SCHIIT YGGDRASIL vs. METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

YGGDRASIL MSRP: $2299 USD / PAVANE LEVEL 1: $4299 USD

Special thanks to an anonymous friend for loaning me the Schiit Yggdrasil for this comparison. I personally asked to borrow it and they obliged without hesitation. Before purchasing the Pavane, I was trying to decide between the Schiit Yggdrasil and Pavane. Based on my bend for warmer sounds and after hearing them at a meet I chose the Pavane. The thing is, when you hear the gear at home in your own system you get a much better idea of how things perform. The ‘hear before you buy’ idea makes a lot of sense but even then chances are that you may walk away dismissive of an aspect that can be a deal breaker/sealer that you would not realize until you took it home with you.

For this review I tried my best to rule out any and all variables. That meant more work like swapping cables, using the same power cords and testing the the cables before diving in. People say cables are snake oil but I could have easily called the Pavane clearer than the Yggdrasil had I not used the same cable on both.

System: Audirvana Plus 3.06>Focusrite Rednet  3>AES outs into both DACS> CAYIN HA 1A MK2 / AURIS HA2 SE MK2/ AMPSANDSOUND MOGWAI (upgraded) / Torpedo III (CCS,MUNDORFS,CINEMAGS) > Kennerton Odin / Modified T50RP / HD650 / ZMF ATTICUS

 BY SONG:

JACK HOLCOMB - HOW I LOVE JESUS (24/96KKHZ)

METRUM PAVANE – The voices in the background sound more separate from the singer. I appreciate how his voice sounds more bold, heavy, and focused than on the Schiit. I feel like it is more saturated and tangible. However Jack’s voice, while very good in texture is not open and free as on the Yggy

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – Soundstage is a little more congealed and the background vocals seem a little more close to the singer. Jack’s voice as mentioned above has a lot more air to it. I really love the pitch of his voice with this DAC. The Yggy makes his voice sound a little more alive and flowing with better harmonics.

WINNER: YGGDRASIL Solid win

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

TAME IMPALA - NEW PERSON, SAME OLD MISTAKES (24/44.1KHZ)

METRUM PAVANE – Synth bass and kick have excellent weight and solidity. The way the drums punch is actually more enjoyable on the Pavane. It feels very slightly slower and it’s possibly due to the warmer balance giving me that effect but it also sounds more melodic with a harder tones. His voice is a little high pitched but very atmospheric by nature; the pavane gives him some good weight and since the recording has good air around his voice already it projects it into the atmosphere with better energy and resonance. I find the Pavane a special match. It has a warmth to the vocals but also a coloration in the mids I am not sure is really in the recording. It makes my amps sound more rich, believable, and full than the Yggy.

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – This recording sounds a more thin and less engaging on the Schiit flagship. The bass and kick drums hit just as hard with a bit more focus just less weight and smaller size. Sure this is a modern electronic recording but the Yggdrasil makes it sound even more digital than I am used to. The song has good dynamics and better clarity with the Yggy sounding just a little more upbeat. I feel like his voice is a little easier to hone in on with the Yggdrasil and it is less apart of the atmosphere (better separated) as with the Pavane which may be a good thing depending on my mood. Also with the Yggdrasil there is less warmth in the lower and middle midrange. Switching from the PV to the Yggy draws my focus higher up in the spectrum to the middle/upper mids.

WINNER: PAVANEEasy win

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

ALABAMA SHAKES - ‘THIS FEELING’ (24/44.1KHZ)

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – Hand percussion sounds crisp and while a little ‘smaller’ in image size than I am used to with the Metrum, it has very good snap and the pop of the hand slap on the guitar frame is a little sharper. Background noise of the recording is a more a part of the music on the Yggdrasil, basically it is louder. Her voice sounds clean and open but smooth and balanced. The small clicks, guitar licks, have better pop and nuance, better micro dynamics it seems. The small little details sound really easy to hear. The recording isn’t the best quality but you can tell the yggy is resolving all of the information there with good contrast.

METRUM PAVANE – Her voice gains depth to it and weight in a good way but looses a bit of breath. Also her voice sounds bigger in image size. The soundstage sounds much more wide on the Pavane than the Yggy. Background noise in the recording seems to be more squelched by larger images and bolder, rounder notes. The Pavane seems less revealing and more revealing at the same time; like it unfolds the space of the recording from a blacker background into the atmosphere with more tangibility but makes you less aware of the recording flaws(wether intentional or not). The Pavane sounds slightly darker than the Yggy but not by much at all. Especially because the song is dark anyhow.

