Schiit Ragnarok Review: Schiit’s Ragnarok may be a fairly hefty ugly beast, but behind it’s Soviet looks hides an astonishingly flexible device with excellent build quality and unparalleled slightly mid-bass north ‘natralesque’ sonic beauty. From sensitive IEMs to thirsty cicrumaural designs, and even large floor standers, the Rag can effortlessly handle the lot with extraordinary levels of coherence throughout and, surprisingly, has little discernible sonic variation between the headphone amp and speaker outputs. This is an end-game product at its current RRP.
When Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat first took their products to market back in 2009 I really don’t think that the early US startup duo ever could have anticipated the sheer loyal cult following that they now have on the popular online forums today. Sure the company has had their bumps along the way, with the most notable forum dispute being NwAvGuy vs Asgard 1, but Schiit has always been very honest and open in their approach which has led to this brand feeling very community orientated and one that has been exciting to watch blossom.
Back in Early 2013 Schiit informed the community that they were working two new flagship devices; one being a bit perfect DAC named ‘Yggdrasil’ and the other being a solid state Headphone and Speaker amplifier named ‘Ragnarok’. Before this moment Schiit had always seemed to be focused on producing DAC/Headphone Amp solutions for the headphone aficionado, so when Ragnarok was announced we all waited with baited breath despite many of Schiit’s loyal following being portable audio (dare I say) ‘audiophiles’. Fast forward eighteen long months and Schiit finally started showing off the Rag’ at the trade shows and, well, after some initial teething problems the response was mightily positive so it was finally released to the paying public in late 2014 and, predictably, since this date many reviewers have focused on the headphone amplifier side of things so this review we’ll also produce a lengthy sound quality review of the speaker ampler side of things. However, before we jump right into this review, what you may not know is that when designing the Ragnarok Schiit gave it a modular design so that, as analogue technology naturally progressed, they could potentially change the gain board to maintain ‘end-game’ status, and possibly produce a hybrid version that utilises vacuum tubes. Anyway, I’ve said too much…but, be warned, this is a long’un!
Unboxing and Build Quality:
Unsurprisingly the Rangnarok is a rather large beast and, as such, is delivered in an aptly sized double cell wall stacked cardboard container. Clearly on the outside the Ragnarok is protected extremely well, and the internal protection follows suit with two medium/high density foam platforms cradle suspending the 32lb machine and preventing it from shifting on its rocky long journey to your door. Please remember that, as with all Schiit products, you have a fifteen day money back guarantee so you’re able to can make sure that everything is working well for you. This truly is epic service and means that with a Schiit product you’ll never get that sinking feeling, if you don’t like it – send it back, it’s that simple.
With the Ragnarok you won’t need to configure the device based on your specific regions power supply, because Schiit have incorporated a circuit to sort this all out for you. However, Schiit do show a keen interest in where their products are going and, as such, include an appropriate 1.5m kettle lead for you to immediately plug in and play. Alongside this kettle lead we arrive at the final item in the box; the ‘Owner’s Manual’. The owners manual offers a guide on the Ragnaroks connections, helpful FAQ’s, and ways to clear faults but, as much as I understand that Schiit have a very lighthearted ‘no-bull’ comical approach, this manual is riddled with a few too many running jokes that may disappoint those whom are unaccustomed to this relaxed marketing method… But hey, let’s contradict ourselves because if you’re reading this you’re probably contemplating the purchase of a product from a company that’s commonly known as S-H-I-T… Yes, posh boys say ’S-H-E-E-T… Tomato or Tomato right? We’ll say no more.
