Schiit Modius DAC Review and Measurements

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

  1. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Yeah, I just got the XLR cable in today.

    Switching from balanced to SE (I have a liquid platinum that can do this easily with just one press of a button) does cause massive difference to jump out at me.

    Balanced is not necessarily "brighter", but... maybe it's "clearer" sounding? It'll sound cliché but it's exactly like lifting a veil.

    Bass is cleaner overall, treble is indeed slightly smoother, but I think it was more because SE had slightly more cloudy sound that caused treble sharpness to jump out more. I think SE has very smooth treble already. I certainly wasn't annoyed by the usual kpop suspects.

    But midrange is the largest change overall for me. Balanced is far cleaner and clearer. It almost sounds like balanced is mid-centric but in reality, it's just SE is veiled.

    Liquid Platinum + Amperex tubes (the bassy config) coupled with mid-centric Modius balanced sounds like "guilty pleasure" for me.

    In direct comparison, even out of balanced, Modius is still warmer/smoother than Modi 3 or Fiio M15 to me. The other 2 sound "bright", with more digital treble.

    I'd avoid calling Modius' treble R2R-like, but it does sound very R2R-like for a delta-sigma DAC.
     
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  2. PTS

    PTS Friend

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    @Melvillian was kind enough to loan me the Modius for a couple of days to check out. I was eager to hear it due to the recent hype, and promised myself that if it was on par (or better) than the RME ADI-2 (used standalone in a speaker setup, not from the overly clinical built-in headamp), I'd switch out and put some money in my pocket. So here's some comparison notes using USB connections and balanced outputs.

    The Modius was impressive from the get-go, the touch warmer-than-neutral sound I tend to prefer, and very musical. Balanced across the board, nothing peaky or harsh, with an uncanny ability to get your head bobbing. It reminds me of listening to vinyl, which is a good thing. Switching to the ADI-2, what's immediately noticeable is the increase in overall "air" to the sound and better treble extension. The bass isn't quite as present in the mix, but is tighter and more articulate. The Modius bass feels a touch boosted and kick drums hit harder. It's fair to say there's slightly less head bob factor when listening to ADI-2. In terms of overall midrange, soundstage, and timbre, I didn't notice a big difference.

    Modius pros: Fun, balanced and pleasant across the board, musical, visceral, kind to poor recordings.
    Modius cons: Slightly veiled on the top end, a touch pillowy in the bass.

    ADI-2 pros: Balanced and pleasant across the board, accurate, articulate, extension and air, tweakability.
    ADI-2 cons: Perhaps less "analog" sounding compared to some other DACs.

    Conclusion: I liked the Modius a lot, and for less than $200 (x5 cheaper than the ADI-2) it's a no brainer. I'd say this is simply a must buy if you're on a budget, and still a worthy consideration for higher-end rigs. If you're looking for a DAC that's forgiving to less than stellar recordings, yet packs a visceral punch, you can't go wrong. If you're the type of listener who's a treble / detail hound, or prefers a more accurate / less colored sound, I'd probably look elsewhere. A minor gripe is the USB / power combo cable is short, so unless you plan on putting the DAC no more than few feet away from the source, you're going to need a longer cable.

    The Modius doesn't dethrone the ADI-2, personally, for the majority of music that I listen to, and the music I produce. I'd also miss ADI-2's many features and rock solid drivers. Of course, the mileage will vary for different people on every different setup. Someone like Psalm shits on RME every chance he gets, and when listening to (often poorly recorded) old school metal, I too would grab something like the Modius for the forgiving factor (this is why I only buy classic metal on vinyl). I wouldn't want to track, mix, or master with the Modius, and I think even Schiit would agree that's not what it's designed for, while for the most part RME products are - so you're getting more of a "studio sound".

    Anyway, this Schiit is definitely fun, so thumbs up.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
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  3. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    All these impressions saying the Modius is warmer makes me wonder if they went for one of the less steep filters this time around, or if its just circuit improvements.
     
