Schiit Jotunheim 2 Review: Unveiling the Power of Thor’s Audio Hammer

AH Schiit Audio Jotunheim 2 Amplifier editors choice

In the ever-evolving realm of high-fidelity audio, where the pursuit of sonic perfection often comes with a hefty price tag, Schiit Audio stands as a beacon of defiance. This California-based company, known for its irreverent attitude and commitment to delivering exceptional value, has consistently challenged the conventions of the audiophile world. Their latest creation, the Schiit Jotunheim 2, named after the mythical land of giants in Norse mythology, embodies this philosophy, and we’re here to review it. It’s a versatile amp/DAC combo that promises to deliver a sonic punch worthy of its namesake, all without breaking the bank.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll delve deep into the heart of the Jotunheim 2, exploring its design, features, and most importantly, its sound quality. We’ll leave no stone unturned in our quest to uncover whether this device truly lives up to the hype and whether it’s the right tool to unlock the full potential of your headphone listening experience. Prepare to be immersed in a symphony of power, precision, and sonic excellence.

Table of contents

Schiit Jotunheim 2 Review: Hardware and Design

Opening the box of a Schiit Audio product is an experience unlike most others in the high-end audio realm. Eschewing extravagant packaging and superfluous accessories, Schiit focuses on what truly matters: the product itself. The Jotunheim 2 arrives in a simple, unassuming cardboard box adorned with the company’s minimalist logo. Inside, you’ll find the amp/DAC unit, a power cable, and a concise manual. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the over-the-top presentations that often accompany high-priced audio gear, serving as a subtle reminder that the true value lies in the product’s performance, not its presentation.

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Upon first glance, the Jotunheim 2 exudes an understated elegance that’s characteristic of Schiit’s design philosophy. The chassis is constructed from silver or black aluminum, a material that not only offers durability but also serves a functional purpose by effectively dissipating heat generated during operation. This thoughtful design choice ensures optimal performance and longevity, even during extended listening sessions. The amp/DAC’s dimensions, measuring 9 inches wide, 6 inches deep, and 2 inches tall, make it a perfect fit for most desktop setups. Its weight, a substantial 6 pounds, further reinforces the notion of a robust build quality that can withstand the rigors of daily use.

Design and first Impressions: A marriage of form and function

The Jotunheim 2’s design language follows Schitt’s well-established aesthetic: clean lines, sturdy construction, and an air of minimalist sophistication. While some may yearn for a more visually striking exterior, the Jotunheim 2’s unassuming appearance is a deliberate choice that allows the focus to shift towards its exceptional functionality and sonic prowess. The silver aluminum chassis, while understated, possesses an undeniable elegance that grows on you over time. It’s a device that doesn’t scream for attention, but rather subtly commands respect with its solid presence.

The front panel is refreshingly uncluttered, allowing for intuitive operation. A large, centrally located volume knob beckons you to take control of your listening experience. Its smooth rotation and precise feel offer a tactile satisfaction that’s often lacking in digital controls. Flanking the volume knob are two smaller switches, one for selecting the input source and another for adjusting the gain. These switches are clearly labeled and click into place with reassuring tactile feedback, further enhancing the overall user experience.

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Schiit Jotunheim 2 Review: Connectivity

The rear panel of the Jotunheim 2 reveals a comprehensive array of inputs and outputs, catering to a wide range of setups and configurations. Balanced XLR and single-ended RCA inputs provide flexibility for connecting various sources, while balanced and single-ended headphone outputs ensure compatibility with different types of headphones. The switchable balanced/single-ended line-level output further expands the Jotunheim 2’s functionality, allowing it to serve as a preamplifier in a larger audio system.

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One of the most intriguing aspects of the Jotunheim 2’s design is its modularity. The amp can be configured with an optional ESS Sabre DAC module or a passive phono stage, adding another layer of versatility to an already impressive feature set. The DAC module, while not the latest model on the market, offers a substantial improvement. It delivers a cleaner, more detailed sound that allows you to fully appreciate the nuances of your music.

The passive phono stage, meanwhile, caters to vinyl enthusiasts, providing a convenient way to connect a turntable directly to the Jotunheim 2. While not as feature-rich as a dedicated phono preamp, it’s a surprisingly capable performer that delivers respectable sound quality for its price. It’s worth noting that the passive phono stage requires a high-output moving magnet (MM) cartridge for optimal performance, so keep that in mind if you’re considering adding this module to your setup.

Schiit Jotunheim 2 Review: Sound

While the Jotunheim 2’s sonic prowess speaks for itself, understanding its technical underpinnings can deepen our appreciation for its capabilities and performance. Schiit Audio, known for its transparency, provides a wealth of technical specifications and measurements, allowing us to peek behind the curtain and see what makes this amp/DAC tick.

