Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Vtory, Feb 12, 2019.
I'm confused now. Is it not possible to listen to headphones on the Rag 2 with the pre outs off?
Needing to crawl under my desk to turn my subwoofer off if I want to listen to headphones seem...suboptimal. The current Rag's arrangement makes more sense to me.
I agree. If the sub is single ended, you could put a SYS between the preout and the sub, I suppose, or even a Saga to have something with a remote. Either way, suboptimal.
When you posted your review, I had only really used the Rag 2 with speakers, so I was curious to see whether I could replicate your findings, using the Gustard H20 as a reference.
Current setup while tinkering:
FLAC with foobar2000 via ASIO / Spotify Premium on a Surface Pro 4 > Singxer SU-1 KTE > BNC cable > Yggdrasil A2 > XLR splitter cables > Rag 2 & Gustard H20 (medium gain) with Sonic Imagery Labs 994Enh-Ticha opamps
Just for some context: The Gustard H20 is my favorite headphone amp and replaced a Jotunheim (still have it and like it, though). The Jotunheim's sound stage is flatter, and the H20 is more detailed. The H20 also sounds more refined than the Burson Fun with SparkoS SS3601 opamps, but otherwise pretty similar when using SparkoS SS3602 opamps. The 994Enh-Ticha opamps soften transients a little bit (which helps with bad recordings) without sacrificing too much detail, and are otherwise a bit more musical (more here). The Audio-GD HE-9 has a bit more micro detail, but is quite a bit less punchy / dynamic, with soft transients. I didn't enjoy that and sold it.
Headphones / cables used:
23 Ω / 96 dB*, planar: MrSpeakers Ether C Flow 1.1 + 2 m Lavricables Grand 20 Core Silver 4-pin XLR cable
22 Ω / 92 dB*, planar: MrSpeakers Ether Flow 1.1 + 6 ft VIVO 4-pin XLR cable / 6 ft DUM 4-pin XLR cable / 6 ft DUM 6.35mm TRS cable
150 Ω / 108 dB, dynamic: Sennheiser HD660S + stock (10 ft?) 6.35 mm TRS cable / 7 ft Periapt 4-pin XLR cable
32 Ω / 122 dB, dynamic: Focal Listen with Brainwavz Sheepskin pads + 3 ft Kabeldirekt 3.5 mm + generic 6.35 mm adapter
32 Ω / 102 dB, dynamic: Philips SHP9500S with Neoprene ring mod + 3 ft Kabeldirekt 3.5 mm + generic 6.35 mm adapter
* No official numbers available
I briefly tried to verify the sound curve changes you mention, and did perceive more kick at medium and high gain with the Focal Listen while playing Klaudia Gawlas - Manifest for some repetitive, predictable bass. Interesting.
Generally speaking, at low gain and after volume matching with a dB meter, I didn't perceive a huge difference in tonality to the H20, except with the Focal Listen where I was indeed missing some bass. So there is some difference, but far from "pretty much killed the bass" for me, more like the slight loss in bass compared to the stock ear pads on the Focal Listen.
What I did notice was that the HD660S single ended sounded smeared on the Rag 2 compared to the H20. By smeared I mean that transients seemed to get stretched out / linger, resulting in less texture and definition, especially in the bass (which sounded somewhat fatter, but simpler) and mids, for example with Sarah Jarosz - When Doves Cry (Spotify Studious version), or with Cécile McLorin Salvant's Stepsister's Lament.
This was most noticeable when using the HD660S singled ended. The effect was significantly less pronounced with the balanced cable, but still there. The H20 sounded hardly different between the two cables, so I doubt it's a matter of stock vs. Periapt or 10 ft vs 6 ft.
The other two dynamic headphones showed this effect as well, though it was less discernible on the SHP9500S, probably because it's on the slower side anyway.
Balanced, the Ether Flow and Ether C Flow sound pretty much identical on both amps, which is a huge compliment for the Rag 2 - the first amp where I feel that way in direct comparison. With some extreme transients (e.g. Elephants on Ice Skates by Brian Bromberg), the H20 still sets itself apart a little bit by being more incisive, with the Rag 2 sounding slightly softer. At other times I felt that mayyybe the Rag 2 has the tiniest bit more control, but it was too close to call. Two days ago with the Ether C Flow and my silver cable I didn't notice any difference between the amps and got lost in the music for hours.
Single ended however, the smearing is noticeable in direct comparison even with the planar Ether Flow, but could be overlooked during casual listening sessions while focusing on other activities.
So while I see some weakness with dynamic headphones, to me it seems like the single ended headphone out is also significantly more average than the balanced one, which can sound excellent with planars. The difference between the HD660S single ended vs. balanced was larger than between the dynamic and planar headphones that I tried. It would be interesting to hear which of your headphones were singled ended vs. balanced.
