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?




Thanks for all the responses, many valid points here. @audphile1 You read my mind and I did try the stock cord, no difference. I agree that price is not a guaranteed indicator of performance, and I have always believed that the Gungnir punches above its cost class. 

Yesterday I received a new power cord that I had ordered and I installed in place of the stock cord on my preamp. In the process I disconnected the interconnects on the preamp side and reseated them. At the same time I moved the preamp output cables over to the other balanced out just to see if something had happened to channel one. Voile, I suddenly had a much fuller sound, with bass.

I spent this morning backing out changes, putting the stock cord back on the preamp, switching back to output one, still decent sound. The cables are all of decent quality, and I had checked that they were firmly seated several times. I cannot explain it. Just the universe deciding I need some egg on my face.

I appreciate all the responses, I put great stock in all the experience in this forum. I will continue the break in process, something I have experienced with other components, and I believe is real. Still not sure I will keep the DAC, time will tell, just glad to be over this issue. Introducing the Innuos next week, and USB, will be a whole new test. Breaking all the rules of limiting changes, but sometimes that is the way it happens.

And for the curious, the DAC is the Merason Reuss. I was hesitant to speak poorly of it since it is so new and this problem was so apparent. I felt it had to be something other than the product itself.


Even Schiit says to play their DACs for about a month before you even listen to them.  I had an Yggdrasil and they were right.  Sounded terrible for the first two weeks of continuous playing.

After 4 weeks it was incredibly good for the money.

Yes, on the break in of the Schitt Yggi+ OG. It is easy to hear this break-in process with my uber detailed RAAL CA-1a heaphone.

The OP stated, "I had not planned on replacing my DAC just yet, but it was very high on my list when I came across it as a demo unit for an attractive price and decided after a few days to pick it up."

The thing is, if this was a "demo" DAC, shouldn’t it already have 200+ hours on it, and isn’t likely to change any going forward? Just a thought.

@dougthebiker -- "Even Schiit says to play their DACs for about a month before you even listen to them."

Do you have a reference for that? I've read Jason Stoddard's book and follow his online missives over at Headfi, and never seen him or Mike Moffat say anything about their gear needing a long break-in. I have a bunch of their gear and have never seen anything in an owners manual, either.

If nothing else, the trial period on their gear is only two weeks long.