Before we progress onto a detailed discussion of the Ragnarok’s build quality, unlike their commonly pronounced name, you’ll be receiving a mighty fine product that comes with mighty fine warranty – five years. Now usually we’ll see products only being covered by a single year warranty, two or three at most, but five years is almost unheard of. For those living close to the sea you’ll know the impact that the salty air can have on sensitive electronic components, even after a couple of years, so this is a big positive selling point that will leave you feeling comfortable about the significant investment that you have just made. In fact just as a reference, I’ve only ever encountered one other manufacturer that matches or tops this warranty, and that is Audiofilia with their huge 10 year backing. Funnily enough these are the main speaker brand that we will be using to test the Ragnarok on later, and the pairing is beyond beautiful. Anyway, if we come back on to another significant merit of all Schiit products, it may come as a surprise to the unfamiliar that their entire product line is designed, made, and manufactured in the USA from components US components. Even the PCB’s are printed just down the road from the Schiit offices so you have to give them Kudos for manufacturing a trailblazing device that’s ‘affordable’, competes with products double, if not triple the cost, and the team still has full control over the production line at their fingertips. Now that’s passion, love, and dedication to the job at hand!
Just like the other products offered by Schiit, the Ragnarok sports a similar aesthetic with it’s bleak understated industrial vibe formed from a cost effective U-Shaped brushed aluminium chassis, repetitive hole punched detailing, and simple polished chrome tactile surfaces. I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but to me the Ragnarok is a pretty ugly 32lb monolith that stands out as an eyesore on any surface and it doesn’t come in any other colour than grey. But, just like the hunchback of notre dame, I cannot hold anything against it although, somewhat annoyingly, the Ragnarok does not follow standard HiFi separates dimensions and so comes as an oversized slab measuring 16” x 12” x 3.9”, so you might have to think again if you A) plan on featuring the Ragnarok on a standard dimension HiFi plinth, or B) If you prefer continuity between your CD transport and Ragnarok. Please don’t mistake these musings for believing that the build quality of the Ragnarok is poor, because it is quite the opposite. When taking the Ragnarok out of its cardboard tomb you can easily feel the rigidity of the device, and you’ll also note that nothing appears to be rattling. Looking through the ventilation holes I can see that all the cables on the inside have been cleverly routed and tied down to the chassis or (horrid red solder mask) PCB, but also whilst I’m here I can notice that all of the hand soldered points, on each of the input/output connections, appear to be well joined and are free of any causes for concern. Coming back onto the solid feel of the device, Schiit have gone to great lengths to secure the device together with, what appears to be, as many screws as possible across all hidden surfaces, and the external material is formed out of 3mm thick aluminium that certainly gives some grunt to whole package. Still the device feels just as sturdy as other $2000.00 devices, albeit ugly as sin, and has four standard rubberised plastic feet on the bottom as to not scratch your favourite worktop, plinth, or new deep dark Schiit-hole HiFi cupboard.
Features, Function, and Connectivity:
If we come back on to more of the features of the build quality it’s clear that the chassis does the job well and, coming back to the possibility of a tube version in the future, it is clear that the square on the top is where the vacuum tubes will be where they will live. As much as it’s difficult to see how well radio frequency interference effects the output signal I can see that this thick aluminium casing will reject much of this and actually part acts as a heat sink in collaboration with the sheer number of ventilation holes keep the amplifier from getting outrageously hot, which is useful considering that this amplifier does sound better through consistency when warmed up. However, the manual does advise you to not leave the Ragnarok constantly only because it draws 80w of power when idle. This seems a little conflicting when the only on/off rocker switch is located on the back, and that on Schiit’s website it says that “Once it’s on, and the control system has settles to its thermal operating point, Ragnarok’s performance is consistent and predictable.”
As we’re now at the rear of the device, we’ll begin here and provide our thoughts about the input’s, output’s, and their presentation. So as we’re here, the first main thought that strikes me is that the inputs appear to be appropriately laid out via a consecutive order that relates to the input selection switch on the front panel. Maybe if I’m being fussy enough I would have preferred the RCA inputs to accommodate ‘Input No. 1 to 3’ instead of the XLR’s taking ‘Input No. 1 and 2’ because I can see most people using the RCA inputs over the XLRs. Regardless, the inputs themselves have enough freedom around them to cater for premium oversized connectors, and my The Chord Company ‘Signature Tuned ARAY’ RCA interconnect feels right at home with a good degree of freedom. In terms of the labelling on the rear of the Ragnarok, I do feel as if Schiit could have reverse printed the input/output labels to make ‘on-the-fly’ connections easier seeing as the Rag is a large and heavy beast, I mean they clearly have the space to do so, so why not? Anyway, all of the standard input and output connectors, being Neutrik branded, appear to be of good quality and are very well secured well onto the outer chassis with absolutely no wiggle room. Moving further along the rear panel reveals that the Ragnarok will only drive a single set of passive speakers with a single set of output posts. The posts are well positioned and are steadily mounted, although I would have preferred the actual nuts to be of a better material than plastic in this instance. Still, they are of good quality, are user replaceable, and can survive a good degree of tension for those not intending to use banana plugs or factory terminations and, in this situation, the hole within the post is of a good dimension to host a whole range of audiophile thin and thick gauge wire. For those intending to use banana plugs or factory terminations, the post accommodates these fittings and I found that my The Chord Company ‘Sarsen – Factory Terminated’ cable yielded a solid continuous connection with no causes for concern.
