Sunday, May 20, 2012

No schiit...

 Yes schiit! Every digital audio file (a song or an album's worth of music) must be converted from digital (where it resides on the computer's hard disk drive) to analog so it can be played on your home stereo receiver or integrated amp. Most sound cards that come with today's low-end offerings leave a bit to be desired in terms of sound quality, so an entire industry has sprung up around optimizing that aspect of your audio playback in the last decade or so.

From their purposely cheeky website: "And yes, it’s pronounced exactly like you think. Shee-tah. It’s a proud German name, host to a long line of audio engineers who slaved away in crumbling Teutonic fortresses as lightning lashed the dark lands outside, working to perfect the best amplification devices in the world . . . Yep, Schiit is our name. As in “Hey man, that’s some really cool Schiit.” Or, “We like music and Schiit.” And now that we have your attention, BUY OUR SCHIIT!" (boldface mine)

The schiit bifrost adheres to the philosophy that if you put garbage in, that's what you're getting back out the other side in terms of playback quality, and their low-priced DAC (digital analog converter) is being offered (non-USB topology, that option can be added/purchased at a later date, and the unit is fully upgradeable as technology advances) for $350 plus shipping, making it very attractive price-wise, versus the competition at the present. I especially wanted the upgradeability as the market seems to be searching for a somewhat stable format. I'd hate to buy a Betamax when everything is being manufactured to handle VHS, to revisit a well-known format war! (not to mention the modern-day version of this, the whole "which 3-D video it it going to be" debate! Definitely a whole 'nother topic for a whole 'nother blog...)

Direct from the manufacturer means Mr. Middleman gets nothing, and the consumer gets a wealth of research and development to enhance his/her listening experience further than buying from dealers, and allows the quirky company to correspond directly with consumers to get a real-world feel for what they want in a DAC so that they can develop customer loyaly, an element that is somewhat sorely missing in some areas of retail these days. These features make the low price possible, and allows a relatively new product a chance to gain a foothold in a market flooded with product. schiit has already rolled out a statement piece that, while costing more, offers features unavailable in the entry-level arena. How does it sound, and how does it work, you might ask?

It featues non-oversampling, which means it operates at the native bitrate of the original file, as oposed to an oversapling unit that autmatically raises the file size and bitrate of the file to audiophile high resolution level. According to schiit, this is to avoid a "mystery meat" approach to playback, and offers the best conversion to analog to make your listening experience jitter-free. Attention to these and other details, such as fit and finish, make the bifrost very desireale for home audio, headphone use (in conjunction with their lyr tube head amp) and even television audio conversion, although that simple process can be achieved much cheaper. For $449 you can get asynchronous USB implementation, preferred by some, and you can save the $100 by ordering it without, like I did. I use mine via toslink (fiber optic cable, not all computers and CD players have this feature) through the spdif input.

In conclusion, I give the bifrost a total of 5 stars for the combined experience of fit and finish, correspondance with the manufacturer before, during and after the sale, expert shipping, and the unit really did enhance my file-listening to a significantly higher degree (I have no CD player with toslink output to use it with, but no matter, all my CD's are ripped into my computers. I am in the market for a kickass disk spinner, when/if the budget allows...).

Tomorrow, I'll reach down into my goody bag and see if I can find another goody to review. Till then, keep your tubes hot and your antenna up! See you then!

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