Combo Review - Schiit Modi 2 Uber/Magni 2 Uber/Vali 2

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by keanex, Feb 26, 2016.

  1. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    Pros: Both set-ups feature a great price/performance ratio; Small desktop footprint.
    Cons: Modi 2 Uber button feels loose.
    Tonal Balance: Magni 2 Uber/Modi 2 Uber - Slightly bright with mild grain; Vali 2/Modi 2 Uber - Warm leaning, refined sound, a bit gooey/slow sounding.
    Cost at Time of Review: Modi 2 Uber $150, Magni 2 Uber $150, Vali $169


    Reviewing Process
    The Magni 2 Uber and Modi 2 Uber will hereby be referred to as the SS, or the Schiit Stack, unless referring to a unit separately, the Vali 2 will simply be referred to as such and will be connected to the Modi 2 Uber. These products have been primarily used with an Audio Technica R70x, Sennheiser HD600, and Audio Technica Ad2000. I feel that I have spent enough time with the SS/Vali 2 to feel comfortable sharing my opinion, but my experiences may differ from yours. It’s always best to demo a audio gear before purchasing, but if you’re unable to I recommend at least reading other views in conjunction with this review.

    Thanks to Schiit for the review samples.

    Build & Features
    Build
    The Magni and Modi are housed within sleek brushed metal casings that take up minimal desktop space while enhancing the view thanks to a minimalistic design. Compared to the HPA-3U the SS is almost twice as high, but half as long and just as wide, and looks much nicer in comparison to the pro-audio esque design of the HPA-3U. The jacks on both units feel sturdy, front and back. The power and gain switches of the Magni click satisfying without feeling loose, while the potentiometer turns smoothly with mild resistance.

    The Vali 2 feels the same in build as the Magni 2 Uber, though with a tube protruding.

    The Modi’s power switch functions with the same standard of quality as found on the Magni, but the button gives some cause for concern. The button functions perfectly when pressed to cycle through inputs, but it rattles when the Modi is handled. I contacted Schiit about this and they said that this happens sometimes during shipping. It makes me wonder why they haven’t changed their packaging procedures if this is a common problem. The unit functions with no issues, but this is an easily fixed common issue.

    Features
    For a $300 set, the Magni 2 Uber is capable of putting out a great amount of power, ranging from 2.1W into 16ohms to 160mW into a 600ohm load while having 2 gain positions. With this amount of power the Magni 2 Uber should provide enough power to sufficiently power most headphones on the market. The Magni also features RCA in as well as RCA out to use the Magni 2 Uber as a pre-amp.

    The Vali 2 offers an affordable and quality hybrid tube amp with enough power for most headphones you’re going to throw at it. The tube is removable, unlike with the original Vali, which allows for tube rolling.

    The Modi 2 Uber is capable of connecting via toslink, coaxial, and USB to allow for a variety of connectivity options that are easy to cycle through. The Modi 2 Uber also comes with RCA out for an easy connection to many high-end amplifiers.

    Power Output & Impedance
    Schiit Magni 2 Uber
    The Magni 2 Uber is rated at a maximum output of 2,100mW at 16 ohms, with 160mW at 600 ohms while having a very low output impedance of less than 0.2 ohms. On paper the Magni 2 Uber looks powerful enough to drive almost anything on the market to high volumes - with only some caveats.

    The Magni 2 cleanly powers the low impedance/high sensitivity RHA S500i with no issues, and no discernible noise floor until on high gain at levels that would likely cause damage to my ears or the drivers. The Ad2000 is easily powered on low gain with high gain not necessary at all. The HD600 will likely be kept on low-gain for many listeners, though high-gain is where I feel more comfortable keeping it in order to account for high dynamic range recordings. The Magni is capable of powering the power hungry Omni with some headroom even on the highest DR recordings when set to high-gain.