If we move onto the actual inputs and outputs now, it’s plain to see that Schiit have been more than generous with the Ragnarok. In total there are five inputs; two balanced (L + R) XLR inputs and three RCA (single ended) inputs – indeed more than you can shake a stick at! On the output side of things you’ll have to make do with your 1x pair of balanced XLR outputs and 1x pair of unbalanced RCA outputs, but Hey! Why would you need more? Also, if you so choose, I forgot to mention that you can use an audiophile mains power cable, with oversized IEC320 style connectors with the Ragnarok and, likewise, you can replace the slow blow fuses with suchlike from Synergistic Research (SR20) if you so choose.
Now, back on to the front. So, as we mentioned before, the whole Ragnarok image is fairly bleak, and the interactive features don’t make the styling any more glamorous. Firstly the large chrome digital potentiometer doesn’t necessarily have anything about the feel in the hand that suggests that this is a premium well finished device, which is actually quite typical of the Schiit ‘the audio performance speaks for itself’ design aesthetic. To put it bluntly, knobfeel.co.uk won’t be satisfied here… in use it just feels smooth with little degree of resistance. I can’t say that this impacts the function, because it doesn’t, tactilely you can still pinpoint the right level of gain (more on this later), it will simply hold it’s position, and it’s both large and fairly central so there’s no fumbling around to quickly turn the volume of that mega compressed heavy metal that’s just inconveniently come on shuffle whilst in the middle of an epic Jazz session. To the left of the potentiometer you’ll come across the input source selector switch which depresses satisfyingly and so does the three stage gain selector. Both functions simply provide their operational function via a series of covertly labelled LED holes which illuminate with a white light which, thankfully, is not too dim or overly bright – a ridiculously bright LED can draw unwanted attention, so Kudos here Schiit! Moving over to the far right side, here Schiit have provided both a single ¼” output and a balanced female 4 pin XLR. Yes, that’s right, the Ragnarok caters for balanced a balanced headphone output to make the most out of your expensive headphones (if supported with a 4pin XLR termination or TRRS to 4pin XLR adapter) by offering a cleaner, increased RF protected, signal. From it’s sheer absence or by the fact that only a ¼” single ended TRS output is given with most of the Ragnarok’s competitors, the inclusion of the balanced XLR output demonstrates that Schiit have taken a much further holistic approach in the design of all of the Ragnarok’s capabilities and, by their own very words, have cut no corners to create an ‘End Game amplifier’ and an ‘End Game headphone amplifier’ in a single unit. Whilst supporting evidence of this claim comes out of the shadows in the ‘Sound Quality’ section of this review, you cannot deny the fact that the Ragnarok’s ‘God Like’ or ‘End of the World’ (Norse mythology) name is seeming to become more and more apt as this feature analysis progresses, don’t you think?…
Internally it’s hard to deny that the Ragnarok is impressive, because it really is. Schiit have built the Ragnarok as an impenetrable device that utilises a microprocessor to adjust various properties to produce the best sound quality possible, and protect the amplifier from faults. When the Ragnarok is turned on it will initially undertake a power on test that mutes all outputs, optimises technical parameters (eg. quiescent current and DC offset), and stabilises itself. This is a process that lasts approximately fifteen seconds and can be seen as a bit awkward, but to get the best in this particular class then this is apparently what has’t happen. If we follow this further, Schiit have chosen to use an independent relay (hard mute device) for each channel of the source input, which can be audibly heard when navigating through each independent source, which is obviously a good necessary item. Rather unusually though, on the continuing discussion of relays, Schiit have decided to use a 64 stage relay switch on the potentiometer itself. Apparently this design approach is over engineered to protect your output devices from clicks and pops that can result from increasing or decreasing the gain, but, to be honest, I find it’s function beyond annoying as any slight movement of the potentiometer results in an orchestra of clickity clicks similar to that of a WW2 war office – not very befitting of an audiophile device.
