Schiit Jotenheim R Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Jan 21, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Please refer to this thread for the RAAL Requisite SR1a: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...udio-sr1a-review-holy-moly-buy-this-now.8041/

    IMG_20200121_192632.jpg

    The Jotunheim R was amp created mostly for the RAAL Requisite SR1a Ear monitors. RAAL Requisite is an outfit which has made boutique pro gear. The idea behind the SR1a was for a portable pro mixing or mastering platform. The SR1a requires a converter box for use with speaker amplifiers. Without getting too deep into the details, there are a bunch of resistors and coils inside the box so that speaker amps can drive the RAAL ribbon, which is in essence a short circuit. The ribbon is just a piece of metal tape bathed in a magnetic field. Those who have DIY'd speakers using RAAL ribbon drivers know that they come with a big massive box behind them. Inside this box is a transformer that allows power amps used to driving 8-ohms, 4-ohms, maybe even slightly lower, to feed the 0.2-ohms of the ribbon (or something close to that, but you guys get the idea). What the Jotunheim R does is offer a direct drive to the ribbon, without anything in between (more on this next paragraph).

    I've heard an early proof-of-concept a long while ago. Let's just say it worked, which is the point of a proof-of-concept. Then around the time of RMAF in 2019, I had a chance to year that iteration or the Jotunheim R, which now included the Nexus differential topology. Adding the Nexus to the Jotunheim R was the right thing to do. The SR1a ear monitor is brightly tilted - it's voicing reminds me of the old Yamaha NS10 monitors of yesteryear or the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitor IEM of just a few years ago. This makes absolute sense given RAAL Requisite's pro market. What the Nexus stuff does (yes, Nexus does have sound) provides some oomph down low and some harmonic richness to offset the SR1a's monitor tuning. Sprinkle in a deep soundstage and monster slam. We are not only talking about bass heft, but also strong attacks and incredible dynamics throughout the entire audio band. It absolutely refreshing how the SR1a sounds without the converter box. Those who own high-efficiency speakers with either very simple or no crossovers know exactly what I am talking about. It's as if a blanket is lifted and the punch and dynamics increases tenfold.

    The difference between the version here and the RMAF version I believe might be bias. I think Schiit turned it up a bit. The RMAF version was rather unrelenting. Some say aggressive and sharp. Maybe too square in terms of transients and lacking nuance. After an hour of listening, the unrelenting nature subsided with more nuance and variety in the transients. The version I have now does not require this extended warm up period. It sounds good a few minutes after turn on and continues to sound good hours later. I feel it's more delicate than the RMAF version ever was. But when I say delicate, it's only in a relative sense. Ultimately, no matter what is powering it, the SR1a is going to show you every wart, nook, and cranny in every recording. So you may want to reconsider the Jotunheim R and opt for your favorite speaker power amp instead. Sometimes a light blanket may not be a bad idea.

    to be continued...
     
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Now is the Jotunheim R the amp to get with the RAAL Requisite SR1a? I wouldn't necessary say so. I've mentioned in the SR1a thread that practically any amp sounds good with the SR1a so long as the amp suits your tastes in combination with the SR1a. The primary advantages are I see with the Jotunheim R are the extremely clear, detailed, and and dynamic sound, the portability or reasonably small form factor, and an option for built-in DAC to serve as an AIO. Personally, I feel the True Multibit card in the Jotunheim would be underserving the SR1a.

    There are other amps that bring similar dynamics to the table with perhaps a just a slightly forgiving nature like the Dartzeel NHB-108 (big sound, great timbre, less relenting attacks, highly resolving) or the Pass XA-25 (good clarity in mids and highs, heft in the lows). Both of these amps are in another price bracket and not easy to drag into your bedroom though. As far more affordable amps such as the Schiit Vidar or immensely crazy powerful Crown CDi2000 (recently reviewed). Forget about it, just go Jotunheim R. Keep in mind that any speaker power amp should be at least a real 120W into 8-ohms, otherwise the attacks will sound soft and mushy. Dual mono Aegirs sounded decent, had some very good qualities, but was just slightly squishy.

    Based on controlled listening (same volume levels, but not blind), the Jotunheim R / SR1a subjectively sounded less forward in the upper vocal region while retaining most of the lower treble brightness compared to an average of solid-state amps I've tried. I took a set of measurements of the SR1a with the Jotunheim R to compare to the earlier measurements using the Vidar via the converter box. The results below are with the wings closed in, forming approximately a 35 degree angle from the plane of the side of the head.

    GREEN SR1a Frequency Response Left Channel (EARS with SBAF compensation) from Jotunheim R
    GREY SR1a Frequency Response Left Channel from Vidar via Converter Box
    upload_2020-1-21_19-56-8.png

    RED SR1a Frequency Response Right Channel (EARS with SBAF compensation) from Jotunheim R
    GREY SR1a Frequency Response Right Channel from Vidar
    upload_2020-1-21_20-1-12.png

    I don't think the results are too conclusive, especially in the higher frequencies where minor positioning offsets of a few mm can make a huge difference. However, it does appear the the Jotunheim may be more aggressive in its baffle compensation by a db or two. There region around 5-6db seemed to be a few db lower. And finally, the high-end out of the converter box might be boosted. Again too hard to save conclusively. Maybe I will try on the flat plate coupler since that is more immune to positioning issues.

    Personally, I wouldn't worry about this and just EQ to your taste. Yes, EQ works wonders with the SR1a since the sound is mostly a direct shot to the ear without cup and cavity interactions (time domain issues) of circumaural headphones.

    That's it for today, other than if there are any questions. I've got three or four items sitting on the bench and will be doing stream of consciousness reviews going back and forth. I just don't have enough time in a day. Maybe in fifteen years, I can be a retired 1%er where I can crank out two reviews a day.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  3. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Could a good tube preamp being added into the chain be beneficial to slightly mellow down the sound?
     
