Schiit Audio - Bifrost DAC - Official Thread

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dac

#1

Schiit’s Bifrost is one of their line of upgradeable DACs … and was the 2nd of their products that I originally purchased when I got back into headphone-listening in 2012 (or so). Back then it was offered with an optional USB-input and an AKM 4399 D/S chipset. Today the USB Gen 5 input is standard, it runs an updated analog section and a 4490 series DAC and comes in at the original price.

Since it’s launch it has received the largest number of upgrades of any of Schiit’s upgradeable products (Uber DAC/Analog board, AKM 4490 DAC/Analog board, Multi-bit DAC/Analog board, USB Gen 2 board and USB Gen 5 board).

It is the multi-bit version I am most interested in here, however.

And, for a while, the multi-bit version was rather hard to distinguish from the much less-expensive Modi Multi-bit. There were, for sure, benefits to the Bifrost multi-bi (Bifrost MB), especially with the advent of the USB Gen 5 option, most notably in terms of resolution and clarity, but it was a close run thing.

Having spent a good amount of time with a bang-up-to-date version (October this year) iteration, it is very interesting to hear how things have changed.

So … ahead of a formal review, and comparison to the rest of the Schiit multi-bit line-up, this is the spot to discuss the Bifrost … in both D/S and Multi-Bit forms.


#2

The first thing I should say, here, is that the latest shipping models of the multi-bit version of Bifrost sound markedly different to the initial multi-bit version.

From measurements alone, it is clear that the original Modi MB (multi-bit) has been updated, at least in terms of firmware, never mind that it sounds more refined than the original. What’s most interesting here, however, is that the latest shipping units of the Bifrost are now clearly distinguishable in sound from the latest Modi MB units (I’ve had them all back-to-back, on loan, with the kind indulgence of Schiit):

And it’s not just that you can now relatively easily tell the difference between Modi MB and Bifrost MB, but the Bifrost Multi-bit now has renewed purpose, as it is clearly better than the latest Modi MB units.

Where before little separated them, now there is a virtual gulf of difference, with today’s Bifrost MB sounding very close to the original Gungnir multi-bit. In some ways, it even exceeds it … clarity is better for one, and the background is blacker. Today’s Bifrost MB is closer to pure-neutral than yesterday’s Gungnir MB, which means it gives up a bit of low-end oomph to it’s bigger brother, though compared to today’s Gungnir MB (which also sounds rather different to units from a year or so back) it’s a wash in that regard.

This Bifrost MB also sounds markedly smoother than the prior version. Some piddling around with HQPlayer, and various other test-scenarios, makes me suspect it is operating with 8x oversampling instead of 4x.

It’s really only in micro-dynamics that this Bifrost MB is giving up anything to the original Gungnir MB - unless of course you need a balanced output. And you get a more neutral delivery to boot.

More details will have to wait for my full-review, and all-up comparison (not very far away) … but right now it seems that buying a new Bifrost MB gets you what a year ago would have required a Gungnir MB to equal. And that really restores the value proposition of Bifrost MB, which had been eroded somewhat by Modi MB, particularly in the context of a single-ended setup.


#3

Nice Review. I have always liked the look of their products


#4

Another great review and I learnt plenty as always. Thank you.


#5

Thanks!

This isn’t really a review though … I just wanted to comment on the fact that the Bifrost Multi-Bit that Schiit are shipping today (actually at least as of October, which is when the units I was listening with were shipped to me), both measures and sounds different (better) than the model I had from a few weeks after the original multi-bit upgrade/version was offered.

In essence, the point is that a) Bifrost MB is not longer nearly indistinguishable from Modi MB - it’s a clear upgrade, and b) that it’s gone from being a bit out of place, bang/buck wise, to you getting most of what used to be a $1249 DAC (the Gungnir MB) for less than half of that.


#6

reallly really really looking forward to this review … i’m trying to decide if I beef up my desktop set up to full yggy-ness or start investing in portable rig built around CF atlas or solaris. If the bifrost = old gumby, maybe I do some slight upgrades to the desktop (say bimby / GOTL) and then build something portable around an Atlas (maybe the hugo 2 or WA8) … always so many choices.