  4. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    I believe Schiit goes with the AKM default filter in their DACs.
     
  5. damaged-goods

    damaged-goods Acquaintance

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    @PTS could you please add which filter you'Re using on the RME ADI 2 DAC? Thanks for the interesting impressions!

    Which one would this be, "SD Sharp" or "Sharp"?
     
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  6. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    Was this with the RCA or XLR outputs? Your impressions are pretty similarly to how I heard the difference between Modi 3 / Adi-2 comparison I did at some point. I found the Modi 3 less warm, less refined and articulate in the bass, but there was not much in it.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
  7. PTS

    PTS Friend

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    @damaged-goods I have it set to SD Sharp, but the filter types largely sound the same to me.
    @Poleepkwa Balanced XLR outputs.
     
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  8. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    If schiit didn't change it, that would be SD Sharp (for minimal latency).
     
  9. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    I think Schiit uses only linear phase filters? Feel free to correct me on that
     
  10. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    It could be they selected linear sharp you'll have to ask Schiit.
     
  11. Jay

    Jay Facebook Friend

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    My Gungnir Multibit A1 is getting a little long in the tooth, so of course I'm getting the temptation to cheat on it. One thing that I never liked about it is the long warm up. I live in an area with frequent thunderstorms and power flickers, so I have to turn it off often. For instance, today as Cristobol approaches. If I can get a D-S dac that warms up quickly without having all of the previous D-S issues, I'd strongly consider it.

    How does the Modius compare to the Gungnir Multibit A1? My amp accepts a balanced signal, so that's not an issue. I also use coaxial, so the new usb implementation also isn't an immediate consideration.
     
  12. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    ive made a lot of changes to my setup recently, including an amplifier, a new bifrost 2, and the Modius so take what I say with a grain of salt. I owned the A1 Gungnir Multibit a couple of years ago and the bifrost 2 sounds to me very similar to the Gungnir Multibit A1. Maybe not as in your face, but has a similar full bodied tone. The Modius sounds thin, isn’t as cohesive and lacks that schiit multibit slam. Especially when it comes to the bass. XLR is better than single ended, but it’s just kind of there. Comparing the Modius side by side with the Bifrost2, the Modius has a bit more color in the midrange, but ends up sounding artificial at higher volumes. It’s just not as refined as the Bifrost2 and the A1 Gungnir multibit.

    Does warm up make that much of a difference once the DAC is broken in? I always kept mine on so I don’t really know.

    edit** I like using the Modius RCA outs for really bad recordings. It just adds a layer of veil that I find makes bad recordings sound good.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Up to now, I’ve seen the amount top end air as annoying unnatural with the AKM Velvet Sound DACs. This includes the Modi-3, the Topping D70, RME ADI-2, and even the SDAC. I didn’t feel the Modius lacked top end extension, just had less of it. But who knows, I may need my son to verify since he can hear the ground beetles much easier than I can.

    To me, the Modius (balanced outs) was no longer Velvet Sound. Harder hitting, stronger attacks, less polite, less excess air. A return somewhat to prior generation AKM chips. A more resolving and nuanced Gungnir DS without that excess slam. Well, maybe It maintained 20-25% of Velvet Sound qualities, but then many other DACs have similar qualities.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
  14. Jay

    Jay Facebook Friend

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    Thanks for your insight, @Melvillian.

    As far as break in and warm up with my Gungnir Multibit, warm up is still a thing, at least to my ears. Maybe it doesn't take 48 hours to stabilize anymore, but it's still at least half a day to really make the plankton come alive. It's there during first power up, but it's not as focused.
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I didn’t think it changed much. The Bifrost 2 has crazy slam and low end and is overall darker with a hint of organic lows and richer mids and highs compared to Modius. Even more so if you are running balanced in Modius.
     
