Dragonfly Red in desktop system - replace with Schiit Bifrost Multibit?


Hi Folks,

I am seeking some honest input/reality check in regards to a potential purchase: I am currently using an Audioquest Dragonfly Red on a Mac with Audirvana for nearfield listening at my desk. It's hooked up to a pair of B&W MM-1 via a stereo minijack cable (though a seriously upgraded one is on the way as I write this). Let me give some background here:

In my experience, going from the original setup (USB connection from the Mac to the MM-1's onboard DAC through iTunes as the frontend) to the Dragonfly Red to stereo minijack line in on the MM-1 and through Audirvana frontend was quite a huge change for the better. After a few dozen hours of playback/burn in, the soundstage just exploded in terms of width - I am now getting a soundstage a few feet in either direction of the speakers. My jaw dropped. Pretty shocking results from a few numbers, notably Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love", John Coltrane's "Pursuance", Roger Waters' "Watching TV" and Gomez' "Tijuana Lady" come to mind. In some cases, the soundstage is so wide that it seems like things are coming from the next room (Waters' "Watching TV" is a great example- that track is absolutely spooky, especially listening to late at night!) I am very, very pleased with what I am hearing thus far, I must admit.

So what's missing? The depth. This is something that I have been searching for ever since I got into music and heard a setup that had it, and I know many others who are also on the same hunt. I have the same issue in my main system, which is a Wadia 151 PowerDAC coupled with Dynaudio Excite X12's. Great soundstage width, but the depth is relatively flat in comparison. To be fair, I do hear *some* depth in the current Dragonfly Red/MM-1 setup, but I would like more separation of instruments/air - if that is even possible, considering my rather budget-level speakers.

Back to the question at hand: I am thinking of possibly replacing the Dragonfly Red with a Schiit Bifrost Multibit. So I am asking those of you having experience with both of these options - do you think this makes sense, given the speaker choice, or an overkill for the MM-1's? (Yes, I realize the irony of a $600 DAC paired to a $400 set of speakers... but hey, you never know.)

From what I have read, it seems that some people say the depth comes from a good tube amplifier, though I cannot realistically fit one of those onto my desk. Others say it is both the amplifier and careful speaker placement. I have experimented a fair bit with the latter and seem to have found the right placement for my ears and my desk.

Anyone know of any good options? It doesn't need to be limited to the Bifrost Multibit, or even the DAC at all, if you think that isn't the bottleneck. In the case of the Bifrost Multibit, I have read that Schiit offers a 15 day return policy, but as I am currently living overseas, that isn't realistically something I can take advantage of at the moment, unfortunately.

Maybe I have hit the limit of what my speakers can do with the Dragonfly Red/Audirvana setup, which is fine - as I said, I am quite pleased with the setup that I have now, just wondering if there's possibly something I haven't considered that might make for a more enjoyable (and 3-d/holographic) musical experience. Note: I am listening to FLAC (though converted to Apple Lossless FWIW).

Feel free to also chime in with any recommendations you may have for specific songs or even albums that show off a great soundstage!


audioneo80

I've been running an Audioquest black and a red  for some time and to be honest they are both very good for the money. For your computer audio needs I don't think for the money your going to get much better. yes the Shiit will sound better but I honestly think your speakers are your limiting factor. I would spend your 600 and then some on some better speakers. near field you will always lack depth to some degree but some speakers do it better then others. 

I like the PSB alpha 1-100 speakers and matching sub but there are many to look at that will do a better job then the B&W's. you may even look to used and get a small integrated and separate speakers.

A friend has one of these for example and its killer for a few hundred.

https://www.miesaudio.com/products/mies-i100-integrated-amplifier

match that with a set of speakers you like and you have a nice starter/desktop system.

I agree, I suspect it's the speakers.  However, the best way to find out is to see if you can borrow a different set of speakers or a DAC and see for yourself
@audioneo80 - I’ve owned the Bifrost, but that has since been replaced by a Bluesound Node 2 in my audio system. The SQ is so much better than my v-link192+Bifrost combo and provides a massive 3D image

The inboard DAC and the Analogue output stage are definitley audiophile grade - up to 24/192

Using great cables improves on the already excellent SQ.

I also have the PowerNode 2 driving my A/V system. It too was a very big surprise, mainly because it drives my Tannoy Mecury 4’s with ease and sounds every bit as good as the Node-2. It also has a sub-out which is great for surround AND the optical input caters to surround & 2 channel digital formats. It sounds fantastic and also has great 3D imaging

Then my latest purchase - the Bluesound Pulse Mini. I use it for outdoor music, but it’s sound quality is superb, especially with a quality power cable. I find I listen to music outdoors a lot more these days

The speakers provide excellent sound
- the bass is full and dynamic
- the mid’s and highs are crystal clear
- that’s before you consider the size of the unit
- they sound more like very good bookshelf units

The nice thing about this unit is that you can link two of them together for superb stereo sound.

They also have mounting screws in the back for wall/stand mounting

The main features of the Bluesound line for me...
- transfers digital streams via Ethernet or Wireless - so you can be certain all the data is received by the inboard DAC.
- NO MORE USB CABLE ISSUES!!!
- no more speaker cables
- no more interconnect/SPDIF cables
- they all play up to 24/192 streams
- they have many services ready to go

Once I bought the first unit I was smitten - simple to use, with manual controls on each unit for next track, pause and volume - even my wife can operate it.

