Schiit Audio Ragnarok and Yggdrasil
Headed by two industry veterans, Schiit Audio is a company which have taken the world of high-end personal audio by storm with their focus on value and commitment to developing game-stopping products.
The pinnacle of their expertise has culminated in the Yggdrasil DAC and Ragnarok amp, a flagship set-up which have been Schiit’s finest creations to date. Although unusual in their naming philosophy, the Yggdrasil is seen to represent a legendary ash-tree in Norse mythology whereas the Ragnarok illustrates a series of apocalyptic events that were to determine the end of the world and its subsequent revival.
This type of nomenclature has been a clever implementation on Schiit’s behalf to truly make the company’s products memorable and unique to the marketplace.
What is also distinctive about the flourishing audio company is their individualistic sense of humor and laidback approach which offers a somewhat refreshing approach in the face of their boutique competition. Schiit’s products are anything but comical, however, and feature impressive design topologies built exclusively in the US.
At a price of $1699 and $2299 (USD) respectively, the Ragnarok and Yggdrasil have adopted a modular arrangement where components can be exchanged inside to maintain their end-game status. This has allowed the Yggdrasil to be the world’s first and only upgradable balanced multi-bit DAC in a closed format. The Ragnarok has also achieved a world exclusive being the first amplifier to power sensitive IEMs right through to loudspeakers. This feat of engineering is a reason why the audio brand have established a strong foothold within their market and one which has certainly allowed to them to bask in critical acclaim. So without further ado then, let the review commence.
Box and design
The Schiit products come well packaged in a large cardboard box. As with all Schiit products, the white cardboard features minimal packaging which exudes class and sophistication. The stack comes with each of their respective power cords (UK, US, Australian or Euro) and a user manual.
Those unfamiliar with Schiit may be a little thrown by their colloquialisms and subversive FAQ section but this has played an inherent part of the company’s charm and appeal. A departure from their nonchalant style however is the design of the Schiit stack which follows an industrial look featuring a brushed aluminum chassis. Perhaps the only critique here would be that the appearance of the Yggdrasil/Ragnarok is a little less elegant compared to the Gungnir/Mjolnir 2 though this is primarily due to the former’s size and dimensions.
The build quality is solid and very durable; a real testament to Schiit’s craftsmanship. At 57 pounds, the pair is on the heftier side but would sit proud and tall on virtually any surface albeit taking up a moderate amount of desk space.
As highlighted above, the Yggdrasil is the world’s first and only closed-form multibit DAC with 21 bits of resolution. This places it in stark contrast to the 24 and 32-bit delta-sigma DACs often found within the audiophile marketplace. Schiit have made no compromises, however, by applying a unique digital filter optimised in not only the time but also the frequency domain to retain all the original samples and perform a true interpolation. As if this sophisticated closed-form solution were not enough, Schiit have even gone to the lengths of introducing a quad AD5791BRUZ DAC which is typically seen in MRI applications and military-grade equipment. This, coupled with the new Adapticlock VCXO/VCO regeneration system, has allowed the Yggdrasil to revel in precise technologies and algorithms to make it a tour-de-force offering in the world of DACs.
One constraint though, is that the Yggdrasil does not offer DSD support. This may be a deal-breaker for those whose collections consist a majority of these files. However, Mike Moffat who runs the digital side of Schiit, has reasonably argued that DSD makes up less than 0.01% of recorded music and thus would essentially be redundant if incorporated. This is a sensible decision, in my opinion, as a DAC designed around a negligent file format is indeed impractical and costly. One designed to support the majority of formats in music today, however, is a much better solution practically-speaking.
A dual balanced-armature earphone called Rock-it Sounds R50 ignited my interest for all things audio. Since then, I have been enthralled with psycho-acoustic impressions ranging from gear such as IEMs to DAPs and eventually full-sized headphones.