As we haven’t mentioned this before, although it is fairly obvious, the Ragnarok is a Solid State amplifier that, on the headphone amplifier side essentially runs as a Class A device (according to Schiit), and the amplifier runs as a Class AB device – more on the amplifier side of things later. Class A devices are typical here and, although they’re much less efficient through only operating at 20% efficiency, the benefit of this side being a Class A device is that the input signal is more linear and better retains its original composure with lower distortion which, arguably, is more apt for high sensitivity lower power consuming headphones/IEMs. Thankfully, in order to save your output device, Schiit have included a gain selector switch through three different gain modes 1 (-26dB), 5 (-14dB), and 20 (0dB. I found that in most instances the 5 or 20 gain setting was most used, although very sensitive IEMs (16Ω) will not max out the initial setting 1. Although there is limited information regarding the power output into varying impedance loads, Ragnarok still has the ability to put a ridiculous 3w in to 32Ω balanced connected headphones and 5w into 32Ω unbalanced connected headphones, so be careful! With this said, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Ragnarok did have a fairly tough time of delivering a comfortable amount of gain into my notoriously difficult 600Ω Beyerdynamic T1’s so this may be something to take into consideration. Also just so that you’re aware, on the headphone amplifier side of things, the Ragnarok has a different output impedance depending on whether you connect your favourite headphones/IEMs into the unbalanced or balanced output. The unbalanced (single ended output) isn’t that bad with an output impedance of 3.3Ω which, theoretically (1:6 principle), means that the Rangarok will be perfectly suited to headphones/IEMs that are rated at over 19.8Ω. This is of little annoyance to 16Ω users, but the theory is just a theory and in practice the unbalanced side of things is more than capable. During extensive testing I have not detected any stereotypical crushed dynamic range with more efficient cans in this range (when paired with the Chord Electronics Hugo and ARCAM irDAC), seeing as everything maintains good continuity across the dynamic range, bass presence and presentation. On the other end of the spectrum the balanced headphone output has a very very respectable output impedance of less than 0.1Ω. If we refer back to our 1:6 principle it’s clear that the balanced output is, frankly, an absolute boss and that’s all we need to say about the matter.
Where we previously mentioned the three stage gain output, I should really mention that this is a ‘global’ parameter that effects all the operating outputs. The reason why I say ‘operating outputs’ is because the Ragnarok will simultaneously output audio through your connected speakers and headphones unless you mute one of the operating outputs by holding down the source selector for two seconds. It would have been much more convent for this feature to have it’s own dedicated selector for the simple fact that this small feature could save your bacon if you accidentally end up blasting audio through either your headphones or speakers as it could act as a sort of quick mute seeing as there is no global mute function, but I’m not going to loose any sleep about this so really that’s the end of my two cents. If we move onto the actual function of the speaker amplifier section now you’ll remember that I said that this side of things has a Class AB operation, which is actually a very popular choice with many audio amplifier manufacturers. The simple benefits of using this particular design is that you get many of the sonic benefits of a Class A device, including good linearity, low distortion, and a broad bandwidth, with the efficiency of a Class B device (through less unwanted heat production), although typically they have a more restricted dynamic range so this is something that we shall look out for later within the sonic descriptive. As a final note, with a maximum power delivery of 100w RMS into an 4Ω load and 60w RMS, the Ragnarok shouldn’t have any severe problems with headroom that I can see and, unfortunately because I only have the capability of testing the Ragnarok with 8Ω Audiofilia AM-SM1s, I can only note that there is more than enough headroom when paired with my Chord Electronics Hugo set to Line Out so you’ll have to take my word on the fact that you’ll have a nice volume output under the most common passive loudspeakers. I could go on forever in this section discussing THD, signal to noise ratio, and Crosstalk, so instead of dragging this out I’ll just say that the specifications appear to all be in check for a product of this caliber, and I’ll list them instead: Signal to noise ratio = more than 100db unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS, THD = Less than 0.005%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS, and Crosstalk = Less than -80dB, 20Hz-20KHz.
