Schiit (MultiBit) Bifrost

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by FlySweep, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. auri

    auri Facebook Friend

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    Spent a few days twiddling with different inputs on my Bifrost Multibit from my PC. Got a SPDIF out header for my very high end (at the time) ASUS motherboard: worked for a little while, then started getting pretty terrible intermittent induced noise with a 5' run of Belden 1505A cable. Nope. Went back to the optical off the board itself and one day my left channel was noticeably down in output.

    Switched back to USB through the 3.0 hub in my Dell monitor with a Belkin Gold cable. Sounds great, it's always worked fine. Curious about the rumors of what Schiit has in mind for a USB interface in the next few months...
     
  2. jeeperbge

    jeeperbge Rando

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    New to the forum and new Bifrost Multibit owner here! First off, thanks for everyone's contributions to this thread. It's been incredibly helpful. I hope my conributions are similarly helpful to others. With that said, i'm coming out firing and I apologize in advance for this long post, but it's a question tied into a review of the different Bifrost Multibit inputs.

    I had some questions regarding which inputs on the Bifrost Multibit would provide me with the best sound quality. From what i've seen it appears that Schiit suggests that the coax input provides the best results. After that though there seems to be quite a bit of debate as to whether toslink or USB is preferable. I read all that i could and it was time to listen for myself.

    This is a review of toslink vs USB connections to the Schiit Bitfrost Multibit. The coaxial input is not reviewed.

    I'm running Roon Server through a dedicated Mac Mini (2014) music server, listening mainly to Tidal Hifi/Masters as I don't have a big high res library yet. The Mac Mini has no coax output so I have been extensively A/B testing the headphone/toslink out and the USB out to the Bifrost Multibit. I have the Bifrost Multibit connected to a Lyr 2 -> Hifiman HE560 for headphone listening and the Bifrost Multibit to a Peachtree 220se (via RCA so i'm only using the Peachtree as an amp) -> Martin Logan Motion 40s for speaker listening. Finally, not that everyone will agree that this matters (nor do i want to stir up debate), but for digital I have been using Audioquest Carbon cables to connect to the Bifrost Multibit and Audioquest Golden Gate analogue cables for everything else.

    I'll do my best here to articulate my results. I don't claim for a moment to be experienced at this, i'm very new to this wonderful audiophile world, so please excuse any improper lingo. I'm amazed at how well everyone on this forum articulates their perception of sound. And excuse any hyperbole, it's a bad habit.

    Mac Mini -> mini toslink -> Bifrost Multibit -> RCA -> Lyr 2/Peachtree 220se

    Pros
    - Amazing 360 soundstage. I can close my eyes and place instruments to my left/right and they have various depths in front of me as well.
    - There is an airiness to the sound. This probably helps the sense of a wide sound stage. (but possibly at the expense of mids, see "cons" below)
    - Great instrument separation. I can really distinguish and appreciate the role that each instrument plays in the concert with one another. They don't cancel each other out.
    - Loads of resolution. Subtle sounds are very apparent. The breath before a note is sung, fingers plucking the guitar strings, etc.
    - Upbeat and engaging sound.
    - VERY forward vocals. I guess this characteristic is subjective, but I love it. It's as if the singer is right up in front of me, dialogue is crystal clear and surrounded by the instruments rather than having the vocals engulfed by them. The artists voices sound very life-like!
    - Bass is tight. Not heavy bass, but it is very accurate.
    - Sparkle to the treble. I know some don't like this term, but i think it represents the fun, detailed energy treble can bring.
    - I enjoyed this toslink connection mostly for rock (Eagles, Zeppelin, Black Keys, Nirvana, Kaleo), Blues (Muddy Waters, Joe Banamassa, Allman Brothers), Jazz Vocals (Norah Jones, Etta James, Diana Krall, Ella Fitz)

    Cons
    - Felt a bit thin in overall presence at times. While the soundstage and energy is there, the overall sound was just lacking a little bit of meatiness that i like.
    - Mids are lacking a little bit. Not a big gripe here, but especially compared to the USB connection (see below), the mids weren't a big part of the sound signature. I think this played into my perception of the thin overall presence. The treble was detailed and the bass was tight, but it needed a little more filler in between.
    - Treble can get a little bright at times. I know that "sparkle" can be synonymous with "bright treble," so maybe there's a tradeoff here. Overall i wouldn't classify it as overly bright, but there are moments where I felt i needed to use the EQ (which I haven't learned how to do yet in Roon) to turn it down a touch. However, I would rather have the sparkle than lack the detailed sound it brings. Take that for what you will.
    - Sounds a bit clinical at times, lacks warmth. I would argue the sound signature via toslink is pretty neutral, so lacking warmth isn't necessarily a bad thing, and I can tube roll with the Lyr 2 to accomplish warmth if i want. But compared to the USB connection there is no sweetness to the tones, just very detailed, accurate and resolving.
    - There is a tinge of edginess to the sound. Great for hard rock, but not always welcomed.

