New DAC issues


I have been on a steady system upgrade path over the last year and one of the last pieces to be updated is my DAC, a Schiit Gungnir Multibit. I have no complaints with it, but I am always in search of more and better. The majority of my upgrades have been a big success.

I recently purchased a new DAC that shall remain unnamed, I don't want to throw it and the builder under the bus, but it is about a 5x multiple in cost over the Gungnir. I have had the new DAC for four days now, and I have been playing it continuously. When I installed it, I simply unplugged the other DAC and substituted this one, so minimal change. Initial impressions were that it sounded pretty lean and the soundstage was not great, but I figured it would sound better after warming up. There has been some improvement, but it is not significant.

Playing music with the Gungnir in place, bass was plentiful without being overbearing, and very clean. With the new DAC, bass is almost an afterthought. The Gungnir presented a beautiful soundstage and my speakers disappeared. The new DAC presents a good center image, though smaller than the Gungnir, and the speakers are pretty apparent on most tracks. In general, the magic is gone from the music, there is detail in the mids and highs, but not a lot of life.

I expected a different sound of course, but I cannot imagine that this is the way a DAC at this level is supposed to sound. I think that the Gungnir is considered a warmer DAC, but the contrast in this case is extreme. I am wondering if there is either an issue with the unit or somehow a mismatch with my gear. It provides a 3V output vs the Gungnir's 4V, which may make it a little less lively, but 3V is not out of the ordinary.

The rest of my systems is Pass XP-12 -> Coda #8 -> KEF Reference 1. I am in between streamers right now and using my DigiOne/Pi with LPS over RCA SP/DIF. One could question the streamer, but it sounds great with the Gungnir. I had an Aurender N10, but I did not get along with the Conductor software and now have an Innuos Zenith on the way. Connections are all balanced with Wireworld Eclipse 8's, Acoustic Zen speaker cables and an Acoustic Zen digital cable. Power is dedicated and runs through a Furman Elite 20.

I listen mostly to jazz and lower levels and I have always had a full sound, however with the new DAC the system is no longer engaging. Thoughts? Can a DAC just be incredibly lean?

 

 

zlone

I guess, first thing would be to get at least 200 hours on the DAC. Some require more… 300 to 400 or more. Most of my components took 600 hours to get really close to their final sound and did not stop improving until 1,000 hours. This is particularly true with better components. It is really hard to stop one’s self from making early conclusions. Making such a large investment makes instant improvement more gratifying but can often not happen.

 

It would be very helpful to know what your new DAC is. I would not think it represents “throwing them under the bus”… but gives us information on if the direction you took that represents a misstep or is just time to burn in.

I own a Gungnir multibit (office system) and used it as a jumping off point to help a friend buy a Yggdrasil. More recently we upgraded him from the Yggdrasil… which sounded very low end in comparison to +$5K DACs… which it should. Refinement, coherence, and dynamics should come with a better DAC. All aspects should improve… although some DACs compromise the natural / musical sound in search of greater detail.

sometimes price isn't proportional to the quality.

if it does not sound great out of the box, then it is perhaps how it sounds and will sound after few hundreds or thousands of hours or days.

What led you to choose this DAC? Did your dealer recommend it? Did you buy it based on specs? Is it returnable?

If you bought this DAC used, then all bets are off because you don't know its service history.

I'm with Czarivey on this.  

With most component changes I've made, the difference, if any, has been very pronounced, right out of the box.  Usually Wife will comment, one way or the other.

Happened with my Innous Zenith Mk 3, Yggdrasil LIM, and upgrading my Khorns with all new Volti guts.  Even swapping in Hexfred rectifiers to my amp made quite a noticeable improvement.

Likely, with the components mentioned, there was continued improvement with time and temperature, but the majority of the increase in SQ was apparent to me "right out of the box".

Components that did not offer immediate improvement, or improvement that I was struggling to hear, went back.  Couple of DAC's went back, minus restocking fees, which are fair, in my opinion.

 

@zlone was the same streaming device used with both the old and the new dacs. 
dac needs about 200hrs to break in. During this time it can evolve tonally but if the soundstage is only limited to the center image that’s unlikely to improve