Schiit Modius DAC Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Modi 3 is very similar to the RME and if they put ever put Unison in a Modi 3+, it will be awfully close. The RME bass is tighter, but generally the Modi 3 and RME I'd put in the same sub-family of sound (add SDAC). In other words, Modi 3 is an RME ADI2 lite from a purely sound POV. Modius on the other hand is a radical departure from Modi 3 / RME ADI2 sound, specially from the XLR outs. The SE outs on Modius are phat, but the mids are present and have some real kick like the Modi 2 Uber based on the prior gen AKM chips. Modius and xDuoo XD-5 are in another sub-family. Bass textures seem to be a real challenge regardless and RME ADI2 pulls this off better than the rest.

    Filters make a difference, but they don't suddenly change the AKM4490/93 into the prior gen AKM4399 nor do they have the same result as a totally different output stage. Personally I dislike all the slow filters built into that chip, but then again I dislike all slow filters (and minimum phase) in general.

    Cranesong Solaris still has that mush, it's just less evident because the presentation is tuned to be more clinical. Topping D70 and Solaris belong in another VELVET sub-family with a leaner and brighter presentation. Except the D70 doesn't have Solaris' soundstage / custom-filtering and resolves plankton no better than the $79 SDAC.

    P.S. I don't know how the heck that guy on Gearslut took that long trying to figure out Convert-2 and Solaris. They are totally different.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
  2. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    It’s funny how it seemed like most of the DS DAC manufacturers, especially the lower/mid price market, a few years back seemed to all be implementing ESS Sabre, but now this seems to have flipped somewhat over to AKM Velvet.

    It’s like a reaction to the negative “Sabre glare” caused them to jump ship to a more smoothed-over, inoffensive presentation in order to avoid complaints from anyone. But now we have Velveeta sound, instead of Sabre glare. Not saying Modius is like this per se (or at least, it seems less so), but many others seem to be.

    Based on ESS’s last iteration of chips, which seemed to have improved things somewhat (at least in better implementations of the 9038) it would be ironic if ESS’s next iteration of chips took things even further and eliminated the Sabre glare, but while keeping the transients and incisiveness that AKM is now lacking in the Velvet stuff.

    Of course Schiit have been on the AKM train for long time, but I wonder if they’ve experimented with other chips at all in recent years (ESS, BB, Cirrus, Wolfson). It’s probably harder to jump ship when you don’t implement cookie cutter recipe designs like most others do, and of course most of Schiit’s focus is in the Multibit space (which it should be) and the AKM stuff is for the lower priced/measurement market, so likely not worth it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Oh you bet they have and some of the other stuff came close (lots of factors here). They are just not in a position to stay stuff like "boring, sucks balls, sounds like ass, etc." We see other companies showing a preference for certain chips too like iFi toward BB and ResonESSonessence toward ESS.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 12, 2020
  4. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    None of the good designs are cookie cutter rlow. The opamps, clocks, board layouts, drivers, and onboard dsp are huge.

    The glare isn’t in the Sabre chip either. It’s just poor implementations. Apogee and MOTU have no glare in their current products that use the 9016 chip. The chips are all cheap except for PCM1792/1974 and the overpriced newest AK, Cirrus, and ESS stuff. The choice of chips seems to be one of the least important parts in getting an acceptable sound as we have heard from expensive chip AliExpress boxes sounding horrible compared to almost 20 year old CS4398 and AD1955 and even codec chips in RME, SPL, and upper end Focusrite gear.
     
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  5. androxylo

    androxylo Rando

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    Hard to switch back and forth but I think I get better results from Modius by ditching Sys and plugging Modius to Aegir directly. Maybe because I have only one good cable and I had to use a 2nd crappy cable with Sys.

