So, what the heck is a DAC and why do I need one?
Man, if you’re asking this question, you may be in the wrong place. But to keep it simple: if you trust your music to be faithfully reproduced by a $2 floor-sweeping D/A IC that the overworked laptop designer threw in as an afterthought on a motherboard swimming in gigahertz noise, more power to you.
So, what’s so special about your DAC?
It’s upgradable, which means it’s virtually future-proof, and it’s cheap, which means you don’t need a second mortgage to buy it.
So what about these here upgrades you’re talking about?
Bifrost can have its Analog Output Card or USB Card upgraded. We’ve already announced our first two upgrades: Bifrost Uber, which is a Gungnir analog stage in a Bifrost chassis, and a 24/176 capable USB input card. These can be ordered in the “upgrades” section of the site.
How about DSD?
We will have DSD solutions for all of our DACs in the near future.
What’s a Bifrost Uber?
A Bifrost Uber is a Bifrost with Gungnir’s more sophisticated analog output stage. It ups the performance of the Bifrost pretty significantly. And, since Bifrost is upgradable, you can turn any Bifrost, old or new, into a Bifrost Uber—or order it that way to start.
Why aren’t there any balanced outputs?
At this price point, balanced lost to upgradability. If you want balanced outputs, we have Gungnir, which has real hardware balancing and hardware summing for the single-ended outputs.
I heard about this upsampling stuff, where they take 16/44.1 and magically make it into 24/192. Does your DAC do that?
Not just no but hell no. None of our DACs will ever do sample rate conversion. Our goal is to perfectly reproduce the original music samples, not to throw them away and turn everything into a mystery-meat soufflé. Sample rate conversion destroys all the original samples. What goes in isn’t what comes out. We worked hard on a microprocessor-controlled, bit-perfect clock management system to ensure that all the original music samples going into Bifrost are delivered to the D/A converter, whether you’re running 16/44.1 or 24/192, rather than cheaping out and throwing in a sample-rate converter so we could use a single clock.
Well, hey, you may be delivering bit-perfect data to your delta-sigma D/A converter, but the D/A converter itself doesn’t necessarily reproduce the original samples, but rather a mathematical guess, which is why they call them “successive approximation” D/A converters, what about that?
I had to delete Mike Moffat’s response, because even given our name and flippant attitude, it wasn’t appropriate for public consumption. But, here’s the gist: just because you have to cook your turkey in the microwave doesn’t mean you have to run it through a food processor first.
But what about Advanced Segment, Super Voodoo, WowieMatic 24/32 bit converters out there?
They’re still delta-sigma. And they’re all lying about 24 bits anyway. A true 24 bit converter would have a -144dB noise floor. The best of the delta-sigma D/A converters are missing at least a couple of bits. Yes, even the “32 bit” ones like ours.
I’d rather have a (insert flavor-of-the-month D/A converter IC name here) than AKM, will you make a special board for me?
Do you see a sign that says, “Burger King?”* This ain’t “Have it your way.” Nope, sorry, at this price point, there ain’t no custom.
Well then, how about your USB? Is it fully buzzword compliant? 24/192? Async?
It is absolutely buzzword compliant! Not only is it USB async, but it’s USB 2.0 async that’ll do up to 24 bits/192 kHz sampling rates. It works without drivers on Mac and we provide drivers for Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP.
How does your USB input compare to a fancy USB-SPDIF converter?
We don’t comment on competitive products, but it’s probably better than most of them.
How about Linux?
Although Linux distros that support USB Audio 2.0 standard should work, we do not support or troubleshoot Linux systems.
What are your credentials when it comes to digital products?
Well, other than having one of the “fathers of the DAC,” Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta Digital, as a company partner, who created the first standalone digital preamp, made the first DACs with custom digital filters running on Motorola DSPs, was one of the first to measure and minimize jitter, and introduced the first DTS surround processor, and a test suite that includes one of a handful of the lowest-jitter audio analyzers on the market, well, not much.
Hey, this Bifrost I got clicks! What’s up with that?
It’s just the muting relay, operating normally. We chose a relay rather than relying on the D/A chip’s soft mute, since it’s safer and less sonically invasive.
*What’s with all the food references? Hell, we don’t know. Maybe we were hungry. This is one of the ways you know you’re dealing with real humans here, rather than faceless corporate drones who’d have to have this copy destroyed by a dozen lawyers.