Schiit Modi 3E Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Mar 11, 2022.

  1. M3NTAL

    M3NTAL Friend

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    I read the manual on the 3E with regards to powering the unit. Is there any benefit to powering the unit with the separate USB power supply while the DATA comes from the other USB port ? Only reason I ask is because the Gamma2 Lite I have runs off of USB, but the general consensus is that it is improved with the separate power supply.

    I watched the Jason and Mike drinking show last night and it sounds like the Modi MB isn't an "If", but more of a "when" - Might be the next product I buy from Schiit. Not sure if the 3E or MB would be a better match for my Magni IEM. I still would really love to get my hands on the Vali 2+ for IEM's. The longer I've been in this hobby, the more I'm starting to agree with Jason. The M&M stack is better than most the stuff we put up with at the beginning of this hobby.
     
  2. PacoTaco

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    Looks like the schiit modius e is ready for order. That should be interesting.
     
  3. ssmith3046

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    Yes, it should. I might have to add to my collection of Schiit.
     
  4. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I would love to hear impressions of Modius e, how it sounds compared to AKM Modius, and if the SE outs sound different/worse than the BAL outs.
     
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  5. Mdkaler

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    Modi 3E Impressions (and Schiit-talking)

    TLDR
    Excellent little DAC which excels at micro-gradations, spatial cues and layering; reference level detail retrieval with dedicated SPDIF source; slightly gritty treble, slightly recessed mids for spaciousness, acceptable bass. Made me sold Gungnir Multibit MB A2 (half kidding here, as I wanted to downsize from rack to desktop size).

    Overview
    Seems like the Modi 3E isn't getting a lot of attention here. Usually I am too lazy to write longer impressions, but I feel like I owe it to this little gem to write something. I have had it for over a month now, at first only the black-ground stood out. Over time I have noticed how good it handles micro-gradations and how details can be peeled off by the layers like an onion, using good tube amps. The Modi 3E scales even further with a good USB source and SPDIF source (RCA/coaxial, didn't try optical in), to the point that I prefer it over the Gungnir Multibit A2 Gen5 SE out, as Gungnir Multibit doesn't have the dark black-ground and isn't as airy and 3D. That said, Modi 3E has its weakness too, and lacks the magic of Pi2AES -> Gungnir Multibit A2 balance out. Nevertheless, it sounds like a big accomplishment and I would like to congratulate Schiit for offering this level of performance at $129.

    Gear involved:
    DAC: Modi 3E, Gungnir Multibit MB A2 Gen5 (M3E and GA2 hereinafter, respectively)
    Amp: Magni 3+, SW51+, EC Af
    Headphones: HD 650 kiss, HD 800 Darth Vader, Verum 1
    Source: Alienware m15 R5, XPS 15 9510, desktop dedicated PCIe USB card, Douk Audio U2

    USB
    USB actually makes a big difference when I was comparing the GA2 and M3E. Gen 5 USB is only acceptable, and largely dependent on the quality of USB source. GA2 gains focus, air (separation), and black-ground by using desktop class PCIe USB card and even more so with Pi2AES. Unison USB is significantly better than Gen 5, and similar albeit smaller improvements can be had with better sources. Unison has it own sound as well. Overall, Unison makes sharper notes more diffuse, or slightly extended decay, which IMO contributes to the tube-like sound that it is famous for. This is a good for smoothing out unnatural sharpness/digitus from compressed MP3 and crappy USB ports, but at the same time kills some air and adds some fuzziness/grey-blackground for good sources.

    M3E is currently the most affordable price point to get Unison. It is an excellent value proposition, and Unison happens to be a great match with M3E's FR and timbre. I actually prefer the more easy-listening Unison over the more clinical Douk U2 DDC into the M3E.

    Sound
    The first thing that jumps at me is the black-ground and micro details, very surprised as it rivals the GA2 SE out using mediocre USB ports. This results in very respectable air between instruments and voices, and very good retrieval of micro details. M3E is a detail monster that out-resolves the HD 650 kiss. Using SPDIF in, M3E makes it very easy to follow and distinguish each instrument and sound during busy passage in the first minute of Eagle's Hotel California, and the surround sound effect sounds very 3D. This is not a trivial task with many DACs. Heck, using Unison the busy passage sounds more congested and less 3D. M3E on its own, without Unison, excels at retrieving micro-details. The slightly bright and gritty treble, when rounded by the SW51 high gain and RFT tubes (and other good tube amps) (I suppose I should write something about the SW51 too, someday...), actually retains texture; so it isn't glare or brightness that need to tamed, but rather details and textures that somehow get compressed to sound gritty and bright.

    M3E excels in micro-gradations, but relatively speaking lacks in macro-dynamics. Transients are not the fastest, and so it sounds less dry than GA2. Attacks are slightly rounded, decays sound natural with good sustain, which is consistent in the bass department. Bass has decent extension and texture, and only acceptable impact. With Unison, the bass can sound phat to some, as it loses some focus and adds some reverbs that cover up the texture.

