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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    I think I know what you are talking about. The Gungnir A2, despite it's less even more finicky tonal balance (using HD650 right now for the proper synergy) is actually the same way! I think it's a fluidity thing that only multibit DACs (and vinyl or tape) exhibit. Sigma-delta stuff imparts a temporal grain or choppiness to the presentation which never quite seems whole. Now this isn't the same thing as instrument separation of being able to hear the processing differences in track overlays, which the Gungnir A2 is bit better.

    Another possibility is the difference in microdynamic rendering. Modius lacks volume granularity, a choppiness in the amplitude domain, and the ability to make fast changes in volume. Both the temporal and volume choppiness contribute to this sense of the picture being a collage of items cut and pasted on canvas instead of a real painting on the canvas. However, Modius is actually not bad, quite good, though on an overall basis compared to other DACs. It's comfortably in the mid-end, handily equal to anything we may find in the Crutchfield or Audio Advisor catalogs.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
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  2. Hinterlander

    Hinterlander RobS / neomax

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    LOL this is exactly the experience I had with my two-channel system while WFH. I can't listen to music during work now because I'm just mesmerized and stuck in a trance. I have modest bookshelves, but Aegir and Yggdrasil just elevate them to being super immediate and involving. Looking to upgrade to some other soft-dome speakers. Having an HD650 with Yggdrasil as a source, which is my current headphone system, not something I can listen to passively. It demands my attention.

    Regarding the bass textures...this is one of the areas I felt Yggdrasil did better than the Convert-2. Like Convert-2 has the slam, articulation, amazing sense of tactility and speed but there's not much in the sense of volume gradations in notes being played. Like with Yggdrasil, which can be a bit flabby in the upper bass, I get more of a sense of the differences in bass guitars and even down to the strings my favorite bass player uses. It's really spooky how resolving the Yggdrasil can be with great recordings to where it's hard to believe I'm hearing this. I find the Convert-2 to be rather one-note here in comparison. Perhaps you disagree with this purr1n. Aegir seems to like the extra dose of punch in the midbass from the Yggdrasil which is why I went with that DAC over the Gungnir A2.
     
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  3. theveterans

    theveterans Acquaintance

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    It takes a lot of custom design and implementation in both digital and analog stage to get rid of the inherent sigma-delta side-effect crap on those off-the-shelf chips. Then once you get to that design, the cost would simply be incredibly high. Just think of the Linn Klimax DSM stuff with their AK4497 chip (yep that same chip from the Topping D70)
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    That was my experience as well with the bass instrument textures. It depended upon the systems. The differences weren't so much, more a matter of different textural presentations, with Gungnir A2 vs Convert-2 on open baffle 15" woofers (only a side one, and really they were overdriven with yet another overdriven cheapo Hsu sub covering 50Hz and below). However with the 18" JBLs in huge ported 10ft^2 box, the differences in bass texture rendering were quite evident.

    As far as the microdynamics, I felt the Convert-2 was very good at this - with the big caveat that it only had so much to work with! I think there's only a single AD1855 in there. No way it's going to be a resolving as modern gear, much less that the crazy AD5791 implementation. That was the huge Achilles Heal of the CV-2, a lot of low-level information, heck even low-mid level information missing, wiped from existence. For those who have been exposed to certain levels of it, the lack of plankton causes a level of disturbance in the Force - an uncomfortable yearning to hear what's not there but we know is there. Of course none of this matters if we don't have the recordings to match.

    This is not to say that Modius is not engaging. I find it more engaging (to borrow a term from Linn, better PRaT) than the likes of the lower-end DACs I've had in the house recently: Modi-3, RME ADI-2, UltraLite mk4. The Topping D70 is low-fi garbage and worth $59 in terms of True Sound Quality™, aka emotional engagement.

    Modius: be worried, can suck you in
    Gungnir A2: will may you cry


    At some point it's dumb. The AKM4499 is $85 a pop. Screw that shit. Just go multibit, "OK" measurements be damned. I can't wait for @baldr to tell Jason to fuck off with this sigma-delta stuff and make a multi-bit version, leveraging the switcher PS tech, of the Modius for a $300. The Modi Multibit is getting old. They should rip the megacomboburrito filter from the MM and make an NOS DAC for the NOS weiners. Most NOS shit costs way way more than the needs to be for the privilege of being NOS because NOS is "speshal" when it's really not. I heard @baldr, like myself is disgusted at NOS, so this probably won't happen. However, Jason is more likely to appease the NOS weiners because it's a win-win: Schiit makes money and NOS weiners no longer have that dumbass $1000+++ price of entry.

