Ah, the joys of eBay… I purchased a VMV D1SE last week and was very happy with it. However, I accidentally bought two more DACs this week; a BF2 and Gungnir A2 Multi Bit.
After trying to glean some information from Head-Fi about the specific Gung that I had purchased before it arrived, a forum member was curious how the BF2 and Gungnir MB compared. I’ve just posted my impressions over there but I’m HFG guy! So I thought I’d post this here too:
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I hooked all these DACs up some hours ago but my conclusion was quite easy to arrive at. I’m still fairly new to hifi so I’ll abstain from going into any real detail at the risk of making myself sound like a fool.
PC/FLAC > Douk U2 Pro (temp clocks) > VMV D1SE, BF2 & Gungnir A2 MB > LB MC3 > Kinki THR-1 > HE500, DT880 600 Ohm & HD560s
I had all of the DACs and the amp warm up for about two hours prior to listening. I spent most of the time with my primary music headphone, HE500. The first hour I went between last week’s acquisition, the VMV, and my new Gungnir. It wasn’t immediately obvious to me what was going on but the Schiit sounded “better”, somehow. I started the musical journey with many of my standard test tracks, my favourite Tool track, Lateralus, is always first. The odd bit of Zeppelin followed, a track off Quadrophenia, Careless Whisper, True, some live Count Basie, and then back to some more contemporary stuff, Hyperlandia, some local bands with whom I’m familiar with, etc…
In terms of resolution, it was tricky to separate the Gungnir and the D1. I think I was listening for this at first but my attention was drawn to the smoothness of the Schiit. The primary aspect that became obvious after a few different tracks was the sense of space the Schiit presented. It sounded taller most notably but the layering was more complex on the Gungnir too; this helped with instrument separation, sense of depth, and the sound stage being more believable overall. Two other things were apparent during my listening. The Gungnir had better timbre and seemed more dynamic. Kick drums and snare drums were more slammy on the Gungnir. The sense of space that the Gung presents helped me make up my mind fairly quickly that it was the DAC to beat, but the additional impact really surprised me. I thought there was going to be more of a difference in timbre between the Schiit and the VMV but it was pretty close, with the Multi Bit ahead. Though, I purchased the D1SE as it has a reputation as be an excellent allrounder, so it does make sense to me taking that into consideration.
So, I added a few more tracks to my playlist, replaced the VMV with the BF2 and went right back to Tool. The differences between the Gungnir and Bifrost weren’t immediately obviously. Tonally, I was expected them to be fairly different. From many of the comments on this thread, the Gungnir A2 has a reputation for being more neutral sounding. I’m not sure whether I’m getting this confused or that the change in the output stage is more noticeable on the DS Gung, but this is a MB model. I know a lot more about what the BF2 is supposed to sound like - ‘fun’, ‘flavoured’, ‘thunderous and dark’, ‘engaging’, ‘exciting’. Though, I found both of these piece of Schiit to sound tonally similar - engaging is the word I’d use. However, what really didn’t take me long to discover was the difference in resolution. The BF2 was lacking. I was initially surprised when I noticed this because, as I mentioned above, I’m fairly new to hifi and am always sceptical that I will be able to hear differences between DACs and ever more expensive amps, etc… Though, as I found, the difference in resolution between the two didn’t take long to identify. I think I remember hearing a reviewer say that this was one of the aspects that the BF2 isn’t competitive in in this price range. This makes me a little more confident in my assessment. I didn’t go as far in my comparisons between the Gungnir and BF2 after noticing the difference in resolution; I just sat back and enjoyed my music through the big boy, occasionally switching back to the Bifrost to confirm my impressions.
These three DACs all sound brilliant, but the Gungnir MB beat out the other two in one way or another from what I’ve heard today. In my mind, this Gungnir sounds like the love child of these other two DACs. What matters to me most, and what pay particular attention to when critically listening, is drum presentation. I’m a drummer. I restored vintage drums in a past life and studied sound engineering at university many years ago; my attention there almost solely on drum recording and production. I mention this as I wished to caveat everything I’ve said with that so as to highlight that I put far too much stock in drum presentation in my appreciation of audio gear so your mileage may vary. Though, I hope others will find what I’ve said useful so they too don’t have to buy several DACs a week to find what they’re looking for.
TLDR: Gungnir MB wins.