Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC

By Any Other Name

Equipment report
Digital-to-analog converters
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil
Schiit Audio Yggdrasil DAC

Sometimes an audio component will have a particular combination of strengths in which each virtue amplifies the others. When such synergy occurs, the result is particularly strong musical engagement, especially with music that triggers those strengths in the first place. One of the Yggy’s many such synergies is the way the clarity it brings to individual musical lines combines with its startling transient reproduction, conveying the intricate rhythmic inflections of a complex and sophisticated band such as Talking Heads. I found myself engaged on a whole-body level, experiencing a kind of euphoria that defies analysis or dissection.

Although the Yggy has a bold and assertive character, it was never overbearing. In fact, the Yggy encouraged high playback levels, in part because of the smoothness of its upper midrange and its lack of glare in the treble. The top end was extremely clean and well rendered; cymbals had a full measure of energy and verve, yet the sound wasn’t bright. I loved the way the Yggy revealed cymbal work by great drummers; the combination of the dynamic alacrity mentioned earlier with the treble’s pristine quality made such detail especially engaging. The upper midrange and lower treble were a little more forward than I’ve heard from other DACs, giving a bit of extra presence to vocals, for example. I also heard a bit more sibilance than I do with my reference DACs.

A big factor in a DAC’s sound is how well the USB interface is implemented. Some otherwise superb units are compromised by less-than-stellar performance when driven by a USB input. A good way to isolate the USB interface’s contribution to the DAC’s sound is to insert the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB converter in the digital signal path. The $1895 Alpha USB takes in USB from the source, reclocks it, isolates the output from noise at the input, and reformats the signal into AES/EBU or SPDIF (the latter on a BNC jack). The Alpha USB is the state of the art in such devices; I’ve heard it absolutely transform the sound quality of some DACs, turning mediocre performance into excellence. Significantly, with the Yggy the Alpha USB rendered the least improvement in sound quality of any DAC I’ve done this experiment on. In other words, the Yggy’s USB input is extremely well designed.

I don’t know how Schiit Audio has done it, but the $2300 Yggy is in many ways competitive with any DAC I’ve heard regardless of price. In some criteria—transient speed without etch, clarity of musical line, whole-body involvement—the Yggy is as good as digital gets. Yet the Yggy’s bold incisiveness may not resonate with listeners who prefer a more relaxed and easygoing sound. I, however, have no such reservation; this is a DAC I could listen to and enjoy for a long time. In fact, there was something different about the Yggy that pushed my buttons—I felt a musical exhilaration that was experienced not as some intellectual abstraction, but at a more fundamentally visceral level.

If you’re looking for a DAC that does quad-rate DSD, decodes MQA, offers a volume control, and includes a headphone amp, look elsewhere. But if the very best reproduction of PCM sources is your goal, the Yggdrasil is the ticket. It’s a spectacular performer on an absolute level, and an out-of-this world bargain. The Yggy is not just a tremendous value in today’s DACs, it’s one of the greatest bargains in the history of high-end audio.

Specs & Pricing

Inputs: AES/EBU, RCA, BNC, TosLink, USB
Outputs: Balanced on XLR jacks, unbalanced on RCA jacks
Sample rates supported: Up to 192kHz/24-bit for all inputs
Digital filter: Custom, running on Analog Devices SHARC DSP chips
DAC: Analog Devices AD5791 (two per channel in balanced configuration)
Analog output stage: Fully discrete JFET
Output impedance: 75 ohms
Maximum output level: 4V (balanced), 2V unbalanced
THD: Less than 0.006%, 20Hz–20kHz, at full output
SNR: >117dB referenced to 2V
Power consumption: 40W
Dimensions: 16" x 3.875" x 12"
Weight: 21 lbs.
Price: $2300

24900 Anza Drive, Suite A
Valencia, CA 91355