Schiit Bifrost plus ESI Juli or Bifrost USB

Hi all,

I recently posted in the Digital section a question about budget USB DACs for an office system. One of the suggestions was the Schiit Bifrost.

Doing some reading about the Bifrost indicates that Schiit considers S/PDIF a superior interface to USB, no surprise I guess. They have a USB input module for the Bifrost which is pretty good, but all the reviews pretty much say it sounds better with S/PDIF input.

Also reading lots of praise for the ESI Juli@ as a sound card. So here's the question: what's the better approach, a great sound card like the Juli@ and a non-usb DAC, or a usb-DAC with a well engineered usb interface?

I know there are some really good usb DACs out there like the Ayre but I'm thinking more in the sub 1K range DACs.

What do you think?
The bitfrost costs $350 w/o USB or $450 w/ usb. Is this your budget or are considering a greater budget?
My initial thought was budget up to around $500. The Schiit w/o USB + Juli@ is around $550 I think, so close enough.

I think one of the advantages is there are more DAC choices if you don't require a well-designed USB input. You could also pick one of the many USB to S/PDIF converters, but their performance is all over the map and they add cost and complexity. It seems like the Juli@ is a simpler way to solve the computer to DAC route and performs very well as a transport.
Seems to me that your chosen option should work out well for you. I use the USB/ SPDIF route. Feel it is better than using onboard USB in inexpensive DACs. The Juli@ should also be an improvement. No experience with one however. Enjoy!

Thanks for your thoughts. I think you answered the question I meant to ask. An inexpensive DAC (in the price range I mentioned) isn't going to have a really well implemented USB interface. It's probably better to go with a USB/SPDIF converter or soundcard with a good SPDIF output.

Just curious, what converter do you use?

I have been using a M2Tech Hiface which plugs directly into USB port thus avoiding need for USB cable. Have just purchased a used Audiophellio2 with power supply. Haven't received it yet, should have it in play next week. I used the hiface with a PS Audio Digital link III.

What type of music files will you be using? Are you ripping CDs to your computer?

I have a Squeezebox Touch in my main system so most of my music is ripped with DBPoweramp into FLAC files and stored on my PC and also a NAS drive. I use the Squeezebox server software to stream music to the Touch.

I was thinking of getting JRiver for the PC to play my own music and I would also like to use services like Pandora and internet radio from the PC. Any suggestions there would be welcome.
The best solution is the soundcard. $140 and you're done. Just need a dac. No USB interface, usb cable, etc - plus, USB is really a poor way to transmit audio. Start with the soundcard as its sooo cheap.
Given that you use a PC (I use MAC) and your source will consist of ripped CDs and internet radio, then you might go with the soundcard and the non-usb DAC option. With the soundcard you will only need a digital cable and not both digital and USB. Both items should hold value allowing for an inexpensive upgrade path should you chose to take one.

Happy hunting!
Thanks guys for the advice. I think I'll start with a DAC then see how much better the Juli@ is then my "stock" soundcard. I may add a disk spinner to the mix in the office and not being limited to USB will be good.