Schiit Bifrost 2

I am actually thinking the same thing. Either Jot 2 or A90. If you don’t mind what would you recomond DT1990s and GL2000s?

Hmmmmm. Out of the two, I would def lean jot 2 imo, I think it ends up having better dynamics than the a90 (have had one for about a week now), it’s staging is a bit better, timbre is more organic, and it ends up having better control than the a90 when it came to the 1990 imo. I haven’t heard the GL2000 yet so I can’t comment really on that one, but the jot 2 did drive most planars I heard with it pretty well so it would most likely be a good match. The A90 did do a better job when powering planars than it does dynamic, but the jot 2 is something I preferred still.

Other options that are worth a look would def be the lake people g111 which I think is on a higher level than both the jot 2 and a90, it’s a more studio neutral sound but it’s still fairly organic and non fatiguing, pretty impressive. Works very nicely with the 1990 and still powers most planar I threw at it pretty well too. I would give a mention to the rnhp as that’s really nice with the 1990 but not really all that good for most planar I have tried. I would also give a nod to the liquid platinum for planar as that’s also above the a90 and jot 2 imo, but for the 1990 it’s not really a good match

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Thank for your advice! I think I will go with the Jot 2 then as I value the pre amp output. Ill do a little bit more research to make sure they won’t have issues powering the GL2000

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The Jotunheim 2 is doing a wonderful job with the big planar HP’s that I have - Hifiman Edition X V2 and also Audeze LCD-2 pf. Both of these phones I am using with the balanced output. I am using high gain as a matter of preference for sound but this is a personal choice not a requirement.

I am only attesting to my personal experience and in no-way suggesting that you should forgo your own research.

My source chain for reference is Bifrost 2 > Jotunheim 2 > big planars

Thank you for that info I really appreciate it. I put my order in today, so now I wait…

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INTRODUCTION

I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile. The Bifrost 2 was my first DAC that MSRP’s above the $250 range. That was one reason why I hesitated: it’s difficult to do a meaningful review with the first product used to enter a new performance tier; context is lacking. I’ve since added the Denafrips Ares II to my collection – another DAC that costs close to the same as BF2 – and added a bit more context. With that added component and after playing around with several DACs under $200 I think I’m ready to give more meaningful thoughts on BF2 (and Ares!). The context is still somewhat limited, so I’ll focus in large part on what is gained by making the jump for <$250 DACs to this $699 DAC. My best DAC prior to BF2 was the SMSL SU-8 (I do own a Modius, too, but that arrived after the BF2 thanks to COVID shipping hell).

TL;DR

If you’re coming from DACs that are $250 or less, the Bifrost 2 is a gamechanger. Now move along.

I’m A Schiithead

I had this same subheading in my Jotunheim 2 review. I’m putting a similar section here because I think it’s important for reviewers to be upfront with readers/viewers about what their tastes and biases are. In this case I need to say that I like Schiit as a company. I like their mission. I like the way they run their business. I also really like some of their products. In a spoiler for the rest of the review, the BF2 is one of those products that turned me into a Schiithead. The Asgard 3 and Modius are two other products that turned me into a Schiithead. However, I do my best to not be a shill and I think my Jotunheim 2 and Magnius reviews show that I don’t shy away from sharing where I think Schiit doesn’t reach their own standards or the market’s standards.

FEATURES & BUILD

The BF2 is a 699USD modular DAC built around a multibit (MB) DAC chip. This multibit chip is essentially a resistor ladder (R2R) on a single microchip (as opposed to a true R2R which has discreet resistors in a ladder-like configuration). The MB chips Schiit uses are actually intended for medical instruments and are thus rather pricey. It should also be mentioned that the BF2 does NOT decode DSD. It maxes out at 24 bit/192 KHz PCM decoding. If you have 500 SACDs that may be factor. Many computer music player apps have pretty good DSD-to-PCM conversion these days, however, and I also recently bought a Sony UBP-X800M2 disc player that does a very decent job with DSD-to-PCM conversion. So, IMO you shouldn’t summarily dismiss the BF2 if you have a robust DSD collection, but I certainly understand if it makes you hesitate.

