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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.


    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.

    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



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


    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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    1. Proper bloke, this Stoddard . Proper no-nonsense PR-speak aimed at proper people. Reminds me of the time people were proper, actually drove to proper places (and knew how to use a clutch) and sport was marketed alongside proper fags and booze. Now everyone’s covered in cotton wool playing Fapping Birds at the backseat of some Uber thing while sipping hipster coconut water, speaking in some sappy polite language that wouldn’t even pass for proper toilet paper in Yorkshire.

      Oh, good to see you’ve regained enough energy to write, JD. Take it slow.

      • I guess it’s a matter of degree. In the Schiit box, the DSP implements only the digital filter. For Ted Smith and Rob Watts, the FPGA does everything! That’s a LOT of R&D and associated time. Watts told me in Munich that he’s already got his next ‘code dose’ ready to go but is waiting for higher level FPGA tech to become available at a lower unit cost.

    2. A lot of that technology is above my head – meaning I don’t really understand it. However, all I can say is my Schiit Valhalla 2 with upgraded tubes is the best headphone amp I’ve ever heard with my Sennheiser HD 650 headphones. The Schiit Valhalla 2 just kills with HD 650 headphones with upgraded tubes with a little more brightness. Those people at Schiit know something, because the Valhalla 2 is an awesome amp for the Sennheiser HD 650!

    3. The Valhalla 2 needs just slightly brighter vintage tubes and a small touch of EQ to sound perfect with HD 650 headphones for my own ears. After that, it’s jut astounding! It’s just a killer amp with the HD 650.

      • Like me, you’ll be waiting a while. 😉 Far more likely is a DAR review of the Multibit Gungnir.

    Zu Audio Omen MKII loudspeakers at T.H.E. Show Newport 2015

    T.H.E. Show Newport 2015: ALO Audio / Campfire Audio IEMs