Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Sep 15, 2021 at 11:11 PM Post #82,051 of 82,952

macdonjh

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Multibit has always been "a thing", I would even say "the thing", certainly in Mike's DAC development universe :wink:
It's kind of a Lazarus Thing. It seemed to me to be almost dead until a couple of years ago.
 
Sep 15, 2021 at 11:53 PM Post #82,054 of 82,952

550567

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Forward:
Christmas Presents Until the End of Time?

“So, do you think it’ll go? Do you think they’ll sell?” Mike Moffat asked, looking at the first assembled Asgard on the engineering bench in my garage. He was being Mike-fidgety, rocking from heel to heel in the small, chilly space.

“Well, on paper it looks good,” I told him. “But you know how that works. They’ll either sell, or we’ll have Christmas presents until the end of time.”

Mike laughed, a little nervously. Because he knew how it goes. You can plan and study, do endless market research and cost studies, run focus groups and get tons of input from key prospects and do all the little things that companies do to procrastinate and dither and second-guess before putting out another “gotta have” product…and things can still go sideways.

But this isn’t a story about stuff like that. This is a story about gut feelings, good guesses, and not following the herd. And succeeding.

This is the story of Schiit Audio, the world’s most improbable start-up.

Yes. Schiit. Let’s start with that as an improbability factor. What company in its right mind would name itself that? I mean, if you were a marketing agency and proposed that name to a client, how would they react? You’d be picking your butt up off the pavement outside their headquarters, post-haste.

But that isn’t all that made us a crap candidate for succeeding. Consider:

• We started this with no outside funds, no VC, no crowdfunding
• We’d both been out of audio for about 15+ years—more on that later
• We went with direct sales, even though that had only really worked for one other company—Emotiva
• We started with no staff, in my garage
• We decided to make everything in the USA, even though the prevailing wisdom of the time was “China’s the World’s Manufacturing Floor, why even try to compete?”
• And, in a complete burst of insanity, we decided to start with inexpensive products

Ah, and it’s now probably past time I introduce myself. I’m Jason Stoddard, Co-Founder of Schiit Audio. Mike Moffat’s my business partner. Our official titles are “Head” and “Number 2” respectively. Hey, Mike asked for it. No, we don’t take ourselves too seriously here.

I won’t bore you with our full CVs (that’s fancy-speak for wut we dun), but you may have heard of Mike Moffat. He was the founder of Theta (the first one, the analog one), in the late 1970s. You can blame him, at least in part, for resurrecting tube audio. He was the first person to use 6DJ8s in audio. He installed Philip K. Dick’s stereo systems. He sold amps to L. Ron Hubbard (no, you can’t make this schiit up). Then, in the 1980s, he became the Father of the DAC with Theta Digital. His DSPre was the first standalone DAC on the market, and it was a showstopper—its own digital filter algorithms running on Motorola DSPs so powerful they couldn’t be exported into the Soviet Union, for a start. Theta mopped up in the DAC world for several years, then Mike founded Angstrom, the maker of the world’s first upgradable surround processor. From there, Mike moved into entertainment, creating complex systems for digital movie distribution. At least until I tempted him away with Schiit.

I’m…well, I’m confused. I’m a published, award-winning science fiction author (strangeandhappy.com), a summa cum laude BS Engineering analog geek (schiit.com) and 20-year veteran of the marketing wars at another company I founded (centric.com). I’ve done stuff as strange as lecture Harvard professors on virtual world marketing, and as driven as earning my way to Vice-President, Engineering at Sumo at age 25, which nominally made me Ed Miller’s boss—he was the founder of Souncraftsmen, Sherwood and Great American Sound, and head of engineering for SAE, to drop some names. Not that Ed cared, he just did his own thing. He was cool.

I’m the one writing this book. You can blame it all on me. I have no illusions of this being a best-seller, or of it changing the world. But I think we have an interesting story—one that others can learn from, both in and out of audio.

“Oh yeah?” you ask, leaning back and crossing your arms. “Well, I ain’t gonna read no sixty thousand words about some small-time company just to get few phrases that belong on Sucksessories posters.”

