What I think most stands out to me about the Gungnir is that for me this DAC does detail properly (not meaning others don't of course). What I find is that while there is a deep resolution of detail, subtle and nuanced, the detail isn't supreme unto itself. Gungnir doesn't seem to present detail as an isolated thing, rather the details all fit well, they reinforce each other in a very balanced, and articulate presentation. When comparing to the 8200 the most obvious difference is that the Gungnir produces really well scaled bass. The 8200 has plenty of bass extension, however it is slightly warmer and to my ears perhaps a little less controlled. As I have been so accustomed to the 8200's sound at first I felt the Gungnir bass was significantly less, however it didn't take me long to realise what was really going on here. The Gungnir is very controlled and detailed in the bass, it remains tight and controlled throught the range of lows. I here more detail that is unmistakeable, there is overall more detail, plus a micro detail that is very, very impressive. It is unfortunate that words often fail us when we are trying to convey something as intricate as perception, and sadly I can't do justice with words to what I am hearing. Without a doubt this is the most compelling and musical interpretation of what a properly designed and implemented lower frequency response should sound like that I have heard. I am sure that somebody with a very experienced and gifted ear (Mike Schiit) had his hands all over the DAC itself. You would need a very, very experienced ear to be able to present such a "right sounding" lower frequency signature like this. You would have to be a music fan who listens to and enjoys a huge variety of music and who equally wants to share that appreciation.
I think the language of art that I am using is very fitting as this DAC seems to me to be sonic art, The mids are very rich and just forward enough to reinforce the depth and presence of the music. I am hearing a more 3 D presentation, not massively so, but nonetheless, a very good stage that includes depth. Vocals sound more natural and oriented better in the sound, there is a richness that comes from being forward enough, but not over-presented. It also seems to me that the lower-mids, and the upper-lows remain distinct and in very good balance to one another, additive and not in competition. I do not want to represent these qualities as this landslide, night and day improvement over the 8200, that wouldn't be at all correct, but the differences are for me, quite apparent, and to the point where the return on investment with the Gungnir is quite favourable. I always have a hard time describing how I respond to the higher frequencies. I think highs by their nature are frequencies that our brain will not lock onto as easily and for as long without effort. I always find that if I really want to be able to talk about what I hear up high, I have to actually work to focus and listen intently, and even then I find it hard to remain locked into them. I think these frequencies would have the most potential to be perceived as an irritant, and perhaps that is why I have such a hard time. Lets face it, while there is some wonderful musical impulses in the high frequencies, we all know that a significant amount of any punishment a recording will deliver to our brain, will be here. Okay, done trying to make sense there, not working well. I find the Gungnir to be smartly respectful of the high-frequency tight-rope that needs to be kept in mind, to little emphasis and focus here and you have an overly rolled off and perhaps boring signature, too much energy and you may have a fatiguing, and strident sound. There doesn't seem to be a great margin for error here as almost every thread I have read here and elsewhere on the subject indicates to me that most people are quite sensitive to the high-frequencies. The Gungnir is very detailed, but again, a skilled hand and ear struck that proper balance. Highs are rewarding and enagaging, not punishing or boring. I will need more time with the Gungnir to really get a handle on this aspect of the sound, but I know enough already to know that it is a very, very nice sounding DAC. I couldn't be happier with the sound and I am equally happy to report that even with my 7 year old Dell music server, I am currently not experiencing those horrible playback stutters.
Edited by Sonic Defender - 6/2/13 at 7:52pm