The BF2 has modules for the USB input and the analog outputs, leaving room for future upgrades. The stock configuration (reviewed here) has a USB input module that Schiit has named Unison USB, spdif inputs in the form of RCA coaxial and Toslink optical inputs that are permanent, and an output module with unbalanced RCA connections and balanced 3-pin XLR connections. The front panel has 3 LEDs to indicate input selection and a single button to cycle through the 3 inputs. There’s also a small hole for the remote control sensor; which means there’s also a remote control! The remote has a mute button, input selection arrows, and a phase invertor button. That last bit means the BF2 can invert the signal phase if ever a listener runs across a recording that is phase-inverted. I’ve never had to use it, FWIW. The BF2 has the classic Schiit aesthetic which I don’t need to describe because the top of this thread has a picture of it!

The original remote control that came with my unit had a defect. The button panel was not attached to the metal handle:

The 4 small, round holes in the metal handle are supposed to contain magnets that hold the button panel on the handle and allow the remote to adhere to the BF2’s chassis for safekeeping. To Schiit’s credit they sent me a new remote within 48 hours of my informing them about this issue. The new remote works just fine.

Singing in Unison

What is this Unison USB? It’s Schiit’s in-house solution to a number of connection issues that can happen when audio is transmitted from a computer to a DAC via USB. I don’t know all of the engineering behind it but supposedly reduces jitter and noise and generally makes for a more stable connection. I heard somewhere that Schiit spent over 2 years developing the tech. It was initially introduced in their TOTL Yggdrasil DAC and has now filtered down into Gungnir, BF2, Modius, and even the latest Modi 3+. Windows users should be aware that it only works with Windows 10 (I think. If this is wrong or ever changes please let me know and I’ll fix this line.) To the best of my knowledge Unison works just fine with MacOS. I can’t say if Unison makes a Schiit DAC sound better than DACs from other companies. Schiit’s multibit and delta-sigma (Modius & Modi 3+) chip implementations are also unique to Schiit and make it hard to tell if sonic characteristics are more because of Unison, chip implementation, or power supply design. However, I’ve found Unison to have a distinct ergonomic advantage: it’s always active!

Because Unison is always active, it’s always software-connected to the computer. Even if one of the spdif inputs are selected, the USB-PC connection remains. Most DACs break their USB-PC connection if a non-USB input is selected. Why is this handy? It makes using exclusive modes more friendly, IMO. Have you ever been listening to music via exclusive mode so you get bit-perfect audio flowing into your DAC? Probably. I mean, you’re reading a very nerdy review about a $700 DAC on a website called HiFi Guides Forum, aren’t you? So, you’ve probably experienced listening to some great music and then thought something like Oh! I should check out the music video for this song! So, you go to YouTube and press play on that music video and you get no sound! And that’s because exclusive mode muted everything but your music app. So you go to the music app and you stop the music and turn exclusive mode off and then you go back to the browser and push play again but you get no sound because exclusive mode was active when you opened that browser tab which means the software did not load an audio device so then you close your web browser and open it back up again and then you navigate back to the music video and push play and you finally hear it and it’s great but then you have to go back to your music app and re-engage exclusive mode again and you finally are back where you started but you’re annoyed that you had to go through all that rigmarole just to switch between two sound-producing applications in the year 2021 deep breath. Yes, that’s an epic run-on sentence that drives English teachers crazy. But it gets the point across, right? Unison makes this a non-issue if you have a computer with spdif outputs! Connect the USB and spdif to the BF2 simultaneously. Set Windows 10 to use the spdif audio output as the default audio device. Then in your music app select USB to use with exclusive mode. Unison USB will allow you to switch between the USB signal and the spdif signal without ever losing the USB connection. It’s great! It’s wonderful! It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread! – is an expression that’s out there that never really made sense to me but oh well. Long story short: Unison USB makes it MUCH easier to use exclusive mode and other sound-making apps simultaneously without having to use multiple DACs. For me, that’s a very cool feature.