  4. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    Speaker builders now to rip off the transformers behind their RAAL tweeters and slap JotR-s in place.
     
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I don't see why not. It's not any different from sources. I can go either way with sigma-delta or R2R DACs with most gear, but with the SR1a, I'm definitely partial to R2R architectures or specific sigma-delta, e.g. Convert-2.

    Maybe throw a Saga on top for slightly more bloom?

    LOL. I get the feeling the converter box is less efficient than a transformer. Part of it is the baffle step to compensate for lack of bass in an OB design with likely a low Qts driver. The converter box has vent holes exposing giant resistors. There's probably a lot of energy which is being converted to heat rather than moving the ribbon diaphragm. I see the wattage meters light up like crazy on power amps driving the SR1a using the converter box. FWIW, it would be possible to create an OPT for tube amps to power the ribbon directly, but the step-down would be immense, so not sure of the results.

    Thinking aloud, this gives me some ideas:
    1. It would be interesting to measure the SR1a without the baffle step to examine its inherent frequency response. There is a switch on the Jotunheim R to turn it off. Presumable to power possible future iterations of ribbon headphones that don't need the compensation, i.e. circumaural designs.
    2. It would be interesting to assess Jotunheim's performance with efficient speakers or get this: line arrays, say with x5 8-ohm drivers lined up in parallel for a 0.5-ohm load. That would be hilarious if it worked.
    I'll see if I can take some 4-ohm or 2-ohm measurements later this week. Or maybe I can try taking amp measurements using the SR1a as a load.
     
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  6. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Did you guys see this on Jason’s chapter about the Jot-R?
    I assume this is for similar reasons it can drive the Raals (ribbon speaker that needs mostly current?) Would the LRS need to be modded at all? Would other Maggies be possible too? Someone needs to try this!! :punk:

    Edit: Also wondering if the “new things” could be something like a specific amp for Magnepans? Potential market out there for something low cost that can drive Maggie’s well. Maybe it wouldn’t make sense though since Vidar seems to do a pretty decent job with them...
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2020
  7. songmic

    songmic Gear cycler East Asia edition

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    FWIW, RAAL-requisite revealed prototype photos of their own direct drive amp for SR1a.
    https://www.head-fi.org/threads/raal-ribbon-headphones-srh1a.890603/page-122#post-15439057

    Too early to say, but any thoughts on its apparent design? Normally I look at aftermarket amping solutions for headphone companies instead of relying on amps made by themselves (never used amps made by Audeze, Hifiman, Sennheiser or Stax to drive their own headphones).
     
  8. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    Bigger heatsink = more power.
     
  9. Metro

    Metro Friend

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  10. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    You forget that there's an entire audiophile demographic for whom it would be hard to rationalize not spending $3500 on an amp. They really need to give it some silver trim and carbon fibre though. That sort of matching aesthetic is important when you're spending McDuckBucks.
     
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  11. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    He did say, "The changes to what is seen here are: the volume knob will be mirror-polished red anodized, the logo will have red zig-zag line."

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Stuff Jones

    Stuff Jones Friend

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    Somewhere I thought I read @purr1n speculating that the Jot R would drive the Verum 1 fine. Has anyone tried that?

    Having an easier listing cheap fallback listening option would broaden the appeal of Jot R+Raal package, or at least for me.
     
  13. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    You'd need to build a very specific adapter for the special pin-out and you'd need to invert phase IIRC. I doubt anyone dared try that yet.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2020
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  14. defiant00

    defiant00 Rando

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    Has anyone had an opportunity to try this with the baffle compensation off, instead using EQ? Especially if you're already using some amount of EQ, I'd be curious if doing it all in a single step might sound better than a mixed hardware and software solution.
     
  15. defiant00

    defiant00 Rando

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    Does anyone else's Jot R hum slightly? It's faint enough that I can only hear it from maybe two feet away, but it's noticeable compared to the rest of my Schiit, which is dead quiet.
     
  16. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Do you have DC offset in your power line?
     
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  17. defiant00

    defiant00 Rando

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    I'm not entirely sure how to measure or verify that, I think what I'm hearing is the transformer.
     
  18. Jay

    Jay Facebook Friend

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    This is likely it. Every Schiit amp I've had over the years had a low-level hum from the transformer. Some more, some less. The Asgard 2 was so bad they basically did a recall and reissue.
     
  19. defiant00

    defiant00 Rando

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    Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, my cans don't get here until tomorrow, so today has resulted in a bit of audio nervosa about things that will likely be completely inaudible when actually listening to music.
     
  20. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Sort of a stupid question, but how much DC do you think is acceptable? I've tried to google it quickly and it seems less than 100mV is considered fine.
    I just measured it with a DMM and found that with my lights (100W LED with switcher and 350W of 12V halogen with transformer) and Plasma TV turned on I got around 30mV of DC, with those devices off, more like 2mV or less. Weirdly this seemed to affect both phases in my room equally, despite them only being connected to one phase with the power wires very far apart. Maybe it's something else I'm measuring.
    I'm asking because transformer noise is something I seem to hear for pretty much every larger electronic device, while I do not see it mentioned much. Maybe others who hear it keep quiet about it as I do, though. For example I can hear my Gungnir MB from a meter or two (maybe even more) away. It's generally not something that really bugs me anymore, but it is something I tend to notice. But then again maybe I'm just hyper sensitive to these things as I tend to notice coil whine in laptops and even some smartphones and an iPad, too.
    Between switching the lights on and off I think the transformer hum gets slightly louder, but since the lights both make a noise it is hard to differentiate between the different sound sources.
     

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