Schiit Audio is definitely a company with attitude, and they've written one of the most entertaining FAQs about a product that we've ever read. So without any comments or changes on our end, here's the complete, unexpurgated, wildly fun, and informative FAQ from Schiit on the Bifrost DAC.
So, what the heck is a DAC and why do I need one?
Man, if you’re asking this question, you may be in the wrong place. But to keep it simple: if you trust your music to be faithfully reproduced by a $2 floor-sweeping D/A IC that the overworked laptop designer threw in as an afterthought on a motherboard swimming in gigahertz noise, more power to you.
So, what’s so special about your DAC?
It’s upgradable, which means it’s virtually future-proof, and it’s cheap, which means you don’t need a second mortgage to buy it.
So what about these here upgrades you’re talking about?
We’ll announce selected upgrades when there have been meaningful changes in the capability of the USB Input Card or the DAC/Analog Card. Translation: we ain’t gonna be offering every flavor of the month D/A converter that comes along, with 12 changes in the next year. We’re proud of Bifrost’s current performance, and we’ll be very selective about how we upgrade it.
How do I get an upgrade?
We’ll announce upgrades on the site and via our mailing list. If you’re interested, you’ll then be able to send your Bifrost in to us to swap the cards, or you may be able to do it yourself, if you’re a DIYer or comfortable with electronic assembly and hand-tools.
Why aren’t there any balanced outputs?
Have you seen any balanced inputs on our current amplifiers? Seriously, though, at this price point, balanced lost to upgradability. If you want balanced outputs, we’ll have two more DACs coming that will meet that need.
I heard about this fancy new upsampling stuff, where they take 16/44.1 and magically make it into 24/192. Does your DAC do that?
Not just no but hell no. None of our DACs will ever do sample rate conversion. Our goal is to perfectly reproduce the original music samples, not to throw them away and turn everything into a mystery-meat soufflé. Sample rate conversion destroys all the original samples. What goes in isn’t what comes out. We worked hard on a microprocessor-controlled, bit-perfect clock management system to ensure that all the original music samples going into Bifrost are delivered to the D/A converter, whether you’re running 16/44.1 or 24/192, rather than cheaping out and throwing in a sample-rate converter so we could use a single clock.
Well, hey, you may be delivering bit-perfect data to your delta-sigma D/A converter, but the D/A converter itself doesn’t necessarily reproduce the original samples, but rather a mathematical guess, which is why they call them “successive approximation” D/A converters, what about that?
I had to delete Mike Moffat’s response, because even given our name and flippant attitude, it wasn’t appropriate for public consumption. But, here’s the gist: just because you have to cook your turkey in the microwave doesn’t mean you have to run it through a food processor first.
But what about Advanced Segment, Super Voodoo, WowieMatic 24/32 bit converters out there?
They’re still delta-sigma. And they’re all lying about 24 bits anyway. A true 24 bit converter would have a -144dB noise floor. The best of the delta-sigma D/A converters are missing at least a couple of bits. Yes, even the “32 bit” ones like ours.
I’d rather have a (insert popular, fully buzzword-compliant D/A converter IC name here) than AKM, will you make a special board for me?
Do you see a sign that says, “Burger King?” This ain’t “Have it your way.” Nope, sorry, at this price point, there ain’t no custom.
Well then, how about your USB? Is it fully buzzword compliant? 24/192? Async?
It is absolutely buzzword compliant! Not only is it USB async, but it’s USB 2.0 async that’ll do up to 24 bits/192 kHz sampling rates. Yes. USB 2.0. Not antique 1.1. It works without drivers on Mac and we’ll provide drivers here on the site for Windows 7, Vista, and XP. It’s a good-sounding, reliable, solid implementation of USB. But that’s like saying, “Well, its a very nice meal, given that the chef could only work with McDonald’s hamburgers.”*
Wait. Are you saying USB is crap?
We’re saying we put a ton of time into our USB implementation, but, to our ears, USB still doesn’t quite offer the performance of SPDIF. And we can even get into shades of gray on SPDIF too: consider Mike Moffat’s AT&T ST-optical interfaces and Sumo’s Axiom/Theorem transport and D/A, which had a separate low-jitter master clock connection from the transport.
So how do I get some of this SPDIF stuff?
If you have a Windows desktop, most decent sound cards and many motherboards have SPDIF coax or optical. If you have a Mac, almost all of them have SPDIF optical output buried in the headphone jack. If you have a PC laptop, well, hey, then things can get a lot more complicated. That’s why we included a USB option.
Please recommend the ultimate super-duper bestest ever SPDIF interface soundcard for my PC!
Um, no. There are so many different configurations of PCs, OSes, software, hardware, etc, etc, on the planet, we ain’t gonna tell you to go out and buy something that may not work in your system. Because, then, you know, we end up being your tech support. Know how you can’t figure out why your grandparent’s computer doesn’t work, even though it’s the same as yours? It’s like that.
What are your credentials when it comes to digital products?
Well, other than having one of the “fathers of the DAC,” Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta Digital, as a company partner, who created the first standalone digital preamp, made the first DACs with custom digital filters running on Motorola DSPs, was one of the first to measure and minimize jitter, and introduced the first DTS surround processor, well, not much.
*What’s with all the food references?
Hell, we don’t know. Maybe we were hungry. This is one of the ways you know you’re dealing with real humans here, rather than faceless corporate drones who’d have to have this copy destroyed by a dozen lawyers.