SOUND

Test Gear

I bought the BF2 back in November 2020. Since then it has really been my primary DAC. Headphone amps I’ve paired it with include Monolith Liquid Platinum, Cayin HA-1Amk2, Lake People G111, Schiit Asgard 3, Schiit Jotunheim 2, Schiit Magnius, iFi Zen CAN, Massdrop + Eddie Current ZDT Jr., and several budget models. It’s also been connected to my old Onkyo AVR that has a dead HDMI output and is now used as my desktop power amp to power a pair of Definitive Technology SM45 desktop speakers with a Polk PSW-505 sub connected via speaker-level connections. The Headphones I’ve used include HiFiMan Edition X V2, Audeze LCD-2 & LCD-3 (both prefazor), Audeze LCD-X, ZMF Eikon, OG Audioquest Nighthawk, Massdrop + Fostex TH-X00 w/ Lawton Purpleheart chambers and driver mods, Massdrop + Sennheiser HD6XX, Beyerdynamic DT-880 600Ω, and Focal Elegia – oh, and Koss Porta Pros just for the heck of it. So, yeah, a lot of different stuff.

Sound Signature

Yes, DACs have a sound signature even though virtually all DACs measure horizontally in FR graphs these days. It’s really tough for me to say, though. Neutral-warm? The BF2 kinda has that Schiit just-slightly-warmer-and-thicker-and-smoother-than-neutral sound. The sound leans more toward listening enjoyment than analytical.

One aspect of the sound signature that stood out to me right away was the bass. The bass isn’t emphasized from a frequency-response perspective, it’s not elevated, but it has more life to it than any of the budget DACs I’ve heard. There is lots of extension, slam, and impact here. The bass is very active, energetic, quick, articulate, and almost tactile. Headphones, and even my somewhat budget-level Polk subwoofer, sound more in control and punchier in the low end on BF. As a metalhead, and a basshead more generally, I appreciated the increased level of engagement this added bass punch and activity brings.

Detail Retrieval

The BF2 is not a detail monster, focusing more on a smooth presentation. Details are there, though. It’s more resolving with better overall detail retrieval than any budget DAC I’ve heard and introduced me to more details in the songs I know well more often than any other source gear component I’ve used. It’s been really fun to listen to drums. The room reverb has become an expected and normal part of the listening experience now where it was sometimes hardly noticeable with budget DACs. At the same time, BF2 has never struck me as a detail-oriented, clinical/analytical listening experience. For me it strikes a nice balance between resolution and smoothness.

Spatial Presentation

Compared to budget DACs the BF2 has a very wide, vertically spacious soundstage with a decent amount of soundstage depth. It also does an excellent job with imaging and spatial separation. A spine-tingling moment came starting at about 3:27 in Why So Serious? from The Dark Knight soundtrack. In addition to a powerful and deep synthesized bassline (which BF2 turns into a visceral experience) there is a snare drum played somewhat softly in what sounds like a large, empty parking garage or empty gymnasium. With MLP and HexV2, the BF2 sounds like it’s placing that drum several yards in front of me in well-defined location. It’s the first time I’ve ever noticed that much overall depth in that recording, or even just the immensity of the space where that drum was recorded, for that matter. MLP + BF2 + HexV2 put me seemingly in-the-church where Peter Hurford recorded his rendition of Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D-Minor (AKA Dracula’s theme). The same combo put the entire Eagles band in a semicircle in front me during the vocal harmonies of Seven Bridges Road. It was almost as if I could point to where each singer’s mouth was relative to microphone. Chills.

If a Bifrost 2 Falls Over in the Woods With No One Around, Does it Still Have Great ‘Timbre’?

Yes.

Above I mentioned how the bass activity and impact stood out to me immediately. Right there with the bass was the timbre. Wow. My experience with Schiit’s source gear generally is they tend to have great timbre for their price points and the BF2 is no exception. Human voices sound closer to human voices, guitars sound closer to guitars, pianos sound closer to pianos, cymbals sound more like cymbals,…, than any other DAC I’ve had come through my system so far. Part of the reason the experiences described in the Spatial Presentation system were so spine-tingling was because the timbre was right there to keep helping with the illusion of reality. Does the BF2 sound lifelike? No. Does the BF2 sound more lifelike than any other DAC I’ve spent any significant time with? Yes.

