Schiit Modius DAC Review and Measurements

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

  1. Scott Kramer

    Scott Kramer Friend

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    Not an interesting enough dac to bother if its just a non-modular BF2*, Schiit doesn't operate that way. In the spirit of ModiusDS (hard bal including the dac chip) they may look for pulling this off with 2x 2channel AD5547 (to even think about fitting it in the chassis) or they found alt TI / new compact AD option.

    *or stretched out ModiMB as is w/unison.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
  2. Jay

    Jay Facebook Friend

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    My conspiracy theory is the Modius kicked off a new form factor that will replace the line of Modi, Magni, and Vali. Maybe we can expect balanced connects through out the line. Modius was just the start. Maybe the Modius MB will replace the Modi MB.

    The new form factor seems odd if it was just for itself and one upcoming matching amp. If you look at the PCB of the Modius, they could have crammed things closer together if they wanted to. But cramming things closer for fully balanced amps won't be as easy, so a larger PCB would be necessary.

    Then, I think the refreshes will move up the line. Maybe a new Jot, Valhalla, and Mjolnir. Some of those products are getting a little dated.

    Anyway, I'm just thinking out loud. Feel free to disagree. No harm, no foul.
     
  3. Baten

    Baten Friend

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    I would love balanced inputs on magni/vali etc.
     
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  4. Jay

    Jay Facebook Friend

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    Same, I would buy a balanced Vali sight unseen or unheard.
     
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  5. androxylo

    androxylo Rando

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    Can Freya S do balanced input and SE output? As an upgrade path, instead of using Modius SE, one day it could be Modius Bal -> Freya Bal -> SE amp (I have Aegir).
     
  6. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Very first thing mentioned on the product page:
    https://www.schiit.com/products/freya-s
     
  7. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Yes, that's actually what I am using now -- until the 2nd Aegir arrives. One of the core beauties of nexus gain stage. See Ragnarok 2 chapter in the "Schiit happened" for more.
     
  8. dncnexus

    dncnexus Friend

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    I guess I will start this with, I really didn't wanna actually be able to tell a difference between DACs. I bought a FX Audio DAC X6 when I first got into this hobby when I was a broke college student about 3 years ago, and this DAC utilizes the CS4398 and CS8416 DAC chips. I thought it was good....

    I was going to upgrade from the DAC X6 to the Gungnir Multibit, but was very skeptical on if I could even hear a difference in DACs, its quite an argued topic online so I thought maybe it wouldn't be that big of a deal. When the Modius came out I saw it had good impressions, was relatively cheap at $200 bucks, and was compared to be close to the quality one might get with a higher quality DAC. So I took the plunge, and when it arrived I really had hoped that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between my DAC X6 and the Modius.

    I hooked up the Modius into my system and started to listen to music and the only word I said when I played the first song was "F*CK". The differences were so obvious, I don't have experience with more expensive DACs to compare it to, but I found the clarity to be leagues better, the soundstage was larger both in width and depth, the layering of the instruments, the microdetails, and just the amount of air. I would have to say this is exponentially better than my current DAC X6.

    The problem now is that I know. I understand and know that DACs can make a noticeable difference now. I really didn't want it to, but now I have more gear to add to my to-buy list in the future. I couldn't tell you how this compares to other DACs, I will leave that to everyone else here with more experience than me, but I will say this was an amazing purchase, and I guess the Gungnir Multibit is still on my to-buy list for the future.

    Hope everyone is healthy and staying safe!
     
  9. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    Day 3 (or 4) with Modius

    Modius vs Bifrost MB + Unison

    Source: Raspberry Pi w/ MoOde

    Amp: Lyr 3
    Headphones: LCD-2 Classics

    I thought this might be interesting to compare Unison D/S with Unison MB with the original Bifrost. Bifrost still wins by a long shot in depth, imaging, layering, and just taking away the sharpness and putting you in the room with the musicians. The Modius sounded like a really good recording, but slightly sharper and did not pull me in much. Similar tone overall, even on the SE outputs. I probably would not notice as much if not comparing side by side.


    Balanced vs Unbalanced

    Ok, so everyone is probably more concerned with this than Unison or anything else. I did not have a balanced amp and only some long 15ft XLR cables around. And only one balanced headphones.

    Source: Winders 10
    Amp: Cavalli Liquid Carbon (the original)
    Headphones: LCD-2 Classics, HD650
    [​IMG]

    Let me just say right off that this is a super neutral to warmish DAC, even on unbalanced. I think the differences between the unbalanced and balanced outputs is WAY overstated. The LC has a button to switch between the balanced inputs and balanced, and plugging with the balanced connection and the unbalanced connection...the tone is super similar. Like, maybe the mids are slightly recessed on the SE outputs, but that could be due to cable differences. The bass was also cleaner and more defined ever so slightly on the balanced input.

    Also, not sure how this amp handles all the conversion between balanced and unbalanced, but there is litterally no change in volume and I cannot tell hardly any difference between what input I am on. I had to unplug one of the RCA connectors just to make sure the sound was really coming from the RCA unbalanced connection.