Regarding volume, the Focal Listen (my most sensitive pair of headphones at 122 dB) starts getting too loud at 10-11 o'clock on the volume knob at high gain (11-12 on medium gain, around 1-2 o'clock on low gain) depending on the song. Plenty of lower volume levels available, with the lowest being less loud than I ever see myself listen to. Far from "way too loud" for me, but the Focal Listen is single ended.
I listened to Eurythmics - Sweet Dreams and Sara Bareilles Live - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with the Ether Flow (balanced and single ended) and the HD660S (balanced and single ended). I heard the voice reverb in all cases, and was able to hear the piano and vocals. The voice reverb part has some transients in it, though, which makes it slightly more noticeable with the balanced output (less smearing), but I didn't have to strain to hear it except when I heard the track for the very first time. And the voice/piano section in the second song definitely sounded more controlled with the balanced Ether Flow than the single ended HD660S. So I can't quite confirm "nowhere to be found" and the "big gray mess" you describe, but I know where you're coming from. I wonder whether the amp you had sounds different than mine - maybe matching parts was less successful in your case.
For speakers, the Rag 2 turned out to be a substantial upgrade to Saga with LISST + Vidar (with Yggdrasil and ELAC BS 403s). It's more resolving, images better, has a more coherent and deeper sound stage, with great dynamics. Cable differences were never this easy to discern, as was some harshness from a source component that turned out not to be bit perfect. That was less noticeable with the Vidar (even with Rag 2 as the preamp), to the point where I almost returned the Rag 2, until I fixed the issue. Harshness gone, owner happy.
With my Ether Flow / Ether C Flow and the balanced output, the Rag 2 essentially matches the Gustard H20, which is a nice plus (I won't use it much for headphones, but those would be the ones). But generally, as a dedicated headphone amp, I'd stick to the Gustard H20. Cheaper, smaller, customizable via opamps and still quite powerful.
However, unlike the Rag 2, the H20's three gain levels aren't different enough to be very useful and 64 volume steps may not be enough for everyone. On the H20, the lowest step is dead silent (no separate mute function) and quite close to where the volume knob stops, while Rag 2 is only silent when muted via the remote control, and doesn't increase the volume at all for the first few degrees of rotation. The second volume step on the H20 has about the lowest volume I would ever listen to (Ether C Flow, balanced), though there have been one or two situations where I had to help with digital volume control. On the Rag 2, the lowest volume is much less loud than I need it to be, which is okay (let's call it footroom). Both amps have more headroom than I need with my headphones.
The H20 does not have a remote, but I rarely miss that on a headphone amp anyway. The H20 works quite well with single ended sources (basically no volume change, unlike Jotunheim) and single ended headphones (minimal degradation compared to balanced). I have not used the Rag 2 with single ended sources so far, but the single ended headphone out doesn't seem to be great. Of course, the Rag 2 has two more inputs or even modules, and balanced + single ended preouts, while the H20 only has two balanced inputs, one single input, and a balanced preout.
The H20's power button is on the front and the amp is instantly operational, while in typical Schiit manner the Rag 2 has to be switched on and off in the back, and takes about 14 seconds (i.e. much less than Saga) before producing more than relay clicks and some transformer hum.
So for me, the Rag 2 worked out, but it's definitely not for everyone. Thank you, Jason!
Great review and writing but let me ask , can the Rag 2 drive properly in a difficult program and normal volume the BS 403?
This is notoriously difficult speaker I used it for a month and it required at least 200wpc for symphonic works to convey properly dynamics and bass.
I'm at around 3 o'clock on low gain when cranking it (with the help of a Rythmik F12G subwoofer), and the Rag 2 did a beautiful job with Christophe Beck's Pink Panther soundtrack, which might be the most comparable thing I listened to. There are some startling sections in it. I haven't seen the movie, but it's a great recording with nice sounding test tracks (thanks to Dynaudio for mentioning it in their speaker placement video).
I also love this setup with movies and TV shows, though I occasionally have to go as high as 4-5 o'clock then - but still on low gain. I recently watched John Wick, and at the beginning there's a scene where his car crashes into concrete. I wasn't looking at the screen when that happened, but that sudden sound certainly caught my attention as if something bad actually just happened in front of me.
So kudos to Schiit for Rag 2 as it seems that despite the low wattage can provide sufficient
current for difficult loads to be driven properly.
Even just a pre out toggle switch on the front or back.
Then everyone can have their cake and eat it too.
Steve loves Schiit, and I rarely hear or read anything negative from him.
His comments on the output selection process might be the most negative thing I have ever seen him write or heard him say.