WINNER SCHIIT: YGGDRASIL – Solid win

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

RAY CHARLES & MILT JACKSON - ‘DEED I DO’ (24/192KHZ)

METRUM PAVANE – I actually am hearing the high hat better on the Pavane. The ride snare sounds less tinny than on the Yggdrasil (it’s supposed to sound tinny )  but more present by just a hair. The trumpet looses a bit of edge and sounds deeper in pitch just a little but more full and developed. The Xylophone sounds a tad richer and sweeter with good dynamics and realism.  The pianos strikes on the solo loose a bit of control compared to Yggdrasil but resonate with better realism. I feel like the Pavane captures sound of the venue much better than the Yggdrasil. When a note fades out you hear how it bounced off a wall and created reverb. I am pretty certain that is in the recording and not an effect of the DAC as this effect doesn’t happen in recordings that are not live. The Pavane has sweet tones but places the drums further away from the rest of the instruments making the pervasive ride snare sound less obtrusive.

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – The ride snare is just a bit pervasive for me on the Schiit DAC compared to the Metrum. The bass sounds excellent, punchy, with good presence, and just a little less fat than on the Pavane. The Xylophone sounds just a bit more snappy on the Yggdrasil with more just a negligible shade more bite and less resonance than the Pavane. The trumpet, while drier, has the texture more accurate than on the Pavane. I like how the piano notes are tighter on the Yggdrasil but they do not seem hang in the air like on the Pavane. It is like the piano strikes don’t carry off in the air around the piano and I find that a bit unnatural. I imagine if I were there I would here them strike with focus like the Yggy but resonate in the atmosphere like on the Pavane and I am not sure which is more pleasant for me.

WINNER METRUM PAVANE – Win (definite but not an easy  win)

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

FLEET FOXES - MEADOWLARKS (24/88.2KHZ)

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL –  With the Yggdrasil his voice is is a little further from me. Less imposing but also a little less free and enveloping. The timbre of his voice becomes thinner and sharper but focused as if he is sitting center stage and I am sitting in front of him but a couple tables back. I desire to turn it up more for the same sense of envelopment that the Pavane brings but the tone of his voice is sharper to me on the Yggy. It is is a step brighter with better air. The bass notes of the guitar are a weaker than on the Pavane and slightly less dense, they do not sound as present and bold as on the Pavane.

METRUM PAVANE – The Pavane, even though it has a larger soundstage puts the singer closer to me. However, now it sounds like the room is filled from the sides with the same voice and the impression shifts much closer  to a more real-life venue instead of a recording. The guitar that is on the left cuts through the wider spread (but fuller) harmonies from a  much further distance than the Yggdrasil. It is like the Pavane stretches out the soundstage size but also fills that volume with even richer tones. The lead singers voice sounds forward, clear, and rich but lacks the upper midrange presence the Yggy brings out. The intake breaths are louder on the Pavane and the atmosphere of the song is better revealed on the Metrum DAC.

WINNER METRUM PAVANE – EASY WIN

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

BROTHER - DUST WE ARE AND SHALL RETURN (16/44.1KHZ)

METRUM PAVANE – By this song I am starting to notice that the Pavane takes the notes and fully develops them where as the yggy consistently sounds just a shade flat by comparison. The guitars on the this song sound full bodied and resonant with better conviction sounding more lush than on the Yggdrasil yet just as clear. However, I’d much prefer the crispier attacks of the Yggdrasil on this song though. Also the small guitars and percussion do not sound as nuanced as on the Yggdrasil. The guitar plucks attack harder on the Metrum sounding more visceral and a little more engaging.

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – The guitars and come in with better distinction and good edges to them making the Pavane attacks sound heavy but rounded instead of acute. The squeaks from the finger sliding of the guitar are sharp (pleasantly so) and up against the actually guitar plucks they sound a little better contrasted. It is not like I am hearing those dull on the Pavane but the Yggy brings them out with a little better definition. His voice is more dry and flat than on the Pavane but that is actually a good thing on this song to my ears. The female background singer is clearer next to him creating better harmonies than on the Pavane. I prefer his voice to not sound oversaturated as there is much reverb already in the song that sounds more like a studio processing than a live effect.