    So there you have it...

    In conclusion...super awesome value for $199 for a D/S. One of the best D/S implementations I have heard, even given some high end pro audio DAC's. I still don't think it tops even Modi MB for SPIDF, but...Detailed, open, clean, neutral to warmish, Unision, SE and Differential outputs, but can it make me breakfast?

     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yes
     
  11. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    [​IMG]

    Above are my overall (structured) takes on various combinations of Modius compared. A radar chart created for fun and demonstration purposes.

    Definition of Items on the legend
    • SE-SE Passive (aka Base combination): Modius SE out --> Freya SE in SE out Passive gain --> Single Aegir
    • SE-SE Active: Modius SE out --> Freya SE in SE out Nexus 4x gain --> Single Aegir
    • SE-Bal Active: Modius SE out --> Freya SE in Bal out Nexus 4x gain --> Dual Aegirs
    • Bal-SE Active: Modius Bal out --> Freya Bal in Se out Nexus 4x gain --> Single Aegir
    • Bal-Bal Passive: Modius Bal out --> Freya Bal in Bal out Passive gain --> Dual Aegirs
    • Bal-Bal Active (aka Maxed-out): Modius Bal out --> Freya Bal in Bal out Nexus 4x gain --> Dual Aegirs
    • Bifrost 2 SE-SE Passive combination used as a Control/Reference
    Tracks used for the structured evaluations
    • Chuck E's in Love / Rickie Lee Jones
    • Partition / Beyonce
    • Train Song / Holly Cole
    • Fanfare for the Common Man / Aaron Copland
    • Ride Across the River / Dire Straits
    • Prelude No 3 in C# Major BWV 848 / Brad Mehldau
    • Flight of the Cosmic Hippo / Bela Fleck
    Associated Components
    • Connection to PC (MBP) : Schiit Union USB
    • DACs : Schiit Bifrost 2, Schiit Modius
    • Preamp: Schiit FreyaS
    • Poweramp: Schiit Aegir (SE stereo and balanced monoblocks)
    • Speakers: Spatial M3 Turbo S
    Also, please note the followings:
    • Criteria are not fully independent. Some obviously associated among one another.
    • Scores in each axis normalized by raw maximum (of the criterion).
    • Areas in octagon are associated with my own relative preference. Weights vary depending on moods.
    • Dominance (i.e., superset or subset relations) is more strongly correlated to my verdict. Assuming no further financial needs, I always take the "outer" octagon over the inner one any day.
    • If one hexagon is disproportionately away from the second closest one, it implies I perceived a strong synergy on the increment.
    Disclaimers
    • As usual, mileage may vary. My tastes, rooms, and speakers are all serious confounders.
    • Headphones require a little more careful translation. Equations introduce different sets of elements probably due to less challenging physics (lighter moving mass, single full range driver, much smaller excursions, etc etc).
    • As I posted here and there hundreds of time, I'm a Schiit MB jerk. Please incorporate it when reading between lines. Feel free to disregard anything not making sense to you.
    Thoughts
    • Modius was sensitive to the rest of the rig. May work both positively and negatively. It's NEVER a dac makes you "just plug then be super happy". I mean.. happy enough to completely forget the tier. Please consider on average 40-50% is what I EXPECT for the costs.
    • My surmise is that Modius resolves extremely well (high potential) beyond its price tier, but doesn't organize or filter well compared to very matured products.
    • When maxed out, Modius is awesome enough to (dare to) rival any combination I own, owned, or heard before, regardless of price points.
    • Bifrost 2 doesn't need Freya, doesn't need extra Aegir, but does make feel me uncompromised by all means. Reversely speaking, however, it seems to have a strong ego that can't benefit from additional investments as much. Pick your poison.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 25, 2020
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  12. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    Can I ask if you liked or preferred any of the Active conversion methods? And would you recommend a preference?

    I would just like to the think unbalanced or balanced straight out is what anyone would want. I don't have an active balanced to unbalanced converter and I think that is what many are curious about.
     
  13. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    While I didn't (couldn't) specifically test 1:1 transformers, when they were in the house (Radial Twin ISO; the one @atomicbob measured), it remains more or less the same in converting Bal to SE with a slight coloration (not annoying at all). Freya more proactively omit and commit sins that worked for me.

    That said, I definitely prefer to use Freya in the mix. It supports spatial cues that Modius inherently lacks (compared to MBs). And in using FreyaS actives, I definitely prefer 4x gain to 1x gain. More proactive improvements. 1x sounds a little bit diluted by comparison.

    On the recommendation front, I'd also recommend it unless half a grand hurts one's life hugely. It can also help any Bal-to-SE conversion needs typically coming with Yggdrasil/Gungnirs, pro converters, etc.
     
  14. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    I acquired a Modius earlier this week and I was immediately unimpressed. Soft, diffused, almost garbage old USB swooshy. There's also a little grain up top. The overall delivery wasn't liquid like I usually enjoy (admittedly, neither are most of the DACs I've owned recently). The amount of information it could draw out from music was pretty impressive, though, and it had a nice blackground.

