When Schiit Audio introduced its Jotunheim headphone amp/preamp in 2016, it was considered a technical marvel and a bargain. Jotunheim used a unique balanced circuit topology, called a ‘Pivot Point’ gain stage, developed by company founder and president Jason Stoddard. In theory, the ‘Pivot Point’ circuit could have been patented, but Stoddard decided against this to avoid divulging the inner subtleties of the design. It works very well, though, as Stoddard observed that, apart from power output, Jotunheim offers better measurable performance than any other Schiit Audio headphone amplifier, irrespective of price.
The name Jotunheim is drawn from Norse mythology and means “Land of the Giants”—a name that takes on ironic connotations once you realise that while powerful, the amp is actually deceptively small. Its price is small too, coming in at a very manageable £385 or $399 US. That sum buys you a sophisticated albeit minimalist headphone amp/preamp with balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) analogue inputs and preamp outputs, plus balanced (4-pin XLR) and single-ended (6.35mm phone jack) headphone outputs. Maximum balanced power output is a substantial 7500mW @ 16 Ohms. Distortion is low (<0.001% THD, 20Hz–20kHz) and bandwidth is impressive (2Hz–700kHz, -3dB).
There are two front panel-mounted toggle switches, an input selector and master gain control (for gain of either 2 or 8); a third, rear panel toggle serves as the main on/off switch. Schiit describes Jotunheim as a “configurable” amp in that it offers users the option of adding one of three possible I/O modules: a MM phono stage with passive RIAA equalisation (+£100 or $100), a balanced AK4490-based Delta Sigma-type DAC (+£100 or $100), and a true Multibit DAC (+£200 or $200), patterned after Schiit’s Modi 2 Multibit DAC.
This review focuses on the Jotunheim Multibit model because, like the Modi 2, it is said to offer “the most affordable multibit DAC with a modern architecture—from any manufacturer, from any country in the world.” The DAC is based on an Analog Devices AS5547 multibit DAC and features Schiit’s “unique, closed-form digital filter”—the brainchild of company co-founder and digital guru Mike Moffat. By design, this DAC supports PCM files only, for resolutions up to 24/192.
As in our original review, the Jotunheim amp sounded powerful, refined, and accomplished—shockingly so in light of its price. It offers punch and authority, sufficient detail and resolution, quiet backgrounds, and precise control over the leading and trailing edges of notes. The amp is powerful enough to drive demanding headphones (e.g., the HiFiMAN Susvara), yet quiet enough to use with high-sensitivity CIEMs (e.g., the Noble Audio Katana). Better still, Jotunheim sounds agile and fleet-footed, offering a brilliant combination of instantaneous energy delivery and cat-quick transient speeds.