Cool. Gotcha. So I’ll cut to the chase. If you’re only interested in business intelligence, you won’t have to read any further than the next 7 bullet points:

1. Shooting to be the next billion-dollar mass-market company is insane—you might as well buy lottery tickets.
2. Niche is where it’s at—specifically a niche where people can get in fistfights over the color of a knob.
3. Pick a niche you know and love and do something nobody else can do—"me-too" never works.
4. Be memorable—this isn’t about getting everyone to like you, this is about getting some people to love you.
5. Go direct—distribution is a poisonous remnant of 19th century economics in a disintermediated world.
6. Run from both conventional marketing wisdom and the social media mavens—both of them are geared towards the mass market with eight-digit ad budgets and multiple decades to build a brand.
7. Don’t think this'll be easy—this is hard work, but you’ll also be having a whole lot of fun if you’re doing it right!

Okay, now you’re skeptical. You’re thinking: But I just read a book from (insert the name of some multibillion-dollar-valuation corporate CEO here), and he said it’s easy to reach the masses and change the world, and it seems like anyone can do it, why would I shoot for less than that?

That’s cool. That is, if you’re lucky enough to come up with something different enough to merit venture funding, if you get through all the rounds with the team and product intact, if something better doesn’t come out of nowhere, if the public whims don’t change, if you don’t get ousted before the real money starts, if you’re cool with 100 hour weeks and lots of travel and losing touch with the real fun of creation and becoming a new salesman with his dog-and-pony show for the money guys in Silly Valley or Singapore or wherever the money is in this moment, more power to you. Go ahead and create the next Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or Google. This book isn’t for you, and you can stop reading now.

But I have a lot of friends who have gone down that route. Brilliant people. Hard workers. They don’t have any problem with all of the above. They go even farther, begging and scraping to keep the team stapled together when the money gets thin, mortgaging everything they have on the One Big Idea…

…and doing it again when the first one doesn’t get past angel funding.

…and doing it again when the second one doesn’t get its second round.

…and doing it again and again and again, as many times as it takes.

Bottom line, there are plenty of billion-dollar ideas out there. Making one into a real company that succeeds isn’t just a lot of work. It’s about money, luck, connections, money, luck, money, and luck. And more luck.

This story is for people who don’t have a lot of the above. For people who are shooting to create a company that might do a million a year, or ten million, or maybe a hundred million, eventually, way out in the future.

So, if you’d like to know more about where we came from, how we got started, why the crazy name, where the fixation on Norse mythology came from, our first successes, our first failures, what we screwed up later (hell, if you buy anything from us after reading how much we mess things up, it’ll be a minor miracle), how we develop products and market and go to shows and work with suppliers and do everything in the USA except the Magni wall-wart, and about ten thousand other things, read on.

If you’re looking for a story that will make you an instant millionaire, cure cancer, repel an alien invasion, or thwart the plans of an evil CEO to turn the world into a dystopic corpocrat future, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Oh, and about those Asgard Christmas presents?

To date, we haven’t had to give a single one away. In fact, staying in stock through the holidays is one of the hardest things to do around here. Yes. Even 42 months later.

And with that, let’s flash back 20+ years…
Hi Jason. I’m hoping you read this. I bought a one month old Schiit Aegir from a gentleman who owns several other pieces of your gear. He had just missed your return window so I thought I was buying a great bit of gear fully aware of your warranty policy. Well that amp lost a channel several months ago and I’m trying to actually speak with a human about my circumstance. I’ve been told that if a board needs to be replaced it could cost me $700. Throw in shipping and I’d be buying the amp twice. That’s absurd. Both myself and the original owner have reached out only to receive the corporate response that all warranties are not transferable. I’m asking you to intercede on my behalf. The economics of my situation are ridiculous. There are exceptions to every rule and I think my request deserves a second look. Under current repair protocols I’d be paying approximately $150-200 in shipping to and from you guys for essentially a doorstop if I’m quoted at the high end of potential repair costs. I won’t pay that under any circumstance. If I were the original owner there would still be way over Three Years left on the warranty. I love the sweet sound of the amp with my ZUs but I’m at my wit’s end at this point.
Thanks, Eric
 
Sep 16, 2021 at 12:46 AM Post #82,055 of 82,952

Alcophone

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There are exceptions to every rule and I think my request deserves a second look.
*looking*

Under current repair protocols I’d be paying approximately $150-200 in shipping to and from you guys for essentially a doorstop if I’m quoted at the high end of potential repair costs. I won’t pay that under any circumstance.
*denied*

This could be a learning opportunity. Pay a little extra and get five years of warranty. Wanna save a little? Take your chances and buy used. And accept the consequences of that gamble without that entitled nonsense.

