Schiit Modius DAC Review and Measurements

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

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    When I have some time, I'll put my SUBJECTIVE stream of consciousness notes from that thread and assemble them here:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...dac-review-and-measurements.9379/#post-303238

    Conclusions:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...view-and-measurements.9379/page-2#post-303393

    THD sweeps:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...dac-review-and-measurements.9379/#post-303087

    JTEST from various USB ports:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...dac-review-and-measurements.9379/#post-303385

    Multitone tests:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...dac-review-and-measurements.9379/#post-303388

    Digital filter:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...view-and-measurements.9379/page-4#post-303900

    Subjective comparisons to other DACs:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...view-and-measurements.9379/page-5#post-304208

    Figure we can start off with measurements, specific ones at that.

    It's like acceleration testing on cars. Different magazines are going to get slightly different results. It's very important not to take one measurement and one magazine are taking it as gospel, especially when we're talking about -100db and 0.0001% THD. I mean, does it really make a difference if one car does 0-60 in 2.8 seconds and the other in 2.9?

    USB from Tower PC - ports on top of computer BAL out
    upload_2020-6-3_12-47-18.png

    USB from Tower PC - ports from USB PCI card
    upload_2020-6-3_13-28-54.png

    Toslink from AverLAB
    upload_2020-6-3_13-12-49.png

    Toslink from Motu Ultralite mk4
    upload_2020-6-3_14-10-12.png
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2020
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    SPDIF from AverLAB
    upload_2020-6-3_14-26-15.png
     
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    1kHz 0dbFS BAL out
    upload_2020-6-3_14-29-45.png

    -30dbFS
    upload_2020-6-3_14-31-35.png

    -90dbFS
    upload_2020-6-3_14-32-50.png
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    THD+N (db) vs Amplitude (dbFS) at 1kHz.
    GRN = SE, RED = BAL
    upload_2020-6-3_14-53-4.png

    THD+N (db) vs Frequency at 0dbFS
    GRN = SE, RED = BAL
    upload_2020-6-3_14-59-57.png

    THD+N (db) vs Frequency at -10dbFS
    GRN = SE, RED = BAL
    upload_2020-6-3_14-58-44.png

    THD+N (db) vs Frequency at -60dbFS
    GRN = SE, RED = BAL
    upload_2020-6-3_15-2-15.png
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
  5. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    Front page in 3, 2, 1...
     
  6. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    no pi2AES? Unison seems to measure pretty insane even with PC noise coming though. If you still have a Wyrd maybe see if that does something? I saw you post a while ago that Wyrd might help out Unison.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    • Too lazy. I'm sure Pi2AES will sound fantastic. My SPDIF measurements from the AverLAB weren't anywhere as bad as ASR measurements. It happens. Don't screw yourself by taking any measurement at any one site as gospel including this one. I know pi2AES will be fantastic.
    • My USB measurements were dependent upon the USB source. Note that I intended to use USB ports which I knew to be the worst and the best. Most people will get results in between, probably toward the best.
    • Wyrd doesn't seem necessary, although it can help if your USB port is out of spec and can't deliver the juice to the Modius. This can make things simpler without the need for an extra USB. Worthless endeavor anyway as Wyrd is OOP.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Initial Impressions

    BTW, the Modius is super resolving. I thought overall SQ would be 5%-10% better than Modi 3 subjectively, on par with the RME. It's more like 25%-30% better than Modi 3 and easily bests the RME ADI2 from memory, although the RME obviously has way more functionality, so not really appropriate to make an apples-apple comparison. But really, if we think about it, it makes sense. Schiit's not going to charge x2 more for something that sounds 5-10% better subjectively. The measurements are just a distraction. They make gear based on listening - heck I know because sometimes they ask my opinion - just to make sure they aren't nuts. More data points is always better.

    The AKM4493 now actually differentiates itself from the AKM4490. No idea how Topping made the AKM4497 sound like a AKM4490, and a badly implemented one at that.


    Thoughts on price and comparison to other AKM4493 and AKM4497 DACs

    LOL, Modius is priced appropriately at $200. For some reason I thought it was $250. TBH, don't bother unless you really want something different. There's a reason why the Bifrost 2 is $700. I wouldn't pay more than $200-$300 for any AKM Velvet Sound DAC unless something major or custom has been done to it, and there's no way Schiit can hit Topping's price point with the AKM4499 with USA manufacturing because these chips cost $85 a pop. Given my experience with Topping gear, my guess is that D90 probably sounds slightly worse than the Modius - triangulating others impressions of the D90 (Torq and other reasonably good Internet sources), it either sounds like the RME ADI2, maybe with thinner tonality and more digital highs.

