Schiit Bifrost Digital-to-Analog Converter
What’s the Schiit?
Schiit’s co-founders Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat are committed to developing high quality audio products and selling them at “near-Chinese” prices, but manufacturing their Schiit in the U.S.A.. They claim the Bifrost is “The world’s most affordable fully upgradable DAC.”
Old geezers like myself may remember Jason Stoddard from his days at Sumo, where he designed a slew of amps like the Polaris, Andromeda, Ulysses, The Ten, The Five, as well as preamplifiers including Athena, Diana, and Artemis, and Sumo’s first digital products. I met Mike Moffat when he started Theta Digital in the 1980s. I owned a Theta Pro DAC because it was the first one to make digital an audiophile experience for me.
The Bifrost DAC conforms to the Schiit headphone amps’ design aesthetic, and I think they look pretty snazzy side by side or stacked. Measuring a scant 9 x 6.75 x 2.25 inches the Bifrost doesn't hog much desktop space. The all-metal chassis looks and feels like a genuine high-end component, there’s nothing budget or entry-level about the look. Oh, there’s one thing that bugs me about their Schiit, the components don’t have proper “feet,” just stick-on rubber things which always come off.
The Bifrost has an AKM4399 32 bit DAC, fully discrete (chip-free) JFET differential analog topology, and a USB 2.0 receiver that offers 24-bit /192-kHz playback from Windows and Mac computers, and a Toslink optical receiver that is also 24-bit/192-kHz capable. So is the RCA coaxial input. The front panel button toggles through the three inputs, and there’s a power switch on the rear end.
The Bifrost’s innards are modular, so if Schiit ever develops a better sounding converter, they will offer it (or new analog or USB boards) as drop-in cards. The $349 Bifrost just comes Toslink and coax inputs, but for an extra $100 you get the asynchronous USB 2.0 input board (you can buy it that way or add the USB after you buy the Bifrost). I used USB and Toslink with my old Mac Mini computer, and they sounded about the same. But my new Mac Mini with USB sounds better/sweeter/nicer as a source than the old computer.
I asked Stoddard to provide some sort of estimate what those Bifrost upgrades might cost, and he hopes they’ll be $100 to $150 each. Thinking about the future, the Bifrost comes with a five-year, limited parts and labor warranty! That's pretty amazing, what other budget-priced electronics have you bought with that level of coverage? The DAC is sold with a 15-Day Satisfaction Guarantee, so if you don’t love it send that bad boy back for a refund, minus a 5 percent transaction fee.