicated DAC option such as Schiit’s own Gungnir or Yggdrasil provides the Ragnarok 2 with the needed pairing to procure more detailing, depth and imaging from tracks. The balanced modality is also better than single ended one with better detailing, separation and transients.

Usability

The Ragnarok 2, with its plethora of inputs and outputs, offers that all-in-one approach in a familiar design factor. One gripe which extends across all of Schiit’s family of products is that the power button is always located on the rear of the device. This is inconvenient where the device faces you for the most part of the time. However, the remote does combat an element of this with the ability to control playback from the other end of the room.

If however, the device is located near to your workspace, the remote becomes obsolete but is still a nice addition to have it with its elegant and minimalist metal profile. Also worth mentioning is the much welcomed heatsink component which allows the Ragnarok 2 to run much cooler to the touch than its predecessor.

One functionality issue is that the pre-amp outputs are on every time the headphone output is used. While this may indeed be beneficial for those wishing to use headphones in conjunction with subwoofers, it is a hassle to turn the subwoofer off in cases where a user wants to only use headphones. Perhaps this could have been incorporated as an extra button option on the remote control to turn this particular output on or off.

Conclusion

Overall then, the Schiit Ragnarok 2 represents the next evolution in Schiit’s mantra for modular design philosophy. Complete with remote control, nexus differential gain stage and heatsink capacities, the Ragnarok 2 improves over its predecessor at a surprisingly cheaper price ($1499). Tracks sound vivid and holographic with engaging character and holographic resolve. Perhaps, Schiit could consider the options for a tube stage but I imagine this may drive the price of a future revision. The versatility of this amp, however, is second to none with the upgraded version featuring both MM Phono and DAC options (at $1799). Together with a durable design factor and generous 5 year warranty, the Ragnarok 2 really represents that all-in-one amp to service both speakers and headphones alike.

Schiit Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier

$1499

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Schiit

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