Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 integrated amplifier Page 2

I began this review with the Thorens TD 124 Mk.I turntable but eventually changed to the Kuzma Stabi R. Similarly, Klipsch Forte III loudspeakers were swapped out for DeVore Fidelity O/93s, using Auditorium 23 speaker cables for both.

I brought out several vinyl chestnuts from my collection to establish the Ragnarok 2's basic sound: Ella Fitzgerald's Swings Brightly With Nelson (LP, Verve Records V6-4054); Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne & Ray Brown's Poll Winners Three! (LP, Contemporary Records M 3576); Miles Davis Quintet's Workin' (LP, Prestige PRLP 7166); and Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell's El Corazón (LP, ECM Records ECM 1-1230). All four records revealed the Rag 2's sound to be bold and punchy, with good dynamics and precise imaging.

A strong presence
I love Ella's Swings Brightly With Nelson for Riddle's arrangements and buoyant big band—and of course, Ella herself, who sounds joyful throughout. Through the Rag 2, Ella's artistry—every dynamic nuance, every subtlety of timing, every inhalation and exhalation—was reproduced better than through any amplifier I've had in house. The Ragnarok 2 was so resolving, yet in such a non-analytical way, it was almost like being inside Ella's head. Her vocals sounded more human and less canned than I've ever heard.


The big band was reproduced with admirable soundstage depth but without the spaciousness provided (or allowed) by my tube amps. The explosive thwacks of drummer Warren Smith's Warren Smith & Toki (45, RCA RVL-8501) and the timpani and snare drum battles of Makoto Aruga's Digital Percussion (LP, Seven Seas K2BC-165) revealed an amplifier that doesn't soften transients. The trio interplay on Poll Winners Three!, where each musician's timing—how one musician pushes the beat as another pulls it back—was clearer than I've heard before.

El Corazón is a musical duel between a trumpet and drumming master, Cherry and Blackwell romping through bubbling New Orleans swing with exploratory avant playfulness. This recording always sounds palpable and present, but via the Rag 2, which mated beautifully with my DeVore Fidelity O/93s, I could better hear the metallic vibrancy of Blackwell's snare drum and the spitty textures of Cherry's trumpet. As with the Ella disc, the music was more immediate and brilliantly dynamic than I recall it sounding through other gear. Each instrument in the mix was crisp and vivid, with commendable tone. On Poll Winners Three!, a jazz master class if ever there is one, the Rag 2 provided a front-row–seat perspective, presenting palpable images within a deep soundstage.

Midrange frequencies are where this amplifier excels. Kessel's guitar on Poll Winners Three! sounded particularly lush and toneful. Shelly Manne's drums were textured and present—not as present and colorful as when played through my Shindo gear, but with more warmth than any other solid-state amplifier I've reviewed. The Rag 2 performed the neat trick of being crisp and warm at the same time.

While the Rag 2's midrange was consistently full and engaging, I found its bass response mixed. The Schiit's reproduction of bass weight—upright and electric bass, bass drums, timpani, deep organ notes—was less substantial than that of other solid-state (and some tube) amplifiers I've had in house. Paul Chambers's acoustic bass on Miles Davis's Workin' had less weight than I've heard. Dave Holland's upright bass on Triplicate (LP, ECM Records ECM 1373) had good palpability.


$150 DAC
The Rag 2's Fully Loaded package adds a phono stage, a USB DAC, and $300 to the price of the Just An Amp version. Assuming that half that goes to the phono stage, the Ragnarok DAC costs $150.

The $1850 BorderPatrol DAC SE did not trounce it. Stacey Kent's "It's a Wonderful World" (FLAC, 16/44.1kHz, Tidal) sounded more natural and relaxed through the Rag 2 DAC, but the soundstage was deeper through the BorderPatrol. The BorderPatrol presented Sarah Vaughan's "Mean to Me" (FLAC, 16/44.1kHz, Tidal) with natural-sounding tone and good texture, the latter including an emphasis on the slight burr in her voice. The Schiit reproduced her voice with less texture; spatially, it placed her band farther back on the soundstage. If I had to choose, I think I'd take the Schiit's DAC and keep the cash.

