Here's our first impressions of the Bifrost DAC:
Let's begin with the bottom line. The Bifrost DAC improves dialog/voice clarity on TV programs, enhances detail, air and stereo imaging on CDs and Blu-Ray discs, and improves the overall sound of music from our home computer.
We ordered the Bifrost DAC from the Schiit Audio website late on a Friday in October. They shipped it out to us the following Thursday, and it arrived in good condition five days later.
After unpacking, it was plugged in and powered up all by itself for three or four days. Then it was powered off and installed in our cabinet with other audio & video components. The television sits atop the cabinet.
The system is a hodge-podge of old and new equipment: Schiit Bifrost DAC, Pioneer KURO plasma 50-inch TV, Sony BD-S370 Blu-Ray player, Comcast/Motorola DCX3400 DVR, HTPC using HDMI-out jack from nVidia HD Audio drivers on Gigabyte GTX-460 video card (x2 in SLI-mode), Audio Research LS3 pre-amp, McCormack DNA-1 amplifier, Magnepan MG10 speakers, and 2 x Velodyne subwoofer. Power is provided via a Belkin PF60 power console. Cables are 3 x standard HDMI, 1 x optical digital, Transparent Audio Ultra interconnects, and Audio Technica 12-gauge speaker wire. The Audio Research, McCormack and Magnepans are all around 18 years old and still in good working order. All else is 3 years old or newer.
Our method of connection to the Bifrost is as follows: HDMI from all 3 sources to the Pioneer TV, then optical digital from Pioneer to Bifrost. (The Pioneer doesn't have coax digital-out.) So, we're only using one input on the Bifrost . When we change input on the TV the sound also switches; no need to press buttons on the Bifrost. Are we getting the best possible sound this way? I don't know, but it's certainly convenient.
Of the three sources the Blu-ray player usually offers the best sound, followed by the DVR then the PC. We listen only in stereo, no surround sound. Sometimes music programs on Palladia channel or PBS sound as good as the Blu-Ray.
Our motivation to try the Bifrost was that, to our ageing ears, dialog on some TV programs was muddy and difficult to understand. Music coming from the PC (we ripped a lot of CDs in uncompressed .wav format using Accurate-Rip) sounded rather dull and boring, and even the Blu-Ray output on music felt uninspiring. The question was how could we improve matters, short of replacing the entire system (expensive) or getting an ear transplant (even more expensive). Equalizers and tone controls can boost the treble but overall music reproduction remains plodding and uninteresting. So, a few hundred dollars for a device that could inject some life and clarity into the system seemed like a desirable and affordable proposition.
After several weeks of listening we can say that the Bifrost DAC is a very worthwhile addition to our system. Dialog from TV, DVD and Blu-ray is clearer. We can even understand whispered or soft-spoken words most of the time now. Dynamic range has also improved. Soft-spoken dialog gives way to room-shaking special effects on Blu-ray movies. Music concerts on TV and Blu-ray are more realistic and more enjoyable now. CDs played on the Blu-ray have the air and space and lively character similar to what we enjoyed on a friend's high-end CD player (he also has Magnepan speakers). Ripped CDs played from the computer are definitely more open and detailed; however, the sound quality does not match what we hear from the same CDs played on the Blu-ray. Nevertheless, we are enjoying music from the PC more than we ever did before. The Bifrost manages these improvements without any edginess, grit, or harshness.
The lady of the house says, "I love that music sounds warm and full. It doesn't sound electronic; it's just nicer than it was before."
If the Bifrost can offer these improvements to older listeners with older equipment imagine how well it may perform with a good modern system and younger ears.
To sum up, the Bifrost has considerably enhanced our enjoyment of music, dialog on television, and Blu-ray movies. Along with its price, that makes it a bargain in the truest sense.