WINNER SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – DEFINITE BUT NOT EASY WIN

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

RADIOHEAD - PRESENT TENSE (24/48KHZ)

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – The beginning is again more nuanced and ‘pluckier’ on the yggy than when the Pavane starts this song. They both bring the punch. I find this song euphonic but melodically rhythm driven. The Schiit DAC drives the cadence and pace of this song with wonderful agility and makes it my foot tap easier despite the heavier hand of the Pavane. I see people listen often critically with their eyes closed and I do the same, yet my body is often swaying back and forth to the pattern of the percussion. I really love music and the Yggdrasil’s poised attacks, candidly nimble distinctions, and excellent transients charm my body into a trance as it just moves subconsciously.

METRUM PAVANE – The Pavane sounds a bit more heavy, saturated, and ethereal. The way the Pavane makes this song sound is a little creepy, dark(in mood), and majestic. All of the tones sound more sweet, graceful, and melodious on the pavane which makes it more immersive than the Yggdrasil but only one major thing… my foot has stopped tapping. Sure the Pavane has good dynamics but for reasons above the Schiit DAC gets my body going while the Metrum make me feel like I am a bit lost.

WINNER SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – SOLID WIN

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

LAVENDER DIAMOND - DRAGONFLY (16/44.1)

METRUM PAVANE – This song sounds really good on the Pavane. Both DACs sound good but there is an effect where the bass starts on the left and she sings on the right. Then the song pans her and the bass to the center while  the song fills up with rich harmonies, synths, and pianos. The Pavane makes the effect more intense. Her voice sounds a bit sweeter and lush on the Pavane with good clarity.

SCHIIT YGGDRASIL – The upper midrange is more present but I actually prefer the more serene upper mids and fuller lower mids of the Pavane on this song. Actually I find the experience to be good but the Pavane drew out some goose bumps whereas the thinner presentation of the Yggdrasil is not able to produce the same sense of her being here. The level of immersion between the two is a couple of notches in difference.

WINNER METRUM PAVANE – EASY WIN

  • SCHIIT YGGDRASIL
  • METRUM PAVANE LEVEL 1

 BY ASPECT:

BASS PRESENCE – PAVANE

Not by much at all, the Pavane can sound a shade heavier in the bass. Both slam adequately hard and I have no complaints at all. A preference in the bass for my tastes though leans towards the Pavanes bigger sound.

 

 

BASS CONTROL – YGGDRASIL

The Yggdrasil on rare occasion seemed to not sound as hard as the Pavane but the bass attacks are a little cleaner, less fuzzy(barely because the Pavane is tight, and slightly more dense at times!!!) and just a minute shade more controlled. While I can say with certainty that the Schiit DAC sounds a little more controlled and dry, I can also say it is not by much at all. We are talking a 10 for the Yggy and a 9.8 for the Pavane.

 

 

MIDDLE MIDS – PAVANE

Switching back and forth between the Pavane and Holo had the middle midrange flat and even on the Pavane with a slightl warmth in the lower mids. I imagine the Holo would make the Yggdrasil sound a little recessed because the Pavane now sounds full and rich in the middle midrange compared to the Yggdrasil. Even so the Schiit DAC doesn’t sound recessed to me and is actually a little more linear in transition from the lower mids through to the lower treble. The Pavane in comparison has a low arching bulge (sure it measures flat so this is just how I hear it) from the lower mids to the middle mids. I still believe the Pavane is pretty even in the midrange so these minor colorations or lack of I am explaining here are not to be read as large differences. 

 

 

UPPER MIDRANGE – YGGDRASIL

My ears have become more acclimated to how the Pavane sounds but compared to both the Holo Spring level 3 and Schiit Yggdrasil it is a little less present in the upper midrange. I am still not going to call the Pavane recessed there but the Yggy is in between the two with what sounds to be like faint upper mid to lower treble glow. The Pavane sounds just a shade dim there in comparison. The Yggdrasil sounds really good with female vocals and violins. 

 

 

TREBLE – YGGDRASIL

The Schiit flagship is more crisp, present, and sharp than the Pavane. Were the Pavane to have equal extension I would call it the more balanced actually but it also, while very solid, is a little more round and easy going. 

 

 

TREBLE EXTENSION OR AIR – YGGDRASIL

At first I was thinking the Yggdrasil was simply brighter than the Pavane. The reality is that it is not a whole lot brighter and the Pavane is not Dark to my ears but the Yggdrasil is better extended in the treble but a good margin. It can make the Pavane seem slightly rolled off in the extremes when directly comparing them to each other.

