Dac: Does anyhting beat the Schiit Gungnir Multibit (Gumby) in the same price range?

Schitt Gungnir Multibit (Gumby): Does anything beat it in the same price range?
Mmmm.. difficult question to answer.

'Different' is easy, but 'better'? That's highly subjective.

In that price range, I like both the Teac UD-503 and Yulong Sabre DA8 MKII (distributed through Grant Fidelity).

If this helps at all (maybe not?), I spent a few hours just now (okay 5 or 6 hours) listening to my Gumby vs. my Aqua HiFi La Voce S2 (with the Gumby having been on for a day and La Voce likewise). I listened to lots of string quartets, Mozart’s piano concertos with Murray Perahia, Boris Berezovsky’s Chopin Etudes, Jan Lisiecki’s Chopin Etudes, Bach trios with yo yo Ma in MQA via Room/Tidal as well as Madeline Peyroux Standing on the Rooftop (such low bass and staging/great recording!) and some Melody Gardot albums along with the requisite Bill Evans audiophile fare:) (Of course! I wanna be legit!)

Impressions on the Gumby (which usually resides in my rarely used headphone system in the office; I prefer speakers and likely always will) are that with it, the soundstage took a step forward; there was more mid-bass punch and the lowest lows (The Peyroux album has got some for sure!) were a bit deeper; the lower registers of piano were more defined in terms of pitch (i.e. not as muddied; more like distinct lower notes) and there was in general more detail on offer overall. Things were just over all more ’specific and precise’ sounding on Gumby than La Voce. First I thought, "man- I shoulda done this shootout before! Maybe I’ll promote Gumby to the Main Stage and send La Voce down to the minors with Tebow!" I see what people are talking about.

But after a few more hours (stayed inside all day:( At least with classical music, despite (because of?) more detail, more accuracy (easier to hear differences immediately in recording venue and quality etc),, better low bass pitch definition and more mid bass ’punch’ when on the recording, I ended up feeling (at least for today!) that La Voce was the more ’livable’ product. I think it was the (comparatively) more forward presentation and insistent low treble/upper mids with Gumby that was a tiny bit wearing after a fashion- though I kept getting pulled back in by the sparkling detail and its superior way with dynamics. Soft to loud was definitely broader in range. Stage width was close- nod might go to Gumby. Definitely better at sussing out details on the extreme stage edge,

Though I missed the punchier, more detailed (but somehow not quite as spacious sounding?) sound of Gumby, I felt like I could relax into the music more when switching back to La Voce after a Gumby session with the same recording. (My neck went ’thank you!’ and my head sunk deeper into couch). At times depending on recording, I was actually getting a bit ’tense’ with Gumby serving the notes- (but my brain was saying ’You must like this! Like this! You’re an audiophile! It’s more detailed... it’s more accurate... You get the idea).

I can totally see now what some people mean by the bit of smearing of sound with even a good NOS DAC like La Voce but this smearing seems to add a touch of what sounds to me like ambience or ’air’ around the proceedings. (I have read somewhere or other; maybe on that site where everyone is best friends with everyone else? that multi-bit DACS like Gumby’s don’t sound as ’spacious’ as some despite having more detail, due to their elimination of pre and post ’ringing’ occurring in technologies like delta/sigma conversion (standard Gumby). Maybe imagine a grand piano in a hall. You sneak onto the stage and strike a high treble note and then another seconds later. With Gumby, the decay seems to die away a bit quicker maybe? There isn’t as much a ’lingering echo’ effect. The first note seemingly ’stops’ more quickly and there is more silence in between notes struck seconds apart.

In any case, the air with La Voce may be an artifact, as it seems clear to me that the Schiit provides a more detailed and dynamic analysis of the recordings I played.
Both DACs seem to have great PRaT and while La Voce is not at all syrupy, it is definitely slightly warmer and as I say, a bit more ummm.... smeared(?) than the Gungnir Multi to my ear, and maybe this is what I’m actually digging (at least with the stuff I listen to). Makes things sound more like a guy playing a big resonant piano in a spacious hall than a precisely done recording session with microphones arrayed just so...

With stadium rock or Jimmy Buffet, or Warren Buffet, or anything hard-driving I’m betting many people will prefer the punchier, more lit-up, precise (that’s definitely the word I’m looking for!) front and center sound of Gumby.

I owned a Chord Hugo for a while btw, and that DAC while extremely detailed and punchy/pacey, ultimately left me cold as I felt it was to the colder side of the rainbow; definitely as Darko tells us, ’brighter’ than Gumby, which, also as Darko says, is in turn ’brighter’ than La Voce. In fact, I sold my Hugo after a few weeks because i couldn’t relax with it. Ironically, it didn’t sound as natural to me as less resolving DACs. Too much ’accuracy" strikes again:) It’s the old ’do you wanna hear everything they did at the recording session or feel the Gestalt of the music that emanated from it?" thing for me.

