Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Vtory, Feb 12, 2019.
LS50's but in a small room.
Freya S + Aegir.
Google: Schiit Power Amp Thunderdome
For the sake of an additional data point, I ordered Freya S and Aegir to use with LS50 in a small room (near field) and was somewhat surprised to find that I preferred my previous Saga (tube) and Vidar set up with those speakers. Definitely better staging, layering, and midrange with Aegir (as suggested by the Power Amp Thunderdome), but I missed the extra bass thump the Vidar provided for the LS50, which seemed kind of thin and unconvincing without it. By contrast, I preferred Aegir over Vidar for my JBL L100C speakers by a wide margin. YMMV, but point is that it wouldn't be a bad idea to directly compare Rag 2 and Aegir in your specific system to see which you prefer.
Order placed tonight. Waiting patiently...
Thanks for the advice everyone.
Is the ragnarok 2 preamp portion as good as/ similar to a freya s?
These type of "I just bought something, and I'm waiting for arrival" posts are discouraged here. Just let us know what you think after you've had some time with it.
Source: Qobuz (and one Spotify track) through Yggdrasil A2 via USB
Headphones: Sennheiser HD700 with foam mod
Current Headphone Amp: Schiit Ragnarok 2 (fed with balanced cables from the Yggdrasil A2). Headphones only
Previous Headphone Amp: Monoprice/Monolith 788 THX AAA DAC/AMP (No DAC - only the amp was used)
(Note: I was going to do a back/forth and compare the Rag2 against the Monolith THX AAA headphone amp with different tracks but decided against it.)
Overall sound impression:
- Placement: "In your face" is an understatement. With the lowest gain setting, the Rag2 positions voices in the front row. The Monolith 788 spread instruments and vocals evenly across the front/center but further back.
- Soundstage: The Rag2's soundstage is not as wide and tall as the Monolith 788 THX AAA. I've noticed that Instruments are often placed far to the extreme left and right of the soundstage but their proximity is practically right next to you.
- Tone: Fuller midrange? Slightly rolled off highs (cymbals, reverb). Not sure if this is the Yggdrasil or Rag2. But on rock/metal, the instruments have a fuller, "browner" texture. This is impressive.
1. Unchained (2015 Remaster) - Van Halen: I've known this song by heart for many decades, and I've never heard such an aggressive tone from Eddie's guitar off to the left. I love it.
- The guitar's flanger effect actually has a soft impact when flowing up/down through the chorus - you can hear Eddie's pick strike the strings and I've never heard that before. On other equipment and 2-ch setups, the flanger hides in the background and fades away. Not with the Rag2.
- Eddie hits a harmonic in the second verse right after DLR sings "Maybe enough ain't enough for you" (roughly 1:15). The harmonic's "whaaa" note had more distortion and tone than I've ever heard in my life.
- Alex's cymbals: If you've heard this track on different systems, the most annoying part of this song has to be the mushy cymbals that are constantly played throughout the verses and chorus. They sound more like static than a metal object. The Rag2 adds a distinct shine and sustain to Alex's cymbal strikes, and you can actually hear separate strikes as the song goes on. The decay, however, fades away fast - not even the Rag2 can save this aging recording.
2. Another One Bites the Dust (2011 Remaster) - Queen: I usually listen to this song when I want to test for speed. Listen to Roger's drumming and Deacon's bass line - both are usually in sync on a nice setup and the Rag2 didn't disappoint.
- Freddie's voice is distinct, clear and present. I don't think I've ever heard his lyrics so clearly in the middle of the song (after the chorus).
- Drum strikes are quick and fast. Not as tight/crisp as I've heard previously, but very nice.
- The signature bass line is full and more forward than I've heard previously, but not sharp. There is a mushy, unfocused character that I'm not used to but it isn't bad at all.
- Brian's guitar: Good Lord. Much more present (e.g. Loud) but I'm not sure if that was a result of this remastered track. Someone at the console also set the guitar track's Ambience to +10.