 

 

 

CLARITY – YGGDRASIL BARELY

If forced to make a call I will have to go with the Yggdrasil based on how people use this word most generally. But from my perspective it is a toss up based on songs. Some times the background instruments are more clear on the Pavane. Most times the the voices have more clarity on the Yggdrasil but not always. The Yggdrasil having a slightly brighter sound make it seem clearer as well. The Pavane is very clear but the Yggdrasil is just a touch clearer, just not cleaner if that makes sense. 

 

 

MACRODYNAMICS – PAVANE

The first way I know right away what Dac I am listening to is that the Pavane makes the loud instruments POP better than the Yggdrasil. This plus its tonal weight makes it a little more visceral while the  Schiit Flagship makes things sound a bit faster, just less contrasted on the macro level. After the Holo DAC and now the Yggy I am certain the Pavane is exceptional here, sounding less aggressive but with softer softs than the Holo but louder louds than the Yggy.

 

 

MICRODYNAMICS – YGGDRASIL

The Pavane is no slouch but all of the small percussion and fast high hats sound more nuanced on the Yggdrasil. I noticed this most when listening to finger rolls on congas and the ability to hear the way the fingers touch the drums skins with better gradation than the Pavane delivers. In fact, I haven’t heard any one piece of gear as micro dynamically shaded as the Yggdrasil. Especially on busy songs like ‘Testify’ from ‘NEEDTOBREATHE’. On that song the Pavane sounds bigger for sure but all of the nuance inside of the recording, especially the fingers strumming the guitar are more contrasted on the Yggdrasil whereas the Pavane kind of blends some of it to sound on the same level of volume in comparison.

 

 

 

BLACKGROUND – PAVANE

The Pavane is especially black in background. The Yggdrasil is outclassed in this regards. When I turn my Pavane on I only know it’s on by the lights in the front, I don’t even hear the source click on when music begins. When music is playing the notes pop out from the Ether of space around them. If the Yggdrasil were to ever have a MKII or if Schiit were to every make another flagship DAC this would be the one aspect I would want it to do a little better at.

 

 

 

SOUND STAGE – PAVANE EASILY

Not only does the Pavane have a wider soundstage, it sounds much more holographic than the Yggdrasil. It seems that as the days go by, focusing on these two DACs seems to make the difference in soundstage between the two more dramatic. The Pavane places the instruments with larger size, more presence, and also more space between the instruments. The Yggy sounds more compact, spherical, but extremely well delineated. It is just that there sounds to be less space in between instruments. Height sounds very much equal and at times I even heard the Yggy taller.

 

 

TONE DENSITY – PAVANE

I can’t call the Yggdrasil thin at all. Tones have a decent amount of weight but I am a bit spoiled by the Pavanes heavier hand. When you switch between the two, the Pavane bass bulges out a bit more and while slightly less tight and fuzzier around the edges than the Yggdrasil, it has more weight. Sometimes this works against voices when comparing it to the Yggdrasil that lets breaths sound more light, open,  and effortless (especially coupled with its better treble extension). 

 

 

TRANSIENTS/ATTACK – YGGDRASIL

Wow! This is what I am taking about. I am not sure if any NOS dac can pull off transients like the Yggdrasil. The way the instrument spikes appear into existence on the Yggdrasil is faster and better defined than on the Pavane. I actually feel like the Pavane handles transients quite well compared to the other NOS DACs I have heard but it is still no match for the Schiit DAC. This is most audible when anything is plucked or hit as the Yggy reveals the leading edge of that darting stike more sharply.

 

 

DECAY – PAVANE

I actually find the decay of the Yggdrasil a hair unnatural when comparing to the Pavane. Everyone may have their different perspectives. Some would consider the Yggdrasil ideal. It has a well deserved reputation. After hearing it personally I am very impressed but I feel like this is an area that when compared to my Pavane, the Yggy definitely falls short at both literally and figuratively. When a note fades away, that fading is more audible, resonant, and realistic on the Pavane. The Yggdrasil sounds a little more dry than the Pavane. 

 

 

RESOLUTION  – TIE

I can’t really call it. On one song the intake breathes, cymbal shimmer, background noises are clearer and more resolved on the Pavane. On another song the Yggdrasil pulls the noise and air from the recording to the front more and makes the small little clicks more audible. I really cannot say. Both are very resolving.

 

 

TIMBRE – PAVANE

The Pavane sounds a little more saturated and naturally so without sounding emphasized. It is able to reveal the intensity of a tone. I actually like the timbre of voices on the Yggdrasil because of the way it tightens up the the overtones (perceptually) creating discernible harmonics. Then when listening to a ride cymbal I feel like the Pavane sounds more realistic and tangible with not just a well focused fundamental tone but the shimmer and resonating overtones sounding bigger colored in a lifelike way. Tom toms sound a little less flat and more acoustically fleshed out on the Pavane. To my ears the Pavane delivers more realistic tone qualities over the Yggdrasil 13 times out of 20.

