In Herb Reichert’s review of the original Schiit Audio Ragnarok integrated amplifier, he wrote, “Schiit Audio’s Ragnarok [is] the first amplifier of my experience that plays earth and sky, mind and body, brown eyes and blue, speakers and headphones, with equal narcotic intensity.” Herb’s colorful conclusions so persuaded me of the Ragnarok’s worth that, when Schiit Audio’s Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffatt announced the impending release of the Ragnarok 2, I pitched a Stereophile follow-up review.
I soon learned that the new amp is more than just a refined version of the original. The Ragnarok 2, which Schiit says is the first example of their new Nexus current-feedback differential amplifier topology, is a modular amp that can be ordered as “Just An Amp,” with two balanced (XLR) and three single-ended (RCA) line-level inputs ($1499), or it can be ordered “Fully Loaded.” With the Fully Loaded configuration, the buyer loses one unbalanced line-level input but gains a moving magnet phono stage and a USB multibit DAC. The Fully Loaded costs $1799—just $100 more than the bare-bones original Ragnarok. The Just An Amp version can be upgraded to Fully Loaded at any time for $350 ($300 for the cards, $50 for the labor); alternatively, the DAC and phono stage cards can be purchased and installed by the owner.
The Ragnarok 2 is rated at 60Wpc into 8 ohms and 100Wpc into 4 ohms. Its output stage directs 24Wpc to the balanced headphone output and 6Wpc to the single-ended headphone output—a lot of power for a headphone amp. As with the original Ragnarok, the Ragnarok 2 includes a choice of three gain levels—in this case, 2× (6dB), 8× (18dB), and 25× (28dB), all specs referring to the total gain with the volume control turned all the way up. You’ll want 25× for driving most loudspeakers, while 2× and 8× will work well for headphones.
The Rag 2’s volume control has also been improved. “We make the 128-step microprocessor-controlled relay ladder attenuator with discrete resistors and relays, same as with the original Ragnarok,” Stoddard wrote in an email. “And same as our Saga and Freya preamps. 128 steps offers much finer volume control than 64, with about 0.63dB steps.”
The phono stage and DAC are sourced from other products in the Schiit lineup. “The phono card is similar to a single-gain Mani phono preamp (fixed gain for most MM cartridges), with a couple of key changes, including DC coupling and a DC servo,” Stoddard wrote. “Both are passive phono preamp topologies, however, and measure similarly. The True Multibit DAC card is similar to a single-input Modi Multibit, using the same DSP-based digital filter and Analog Devices AD5547 D/A converter.”
Like all Schiit amplifiers, the Ragnarok 2 uses a linear power supply, this one including a 600VA, mu-metal shielded, potted-in-a-steel-case MCI transformer and more than 132,000µF of Nichicon capacitors.
The Ragnarok 2’s aluminum front and top plates are similar to those on the original Ragnarok. The steel chassis is also similar but adds external heatsinks on each side for cooler running temperatures.
The Rag 2’s aluminum remote control handset is finished in silver and measures just 4.65″ × 1.3″ × 0.25.” It controls input selection, volume, gain setting, speaker/headphone selection, and muting.
Those who prefer to control the amp from the chassis will encounter, to the left of the volume control, three flat, round control buttons for selecting the source, speakers or headphones, and gain setting; to the right, there’s a gain setting indicator and connections for single-ended (via a ¼” connector) and balanced (via male XLR) headphone output. Each button and corresponding LED is identified on the fascia by a tiny, hieroglyph-like icon which is impossible to see from more than a few feet away. If you find this sort of thing frustrating, just use the remote.
The Rag 2’s back panel has the expected array of RCA, XLR, IEC power, and loudspeaker connections. If Fully Loaded, one pair of single-ended (RCA) line inputs is given over to the phono stage, and a USB DAC input is added. Preamp-out is provided via both RCA and XLR connections.
Schiit Audio components are designed, assembled, and manufactured in the United States, as are most of the parts. The Ragnarok 2 comes with a five-year warranty, and if within 15 days of its arrival you decide you don’t like it, you may return it for a refund minus a 5% restocking fee.
The Ragnarok 2 was easy to set up. When the time came to compare its internal DAC to my BorderPatrol DAC SE, the latter was connected via a 1m pair of Triode Wire Labs Spirit II RCA interconnects. I used Shindo Laboratory RCA cables when hooking up my Tascam CD-200iL CD player to the Schiit’s single-ended inputs. I ran a generic Amazon USB cable from my Asus Laptop running Tidal to the Rag 2’s internal DAC input. Shindo cables connected Auditorium 23 and Bob’s Devices moving-coil step-up transformers to the Rag 2’s internal phono stage.