I have had many opportunities to hear Schiit Audio gear in a blind A/B comparison over the years and it is always equal parts entertaining and enlightening. With the release of 2 new versions of their flagship multibit DAC the Yggdrasil, Schiit once again invited me to attend their listening/retail space in downtown Newhall aptly called the SchiitR. The event is usually attended by audiophiles from all walks of life, but due to covid restrictions attendees were limited to press only for this execution.
Intent on adhering to the most scientific route available, Schiit introduced the listening session in what is traditionally called a double blind A/B test, or one where the exact version of the DAC is hidden from both the listener and the host. This was achieved by presenting each model of Yggdrasil in the exact same external case, with only a hidden model number (corresponding with a sealed key decoder) to reveal the truth at the very end of the exercise. If this all seems a bit much, it is intended to be so – and all in good fun.
Now for the new models. Designer Mike Moffat along with Schiit founder Jason Stoddard have a tendency to throw overlapping production options into the market in a virtual “cagematch” of sorts. The desired outcome is actually fairly simple, if one sells more it lives on. Slumping sales end with an unceremonious termination of manufacturing. It’s a real world testing device that few designers have the luxury to implement in-market – but makes for a very engaging blind A/B at the outset.
Online conversations about high fidelity audio are rife with opinions that leave little room for the gray area that might exist between what I think is good, and what you think is good. This is further complicated by the introduction of measurements into said opinions. Some of the basis for the new Schiit Yggdrasil is implicated by measurements. According to Jason, the new More Is Less model featuring the new TI DAC11001A chipset measures the best out of the three – and lands in the middle in terms of cost at $2,349. The current model Yggdasil is moving to an “OG” title and retaining a cost of $2599. That model utilizes the same Analog Devices AD5791BRUZ silicone brain as the current offering. The remaining model being introduced was the Schiit Yggdrasil Less Is More, which is the least expensive option at $2,199 and uses four TI DAC8812 chips at its core. All of the models continue to use Mike Moffat’s “multi bit” design which is a unique departure from the more traditional delta sigma architecture that most other digital audio decoders currently make use of. A total of 9 Yggdrasil boards were actually designed for the endeavor, with the 3 going to market representing the best of those cumulative efforts.
The actual setup used in the listening tests consisted of a three way switch labeled X/Y/Z which pulled from each of the three new models of Yggdrasil. This box was then fed into a Ragnorok integrated amplifier attached to first a pair of Salk Song 3 loudspeakers and then later, a pair of Magnepan panels. Source control was done via Roon remote and an Apple Mac Mini. Switching via the box was instantaneous and helped provide a stellar A/B experience for comparison. All inputs were level matched and sounded nearly identical in terms of volume to the ear.
Music selection incorporated a variety of options from varying musical genres stored both locally and streamed from Qobuz. For easy consumption we’ve grouped all observations below for each model, but it’s important to note for the sake of the “blindness”, at the time noone in the room knew what each selection was at the time of listening.
Schiit Yggdrasil Less Is More Impressions
The least expensive option of the three managed to pull off the smoothest top end. Described by some as the most musical, the LIM sporting 4 Texas Instrument DAC chips perhaps also carried the least amount of treble energy in the process. There was no lack of total summed detail or degradation, but its performance could be perceived as having less top end then the others. This could also be translated as having a more rich or accessible mid range and bass, which may account for some of the votes for “most musical”.
Yggdrasil More Is Less Impressions
The best measuring chipset of the bunch played music with a little more bite to the top end, and across the spectrum. What could also be described as a slightly more gritty feel than either of the other two options, the MIL was more similar to the OG option than the LIM. On many fronts, the Less Is More option could easily be interchanged with the current model, with only slight variations in the overall feel and texture relayed. Aforementioned “grit” could also be translated as “more detail” to some, as the delivery was never stressed to the point of fatigue or any notable deterioration to the sonic information. Best, or personal preference awards were very close between MIL and OG from this reviewer’s perspective.
Yggdrasil OG Impressions
The biggest surprise in the final reveal was that my impressions of the current model Yggdrasil led me to prefer it the most. It should be mentioned that I do not currently own a Yggrdasil (either variation) and likely have little to no experience with the house sound here. Listening to music from audiophile Jazz mainstays to Peg by Steely Dan, the Schiit Yggdrasil OG appeared with just slightly more body, balance and a hint of detail. The result felt like the most engaging presentation with lively mids and upper ranges. By comparison, there was almost a greater aggregate tonal density than the other two DACs, that could also be perceived as vibrant to some, but possibly still too aggressive for others (especially those who preferred the smoother LIM – which many listeners did).
Comparing sources such as DACs is not like comparing loudspeakers. The changes are surprisingly nuanced and much harder to detect. But within all the consistencies between the 3 new Yggdrasils, are several layers of noticeable deviations. The above observations are just one’s personal take on the subject, and did not align with every other opinion in the room. In fact, as with most of these A/B comparisons hosted by Schiit, preferences are almost always somewhat evenly distributed across all options. That is to say, there are never any clear winners in any case so far. That could be due to a wide variety of influences, but most likely in these cases it’s due to the fact that things do sound very similar overall – which opens up the door for personal preference so much more. If nothing sounds broken, then how do we choose? Well in the tale of the three new Yggdrasil, one might argue that a certain smoothness and ease of listening is going to really speak to individuals who prefer a more natural non-fatiguing listen. Thusly translated as “more real” or “musical” in this scenario. If you look for as much information and detail as can be stuffed into the pipeline, then that alternatively could be your benchmark for what is real as well. I will say that in some cases, all the information you could ever hope for won’t save you from an overall bad sound.
The easy and best sounding story for any of these comparisons is the little guy (in this case the cheapest) overcomes the most expensive goliath in the room. For this tale, that low hanging fruit unfortunately wasn’t the case for these reviewer’s ears. It seems that Mike Moffat and company did a stellar job with the latest version of the Yggdrasil ($2,599). If you are looking to save a little money on the purchase, I would recommend the Schiit Yggdrasil More Is Less ($2,349). For the most analog sounding device of the three, the Less Is More ($2,199). This is perhaps the biggest trick of the whole experience in a nutshell, for more tubelike experiences rarely measure the best. But obviously there is a whole lot more articulating in the wheelhouse here, and once again the perceptible changes are very small. This opens it all up to personal preference a little more and hopefully, just a little more fun.
More info: Schiit Audio