Schiit Jotunheim 2 Review



Schiit is one of those audio manufacturers I have mixed-feelings about, but always end up picking for many reasons. They always provide an attractive and well-priced product with great features and quality, and they are also made in the USA and their team is upfront (for the most part) and communicate with the community on a daily basis. They have had their fair share of drama in the past, but have almost always made up for their issues with improved products that take on learnings from their mistakes.

The Jotunheim is one of their most popular products. It offered a fully-balanced headphone amplifier at prices well below what others were charging for when it came out so many years ago. It too had some small issues here and there, including grounding issues that cause humming noise. Most of these issues were resolved however, and the product has been a staple for many. I owned it as recently as a year ago, and had been patiently waiting for a revision to this product for a while now.

Just before the end of 2020, Schiit released, finally, an updated Jotunheim 2 with new features at the same price point, and I quickly hopped on the order and have been listening to it for just under a month now daily, so I'll provide my impressions of it as of right now.

The new Jotunheim 2 looks pretty similar to the original. It does have a slightly different case finish, but for the most part is similar in size and shape and follows the traditional Schiit design. There is now a new switch on the front to enable and disable the pre-amp function, to go along with source input and gain switches. The volume knob has a slightly different and larger appearance, and the same outputs are on the front panel: 1/4 inch single ended up and 4-pin XLR balanced out.

The back side has the power switch, and RCA and XLR inputs and outputs. This amplifier is still fully-balanced if you use XLR input and XLR output.



Schiit markets this amplifier as a $2400 amp for just $400.
The Best $2400 Headphone Amp—For $400?
If you’re talking fully discrete, truly balanced headphone amps, you’re usually talking big, big money. Not with Jotunheim 2. It meets—or even exceeds—the insane parts and build quality of boutique amps. A true balanced, 4-gang, silky-smooth Alps RK27114 potentiometer and 1% “supermatched” JFET inputs, 10% matched, paired BJT gain stage and output devices, and zero capacitors in the signal path is just a start. Jotunheim 2 also features our exclusive Nexus™ current-feedback, inherently differential, input/output agnostic topology. It also includes our Continuity S™ output stage for exceptional linearity and efficiency at high output. Or, in English, Jotunheim 2 connects seamlessly to all your sources without compromise, puts out an incredible amount of power, and is whisper-quiet on even the most sensitive IEMs.

Is it all true?

Well, I think many of the price comparisons is towards the feature set, and for the most part, it has what many $2400 amps have, but it also has similar features (at least on paper) to things that cost in the same price bucket as well. Either way, though, the most important part for me is how it sounds. So let's take a listen.

Sound Impressions

I have listened and owned many amplifiers in the past including various Schiit products, a whole suite of the THX-AAA amplifiers, Topping and SMSL gears, RME ADI-2 DAC, and so many others, including Tube amplifiers and such. My most recent and the one I spent most of the time comparing the Jotunheim 2 was to the Topping A90, which is priced at $499 (vs $399 for the Jot2). These two are likely to get a lot of comparisons, so it seems like the perfect compliment and contrast to discuss here.

Now, if you've followed me, or read my A90 discussions in the past, you'll know that I am impressed with how well it measures, but I am not impressed with how it sounds. I find the A90 to have a severe lack of dynamics and just an overall sterile and fatiguing listen. It just lacks a lot of soul, and has a little bit of a bright and edgy nature to it.

When I listened to the Empire Ears Odin on it, it made the Odin lose its natural greatness and made it sound more like the rest of the pack. I also listened to the Odin on other sources and it brought me to musical bliss.

Okay now that said, I find the Jotunheim to also have a neutral-nature to it. In some ways, I find it similar to my Lotoo PAW 6000 portable audio player's sound qualities. They both have a reference-type sound, but instead of the sterile and soul-less sound of the THX-AAA and Topping A90 amps, these two have improved dynamic range and in added sense of stage and body to it that makes it more enjoyable and engaging. 

Like the PAW 6K, I do find that there's a subtle hint of brightness on the Jotunheim 2, but I also don't find this to be a major problem either. I couldn't necessarily say the same thing on the other amps listed because those THX-AAA amps sounded a tad bright but edgy and almost unnatural in their abilities.

The Jotunheim 2 is punchy. It's microdynamics are very good at this price point and I really enjoy how precise it sounds without the lost of fun. The low end can hit nicely, but does fall a little bit in the warmth category when you compare it to my Feliks Elise MK2 OTL tube amplifier or the lower priced Class A (AB after first 500mW) Schiit Asgard 3.