    Schiit Vali 2
    The Vali 2 is rated at a maximum of 1,300mW at 16 ohms to 140mW at 600 ohms with a variable output impedance of 1.2 ohms in low gain, 5.8 ohms in high gain. The Vali 2 outputs a solid amount power, though paling in comparison to the Magni 2 Uber when looking at lower impedances. High gain also adds quite a bit of output impedance potentially causing poor damping between low impedance low sensitivity dynamic driver headphones.

    The Vali 2 cleanly powers the low impedance high sensitivity RHA S500i with no issues, no noise floor either until high gain, which is unnecessary for these anyway. The Vali 2 has absolutely no issues powering the Audio Technica Ad2000 on low gain, high gain is not needed but the higher output impedance does seem to add a slight thickness in the lows. The Sennheiser HD600 max out the potentiometer on low-gain with some recordings, though even on modern stuff it doesn’t have enough headroom for my liking. High gain gets the HD600 where it needs to be with every recording that I have and the pairing sounds rather nice actually. Lastly I find myself high-gain with the power hungry Omni, wishing for a bit more power for some high DR recordings.

    Sound Quality
    Review
    Schiit Magni 2 Uber


    I’m not going to wax poetically about the sound quality of the SS, as my father always said, “keep it simple, stupid,” so here’s me keeping it simple. The SS provides a clean output with lots of power and a low noise floor, sounding clean even IEMs such as the RHA T20. The tone is slightly bright with a hint of grain when compared to the HPA-3U, but just barely so. Dynamics and soundstage offer no noticed increase or decrease when compared to the HPA-3U, simply a clean and unobtrusive sound from the computer to the headphones.

    The Magni 2 Uber serves as a powerful and relatively clean/neutral solid state amp that hasn’t sounded offensive to any headphone I’ve plugged into it. It gets my firm recommendation as my favorite entry level

    Schiit Vali 2
    Compared to the HPA-3U the Vali 2 gives an impression of warmth and refinement - rather smooth sounding. I understand a bit when people mention tube amps can make the sound “gooey” now, though the effect is mild with the Vali 2. Weird thing is that when I’m listening to it for the first time in a listening session - after thoroughly warmed up - I can’t help but feel the tempo sounds a touch slower than it should be. Due to this I don’t find it to be a good pairing with warm leaning headphones.

    Mild warmth and a smooth sound signature is what I hear, and I’m greatly enjoying what I’m hearing with the HD600 as well as with the MeeAudio Pinnacle IEM.

    Conclusion
    Should you buy a SS? If you’re looking for your first amplifier and DAC set-up then I give this an enthusiastic yes! The SS provides a lot of power and does so without significantly coloring the sound - making it an excellent set-up as you work towards finding your end-game headphones. I haven’t used a headphone with the SS that didn’t sound great when plugged into it. It gets my firm recommendation as my favorite budget entry level solid state amp.

    How about the Vali 2? Well this is a bit more complicated. I wouldn’t recommend this as your sole amplifier, solely because the warmth might alter the sound against your liking. Additionally the 5.8 ohms output impedance in high-gain might also have an effect on low impedance headphones. I’ve found that fast and brighter headphones do well with the Vali 2, though bass heavy headphones sounded sluggish and overly warm to my ears. This would make an excellent companion to the Magni 2 as an entry-level amplifier though, if you’re interested in trying a tube amplifier.


    To uber or not? The Magni 2 Uber offers more power and an additional output to use the unit as a pre-amp. If more power or additional usage piques your interest then I feel it’s a worthy upgrade. The Modi 2 Uber offers toslink and coaxial inputs that the standard version does not, thus if those are important to you than the Uber version is a worthy upgrade.
     
    Altrunox, Psalmanazar, JK47 and 8 others like this.
  2. PoochZag

    PoochZag The Shadow knows - Friend

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    Another thorough review @keanex !

    Any chance you were able to stick cIEMS or other BA only IEMs into either amp to test noise floor?
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The Magni 2U circuit is slighty different. I think the Magni 2 (non-uber) might be a teeny bit leaner sounding.