    The stage is weird. It's deep and somewhat narrow. Some songs with very few but very distinct musicians seem get a little disjointed. It's some combination of being able to accurately place them (good), but to an almost unnatural extent such that they're mid-level jazz artists practicing together for the first time (bad).

    I tried both with and without the Schiit Wyrd. It sounds pretty much identical to direct from my Sonnet Allegro Pro without it, so I kept it in the chain because it meant I could easily switch the Modius on and off.

    Switching over to the TOSLINK input via my RME Babyface Pro FS, and things appeared to improve quite a bit. It made the Modius less diffused and a little more immediate in delivery, but some of the low level information seemed to disappear in the process.

    This is going via XLR to my Dynaudio BM12A monitors, using some XLR cables I built a while back with the old standards (Canare Star Quad and Neutrik). It's currently being attenuated by a JBL Nano Patch+. I have a Goldpoint SA2X-I (2 in, 1 out) on the way, but it came from the UK and it keeps getting delayed.

    After running it for an hour or two, I decided to plug the power adapter into a spare socket of my Emotiva CMX-6. I did this while music was playing for shits and giggles. I didn't read any instructions so I wasn't sure if I was supposed to. Whatever.

    Did the Modius blow up? No... it changed. Like, audibly. I unplugged the power. I plugged the power back in. I did this several more times. Either I'm getting some powerful nervosa injections or everything improves objectively when you plug in external power. Much of the swoosh is gone. The grain is now at a tolerable level. It's still a little soft and diffused, almost tube-like? The stage seems less wonky, but that is probably me getting used to it.

    That prompted me to grab a soldering to make a power cable to micro USB so I could use my Power Designs Model 5020 Precision DC Source... a badass old school bench power supply.

    I swear it got even better despite me knowing there are switchers inside the Modius. Shrug. Better power is better power, and it justifies me fixing up that power supply. ;)

    What other contenders do I have around? I have the new RME ADI-2 DAC FS (and Pro) with the AK4493 inside, and @Phantaminum loaned me his Bifrost 2 for a week so I can compare. I'll hold off on comparisons until the dang Goldpoint that was supposed to be here yesterday actually shows up for the ability to instantly compare.

    I haven't used the RCA outputs nor have I used headphones with it yet. I'm beginning to suspect that this will be my DAC until I can put together a Sonic Frontiers setup again.
     
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  15. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @Luckbad Asking this just for my reference, do you feel your babyface similar with 4490 rme adi-2 dac og? And can I ask how your bm12s set up currently (i.e., spk to spk and spk to front wall distances)? I will never use the words of diffused or soft to describe modius bal out any day but we all have heterogeneous mileage.
     
  16. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    The Babyface is more grainy and thin than the ADI-2 DAC. It's amazing for guitar, mic, and routing, but playback is only okay.

    I don't have exact measurements handy but I spent a good while finding the right spot and treating my room. They're centered on Iso stands with the length of the room behind me.

    The swoosh might be more accurately described as bloom?
     
  17. Raicorl

    Raicorl Acquaintance

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    Can confirm power nervosa on modius. At first plug in, it super resolving, very wide stage but not deep, very good seperation. I powered off and call it a good day, then next day it goes muted..somehow unlistenable like Luckbad's case. Call me crazy.

    I tried like 3 different 5v power sources but no use, even replug all my system. Then I finally plug the 5v adapter into usb unison input instead.. Tada! it got better, atleast 90% or the same (but little bit less resolve if I'm not crazy) as the first day one. This might end my power nervosa for now.. time will tell.

    I use spdif from digione signature, bal out. Modius's sound definitely not warm to me, even with RCA out.
     
  18. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    @purr1n or @atomicbob
    Do you have a link to a quick rundown on how to measure jitter? While I have an ADI-2 Pro here, I'd love to measure Modius' jitter in several scenarios:
    • USB from PC front outputs
    • USB from PC rear outputs
    • USB from Sonnet Allegro
    • USB from Wyrd
    • TOSLINK from PC
    • TOSLINK from Babyface Pro FS
    • Maybe AES/Coax from the ADI-2 Pro while I'm at it, but there wouldn't be a reference point since the ADI-2 Pro would be nuking most of the jitter before sending the signal and I don't have something else that outputs those formats
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Generate a 11.5kHz tone for 44.1kHz.
    Or use ARTA to gen a JTEST at appropriate bit-depth.
     
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  20. Riotvan

    Riotvan Got lost for three weeks at Delft City Hall

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    This seems like the ideal dac for my subs. But i’m not sure if it’s worth it and if the upgrade would be noticeable from my current dac. Though I sometimes worry my dac(Agd NFB-2 with wolfson chip) can’t keep up with the dac for the mains(Yggdrasil a1) but then again it only handles 100hz and lower. And it’s not that i’m unhappy(far from it).
    Aes input is nice to have as well for flexibility. Maybe make a bal to rca cable and profit from the strong bal performance.

    What do you guys think?
     

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