    Also, to compensate for digital volume signal degradation I had to upsample it a bit as described here, changing pulseaudio configs:
    https://medium.com/@gamunu/enable-high-quality-audio-on-linux-6f16f3fe7e1f
     
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  6. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Today I finally dusted off the ISO-MAX and connected it to Zana Deux. So that means I was able to compare SE out and Balanced with another amp (other than Liquid Platinum). Here's what I wrote down:

    1. BAL -> ISO-MAX seems to give tighter bass that may be slightly less impactful/weighty? But I honestly don't like SE bass anyways. Some songs sound a bit more indistinct and blurry with SE to me. (Edit: I'll shorten BAL -> ISO-MAX to just BAL from this point on)

    2. SE seems to give a bit more lower midrange and a wee bit of upper midrange peakiness? In comparison, BAL emphasizes the middle to lower upper midrange a bit more. Actually, the midrange emphasis of BAL out is very apparent to me. It may be because ZD is already tuned more towards midrange, and I'm also listening to mostly headphones with midrange emphasis. Funny enough, SE still sounds a bit more "shouty" or "harsh" to me for some reason. BAL sounds a bit more mellow despite the midrange emphasis.

    3. SE sounds brighter and more grainy in the treble region. Some songs have this weird "edge" to the vocal to me, while still sounding somewhat blurry. It's like I'm oversharpening a photo taken at high ISO with a lot of grain. BAL out is... smoother and cleaner overall, though not emphasized. It's like staring into a "normal" unsharp low ISO photo that's just ever so slightly under-exposed.

    I don't want to overstate the difference, but it is quite apparent to me. Also, this is somewhat inline with the difference I heard with Liquid Platinum, so... there's that.
     
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  7. Ti_Leo

    Ti_Leo Facebook Friend

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    Finally completed my BAL setup, so Modius can feed both SE and BAL to Liquid Platinum. Since there are many extensive and detailed reviews here, I'll try to keep it short.

    SE vs BAL on Modius to me is like TH-X00 PH vs TH-X00 EB. SE has a bit bloated mid-bass? And it has more glare. BAL has tighter and cleaner bass, which means less bassy, but in a good way. And better mids and smoother treble. So, it's just like TH-X00 PH vs TH-X00 EB. In addition to that, I might found BAL has a bit of more depth? Or better imaging? I just feel that the vocal is defined better on BAL.

    Modius vs Modi Multibit (could be V2, but not sure). This is like TH-X00 vs HD6XX on sound signature, not that much of difference, but it is U-shaped sound vs good mids. Modius sounds more detailed, more expansive, separation is very good. So Modius is really good for exploring old songs and enjoying bassy songs. But I still prefer Modi Multibit, yes, it sound a bit congested, but I don't find missing anything on Modi Multibit (yes, some of the details maybe). Modi Multibit is like delivering a whole package of sound, while Modius is for fun and analysis. So choose between these two is really on personal preference, and whether you have or plan to get a BAL in amp.
     
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  8. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    Guess I'm finally buying either an ISO-MAX or Twin-Iso, then. Thanks for your impressions.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    ^ exactly how I felt.

    SE sound had phat bass (mushy, heavy, emphasized, one-note) and harsher and grainier in the highs.

    BAL had better quality tighter bass. Still some emphasis in the bass, but otherwise flat all the way to the top with no harshness or digital nasties.

    The difference was significant to make them appear as two different DACs given how small DAC differences are.
     
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  10. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    Agreed with the differences as well. I will also say that balanced out still sometimes has that flubby bass, just to a lesser degree.

    I'm still pretty dang pleased with the Modius. It has shortcomings, but not more severe than those of a lot of 4 figure DACs.
     
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  11. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    As much talk about the differences between the balanced and unbalanced, I feel to me that all is not inaccurate, just remember the comments are under a microscope. Not that the differences are exaggerated, To me it is not big enough to sound like a different DAC altogether. I had to really focus at first as these differences are not immediately noticeable. You have to remember, it is the same chip, same filter, just different output IC's.

    I think the choices were made to appeal to the respective outputs...tonality classic Burr Brown opamp lushness on the SE outputs, and accurate and clear outputs on the XLR.
     
