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Bifrost and Mac mini dilemma - suggestions?


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I've just received a Schiit Bifrost -- with the "Uber" analog stage but no USB -- and connected it up with my Mac mini. I'm surprised at the improvement it makes over both the Dragonfly and the built-in DAC in my Marantz amp -- I suspect I'll be happy with the purchase as-is.

 

But, one minor nit: because I failed to do my research correctly, I didn't realize that OS X was limited to 96 KHz output over its optical out. Realistically, I doubt this is a big deal; I suspect my ability to hear any difference will be minimal. (I'd like to think I have good hearing for a guy in his mid-40s, but there are limits.) Even so, this bothers me on general principle. :)

 

So, I think I have three basic options:

 

  1. Send this back to get the USB upgrade after-the-fact.
  2. Get a USB-to-SPDIF converter.
  3. Stop whining and be happy.

 

I'm wondering if anyone with more experience with these -- the Bifrost's USB in particular -- might suggest. If I went with the second option, I'd be reticent to spend more than $150, given that that's the price of the USB upgrade...

Life was so much cheaper when I couldn't hear a difference between these things.

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Option 3, unless it turns out optical itself is sub-optimal. If it makes you feel any better, I own a USB/coax converter that "only" goes to 96kHz. My hearing goes to 17kHz, if a mosquito flies into my ear canal.

 

96kH is overkill in most respects.

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I agree with wg, the Bifrost does wonderfully with native bitrates going in; *if* you have very little music above 96kHz, why bother? Sure, clocking is a little bit better with USB, but consider this: the device sold in the thousands, is truly built to last, is a joy to use, and someday *will* be offered a fancy upgrade with DSDx2,x4, etc. ability. THEN get yer USB. Changing out the input module is easy except for lining up and re-inserting the 3 LEDs in front; you need to be creative with that. (Bend their leads forward a bit.)

Mac Mini 2012 with 2.3 GHz i5 CPU and 16GB RAM running newest OS10.9x and Signalyst HQ Player software (occasionally JRMC), ethernet to Cisco SG100-08 GigE switch, ethernet to SOtM SMS100 Miniserver in audio room, sending via short 1/2 meter AQ Cinnamon USB to Oppo 105D, feeding balanced outputs to 2x Bel Canto S300 amps which vertically biamp ATC SCM20SL speakers, 2x Velodyne DD12+ subs. Each side is mounted vertically on 3-tiered Sound Anchor ADJ2 stands: ATC (top), amp (middle), sub (bottom), Mogami, Koala, Nordost, Mosaic cables, split at the preamp outputs with splitters. All transducers are thoroughly and lovingly time aligned for the listening position.

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You knew you were gonna get differing opinions, right? :)

 

I had a Bifrost. With a MacBook Pro I liked USB *much* better than optical. I also liked the ability to play files at 192k resolution and to use software upsampling to that resolution. Miska, a developer who comments here, says the chip in the Bifrost works well with software oversampling. Oversampling in software avoids some oversampling steps in the DAC, which can result in improved sound. I thought it did with the Bifrost.

 

If they still offer the option of installing the upgrade yourself, it is not at all difficult and saves you some money.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> ISO Regen -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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Boy am I gonna get shot for this... but why not trade it in for a $189 iFi iDSD Nano? (grin) That has USB that goes up to at least 192k, and handles Quad Rate DSD256. (grin) All natively.

 

If you really love the BiFrost though, get the iFi iDSD anyway, as it makes a bonzer USB2S/PDIF converter, so long as you can take a CoAxial output. :)

 

IFI NANO iDSD DAC at Music Direct

 

 

-Paul

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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You knew you were gonna get differing opinions, right? :)

 

I had a Bifrost. With a MacBook Pro I liked USB *much* better than optical. I also liked the ability to play files at 192k resolution and to use software upsampling to that resolution. Miska, a developer who comments here, says the chip in the Bifrost works well with software oversampling. Oversampling in software avoids some oversampling steps in the DAC, which can result in improved sound. I thought it did with the Bifrost.

 

If they still offer the option of installing the upgrade yourself, it is not at all difficult and saves you some money.

 

I as well prefer the sound via USB on the Bifrost. In my case I bought my Bifrost without USB and before the Uber was available and over time have added both. Initially I was using S/PDIF and optical but I can say the USB is superior.

 

I would just buy the USB board and do an at home install, you will not find a better USB solution for the Bifrost with the same price.

JRiver -> NAD M51 -> Questyle CMA800R -> HD800 - LCD-X

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Differing opinions are great. :) I think I'll hold off on doing anything for the time being, but might upgrade the USB when I feel like I have another $100 to spare.

 

I'm using software upsampling already on CD-quality (and AAC) files, using Audirvana Plus. (I'm 99% sure that I'm using SRC settings I got from a thread here somewhere, actually.) I'll have to play around with that some more; on the Dragonfly it was one of those things that fell into the "I think this is fractionally better but I am not 100% sure I am not imagining it" categories. The difference between the Dragonfly and the Bifrost, though, was... surprisingly unsubtle.

 

Paul, I shall keep the iFi Nano in mind for a headphone amp, possibly -- the Bifrost is in the living room, and the Dragonfly has been moved to my "home office" setup with a pair of Grado SR225e headphones I just got. (I'm considering the Modi/Vali pairing for that, too, on the possibly unfounded premise that a tube amp might work really well with the Grado sound combined with the reality that I'm not likely to spend too much on a headphone amp because that way lies another dozen or so rabbit holes to tumble down.)

Life was so much cheaper when I couldn't hear a difference between these things.

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