Schiit's new audiophile amplifier is a slam dunk winner

The Schiit Ragnarok 2 is the rare purist audiophile amp designed and built in the US. It's selling for $1,499.

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
5 min read

The Schiit Ragnarok 2 amplifier.

Lee Shelly

You know about Schiit? The California-based company has been making stellar, mostly very affordable electronics since 2010, and I've reviewed a bunch of them. The newest Schiit shipment came in a plain brown shipping carton, but its insides were anything but ordinary: The Schiit Ragnarok 2 stereo integrated amplifier looks, feels and sounds like no other amp. That is, except the original Ragnarok, which was the Audiophiliac Component of the Year in 2015.

The new amp delivers 60 watts per channel into 8 ohm speakers, and 100 watts per channel for 4 ohm speakers, same as before. Meanwhile, the Ragnarok 2's ultra high power headphone amp delivers up to 24 watts for 32 ohm headphones, but can also safely work with high sensitivity in-ear headphones that play happily with just tiny fractions of a watt.

The new one looks a little different. Its all-metal chassis design is spiffed up with ventilation holes on the lower front panel, and a set of exposed, finned heat sinks along the sides. The amp's front panel controls make more ergonomic sense than before, and from left to right are input selector, headphone/speaker output selector, gain (high, medium or low), and a big volume control knob. To the right of the knob there are standard 6.3mm and balanced XLR headphone output jacks. 

The Ragnarok 2 now has optional digital converter and phono preamp modules. It's $1,499 for the base version, and $1,799 with the phono input and USB multibit high resolution digital converter modules. (In the UK it's £1,400 or £1,700.)


The Schiit Ragnarok 2 rear panel.

Lee Shelly

The base model Ragnarok 2 sports five pairs of stereo analog inputs (two XLR and three RCA). The fully loaded Ragnarok 2 has two pairs of XLR inputs, along with two RCA inputs (one moving-magnet phono input, one line level) and one USB digital input. Both versions of the amp have stereo RCA and XLR preamp outputs that can be hooked up to a subwoofer or separate amplifier (more on that later). Ragnarok 2 measures 16 by 13 by 3.8 inches (406 by 305 by 95mm), and weighs 32 pounds (14.5 kg). 

The original Ragnarok didn't come with a remote control -- the new one has a spiffy, small easy-to handle aluminum one that controls volume, input selection, gain level and mute.


The Ragnarok 2's easy-to-handle remote.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The amp feels like a precision instrument. The volume control, for example, is rather special. It's a 128-stepped attenuator that makes little clicks from within the Ragnarok 2 chassis when you change the volume -- with the knob or the remote. 

The chassis ran warm to the touch, so don't even think of stuffing the Ragnarok 2 inside a closed cabinet. The Ragnarok 2 is made in the US, with mostly US-made parts. Schiit's five-year warranty is considerably longer than what you get with most mass-market electronics. 

Listening to Schiit 

I first auditioned the Ragnarok 2 with a Schiit Yggdrasil 2 digital converter while alternating between two sets of speakers, KEF LS50 stand mount monitors and large Klipsch Forte III speakers. Afterwards I put the Yggdrasil aside when the amp served on desktop duty, where I used its built-in USB digital converter.

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The Schiit Yggdrasil 2 (top), the Schiit Ragnarok 2 amp (bottom)

Lee Shelly

It's been four years since I've heard the original Ragnarok, and while I liked the sound I don't recall thinking it was all that transparent. With the Ragnarok 2 it was just the opposite, and that's what first grabbed and held my attention. The sound was very clear, quite detailed and open.

The Ragnarok 2 was a truthful messenger. Music sounded real, immediate and alive. I loved it for that. It's not going to sweeten the sound of harsh recordings, but the great ones were revealed in all their glory. Too bad Arcade Fire's The Suburbs album's sound was brutally harsh, but that's not the fault of the Ragnarok 2, it's just a nasty sounding recording.

Ah, but then Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessions album played over Klipsch Forte III speakers was pure rock 'n roll heaven. The sound was so alive, the rhythm section's punch was gutsy and -- a big surprise -- the recording had a terrific sense of depth!

The R.E.M. at the BBC live concert set sound varied from one show to the next, but even so the band's energy and power were always vivid as hell. Played loud I was totally there, connecting to the music.

I wished I had the Magnepan LRS panel speakers on hand for the Ragnarok 2 review. As I spent time with the amp I knew it would have been a fine match with those speakers. Same for the Wharfedale Lintons I had at home in June -- the Ragnarok 2 would likely click with them too.

To test out using the Ragnarok 2 as a preamp, I hooked up the Schiit Aegir power amp, and at first I couldn't get any sound out of the Aegir. I checked and rechecked the connections. They were correct. The owner's manual was no help, so I just fiddled about trying things, and when I switched off the Ragnarok 2's speaker output and turned on the headphone output, the Aegir started playing! So in other words you need to turn on the headphone output to use the Ragnarok 2 as a preamp! That's very strange, but easy to do once you know how to do it. 

Teamed with the Aegir the sound was even more see-through, and the soundstage took on a more three-dimensional quality. The '2 was no slouch on its own, but the Aegir conjured more space and depth between instruments, and individual voices in choral recordings were easier to hear with the Ragnarok 2/Aegir combination.

I also tried the '2 with a 250 watt-per-channel Mytek Brooklyn Amp ($2,500), and the sound developed a fleshier and richer tonal balance than the Ragnarok 2 hooked up directly to the speakers, or the Ragnarok 2/Aegir combination. Even though I'd guess most Ragnarok 2 owners will use it as an integrated amp and be very satisfied with the sound, it's nice to know it can be upgraded in the future with the addition of a separate power amp.

The Ragnarok 2 is also one heck of a headphone amp. It drove massively insensitive headphones like the Hifiman Susvara with a remarkable sense of ease, and the sound was absolutely superb.

I'm not sure why, but a lot of home headphone amps aren't good matches with in-ear 'phones, but the Ragnarok 2 really clicked with the FiiO FH5s: The sound was bigger, deeper, and a lot more powerful, even while listening at moderate volume levels. When music wasn't playing I could detect a small amount of background amplifier hiss, but that was only apparent with in-ear headphones. Full-size headphones aren't as sensitive, so I didn't hear any hiss playing them on the Ragnarok 2.

To sum up, the Schiit Ragnarok 2's versatility is unmatched for the money. Its sound with speakers and high-end headphones is extraordinary. Build quality and the warranty are top notch. The Ragnarok 2 is one heck of an amp.

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