3. Houses of the Holy (2012 Remaster) - Led Zeppelin: I often use this track to test how clear a system can place the different instruments. In particular, there's a lot going on here and a great system will allow JPJ's bass line to play clearly apart from the drums and guitar starting at 0:16.
- JPJ's bass line is distinct and quick, but is still a little further back in placement at the front and center. However, I've never heard this play so clearly.
- Robert Plant's voice hovers above JPJ's bass line, and I've never quite noticed that before. On other systems, Plant's voice will step all over the bass line and results in a cloudy mess. The Rag2 seems to place Plant's voice 3-5 feet vertically above the front and center bass line. Very impressed with the separation.
- Bonham's drumming has some rolloff on the cymbals but it isn't too noticeable. I love how the drumhead gets more of a pop than a thud with the Rag2.
4. Blue Steel ("Spotify HD Digitally Remastered 2010" - whatever that means) - Henry Mancini: This track has a lot of glare and sass to the brass instruments. On a poorer sounding system, the brass section will stand out dominantly but stab your ears with more treble than you'd like. The Rag2 rolls some of the high end off (I sense a trend here), but there is no obnoxious glare or burn from the attacking instruments. I've never heard this song sound so pleasant.
5. Rooster (Live at the Majestic Theatre) - Alice in Chains Unplugged: I've always enjoyed this live performance track, and the Rag2 adds dynamics that surprised me.
- The acoustic bass hit lower and fuller than I've ever heard on playback. I won't be walking straight after this.
- Jerry Cantrell's acoustic guitar notes initially sounded vibrant but decayed quickly as the song went on. It sounded like someone moved the guitar mike off his guitar and placed it 10 feet away.
- Layne Staley's vocals hovered quietly and suddenly jumped forward as the song progressed. Great dynamics.
6. Snowbound - Donald Fagen: You know this song. You know this singer. You know that the bass line will distort your headphones for the first 38 seconds. Yet somehow, the rest of the song can be almost brutally crisp and clear (I'm listening to HD700's, remember?).
- With the Rag2, the overcrispness gets smoothed over and the ceiling of the soundstage drops down to about 7 feet above the stage floor. With the Monolith 788, everything is spread tall and wide gently.
- At the middle of the track, I thought someone increased the gain level of the amp because Donald Fagen suddently brought the band one foot away from me. Still trying to figure out if I've ever noticed this before on other equipment.
This is an interesting amp, because I'm hearing things that I've never recognized before. Dynamics are greater, the tone is fuller (especially with a "brown" guitar sound) and bass notes are louder and lower. However, I hear a distinct high frequency rolloff and ambient sounds decay quickly when compared to other equipment. I'm not sure if the Yggdrasil A2 is meshing with the Rag2 or fighting it, but I find this equipment combo interesting.
And again, thank you to all who contributed advice, opinions and suggestions in this thread. Much appreciated.
Stereophile (reviewer: Ken Micallef) reviewed the Ragnarok 2 in the February 2020 issue. Just hit Zinio today, so I thought I'd post a few snippets from the review to tide us over until it hits the website. Demo chain appears to be: internal DAC vs. BorderPatrol DAC // Tascam CD player // laptop using Amazon USB cable into USB DAC input // Kuzma Stabi R turntable // various cables (Triode Wire Labs, Shindo, Auditorium 23) // DeVore Fidelity O/93 speakers.
EDIT 01/31/20: https://www.stereophile.com/content/schiit-audio-ragnarok-2-integrated-amplifier.
General sound impressions
Sound was "bold and punchy, with good dynamics and precise imaging."
"Through the Rag 2, [Ella Fitzgerald'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 nonanalytical way, it was almost like being inside Ella's head. Her vocals sounded more human and less canned than I've ever heard."
"[D]oesn't soften transients. . . . [E]ach musician's timing--how one musician pushes the beat as another pulls it back--was clearer than I've heard before."
"[T]he Rag 2 provided a front-row-seat perspective, presenting palpable images within a deep soundstage."
"Midrange frequencies are where this amplifier excels."
