It is no secret that I have been a big fan of Mike Moffat and his DAC designs over the years. Way back when, near the infancy of digital playback, I purchased a Theta Digital DS Pro Basic DAC. Hooking that up via the coax digital output of my Phillips CD player was a revelation. Loved the deep bass and dynamics that it brought to CD playback. That unit, upgraded to the blue light special in the early ‘90’s brought me years of enjoyment. I still own it and it still works great and is used as a back up if my current DAC goes in for an upgrade. When I learned of Mike’s involvement with Schiit, I got into computer based audio with Schiit’s then flagship DAC, the Gungnir and upgraded that to multibit status before moving up the ladder to the current flagship, the Yggdrasil or Yggy for short. Every upgrade resulted, at least to these ears, in a sonic upgrade. It was therefore of interest when I heard on a Schiit livestream that Mike had developed two new analog boards for the Yggy which have now been released as the Yggy Less is More or LIM and the More is Less or MIL. The original Yggy with the analog 2 board has been rechristened the OG and is still available.
Given the current chip shortages which are plaguing the audio as well as the automotive market, it should come as no surprise that Schiit would be moving on from the 20 bit Analog Devices chips used in the Yggy. What was surprising was that the two new boards available for the Yggy would be Texas Instrument chips and that one would be “only” 16 bits and that both would be cheaper that the Yggy OG. In fact the LIM is a cool $400.00 cheaper. For those interested in a deep dive on the differences between the three “flavors” of Yggys currently available, please check out Chris Connaker’s thorough article recapping his experiences at the blind listening test Schiit conducted of the three DACs (link).
After reading Chris’ article and those of the other participants in the test I was intrigued by the LIM and requested a review sample. With the help of Chris and the wonderful Denise Martin at Schiit I was provided with a sample. What follows is my impressions after hours of listening in my system as well as a couple of hours of listening in a friend’s system and how it compares to my Yggy OG which has been providing me with years of musical enjoyment.
Before getting into my impressions, a thought I would describe my system. I have a dedicated listening room in the attic which used to function as my kids‘s playroom. During a remodel the back wall was blown out and a full shed dormer was built to enlarge the space for music. It is roughly 24’ x 18’, with a knee wall behind the speakers and a gently sloped ceiling to the back wall. My system is fed with two dedicated 20 amp circuits, one for the amp and the other for the rest of the electronics. I am using Oyaide recepticals and faceplate for the system. The speakers are Vandersteen Model 3 Signatures which have been my long time reference speaker. My amp is the fully modded McCormack/SMc Audio DNA-1 which I have written about here at AS (link). The pre amp is a Spectral DMC 5. The speaker cables and interconnects are from Audioquest and date back to the ‘90’s. Yes, I have sampled newer and more expensive cables and the Audioquest cables work just fine. All power cords and power distribution are from Essential Sound Products which I have have also written about previously (link). The Yggys were both fed from a MacBook Air via an Oyaide Neo D usb cable into the Yggys’ Unison USB input.
Unboxing the LIM, it was clear that Schiit was using the same casing as the OG. The only difference visible was the LIM sticker on the back. Below are pictures of the two DACs on my rack and a view of the rear of the LIM. The difference in color noted in the top picture is solely the result of my poor photography skills.
I had spent the night before the LIM was too arrive listening to several recordings that have been in heavy rotation over the years so they would be fresh in my mind. When the LIM arrived it went right into the system. I powered it on for an hour or so while I had some lunch. When I sat down to do some serious listening, one thing was readily apparent and that was that the LIM sounded great right out of the box. While the LIM sounded a little better the next day, I can’t say I heard any further improvement thereafter. So, the long warm up period that was suggested for the OG apparently is no longer required for the LIM at least. That, in and of itself, is an improvement.
As for the sound differences between the LIM and the OG in my system, the LIM was the clear winner. Yes, less is apparently more. When I was a kid we used to hear about the importance of the 3 R’s, reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Well with the LIM, we have a new set of 3 R’s, resolving, relaxing and right. While the two DACs share a common sound, clear differences are heard in direct comparisons between the two. The LIM has a smoother sound. It is less edgy in the treble. The midrange is a tad warmer. The music, and I hate to use this term, seems to arise out of a blacker background, one that has less noise. Perhaps this reduction in noise results in the sonic improvements I hear.
Surprising to me was the bass, which dug deeper while being tighter and more detailed. While I did not perceive any changes to the width or depth of the soundstage, there was greater separation and clarity between the instruments within the soundstage. In reading some of the accounts of the blind test, I was concerned that the LIM was rolling off the highs. As far as I am concerned, it is not. The top end has the requisite bite where it should. Where you hear the differences most is with the sound of a piano. A friend who came over to listen was taken with the overall clarity and detail of the sound without any hint of brightness, especially in the upper registers. The sound of chords is more distinct, clearer, less, shall I say, blurred? The piano just sounds right. The same is true of the sound of cymbals and hi-hats. They just sound right, more like the real thing. The kick drum has more shall I say it, kick, without sounding bloated. A great example of this the track Unsquare Dance from the the one mic recording The Feen Brothers from Sound Liaison (link). It is very dynamic, punchy and right there in front of you. The same for the XRCD version of Duke’s Big 4 (link) which I use as a reference. Bam, bam, bam goes Louie Bellson’s kick drum of the third track, The Hawk Talks. Just more meat on the bones than with the OG which is no slouch in this department.
Another instrument where you hear the improvement with the LIM is a Hammond B3, which just has more of that warm organic tube sound of the real thing. As for bass, listen to the track Starbuck Blues from The Ray Brown Trio, live at Starbucks (link). I was fortunate to see Ray Brown perform once in a club and through the LIM, this is what I remember his bass sounding like, even more so than through the OG. Meaty, rough and gruff. Ditto for the track C.C. Rider from Overseas Special featuring Monty Alexander on piano, Herb Elłis on guitar and Ray Brown on bass. Through the LIM, you hear even more of the club ambiance in this live recording. Please check this one out if you haven’t already.
Just to check that I wasn’t fooling myself, in addition to having a friend come over to listen who was familiar with my system and the sound of the OG, I took the LIM to a friend’s place who has a very different system. While the systems are very different the same sonic improvements rendered by the LIM were apparent there. As much as I have loved the OG, listening to it after the LIM was a bit of a letdown. The LIM is that good and will be my new reference DAC.
To summarize, while in some respects, the differences between the sound of the LIM and OG are subtle, added up, they result in a better DAC to me and one that I find more neutral with greater fidelity and that is more engaging. Perhaps the MIL is even more so, but I really have a hard time imagining that it is. For now and for me, the LIM is my DAC of choice. Of course, YMMV.
Manufacturer: Schiit Audio
Model: Yggdrasil Less is More
Documents: Schiit Audio Yggdrasil Owner's Manual
More Info: Yggdrasil Product Page