Scorching temperatures have blanketed the country for over a week and it doesn’t matter if you live in Tennessee, New Jersey, Nebraska, or Texas — it has been a great week to stay inside and enjoy listening to music.
The July power bills are going to be frightening for many as tens of millions have been forced to crank their air conditioners and we have definitely noticed that our hi-fi systems don’t sound quite the same with the grid under some strain. Schiit Audio is in the process of relocating sections of its business to Texas and it would only make sense that it would take the opportunity to preview the Schiit Audio Bifrost 2/64 DAC and Lyr+ Headphone Amplifier in the Lone Star State over the weekend.
The Bifrost DAC is one of Schiit’s best selling products over the past decade and there has been speculation that the Bifrost 2 DAC that was introduced in 2019 was about to be replaced.
Schiit have announced the immediate availability of the Schiit Audio Bifrost 2/64 DAC; the Bifrost 2/64 includes a new analog card with higher performance and hardware-balanced topology, as well as a new optional NOS (non-oversampled) mode.
The Bifrost 2/64 costs $799, a $100 increase over the original Bifrost 2. Current Bifrost 2 owners can order the Bifrost 2/64 analog card for self-installation for $300.
“This is a big change, and an across-the-board improvement,” said Mike Moffat, Schiit’s Co-Founder and head of digital development. “It takes Bifrost 2 into a hardware-balanced topology, with one DAC per phase, like Yggdrasil and Gungnir. It sounds better. It even measures better. It gives owners more options–our digital filter or NOS. There are a ton of new tricks in here that take our True Multibit architecture to a new level.”
The Bifrost 2/64 replaces the original Bifrost 2’s two Analog Devices AD5781 D/A converters with four Texas Instruments DAC8812 D/A converters. This allows Schiit to dedicate one converter to each individual phase, the “hardware balanced” configuration that Stoddard is referring to. This pushes performance higher than the previous Bifrost, despite each D/A converter having less bit depth.
“It’s our best-performing True Multibit DAC yet, at least on the AP,” said Jason Stoddard, Schiit’s co-founder and head of analog development.
But Stoddard says one thing is even more important to him than measured performance: the fact that customers can easily upgrade their own Bifrost 2s if they want.
“Bifrost 2 is a completely modular DAC,” announced Stoddard. “If a customer wants to upgrade, we simply send them a slide-in analog card and an SD Card with new firmware. Swap the analog card, plug in the SD card, turn it on to install the firmware, and you’re done. No need to send the DAC back to us.”
Like all Schiit products, Bifrost 2 is made in the USA—specifically, designed and and built in California. The vast majority of the total cost of the product, including chassis and PC boards, go to US-based companies manufacturing in the USA.
What do you do with your best selling DAC? If you’re Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat — you throw it out and start again. All too easy.
The first big shift for the Bifrost was the move to multibit a few years ago; until the Modi Multibit DAC was released, the Bifrost was the least expensive way to own this type of DAC.
Almost every other budget line was using either the AKM 449x Series or the ESS 90×8 Series (or some version of it), because single bit DACs were easier to implement, required less additional circuitry around them, and were cheaper to manufacture.
Those compromises also meant that the sound quality was not good enough either. Certainly not for Moffat and Stoddard.
Both are experienced designers and engineers, and they saw an opening in the category for better sounding DACs that were affordable.
The Analog Devices 55xx and 57xx Series Chips became the standard across all of Schiit’s multibit products and have all been used in the Yggdrasil, the Gungnir, Bifrost, Modi, and the Modius.
We recently saw two new options made available for the Yggdrasil with buyers now having the choice of the original AD5791 Series, or the Ti8812 or Ti11001 Series chips instead. The Ti series chips are a nod to both those who prefer the Burr Brown DAC to the AD, and those looking for a DAC that measures extremely well.
Until recently, Schiit has more or less thumbed its nose at the “measurements are everything” clique and built products solely based on end user experience. Schiit has done extremely well over the past decade but the impact on sales caused by the ASR crowd has not been negligible; the brand is now focused on offering excellent sound quality and measurements that make the nerds happy.
The move to Texas Instrument chips in the Yggdrasil created the opportunity for a true multibit DAC to produce a THD+N of <0.00002%, which is a feat many thought impossible.
