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Thank you Guys for the kind words. i am still missing my buddy DAVE but man what a piece.
Thank you, Frank, for this vivid and enthusiastic review! But not a single point of criticism? Maybe you were a bit uncritical?
However, actually I agree with everything. I can't find a single sonic flaw with DAVE myself, it's simply perfect by today's standards. And so musical!
There really no was downsideI found listening with the DAVE. The Musicality and tonality of instrumentation was what I hear live. Rob brilliant work on the musicality is highly commended. Mr Watts is a genius in design and has nailed it with the DAVE. Looking forward to more great stuff from Rob Watts and the Chord team. Glad you liked the review.
Me too, maybe someday he gets one.
I have now had a Schiit Yggdrasil (Yggy) dac in-house for over ten days. During that time, I’ve listened to Yggy every single day for anywhere from one to four hours. Yggy has been playing continuously and now has over 200 hours of burn-in.
When I posted my rave review of the DAVE (p 150 of this thread) based on a two-week audition, I said that I would defer any purchase of the DAVE until I did my “due diligence” by auditioning the Yggy. Although these two dacs are at wildly different price points ($2300 vs. $13,300), my thought process was that if Yggy came close to DAVE in performance, I would gladly spend extra $ on an excellent music server, cables, and standalone headphone amp and probably still come out ahead. Yggy has a loyal and passionate user base. I was curious. And Schiit of course invites comparisons to elite dacs.
Now I am fully aware that this comparison is not really fair to the Yggy. Apart from the price differential, I would be relying on my fallible audio memory of the DAVE and Hugo TT (although I would be able to directly compare my Ayre QB-9 DSD to the Yggy). I would be using my electrically noisy MacBook Pro to feed Yggy’s USB input, which is not galvanically isolated (as is the DAVE’s USB input), and is not its best-sounding input according to many. I would be using Yggy with its RCA, not balanced, outputs.
So my expectations were that Yggy would likely fall short of DAVE in performance, but the question was how short. And I expected Yggy would compete with and likely best my Ayre dac, based on reviews of Yggy and Schiit’s direct sales model. In fact, I expected Yggy to compete with and perhaps best the Hugo TT, which I had preferred over my Ayre.
I listened to Yggy in my two-channel system, which you can examine in my profile. Like the DAVE, Yggy was fed with an Audience Au24 SE LP power cord and sat on three Stillpoints (Ultra Minis). (By the way, Yggy benefited greatly from the Stillpoints.)
Many users have commented that Yggy needs a lot of burn-in. Despite 200 hours of burn-in, I assume it will continue to improve. Yggy does indeed sound like **** at first – all sepia tones, dessicated, and fairly lifeless. That changes after 2-3 days. After 5-6 days of listening, I began to get a bead on this dac.
To my ears, Yggy has a number of strengths for its price point. The sound is crisp, detailed, fast, with good forward energy and PRAT. There is very little digital glare or brightness. Resolution is very good. Certain rock tunes sound cleaner and more clear with Yggy, e.g., Radiohead’s Subterranean Homesick Alien. There is a rhythmic snap and vitality on something like Cassandra Wilson’s Seven Steps to Heaven or the Roy Haines Trio. Bass, while on the lean side, has virtually no bloat or overhang and percussion can sound very dynamic.
Despite these strengths, I did not fall in love with the Yggy. The emotional connection was generally missing. I puzzled over why this was the case and I think a large part of it has to do with my own musical/sonic priorities. I may be an outlier on these issues – Yggy has received so many accolades, and some of those accolades directly contradict my own experience. So Yggy fans, don’t get too upset. Continue to enjoy your dac. I won’t engage you in a war of words.
Ok, here is where – to my ears – Yggy comes up short, especially in comparison to DAVE, but also in comparison to the QB-9 and Hugo TT.
Tone: When I say tone, I don’t just mean timbre, although timbre is critical. I also mean where tone sits on the lean vs. rich spectrum, the degree of color saturation, and whether harmonic overtones are present to give appropriate body and complexity to tone. To my ears, Yggy’s tone is lean. Acoustic guitar lacks vibrancy, body, and sparkle. Female vocals sound papery at times. Piano attack is clean and clear and fast piano runs are well-resolved. But piano sustain is not generous or realistic. In general, tone lacked depth and complexity. With all the other dacs I have heard recently (all of which cost substantially more than Yggy), I hear better tone. Tone on DAVE is astoundingly, mind-bogglingly good.
Air, space, and depth: This is where Chord dacs excel, especially DAVE. Yggy, on the other hand, sometimes seems almost airless. Yggy has less “bloom” than just about any dac I’ve heard – the sense of an instrument’s tone expanding into the air surrounding the instrument, like the live body sound of a cello. For appropriate bloom, like that heard with acoustic instruments in a concert hall, you need a sense of air. When I attend a concert in Benaroya Hall in Seattle, I hear tone floating on a cushion of air. That sense of air and space and the music interacting with the venue will vary dramatically from location to location. Air is generally less important with studio recordings. So your mileage may vary depending on the music you listen to.
Interestingly, Chris Connaker, in his very positive review of the Yggy on computeraudiophile.com, also observed that the Yggy’s lack of air was “very noticeable.” Connaker, however, ventured that the Yggy might be “on the right side of history” with regard to this attribute, speculating that the lack of air might correspond to a lack of ringing and that dacs based on a Sigma-Delta chip might create a false sense of air and space. This particular theory would not apply, of course, to various Chord dacs.
Since most of us are not present for a recording and don’t have access to masters, we have to rely on our judgment and taste as to what sounds more real. To my ears, a sense of air, space and depth between and among performers creates a more realistic impression of music, more like what I hear when I attend concerts.
