I'm currently in the market for a new DAC. Budget is around $500 I guess ... After reading extensively on this site, I think I've narrowed it down to either a Schiit Bifrost (with USB and uber stage) or a Parasound Zdac. Can anyone offer any comparisons between these two? I'm also considering being a bad boy and just getting a Gungnir, which would make the choice easier in a way.
Right now, I'm using a Little Dot MK3 amp with upgraded tubes, AKG Q701, and an HRT Music Streamer 2. I can't say that anything in particular bothers me about the MS2's sound, I've just had it for a while and want to upgrade. That said, I don't like the fact that it's USB powered. I want a real power supply.
General sound qualities I'm looking for:
- Large soundstage with clear separation. The AKG's have plenty of width, so I'm looking for more depth as well.
- Strong detail retrieval and quiet background.
- Punchy bass with deep extension. I'm not a bass head, but I would like something with a bit more drive than the MS2.
- As much warmth and tonal density as I can get without sacrificing too much of the above. I don't want anything brighter than my current setup. A smidge to the warm side of neutral would be ideal.
- Smoothness, coherence, organic flow, whatever you want to call it.
- If my tube preferences give any insight: I really like using Mullards (ef95 with the big shield) in the Little Dot sometimes, but the softening of the bass starts to bother me after too long. My favorite tubes overall so far have been Sylvania JAN 5654 black plates. They have a great soundstage with a good balance of bass/mids/treble. I like the Voshkod gold grids for rocking out, but their treble gets fatiguing after an hour or so.
Everything I've read about Schiit sounds great. There's a lot of info out there, so I'm really interested in hearing more about the Zdac. Some of the reviews seem inconsistent. I've heard that it's warm and smooth and that it's like the Benchmark DAC1, which is supposedly on the clinical side. I don't really know what to think. I'm interested in it because I've seen some really glowing reviews, it's got a huge power supply, and Parasound is a reputable company.
Other comments: I don't really care about the headphone jack on the Zdac. I'll play with it, sure, but the lack of a headphone jack on the Schiit models means nothing to me. I realize that the Zdac uses oversampling and the Schiits don't. This matters less to me than the sound.
Opinions on Bifrost vs Zdac? Is the Gungnir that much better than either?