Anyway, thanks for the always great help Torq!


#7

Well, crap. Now seems like as good a time as any for my Bifrost MB to find a new home, haha. Much as I’m tempted to go Gungnir, though, I feel I’m sticking with SE for the foreseeable future, not to mention I hardly have the space for anything larger.

Or I suppose I could just be content with having a competent desktop DAC that’s none too shabby considering it’s a 2015 model.

Looking forward to the full review!


#8

I’d like to add a Schiit multibit DAC to my lineup of DACs and I’m debating wether to go for a new Bifrost MB or a Grungnir MB.
My setup to date is a Phonitor e with HD650/600. I have a RME ADI 2 DAC and the Holo Cyan PCM, the DACs are fed by a high quality streamer via AES/EBU or BNC or coax.
I moslty prefer the sound of the Holo Cyan over the ADI 2 except for soundstage, which is better with the RME. What tempts me towards the Schiit is the excellent soundstage of the MB and the presentation of low level detail which I heard from a Modi MB in the past. I also the NOS presentation of the Cyan less fatiguing, especially on bright recordings.
The Grungnir comes with some downsides for me and I’m trying to find an answer if the presumed upgrade in SQ would be worth it. Especially in viewpoint of the HD650/600 headphones.
I prefer neutral/warm over lean/analytical.

Bifrost:
+I have a very very old Bifrost and could upgrade this to MB for 250, so the cost would be pretty decent.
+2VRMS SE outputs means I can use this directly without any further attentuation.
+Less warm up time means I don’t need to have this powered on 24/7.
-Probably less good sounding than the Grungnir MB.

Grungnir:
+Increased SQ, question is how much this matters with the HD650/600 combo. I don’t intend to change headphones.
-4Vrms balanced out means I’ll need some attentuation, either passive or active. This adds to the cost and usually decreases SQ a bit. I’m using the Holo Cyan balanced outputs at 92 on the volume control, and the RME ADI 2 DAC balanced at -10db (auto ref lev on).
-Several days warm up time, pretty powerhungry.
-High price.


#9

The “current” version of the Bifrost MB sounds more like the “original” version of the Gungnir MB, which is the moister/warmer version. The “current” version of the Gungnir MB has the more neutral tuning of the original Yggdrasil.

For the signature you describe you’re probably better off with a new Bifrost MB upgrade (direct from Schiit, that way you can be sure it’s the latest thing). The latest Gungnir MB is more neutral and “in your face”.

There are some benefits to the Gungnir MB vs. the Bifrost MB even if you run the Gungnir MB via it’s single-ended outputs (avoiding the need for additional attenuation in your case). It is more resolving, does better with micro-dynamics and has better separation/layering. But they’ll not be as pronounced as they would be if you were using it via it’s balanced outputs.

You could also consider the Soekris dac1421 ($900) or dac1541 ($1300). Both have variable level output (and built-in headphone outputs), and while the dac1421 is single-ended and you wouldn’t need to use that feature, the dac1541 is balanced and you could use it in that mode and use its variable output level the same way you are with the CYAN and the RME.

I’ll have comparative reviews of all the latest Schiit multi-bit DACs up in the near future. And I reviewed the dac1541 about 18 months ago here. It has had a couple of firmware (filter) updates since then, and those make it even better. The dac1421 has the same fundamental character and technicalities and I would say is about 95% as good as the dac1541 (you’ll only tell them apart with audition-style listening).

Hope that helps.


I say “current” as these comments are based on listening to units I had on loan from Schiit as of October last year. There have been rumored updates to both Bifrost MB and Gungnir MB, sometimes referred to as “A2” versions. I can’t confirm anything about updates, but I can say they sound markedly different to the original versions.


#10

Fantastic, thanks very much! The Soekris does look like another option, I had already read your review but didn’t have it on the list because it seems few people seem to use it.