Number two reaches number one: Schiit Audio factory tour & interview

  • Schiit Audio. Sounds like a bad Dad joke doesn’t it – but not quite. Schiit launched with a nod and a wink in 2010 and in only six years co-founders Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat have expanded their operation from a single car garage to a 12,000+ square foot workshop in Valencia, California.

    The secret to this improbably named company’s success is an ongoing commitment to extremely high-value DACs and (headphone) amplifiers. Moffat is nominally charged with designing the former, Stoddard the latter. Moffat is ex-Theta Digital, Stoddard ex-Sumo. If you’ve not heard of either company, don’t sweat it, just know that these guys come with a serious pedigree.

    All of Schiit Audio’s products are made entirely in the USA. And with a lower than average BOM multiplier coupled to ever-improving economies of scale, Moffat and Stoddard are able to lay down what 99% of the audio world does not: a bridge to the mass market. Check out the recently announced Fulla 2 as a prime example.

    This bridge-building ability is why Schiit enjoys abundant coverage on these pages. Ditto – but to a lesser extent – AudioQuest, ELAC and Peachtree Audio.

    Schiit has also demonstrated that their thirst for a high-value quotient can also be applied to more expensive models. Their flagship DAC – the Yggdrasil – sells for US$2299 but plays in the same league as considerably more expensive fare like AURALiC’s Vega or Resonessence Labs’ INVICTA.

    Occasionally, we hear of some long-time audiophile selling his Meitner or dCS in favour of the Yggdrasil. Or that Schiit’s top of the line headphone amplifier, Ragnarok (US$1699), has knocked a pair of Woo Audio monoblocks from their perch.

    In case you’d not pegged it by now, every Schiit product is named after a character from Norse mythology.

    To these eyes (and ears), Schiit seems to have zero fear of a newer, less expensive product potentially cannibalising the sales of a more e$tablished model.

    Chances are, this year’s Jotunheim headphone amplifier throws a long shadow over the more costly Mjolnir 2. I don’t know for sure…but what I do know is that the Jotunheim’s modular phono board easily bests that found within the guts of the Pioneer PLX-500 – better frequency extension, separation and tonality.

    With a Chord Mojo hooked into its single-ended input, the Jotunheim’s amplifier section adds some much needed connective tissue when turning out Booka Shade’s Movements through a pair of Sennheiser HD800S and/or the AudioQuest NightOwl Carbon.

    On a more personal note, I find email interviews with manufacturers and engineers a little stilted, the outcome too easily scripted and revised by company PR bods. Having previously caught Moffat and Stoddard on camera earlier this year at CanJam SoCal, I took the opportunity to visit them at their California headquarters before the dust had even settled on RMAF 2016.

    In this first video, Stoddard talks and walks us from product inception to loading dock:

    Moffat didn’t arrive until early afternoon, at which point the three of us sat down for a chin wag about their recent re-imagining of multi-bit D/A conversion. Moffat has resurrected a century-old digital filter and paired it with non-audio silicon to provide an alternative to delta-sigma conversion in the majority of the company’s DAC range.

    Click here to read Audio-Head’s excellent coverage of how each DAC topology differs in Schiit’s entry-level decoder, the Modi.

    Such innovation is possible because Schiit can choose their chip provider and whether or not they subscribe (or not) to emerging digital file formats. Moffat and Stoddard are accountable only to themselves; and, if the following video is anything to go by, they would very much prefer it remains that way.

    Brace yourselves:

    Few audio industry characters are more charismatic than Mike Moffat, right? Long may he and Jason Stoddard and Schiit Audio run…

    …and it will be very interesting to see how Schiit’s RMAF 2016 teaser of two new pre-amplifiers (Sega and Freya) and a monoblock configurable power amplifier (Vidar) play out in the world of two-channel (loudspeaker) audio.

    Further information: Schiit Audio

    Written by John

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

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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