    This is from my notes:

    Magni 2U: A noticeable difference from Magni 2. More clarity, less haze, more lively and exact. Could put two of these together in a huge chassis to make a balanced amp. Maybe I will do that this December to mess with people at the next meet. Tell them this is a $850 amp. I didn't notice this before between 2U and Magni 2, but good conditions tonight...
     
  4. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    I actually don't have any BA IEMs hanging around, or any CIEMs. I have plugged the MeeAudio P1 into the Vali 2 and Magni 2, but that's a dynamic.

    @purrin Thanks for the information on the Magni 2 vs Magni 2 Uber!
     
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  5. Artasia

    Artasia Friend

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    I always enjoy your reviews. I was wondering if the grain you hear in the SS is coming from the DAC or the amp (or both)? Have you tried the Magni 2U with another DAC? I didn't see the presence of grain mentioned in your impressions of the Vali 2 (nor did I in others' impressions) so am tempted to assume the minute amount of grain you heard may be attributed to the Magni 2U, perhaps in addition to the DAC.
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The Modi 2U is grainy, not as grainy as the Modi 1, but still grainy. I've tried the SFD-1 DAC into the Magni 2U. No grain with that combination.
     
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  7. lm4der

    lm4der A very good sport - Friend

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    I really feel like the Modi 2 (Uber or non) is kind of the weak link in Schiit's low price gear. I just don't think it performs that well. It's no loser for $100-$150, it's just not really bringing much to the table in terms of SQ. I hope that Schiit is getting ready to release a Modi 3 w/4490.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Screw 4490. Modi Multibit all the way!
     
  9. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    I tried the Magni 2 with the lineout from my Matrix HPA-3U and I feel that the Magni 2 is the one with slight grain through the upper-midrange to the treble. I find no grain through the Vali 2 connected to the Modi 2 Uber, which gives me some confidence in thinking it's the Magni 2 Uber. Then again there's a chance the Vali 2 smooths that out.

    I don't find the grain to be huge though. Just a hint of it.

    Edit: Then again the DAC in the Matrix could be the one causing the same grain as I hear with the Modi 2 Uber!
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
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  10. Pyruvate

    Pyruvate Friend

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    To me, Modi2U cut it pretty close to Bifrost uber. But the new 4490 board for the Bifrost widens the gap once again. A 4490 Modi would be very promising.

    I'm very glad I invested in the Bifrost though. Mike's plan to have it upgradable is fucking genius.
     
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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I don't have a lot of data points and I can't say much at this time, but the AKM4490 is smoother, more resolving, and and more expansive sounding than the prior generation AKM chips. I'd easily go for a well executed 4490 DAC.

    The problem with the Chinese is that they are stuck on "names" and they suck at any kind of real research and development, so they slap XMOS and Sabre parts together with craptastic cheap power supplies and call it a day. I'm not even sure they listen to the stuff they make.

    And then after that, they look for HFers who always write good reviews to offer their shit for free or at substantial discounts for a good review. This works for most people elsewhere, but it doesn't work here because most of us really don't want a pile of crap sitting on desks or being listed in our online profiles among a list of 37 other pieces of audio crap to show how awesome we are.
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2016
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  12. Smitty

    Smitty Too good for bad vodka - Friend

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    So true, it's almost like what you can afford to buy is a measurement of how successful you are as a person. Of course, the next level Chinese strategy is evaluated at how much under MSRP you got it because of deals/sales/underhanded dealing/contacts with executives/etc. It's how you break ties.
    Anyway, thanks for the great review @keanex ! I'm probably getting my brother an amp, he has some HD600's that are being run out of his front panel headphone jack ATM, the Magni 2u should improve his sound a bit.
     
  13. keanex

    keanex Martian Bounty Hunter - Friend

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    IMO the Vali 2 is the better pairing with the HD600. And it looks cool!
     

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