The Schiit Yggdrasil+ OG (Yggdrasil+) is one of three currently available versions of the company’s flagship digital-to-analog converter. OG—in case you’re not familiar with early-1970s street slang or early-1990s hip-hop culture—stands for “Original Gangsta,” because it is the original version and reigns king. The Yggdrasil+ a multibit DAC with serious technology and a real-world aspiration price of just under $2,700. Schiit chose to use a multibit decoding scheme in the Yggdrasil+ since multibit can better preserve the signal during conversion over the standard delta-sigma type processing most other DACs use. The debate rages on as to the audible benefits of multibit, and we will soon find out just how good it can be. Based upon its history and the reputation of Schiit providing stellar bang-for-the-buck, I have very high expectations for the Yggdrasil+. Let’s find out if all of the technology Schiit crammed into the DAC can go the distance in terms of musical enjoyment.
What Makes the Schiit Yggdrasil+ DAC So Special?
- All 25 pounds of the Yggdrasil+ is developed in-house, aside from the four Texas Instruments (TI for short) DAC8812 digital-to-analog chips, whose outputs are carefully preserved in the time and frequency domains by a SHARC DSP processor. Nerdy, yes, but relevant, since many DACs at this price are still using off-the-shelf, pre-manufactured boards. The Yggdrasil+ is its own beast, from power supply to chassis, with every detail scrutinized, and that is what audiophiles deserve for their hard-earned money. Schiit has nothing to hide, too, if you want to get all Poindexter with me, you can read the 51 page measurement workup on the Yggdrasil+ here.
- The Yggdrasil+ has a number of digital inputs. Far too many DACs lack a wider array of connectivity, limiting the user to two or three sources. Do you have a CD transport, PC, smartphone, Mini-Disc player, and a Blu-ray player? Go ahead, hook them all up. The Schiit Yggdrasil+ will handle the job, likely with inputs to spare.
- The OG version’s analog stage is fully discrete Class-A. A discrete output stage is what I feel primarily separates the OG version, from the Less is More and More is Less versions of the Yggdrasil+. It is worth noting that all three flavors use slightly different DAC chips as well. Ultimately, these differences are just differences. The OG version, with its discrete stage, will sound more like a classic, high-end DAC with better dynamics, but the other two flavors will have more clean-cut edges. These differences will be subtle.
- Schiit give the option of a NOS (non-oversampling) mode in the Yggdrasil+. If you are like me, you may have 1000-plus Compact Discs in your collection. This means a whole lot of 16-bit/44kHz material to decode. Switching to NOS mode allows the decoding to remain native, and you get to hear the data as it was preserved.
- The Yggdrasil+ is unusually upgradable. The modular design of the DAC allows for a significant degree of future-readiness. Every part of the Yggdrasil+ is upgradable, and Schiit wants it this way to ensure their customers get the longest life out of one of their most expensive products.
- The Yggdrasil+ is made in the United States with great industrial design. I like the look, fit, finish, and feel of the Yggdrasil+. You could spend more for a much worse chassis. Made in the USA isn’t code for “assembled in the USA” either. Schiit locally sources everything they make and doesn’t rely on overseas parts shops to pre-assemble and ship them Lego-like electronic boards they just snap in place.
Why Should You Care About the Schiit Yggdrasil+ DAC?
In a sea of DACs costing between $1,500 and $3,500, the Yggdrasil+ is akin to the USS Constitution. The Constitution, afloat since 1797, is nicknamed “Old Ironsides.” The Schiit Yggdrasil+ is an old ironside in its own audiophile-relevant way. It has established itself over time to be reliable, it beats just about everything at its selling price in a shoot-out, and it stays afloat despite the progress being made in DAC technology since its original launch as the Yggdrasil in 2015.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Schiit Yggdrasil+ DAC
- There are quite a few audible ticks and clicks when using the Yggdrasil+. Schiit has a “yeah, so what” attitude about this; in fact, it is even covered in the FAQ section of the Yggdrasil+’s manual. The ticks and pops (which don’t affect the music in any way, and only occur during pauses or between tracks) are the outputs muting to protect the rest of your system from any audible pops or distortions that may occur while the DAC is preparing to do its thing. It is harmless; however, I have seen people pick worse nits in this hobby so it is worth the mention.
- The Schiit Yggdrasil+ DAC does not decode DSD or MQA. This is not the end of the world to me, but other advanced audiophiles might not share this opinion. There is a reason PCM is the digital audio reference standard and represents most digital music available to play/stream today.
- The Schiit Yggdrasil+ is a full-sized component. In a world where equipment is shrinking, the Yggdrasil+ needs to be full-sized to fit all of the electronics that makes it perform as it does.
