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REVIEW: Schiit Audio Bifrost w/SPDIF DAC Processors

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Model: Bifrost w/SPDIF
Category: DAC Processors
Suggested Retail Price: $350
Description: Bifrost DAC with only SPDIF and Toslink input
Manufacturer URL: Schiit Audio

Review by sbrians on March 06, 2012 at 20:23:19
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for the Bifrost w/SPDIF

The sound was smooth from the start. I never heard glare. This is a huge plus to me.
I heard a friend's Emotiva ERC-2 CD player in my system which is what showed me that CDs could sound better than I've heard previously. I heard some glare in the player and my records had clearer midrange, but many aspects had me wanting to improve my digital music. (To be fair, I don't know whether that player was fully burned in). It had great bass power and cymbals sounded great.
Now, I won't focus on different aspects of the sound since that does not describe what I hear with this piece of Schiit. Dynamics and bass had me a bit concerned prior to burn in; they filled in later. I burned in using satellite radio. Sound was nice, smooth and clean and the DAC was probably a keeper (and will replace my Golden Theater GTX-1 which I was only using as a stereo DAC for digital radio). Prior to burn in I did not notice much difference between digital radio & CDs.
At ~55 hours of burn-in, I heard Fleetwood Mac "Dreams" song on the radio and decided to compare to CD. I was suprised at the difference and I don't know why that is. DirecTV claims CD quality I believe. I would tend to disagree now.
My prior reference at home was $1k of vinyl playback system and Oppo BDP-83 with EVS basic mod. I preferred vinyl. No longer. The remainder of the review is for CDs via coax out from the Oppo.
Still at ~55 hours of burn in, I found myself lost in Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind" song. I snapped out of my trance and for a split second wondered where I was. This is the 1st time that I ever had this experience with music, even though I have tried for 40 years to attain this. I waited 20 years to go with CDs after they came out since it seemed horrible at first and after 10 years of trying, had given up on digital music (even SACDs w/ my HW). I built up the rest of my system believing that the source can't do much if the rest of the system is not up to the task. I considered most of my CDs to be be mostly not listenable for more than a song or few. Good ones sounded good. But now those CDs that I considered bad, are quite magical. I can still discern between lesser and better CDs, but there is very little difference now. Music that I did not even like before has now become mesmerizing for me and my wife, such as Diana Krall "All for You". Difference between my good-sounding CDs like Janis Ian's "Breaking Silence" (not the AS version) and the average ones is now pretty negligible. Nothing is intolerable anymore. This thing is musical. Most importantly, this was the last piece of my puzzle to enable me to not just have a concert in my room but transcend the music and go into the world painted by the songs where appropriate. The Bifrost name seems to be quite appropriate as a bridge between this world and another one.
After 6 days of burn-in, today I turned it off to find out whether it needs warm up, or in other words, whether it needs to remain powered on. I would say yes, to have all of it's magic, it seems that it needs to remain on (the power switch is on the back, but I had to test that).
I had reservations about trying this model vs others or more expensive ones, but no longer. At this time I no longer have a desire to change anything in my system which may be a first. Although I would need more power to play Taiko drums at realistic levels, they sound great now even at lower volume levels (another CD that I previously did not like and now sounds beautiful, by Kodo).
I'm also glad that I did not have to buy my 1st piece of Chinese audio equipment, but instead had a quality American choice. I do not believe in "buy American" if it sacrifices quality, but this does not seem to sacrifice quality. I'm quite happy that I tried this. It's a keeper.

Product Weakness: Uses 12 W when idle.
Product Strengths: The sound transcends music.

Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: Anthem Amp 2 SE/ Channel Islands D-200; bi-amping
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): CJ PV 10 bl; KMF active xover
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Oppo BDP-83
Speakers: Magnepan 3.3
Cables/Interconnects: Morrow MA-3, 4, Mapleshade Excalibur, Transparent digital coax, Z-cables
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Various, 70s pop/rock, classical, jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 27' x 16' x 9'
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 week
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): dedicated 10ga circuits
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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