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T.H.E. Show Newport 2015: Multi-bit from multi-Schiit

  • the_show_newport_logo_2015T.H.E. Show Newport this year saw Schiit dropping the usual personnel – Mike Moffat was away directing a play – and weight – Jason Stodddard is half the man he was this time last year – literally.

    Perhaps a regular sip from the cup of vindication is Stoddard’s key to weight loss? Schiit are set to shift between 80,000 and 100,000 units in 2015, predominantly to college kids. The average age of Schiit customers is 26. Who says young people don’t care about good sound? They do – it just has to be affordable. And affordable gear is Schiit’s stock in trade.

    Stoddard is very much anti-buzzword: “FPGAs and fucking femto clocks,” he hisses. If Schiit’s approach to DAC design could be likened to Gordon Ramsay – complete with Moffat’s sometime blue language – then Rob Watts might be the D/A conversion world’s Heston Blumenthal.

    Stoddard reckons FPGA’s are wasteful of material costs and R&D. Instead, their top-of-the-range, multi-bit Yggdrasil (US$2300) adopts four slabs of Analog Devices’ AD5791 at eighty bucks apiece.

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    Now into their third batch of a 1000 x AD5791, Schiit are now the world’s biggest user of these high precision chips. The AD5791 isn’t an audio chip. It was developed for the precision instrumentation demanded by the medical world.

    Alongside the quad of AD5791 sits an AD Scharc DSP that plays host to Mike Moffat’s custom code, reportedly an inverted, extended and refined version of code he first developed for an A/D converter collaboration with Nelson Pass back in the nineties.

    Schiit’s old-school multi-bit approach has clearly captured the imagination of the DAC buying public. Demand for Yggdrasil is three times that which Schiit anticipated; Stoddard says they are “heavily backordered” which means reviewers wanting to get their mitts on one must drop their own cashish or wait awhile.

    So strong is demand for Yggdrasil that Schiit about set to double down on this old school (ish) approach to DAC design that also thumbs its nose at buzzword compliance. No DSD, no MQA.

    Stoddard says Schiit will be adding their statement multi-bit tech to their entire decoder range. Expect to see a multi-bit Gungnir “soon” – the board is apparently already done – and a multi-bit Bifrost “shortly thereafter”. Schiit’s modular approach means existing owners will be able to buy upgrade boards should they so wish.

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    Jason Stoddard (right) at T.H.E. Show Newport 2015.

    One thing that I wasn’t aware of until now: the Yggdrasil and Gungnir both analyse the quality of the incoming digital signal. A microprocessor looks for jitter, sending less troubled data streams to a VXCO and high jitter streams to a VCO (for more rigorous clean-up) as well as lighting up a front panel LED whose message is “buy better gear”.

    Oh, and lastly: AudioQuest’s Steve Silberman, orchestrator of the JitterBug, told me in Berlin that he can no longer listen to his home system without Schiit’s Wyrd USB de-crapifier in the chain.

    Further information: Schiit Audio

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    T.H.E. Show Newport 2015 coverage sponsored by LH Labs:

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    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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