    If you want to try another DAC for kicks, Motu UltraLite, either the mk4 or AVB. A lot more than a DAC. It's a mixer, ADC, will take good microphones so you don't have to use Blue USB garbage, can plug in a guitar, and even be massaged into working as an active xover. The thing has got a million inputs and outputs, all fully routable in almost any combination in a decent web UI. Review of Motu Ultralite mk4 is still pending.


    Does it hit like a wet noodle like other Velvet Sound DACs (SE output)

    Surprisingly no, not so much. A little more body than other AKM Velvet Sound implementations. Slightly more than RME AD2, which as just a tick fully than Modi 3, which was fuller than D70. To add, a bit of that wet noodle thing still sort of exists with the one-note'ish not well defined bass. The super-soft spongy thing has been corrected. There's heft, but I wouldn't say the attacks in the lows as as strong as say like the XSabre Pro.


    Digital highs? (SE output)

    Less evident when full spectrum music is playing because of its fuller sound - more lows, more body, masks the highs. However if sparse stuff or no low instruments like Joni Mitchell's Blue where the mids and highs are isolated, the sigma-delta stuff does rear its ugly head. Fortunately, it's Modi 3 level digititus, not Topping level. FWIW, I felt AKMs prior generation chips sounded less digital. I think it's because with the new Velvet Sound chips, they kind of cranked up the lows and last-octave.

    P.S. I can tolerate BA IEMs with the Modius. (not so much with the Modi 3). It's the combination of tone and lack-of-digititus that allows for this. So we do have progress here. I'm super picky about source with BA IEMs. Also read below on the highs in regards to the balanced output.


    Triangulating to D90

    The Modius is slightly warmer and more full bodied, quite a bit more resolving, has similar one-note indistinct bass, and hits slightly harder compared to RME. In general and very simplified terms: Modius > RME 3 >= Modi 3 > D70.


    Compared to Modi-Multibit

    Their presentations are so different. It’s a matter of preference. Modius will be way more resolving. MM is a bit behind in technology without Unison, but a darker sound, easier highs, with more precise imaging with depth may be preferable. Opposite strengths and weaknesses in many ways.

    Other than what I have already said. The question is how much do you want the multibit / R2R sound and the Schiit staging. The Modius is in many ways better than the MM. The MM has been around a while, underwent a revision, and is starting to show its age.

    I swapped out the Modi 3 for a MM recently for my son's desktop system. In more than a few ways, the Modi 3 was already better than MM. It's very possible that I may swap out the MM with Modius. Still thinking about it. The imaging capabilities of the MM and the Schiit custom filter are hard to give up.

    Now, what if Schiit implemented their custom filter for a Modius MegaComboBurrito?

    It might be interesting.Schiit can offer two lines; sigma-delta and multibit, but both with their custom filter.


    Balanced outputs - this is where is it at

    OK. F me. Seriously F me. I didn't mind the Velvet Sound that much when the AKM Velvet Sound DACs came out. Heck it was mostly cheap DACs, so who cared. The immediately noticed benefits of greater resolution and more expansive soundstage seemed to outweigh the disadvantages. However @Psalmanazar pointed the Velvet Sound stuff out early on; and over time, I actually grew to dislike the AKM Velvet Sound - to the extent that I swapped out my son's Modi 3 with a Modi Multibit, because I couldn't bear the thought of my son listening to it.

    I didn't think this possible, but from the Modius' balanced outs, this Velvet Sound stuff is no longer. Or at least none of the disadvantages of the Velvet Sound (murky lows, recessed mids, soft attacks, raised last octave) but with all its advantages (resolution and expansive soundstage). Holy cow, this actually sounds like the older Modi 2 or other AKM4399, 4495 based DACs with the crisp attacks, evident mids, more palatable highs, bass textures, punchy bass even! After what seems like years, it's so nice hearing the E and A notes on a guitar not sound as they've been processed through a blender.

    The individual specific differences from the SE out aren't huge, but all the things little things add up to something pretty spectacular. I didn't know this, but evidently Jason's been reading SBAF and the few of us bitching about the Velvet Sound thing.