Back to Unison for a Moment

As mentioned earlier it’s hard to say if Schiit’s Unison USB solution sounds better than other USB implementations like XMOS because there are so many other variables at play. However, it is quite clear that BF2 sounds best from its USB input, and the difference isn’t small. I struggle to hear the difference between BF2 and Modius when BF2 is getting a spdif signal. BF2 still sounds better than Modius, but it’s more difficult to hear its superior performance. From USB, though, BF2 really opens up and sounds wonderful and it’s readily apparent it’s in a higher performance tier than Modius. Did you notice when I spoke of Unison above I said use USB for the exclusive mode duties and spdif for the other stuff? It would work just as well from an ergonomic perspective to set it up the opposite way. However, your music won’t sound as good through the spdif connection.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER DACS

Simply put, if you’re hanging out with DACs that run $250 or less, the BF2 is going to sound better than them in just about every way. Detail? Yes. Timbre? Yes. Soundstage? Yes. Imaging? Yes. And so on… It’s not exactly a small jump either. The BF2 came along and lifted the performance of my entire system considerably. All my headphones, headphone amps (even the cheap ones!), and my speakers just had new life breathed into them. Some may be wondering why I made such a jump, $250 to $700 is big and there are a lot of $400-500 DACs out there. Sources I trust say that there’s a bit of “DAC hole” between $250 and $700 and if you want to really experience a jump, that’s the gap to span. I haven’t heard any $400-500 DACs, but I can confirm the $250-to-$700 performance gap was far, far bigger than I expected.

What about similarly priced DACs? I can give a few thoughts about BF2-Ares II comparison. They are essentially equals from a technical standpoint. To say one is better than the other at any particular aspect of performance in no way means the other one is bad. They’re both really strong across the board and easily better than $250 DACs. It’s really about preference between the two. I think BF2 has better bass control and slam, slightly more natural timbre, and while it takes time to tease it out, is slightly more resolving/has better detail retrieval. The Ares II has better staging, sounding both a little wider and deeper to my ear. That passage from Why So Serious? mentioned earlier sounded even more cavernous and the drum further away from me with Ares II than BF2. I think the Ares’s imaging was a little sharper in the same passage too. The Ares II, especially in non-oversampling mode, also has a more energetic presentation to it in every frequency region except the deep bass that can sound more engaging, or even fun, than BF2. This energy can present initially as being more detailed, however I think the BF2 actually draws more out of the recording than Ares II, it just does so with a more laidback presentation. From a features standpoint, the Ares II offers more decoding options than BF2 by offering PCM up to 1536KHz (which, why?) and DSD up to (way-more-than-ever-needed)X. So, if you have 500 SACDs and native DSD decoding is important to you, that might be a deciding factor. Ares also has 2 optical and 2 coaxial inputs and to my ear less of a difference in sound quality between spdif and USB. However, for me on most material that I listen to BF2’s bass and timbre with still very good spatial performance make it my preferred DAC between these two. BF2 is the one I use for critical listening and exclusive modes more often. The Ares has become the DAC I lean to while working because its bigger sense of space fatigues me less quickly over longer periods of time; I just feel less claustrophobic with it after wearing headphones for hours. I want to emphasize though that neither BF2 or Ares II are bad at anything here and neither feel claustrophobic in sound, it’s a question of degree and the differences are slight.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gamechanger.

At least that’s what BF2 was for me after coming from SU-8 and iFi Zen territory for my DACs. It’s another, much higher performing world. It is really hard to convey the leap in performance here. Many struggle with the question of whether it’s worth spending $700 (or more) on a single piece of source gear when a $200 DAC is already a significant expenditure for most. I can’t answer that for you, but I can say the leap here is likely to be far bigger than you’re expecting it to be. It’s hard to go back, too. Yes, it was pricey, but I regret nothing here. Worth every penny.

Alright, thanks for reading yet another long review, everyone. And enjoy the music! :beers:

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I want to have the BF2 so bad. They say it makes miracles with the RHNP and t1.2nd. But, as you said the jump is big :sob:

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@WaveTheory Thank you! But now my Asgard 3 is giving me a look of longing!

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Thank you. BF2 + A3 is :ok_hand:

Knew you’d say that, damn it, lol.