The software updates are simple to initiate and they work - no more version incompatibilities between OS and Audirvana, or the remote software I was using and bye bye to iTunes

If you are serious into "the music" - these provide an extremely good option

If it’s volume you like - use the PowerNode 2 and drive a better pair of speakers

Is it perfect? - probably not - the other day i experienced dropouts playing a 24/192 track on the Pulse Mini (wireless mode) - but then i discovered that I had also initiated the PowerNode 2 on the TV and it was playing tracks from the same hard drive - the router could also be an issue - it’s a little old

Hope that does not muddy the waters for you

Regards - Steve
Hi all, sorry for the delay in response - I had actually kind of given up on my post since no one had responded for awhile :) I appreciate the input and suggestions.

@glennewdick - You raise an interesting point. I really do like the design of the Mies integrated amp you recommended, very small footprint. I will check into this further along with the speakers you mentioned. Maybe there is a shop someplace I can visit and hear them. 

@mahler123 - sounds like both you and glennewdick both agree the limiting factor is the speakers and I tend to agree, the more I think about it. Unfortunately I do not have the option to borrow and try stuff (at least not a convenient option, anyway). 

@williewonka - Thanks for your suggestion of the Bluesound gear, I had never even heard of it, much less considered it. Maybe a Bluesound Node 2 and a pair of the Pulse Mini would be interesting. I will see if there is a shop nearby I can visit and hear them for myself. 

Thanks to all of you for the feedback! 

@audioneo80 

I think you should invest in playing around with acoustic treatments and /or speaker positioning.

The sense of depth comes from the recording and interaction with space the speakers are in. The AQ Red can resolve exceptionally well, far beyond the $200 would lead you to think is possible.

I have AQ Dragonfly Red and a Schitt Bifrost latest rev (non multibit) and with my ears the AQ sounds better. This is playing on my main rig; Pass X2.5 preamp, Bryston 4BSST2, Dynaudio Contour S3.4 LE's.

The AQ Red flat out sounds wonderful for streaming Tidal HI-FI. I also have a decent SACD player and I find that I prefer to listen to the AQ Red. It just sounds right to my ears.

I was pretty disappointed in how flat and lifeless the Bifrost sounded compared directly to the AQ red with same source files when I finally managed to get it to work. I did have great troubles with getting the Bifrost to actually work with PC's (I tried multiple USB cables of varying length, and multiple USB drivers. It was hours wasted trying to get the Bifrost to play which it did for a while then it would suddenly quit and the USB connection appeared to go into spasms- Windows 7).

Now, OTOH, the Bifrost sounds great in my home theater system hooked up optically to an Amazon Fire TV.

my $0.02

Cheers!



 

@dpac996 

Thank you for sharing your experience with the Dragonfly Red vs. Bifrost - that was the direct comparison I was searching for. Obviously our respective setups are vastly different, in terms of speakers, etc. but it is interesting to note you seem to like the Dragonfly Red a bit more than the Bifrost.

Bummer to hear that you experienced the USB issues with the Bifrost and PC's. The thing that stood out to me the most was your statement about how the Bifrost seemed more "lifeless" to your ears than the Dragonfly Red. Given the relatively high-end components you have compared to my rather modest desktop system, I am convinced that the Bifrost won't be a game-changer for me. 

I am not sure how much (if anything) I can do as far as acoustic treatments on my desk, but if you have any specific recommendations, I'm all ears. 

My father, who is visiting me at the moment, heard my desktop system the other night and was floored. He couldn't believe the difference in sound between his setup and mine (I bought him the B&W MM-1's for his office, though his setup is direct to MM-1's built-in DAC, using iTunes and listening to standard lossless CD rips). The experience reminded me that at the end of the day, I am getting great sound, which is a very good thing. 

At this point, I am probably going to save the money I would have put into the desktop system and instead invest it in an upgrade for one of my other systems instead. 

Once again, thanks for your post, dpac996! 

@audioneo80

I think that is a wise decision! As an aside, at work I have a Schitt Asgard headphone amp and have been amazed at the improvement AQ has achieved from the Dragonfly 1.2 to the Red. Tremendous improvement across the board and the Asgard is transparent enough to portray the differences. I do like Schitt stuff and think they are a good value in the often over hyped and over priced "high end" space; I have a Saga preamp and it's very good for the money. I was bummed that the Bifrost just sounded very meh via USB.

It's awesome you had the same ears (your dad's) hear the same speakers controlled by different DACs and hear such an improvement with the Red. I remain very pleased and happy with the AQ Dfly Red. 

@audioneo80 - RE: 

Maybe a Bluesound Node 2 and a pair of the Pulse Mini would be interesting
The Pulse Mini has all the function of the Node 2 + amp + Speakers. It can get pretty loud and it still remains free of distortion to quite high levels.
- You can also set them up as a pair - i.e. one is the left channel the other the right and it would effectively be twice the power - so pretty darn loud
- what amazed me about the Pulse Mini was the distortion free clarity, even at high volume levels - even my wife commented how clear they sounded a high volume.

If you already have speakers, then I would suggest the Power Node 2, which is the Node 2 + 50/channel amp. I have this as the only source of amplification in my AV system. It is powering a pair of Tannoy Mercury F4 tower speakers and it does so with ease.

The Node 2 is more for installing into an audio system (which I also have in my audio system.

Even the Pulse Flex, the smallest of their speakers, sounds pretty amazing, but the small speakers cannot handle the same volume level as the Pulse Mini

It all depends on how loud you like to play your tunes

Regards