Dry vs. wet presentation: This is actually related to both tone and a sense of air and space around voices and instruments. I found Yggy to be very dry in its presentation. By that I mean a combination of leaner tone, less reverberation from the air surrounding the performers, and a shorter sustain and decay to individual tones. In direct comparison, the QB-9 sounds lush, wet, and juicy with more of a natural flow to the music.
Finally, DSD on the Yggy, as played through Roon, did not compare well to DSD through the other dacs. Yggy relies on outboard conversion of DSD to PCM, and so Roon did the converting for the DSD tracks that I listened to. That conversion results in the loss of a bit perfect signal. It may also impose too much of a burden on my laptop computer that detracts from its ability to send a clean signal to the dac. Whatever the reason, the result was a flatter, relatively colorless presentation. DSD represents well under 5% of my library, but that still amounts to about 150 albums.
An audio buddy came for a listening session yesterday, after the Yggy had clocked about 200 hours. He has been interested in the Yggy for quite a while and is a regular on computeraudiophile, where Yggy has created quite a stir. So his curiosity was whetted. His reaction can be summed up as: “Nice dac, but I heard nothing that drew me in or called out any special quality.” He thought the QB-9 and Yggy were fairly close in overall quality. His memory of the Hugo TT put it on a slightly higher plane. We both agreed DAVE was in a completely different league.
In the end, I just did not cotton to the Yggy. I think Schiit is a great company that is bringing a lot of high end gear to a wide audience. I like its iconoclastic, populist style. Unlike Rob Watts and John Franks, both of whom have made some derogatory comments on this thread about Schiit (that, in an apparent show of better judgment, were quickly deleted), I respect what Schiit has accomplished and get a real kick out of its marketing savvy.
I am pretty sure there are other dacs that compete with DAVE in terms of absolute sonic quality (though I have not had the pleasure of listening to many summit-fi dacs). I’m not sure there are other dacs that compete with it in terms of value. DAVE’s unique combination of world class dac, direct-to-dac headphone out, and relative immunity to sources seems to put it in a class of its own at the moment. I never thought I would be plunking down this kind of cash for a dac, although I did just that (and more) a few years ago for a first-rate analog rig. This is the first time, however, that I have heard digital compete on a relatively consistent basis with analog. The order is in, the wait is three weeks. Licking my chops.
Just like last time, Jon, a very well written, thoughtful and informative read. Thank you!
On a separate note, I have ordered the same CT-1 Enhanced RCA IC that you have and it comes in today.
Will be interested in your impressions, Roy.
I love reading all these well thought out and edited reviews on the Dave while I await my black Dave to arrive.
Keep them coming folks!
That was me and it perfectly sums up my impressions. The Hugo TT, while being close to the QB9-DSD, had something special to offer that was immediately obvious. I was expecting a similar reaction to the Yggy, but it never took me there. I ended up preferring the Ayre as I thought it had more to offer in a few areas really important to me. And yes, the DAVE was in a different league altogether.
Really nice write-up Jon!
I hated the hugo, but think the DAVE is very very good. Though I prefer my Lampi Golden Gate (most musical and tonally accurate dac out there), the DAVE i CONCEDE is a serious player. The Yggy is only "good" in my humble opinion. Enjoy the purchase. Rob finally delivered to my expectations. I own a Qute EX as well.
Interesting you mentioned the Lampizator, it shares the same display as my Nagra HD DAC.
Think the Chord Dave uses a different type and vendor.
Good review, congratulations, did you try it with all the different inputs or did you discover a preference for type of input.
On a side note, its impossible to make a statement saying "this is the best" or words to that effect. Roman and I have discussed this at length and all you can possibly say is "this is the best I have experienced". To reach a conclusion of what is the undisputed "best" you would have to define a test scenario where everyone agreed on the rules, there would be blind testing involved, the entire testing methodology would have to be debated. Still after all that there would still be people who would dispute the tests findings, there would be flaws discovered etc.
I don't envy your job as reviewer having to make these types of comparisons with other equipment that the general readership seems to demand. I also own a MSB Select II DAC, the DAVE and have either listened to or owned several other "serious" DAC's over the past 2 years. People are always asking me what's the best, my thinking has changed, I now don't get involved in discussions about "what's the best", but simply ask myself the question, am I enjoying music through this piece of audio equipment enough to want to own it.
In the DAVE's case that's a clear yes. I would also add that measurements also have to take a distant 2nd place to how something sounds. As we have recently seen with Tyll's review of the LCD-4 and the subsequent response from Audeze. Measurements are also subject to change depending on how, who and under what scenario's.
Thank you for a well thought out review.
Usually, when someone says something's the best in contexts like this, it's taken to mean, the best I've heard. We all know that a reviewer can't have heard everything so it's unnecessary to say so.
Best is subjective but it's important to find reviewers who like a similar sound to you. Personally I only trust reviewers who currently run an analog front end as comparing digital to digital seems pretty pointless to me.
I used it basically with the single ended with the Rogue amplifier but also and it hooked up with the XLR with the Cavalli Liquid Gold. I did not try the other inputs and did not have a separate power amp to use it for a preamp. When I said best I have heard it was in context of the DAC'sI have heard through the years in an out of different systems. To my ears it made me forget about all the things I disliked about digital through the years. There are many good products out there int he DAVE price range but I have not heard them all to make those comparison and did not have any other priced similar to compare them too when I auditioned this one, But exactly right I liked it enough to buy it if I could write the check. I preferred it most with the single ended input to the Rogue and also tried it briefly with the VPI 229D also single ended. Very Impressive DAC. .Thanks for the inout Simon!