    Mac Mini -> USB -> Bifrost Multibit -> RCA -> Lyr 2/Peachtree 220se


    Pros
    - Strong mids. The meat that was lacking with the toslink connection was very present via USB. There's just a full bodied, powerful wall of sound.
    - More bass. Not as accurate and tight as the toslink, but it is certainly fuller. You get a good thump!
    - Smooth, sweet, slightly warm sound. Especially compared to the toslink, which as I said could get a bit bright at times, the USB connection really seems to tame the highs.
    - I enjoyed this USB connection with classical and jazz. With classical even though the airiness and delicate details were lacking a bit, the orchestra had much more presence which made classical more impactful. With jazz, the warm, smoother sound was great with horns and piano and overall tempo.

    Cons
    - The full bodied sound seems to come at the expense of instrument separation and overall detail. The instruments sound a bit muddled together.
    - The vocals are recessed. The complete opposite of the toslink connection here. The vocals sound like they are on the same plane as the band so they lose a bit of separation and clarity here. Just can't appreciate the voices of the artists as well as with the toslink connection. It doesn't sound like they're standing right in front of me in the room singing.
    - While the bass is strong, it can sound a little bloated at times.
    - The smooth, sweet sound i mentioned comes at the expense of much detail and resolution. The treble sounds a bit rolled off (if i'm using that term appropriately). I miss the nuances i could hear through the toslink connection.
    - Smaller, somewhat congested soundstage. Not terrible by any means, but significantly smaller when compared to the toslink connection. The airiness and 360 presence is all but gone.

    I remain surprised that the two connections could provide such a drastically different sound. I know there are so many debates on what we actually hear vs expectation bias etc., but i truly wasn't reaching for any of my notes I included here. If i mentioned anything in my review it's because that note was very present in my A/B comparisons.

    Neither connection is quite perfect for me, but i thoroughly enjoy the Bifrost Multibit and have zero intention of returning it. I know you must be thinking by now well then try coaxial! That leads to my question here... I haven't tried a toslink/coax converter yet. I am wondering if anyone has compared the coaxial to the toslink and USB and find it accomplishes what i'm looking for. My dream would be that the Bifrost Multibit coax input combines the resolution, soundstage, tight bass and forward vocals of the toslink input with the meaty presence and warmth of the USB input. A combo of the two would be perfect!!! If so, will a toslink/coaxial converter do the trick as the only converters i can find online (amazon $20) look fairly cheap which in my limited experience means it may hurt more than it helps.

    For now i prefer and have the toslink connected. It checks more things off my wish list. Maybe my answer is to use Roon's Parametric EQ to bring down the treble a touch and bring up the mids, and then do some tube rolling with the Lyr 2 to add warmth for headphone use. I can't roll tubes on the Peachtree 220se for speaker use unfortunately (there is a single tube, but it's effects on the sound are highly debatable, I don't hear it).

    If you got this far I appreciate it. I look forward to any and all feedback! Man this stuff is fun!
     
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    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  3. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    @jeeperbge good post. Your experiences more or less match my own. I prefer toslink to USB because of the increased soundstage and sense of realism and clarity. Haven't tried coax yet either. I may have an opportunity to do so if I can get my EMU 0404 to work as a USB -> SPDIF converter. It won't be "pure" coax but it should let me compare optical and coax out of the 0404 and into the Bifrost Multibit.
     
  4. jeeperbge

    jeeperbge Rando

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    Awesome, i'll look out for your thoughts if you have chance to try that out! I'm sure sooner than later I'll end up trying a converter as well and i'll certainly follow up with my findings.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  5. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    To follow up on this: I tried using my old EMU 0404 USB as a USB -> SPDIF converter for fun. It's superior to direct USB, but compared to SPDIF optical out from my Dell laptop that I am used to, it sounds clinical with what I think is bass-to-mids suckout (note that this is in comparison; it's not that bad overall). Some subtle presence and immediacy are lost. Sounds exactly the same to me whether using coaxial or optical.

    Direct USB to Bifrost Multibit using the Schiit USB cable just sounds... weird... in comparison. Congested? Reverb is much harder to hear or almost nonexistant. It seems to lose a lot of detail and nuance, loses soundstage; this is easily the worst option. Bass seems about right, but mids are recessed and treble is some confusing combination of bright and smothered or smeared. Sometimes I feel like I'm listening through cardboard or I'm in a fog. If there are only one or two sounds at a time, it sounds okay, but when the instrumental is complex, the overall presentation falls apart and certain sounds are unnaturally emphasized over others... or maybe just lost altogether.