    Now let's talk about things that I find weird in M3E. M3E is very spacious with excellent spatial cues and layering. You sit a little bit further away from stage than most Schiit DACs, as in less incisive and forward. In terms of FR, mids are a bit recessed. Unlike Focal Clear MG and Massdrop Liquid Carbon X where the mid suck out don't really contribute much, the M3E mids take a step back to give you a spatial cues and bigger stage, which is an acceptable tradeoff IMO. Headstage size isn't too big per se, but it is very holographic and spacious. It is easy to pinpoint where an instrument is located, but somehow the positions of instruments sound a bit off. Perhaps the shape of the stage isn't flat and wide, I can't tell.
    Tone and Timbre are decent, but for some reason the presentation as a whole sound a little bit weird and I can't say it's very enjoyable for me. It lacks the magic of the GA2 good source in and balanced out, sounds too clinical to me and causes fatigue after about 1 hour of listening. For this reason, while SPDIF takes the M3E to one level higher I would still recommend using Unison. Unison gives you a more agreeable presentation, and draws you towards the music rather than technicalities.

    Ending Thoughts
    Schiit has come a long way from the good old Modi 2U days where it is an improvement over headphone jacks but really not that much (perhaps it was the Gen2/3 USB and not the Modi 2). I haven't heard the Modi 3/+ so I don't know if the Modi 3 already has reference level micros and details. It's pretty crazy when I almost need to pimp out the GA2 to surpass some aspects of this little Modi. I ended up selling the GA2 as I wanted something more portable, and the M3E's black-ground and micro-gradations tell me that it's time to upgrade to the next Gungnir Multibit, which turns out that it might be the new Bifrost 2/64 if Jason wasn't lying about no LIM upgrade for the Gungnir. I had some brief time with GA2 Unison at the Schittr, but still it sounded like a GA2 with a somewhat grey black-ground. So I am excited for the new BF2/64, which I will compare to the Yggdrasil LIM loaner in the near future.

    Thank you for your time and patience if you read the whole thing. Wish you all a good day/evening!
     
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  6. avguytx

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    I enjoyed reading through this thread and especially with someone including the comparison to the Schiit Modi Multibit that @Chicagorob mentioned awhile back. I recently bought a used Schiit Modi Multibit DAC and have been listening to it in my setup. What immediately hit me was that it seems more forward sounding through the mids/highs than the JDS Atom DAC+ and Topping D10S that I also have. I will say that I have a hearing downfall with tinnitus and some upper HF hearing loss so certain ranges hit me more than most people. I guess that's what I get for growing up in the 80's, going to lots of concerts, playing in bands, and working in the home A/V and car audio industry for 25 years (from '84 till 2010) ha

    I deliberated on getting the Modi 3E before this MB version but it was quite a good deal and was the upgraded/latest version of it as confirmed by Schiit. My current deliberation is replacing the older, yet fully rebuilt bottom to top, Carver C-1 preamp and trying out a Saga S or Freya S. I emailed them and both Tom and Daniel recommended the Saga S as I don't need balanced connections and don't care anything about the tube versions. I do have a Dynakit ST-70 tube amp when I feel the need (during winter) for tubes.
     
  7. Chicagorob

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    Thanks for your report. I’m still very impressed with the MM. It really does a great job with image outlines within the soundstage. I think it has better “focus” than the 3E. However, for the price, the 3E is ridiculously good.
     
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  8. JellyRhino

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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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  10. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Heck, I heard CanJam Texas is now a thing. I am flattered. Glad to pave the road for Jude.
     
  12. Entropy

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    This review makes me wonder about the (user-response) rating system in ASR and the community's opinion on performance. I was pretty much entrenched in that community for a little while, and while I was there, I got pretty passionate about the measured performance of certain devices-particularly amps and dacs... but that was with absolutely 0 context on the topic of the audibility of what was being measured. When I go back there and see similar ratings for similar products (think smsl su-10 vs topping e70), except one is 2.5x more, is it the "pushing useless boundries of audio" that we're getting excited about? One more dB of Sinad? Something else?
     
  13. Empyah

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    I am flabbergasted how much DAC I got for 109 bucks off Schiit's B-stock in the Modi+.
    This does not sound like entry level any more. I could honestly live with this.
    Paired with my V226 or Piety (nice budget synergy) and my HD6XX Kiss Mod with double magnets - it simply sounds nice, smooth and lively, no apparent negatives. Very detailed, nice stage, layering and imaging, nice dense tone/color and some juicy punch on top of a nice bottom end.

    Very good rythym/PRAT, of the same kind I immediately noticed with the Bifrost 2, music seems to flow right, and thus simply starts moving me. Tonaly it reminds me of my Yggi A2/OG, has the same liveliness and nice sub bass bump, immediately engaging.

    This small thing is an absolute Schiit masterclass in DAC design, how to make something sound nice and satisfying.
    Makes me wanna put together a bare bones, budget speaker system with the JL Hood 1969, a mini PC with an USB PCIe card, some decent cables etc. Just got to pick the right cheap speakers with high(er) sensitivity.

    Get them closeout Modi 3E's (afaik they are the same except for USB-C?) while they still have a few!|\/|
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2023

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