Newport 2012: Schiit
I first heard about Schiit Audio when the forums lit up with buzz around the little $349 Bifrost DAC (USB adds another $100).
The copy off this website is fantastic, so I let it speak for itself. From the Schiit website:
Bifrost is the world’s most affordable fully upgradable DAC, featuring 32-bit D/A conversion, a fully discrete analog section, and a sophisticated bit-perfect clock management system, together with one of the most advanced asynchronous USB 2.0 input sections available, as well as SPDIF coaxial and optical inputs, all with 24/192 capability.
A fully upgradeable DAC. New USB tech? New USB card and you’re off. New DAC tech? New DAC card and you’re off. Pretty slick, actually.
A brand new DAC, the $749 (again, USB adds $100) Gungnir, will ship by the end of summer. This new DAC features a clever new clocking technology they call Adapticlock.
So, what’s all this about Adapticlock? Well, you probably know about jitter. And you probably know one of the best ways to kill it is with high-precision, voltage-controlled crystal oscillator (VCXO) reclocking. Now, that’s all well and good, but what happens when you have a source that won’t allow the VCXOs to lock? You know, like a satellite receiver or some computers? In other cases, you’re toast. The VCXOs unlock, and jitter flows right through the system.
In Gungnir, if the VCXOs won’t lock, it shifts the entire reclocking network to VCOs. This allows us to lock to virtually any input, and still provide a low-jitter regenerated master clock. The result is higher-quality clocks, despite the source.
Schiit products come with a 5 year warranty and a 15-day money-back guarantee (minus a 5% restocking fee).
Schiit has a four head-amps for sale current, as well as a pair of DACs. Above is the Asgard, which sells for $249. Single ended, Class A, FET (JFET/MOSFET) output — designed for low impedance headphones.
Valhalla, above is a single-ended triode zero-feedback OTL head amp, offered at $349.00.
From the site:
Valhalla is a Class A, single-ended triode headphone amplifier with no overall feedback and noninverting circuit topology. It provides classic tube sound and can drive headphones with impedances as low as 32 ohms.
Yes, we know that all you got out of the preceding paragraph is probably, “Classic tube sound.” And if you’re not a tube junkie, you might not even know what that means. Some people say tube sound is a smoky nightclub with a hot chick in a red dress, it’s a warm swimming pool in summer, glowing green against the purple twilight, it’s a . . . well, hell, you can’t really explain tube sound. Think “smooth, fluid, liquid, alive.” But not in a SF-movie-gonna-eat-you kinda way.
Lyr is a zero-feedback, tube-hybrid 6wpc Class-A+Class A/B head-amp offered at $449.00.
Now, if you’re a headphone guy, you’re thinking “Holy Schiit! 6 watts! That’ll make the magic smoke come out of my headphones! Why the hell do you need that kind of power?” Well, we have one word for you: orthodynamics. If everyone wanted polite little low-power headphone amps, this would be one awfully boring world, wouldn’t it?
That said, Lyr isn’t just about brute force. Sure, it has dynamics to spare, but it also delivers music with finesse. Its hybrid design uses tubes for the input stage, and the topology is DC coupled at the input and output to ensure a pure, direct signal path.
Make no mistake: even though Lyr is the same size as Asgard and Valhalla, it’s one of the most powerful headphone amplifiers you can buy. We will not be responsible if you blow up your headphones with it!
Last but not least is Mjollnir. This one is new, and shipping is expected in the next several weeks. Pricing is set at $749.
Mjolnir is the only dedicated headphone amp using an Circlotron-style topology with high-voltage JFET inputs and MOSFET outputs. Unlike other balanced headphone amps, Mjolnir is not simply two of the same amps in a box, with one run inverted. It’s a unique, inherently balanced stage that delivers both low complexity and very high performance.
“So what the heck does that mean in English?” You ask. Here it is: 8 times the output power, 8X lower distortion, and less noise than Asgard. Mjolnir is a super-powerful amp, but it’s also quiet enough to be used with the most sensitive headphones. And, since it’s all solid-state, it’s set-and forget. No tubes to replace. No tube rolling.
So, what’s the catch? Only this: Mjolnir is ONLY a balanced amp. There are no single-ended outputs. Welcome to the wonders of cross-shunt push-pull topologies.
Each headamp in the display was paired with the matching-sized DAC, which meant that the Asgard, Lyr and Valhalla all had a Bifrost. The Mjollnir was pair up with a Gungnir. I spent some time with each, and I have to say, this was some superlative sound. Personally, I love the Audeze LCD line, and pairing with the big head amp was quite a treat. Audio was clear, clean and rich. Deep bass, airy highs, immediate mids — I get why audiophiles love them some cans. If I ever get off my ass and make the move into headphones again, I’m going to go look at some of this Schiit.