While it's leaner than say an Elise or a warmer Asgard 3 or most Class A amplifiers, it has a more precise sound. The Asgard 3 has a softer sound overall and its transients are slower and the overall dynamics sound lesser and just slightly more compressed.

The low end of the Jotunheim 2 and A90 aren't too dissimilar. They both sound and measure low down to sub-bass regions and both have impact and punch here. I do find the Jotunheim 2 to have a more organic sound to it but there's not as big of a distinguishment between the two on the low end as there is in the mid-range and treble, where I just dislike the overall presentation of the A90.

Now, I will say that the majority of my listening noted above here was with a slew of in-ear monitors, and the Hifiman HE6se and Arya, and the ZMF Verite, as well as the Audeze Sine and Denon D5200.

And yes, it can power the HE6/SE with no problems. 

I did not listen much on my Sennheiser HD600, so unfortunately the most popular headphone in my collection didn't get a lot of time on either of these amps yet. I typically listen to the HD600 on the OTL tube amp, and it doesn't get a lot of use in any scenario nowadays.

Wrap-Up

And so we're back on the $2400 question. Is it a $2400 amplifier? I have no idea. I haven't listened to that many $2400 amplifiers in great detail to provide such a thought. The most expensive amplifier I own for headphones is $1700 USD. It does a lot of things better than that one, and some things not quite as well. It does have more features than it, so I guess in that sense, it has a lot more advantages....

But for $399, I am really digging this Jotunheim 2. Schiit did a nice job with the upgrade and I can clearly say, despite not having the original and the new one side-by-side to compare, that I prefer the new one over the old. While I had the first one for the year and half or so, I didn't particularly think it was any better than other things in the same or similar price point, but with the Jotunheim 2, I already prefer it over a slew of other amplifiers I've owned in this price class, including the more expensive Topping A90.

Looks are good. Sound is good. Features are good. Price is good.

This Schiit is good.

Comments

  1. Decent review. I would add that the Asgard 3 is a Class A amp for the first 500 mw of power before it enters Class AB land. Most efficient headphones will not go out of 500 mw of RMS power in normal listening levels.

    I have both Jot 1 and Jot 2 side by side and the sonic differences are there, but subtle.

    One good thing with this amp with 7+ watts RMS power it can easily drive many low efficient headphones as you mention the HE6/SE. I also drove a Susvara very well with the Jot2.

    For a $399 amp to do this is indeed a very positive statement. And to add what is basically a totally new re-design and keeping the cost as the same as the original Jot 1 is a very nice thing as well.

    My hats off to Schiit.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback. I updated the review to mention the A and AB biasing.

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  2. Hi, you said you had RME ADI-2. How would you compare those two from your memory? Is it a worthy upgrade in the amp department? Especially in the bass region? Thanks!

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    1. I think it is a small upgrade. I think the biggest difference from memory, besides a significant amount more power, is the dynamics and punch of the Jot 2 is a step up. They both have similar neutral-neutral-bright sound, but I feel like the impact and general micro and macro dynamics of the Jot 2 is better.

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    2. Thanks a lot, I will give it a shot once available in EU and report back my comparison with a range of Meze's headphones :)

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  3. hello antdroid, I recently got the arya and driving them off the hugo 2 they sounded quite thin, treble quite fatiguiging, bass if too soft and dynamics are poor. have you tried out the flux labs fa 10? i heard those are really good for planars. and do you think getting a powerful amp like the jotunheim 2 would improve the arya alot more over the headphone amp of the hugo 2? thanks!

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    1. I have not tried the Arya off the Hugo 2, but I did try it off the Hugo 2 TT and enjoyed it. It is a softer sound, if you're used to more precise DACs. I think the Chord sound is softer and rounder edges but has very good depth and resolution despite sounding soft, which is really pleasing for me to listen to things like the Arya for long listening sessions. I have not tried the Flux FA10 but it is something on my radar to try out, especially now that I have the HE6SE and Susvara.

      The Jot 2 and Arya will be much more dynamic and punchy than most amps Ive tried. It's quite dynamic, while being neutral, and isn't what I consider soft, though it's softer than the original Jot 1. I recently sold my Arya to upgrade to Susvara so I can't provide any more in-depth analysis anymore but I did use the Arya with Jot 2 for the short time I had that pairing together.

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  4. appreciate the reply Antdroid!. Is there a particular amp that you liked best with hifiman headphones? or planars in general?

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