Headed by two industry veterans, Schiit is a company that has taken the world of high-end personal audio by storm with their focus on value and commitment to developing game-stopping products.
The original Yggdrasil represented Schiit’s flagship DAC product which had garnered the company a loyal following. Now, the company have further modified the internals to produce a new iteration – the Yggdrasil Analog 2 DAC (which can be upgraded from the original for a cool $550 or sold stock on Schiit’s website). Being a modular design, the company have thought long-term scaling with the ability to upgrade and further add internal components into the mix.
For users unable to listen to the new product, Schiit have recently built the Schiitr retail shop where demos of their product line-up can be tested before purchase in Santa Clarita, California. At a price of $2399, the Yggdrasil represents a sizeable investment but one which the serious audiophile should definitely consider.
Box and design
The Schiit products come well packaged in a large cardboard box. As with all Schiit products, the white cardboard features minimal packaging which exudes class and sophistication. The stack comes with each of their respective power cords (UK, US, Australian or Euro) and a user manual.
Those unfamiliar with Schiit may be a little thrown by their colloquialisms and subversive FAQ section but this has played an inherent part of the company’s charm and appeal. A departure from their nonchalant style however is the design of the Schiit stack which follows an industrial look featuring a brushed aluminum chassis. Perhaps the only critique here would be that the appearance of the Yggdrasil is a little less elegant compared to the Mjolnir 2 though this is primarily due to the former’s size and dimensions.
The build quality is solid and very durable; a real testament to Schiit’s craftsmanship. At 25 pounds, the Yggdrasil would stand tall and proud on any audiophile bookshelf.
As with the original, the Yggdrasil Analog 2 boasts to be the world’s first and only closed-form multibit DAC with 21 bits of resolution. This comes along with a unique filter optimised to retain all original sample material and perform true interpolation. Mike Moffat, head of Schiit’s digital side, has perfected the filter through 5 long years of iterations having used a plethora of mathematicians and engineers to bring the implementation to mass scale.
In addition, the Analog 2 includes many refinements including all new Class A, DC-coupled discrete FET buffer stages and a complete rework of the internal board structure. The resulting sound is said to offer lower noise and distortion along with subjectively better sound.
One constraint though, is that the Yggdrasil does not offer DSD support. This may be a deal-breaker for those whose collections consist a majority of these files. However, Mike Moffat has reasonably argued that DSD makes up less than 0.01% of recorded music and thus would essentially be redundant if incorporated. This is a sensible decision, in my opinion, as a DAC designed around a negligent file format is indeed impractical and costly. One designed to support the majority of formats in music today, however, is a much better solution, practically-speaking.
Build & Features
On the far left of the front panel is a phase invert button along with its own LED indicator; this is helpful for recordings which do not maintain an absolute phase. Adjacent to this are sample rate indicators which highlight what input is coming in. Right now the Yggdrasil only accepts up to 24/192 files so the 8x multiple will never be lit. However, since the product is upgradeable, the future may allow this to happen. The input select button can be found at the center of the product which allows users to cycle through various means of input including USB, AES/EBU, BNC, Coax & Toslink. Finally, the VCO/VCXO indicator is situated on the far right of the device. This LED is also known as the “buy better gear light” which means exactly what it says on the tin. That is, if the source input in the Yggdrasil doesn’t have a good center frequency or if jitter levels are too high for the VCXO to operate then Schiit recommends to buy a better source. The good news is that this really only applies to very old devices and thus is rarely illuminated.
On the rear of the Yggdrasil, there are 2 sets of single-ended outputs which are said to retain much of the same prowess as the balanced portion of the DAC. Adjacent to this, are the balanced outputs which can be connected to other sources with XLR cables. The USB, AES/EBU, BNC & Toslink inputs together with the switch and power input can be found on the right half of the DAC.
The Yggdrasil uses one transformer for the digital power supply and one for the analogue power supply. It is also said to carry “12 separate local regulated supplies for DACs and digital sections”. The total power consumption of the DAC is 35W.
Prior to this review, I was cynical that the original Yggdrasil could be improved upon; it demonstrated how good music could sound with both detail and space. However, the Yggdrasil Analog 2 proved me wrong with an even bigger and more impressive soundscape.
Firstly, while the Yggdrasil demonstrably portrayed great levels of detail and resolution amongst a black background, the Analog 2 appears to better that with more immersive micro and macro-dynamics. The same vinyl natural organic tone, however, has been maintained with a certain added smoothness. For those wishing for a complete laidback tone, may wish to look elsewhere, as the Analog 2 still retains a tastefully precise sound which invokes clarity and depth.
With regards to imaging, the Analog 2 improves on the soundstage dimensions of its predecessor with more of a centre and holographic staging. Transients are fantastic and sonic cues are projected both wide as they are deep. This is one of many of Schiit’s strength, as you are transported to live stage venue with immersion and depth. Particularly impressive, is how natural and organic notes sound while still being full of articulacy and tautness.
Tonally, the Analog 2 impresses with visceral sounding bass and a liquidesque midrange. In Mark Wilkinson’s “The Best Thing”, vocals are intelligible with fantastic reverberation and accurate delivery of guitar strums and piano notes. Similarly, in Stevie Wonder’s “For Once In My Life”, harmonica notes possess bite and height while cymbal crashes decay at just the right speed contributing a realistic instrumental piece.
In London Grammar’s “Wasting My Younger Years”, Reid’s melancholic vocals shine with a full bodied sound amongst the soft play piano and drums. In the band’s “Big Picture”, the Analog 2 renders deep and emotional vocals with fantastic spacing, sonic cue projection and clarity.
All in all, the Analog 2 possesses outstanding tonal balance with exquisite imaging. While other DACs which are overly analytical can be considered too shrill, the Analog 2 infuses detail with musicality which allows users to just lay back and enjoy music for what it is without critically analysing. Like vinyl, the Analog 2 has even more ebb and flow than the original with a thicker note weight leaning more to the original Gen V.
An important point to comment upon is that, in my opinion, like the original, the Yggdrasil Analog 2 sounds best after 24 to 48 hours of burn-in once the components have reached their thermal equilibrium. Mike Moffat also recommends leaving the unit on 24/7 to achieve the best sound, although a cold start is still proficient.
Overall the Yggdrasil Analog 2 represents the pinnacle of Schiit’s innovation and years of experience in the audiophile market. For what it is worth, it also places amongst the best of the best in terms of performance and value for money in what a digital to analogue convertor offers. At $2399, the Analog 2 represents a sizeable investment and one which should not be taking lightly. However, for the budding audiophile who wishes to experience full immersion and the best of what music can be rendered, a listen to the Yggdrasil should not warrant a second thought. With a generous $550 upgradability option plan, true to Schiit’s word, original owners of the Yggdrasil are able to send their device to Schiit’s warehouse for a worthwhile in-house modification. Together with a durable piece of kit and warranty, the Yggdrasil Analog 2 is a highly recommended end-game purchase.
Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2 DAC