Still a bit confused in this review from where the "harshness" came from and how you fixed it? What to do if it happens with someone else?
Steve loves everything and his reviews are rarely informative, IMO.
From a MUTEC MC-3+ USB, clocked by a MUTEC REF 10. Using an external clock adds a sample rate converter to the signal path (albeit with the same ballpark sample rate), as MUTEC confirmed. Switching to the internal clock is bit-perfect (unless USB is used, which also adds a sample rate converter).
With a Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 2nd Gen, and Acon Acoustica*, I'm able to capture digital audio in a bit-perfect manner, even at 24/192**. So I was able to capture the output of the MC-3+ USB while clocked externally, then play that back while it was clocked internally. The harshness remained, so I blame the sample rate conversion, not the REF 10. With the original file, everything is fine.
Good test track: Easy Money by Rickie Lee Jones (especially the last 30 seconds)
* Audacity does not support ASIO, which is needed to access the 6i6's channels 5 & 6 (S/PDIF input), and Adobe Audition converts 0 (silence) randomly into -1, 0 or 1, so it isn't bit-perfect.
** After a while, the 6i6 starts having issues with random pops that also show up in the digital stream, which is why I got interested in the MC-3+ USB to being with. Oh, well.
Steve usually looks for something to appreciate in everything he reviews. He's been open about preferring a big, rich sound, and disliking sterile electrostatics. He did seem uncharacteristically annoyed by the Rag 2 preamp.
There is also a printed review from Steve as well, fresh:
I was confused about this as well. I find this to be unintuitive and unexpected.
It had been requested by some customers, and the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Jason accommodated them, but in a way that I think makes it awkward for everybody else.
Jason wrote about it here:
And as far as having the pre-outs only active when the headphone light is on, that was a specific request we've gotten many times, so that you can run subs with headphones. Yes, not kidding. So if you want the pre-outs active, select Headphones Only or Headphones and Speakers.and here:
Like I said, the only reason we did this is that we had a number of requests on the original Ragnarok to have the preamp outputs live with headphones. We retained this on Ragnarok 2, because you can turn either one on, both on, or all off. Use the mode that serves your needs, and you're set. Maybe it would have been better to have an LED and separately selectable preouts, but that's a lot of modes to step through, or a lot of buttons on the remote. I'm a fan of fewer buttons, and always have been.
ie RAGNAROK 2
Hello i am new to this so excuse my ignorance if any
Several questions on the Raggy 2
1) will the Raggy 2 comfortably run a pair of Legacy Audio Studio HD monitors (4 Ohm) ?
2) if I purchase 'just the amp' will i be able to input 2 separate DAC's into the raggy? ie a Gungnir Multibit MB into an RCA input and a Meridian Explorer 2 as i do now into my current AVR- the download guide indicates there are 2 rca inputs but I can't find a picture of 'just an amp' Raggy 2
3) if I purchase the 'fully loaded' Raggy 2 will I be able to use the 'phono input' on left side as line level RCA input for one my 2 DAC's either the Gungnir Multibit MB or ME2 and the 'se' RCA input on right side for other DAC ?
4) Just what is the purpose and how would one use the USB in in the center? as far as I know no Schiit DAC has a USB port out to to an amp
5) do both versions of have already installed DAC and if so what kind of Schiit DAC is it and if i can add Gungnir Multibit MB and ME2 is the internal DAC 'bypassed' as in my current AVR
thanks so much bobbmd
This is a bit of a disappointment to me, as well. I have a Ragnarok 1, use the preamp connections for a subwoofer, and am very happy with the setup; but I'd love to get it off of my desk and into a rack (gets too hot). I suspect Ragnarok 2 will run cooler in my rack, the remote and 128 step attenuator seem appealing; but the nuisance of having to uncable my headphones every time I use the speakers is putting me off. Between my wife and my consumption of adult beverages, it's going to get screwed up sooner or later and blow some headphones.
I'd be fine with the preamp on all the time. It's easy enough to plug the subwoofer into a switched power strip. Other than a thump, thump, thump, nothing happens if I screw up.
I intended to buy a Rag2, put it in my rack, turn it up to 11, and watch it with an infrared thermometer. Rag 1 hits 155° F in my rack, as measured on the case. I was hoping Rag 2 would be a lot less.
Rag will run 4-ohm speakers.
If you have a x2 outboard DACs, then use the Gungnir you have into an XLR line input. Gungnir sounds better with using balanced XLR.
Then use the remaining XLR or RCA line input for your other DAC.
The MM input cannot be used as a line input. It has gain and RIAA for records. The phono input is available when the amp is purchased in the fully loaded option.
The USB you mentioned is the input for the Multibit DAC. Included in fully loaded.
P.S. can a mod move to Rag 2 thread?
Separate names with a comma.