Schiit Modius DAC Review and Measurements

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

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I have one aegir incoming. So, will be able to say several things around this weekend.

    But in general, I don't think this that amazing for speaker uses unless either you hate multibits or your budget can't reach to $700. Staging depth is a little shallow, images (a little too) pushed back, and occasionally resolved information feels disjoint in somewhat negative ways. All these more evident with speakers, less so with headphones.
     
  2. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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    I got Modius in late last week and I've been listening a lot trying to figure this DAC out. My very initial impressions were in status post and comment:
    Modius...the DAC I don’t need to be drunk to enjoy™
    and
    Modius is the HD650 of DACs. It is cheap and can scale like mad.

    TLDR: My very initial impressions have held only with XLR though.


    For reference, my system has been evolving with the mainstay being Aficionado which I converted to run 300Bs about a month ago. This changed the sound of the Af by basically toning down the forward mids and treble and slightly bringing up the lower mids and bass which is the sound I was looking for. In addition, I lucked into a Liquid Crimson, which is my new favorite for HD800SDR. My primary headphones are HD800SDR on both Af and LC and HD6XX KISS on Af.

    Edit: Source was Pi2AES XLR into Modius

    Through XLR into Af: Modius immediately impressed on turn on. It is engaging and stages very well. The collage metaphor used above is perfect to describe it but in a 3D sense. No Multibit warm up period, just turn on and jump in.
    The XLR outputs are clean, clear and offer tight bass. I think that this DAC is a crazy good value with the XLR outs.

    The problem arises with the SE outs.
    I have the luxury of having both SE and XLR on Af so I could get a feel for the differences. You guys above are right that it is like a nicer version of Modi 3 through SE. Also it is (as was said already) more forgiving of poorly recorded or super compressed music with SE outs there is a veil that is helpful. After listening extensively on Liquid Crimson (SE input only) and comparing to vinyl playback of same music, there is a noticeable mid-range suck out (bass/treble exaggeration makes it feel this way). This led to a poor match with LC and unfortunately is a deal breaker for me. I thought about going the XLR-to-SE conversion route, but if I need to add something more than the cost of the DAC to make it work, that is too much.

    This is a great DAC via XLR outs, but only ultramega ok through SE outs. I think people should understand this before buying. So it’s going back and I’m going back to Bifrost 2.
     
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2020
  3. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Please excuse my ignorance, but what options do we have for doing this?
     
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  4. Gaspasser

    Gaspasser Flatulence Maestro

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  5. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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  6. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    Also for those not into passive DIY solutions:

    https://www.radialeng.com/product/pro-iso

    Although I would mod this box and rip out that volume knob and replace it with a set resistor. But that is just me.
    I believe the Radial box also has the Jensen transformers.
     
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  7. Jay

    Jay Facebook Friend

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    Alright, another day into the Modius, and I have some more descriptions to share.

    The Senn HD 650 is well regarded here, but more so if it was modded. Imagine all the shortcomings of the HD 650 that caused you to mod them. Mid bass hump. Slight veil. Congestion. Small, disjointed sound stage.

    As much as I really like the Gungnir multibit A1, it wasn't really doing my unmodded HD 650s any favors. In fact, it may have amplified some of the HD 650's shortcomings. I'm convinced to this day that the Gungnir has a mid bass hump. Also, some of the Gungnir's notes are too round, despite having tremendous detail, to really match well with the HD 650s.

    The Modius really has helped the HD 650s with these shortcomings. The sound stage is wider, more open, with more air. It's more cohesive from edge to edge and top to bottom. The mid bass hump is gone. Since it is gone, this leads me to believe it was part of the cause of the veil, because that's reduced as well. It's brighter than the Gungnir.

    Also, the Modius is very good at retrieving details from the recording. It's not the same as plankton. I think it's mainly from the slightly harsher edge it puts on the notes that makes it easier for the HD 650 decipher the transitions.

    I was previously getting pretty frustrated with my HD 650s to the point I was seriously considering buying the AKG K612 Pro to help with the synergy throughout my system. At least for now, the Modius has cured that temptation. Who knew a technically inferior dac would work better in my system? Color me surprised.

    Granted, these results may be atypical, especially in a 2-channel speaker system. In a good 2-channel system, the Gungnir would clearly win, as long as it wasn't an overly warm pairing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
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  8. dncnexus

    dncnexus Friend

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    I thought the Modius was the most "technically superior" DAC of all the Schiit DACs.
     
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  9. androxylo

    androxylo Rando

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    My budget is under $300 :-((( Need a new DAC for Aegir.
     
  10. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    In measurement only I believe.
     
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  11. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    Ok...so Modius arrived. Had a chance to compare it to my SMSL Sanskrit 10th (AKM 4493), as well as my original ver. 1 Bifrost Multibit w/ Unison.

    Tested with unbalanced out (single ended) only with USB power supplied via USB power from the computer only.

