Denafrips Terminator //// Schiit Yggdrasil
This review is an evaluation of each DAC and a comparison between them. The Schiit Yggdrasil is the A version with the Gen5 USB board upgrade. I plan to send it in for the analog B board upgrade, pending more owner feedback on the benefits of this upgrade. The Denafrips Terminator is current stock. Draft Version: 3/5/2018 Evaluation Concluded: 2/25/2018 METHOD My methodology IS NOT bench rigorous, nor was/is it meant to be. This is a subjective comparison and evaluation. Input / Output: Digital: USB In. Analog: XLR Out. I believe the process was Fair to both components and was what I could Reasonably Achieve (for example, SAME position on shelf, footers, isolation platform, cabling, tracks, etc.). I am the owner of both DACs and have no affiliation with Denafrips or Schiit or their agents. Items of note are listed below. - Both DACs were continuously energized except for an approximate one minute period when I switched between DACs. USB and IC cable length restrictions, and not having an equivalent extra PC, necessitated having to swap each DAC out.
* (See Below) - Volume differences were addressed using an SPL App at the listening position at the same height as my ears. Average SPL over the track length was generally the same i.e. 0dB / +1dB difference with a max difference of +1dB favoring the Yggy. Peak SPL was mostly 0dB in difference with the exceptions being +1dB, again favoring the Yggy. I had to adjust volume on the Pass XP-20 by an additional +2 clicks to +4 clicks for the Yggy to even out volume levels. The Pass XP-20 was also set at equal L/R channel Volume/Gain, throughout. ** (See Below) Note: The SPL APP was run through the full duration of EVERY single track listened to, to make sure volume levels were as close as possible. Due to variances between tracks, I conducted the test sequence only after equal volume levels were achieved. - Listening (generally) averaged in the low 70dBs across the length of most tracks with peaks of 87dB - 90dB Minimum volume was trickier to establish due to inconsistency in music and meter start timings. Low to mid 40dBs is an approximation. Ambient 'noise' in the room registered in the mid 30s to low 40s. Note: I devoted a lot of time to volume issues because of the feedback from Audiogon Members on the Thread 'Best Practices when Conducting a DAC Comparison.' Thank You to those Members. - The Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4s allow for a Red or Blue Tuning Module. I used the Blue Tuning Module for both DACs. This favored the Yggy as it's sound quality and performance were markedly better via the Blue Module. I find the Terminator to do well with both tuning modules; I did not try any Blue/Red combinations. - The Synergistic Research ICs were ground to a wall outlet via their base grounding cable/plug. - The Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF were ground to a Shunyata Venom PS8 Power Distribution Strip (wall outlets are best but none were free). - I had previously conducted a six USB cable shootout and chose the Stealth USB as my top choice. Most of the shootout was conducted before I had the Terminator DAC in system; with the remainder being conducted before it was fully broken in. In other words, my USB cable choice was made based on optimal sound performance with the Yggy in the chain. - My more recent IC cable comparison was conducted with the fully broken in Terminator in the component chain as the primary DAC, but was also checked and confirmed with the Yggy in the chain. This evaluation resulted in my choosing the Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4 XLR ICs over my Cardas Clear Reflection XLR ICs and the loaner Audience Au24 SX XLR ICs. - All components are factory stock with no modifications. I am also using the Pass supplied DIN-25 umbilical to power the XP-20 from it's power supply. - All components were fully broken in. *To make sure the Yggy was not disadvantaged by powering it off for under a minute at a time, I also ran it overnight with full signal through to the speakers. After over nine hours of run time, there were no differences in outcomes (and my findings) after running a few tracks and re-comparing to the Terminator, which was energized but did not have signal running through it over the same nine hour period. ** The SPL App was used as a proxy and therefore is an approximation