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  12. androxylo

    androxylo Rando

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    Pity you did not compare with "Modius -> Single Aegir" directly without any passive amp or pot at all. This is exactly my config, I'm very happy with it but I don't have anything to compare it with. Definitely sounds better than any stereo I had before. If anyone is a noob like me and is assembling a cheap stereo, Modius + Aegir will kick ass price/performance, I doubt you can do anything better for the price. :)
     
  13. androxylo

    androxylo Rando

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    I have some unfortunate shiit with my Modius, and I would like to ask some advice. Because of my job, I had to switch my computer from Ubuntu Linux PC to MacBook, and because of this I lost quite a bit of music quality. The problem is that Mac can't change volume, while Linux can.
    1. My old setup was:
    Pulseaudio upsampled to 32 bits -> Modius -> Best world cables RCA -> Aegir -> Dyn
    2. New setup:
    MacBook -> Modius -> generic RCA -> Sys -> Best world cables RCA -> Aegir -> Dyn

    It still sounds very good, but by far not as good as before. I wish Mac can change volume, but by some reason it can't.
     
  14. monacelli

    monacelli Friend

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    Bummer that you're having trouble. First, could you tell us why you're attenuating the volume before going into the SYS? That's a little counterintuitive because you normally get best results by feeding full line level into the preamp. Is there some other problem that you're trying to solve by doing it this way? But if you really do want to do this, it should totally be possible (I can do it with with my macbook air and JDS DAC). What player are you using? If it's in your budget, I recommend using Audirvana with the System Optimizer turned on. When configured this way, macbooks can actually be pretty darn good USB sources, in my experience. The main thing you need to set up when interfacing a mac with a DAC is the Audio MIDI Setup. The picture below shows what mine looks like. On the left hand side you'll see all of the available audio devices. You would select the Modius, right click, and then choose "Use This Device for Sound Output". Then, as long as your player software isn't doing anything goofy, you can change the levels (e.g., add -6 dB preattenuation) right from the panel. You should be able to use the sliders, enter values directly into the panel numerically, or use the volume controls on your keyboard. As long as the audio device is selected, all of those methods should work. You may also want to select a different device, such as the internal speakers, and select "Play Alerts and Sound Effects Through This Device." This ensures that mac system sounds won't get routed through your 2-channel rig. That's pretty much all there is to it. The rest of the configuration would occur within your player application. The native macOS music app isn't very good, unfortunately. For me, I haven't felt compelled to look around at other applications since I switched to Audirvana.[​IMG]
     
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  15. Degru

    Degru Facebook Friend

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    Can anyone confirm whether polarity is correct on the balanced XLR outputs? I'm getting reverse polarity on my setup but I don't know if it's my Modius or my amp because I don't have a way to record a balanced output directly.

    EDIT: Just tested by playing "DC current" file of all +1 samples, and if my understanding of XLR pinouts is correct then my Modius is correct phase. That leaves my amp I suppose.
     
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2020
  16. redrich2000

    redrich2000 Facebook Friend

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    I have a question about USB cables, is there any problem with running a long micro USB into modius, like maybe 3m? And if I'm buying a long cable, I'm assuming there are no "audiophile" micro usb cables, so what should I get, just something from Amazon?
     
  17. LetMeBeFrank

    LetMeBeFrank Won't tell anyone my name is actually Francis

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    I like Anker powerline USB cables, high quality and sturdy. I use them for just about everything.
     
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  18. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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    USB specification defines 5 meters as the upper length of an usb cable, so you should be fine.
     
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  19. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    @redrich2000

    While 5 meters is the max spec'd length, most USB cables I have used in audio sound better if shorter. It is much better to run an analog cable that length than digital, that is, if you care about sound quality.

    And cable quality does vary quite a bit. I have had good luck with Monoprice for micros and you can buy them at the zon. If you can still find them the Premium with the larger gauge wire is their best.
     
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  20. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Amazon Basics. Amazon uses big data to study what sells and what is good quality from established brands, for example Belkin.

    Amazon then undercuts those brands by finding the same or similar OEMs to make their version. Generally the Amazon Basics stuff is pretty good and a huge leap from the mystery brands or the cheap crap included with most consumer gear.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 23, 2020

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