    *I put on my "NOS hat" when I review NOS gear for the sake of fairness.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
  5. dmckean44

    dmckean44 In a Sherwood S6040CP relationship

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    At this point I feel the Modi Multibit's fatal flaw is it's USB implementation. Most of the uses I can think of for a DAC that size involve USB.
     
  6. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    @purr1n took me a minute to unpack what you wrote, but it makes sense!

    I know what you mean ( I hope I'm understanding you correctly here) and when I've done blind tests between 320kb/s MP3 and lossless, it's the one thing that gives it away for me. It's this choppiness that's evident. I always perceive it as a form of distortion, but "temporal grain" is a great way to put it.

    On speakers I'm hearing a blown out stage of instruments lacking in microdynamics, which makes them these separate boxes instead of a painting on canvas as you said.

    I love what the Bifrost 2 is doing, but it's too dark with a pair of Harbeths on my desk. I'm wondering if the Gungnir Multibit A2 would be better suited.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    May be too hard to cram Unison in there with limited PCB real-estate in that form factor. Now remove megacomboburrito filter and cram in Unison?

    Harbeth construction and house sound, cranked up mid-bass and BBC dip makes it ideally suited for Gungnir A2 and horrible for Yggdrasil A2.
     
  8. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Modi Multibit with Unison is absolutely coming - there’s no way all Multibit DACs won’t have Unison eventually - why would you sell your best/proprietary tech with substandard USB (esp when you’re now selling a $200 DS DAC with it). Maybe the next MM will need to come in the form of Modius Multibit...
     
  9. JellyRhino

    JellyRhino Facebook Friend

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    I heard the same thing when I compared the Modius to the Modi Multibit. Take for example the color balance of a photograph, like a garden with a variety of flowers (many saturated colors). With the MM, the color balance would be slightly off, but it would give the picture a homogeneity/cohesiveness (like a slight sepia, not some cheap ass Instagram filter). With the Modius, every flower/instruments has it's own tonality, so they differentiate themselves more from each other, hence they pop out more in the garden/mix. I wonder if this is a technological artifact (temporal grain from the delta sigma) or just less coloration/distortion (the multibit might come with a slight sepia tone which gives an impression of cohesiveness). Maybe we like some illusion of cohesiveness that comes with coloration/distortion (like so many people loved/abused Instagram filters or some enjoy degrees of second order distortion), idk.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
  10. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    Jason said this over a year ago:

    Unison USB could fit into anything we want it to. Heck, it could fit in Fulla 2. It's actually physically smaller than our current C-Media based solution. However, Unison is a bit more expensive than our current USB input
     
  11. PTS

    PTS Friend

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    I agree the Modius didn't lack air to the point of it being distracting (ie, muffled) just the slight high-end roll off you could expect when listening to a mid-fi vinyl setup. I admit to liking DACs with air. It was the reason the ADI-2 felt like an upgrade from my Dangerous Source. The limitless sound dispersion feels like the difference of hearing a band play in the open air vs hearing them play in a rehearsal room.

    Also agree with the Modius having harder hitting, stronger attacks. It's fun, addictive, and easy on the ear - you can afford to listen to music all day without worrying about fatigue setting in. I think that's what Schiit set out to do with the Modius, knowing that music lovers who want to listen to music critically / intently (the breathiness of a singer, the subtle details of stringed instruments) would be better served by stepping up to their more expensive offerings.

    It's funny how we're all breaking down minute details and creating flowery analogies over what is essentially a $200 beginner DAC - but one that happens to overachieve.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
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  12. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Facebook Friend

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    Got my Modius but my Aeon 2 had to gob ack for repairs, so I am stuck with a lowly Koss GMR-54x atm. Noticeable difference between the Creative G6 and the Modius though even with a cheap Koss.