Listening To the Schiit Yggdrasil+ DAC…
I was fortunate enough to have a nice selection of DACs at different levels in-house along with the Yggdrasil+. The biggest shocker was just how close the $660 Grace M900 (buy at Amazon) was in performance to the Yggdrasil+, though it lacked a lot of the inner detail and outside-the-speaker magic the Schiit Yggdrasil+ has. The $2,399 Benchmark DAC3 HGC (buy at Amazon) was a perfect shoot-out for the Schiit Yggdrasil+. I’ll admit, I was nervous after listening to the Yggdrasil+ that my $10,000 Bricasti Design M1 series II (review pending) would not perform significantly better than the Yggdrasil+, but it did. The Bricasti M1 Series II should, since it costs nearly four times as much as the Yggdrasil+. For my listening tastes, I would take the Yggdrasil+ over the Grace or Benchmark and likely anything under the $5,000-$6,000 price point, and here is why…
Music emotionally lifts me up most when I am feeling melancholy. A specific song that has joined my cheer-up playlist is by folk artist Steve Strauss, called “A Very Thin Wire” (buy at Amazon on Compact Disc). It’s the title track from his 2020 album release, and the song is wonderfully simplistic, featuring just his vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, and some synthesizer to add ambiance. I enjoyed the Yggdrasil+’s presentation of this track and found a laid-back honest and integrity to Strauss’ voice that brought the recording to life.
The delicate bass was firm and deep, while the ambient effects extended well beyond the speakers. His guitar work was the most enjoyable aspect of the song to listen to. The finger work was detailed and noticeable, as well as the small dynamic emphasis Strauss uses to add the proper character to the music. Sure, the Bricasti Design M1Series II had more of everything, and the Benchmark DAC3 HGC was an exercise in pinpoint sonic execution, but I am not sure that mattered. “A Very Thin Wire” was a beautiful track on the Yggdrasil+ and the one that made me realize why this DAC has been a stable for so many, for so long.
A couple of years ago, John Mayer released the album Sob Rock (buy at Amazon). “I Guess I Just Feel Like” shows the maturity of a 43-year-old Mayer through his music. Though this song fits the sob-rock theme perfectly, it has a lovely silver lining. On the Schiit Yggdrasil+, I just had my eyes shut, foot tapping, and head nodding to the presentation. Mayer’s voice no longer has the youthful glow it had earlier in his career. His more mature, chesty vocal sound was presented well by the Schiit Yggdrasil+. The drums were smooth and the snare had a lovely snap. The guitar solo at the end of the song captures all of Mayer’s Eric Clapton-esque playing clearly and locked in the soundstage. I missed some of the polished-fine details and gorilla-grip bass control from the Bricasti M1 series II, but at the end of the day I found I could happily live with the sound of the Schiit Yggdrasil+, especially when considering the massive price difference.
Does the Schiit Yggdrasil+ Have Any Resale Value?
There are a lot of Schiit Yggdrasil+’s out there and for good reason: it is a great value. Schiit product sell in volume at retail and also sell well on the aftermarket. The demand for a product at this high level of performance at below (or close to half of) retail value is a no-brainer for many upgrading or expanding audiophiles, so I would expect good resale value. The upgradability only helps to add to the positives in the resale discussion for the Yggdrasil+.
Who Is the Competition for the Yggdrasil+ OG?
- At $2,399, the Benchmark DAC3 HCG (buy at Amazon) is a strong competitor. The Benchmark is relentlessly accurate to the signal it receives. It sounds almost as if the Benchmark DAC is not there at all. On the surface, this is a good thing in terms of reproducing exactly what is on a recording, but let’s face it: not everyone likes their music to sound exactly like the recording. Vinyl and tubes still exist because, regardless of what the data says, we are creating an experience for people to enjoy, and that experience differs from person to person. However, the Benchmark is truly excellence in execution, is feature-packed, and is one hell of an option in this price range.
- The $5,500 Bricasti Design M3 sounds better than the Yggdrasil+, with a twist. The M3 provides the same razor-like data preservation of the signal as you’ll get with the Benchmark Dac3 HGC, but combines it with the ability to speak to the musical art, and ultimately the human side of the music we love. It should do all of these things; it is in the next price bracket. There are two reasons, however, why the Schiit Yggdrasil+ makes a good competitor. First, this hobby is all about diminishing returns, and in terms of overall performance, the Schiit Yggdrasil+ is at least 70 percent of the M3 – maybe more. Second, the Schiit Yggdrasil+ has all the sonic beauty that separates high-end components from mid-fi. The M3 is an upgrade, but is it needed? The Yggdrasil+ forces this question that only your platinum card can answer.
Final Thoughts on the Schiit Yggdrasil+ DAC…
The Schiit Yggdrasil+ sells for $2,699 in its OG version and has set the bar for what a reasonably priced audiophile DAC can achieve. Schiit has kept the Yggdrasil, and now the Yggdrasil+, relevant well past the normal sales life of other DACs. I think some other DACs are catching up to the Schiit Yggdrasil+ in terms of what is offered in the $2,500-$3,500 price range, but the Yggdrasil+ still seems to be leading the pack. It may have a strange name, but it will be a household name for the foreseeable future, and a smart choice for a component who’s price tag is one most audiophiles have to save for.