Finally I would like to clear something up that has been mentioned on the forums, and this relates to some low level humming coming from the Ragnaroks power supply. No matter what I did, including using mains conditioners et al., I could not remedy this minor problem but, fear not, this is not something that carries over to the signal path so please don’t worry, you don’t have a faulty unit and there’s really no need to act upon your fifteen day money back guarantee.
Lossless tracks varying from 44.1kHz to 192kHz and 16bit to 24bit, MacBook Air Mid 2013 i7, Sonic Studio ‘Amarra’, CAD ‘USB’ Cable, Chord Electronics ‘Hugo’, Lynx ‘Hilo’, ARCAM ‘irDAC’, Various Van Damme ‘Professional Series’ interconnects, The Chord Company ‘Signature Tuned ARAY’ RCA, The Chord Company ‘Sarsen’, Epiphany Acoustics ‘Astratus’ Mains Cable, Fostex ‘TH900’, Fostex ‘TH600’, Final Audio Design ‘Pandora Hope VI’, Beyerdynamic ‘T1’, Beyerdynamic ‘T90’, Apollo Audio Lab ‘X1’, Heir Audio ’10.A’, Heir Audio ‘8.0’, Noble Audio ‘FR’, and Audiofilia ‘AM-SM1’.
Sound Quality and Compatibility – Speaker and Headphone Output:
As this is Schiit’s first, and only, speaker power amplifier I think that it’s only fitting to begin here, although I do have to say that the power amplifier side of the Ragnarok has ever so slightly convinced me more than that headphone amplifier itself for some reason, even if both are almost identical and cut from the same cloth – anyway, we’ll come back onto this later. However, just to clarify, the speakers that I have paired with the Ragnarok to process the following sonic descriptive are the Italian made Audiofilia AM-SM1 flat profile studio monitors that currently retail for €2499.00 – http://www.af-speakers.com/products/speakers/monitors/af-sm1/?p=af-sm1&c=monitors … Considering all of the previously mentioned source components, I have noticed that the Chord Electronics Hugo seems to best pair with the Ragnarok. This isn’t a battle royale, just an observation based on the fact that the Ragnarok appears to tame Hugo’s enormous imaging whilst adding a touch of low end weight to gives those bass frequencies more authority than otherwise heard. Both of these factors appear general across the board and should be considered as unrelenting ‘qualities’ of the Ragnarok, regardless of the source component. With this said, this review has mainly been considered with ‘Hugo’ as the main source along with lossless tracks varying from 44.1kHz to 192kHz and 16bit to 24bit. With Hugo set to the Line Out volume level, the Ragnarok comfortably drove my 8Ω Audiofilia AM-SM1 monitors without any hiccups, although the volume parameter needed to be set family high to get the best gain range out of the Ragnarok.
