Entry-level endgame head-fi. That’s how I summarised Schiit’s Jotunheim (US$399) back in 2017. A starting point and an endpoint; a first, last and always headphone amplifier. The forever came not just from its sound quality and associated value-quotient but from its modular add-ons, for which we now have a choice of MM phono (US$100), AKM4490 delta-sigma DAC (US$100) or ‘True’ Multibit DAC boards (US$200).
This week brings news of a Jotunheim 2 whose press release promises a very specific US$2400 worth of performance for the same unaltered price of US$399:
“If you take a look at what other all-discrete, fully differential, balanced amps cost—especially ones using super-high-end techniques like matched parts throughout (including 1% matching of the input JFETs, perhaps the tightest JFET matching ever done in a production product), Alps RK27114 balanced Blue Velvet pot, relay switching for gain, input, and output, DC coupling throughout with no capacitors in the signal path, an all-linear power supply with over 60,000uF of filter capacitance and Schottky rectifiers built into the chassis (not a wall-wart), and suddenly our crazy marketing statement doesn’t seem so crazy.”
“Jotunheim 2 features Schiit’s exclusive Nexus™ balanced, differential topology for seamless handling of balanced and single-ended sources, Continuity S™ output stage for high efficiency and exceptional power output without extreme heat…both of which create a Jotunheim 2 that outperforms the original while maintaining the same price,” explains Schiit co-founder and Jotunheim designer Jason Stoddard via email.
Should we pick at Stoddard’s detailing or is it simply more prudent to admit that almost no other manufacturer goes to such lengths for such little green? When it comes to affordable headphone amplifiers, these Californians have the competiton in their rear-view mirror.
The Jotunheim 2 heads up the company’s desktop amplifier range. It offers an all-discrete circuit whilst the U$200 less-costly but better-measuring Magnius uses ICs. Both offer balanced in/out, single-ended in/out, variable-gain settings and pre-amplifier outputs (that are now on/off switchable from the front panel) but only the Jotunheim 2 has Continuity and Nexus. The latter isn’t Blade Runner but “unique, current-feedback, inherently differential, input/output agnostic topology using matched parts throughout” that otherwise exists in the Ragnarok and Jotunheim R.
Schiit’s sharp pricing is no doubt helped hugely by its domestic factory-direct sales model that dispenses with retailers’ showcasing and advice to put Jotunheim 2 in our hands for a 14-day home trial directly. It’s a business model that’s on the rise in audio, especially for more affordable products sold against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has shuttered the high street for weeks at a time. What still has many agog, myself included, is how Schiit manages to keep production inside the USA.
Further information: Schiit
Photos: Lee Shelly