A great write-up, thanks. As an owner/operator of a Bifrost 2 and Modius, as well as being somewhat of a contrarian, I found myself only nodding in agreement.

The Modius + A3 was a signifgant step up IMO, but when the Bf2 was put into the chain it was like - Oh WOW. It did not hit me at first, it was a couple 3-5 days later, but I was sitting there listening to some of my well known to me tracks in my local library and BAM! I was hearing them like as they were new again - all these wonderful layers of distinct sounds blending together. That’s to me what you described as the Bf2 will tease out those details.

I also appreciated the comparison to it’s closest (available in production) peer, the Ares II. I’m going to pop over and read up on that one now.

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Still no word on my BF2 shipping. They were supposed to ship on Friday. Now it says that they are in stock, but shipping in 7-10 days?

I will just keep checking my emails and hoping.

Oof, that’s rough. Wishing you the best!

Wonderful review! :clap: :clap:

I’ve been flip-flopping between the BF2 and Ares II for the past several months. I knew that my two DACs for the past year or so (SDAC-B and Modi Multibit v2) were the bottlenecks in my system (Liquid Platinum and Marantz MM 7025 [HE-6 drivers, hehe]). I had a taste of the high-end before when I had a weeklong loan of Chord’s Hugo TT2 (MSRP ~$6k) courtesy of TTVJ’s HF loaner program.

The SDAC-B is an enjoyable DAC, but the TT2 blew it out of the water in almost every category except for tonality, as the SDAC-B’s (imo) is pretty damn good on that front without suffering too much digititus. However, the TT2 had better detail retrieval and space/depth in its soundstage. Moreover, there’s that punch, visceralness, or tactility that was clearly several levels above the SDAC-B and the Mimby. I was sad to see the TT2 go, as it made my HE-6’s approach David Maher’s description of the HE-6 in his flagship shootout post from years ago.

Now, hold that thought while I circle back to my BF2 vs Ares II decision. I asked a few here about their opinion between the two and I decided to go with the BF2 because of its supposedly more correct timbre and depth to its soundstage despite not being as wide as the Ares II. Almost as important in my mind was Schiit just being a 45min drive away, so any service or repair can be handled in a relatively straightforward manner. On the other hand, the Ares II would require me to ship the unit back to Vinshine all the way to Singapore and possibly pay both ways ($86 to $100 each way). So warranty service with Vinshine could be $86-$200 out of pocket. So, all of the factors pointed me to the BF2.

I think @WaveTheory did an excellent job describing the BF2, and I have to say that my experience with the BF2 is similar. The most noticeable thing was the presence of tactility from the BF2! Finally, notes had more weight to them. A flamenco guitarist tapping the body of his guitar can be now be heard and felt, somewhat similar to that of the TT2. It has been too long since I’ve listened to the TT2, but the tactility that I missed from it is now happily provided by the BF2 without the $4.8k premium of the former.

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My BF2 is shipping today! I am all excited. :grin:
Hopefully I will have it next week.

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anyone have amp recs that pair well with the bifrost and are good with iems aswell?

Asgard 3? I have used it many times with my iems…pretty impressed with it for being able to considering the power the amp has.

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yeah seems to be pretty good. I am willing to spend in the 500$ or so area so wondering if there might be a good option at that price range too

I have used an Asgard 3 with good success with the Bifrost 2 but recently I moved the A3 to another source chain and I am now using a Jotunheim 2 with the Bifrost and also a Monoprice Liquid Platinum. Both amps are using the balanced out from the Bifrost 2 via an XLR switch. Both of these amps sound terrific and are a good match for the Bifrost 2.

If you are looking for something else, perhaps a Lake People G111? I have not yet heard this amp personally but @WaveTheory just recently did a review of the G111 and discusses some about which DACs he used with it - Bifrost 2 being one of them. You can find that review HERE. I’m sure he could also answer more questions you may have about amp pairings with the Bifrost 2.

Edit: I missed the part about iems. The Liquid Platinum is not a particularly good candidate for iems as the gain is pretty high on that amp, and the volume pot is known to be pretty sensitive.

With the G111, both the Denafrips Ares II and the Soekris dac1321 work really well.

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