Incidentally, Gumby does in some regards remind me of my long ago sold Theta DAC in that is has that same great wallop and detail. Makes sense as the same guy is behind it.

So for now- at least for today, i may stick with La Voce S2 as my main room DAC and send Gumby to the ’gon or back to my headphone system. Truly an exciting and detailed and (probably?) more ’accurate’ listen, but I ended up for today feeling like Gumby is a ’viable alternative for some’ to La Voce instead of my champion.

Btw, I also understand now the very few negative things I’ve read online about Aqua DACs (like one bad review and a guy selling his etc). If I came to La Voce after, say, a Chord Mojo or 2Qute or Hugo-- for the first hour I’d probably be going ’wow- warmer! where’s the detail!!’. But ultimately we see where that led my Hugo; out to pasture, while La Voce has a comfortable space in my console.

If you go back and forth between Gumby and La Voce though, the difference isn’t as shocking but it’s pretty darn apparent, and when it hits you and you begin to come to terms with the real gist of it, it seems one presentation will grow on you or the other; depending probably on listening tastes and whether you or your system lean yin, yang or Warren Buffet (who probably couldn’t give a crap about any of this despite being able to buy literally our entire small-niche hobby;)

PS- I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow as to which DAC I prefer. Maybe I’ll come to my senses. Accuracy over beauty... Accuracy over beauty... accuracy over....
As an addendum, for the past few days I’ve left both DACs fired up and have continued to switch periodically from Schiit to Aqua, Aqua to Schiit and so forth (I’m currently listening to the Beethoven Cello and Piano sonatas with Simone Dinnerstein on piano) and I’ve noticed a potentially very interesting thing about La Voce in so doing. This is something that I’ve only seen mentioned in the review of the Aqua La Scala II DAC on The Ear website; namely that La Voce too seems to have a different sonic character depending on input. Whereas my Gumby has no XLR input to test this theory with (I’ve been using a Canare impedance converter from XLR to BNC out of my AES converter), my Aqua DAC does. So previously I had been switching back and forth between the XLR input of my Aqua and BNC input of my Gumby. (It is pretty well accepted that BNC or RCA on Gumby sound better than USB and that is immediately apparent to me, even when using Recovery re-clocker or my ifi USB 2.0 with split USB cable etc). In any case, Aqua’s XLR digital input sounds a bit warmer and more expansive than it’s own BNC input (using same impedance converter with BNC cable) and the leading edges of percussion and stringed instruments are not quite as intense. In other words- it may be slightly warmer and less forward with perhaps a touch less impact, but a spacier stage. (Incidentally, The Ear guy preferred the balanced input on the La Scala to BNC and settled down with that one and I think I will too). It’s a small difference, but one that seems consistently audible despite varying program material. Thus, we come to the (hopefully) relevant upshot; La Voce sounds closer to Gumby when you use La Voce’s BNC input! When you use XLR digital input, then La Voce is immediately warmer and more rounded than Gumby. The delta is greater. On the whole, regardless of input, I am still preferring La Voce’s expansiveness and slightly airier/bigger-boned and maybe even more grainless presentation of voices and strings and piano, though Gumby remains punchier, with more mid bass drive and a slightly more upfront character. Image outlines with Gumby are also more exactly drawn. For example, with Gumby driving, Center stage is definitely right friggin’ razor sharp smack dab center stage! La Voce is not quite as sure where the EXACT middle is:)
In any case, I should have been comparing BNC input to BNC input all along, but who knew the XLR and BNC inputs on La Voce would sound different!? Oh yeah-- that reviewer from The Ear did! :) That guy has a good ’Ear.’ I’m here all night folks! Here all night! ;)
I mention this because it may be well to keep this sonic input difference in mind when you read comparisons of DACs like the Aqua to the Schiit gear. This may also be how one guy hears it ’like so,’ and another hears it as ’less warm’ or more this way or that way. Then of course, this being the interweb, they call each other’s mommas names. Inputs here can and do make a difference especially in such subtle back and forth comparisons and it seems this might even be enough to sway someone one way or the other, especially on short-term listening, Now my apologies if you know this, and I certainly had an idea about it, but this particular DAC-off drove this point home for me much more poignantly; hence this addendum! Sir yes sir! Just trying to serve my community and be the best Audiogoner I can be, sir!  Now what was that about my momma!!???