vs using a fully calibrated SPL Meter or measuring at the speaker binding posts; my goal being approximate equivalency. GENERAL SYSTEM INFORMATION Components: - Tidal / Roon - source / software /// Windows 10 / Android - Small Green Computer sonicTransporter AP - Roon Core. - Sonore Signature Rendu SE - Roon Renderer. - DENAFRIPS Terminator /// Schiit Yggdrasil A (Gen 5 USB) - PASS Labs XP-20 > PASS Labs XA-30.8 - Tekton Design Double Impacts Special Edition (SE) Cabling: - Triode Wire Labs 'The Obsession' PC loom - SOtM dCBL-CAT7 > iSO-CAT6 Filter > Black Cable [From Netgear Network Switch > Sonore Signature Rendu SE] - All other LAN cables: Supra CAT8 - Stealth USB > Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 4 XLR ICs > Audience Au24 SX SC
Power: - P.I. Audio UberBUSS Power Distribution (Furutech NCF(R) series) - HDPLEX Linear Power Supply - Akiko Audio Corelli Passive Power Conditioning
Isolation: - Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF - Ingress Engineering RollerBlocks - Anvil Turntable Footers - TAOC platforms w/ Herbie's Giant Fat Gliders Room: 19 Ft Wide X 26 Ft Long X 9 Ft High (5.8 M Wide X 7.9 M Long X 2.7 High) [Partial divide at the 13 foot mark] Suspended Hardwood Room is untreated but is naturally balanced (that is, neither live nor dead) Speaker Placement: Front Wall is the 19 Ft (5.8M) Section 6 Ft (1.8M) from Front Wall to Speaker Front 5 Ft (1.5M) from Side Wall to closest Speaker Side 8.5 Ft (2.6M) between L/R speaker Woofer to Woofer centre 9 Ft (2.7M) to Listening Position Slight Toe-In Speakers are isolated with Herbie's Threaded Giant Fat Gliders, sitting on a TAOC platform, which itself is isolated with another set of Herbie's Giant Fat Gliders Speakers have two rear ports, one each behind each woofer (both open, i.e. not plugged). I have placed thick cotton curtains 2 Ft (0.6M) behind each speaker. MUSIC SELECTION and ADDITIONAL METHODOLOGY All tracks were listened to in their entirety (except for two tracks -- length noted in parentheses) and in the order listed (See Below). Sequence of Listening (for each track) by DAC: Denafrips > Schiit > Schiit > Denafrips. All tracks played were adjusted for volume to be equal for each DAC. I monitored volume level, made gain adjustments to ensure volume equality and continuously monitored volume levels in the background to confirm this. I was sometimes interrupted -- and when I was, I restarted the process for the track. Each track was listened to four times, once volume equality was established, for the comparison. Due to the volume adjustment process and interruptions, some of the tracks were played up to eight times, six times being the baseline. This critical portion of the evaluation took over 14 hours of active listening / setup time / note taking over a three day period. The music below is a selection encompassing strings, percussion, Acoustic, World, Fusion, female voice, Jazz, Electronic, spoken word, massed choral, Religious, New Orleans Rock/Funk, male voice, same artist when young and old, etc. It isn't comprehensive, but I believe it is varied enough and allowed each DAC to strut it's stuff. I am intimately familiar with all tracks with the exception of 'Right Place, Wrong Time' and 'Lazarus Man'. All Files are Tidal FLAC 44.1kHz 16bit 2Ch. No oversampling, additional filters, or DSP applied. Tracks: - Entre Continentes by Renaud Garcia-Fons. Album: 'Arcoluz' - Golden Rust by Robert Miles / Trilok Gurtu. Album: 'Miles Gurtu' - Tall Trees in Georgia by Eva Cassidy. Album: 'Live at Blues Alley' - Some Lessons by Melody Gardot. Album: 'Worrisome Heart' - You Don't Know What Love Is by Cassandra Wilson. Album: 'Blue Light 'Til Dawn' - Ghosts 'N' Stuff [Nero Remix] by Deadmau5, Rob Swire. Album: '5 Years of Mau5' - Alta Civilization by Egyptrixx. Album: 'A/B Til Infinity' - Hawa by The Toure-Raichel Collective. Album: 'The Tel Aviv Sessions' - Tom's Diner by Suzanne Vega. Album: 'Solitude Standing' - Promises by Lyle Lovett. Album: 'Dead Man Walking (OS)' - Giorgio by Moroder / Daft Punk. Album: 'Random Access Memories' (0:00 - 2:00) - Dona Nobis Pacem by Cantus. Album: 'Northern Lights' (0:00 - 2:50) - Right Place, Wrong Time by Dr. John. Album: 'In The Right Place' - Suzanne by Leonard Cohen. Album: 'The Essential Leonard Cohen' - Treaty by Leonard Cohen. Album: 'You Want it Darker' - Lazarus Man by Terry Callier. Album: 'Timepeace'