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  16. theveterans

    theveterans Acquaintance

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    Thanks for your thoughts. Boy I'm glad I met you there at Schiitr yesterday as I was looking forward to get a Modius and Bifrost 2 comparison myself and was so dismayed when they didn't have any Modius in stock. I know you're kind of just had a very brief impressions with the Gungnir A2 back there, but from what you just remembered do you think Modius is less bright than the GMB A2?
     
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  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I can do a direct comparison right now using the balanced outputs from both Modius and Gungnir A2.
     
  18. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    Likewise. I really don't want to comment on the Gungnir Multibit A2 as I didn't get a good grasp of how it sounds. All I can say is that I was surprised by how different it sounded compared to A1. I wouldn't call it "bright", more like "lean". I really can't say how the Modius would compare to Gungnir Multibit A2.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Very different from A1. Bifrost 2 is really the spiritual successor to the Gungnir A1. The A2 has a slight upper-mid emphasis and cool in the mid-bass (to the lower mids, but with receding effect). A2 is finicky because on the wrong system, it can sound "bleached" to borrow a term from someone else. However, I may slightly prefer it to the Yggdrasil A2 which is the opposite in tone, especially with darker dynamic headphones like the HD650 or ZMFs. The Yggdrasil A2 remains parked on the system with the tight, lean, and mean 18" old-school JBL woofers. There are better DACs out there, but I'm still a vinylhead, so don't want to spend $8k on a betterer DAC.

    Modius (balanced) compared to Gungnir A2

    I'm finding that these characteristics translate in comparison to the Modius (from balanced outputs), which IMO is tonally even sounding albeit with some bass emphasis, compared to the overall universe of DACs out there. The tonal balance is reminscent somewhat of the Convert-2, but less bass than that since the Convert-2 has a really hefty low end.

    On Daft Punk's Get Lucky, the Modius has more evident mid-bass than Gungnir A2. On Jennifer Warnes Rock You Gently, Modius is fuller with more body in Warnes' vocals. On both tracks, lower and sub bass heft are more evident from Gungnir A2 - there's more of that foundation that one feels when as if there's a sub on to fill in 40Hz and below. Not totally like that, but you get the idea. The volume of the highs, mid-treble and air region, from both DACs is the same. I'm getting deaf now in the air region, so someone who is 19 may be able chime-in.

    Both DACs exhibit sibilants from Warnes' voice in the recording at the same volume. These are honest DACs, not intentionally relaxed. The snares are slightly more evident with more edge on the Gungnir A1. However both the sibilants and attack of the snares are more etchy and sizzly on the Modius - this is often where the multibit DACs present differently. There are bass textures missing in the Modius, a vestige of the AKM Velvet Sound, but that's probably not fair to say because it's bass texture comparable to most other low to mid-end DACs. The Schiit multibit DACs and actually multibit DACs in general tend to be excellent at bass textures. Heck, even the widely panned Audio-GD S19 was good at this; well sort of, if the textures sounded consistent or weren't plastered over with goo.

    The Gungnir A2 really starts to show its advantage in microdynamics, volume granularity, and retrieval of low-level information when used with dynamic headphones and a capable amp. I didn't go with my custom tube amp, and I'm not sure about Magni 3+, but I can hear this advantage on this special edition amp I have (don't ask because it may not be released, or maybe it may via an SBAF one-time special). This advantage wasn't evident on the Jot-R / SR-1a. Gungnir A2 really should only be considered once you start getting serious about gear, building super plankton emotional engagement systems. This is when music starts really sucking you in so you cannot do any work. This is why I have modest gear at my WFH desk.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
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  20. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    @purr1n Some recordings sound disjointed with the Modius (XLR), but sound more cohesive with the Bifrost 2. By disjointed I mean they sound like individual instruments or recorded tracks instead of one cohesive piece of music. Is this the Modius being "honest" and displaying the faults of the recording or a limitation of the Modius itself?
     
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