"Shelly Manne's drums were textured and present--not as present as colorful as when played through my Shindo gear, but with more warms 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."
"The $1850 BorderPatrol DAC SE did not trounce it." Blah blah blah recording "sounded more natural and relaxed through the Rag 2 DAC, but the soundstage was deeper through the BorderPatrol." More texture in voices on BorderPatrol, but Ragnarok 2 placed band farther back on the soundstage.
"If I had to choose, I think I'd take the Schiit's DAC and keep the cash."
Impressions vs. Ragnarok OG
"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. . . . [T]here was more air around the higher piano notes. These were small differences, but the Rag 2 definitively improves on its sibling's performance."
Atkinson's conclusion in measurements section
"I had problems measuring the behavior of Schiit's original Ragnarok amplifier, due to the unique biasing scheme, where the output stage bais was modulated by the signal history. But I had no such issues with the Ragnarok 2. It is a well-engineered, apparently conventional design offering low noise and distortion coupled with usefully high power. The options include an excellent, low-noise, MM-compatible phono preamplifier, though the USB digital input will be outclassed by standalone digital processors."
Think we're starting to see some consistency in reviews on this amp. The reviewer flagged much of what I did during my time with the loaner: warm, punchy, dense midrange, and deep and wide soundstage.
What does JA’s maximum power ratings show into 8 and 4 ohms?
Rated: 60W at 8 ohms; 100W at 4 ohms
JA-measured clipping (1% THD+N): 78W at 8 ohms; 93W at 4 ohms.
To the people running Rag 2 as a speaker amp: what speakers do you pair it with? I'm currently auditioning the Buchardt S400 and I don't know whether it's the pairing or the S400 aren't as great as the Internet led me to believe but currently it just sounds unimpressive compared to my almost 4x cheaper f500
Describe “unimpressive”...and also, what is an “f500”? Give us some more details man we can’t read your mind - all this stuff is a matter of taste. Also, how long have you broken in the S400? And are you running nearfield or mid/far?
You're right. By unimpressive I mean that the difference between the Fyne Audio F500 I'm running right now and the S400 is rather minimal. Female vocals are smoother and there is more texture in the bass but overall, it's not a difference I expected coming from headphone world where 4x price difference between different pairs can be night and day. The pair I'm using is a demo unit I borrowed from a dealer so I assume it's already been broken in. I'm running them from about 3m distance.
Ok. So these are just my rough thoughts here. I’ve never heard the Fynes so I can’t really give you an answer why/how they sound different.
With respect to the Rag, I feel it may be a bit underpowered for the Buchardts. A single Vidar does pretty good with them in my setup (which is over 200w into 4 ohms btw), but dual Vidar in mono is where they really sing and have a lot of get up and go and slam. Also, the Buchardts are a bit denser overall in presentation through the mids, and Rag is also supposed to be thicker/richer as well, so it may be too much and sound a bit dull or slow. I feel the Buchardts do well with a lot of power into 4 ohms and something that is speedy sounding and more neutral-to-lean. I don’t get the sense that the Rag is like this, nor that it has the current to drive very power hungry speakers, but I could be wrong. I would also find out if the Buchardts were broken in as well with at LEAST 100 hours.
When it comes to “better” in the speaker world, there are differences compared to headphones for sure, these just may not be things you care about right now or are accustomed to yet. You’re likely better off sticking to what you have at least for now. Like headphones, amp matching is very important, and also, paying 4x doesn’t always equate to “better” than sometimes just “really different”. In this case, with this amp, it seems like you’re getting a bit of a refinement, but not enough “difference” and overall improvement to be worth it.
One other thing I’ll mention about headphones vs speakers, which I should have before - The room, speaker positioning and your listening position can have a massive impact on the sound of speakers - it can color the sound so significantly as to negate many of the benefits you’ll get from “better” speakers. For similarly sized/configured/placed speakers, most room modes and reflections will be the same from speaker to speaker, making them sound like they have many of the same attributes/faults in some cases. Some rooms and setups will definitely be worse than others, but this is obviously something you don’t have to deal with in the headphone world.
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