HFN: You teased a Schiit turntable, how is the progress on it?
JS: We’re getting there! We have the first die castings, and we’re ordering the machined parts for the turntable now. With any luck, you’ll see it in late summer. It’s called Sol, and it’s fundamentally different than pretty much anything else near its price. There’s a prototype at the Schiitr that gives you a basic idea of what it is: a minimal-mass-plinth, long-carbon-fiber-arm (nearly 12”) unipivot design with a separate motor pod. Both the plinth and platter are cast aluminum. The arm comes with a cuing mechanism and adjustable-on-the-fly VTA. The idea is to have something that scales far, far higher than anything near its price. Will it be as convenient to use as the “buy and go” low-cost options out there? Nope. We won’t even be selling it with a cartridge. But if you want to put some time into choosing a good cartridge and setting it up, it should provide performance well in excess of anything anywhere near its price. Or at least that’s the goal. We’ll see what happens when it happens.
HFN: Will there be portable Schiit products?
JS: I’d personally like to do something, but Mike is more cautious. We have little experience with battery-powered products, so I wouldn’t want to rush into it. However, we’re now getting some insight into what we can do with die-casting, and we keep playing with ideas. I will say, however, that portable gear is well down the list, and that if we do something, it would be most likely a single, unique product, rather than a line. And absolutely, positively, 100% not a DAP. Oh hell no. We’re not getting into any software we don’t control 100%. That can eat a small company alive.
HFN: Do you have a list of test gear you‘re using to evaluate your own products?
JS: Yes, I do, but I really don’t like to get into lists, due to politics—“why aren’t you using our products.” Wait. Unless you’re actually talking about test equipment, which is a HUGE discussion. I wrote a whole chapter on that in the Schiit Happened book. If we are talking about speakers, headphones, etc. then I’m going to stick with a very boring and corporate statement that “we use a wide range of ancillary equipment, both easy and hard to drive, in evaluating our products.”
HFN: How do you see the different global markets?
JS: I’m afraid I don’t have much insight into that. We make the products we make, and price them as low as we can, which, due to customs and VAT, will not be as low in countries outside the USA. I’d like to find a way to equalize prices across the board, but that’s beyond the scope of our company right now.
HFN: Where do you see analogue and digital audio collide?
JS: Everywhere internal to a digital product. DACs have analog outputs. They have power supplies that are fundamentally analog. There can be interaction between the digital noise running around inside the chassis, and the sensitive analog circuitry. This is one of the reasons Mike and Dave tend to design DACs, well, with lots of room. It allows them to partition the analog and digital functions more cleanly, and to isolate the “noisy” and “clean” side of things.
HFN: What‘s your take on network enabled audio?
JS: Oh, an expensive computer with no screen, you mean? Sorry, not big on streamers and stuff. That’s what computers are for. I have no nervosa about digits, so my two primary sources are a Surface Pro and a Macbook Pro. Usually streaming from a network. So, they’re technically network-enabled audio. But they don’t have an app to run a screenless streaming box. (And I bet you can guess a category of product we won’t be doing soon…streamers.) It’s fine if that’s what you’re into, it’s just not me.
HFN: What is your personal favourite digital audio player and headphone?
JS: Ah, that’s tough, because again, I really don’t want to get into headphone politics. We can leave aside “favorite digital audio player,” because as long as it’s Windows/WASAPI or Mac/Bitperfect, it’s fine. As far as headphones go, it’s probably best to say that I regularly use products from the bright and dark ends of the spectrum (I’ve always found Sennheiser HD800s and Audeze LCD2/3 to be very complementary in hitting both sides of that spectrum, while MrSpeakers tends to be more neutral.) However, Focal’s new Utopia, Clear and Elear are strong contenders, and I’ve probably pissed off everyone else using other headphones they love. It’s best to first choose a headphone you love, and then see if you want to get an amp or DAC to go with it…and it’s best not to listen to me about what headphone is best for you. It’s like asking me which beer you should like.
HFN: What‘s your favourite album and why?
JS: Ah heck, do I have to choose just one? I have no idea how I’d do that. Wall of Voodoo’s Call of the West? The Midnight’s Endless Summer? The Presidents of the United States of America? Kraftwerk’s Electric Café? Hell, a dozen more come to mind, none of which are particularly well-recorded, acoustic, or highbrow. Ask Mike about opera and classical. I’m an uncultured boob.
Thanks a lot Jason for this unique and insightful interview! We’re looking forward to more Schiit content on Headfonia.