Amplifier: Power and precision

The Jotunheim 2’s amplifier section is a marvel of engineering, delivering ample power to drive even the most demanding headphones with ease. In balanced mode, it boasts an impressive output of 7.5W RMS per channel into 16 ohms, which gradually decreases to 600mW RMS per channel into 600 ohms. In single-ended mode, the output is slightly lower, ranging from 2.4mW RMS per channel into 16 ohms to 165mW RMS per channel into 600 ohms. This wide range of power output ensures that the Jotunheim 2 can handle virtually any headphone on the market, from sensitive in-ear monitors to power-hungry planar magnetics like the HiFiMan Susvara’s.

But power isn’t everything; control is equally important. The Jotunheim 2’s low output impedance, measuring less than 0.1 ohms at either gain setting, ensures a tight grip on your headphones, resulting in a clean, detailed sound with minimal distortion. This is particularly crucial when driving low-impedance headphones, which can be prone to distortion if not properly controlled.

The amp’s performance measurements are impressive

The amp’s performance measurements are equally impressive. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is vanishingly low, measuring less than 0.00015% in balanced mode and less than 0.006% in single-ended mode, both at 1kHz. This means that the Jotunheim 2 introduces virtually no distortion of its own, allowing the music to shine through with pristine clarity.

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Intermodulation distortion (IMD), another measure of amplifier linearity, is also exceptionally low, measuring less than 0.0002% in balanced mode and less than 0.007% in single-ended mode. This ensures that the Jotunheim 2 faithfully reproduces complex musical passages without introducing any unwanted artifacts or coloration. Now that’s what an amp should do, not interfere with the sound, Rather it should amplify not alter.

The amp‘s signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) is another area where it excels. In balanced mode, the SNR exceeds 123dB, while in single-ended mode, it’s still a very respectable 102dB. This high SNR ensures that the music signal remains clean and free from noise, even at low listening levels.

The Jotunheim 2 also features a unique current-feedback topology called Nexus™. This topology is designed to provide a wide bandwidth and fast transient response, resulting in a sound that’s both detailed and dynamic. It’s also inherently differential, meaning it works equally well with both balanced and single-ended sources.

DAC: Digital delights

The optional ESS Sabre ES9028Q2M DAC module is a popular choice among audiophiles, and for good reason. It’s known for its exceptional detail retrieval, low noise floor, and natural sound signature. When combined with the Jotunheim 2’s powerful amplifier section, the DAC module elevates the amp’s performance to new heights, delivering a digital audio experience that’s truly captivating.

The DAC module supports a wide range of sample rates and bit depths, ensuring compatibility with high-resolution audio files. It also features Schiit’s proprietary Unison USB™ input, which is designed to provide a jitter-free signal for optimal sound quality.

In our tests, the DAC module delivered a clean, detailed sound with excellent imaging and soundstage. It was particularly impressive with well-recorded acoustic music, where the natural timbre of instruments and voices shone through. The DAC module also excelled at revealing subtle details in the music, such as the reverb tails in a concert hall recording or the subtle nuances of a vocal performance.

Phono stage: A vinyl lover’s dream

The Jotunheim 2’s optional passive phono stage is a surprising and welcome feature for vinyl enthusiasts. While not as feature-rich as a dedicated phono preamp, it’s surprisingly capable, delivering respectable sound quality that belies its modest price.
The phono stage boasts a gain of 42dB, which is sufficient for most moving magnet (MM) cartridges. It also features a fully passive RIAA network with AD8599 gain stages and PET film capacitors, ensuring accurate equalization and low distortion. In our tests, the phono stage delivered a warm, detailed sound that captured the essence of our vinyl collection. It was particularly impressive with jazz and classical recordings, where the natural timbre of instruments and voices shone through.

The Nexus gain stage: Schiit’s secret sauce

At the heart of the Jotunheim 2 lies Schiit’s proprietary Nexus gain stage, a technological marvel that sets this amplifier apart from the competition. This fully discrete differential current-feedback topology might sound like a mouthful, but it essentially translates to a cleaner, more dynamic sound with minimal distortion. In simpler terms, the Nexus gain stage ensures that your music is amplified with exceptional fidelity, preserving every nuance and detail of the original recording.

The Nexus gain stage is a testament to Schiit’s commitment to engineering excellence. It’s a complex circuit that requires careful design and meticulous implementation. The result is an amplifier that delivers a powerful and nuanced sound that’s both engaging and transparent.

Continuity S output stage: Smooth and effortless power delivery

Complementing the Nexus gain stage is the Continuity S output stage, another proprietary Schiit technology. This output stage is designed to deliver power to your headphones in a smooth, effortless manner, regardless of their impedance. We were particularly impressed with the Jotunheim 2’s ability to control the low frequencies even when driving demanding planar magnetic headphones. The bass remained tight and punchy, with no signs of distortion or muddiness, even at high volumes. This is a testament to the amp’s robust power supply and carefully tuned output stage.