    Signal Chain: Windows 10 -> Foobar 2000 -> DAC -> Vali 2 -> modded T50's

    Initial Impressions
    • low end - certainly not as textured as Modi MB (less syrup). Just seems more controlled maybe. However, makes up for this in the mids and top end compared to other D/S designs with the separation between instruments
    • top end - slightly more crunch on top then Modi MB (from what I recall)
    • compared to SMSL Sanskrit 10th - has a more slam, but more hazy and greyer background. Modius makes the Sanskrit sound dull and lifeless. Modius sounded deeper, wider, cleaner, more detailed, and WAY less congested.
    • nice open sound for a D/S DAC - good god man, the layers of separation in this DAC is amazing even with SE output. And for this price and a D/S DAC with unbalanced and balanced outs on top of that. It handled my Billy Cobham recordings with ease, and those recordings it is easy for most DACs to just get too confused in the mids and give up and just become a jumbled mess. Modius threw down without being too aggressive.
    Note: I have always felt that the SMSL Sanskrit 10th was a warm DAC. Nearly as warm as Modi MB. It is a 4493 Velvet Sound DAC after all.

    Comparisons with Schiit Original Bifrost w/Unison

    You can clearly see how MB smokes D/S here. Bifrost is more open, cleaner, smoother, less aggressive, and every instrument comes through with sheer precision (compared to Modius). Really, we are comparing a much more expensive multi-bit DAC with it's mega-combo burrito filter, vs. a D/S with built-in I/V and filter.

    The Bifrost and Modi MB are so close, but I still say with Unision it takes the Bifrost to a new level. Jason could have easily kept rolling with this had the market not gone so A) crazy over balanced, B) so bent over the silent revisions. Sorry, I am just trying to imagine a Modius Multibit with Unison, although might have to sacrifice the balanced out for circuit board real estate. I mean, the Unison card alone is $200, but back to the sound...


    Comparing Unision vs. Toslink

    Going just off the toslink outputs between the SMSL and the Modius, it is not as dramatic as switching DAC's. It certainly made the SMSL closer to Modius. Meaning, the SMSL improved over it's XMOS USB implementation, but Modius is still much less hazy and cleaner sounding.

    Comparing just between Toslink and Unison just on the Modius - really close. The bass seemed looser and I gained a little haze in the upper mids. Unison gives that separation and the low end is just way more controlled. I also notice this when I first heard Unision on my Bifrost and I think is that a product of better delivery. Also, the inputs are all fairly close, just like my Bifrost with Unison being the best IMO.


    Final Thoughts

    In the end, Modius worth it. Bass bloat (one note bass?) not as bad as 1st thought given Marv's comments, just may not have bass definition and those layers we all have come to love out of MB or higher end pro D/S DACs - certainly the Modius is one of the best in this price range for sure. I do think if you did not care of USB, I would go for Modi MB for $50 more...it is worth it. Modius if you want more flexibility, balanced out, AES in, Unison, I think this is an incredible by at $200.

    ps - balanced thoughts to come later
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2020
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  12. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    Short impression after using Modius for 2 weeks. From a little bit different angle.
    I bought Modius for home office rig (MB Jot => Verum 1 | Monoprice 5" monitors) because I wasn't completely satisfied with MB DAC card.
    The main purpose of the setup is background listening and Modius is perfect for that, IMHO. For me it sounds normal and even "natural". In a sense that there is no "weirdnesses" in the sound that attract your attention, - no boominess, no murkiness, no hasiness, no extra-long guitar necks. Highly recommended, at least for in office use :)

    All impressions are for balanced outputs, for non-critical listening of well-known music, genres are vary.
     
  13. androxylo

    androxylo Rando

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    My case. I listen for music 4-8 hours during work, and I pretty much don't need to listen outside of this timeframe, you know, from the couch. My home office rig is Augir->Dynaudio. So if Modius does well on my table that's what I need. But I'm waiting for some Aegir pairing impressions, thanks....
     
  14. Jay

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    The main benefit of Modius for me is no warm up period. Sounds basically as good as it's gonna get from power on. If this makes your desk life a little better, then go for it.
     
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  15. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    If your purpose is less demanding or not nitpicking, Modius is just a no brainer. It's neither MB nor 2k-ish pro DS dac. But can smoke anything else regardless of personal tastes. There are just not enough good players in this price bracket ($100-$500). I kinda think Modius' SE character might go well with both (single) aegir and dyn house sound, too.
     
  16. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    DAY 2 with Modius

    Vali 2 -> HD650's this time

    Wow, okay. There is the bass bloat. hello. Makes me re-think my tube choice. Back to Russian 6H1N...ahhh. Still, bass is clean and plenty, but more balanced. Still lots of space and air.

    Does this need warm up time? No....SMSL still sounding muddier, less detailed, more flat, highs more artificial.