Those Texas Instruments chips have found their way inside other Schiit DACs; unlike the Yggdrasil where the user has 3 options, the new Bifrost 2/64 will only be made available with the Ti8812 DACs. It retains the four chip model so one per channel per stage which effectively gives the new Bifrost much more resolution than a 16-bit chip might normally offer.
They’ve kept the digital filtering of earlier models by using an AD produced SHARC DSP. This gives the new Bifrost, a THD+N of <0.0008% and an SNR of >124dB; both of those new measurements are a significant improvement over the previous generation and bode well for the product’s performance.
Schiit Audio Lyr+
Stoddard and Moffat have stirred up a lot of schiit recently about tube shortages and how the manufacturer plans on dealing with that; the conflict in Ukraine has caused havoc in regard to specific suppliers, manufacturers, and some tubes which means that prices have gone up a lot. Products made in Russia are not being imported into the United States or E.U. as part of sanctions and the supply is certainly drying up.
Schiit previewed the upcoming Lyr+ headphone amp and preamp; the first and only tube product that switches seamlessly between tube and solid state, for complete freedom–to explore tubes, and to be free of tube nervosa.
In addition to this tube/solid-state Fusion Architecture™, Lyr+ is the most technologically advanced desktop product from Schiit, ever, featuring a relay ladder volume control, microprocessor control and oversight, and remote control.
The Schiit Audio Lyr+ is expected to ship in 4-6 weeks, at $599 without a tube, or $699 with a selected premium 6SN7 type tube.
“We’ve offered tube alternatives before,” Jason Stoddard, Schiit’s co-founder and head of analog development, said. “Freya+ has a completely separate solid state buffer stage that you can select. And, you can choose our solid-state LISST tube replacements. But Lyr+ is the first product that completely fuses both tube and solid state, in the same topology, and allows you to switch seamlessly between them.”
With Lyr+, there’s no need for a tube. Leave the tube out (and cover the tube receptacle with the provided cover), and it’s a supremely capable solid state headphone amp and preamp, providing 6W RMS output per channel into 32 ohms from Schiit’s unique Continuity output stage.
Gain is via depletion-mode MOSFETs in the same topology as tubes. Volume is handled with a discrete relay-stepped attenuator, for perfect channel matching from bottom to top. A microprocessor monitors all operating points, including current and DC, to protect the most expensive headphones.
You can also choose to plug in a tube; the Lyr+ switches to tube hybrid mode, and works with 6SN7 new-production and NOS tubes. The tubes are gently run, with conservative operating points and DC heaters for long life. In addition, you can switch between tube and solid state mode and compare performance.
“Lyr+ is completely unique,” said Stoddard. “It’s the only amp that switches out tubes for depletion MOSFETs in real time, internally, preserving the tube topology. The solid state and tube stages are exactly the same, with the exception of what makes the gain–tube or MOSFET.”
This Fusion Architecture is the result of two years of R&D at Schiit, including multiple prototypes, stress tests, and rounds of both objective and subjective evaluation. With Fusion Architecture, Lyr+ gives owners a way to experience tubes, while always having a solid-state backup.
Schiit rankled a few feathers with the Folkvangr Headphone Amplifier that was recently announced, and it is easy to understand why it was designed as a limited run product. The shortage of tubes and the expense of running 10 in a headphone amplifier did not make the Folkvangr a very practical product.
On the more practical side, the newly announced Schiit Audio Lyr+ is now a hybrid amp with the ability to run with or without the 6SN7 tube. This is a huge plus because if the tubes do become scarcer and more expensive (even temporarily) users can simply put a cover over the tube socket and continue to use the Lyr+.
I can’t think of another tube-hybrid that allows the user to remove the tube and automatically detects its absence and accommodates the change. Without a tube installed, the Lyr+ operates as a pure solid state amplifier.
With a 6SN7 tube added, the user then has the choice of solid state or hybrid mode. In hybrid mode, the Lyr+ uses the 6SN7 as a tube pre-amp feeding the solid state power amp circuit.
I’ll be interested to get my hands on a Lyr+ and see what it does in the event of tube failure as I have not seen a full description of the tube sensing mechanism (how the Lyr+ determines that a tube is present).
The 6SN7 is a fairly common tube but good ones are becoming harder to find, and the prices are certainly climbing. The $599 USD price will turn out to be a good value once tube prices become sane again and users can use the Schiit Lyr+ as a line stage with active loudspeakers or a power amplifier.