    Initial impressions are that the Modius is a less velvety airier Modi with a much improved usb interface. Also the Air, my god the air, Modius sounds much airer than the G6 does to me. Most noticeable difference for me. Creative G6 has better bass impact though, Modius is still a little soft in that regard. I dont think it has much if any of the lower mid-upper bass bloom the Modi had even single ended though it is slightly warmer than the G6 IMO.

    It definitely matches the Asgard 3 better than the Modi did, I dont dislike this combo, actually very nice. I had tried the Koss with the Asgard/Modi as well and it was a immediate nope, too diffuse, too dull sounding. Detail is outstanding, clearly better than the G6. Vocals are less intimate than the G6. So still got a touch of that upper-mid recession imo going on but MUCH less than the Modi did IMO. Very non-fatigiuing style of sound, some tracks that are irritating are smoothed over with the Modius. Cant try the balanced out as I just have a Asgard 3 atm.

    That is my quick impressions using a cheap Koss, will do more testing once I get Aeon back as I guess the gap will widen with better transducers.
     
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  13. jlucas

    jlucas Rando

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    If the Modius is getting enough power from the computer USB to run, is there any advantage to hooking up the external power supply also? I don't know how the power is handled internally.

    Asking because mine just arrived.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Try it and report back. I didn't get any measurement oddities that would suggest lack of power. However, the external power does make the combined power/data USB port draw 0 power and only responsible for data transmission. Note that without the external power adapter, the Modius asks the computer / OS for the full 500ma from the USB port. Be sure to unplug everything first and plug in the USB power adapter into the DAC before the data USB for this mode to work correctly.

    I forgot to mention this, but all my listening tests above which used computer USB were with the second dedicated power USB adapter plugged into the outlet. Like the Modi 3, I feel the Modius sounds better this way. Tighter bass, crisper transients, less haze, a bit more resolving.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
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  15. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Steve Albini was right that you should never own gear you have to make excuses to own or never use.

    That was ultimately my problem with the Dangerous converters. Detail sucks ass. Air and low/upper bass texture is just fucking gone to make shitty pop shit sound better that has digititus build up (odd order harmonic partials, aliasing, imd, grain, etc) at every stage of production. The sizzle of one of my favorite bands, Immortal, was just gone. Old black metal guitars no longer sounded like sizzling amps and static saturated down to acceptability by tape and analog gear. I eventually just got sick of it and narrowed it MOTU vs SPL Crimson and MOTU is bigger and more flexible. The Convert was way cleaner but no better than the Source for missing shit. The Dangerous converter are just initially impressive awesome boxes and that sells units. The BOM is pretty impeccable except for the singular dated chip and hyper aggressive scrubbing filter. There’s nothing “value-engineered” sounding in it like an RME or the Modi 3 but it just lacks detail.

    Same with the 60hz high pass filter in dangerous the compressor and the auto attack/release settings. Those settings are for mastering and slamming shitty poppy pop where the “producer” would complain about the “darkness” on SSL and API gear and the loss bass with his “textured” sinewaves. The Bax EQ is awesome sauce though.
     
  16. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    If Schiit is using the default pcm filter it would be SD sharp a type of minimum phase filter.

    @ ultrabike stated in a post here some of the differences and prefers linear phase. I agree.

    One of the linear phase filters offered by AKM is the one named sharp. More fun reading here Link
     
  17. jlucas

    jlucas Rando

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    Thanks for confirming.
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It's linear phase and sharp roll-off with a decent amount of out-of-band attenuation. IMO, the only that that should be used. EDIT: There's a possibility that it could also be AKM's Low Dispersion. However, this is doubtful given the more limited attenuation of this filter.

    Modius 44.1kHz White Noise to AverLAB
    upload_2020-6-8_15-30-50.png

    Modius 44.1kHz PN White Noise to Motu Ultralite mk4
    upload_2020-6-8_15-34-2.png

    Modius Derived IR from 44.1kHz Sweep to Motu Ultralite mk4
    upload_2020-6-8_15-37-56.png

    Modius 500Hz Square Vave 44.1kHz to Motu Ultralite mk4
    upload_2020-6-8_15-40-13.png
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2020
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  19. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Then Schiit must have selected the sharp filter and not the default, right? Looks great btw.
     
  20. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Schiit selected the linear phase (not short delay) fast roll-off filter as their default and one and only available filter.
     
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