    Tone and harmonics remind me of the AD1855 based Convert-2. Not as much slam as Convert-2, but tonally, this sounds just right like Convert-2, with the added benefit of a more rounded and less vivid-mode presentation. Compared to the SE outputs, the balanced outs are less outright warm, more even, more clear, less veiled. Not as hot plasma gaseousness in the top octave too, therefore as a result more evident mids (as opposed to the typical Velvet Sound scooped mids). Attacks are more crisp, and yet at the same time not as annoying with the grain and prickly stuff (I'm intentionally using the balanced armature Aras to pick this up). Not quite the all encompassing warmth throughout the audio band like the Motu UltraLite mk4, but somewhat close, but completely without the prickly Sabre transients up high. Resolution is out of this world. I've been intentionally using lesser DACs to kind of come back to earth, and this is impressing to the extent that I can say "whoa, I never heard that on that recording before". (And really how often does that happen with modern DACs these days?) Ton of ambient cues, breaths, etc. I'm hearing on Joni Mitchell's Blue. Or maybe because it's Qobuz's Hires stream. :)

    I am using the USB input or Unison (in this case). I forgot to mention this. I figure these lower-end DACs and interfaces (D70, Modi 3, Motu) are more likely to be used with USB from computer. The only exception to this among the recent DACs was the Sonnet Morpheus where I tried USB (kinda poopy), but opted for the pi2AES as the source for most of the subjective listening evaluations.

    Well, I haven't had or heard the D90. The D70 which I recently reveiwed was $500, so Modius is 2/5 the cost. As for why I choose, it's all roughly $250-$750 range. Also, I wanted to show people why Topping was overpriced and how their engineers only concentrated on cookie-cutter designs or measurements. There's still an art to the science. And yes, there's the Schiit factor: Schiit saves you money from overpriced Chinese designed and made gear. I guess that's not fair.


    So this is a mini Dangerous Music Convert-2 Right?

    Not the same. They have similarities in that they are sigma-delta done right with even tone, good highs, crisp transients, black background. But the similarities end there.

    The Convert-2 has vivid, almost exaggerated attacks and dynamics. Modius is more rounded with the dynamics. CV-2 has crazy slam and incredibly textured bass. Modius is limited here. The bass texture is good with the balanced outs, but it's still not top of the game. The Convert-2 has a soundstage that wraps around closer at the edges and pushes images wide. The Modius pushes things out. The Modius is way more resolving than the CV-2. The AD1855 in the CV-2 is really old and needs to be doubled up or more like in the Bricasti to get the most out of it.

    However, I do think it's a reasonable substitution for Bifrost 2 if you want something that isn't semi-vintage R2R sounding like Bifrost 2.


    Test systems

    Three setups: Jot, Magni ? (variant - some proto which may never be made) with the Cinemag 1:1 transformers, and Jot-R (with SR1a obviously). Differences between SE and XLR mentioned above were consistent among the three (still impressed how the Cinemag's translate so transparently). I also volume matched to account for SE and XLR output differences.

    Excuse the mess. Did all this in a hurry as I know inquiring minds want to know.
    View attachment 21097


    How is the bass with balanced outs?

    Part of the one-note bass from SE is the OPA1662, which is a bit on the warm and maybe slightly veiled or fuzzy. The Hel and Heresy uses this part I believe, so there are some similarities in sound - more so warm and fuzzy with Hel (it's super weird how one starts to hear these chips). To get the point, there is no longer the one-note or murky fuzzy bass with the BAL outs*. Does the Modius have the most fantastic textured bass either? Nope, you are going to have to move up a bit to get that.

    The LME49724 used in the BAL outputs is one of those next-gen balanced opamps that sound really really really good - if implemented properly, why even bother with discrete - especially is its going to be a low cost product. If you liked the highs of the micro iDSD on the BP filter, then you will like the highs on the Modius. The balance of the iDSD Micro is tilted slightly brighter, not significantly so. The resolution of the Modius blows it away, but really different purposes since I've never heard a portable or transportable AIO truly beat a dedicated desktop unit.

    Headstage of Bifrost 2 still wins, but this really depends. I think most will prefer the overall expansiveness and deeper placed stage of the Modius. However, you want precise localization and layering with a more upfront stage and maybe less tendency for less hole-in-the-middle, the Bifrost 2 is better. The Bifrost A1 had a few other things weren't quite fully right.

    *Just looked down at the input selector to make sure it wasn't SE. <breaths sigh of relief>


    Versus Motu UltraLite mk4

    Yes, I noticed this cohesive quality of the Motu straight away. And it exists in the Modius with its balanced outs, hence I why was I freaking out in how good it was. I have to admit I was apprehensive about your description of the Motu being a warm ESS Sabre, thinking it would have been one of those warmpoo Sabre implementations with cloudy mid bass to lower mids (Invicta DAC comes to mind), but it turned out really nice, with a resultant fluid quality. Hence it becoming the go-to DAC for my computer. Quite frankly, the Motu Ultralite mk4 blew the Modi 3 and D70 away because of this. Different sound, but blew away nevertheless.

