Today we are talking about the Schiit Audio Yggdrasil “OG”/A2/Unison DAC. There are three different versions of the Yggdrasil currently available, and various permutations over time with different USB solutions and analog boards etc…The three current versions are the “Less is more” “More is less” and “OG.” The “OG” is the original DAC chip configuration, with the second generation (A2) analog boards, and also includes Schiits proprietary USB solution, which is called “Unison.” I have not heard either the “Less is more” or “More is less” versions of the Yggdrasil, but I have actually heard the Yggdrasil with the original “A1” analog board, and Gen 3 USB. Schiit has very recently released the Yggdrasil +, which is simply a new, more streamlined chassis, with a remote control and a non oversampling mode. Everything else remains the same in terms of sound differences across the three available models, as far as I understand. I should note, Schiit has mentioned that the “More is less” version will likely be unavailable sooner rather than later, so if you want a Yggdrasil that is more measurement focused, now would be the time to pick one up. It does appear that the “OG” and “Less is more” will continue to be available.
For the rest of this review, I’ll just refer to the Yggdrasil as the Yggy, as its colloquially known, and all my comments are pertaining to the “OG” A2/Unison version, unless otherwise stated. I did most of my listening for this review with my Boulder 866 with the Yggy acting as the DAC, and also my DIYT2 for use with electrostatic headphones.
The Yggy does benefit from being left on continuously, which has to do with the DAC chips reaching their optimal operating temperature. Over time I do think this aspect has perhaps been slightly overblown, with people saying it takes months of being left on to reach thermal stability. From my experience a few hours seemed to do it, and then maybe some slight changes over the next day or two. With that being said, I’ve ended up just leaving it on, as then you don’t have to worry about it.
The first thing I noticed about the Yggy was its bass response. Being my first long term experience with a Schiit DAC, perhaps this is the “Moffat bass” that people speak about (Mike Moffat being Schiits digital designer, and a pioneer in the field of digital audio conversion.) It came across as being perhaps the most bass, in terms of level, I’ve ever heard a DAC provide. Definitely north of neutral. Big, fat bass. Yet, although it was big and fat, it did retain quite a bit of speed and delicacy when called for. Its not the fastest, most incisive bass I have heard, but I didn’t find myself wanting for more in that area for most types of music. I could definitely see some DACs sounding a bit lean in the low end if you are coming from the Yggy to something more neutral in the low end. One thing I should note is that I didn’t find the low end of the Yggy sounding bloated and overly mushy. This can sometimes happen with the low end being prominent, but the Yggy didn’t go that far or have troubles with that, to my ears.
The mid range, in terms of level, seemed mostly neutral to me. There was a slight sense of harmonic sweetness in the mids, especially the lower mid range. It never really struck me as a very warm sounding DAC, and seemed to have more emphasis on the lows and highs, than the mid range. The slight sense of harmonic sweetness I mentioned in the mids did help with perceived timbre overall, and worked well with jazz and classical music in particular. It helped give a certain sense of “realness” in particular with acoustic instruments across the board.
The highs of the Yggy were also slightly elevated. Less so than the low end, but a very slight increase over neutral. I also found they had a really nice air and somewhat sparkly nature. Although I felt the lows and highs were elevated, I don’t want to give the impression that this is a V-Shaped DAC. It never went that far in my opinion, perhaps the low end does, but the highs are not north of neutral enough to say that the overall signature is V shaped. L shaped perhaps? I’m not sure if that is even a thing. I did feel the upper treble was slightly more emphasized than the lower treble, which is probably why I felt there was a nice sense of air and spaciousness to the treble response.
In terms of technical performance, the Yggy fared incredibly well for a DAC that costs $2699USD. There is a serious amount of value for money with this DAC. The overall detail levels were superb, especially for the cost of the DAC, both micro and macro detail. Though this is fairly hard to describe, it has a good amount of punch and slam, maybe this is also to do with that “Moffat bass” I mentioned earlier. Dynamic swings were handled very capably, though I felt it was much better at the Macro Dynamic side of things, with the tiny micro dynamics side of things being done better by some other DACs. The soundstage of the Yggy was quite wide, and expanded more left and and right, than out in front in terms of how I perceived its staging with headphones.
