Schiit Loki adds DSD to your existing DAC for US$149


DSD for all. Check out the Schiit-y smiles that say “DSD for US$149”!  Look more closely and you’ll see a strange mix of cynicism and mischief plastered across Messrs Stoddard and Moffat’s faces. The Schiit guys were one of several manufacturers at the 2013 T.H.E. Newport Beach Show bemused by the audiophile public’s increasing demand for DSD functionality.

What exactly is driving consumer demand DSD support? Hyperbole stirred up by certain quarters of the hi-fi press? A need to have one’s ass covered for the next big thing? Or just plain curiosity? One things for certain, it isn’t burgeoning DSD collections. With a paucity of mainstream titles currently on the digital shelves – no, Norah Jones and Counting Crows don’t count – the Schiit boys are perplexed as to why so many people are getting their panties in a tangle about DSD decoding.


Whatever the reason, Moffat and Stoddard have busied themselves this year with a typically Schiit-y response to DSD demand. When I last caught up with them at June’s Newport Beach T.H.E. Show, Schiit’s DSD wheels were already in motion. Stoddard had a prototype PCB under the table; Schiit were preparing to “put a bomb under this DSD thing”, as Stoddard sharply put it.

Three months later, the Schiit Loki is ready to go KABOOM! It’s a US$149 DSD-only DAC that accommodates your existing PCM DAC’s output via a switchable pass-through.

Some might ask why Schiit didn’t simply internalise DSD functionality in their Bifrost and/or Gungnir DACs. Moffat and Stoddard’s rationale for keeping things separate runs thusly: PCM and DSD each have their own noise profiles which require individual treatment at the DAC’s output stage. Being DSD-only, the Schiit Loki has an output stage specifically tuned to DSD’s foibles. An output stage that doesn’t play second fiddle to PCM. Your existing DAC can already handle PCM just fine.


“Loki sounds better than a lot of DSD decoders, even megabuck ones. Why? Because we’re not trying to decode both DSD and PCM with the same DAC and filter stage. Loki is optimised for one thing, and one thing only: to decode DSD.”, says Stoddard.

If you think Moffat and Stoddard are fans of  Direct Stream Digital (DSD)  you need to sit down for a drink and a think. Schiit are keen to remind us of several next-big-things of yesteryear; audiophile formats that failed to gain long-term traction: HDCD, DAT, DVD-Audio, MiniDisc, Quadrophonic. Ironically, even SACD itself has been consigned to the scrapheap/margins (depending on your point of view).

“There’s a very real possibility DSD will go the way of the dodo. Loki allows you to try DSD at a very low price and decide if it’s for you without throwing away your current DAC. If DSD succeeds, cool! If it doesn’t, you’re not out big bucks.”, runs the Loki FAQ.

That DSD should first prove itself with software availability is all the justification Schiit need to hold the Loki to DSD64 (x1) only.


At time of writing, the Schiit Loki is good news for Nat King Cole fans. Good news for fans of the eighty-three (count ’em) DSD titles now available for download at Good news for fans of 2L Recordings, Blue Coast and Naim label releases. Good news for those with SACD rips…

…but the Schiit Loki is GREAT news for those looking to dip a toe in the DSD stream (before it becomes a flood or dries out completely).

Yes – a review unit is on its way to me this very week.

The Schiit Loki is available from…now!

Further Information: Schiit Audio / Addicted To Audio


EDIT 2nd November 2013:  The Schiit Loki is (not) reviewed here.

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR


Leave a Reply
  1. Wow, there goes my wide Schiit-y smile! Am excited about this! DSD capability with using your existing DAC! Looking forward to your review…..

    BTW, is it available now?

  2. Yippee, Just what the Doctor ordered, even if prescribed by sceptics!

    Just the rips alone make DSD worthwhile….why compromise, if now it only costs $150 to join the bandwaggon???

    DSD is here to stay.

  3. Darko, I checked my calendar – it’s not April,but I see no mention of this anywhere else. If you are pulling our collective legs …. grrr 😉

    • Hey, Ned,

      No, he’s not pulling your leg. I read about it online already. They just announced it today, so not everybody had a chance to catch up…

      I think that the whole surge of interest in DSD is a mixture of consumers’ curiosity and manufacturers’ making sure that they stay “on the cutting edge”, even though – practically – there is no serious material to listen to (as John mentioned in his article) in DSD format – except for SACD rips.