    The Modius with the SE outputs doesn’t quite have this cohesive timbre. However the Modius BAL outputs does. The effect of this "internal" warmth is less obvious, at a lower dose, than on the Motu. Speaking of cohesiveness, where the Modius wins out is with more consistent transients from top to bottom. The Motu is still a bit Sabre’ish with its transients up top; but instead of glare, stridency, and etch (as heard on Topping D50, Yulong, etc.) we have a bit of grain and prickliness. It still cannot escape its heritage. There are ways around this by using software upsampling and choosing a more gentle filter because we can get away with that at 174kHz sampling. But really, most of time I’m too lazy because it isn’t that bad.

    Modius is a slightly different sound than the Motu Ultralite mk4, unlike the D70 or Modi 3, it’s competitive, better. The Ultralite is a bit more colored, less resolving, but it’s going to stay on my desk. Way too many functions, particularly mic, guitar, mixer, and impedance curve measuring tool (I ditched the Focusrite - too many odd behaviors), to let go.


    Schiit stacks?

    Duh. Buy Modius now. It’s still an big improvement over Modi 3 from SE outs. Wait until matching chassis balanced Magni 3 THX ABC 123 +++ comes out. (I’m just guessing, but this would seem the most logical solution, and my bet is soon because it would be weird for this chassis to sit around for months with a companion). If you have Jot, no need to worry.

    If you have Valhalla or Lyr, you should be getting the shittier measuring Bifrost 2 anyway.

    If Modi 3 bass texture didn’t bother you, then Modius SE output bass texture won’t. SE is still a 25% better DAC. It’s just that balanced is 40-50% better. Remember, not a wet noodle anymore regardless of output.


    Did Schiit cave? Opinion piece

    It's more a matter of Schiit now caring more about that final 0.0001% THD than before. It wasn't something they, or John Atkinson, or anyone else in the world really cared about since 80-100db SINAD is already so fricking good (all those amps you hear in the high-end Atmos movie theaters in SoCal are probably 75db SINAD Crown amps).

    Amir used to sling shit, implying bad engineering. What he and the rest of of the objectivist losers at ASR didn't know was how easy it was for Schiit to get that final 0.0001% if they really wanted to do it. Think of this as running up the score.

    BTW, the AK4493 is a -113db part per their specsheet. Schiit exceeded this at the line outputs. Obviously they have their secret sauce.

    Schiit didn't start the measurement war, never wanted it, but now that it's started, they will win it. It's actually opened up new markets for them. Game on. I don't want to say that measurements are easy, but there are dozens of papers on TI's site on how to get the best from their parts covering PCB layout to component selection to design.


    Secret to balanced output, thoughts on differences with SE

    I'm not going to take credit for this because someone else pointed this out to me, but Nelson Pass'ish Super Symmetry? That's the "typical application" guidance in the LME49724 datasheet below.

    [​IMG]

    OPA1662 (SE) I don't think is bad at all, and it does have some traits. It just's behind when compared to the balanced opamp which is crazy good (spec and sound). FWIW, there's less digititus with the LME49724. Warmer sound doesn't always hide stuff.

    This the more typical way of balanced outputs for opamps before balanced differential output opamps came out. You can argue SuSy feedback is nothing special, like "of-course".

    [​IMG]


    I like measurements, what Schiit DAC should I get? The Bifrost 2?

    The Modius measures the best out of all Schiit DACs. The Yggdrasil, Gungnir, and Bifrost are for dumb people like us who believe that once we hit 75-80db SINAD, it doesn't really mean much anymore.


    What amp?

    As far as a companion amp... just wait. How many times do I need to say this: Schiit just released a new DAC in a new form factor never seen before in the value segment. How much longer do you think you will have to wait before a companion to the DAC arrives?
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2020
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  9. dirt

    dirt Rando

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    I have a Schiit Modi 2 uber. How much of an improvement would the Modius be using SE output? I must have a decent USB out on my laptop, as the Uber sounds pretty good with my files.

    I am also considering the Bifrost 2.
     
  10. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    If you have time, can you test the USB ports from the I/O backplate? And on the same stack, compare the port furthest away from the MB, to the one closest.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I was going to reply fuck you, but I am tempted to do this.
     
  12. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    Took delivery of my Modius today.

    It's like 2 modi 3 stacked side by side. Also, it's matte black.

    SE out is much more refined than Modi 3 to me. Warmpoo(tm), but much more expansive in all directions. Subtle ringing/echo stuffs now clearly audible and Modi 3 sounds more muted. Treble is also smoother. This kinda reminds me of the TransDAC I had a while back, but... more "modern" sounding, whatever that means.