Schiit Audio’s proprietary USB solution, “Unison” was what I used for most of this review. I did also try the AES, Coax, and optical inputs from a D/D converter. I found the Unison USB to sound best to my ears out of all those options, but at the same time, if you have a particularly good source that you like, it might be better than the Unison USB. For someone like me, using a Laptop as their source, the Unison input is a bit of a no brainer, its a one and done, plug and play solution, that actually sounds better than most AES/Coax sources. With that being said, maybe you have some super CD spinner or similar that sounds awesome through its AES outpit, or similar, and in that case I would use the input that sounds best from your source. For me, and my uses, Unison was the winner. You, and your specific source, may end up having different results.
The build quality of the Yggy seemed great to me. Though the very recently released “+” version does have a slightly more streamlined looking chassis, the original chassis still works very well. Its a fairly heavy and solid feeling piece of gear, and I haven’t had any problems with it at all thus far. It just feels well put together, and like it will last a long time. In terms of build quality, the Yggy gets a thumbs up from me. I also like that Schiit has made black more commonly available across its line up as I do prefer black gear to silver gear. Obviously, it doesn’t effect the sound, and is entirely a cosmetic preference, but the fact it is a more readily available option than it used to be is neat.
In terms of comparisons, I can compare it to the Yggy A1/Gen 3 USB from memory, and also the built in DAC of my Boulder 866, which is an AD1855 based solution, and incredibly capable for a built in DAC.
Compared to the A1/Gen3 Yggy, the A2/Unison seemed slightly warmer, with more bass and more highs. The A1 seemed some what colder sounding, a bit more clinical in nature, though not highly clinical in an overall sense. Detail and resolution seemed quite similar between the two, but perhaps slightly more perceptible on the A1/Gen3 due to its slightly more clinical sound. Dynamics were better on the A2/Unison to my ears. If you find an A1/Gen3 Yggy at a really good price, that might actually be one of the better DAC bargains out there currently, especially if you use a cheap D/D converter to bypass the Gen3 USB by using AES or Coax. The Unison USB does sound much better than the Gen 3 USB did.
Compared to my Boulder 866’s built in DAC, which I did a lot of direct A/B comparisons with. The 866’s DAC is much more neutral. Less bass, and less highs. More even keeled sounding overall. The 866 does outdo the Yggdrasil in terms of overall detail levels, but the Yggdrasil seemed better at Dynamic swings and was also more “fun” to listen to. There was also the slight harmonic sweetness in the midrange that the Yggdrasil has that the Boulder did not have, which was nice with acoustic instruments in particular.
Another DAC that is in a similar price range to the Yggy is the iFi Audio Pro iDSD Signature. Though it has all sorts of features the Yggy doesn’t (Headphone Amp, Tube section etc..) I think I prefer the Yggy in terms of DAC performance. The Yggy is slightly more detailed, slightly less warm, and also better dynamically. If you want the other features like a headphone amp, tube section, etc…that the iDSD Signature has built in, then it is a very good choice, but if you want a pure DAC only option, I would save a few hundred dollars and go for the Yggy.
Overall, the Schiit Yggdrasil A2/Unison “OG” is probably the best DAC for the money at MSRP I have heard. At $2699USD, there are other options on the market, but I think the Yggy really makes a case for itself in terms of how enjoyable it is to listen to. I really loved its bass response, and its technical performance was great for how much it costs. There are better, more technically capable DACs out there, but the ones that I have heard all cost a lot more money, which complicates matters. The Yggy is very, very competent in its overall performance, it is fun to listen to, it doesn’t cost as much as a house, and it is really well built. I would definitely recommend the Yggdrasil if you are looking for a DAC. If you want to save a few hundred dollars, definitely do some reading about the “Less is more” version also, as some people do actually prefer it to the “OG” I have written about in this review. That will be up to you and your ears, but from what I understand it’s pretty hard to go wrong with either version. Good Job Schiit!