If we’re to initially describe the Ragnarok’s overall tonal characteristics, I would have to say that this is an amplifier that produces a slightly mid-bass north of neutral image that almost edges it’s way into the ‘natural’ domain. The Ragnarok still harbours the Schiit in house sound and the reason as to why the Ragnarok exhibits both of these tonal descriptives here is that it genuinely sits between the two and it’s hard to definitively place it as one of the other so, if it helps, it’s best to think of it as a 40% neutral and 60% natural because that hits the nail right on the head. In terms of the imaging, I’ve always found that the Raganok produces a freakishly realistic, energetic, and ridiculously flexible three dimensional stage that could be described as ‘proportional to the environment played out within the original recording’, if it wasn’t for it’s speedy somewhat crystalline and marginally larger than life performance. Actually, saying that is a little disconcerting when it’s not meant to be… the only reason why the Ragnarok comes across this way is because its imaging is so transparent that it feels overwhelmingly perfect, it’s just hard to get away from a ‘veil-less’ sense of analogous impression when the performers positioning becomes so organic and tangible that their many individual complexities unravel without any active decoding needing to take place by the brain. Simply put, the Ragnarok allows the speakers to do their job and resolve away with no excessive bleeding even if there is a good knitting across the spatial dimensions – only if you have good enough speakers. Continuing on, I have, however, found that throughout my time with the Ragnarok that it seems to possess a highly agreeable flexible transient edginess in the bass and treble areas that seems to add a nice bite to the overall image, irrespective of genre. Strangely this is even the case with heavily limited/compressed Pop and Electronics genres, and the main reason as to why the Ragnarok can still cope so well under these conditions is because of that brutally transparent imaging, even if the Y-axis is as flat as a pancake. If we stay with the dynamic performance now, the Ragnarok seems to magically still give a sense of depth if it’s there in some within the recording. It’s all too often that amplifiers at this price point slightly mask the original detail and seem to slightly smear the dynamics to produce a very respectable ‘not quite holographic’ image, but the Ragnarok acts more like a window into the original performance with it’s beautiful transparency and true to life form. Yes, that’s right, as an overview the Ragnarok generally sounds organic, freakishly authentic, and faithful, but there’s really only one factor that stops it’s performance from becoming labelled with the ‘stunning’ descriptive, and that’s the very slight mid-bass warmth. Still, we have to be picky about something even if it is minor.
If we come onto the midrange now, the Ragnarok simply lets the midrange speak for itself, much like the treble performance, and possesses a seriously fine-edge and fluid transparency. Clearly the midrange is very very well presented and appears to avoid any congestion, even in that troublesome wooly low-midrange area, that would otherwise lead to a wishy washy muddy performance. I would say that the main reason as to why the midrange is so transparent, and retains much of the soulful magic of the original recording, is that the Ragnarok generally feels much speedier than it’s competitors and has bags of energy to dynamically dance around the sterile or warm descriptors – essentially the Ragnarok has a perfectly balanced midrange, to my ears at least. Thankfully this balance and transparency doesn’t give you a knife edge, nor does it place sonic boundaries for the micro or macro details to adhere to. Ultimately it’s just best to say that it’s lusciousness and solidity doesn’t come at the expense of a reduced dynamic range or the steamrollering of micro details, they’re still there with resolution and aren’t depressed. Needless to say that I’m very impressed with its balance, and it is totally clear from the first moment that you listen to the Ragnarok, from an engineers perspective, that it is a device that could stand proud in either a consumer, or professional, setting – please just heed the warning of a slightly hyped low-midrange though. However, in favour of it’s potential professional audio setting, or general audiophile snobbery, I do have to comment about Ragnaroks noise floor. On the lowest gain setting the Ragnarok has absolutely no resolving distortion through both the headphone output (with very sensitive IEMs) and speaker output… essentially the noise floor is completely inaudible. When we jump up to the medium gain setting, again, the speaker output appears to have no audible distortion whatsoever, but when sensitive IEMs are connected a vanishingly small amount of distortion can heard which, in fact, takes a pair of golden ears to hear this. To get the best out of the Ragnarok I would advice that, wherever possible, you use the low and medium gain settings. The reason for this is that when you operate the Ragnarok on the highest gain setting there appears to be a marginally higher noise floor. This isn’t something that will generally effect the overall performance in normal conditions, although when very sensitive IEMs are used as a playback medium, during very quiet or silent breaks in the music, you can hear the higher noise floor. Taking everything into account, Ragnarok’s performance across all of the three gain settings is still impressive and presents a (practically) silent crystal stage that abets epic dynamic flexibility, which the Ragnarok clearly has in spades.