    Just want to add 2 more things to the discussion...

    1) I get the feeling that the was developed by AKM not really for a device like this. Well...kind of like this. Why would they make a chip with balanced and unbalanced out on the same chip? For a computer interface perhaps. I get the feeling that this is why this chip is also so neutral sounding and the output buffer has such an affect on sound. And why all the comments on comparisons to the Convert-2 and such.

    Edit: Now I realize the AKM4113 is only the SPDIF input chip. I now eel like an idiot. The Modius is an AKM4493 and is the replacement od the 4490 and an "improved Velvet Sound" chip according to AKM's website. Oops.

    2) After thinking about my own comments and thinking about the physical size of this box, it only leads me to think that Schiit is also working on a Multibit version of Modius. It would make sense to replace the Modi MB with Modius MB. I can see how it can be done and even with balanced outs. Similar build as Bifrost 2, just non-modular.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
  17. Scott Kramer

    Scott Kramer Friend

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    Will be fun to see how they tackle ModiusMB, pair of the ModiMB stereo (to get 4 channels) 16bit AD5547's? Or is there some new R2R AD/TI gem out there to pull off true balanced. The BF2 on up are mono chips (need 4 expensive chips to do full bal or 2 for partial opamp only bal) If it's the spirit of ModiusDS, it'll be full balanced following back through the R2R chips.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
  18. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    They did this with Bifrost 2, although it is not 4 channels (or 6 channels if you think about it). I mean AD5781ARUZ x 2. The SE output of the Bifrost 2 is at least done the right way.
     
  19. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    I'd say it is the opposite - "The BAL output of the Bifrost 2 is at least done the right way." :)
     
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  20. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Modius one-week comparative impressions (vs Bifrost 2)

    My thoughts mostly come from spatial M3 (15inch *2 + Ti compression drv) with mid-field (7~8 ft) setting if not specified.

    At this point, I think it doesn't make any sense to question Modius' high value. Way better than any other dacs around $200. Period. My focus was, from the beginning of Day 1, whether it can compete against Schiit's multibits and how close it is if so.

    Round 1 - DAC SE out + Amp SE in
    • Refer to https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...modius-dac-announced.9373/page-14#post-305221
    • Let me be honest. Regardless of genres, downstreams, and whatever, Bifrost 2 DESTROYs Modius in any criterion that matters to me.
    • Primary findings include lack of cohesiveness, flatter staging, and huge gaps in overall resolution.
    • Not sure they differ 3.5 times, but at least I am willing to pay $500 for such performance delta any day.

    Round 2 - DAC Bal out + Amp SE in
    • Using Freya S (and its Nexus 4x gain stage), I could manage to listen with Bal out- Se in setting -- with single Aegir driving M3 speakers
    • Modius benefits from balanced outs. Likely due to (1) inherently balanced 4493, (2) lme op amps, and/or (3) output stage carefully tuned by experts. It did sound different than better. Upside is more refined treble and bass heft. Downside is maybe a little colder than se (but much less so than thought).
    • In my previous post, I described unbalanced outs from Modius as an even mixture of convert-2 and x-sabre pro. Balanced outs (to me) sound like heavier weight on CV2.
    • Also worth mentioning that Modius has fantastic synergy with FS [1]. I am not saying they just went well. Freya delta was much larger with Modius, addressing A LOT of my initial complaints with Mds. With Bifrost 2, I can't clearly tell whether it's an improvement or alternative presentation. To some extent, adding FS in the BF2-feeding chain wasn't necessarily better than not. Modius, by contrast, was lifted by 1-1.5 leagues. Refer to my post in Freya thread for the details: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...ream-of-consciousness.7998/page-6#post-305834
    • I still think Bifrost, even without Freya S, is a little better to my taste. Gradation in all aspects is finer with BF2. More convincing tone and timbre, too. But it becomes much harder to tell which one is better this time around. Modius' characters get refined, organized, and wisely filtered by FS. Now comparison becomes a lot closer to the Yggdrasil vs Convert framework. Very genre and mood dependent. Naturally mic'd stuffs favor BF2 while electronic tracks shine better with Modius.
    • Funny thing is adding Freya S to Modius matches to BF2 price. FS+Mds is $100 more expensive but comes with a higher level of convenience. Yup, market is fair.

    Round 3 - DAC Bal out + Amp Bal in (with and without Freya S)
    • This round isn't conducted yet, but I am planning to investigate truly balanced rigs -- meaning Bal out and Bal in. While I can infer to decompose into Modius and Freya impacts (using difference-in-differences technique with Bifrost 2) to some extent, I'd like to confirm which of Freya or Bal out is more determining in overall improvement happened to Modius.

    Footnotes
    [1] I never mean FS pairs better than any other preamp options. Triangulating from various testimonials, Freya+ might be better for this use. Not enough info to make bold statements other than FS.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020

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