In your head
I connected my Master & Dynamic MH40 headphones to the amp's ¼" jack. The Stacey Kent track sounded natural, lush, creamy, and spacious. Kent's girlish vocals sounded better with the cans than through any of my loudspeakers, with opulent tone and an excellent sense of air.

Schiit vs Schiit
I've been scavenging JVC XRCDs of late. A friend—Robert Silverman, who frequents the Jazz Record Center (where I work Saturdays), and who is not the Robert Silverman who has recorded classical great works on the Stereophile label—gave me the bug. On Robert's advice, I purchased two XRCDs: The Montgomery Brothers' Groove Yard (JVCXR-0018-2) and Count Basie & His Orchestra's 88 Basie Street (JVCXR-0021-2). Compared to pristine vinyl, the same titles on XRCD have better definition and superior extension in both directions. They sound smooth as velvet.


I compared Ragnarok 2 to the Ragnarok using these XRCDs and the Tascam CD-200iL CD player connected with Triode Wire Labs Spirit II RCA interconnects. Only after switching out the amps four times did I start to understand what I was hearing. Instrument tone and impact were superior through the new amplifier. The orchestra's soundstage was slightly wider. Brass and reeds, placed hard left and right, sounded farther back on the soundstage. On the piano/ acoustic bass introduction of the Montgomery Brothers' "Bock to Bock (Back to Back)," there was more air around the higher piano notes. These were small differences, but the Rag 2 definitively improves on its sibling's performance.

In its Fully Loaded version, the Schiit Ragnarok 2 offers greater flexibility than its predecessor and includes a remote and an evidently capable DAC and phono stage. And when purchased as Just An Amp, the Rag 2 is $200 less expensive than the original Ragnarok. Where else can you get all this hi-fi goodness for that kind of money? Highly recommended.

Schiit Audio
22508 Market Street
Newhall, CA 91321
(323) 230-0079

PeterG's picture

Great review! I'm a big fan of Schiit DACs, and I have no doubt the Rag 2 is a fine piece of gear. But when you say a $2K integrated reproduces Ella better than any amp you've had in house, it really begs the question of what other amps you've had in house. Please advise on some of the amps Rag 2 edged out. Thanks

invaderzim's picture

and a big factor is if he's played that on all the amps because his past reviews have covered some pretty impressive amps:

Is it a common album he uses when reviewing? Making it: "the best ice cream I've ever had" or is it an album he hasn't used much in the past when reviewing making it: "the best ice cream I've ever had while wearing purple"

Ortofan's picture

... more "solid, generous sound" than the Parasound's Halo Hint 6?

Would like to see a comparison with the similarly priced Denon PMA-1600NE, which also has a built-in DAC and phono pre-amp.
The PMA-1600NE won a comparison test conducted by Hi-Fi Choice.

Alex_San's picture

I wonder why you switched from Forte 3 to DeVore? Was the pairing with the Klipsch lacking somehow?

tonykaz's picture

It still has it's On/Off Switch deep in the back, which seems to be a stubborn obsession of it's designer. ( and a stubborn obsession of mine to complain about )

I've owned a handful of Schiit products. I don't see them as a hair shirt Audiophile outfit but their designs sound good and are reliable. ( they re-sell on eBay for 80% of retail )

These Schiit guys have been around for a looooooong time, ( almost as long as PS Audio ). They've always delivered super high performance gear evidenced by Mr.Micallef jumping to be the "First" to have this one for review.

Mr.MIcallef's review didn't mention the the best thing about this Amplifier : it's made by an Outstanding Audio Company that stands behind it's products and it's customers.

Second Best thing: Price

Tony in Iowa

ps. how about a daring review of a complete Schiit based Audio System?

RockMan85's picture

I am concerned about the comments the author made about the bass. I am primarily a hard rock, metal & electronica kind of person. Bass is my life, while Steve Guttenberg said he loved this amp for rock, I am concerned about the bass sounding wussy. Especially since I have 4 ohm speakers, which would mean an even lower damping factor (40) for this amp. Anyone have any direct experience?

hemingway's picture

Hey Ken or users of the Rag2, this is somewhat implied in the review since it looks like you used the Rag phono stage with your SUT for all vinyl evaluation. But, can you add a few words about your thoughts on the abilities of the phono with external SUT as compared with one of your reference phono stage(s)? Your review comments on the DAC capability as opposed to external DAC. What about a similar phono evaluation?