I'm relatively new to this site, and am a bit of an imposter: I listen to headphones infrequently, for travelling, but generally listen either to LPs (Thorens 124) or CDs (Quad CD-P2 and Oppo 830) with loudspeakers (Harbeth C7-3SE). I'm posting this because I have recently been able to compare the Schitt Bifrost with the Gungnir, both of which I bought as a result of reviews on Head-Fi.
I've been using my Bifrost for about 10 months. I've had the Gungnir for a month. I'm using it in single-ended mode, with a Melody SP3 tube amp.
In comparing the two DACs I connected the Bifrost and Gungnir to the Oppo using coax and optical cables, so that I could move seamlessly from one to the other. I switched the two interconnects between the two DACs to see whether the cables made a difference. To my ears, at least, I couldn't detect any.
Here are my listening results:
Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier, Tatiana Nikolyeva (MK)
Bill Evans, You must believe in spring (WB Rhino)
Mahler, Symphony 5, Gary Bertini (EMI)
I chose the Bach because I believe that piano music is one of the best tests of equipment, and this recording is one of the best I have. It seems to catch the peculiar resonance and timbre of this most difficult of instruments particularly well. Repeated switching between the two DACs and cables revealed, to my ears at least, no difference at all.
I have an LP of the Evans which I have always enjoyed. It's a bit "hi-fi". The sound is exaggerated, almost etched, but very present and enjoyable. Through my Quad CD-P this etching is slightly off-putting--the piano has an edge that is sometimes unpleasant. The Bifrost duplicated this digital unpleasantness even more starkly, so that that half-way though I wanted to stop listening. There was something of an imbalance between bass and treble, I think largely due to this harshness on the top piano notes. The Gungnir tamed this-almost, but not quite. The top notes did not grate, and there seems to be a better balance between treble and bass. I felt able to relax into the slightly too artificial sound almost as much as I did to the LP. So the Gungnir was more relaxing; perhaps more natural.
Mahler offers a much more dynamic and complex mix of sound, especially the 5th, which begins with a trumpet call that makes quite a demand on the placing of the instrument (they are slightly recessed) and its relation to a very complicated mix of instruments that include some significant bass. The Bifrost was fine: enjoyably integrated, natural and balanced, with a very slight edge to the trumpets. The Gungnir was really very good. The trumpets were placed more accurately within the soundstage, without the edginess, and the double basses were especially effective, with quite a lot more weight. The orchestra was placed more accurately both spatially and tonally.
I have to say that the differences were actually quite subtle, though clearly discernible. I had been enjoying the Bifrost very much compared to the Quad, but found myself listening more and more to the Gungnir. I can confirm what others have written about it: there's better, more controlled and balanced bass; a less "digital", etched treble, and a general sense of balance tonally and spatially on recordings that include large orchestras and jazz groups. I still can't tell the difference on the Bach piano recording. So it really depends what one can afford and what one listens to: the Bifrost is an astonishing bargain; the Gungnir a good one.
After listening to the Bifrost and Gungnir for about a month (and really enjoying both), I returned to my Thorens 124. I was amazed how much better LPs sounded in all respects. I didn't expect this. I thought that a 2012 DAC would finally have outperformed the 1950s technology represented by the 124, SME 3012, and Denon 103. Alas, no. There's still something about analogue that speaks to the soul, and to the ears.