Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit DAC
Schiit Audio is a company I have admired for some time. Their stance in the audio arena is remarkable, and, they’ve got the chops to back it up. They make intriguing products that are highly regarded by a dedicated customer base, and receive reviews to match. They like to do things their way and, apparently, do it well. Up to now, I’ve only kept watch, and not bought into it.
Well, I bought the Gungnir multibit (Gmb) dac, so now have an opportunity to see what’s what.
I’ve spent extended time with only a handful of different dacs – all under $500 – at home, so don’t have a wealth of experience for comparison. I must rely on my memory to compare the Gmb, since the others are not currently in house. As you would expect (based on Schiits reputation for high performance gear), the Gmb far outperforms these dacs, but there is something more here. The design is different from those dacs, and it is very much apparent, even at first listen.
I fall back on my experience playing music – live in acoustic settings – as a reference for comparison. Of course, this is subjective, and a personal choice. If I have a goal with system building, it’s to get as close to the recorded event as I can – with a high level of emotional engagement. I suppose I have a purist streak, so go for set amps and high sensitivity speakers – fewer components the better. And, I love listening to music, so try to avoid this type of forensic analysis, but it’s the only way to provide useful feedback.
Short story: if you are serious about listening to music, desire an immersive, honest, engaging experience – and digital audio is your source – this is a fantastic contender. There are many technical reasons why the Gungnir mb sounds so much like music, but I am not qualified to discuss them. There are others who will do that for you.
Use the 15 day return (5% transaction fee) window to audition one, and I’d bet it is a challenge to send it packing. While this is not inexpensive gear, I would call it a bargain based on my limited time with it.
On to the music.
There is gravity to the Gmbs delivery. The bass and lower mids are solid, and extend deep, but are so textured and defined that I wouldn’t choose descriptions another than…linear. Neutral. A true neutral – not detailed because upper freqs are boosted. And, this gravity is not only attributed to the stellar low frequency output, but to the soundstage solidity, definition and depth.
For instance, with rock music, the drums often anchor the tune, and there is the inevitability of the downbeat when everything comes together – rhythm, tone, and volume. Timing. This is true for great drummers, and true for the Gmb – it is transferring that feel to the listener. No small feat.
Layering of instruments within the stage is remarkable, and it holds up with complex material. There’s an openness that appeals to me on a deep level. And, the energy is palpable.
Rhythm and momentum are tangible – again, with the right recording there is a liquidity and flow. I think this is due in part to the Gmbs neutrality and timing. No frequency spikes or subtle timing shifts that interrupt the rhythm and drive of the tune.
This presentation isn’t created by the addition of the Gmbs character over the music. The recording is revealed as it is, or as close as I’ll get today.
I’m stopping here. I could give more examples, and reference specific songs, but I’ve had enough of me. I expect I’ll live with the Gungnir multibit for a long time to come. This is the most natural, dynamic and musical system I’ve had at home.
I think it’s important to note that building a system to your taste is about component pairing. Your dac (or turntable/ tapedeck), amp speakers, headphones, etc all impact what you’re hearing. With computer audio I’ve found that everything does matter. You get to a certain level of resolution and transparency, and even cable swaps can provide audible shifts in the output.
My current system:
Windows10 PC/Fidelizer Pro/Roon-Tidal/Schiit Wyrd/Schiit Gungnir Mb/Bottlehead S.E.X. w/C4S/Tekton Lore
RCA connectors and speaker wire are Anticables. USB cables are Audioquest.
Shearwater, Joshua Redman, Nils Frahm, The Tallis Scholars, John Coltrane, Nine Inch Nails, Fiona Apple, Sean Jones Quartet, Satchel, Radiohead, Patrick Watson, Low, Open Mike Eagle, Nosaj Thing.