    The clinical sounding USB -> SPDIF converter is still much better than straight USB. The optical out from my laptop is better still, with a last dash of realism added to cymbals or stage effects. I found a HF thread that mentions this particular 0404 USB unit is "bright" and "edgy" by default as a USB -> SPDIF converter, so that may be why, and it's likely that a better USB -> SPDIF converter would get you there.

    Subjective of course, but I'd grade it something like this:
    Dell Laptop -> Onboard SPDIF Optical -> Bifrost Multibit: A
    Dell Laptop -> USB -> EMU 0404 USB -> SPDIF (Coax or Optical) -> Bifrost Multibit: B+
    Dell Laptop -> USB -> Bifrost Multibit: D

    Keeping in mind that if you've only ever listened with USB, you'd probably be used to how it sounds and not know anything was missing. Also note I've never used or heard AES with Lynx cards and what-have-you. I also have not used external transports. So the optical out on my laptop may be a "B" to someone else.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 22, 2017
  6. Skyline

    Skyline Double-blindly done with this hobby

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    I don't suppose you have any USB decrapifiers to add to the comparison? I've been using a Regen for so long, I honestly don't remember what direct USB sounds like.
     
  7. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    I do not. Give it a try. Tell me if the congestion I'm hearing is apparent for you too.
     
  8. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    I've used my Bifrost Multibit with several different sources, and I never heard the congestion you describe (of course we listen differently from different music mixes, so IMMV). The worst (but still way better than you describe for Dell>USB>Bifrost Multibit) was CuBox-i2ex>USB>Bifrost Multibit. In the middle SOtM sMS-100+wall wart>USB>Bel Canto mLink>S/PDIF coax>Bifrost Multibit. A bit better SOtM sMS-100+Teddy Pardo LPS>USB>Bel Canto mLink>S/PDIF coax>Bifrost Multibit. Even better microRendu+Teddy Pardo LPS>USB>Bifrost Multibit. Best (so far) microRendu+UpTone LPS-1>USB>Bifrost Multibit. Not huge jumps, but every step of the way was an improvement in clarity, at least for the mix of modern jazz, world, and classical I listen to. One hypothesis about observations like yours is that USB carries a lot of electrical noise from the PC to the DAC. As your digital source becomes lighter-weight, better designed for audio, and gets a better power supply, that noise decreases.
     
  9. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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  10. a44100Hz

    a44100Hz Friend

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    It seems plausible or even likely that the USB on this Dell laptop would be especially poor. Some ports are different configurations like a combo with eSATA, sometimes ports mysteriously don't work, I've borked USB drives, etc. but FWIW I tried the Bifrost Multibit on both the USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports and it sounded similarly congested. I would definitely buy electrical noise as a culprit, as well as poorly designed implementations.
     
  11. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    Quick question, are there any ways you can tell whether a bifrost is a Bifrost Multibit just from the chassis? Bought one online (through Paypal vendor, so I'm not totally naive), but just curious.
     
  12. Ryu

    Ryu Friend

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    Sticker on the back?
     
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  13. Wilson

    Wilson Socially Anxious Volleyball

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    Careful if sticker looks like it has been removed.
     
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  14. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    [​IMG]

    Here's the picture from the listing. Looks legit to me. (Also the chassis curve appears to be just camera related schenanigans, as it's not present in any other photos and I can't imagine what could cause it to bend that way)

    Also also, I got it off Canuckaudiomart for $580 CAD shipped. Good stuff. Was polite to buyer, got the sale pretty much right away, and they're shipping it tomorrow morning. Seems like a great person.

    What to do with my GOV2 now though... Hmm.
     
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    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
  15. auri

    auri Facebook Friend

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    Sticker on the back is the only thing that differentiates mine. Feed it well and I think you're gonna like it :D
     
  16. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    [​IMG]


    Awww schiiiit

    (Amusingly, I literally do not have RCA cables in my apartment, and they're impossible to find on campus, so I have to wait until Thursday to actually add the Bifrost Multibit to my chain. Guess it'll just be time for it to warm up in the meanwhile!)
     
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  17. Yeskey

    Yeskey Friend

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    @FallingObjects Amazon prime now is your friend (if you got it) Have it shipped to your door in 2 hours.
     
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  18. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    They didn't have one-day delivery for the stuff I looked at the first time unfortunately, but I can try again.

    Edit: Yeah, it'll be coming in tomorrow anyways, so i can just wait.
     
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  19. Mystic

    Mystic Mystique's Spiritual Advisor

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    From my experience with both Multibit and D/S versions of Modi and Bifrost, the Multibit versions input light will cycle a few times when powering on, while the D/S versions do not.

    Not sure if this is just a big coincidence though.
     
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  20. FallingObjects

    FallingObjects Pay It Forward

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    Yeah, mine cycled, and the seller included the original box, documentation, and receipts of purchase. It's just sorta... sitting there.

    ... Might re-arrange my desk to make it look prettier with all the crap I have on it now. Wonder if I can grab zip-ties from anywhere on campus..
     

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