 

 

 

IMAGE SIZE – PAVANE

Most definitely the Pavane casts larger images as mentioned in the sound stage section. I wonder how this would sound with speakers. With headphones the Schiit DAC actually produces sound images that are a little smaller than I consider realistic, especially after becoming accustomed to the Pavane. Most usually what you become accustomed to sounds most realistic but in my opinion the larger the image the better with headphones since it can never sound as grand as speakers or real life.

 

 

 

IMAGING – PAVANE

In busy songs the Yggy sounds better separated but with Jazz and acoustic music the Pavane places the larger images further apart with easier localization. Everything sounds wonderfully placed on the Pavane with accurate positioning. I could have combined this with the above aspect and probably should have. Its not just the size but also the accuracy as the instrumentalists sound more realistically placed to my ears on the Pavane. 

 

 

 

SEPARATION – YGGDRASIL

The closest way I can put this as to not contradict myself in the soundstage or imaging segment is like this: The HD800S has much larger images in size with an effortlessly larger soundstage than the Utopia BUT the Utopia is better delineated and more precise. The same thing is going on here but much less dramatic. When the music gets busy the Yggdrasil disects keeps things more organized than the Pavane as well.  The Yggdrasil is just a hair more precise and separated than the Pavane though it doesn’t always seem apparent in every song.

 

 

 

LEAST DIGITAL SOUNDING – PAVANE

The Pavane has a smoother and more analog sound to it than the Yggdrasil with no hash, artifacts, glare, or sterility to speak of. The Yggdrasil sometimes sounds a little digital to my ears even from my RedNet3. 

 

 

SENSE OF ENVELOPMENT AND EVOCATION OF EMOTION – PAVANE

 

 

 

MUSICALITY – PAVANE

For the most part the Pavane is more musical. The way it handles macro dynamics, timbre, resonance, decay, bass, and tonality gives it the one up. The Yggy does well with tonality and timbre but also has a slightly better sense of pace, rhythm, and timing than the Pavane. I don’t listen to hard rock or metal but I imagine someone who did would actually pick the Yggdrasil for musicality over the Pavane especially when it comes to timing and drumwork. 

 

 

NEUTRALITY – YGGDRASIL

This is a tough call. Were the Pavane to have a little more extension it would sound close to as neutral with them trading off in a couple of aspects. Overall I have to say the Schiit Yggdrasil is more neutral. 

CONCLUSION

To say that the Pavane is is overpriced compared to the Yggdrasil actually holds validity from my perspective. Either that or the Yggdrasil is an extremely good value. I would like to think it is a combination of both. While I feel the Pavane performs better than the Holo Spring DAC. I can’t say with confidence it outperforms the Schiit Yggdrasil. Merit by Merit I do not know and I purposefully avoided using numbers so that I wouldn’t give cumulative scores. That is because certain things like microdynamics and transient response hold more weight in my mind than soundstage and midrange warmth. Yet also the black background of the Pavane and its enveloping, polished, and refined sound make it a top notch DAC that I personally in the end would prefer having. Once the Schiit DAC leaves though, I will for ever crave its extended highs, crisp leading edges, and wonderful microdynamics that make the tid bits of the recording dance in my ears with more charisma than the Pavane does.  I am pretty sure the Schiit Yggdrasil will be something I own one day unless they come out with a newer model. I am very impressed by it. With my tube amps it sounds wonderful!

I cannot and will not declare a winner here unless forced to throw the all mighty dollar into the mix. I do like my Pavane more but it has no real right costing more than the Yggdrasil DAC in my opinion; diminishing returns or not. In fact, paying more in this scenario really is a swap of technicalities instead of an upgrade. Were the Pavane to be about 500 more then I would give it the right of passage and be tempted to crown it the winner, yet even so I wouldn’t be able to do it without much hesitation. The things the Yggdrasil does good the Pavane is not bad at in comparison, just a step behind. The things the Pavane does well (on some aspects) it actually does much better than the Yggdrasil though and my appetite for full, rich, and spacious will usually win so long as dynamics are up to par. Your music/machines/mileage may vary. 

There are many ways to look at it. In the end it is all about getting the sound you are after to enjoy your music!

 

 

 

 

 

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