Edit: Just for clarity, that's my own, private opinion, I don't work for Schiit.
 
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Sep 16, 2021 at 12:56 AM Post #82,056 of 82,952

550567

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*looking*


*denied*

This could be a learning opportunity. Pay a little extra and get five years of warranty. Wanna save a little? Take your chances and buy used. And accept the consequences of that gamble without that entitled nonsense.

Edit: Just for clarity, that's my own, private opinion, I don't work for Schiit.
I saved $300 buying a one month old Aegir. That might only be a little extra for you but not on my budget. Talk about entitled.
 
Sep 16, 2021 at 1:12 AM Post #82,057 of 82,952

sp33ls

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I saved $300 buying a one month old Aegir. That might only be a little extra for you but not on my budget. Talk about entitled.
Entitled isn't the right word here. For example, if Alcophone has worked harder/longer or more deserving of higher income, then would you still talk about entitlement?

I understand why you're frustrated, but I'm not sure you came at this the right way with that attitude for your first post. Showing some humility goes a long way.
 
Sep 16, 2021 at 1:49 AM Post #82,060 of 82,952

Alcophone

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I saved $300 buying a one month old Aegir. That might only be a little extra for you but not on my budget. Talk about entitled.
Thinking that you deserve an $800 amp for $500 and an exception on the warranty is entitled. I sympathize with your situation. I too was once unable to afford such gear. As a consequence, I didn't buy such gear. As a consequence, I didn't have such gear. Expecting a different situation is, well, entitlement. Instead of that expectation there should be the motivation to improve your financial situation, if possible, or hope for someone caring to be generous and charitable, but not an expectation. Unless you don't mind being called entitled, then expect away.

Unfortunately Schiit know of his selling the amp.
I mean... since Schiit doesn't transfer the warranty it arguably still resides with the original owner. If you were to gift or sell the amp back to the original owner, and that original owner were to submit a warranty claim, arguably Schiit has to honor it, since the warranty was never transferred away from said original owner.
Privately you can make a contract with that original owner that they will gift or sell it back to you once it is repaired.

Presumably Schiit also doesn't care from where it gets sent to them since they don't pay for that part of the journey. They may insist on shipping it back to the original owner, though, if that is closer to them and thus cheaper.
 
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Sep 16, 2021 at 6:40 AM Post #82,062 of 82,952

cakewalk101

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This topic can get pretty complicated and could lead to a a whole can of worms...

With a high quality DAC like the Yggy and Unison USB, I would say you're splitting hairs either way. Technically, optical is what most engineers recommend because it doesn't introduce any chance of RFI -- while it can have a bit more jitter, but this is something that is cleaned up and solved for anyways.

But because most optical transmitters tend to only go up to 24/96, I tend to use balanced AES. If my Pi2AES offered USB out, I'd probably try it with Unison.
Which RPi do you have? My understanding is that while the older gen RPi shouldn’t be used to connect to a DAC via USB due to shared bandwidth with other connections (I.e. RJ-45 LAN), the RPi 4 should be just fine (as is, without a USB HAT).
 
Sep 16, 2021 at 8:51 AM Post #82,063 of 82,952

US Blues

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The point, just about halfway...
Multibit has always been "a thing", I would even say "the thing", certainly in Mike's DAC development universe :wink:

When I purchased my Gungnir OG Schiit was not yet selling a multibit DAC.
 
Sep 16, 2021 at 9:35 AM Post #82,065 of 82,952

Zer0.p0int.Zer0

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It was just over a month old. The owner just missed the return window. Great amp while it worked.
I’m just saying that was a heck of a discount. I also bought a used aegir here on head-fi, but it was not that deeply discounted.
It sucks it happened, but that’s the risk you take buying used gear.

My dad always used to tell me “what’s cheap comes out expensive”
 

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