    Waiting on Amazon to deliver me XLR 3-pin cables so I can try balanced out.
     
  13. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    when I first turned mine on it sounded very warm to me, but then it got better. It sounded almost “euphonic”. Maybe it’s just me getting used to the sound, but I keep using my SDAC as a point of reference. Originally it was super warm and now it sounds similar to the SDAC tonally. Has that similar AKM sound, but better technically in every way. Looking forward to trying balanced in a couple of days.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
  14. Bill-P

    Bill-P Level 42 Mad Wizard

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    So since I have another AKM source, I have been comparing back and forth for an hour now.

    The Fiio M15 with dual AKM4499 is supposedly a pretty warm and slightly dark source.

    The Modius is even warmer, with more body, less digititus, and far more expansive stage. This is still true now after 1 hour. Modius makes the M15 sound "bright" to my ears, and I wouldn't describe the M15 as "bright" relative to all other DAPs I have tried. M15 is like... Modi 3 (not quite, but it's kinda like that) paired with like... maybe a cmoy in a nutshell.

    Modius makes both my Modi 3 and Fiio M15 sound like they are lower class citizens. More brittle highs, less refinement, far less soundstage.

    The staging jumps out at me every single time. It's obvious regardless if I try HD650 or HD800 or even IEMs.

    I'm very curious what balanced will do.
     
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  15. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    Stage is definitely wide and deep. With the SDAC everything was very up close and I thought it was because my desk and speakers are against the wall. With the Modius I’m actually hearing width beyond the width of the speakers and a much deeper stage. It’s been a very pleasant change. The reason I wanted to upgrade my DAC was because of a very rigid and emphasized upper midrange which I’m assuming is because of my PC’s USB output. The Modius solves that. I actually find myself turning the volume up, which is a good sign. It’s really amazing what you can get for $200 nowadays.
     
  16. Scott Kramer

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    Cool @Bill-P @Melvillian --> Your reactions have pangs of first experiencing Unison, or what an extremely pure digital source/transport can do also. Sounds like they nailed it in Modius.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2020
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  17. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    This is the third bullet fired into lofi digital to analog conversion in the past year in the cheapest price bracket. First we had the MOTU M2/M4 and SSL 2/2+. Those were the two stopping power to the chest shots. The Modius is the execution bullet to the head that blows the lofi brains out onto the ground. Every maker of medicore crap like Focusrite, Presonus, SMSL Topping, RME, and Massderp needs to
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 5, 2020
  18. JellyRhino

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    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    https://imgur.com/OiO6ttT
    Modius (Unison) compared to Modi Multibit (V2 firmware with Eitr)
    Amp: Asgard 3 with a SYS to compare the DACs
    Headphones used: Verum and HD650 (edit: add to this FDX1)

    Quick first impressions
    -More clarity and overall contrast/instruments pop more.
    -Bass is less veiled.
    -More textured/detailed treble.
    -Grabs your attention in a good way.
    -Bit less coherent and less relaxed presentation (not a big deal for me).

    Edit:
    -Earlier impressions from listening to T.Rex, mainly Telegram Sam.
    -With the FDX1 (which has a bass boost compared to open headphones), i can hear the bass drum in Black Sabbath's Paranoid kick more. It gets you more pumped up. Bass is also more textured.
    -The decay of metallic percussion (cymbals, tambourine) is more natural because it stays there longer, and doesn't vanish as quickly as MM. Hi-hats are more involving (more toe tapping).
    -I thought that harsh recordings (Bathory - A Fine Day to Die) would be harsher than MM, but no, not at all. I don't know how to say this, but I guess it's less overwhelming. The stage is less chaotic and easier to hold onto.
    -I get better separation and layering from the female chorus in Prince - Let's Go Crazy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2020
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
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    I still have a Gungnir DS. Comparing balanced outputs (because SE is less even, as @Bill-P said, warm, more mellow in the mids, and a bit more digital in the highs ):

    Gungnir DS has more slam
    Gungnir DS has marginally better bass texture
    Both are even in their timbre
    Modius has more air
    Modius is significantly more resolving, has better volume gradations at lower volumes
    Modius stage is bigger, more expansive in all axes
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
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    I used the JTEST signal here with the LSB toggle rather than the straight 11.5kHz or 12kHz tone, so the "ordered" grass is supposed to be there.

    IMG_20200605_112127.jpg
    usb1.png

    IMG_20200605_112511.jpg
    usb3.png

    IMG_20200605_112651.jpg
    usb4.png
     

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