      However, between the news of CEA’s push for hi-res audio, Sony’s announcement of three new hi-res audio devices to be released this autumn and the PONO system coming to life soon, there is a new wave of hope for us computer-based audiophiles.

  4. DSD is NOT HAPPENING. It would cost the industry a fortune to switch over from PCM and don’t hold your breath waiting for it.

    Meanwhile lets all get excited about a new way to buy old SACD recording.

  5. Sounds like Bull-Schiit to me. (couldn’t help myself).

    “PCM and DSD each have their own noise profiles which require individual treatment at the DAC’s output stage.”
    This statement is correct. Their outputs require different types/orders of filtering. In the TEAC UD-501 this switch is automatic and the user is even provided a number of choices in each format, though IMO there’s choice for PCM and one choice of the DSD filters that sound best overall.

    I’ve owned and closely compared the Gungnir and UD-501 and IMSTME (In My System to My Ears) I preferred the TEAC.

    • Point is that Loki appears, to these eyes, to be a DSD “solution” that has been “knee-capped” by it’s makers and really no reason to get out of the starting gate.

      I, for one, am sorry to see this seeming H/A effort from this vibrant, inovative company. Doing nothing, at least at this point IMO, would have been a better “response” to DSD.

      • Could give a Schiit.

        There’s only one opinion that counts when it comes to what occupies my system. 😉

  6. John, honest question: what is it about DSD that interests you so much? I just can’t seem to get very excited by it.

    • Hey Dan. What gives you the impression that DSD interests me so much? If anything, I’ve been a little disparaging about it – almost entirely because of the lack of available music. Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

      • Hey John, I only meant that I’ve noticed a lot of recent writing on your site mentioning DSD technology and was wondering why it was receiving so much attention. I suppose I was wrong to attribute that to your own personal interest in the format.

  7. I think this will work great. I can try out DSD without having to replace my Bifrost which I’m quite happy with. I can also spend the money I was saving for a DSD capable DAC on new headphones:-) Of course it would have been icing on the cake if it had been an internal add-on to the Bifrost.

  8. I dont know… Schiit. I have the Gungnir. Not impressed. I think there stuff got hyped. Where’s the high end stuff they promised? Cant sell it. I have a $27 DAC from Parts Express that sound better than my Gungnir. Just sayin…

    • You have got to be kidding me? If you know anything about audio equipment design you wouldn’t be saying this. I have heard many DACs out there and the gungnir is a bargain.

    • Have you tried different cables? USB cables make huge difference from one to another. Also you will need to use a USB 2.0 cable with the Gungnir. Interconnects make a huge difference. Try pure silver with teflon insulation. Skimping on cables will not work in most cases. Given that you have a Parts Express DAC seems to me like you skim on more than just cables.

      • Agreed. I have a Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB cable that’s quite a bit better (and more $!) than the WireWorld Starlight USB.

        • Is the light harmonic better than the iFi Gemini? I have compared the Gemini with the Starlight and the Gemini is way way better…

  9. I personally can’t buy in to DSD because the library of available titles looks like my Aunt Virginia’s record collection (5 or 6 Norah Jones records and a bunch of 30’s to 50’s jazz). Despite the best efforts of critics like Mike Lavorgna who has damn near as many posts about DSD as there are albums to be heard….I don’t think the format is going to make it, given how terribly thin the library of titles is…

    But I think Moffat and Stoddard answer is the most sane and reasonable… It’s the same price as a low end power cable upgrade, or a couple sets of Cardas Jenga blocks, and it doesn’t require you to roll your existing DAC out of the picture.

    If I were to invest in hearing Billie Holiday in super hi-rez… it’d be with the Loki.

    • B-Dub – thanks. My take on DSD is very much aligned with your own. For me, until we see the likes of Tom Waits or Neil Young (for example) available as DSD downloads I’m keeping one foot in – and one foot out – of the water.

      • Thanks Mr. Darko.

        It’s a tough cart and horse thing… Artists don’t want to spend the money to master a new format to download through a scattered group of outlier libraries. There is no money in it for them.