At the higher end of the frequency spectrum, the Ragnarok, again, performs extremely well. With the playback of clanging treble rich supporting instrumentation (think TB-303 hi-hats et al.) they appear to stand out like glass to the ear for all the right reasons. The sheer fidelity of the Ragnarok, particularly within the treble areas, allows the supporting elements and finer nuances, down to the micro-details, to all be aligned individually without any medial stickiness. Every instrument can be individually heard to have it’s own spatial positioning with ease and, likewise, have a nice firm position on the Y-axis if appropriately mixed. On top of this the holographic output that the Rangarok produces, is very well judged to allow for central elements to remain central, such a vocals, whilst their latter reverb reflections appear to bounce across the artificial space (left and right) without sacrificing the clear positioning, or pan, that was placed by the engineer during the mix down. This is a very important element to discuss, because, in this price range, it’s all too easy for an amplifier to have a matter of fact ‘in your face’ approach that somewhat crushes the original freedom offered by the engineer, but the Ragnarok sacrifices nothing, and it precision commands the frequencies well with confidence, and plays into the best of both worlds to its advantage. If we finalise the treble descriptive now, the treble is a concise and confident area for the Ragnarok that where sibilance never seems to enter into the equation. Part of the reason for why this range is so special is that even super high frequencies glisten with a slightly oily characteristic that gels everything appropriately without any audible distortion whatsoever.
As we finally arrive at the bass frequency descriptive, as mentioned previously, the low midrange is an area that is ever so slightly hyped. Please don’t think that the Ragnarok is all about the warmth because that wouldn’t be true and neither does it colour the audio beyond a reasonable level, it’s just a well tamed boldness that comes to the fore which never ever sounds ‘round’ if that makes some sort of sense. If we continue on this same track, the bass certainly appears solid, distinct, and maintains the tracks rhythmic elements perfectly, there’s definitely no sluggish moments even on a heavy kick drum beat with dreamy synth bass or bass guitars. In fact the articulation and solidarity of the subtle transients is easily heard whilst the decay of longer supporting notes appears fluid without any evidence of ‘pumping’. I do have to say that, due to the Ragnaroks sheer resolution and bass continuity, if a tracks drum/bass rhythmic elements are poorly side-chain compressed then the engineers caliber is truly on show even if the Rag does its best to resolve this through its fine dynamic range. Something that also helps the bass frequencies to be so on point is that the Ragnarok seems to go down very low and, again, there is no apparent distortion at the end of the audible frequency spectrum. Schiit do state that the Ragnarok has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz at 0.1db and 2Hz to 300kHz at -3dB, so if you’re someone who looks at specs before using your ears you might have an aneurysm from the second set of figures.
What’s been mentioned above is a very accurate description of both the speaker and headphone output. The only logical difference that I detected between the two was with the unbalanced output, and that was a slightly broadening of that subtle rising low-midrange q point, marginally less dynamic finesse, with a more rounded appearance at the high-midrange and treble areas. When the balanced output was in use the amplifier safely maintained many of the decriptors used above.
However, as a general observation, little distortion was detected across a wide selection of headphones (see the ‘Review Technology’ section) apart from that previously mentioned with the different gain stages. Something that was a teeny tiny bit annoying was that when I paired the Beyerdynamic T1’s with the Ragnarok, I felt that it didn’t feel as if it had enough gain to drive them to comfortable levels when listening to classical recordings, or any low level (master compression-less) recordings for that matter. The 600Ω thirsty bugger T1’s still had their charm, they just didn’t have enough headroom for my liking. Regardless of this fact, the Raganok always maintained great continuity across a diverse range of sensitive IEMs and large circumaurals without ever feeling stretched or overpowered.
To produce this review I spent a good three weeks with the Schiit Ragnarok and can confirm that it is an excellent practical solution for all your amplification needs. Delivering unparalleled sonic beauty in its class, the Ragnarok should be considered as a serious contender to many of the top brand names where, in almost every situation, it proved to outperform their equivalent offering. There is no doubt in my mind that the Ragnarok will be an extremely successful product and it deserves all the attention it can get. Having considered some of our earlier reservations, The Pro Audio Web Blog awards the Schiit Ragnarok with a four and a half star rating and the Editor’s Choice award… Needless to say that the Ragnarok is now on our wish list.