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Relay-switched input, gain, and output: A commitment to signal integrity

Schiit Audio takes signal integrity very seriously, and the Jotunheim 2 is a prime example of this commitment. The amp features relay-switched input, gain, and output sections, which minimize signal degradation and ensure that the music you hear is as pure and unadulterated as possible. This attention to detail might seem excessive to some, but for audiophiles who value the utmost fidelity, it’s a crucial aspect that sets the Jotunheim 2 apart from many of its competitors.

The relay-switched input allows you to seamlessly switch between different sources without any pops or clicks, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted listening experience. The relay-switched gain provides two distinct gain settings – low and high – allowing you to tailor the amp’s output to match the sensitivity of your headphones. Additionally, the relay-switched output also ensures that the signal path to your headphones is as clean and direct as possible.

Versatility & Customization: Tailor the Jotunheim 2 to your needs

The Jotunheim 2’s versatility extends beyond its wide array of inputs and outputs. It’s also incredibly flexible when it comes to customization. The amp’s gain can be adjusted to match the sensitivity of your headphones, ensuring optimal performance for a wide range of models. The DAC module can be bypassed if you prefer to use an external DAC, and the phono stage can be added or removed as needed.

This modularity allows you to tailor the Jotunheim 2 to your specific needs and preferences, ensuring that it fits seamlessly into your existing audio setup. Whether you’re a headphone enthusiast with a diverse collection or a vinyl lover looking for a convenient all-in-one solution, the Jotunheim 2 can adapt to your needs.

A symphony of sound: The Jotunheim 2’s sonic performance

The true magic of the Jotunheim 2 lies not in its sleek design or impressive technical specifications, but in the symphony of sound it conjures. Prepare to embark on a sonic journey that will leave you enthralled, as we delve into the nuances of the Jotunheim 2’s sonic performance.

The soundstage: A grand hall of sonic immersion

One of the most striking aspects of the Jotunheim 2’s sonic prowess is its ability to create an expansive and immersive soundstage. It’s as if you’ve stepped into a grand concert hall, where each instrument occupies its own distinct space, and the music unfolds with breathtaking realism. The soundstage is both wide and deep, allowing you to pinpoint the precise location of each instrument and vocalist within the mix.

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This expansive soundstage is particularly evident when listening to orchestral music. The Jotunheim 2 paints a vivid sonic picture, with strings soaring to the left, brass instruments blaring from the right, and percussion reverberating from the back of the stage. It’s a truly captivating experience that draws you into the heart of the performance.
But the Jotunheim 2’s soundstage isn’t limited to classical music. It shines equally brightly with other genres, from rock and jazz to electronic and hip-hop. The amp’s ability to create a sense of space and depth adds a new dimension to your music, making it feel more alive and engaging.

Detail retrieval: A sonic microscope

The Jotunheim 2 is not just about creating a vast soundstage; it’s also about revealing the subtle details that often go unnoticed with lesser equipment. I was consistently impressed with the amp’s ability to uncover nuances in familiar recordings as if I were hearing them for the first time. The gentle decay of a cymbal, the delicate vibrato of a violin string, the subtle breath of a vocalist – these are the details that bring music to life, and the Jotunheim 2 presents them with remarkable clarity and precision.

This detail retrieval is particularly evident in the midrange, where vocals and instruments are rendered with exceptional clarity and definition. Each note is distinct and well-defined, allowing you to appreciate the subtle nuances of the performance. Whether it’s the growl of a saxophone or the rasp of a distorted guitar, the Jotunheim 2 captures it all with stunning realism.

The amp’s ability to handle complex musical passages is equally impressive. Even with dense orchestral arrangements or intricate jazz compositions, the Jotunheim 2 never feels congested or overwhelmed. Instead, it maintains a remarkable sense of composure, allowing each instrument to shine through with clarity and definition.

Dynamics & Impact: A sonic rollercoaster

The Jotunheim 2’s power and control translate into a dynamic and impactful listening experience. The music feels alive, with a sense of energy and immediacy that draws you in and keeps you engaged. Whether you’re listening to the delicate plucking of a harp or the thundering roar of a drum kit, the Jotunheim 2 faithfully reproduces every nuance with remarkable precision.

The amp’s low output impedance ensures that it can drive a wide range of headphones with authority and control. Even demanding planar magnetic headphones, which are notorious for requiring ample power to reach their full potential, are no match for the Jotunheim 2’s muscular output except the Mod House Tungsten’s. The result is a sound that’s both powerful and controlled, with deep, impactful bass, lush midrange, and sparkling highs.