        And with a whale like Apple holding 95% + of the digital market and given that Sony pretty much bent the knee with SACD.. I don’t see DSD going much further.

        Mini disc? DTF? Elcassette? Of course a Loki won’t put you out a tenth of what a Sony EL7 did back in the day.

        When I see both the Pixies and say The Cars on Acoustic Sounds… I’ll pull the trigger on a Loki. Until then I’ll just keep ripping CD’s… Redbook and Rega does me just fine.


  10. earwaxxer, I’m guessing that $29 DAC has better synergy with your $40 t-amp and $120 speakers than the Gungnir. You’ve clearly over-capitalised with the Gungnir.

    • No – that’s not it — I have modded MMG’S – Emotiva XPA-2, JPS labs wire, WRD4snd USB to SPDIF, HSU sub, Bottlehead tube preaimp. The point is closer to the possibility that this little DAC from Parts Express is flat out fantastic. I took it apart – Cirrus logic chips – It also does up to 24/192. It made me realize that the Gungnir is “loose” and “shouty” in comparison. Unlistenable.

  11. I have a question.

    Schiit claims to use the AKM4396 DAC in what they call “native DSD” mode.

    All DSD DAC’s that I know that operate “native DSD” do not allow the Volume to be controlled digitally for DSD.

    In one case (Wolfson micro) two modes are provided, one that is “native DSD” and disallows any signal manipulation, different filtering, volume control and so on.

    The other (they call it DSD plus mode) converts DSD to PCM (as do many other “DSD capable” DAC’s incidentally) and allows extra filtering and digital volume control.

    From the AKM4396 datasheet ( it appears that the AKM4396 uses a digital volume control that operates on all digital data (including DSD) and that it applies internal filtering to the DSD Stream.

    In other words, it would seem to convert the DSD Datastream to something else (whatever it uses internally), which of course defeats the whole purpose of DSD.

    If so, one may be better off setting Audirvana (or whatever other player is used) to do conversion to PCM and play that back via one’s existing PCM DAC. Chances are that the dedicated conversion routines on a powerful PC are much better sounding.

    Maybe Paul Stoddard or Mike Moffat can clarify what they mean by “native DSD” and how this achieved with the AKM4396?

    • Maybe – but that’s a question for them and not me, I’m afraid. 🙂 Why not hit up JASON Stoddard at Schiit directly?

  12. I’m listening to my Loki streaming DSD files directly right now and am a very happy camper!

    I’m listening to files downloaded from Super Hi-Res in DSD and this DSD-only DAC sounds GREAT.

    Really nice way to dip one toes into the newly released DSD content without breaking the bank. For $149, what’s not to like?

    Count me a satisfied Schiit customer-again.

  13. Just wondering whether a cheap DAC is the best way to evaluate the “best” audio format?

    For example I have the old Sony SCD EX670 which was their cheapest player at the time (around $700) but still stacked with nice Nichicon capacitors. DSD sounded amazing and CD didn’t sound too bad either.

    Some DSDs to blow your socks off: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, The Coronation of King George II, Rebecca Pidgeon’s Spanish Harlem

    • It might not be definitive but it takes the pressure out of the DSD bubble, inflated to near-bursting point by a collective interest that’s disproportionately large in the face of so few titles.

      “Some DSDs to blow your socks off: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, The Coronation of King George II, Rebecca Pidgeon’s Spanish Harlem” <---- Alas, none of these are my cup of java.

  14. Something else to consider with DSD is multichannel vs stereo.

    When I was listening to SACDs the multichannel version always sounded better than stereo because many SACDs were recorded in multichannel.

    The trick with DSD is that you really don’t want to modify the signal because it is very difficult to do so and often requires conversion to PCM. But multichannel recordings had to be mixed to form the stereo recording. As a result the stereo recording is not as “pure” as the multichannel recording.

    I never had a multichannel setup (only stereo), which meant that if listening to a multichannel recording you would be missing out on the centre channel etc., but there was definitely something special about the multichannel version that the stereo seemed to lack.

    Not sure how that plays in the current era of stereo DSD DACs and many DSD recordings available online seem to only include the stereo version.

    • Hey, Rick,
      How many different brands and models of USB cables have you compared? Or, are you just lecturing us with your best guess? 😉