There’s some interesting history, despite the surprisingly short gestation period, behind the “Jotunheim R”. Uncharacteristically (for me), I’m going to skip over that for a bit and talk about the unit I have in my hands first. I’ll come back to how this all came to be in a bit … but first, how it sounds.
Note that these impressions are based on a “production qualifier” (see above) unit and, as such, while not expected to - may change with a final released product. This unit is on loan for the purposes of providing feedback and will be returned to Schiit once done.
For context, I’ve had this unit since Thursday, 10/24/19. It’s had about 100 hours of runtime on it since then - a combination of pink-noise and music, and split between actual listening and just “breaking in”. My SR1a have hundreds of hours on them at this point, across a number of different amplifiers.
Initially, I found that the overall sound was a little more aggressive and “bitey” than I was used to with the SR1a. To be sure, those are both innate traits of the SR1a headphones - these are not “cans” meant for passive/background-music listening. The headphones themselves have a studio-neutral response, which most unfamiliar listeners will, at first, characterize as bright.
But bass was a definite strength, with more presence and impact than a single-Vidar, maybe two, as well as the Benchmark AHB2, and some other high-dollar speaker amplifiers. Sub-bass also got a lift here, enough to make the SR1a something I think a lot broader audience will immediately enjoy vs. being something that needs a little time to understand, appreciate and adapt to.
There were occasional hints of sibilance/splashiness in the extreme upper-mids through the treble.
Beyond that, other than an apparent increase in resolution and a general sense of “damn, this sounds good, but might want a tweak”, this is the essence of my first, super-high-level thoughts.
24-48 Hours: “Burn-In” and Warm-Up
Somewhere in the first two days of listening and letting the unit run, with some spots of turning it off rather than leaving it running while not at home, three things became apparent.
The added hints of sibilance, and occasional splashiness, had completely gone away and I could not reproduce them. At the time I’d compared directly to the SR1a interface fed off a Chord Étude (my normal driver for the SR1a) and an Vidar, but this was now no longer a factor - even when trying to excite the behavior.
It seems that Jotunheim R benefits from a few minutes warm-up. And by few I mean about five (with the unit playing). The difference isn’t as pronounced as it can be with tube-amplifiers. Nor is it big enough to matter in normal use. But if listening to the SR1a/Jotunheim R for the very first time, it’s worth the few minutes extra anticipation.
Jotunheim R -> SR1a is more resolving and nuanced than when driven with a number of (even much more expensive) speaker amps via the “Amp/Ribbon Interface”.
48 Hours-and-Beyond …
I’ll fill in more low-level details, with examples, over subsequent posts, but from this point on, and to the current mark (I’m at about 100 hours of run-time, and probably a solid 24 of listening, with another 8 in comparisons) … this is where things sit:
First, I would swear there is more detail in evidence and the micro-dynamics are more nuanced with Jotunheim R direct vs. running via either a single or dual-mono Vidar configuration, or from several other amps, via the interface box.
Bass and sub-bass level/presence seems slightly elevated over Vidar, and a bit more so vs. the Benchmark AHB2. I like this. It yields flexibility in where you put the drivers, and puts things more on a “neutral” footing vs. “studio neutral”.
Higher treble feels like it has a tad more energy than via Vidar too, whereas Jotunheim R vs. AHB2 sounds so close in the treble as to be indistinguishable to me. And the Benchmark piece sounds leaner overall where as both Vidar and Jotunheim R have more body and weight to their delivery, with Jotunheim R having the most weight (if not by much vs. Vidar).
Vidar, in single or dual configuration, has a slightly darker signature (but certainly not dark … I’m not sure it’s possible to get the SR1a into “dark” territory without EQ).
There’s a TON of headroom here …
Even with dual Vidars, fed from the XLR outputs of a Phonitor X, quality source material, with the EQ I was initially running with (bass/sub-bass lift primarily), was not leaving a lot of room on the volume dial for more spirited listening. With the Jotunheim R, even with the quietest source material, the half-way mark on the volume dial is further than I dare take things.
Resolution and dynamics are superlative. No idea if that’s because the interface box isn’t involved or if it’s just the raw performance of the Jotunheim R. It bests 1x and 2x Vidar and 2x Aegir, the Benchmark AHB2, so far, for me, and may worry other solutions as well.
More comparative listening required, but very impressive so far.