The Jotunheim 2’s dynamic range is also impressive. It can effortlessly handle the quietest passages and the loudest crescendos without any signs of strain or distortion. This makes for a thrilling listening experience, where you can feel the full emotional impact of the music.

Genre versatility: A sonic chameleon

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Jotunheim 2 is its versatility across different musical genres. Thanks to its neutral sound signature, it doesn’t favor any particular genre over another. Whether you’re a fan of rock, jazz, classical, electronic, hip hop, alternative or anything in between, the Jotunheim 2 will faithfully reproduce your music with remarkable accuracy and detail.

I found that the Jotunheim 2 particularly shines with genres that benefit from a wide soundstage and precise imaging, such as classical music and jazz. However, it’s equally adept at handling the raw energy of classic rock music or the intricate textures of electronic house music. The amp’s ability to adapt to different musical styles is a testament to its well-balanced design and technical prowess.

Schiit Jotunheim 2: Should you buy it?

After months of rigorous testing and countless hours of listening, the Schiit Jotunheim 2 has left an indelible mark on my ears. It’s a testament to Schiit Audio’s unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional value and performance without the exorbitant price tags that often plague the high-end audio world.

The Jotunheim 2 is not just an amp and DAC; it’s a versatile powerhouse that punches well above its weight class. It’s a sonic chameleon that effortlessly adapts to different music genres, a detail-retrieving machine that unveils hidden nuances in your music, and a powerhouse that can drive even the most demanding headphones with authority and finesse!

But is the Jotunheim 2 the right amp/DAC for you? Let’s break down its strengths, weaknesses, and who it might be the perfect fit for.

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The Value Proposition: A Giant-Killer Indeed

In the world of high-fidelity audio, the phrase “you get what you pay for” is often thrown around. However, the Jotunheim 2 defies this convention. It delivers a level of performance that rivals or even surpasses amplifiers and DACs costing several times its price. This exceptional value proposition is one of the Jotunheim 2’s most compelling features, making it an attractive option for both budget-minded audiophiles and those who simply want high-quality audio equipment.

We were consistently impressed with the Jotunheim 2’s ability to reveal subtle details in our music, breathing new life into familiar tracks and uncovering sounds we had never noticed before. The amp’s power and versatility are equally remarkable, allowing us to effortlessly drive a wide range of high-end headphones and connect to various sources without compromising on sound quality.

The modular design of the Jotunheim 2 is another aspect that adds to its value proposition, it looks classy and beautiful while contemporary. The ability to add an ESS Sabre DAC or a passive phono stage provides users with the flexibility to customize the Jotunheim 2 to their specific needs and preferences. While the stock Jotunheim 2 is already a capable performer, the addition of these modules opens up even more possibilities for sonic exploration.

Reasons to consider the Schiit Jotunheim 2:

…the Jotunheim 2 offers audiophile-grade performance at a fraction of the cost of many competitors, making it an excellent choice for those who are looking for exceptional value without sacrificing quality.
…the Jotunheim 2’s flexibility and power make it an ideal choice for those with a variety of headphones, from sensitive in-ear monitors to power-hungry planar magnetics.
…its optional passive phono stage adds a welcome layer of convenience for vinyl enthusiasts, allowing them to connect their turntable directly to the Jotunheim 2.
…the Jotunheim 2’s clean lines and compact size make it a perfect addition to any desktop setup.
…its powerful headphone output and clean sound signature are well-suited for gaming and content creation.

Reasons to look elsewhere:

…the Jotunheim 2’s minimalist design might not appeal to those who prioritize flashy aesthetics over functionality.
…while the ES9028Q2M DAC is a solid performer, there are newer and more advanced DACs on the market. If you’re a hardcore audiophile who demands the absolute latest tech in digital-to-analog conversion, you might want to explore other options.

Wrap-up

The Schiit Jotunheim 2 is a remarkable piece of audio equipment that embodies Schiit Audio’s commitment to delivering exceptional performance and value. It’s a versatile, powerful, and easy-to-use device that will undoubtedly elevate your headphone listening experience.

Despite its minor shortcomings, the Jotunheim 2 is a testament to Schiit Audio’s ability to innovate and deliver high-quality audio gear at accessible prices. It’s a modern classic that deserves a place on any audio enthusiast’s desk. Whether you’re a seasoned audiophile or a newcomer to the world of high-fidelity audio, the Jotunheim 2 is a worthy investment that will bring your music to life with clarity, detail, and power.

In conclusion, the Schiit Jotunheim 2 is a triumph of engineering and a testament to Schiit’s unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional value in the high-fidelity audio space. Its super-sonic performance, versatility, and price point make it a compelling choice for anyone looking to take their headphone listening experience to the next level. It’s a true giant killer that punches well above its weight class, delivering an exceptional audio experience that’s as powerful and majestic as its namesake.

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