- Price: $200
- Uses single AK4493 DAC Chip for D/A conversion
- Digital Inputs: Unison USB, Coaxial, Toslink (Optical), AES
- Analog Outputs: RCA Single Ended and XLR Balanced
Product Link: https://www.schiit.com/products/modius
Product Link: https://www.schiit.com/products/modius
I couldn’t detect any perceivable change/improvement to the sound, between cold start and few hours of warm-up. My setup is as follows:
MacBook (Jriver) > Modius (SE) > Eddie Current Black Widow 2 > HD800 (SDR+SBAF Mods) , LCDi4 (Reveal)
The first things that would stand out, when listening to the Modius are the bass, resolution, instrument separation and stage. For a $200 DAC, the separation, headstage and resolution are quite impressive. While not TOTL level, it fares far better than some of the entry level DACs, which do some of these aspects in an underwhelming manner. The stage is not just large, but also airy, which makes it easy to follow reverbs. The layering, depth and imaging however, are not on the same level as the width. But that is to be expected, as most entry level DACs at this price point don’t do those aspects very well. Given the abundant space in the stage and good level of resolution, separation is very effective and avoids smearing even is some busy passages. The placement of the stage is also ideal, where it feels neither forward, nor pushed back. Presentation is just right and is definitely a highlight of this DAC.
Moving on to the tonal aspects, this is a DAC that leans towards the warm, smooth and forgiving side of things. It is not predominantly warm, but the lack of brightness gives it the warmish tone. Bass is pretty prominent in the mix and it can come across as a touch over-bearing for people preferring a lean and well-articulated bass. While it is not super tight, it also avoids any kind of bloom, so there is no veil it casts on the presentation. It slams decently well, but the attacks are a bit blunt. Bass resolution again is mostly fine.
Moving on to the mids and treble, while the tone comes across as warm-ish, I wish the timbre had a touch of analog flavour, which is what I prefer. Midrange is fairly transparent, but it can sound a touch soft because, it lacks just a touch of body and some of the macrodynamics can sounds a bit restricted. So it lacks a bit of the palpable feeling. The treble again is linear, grain free, smooth and forgiving. But comparing to my Cayin N8, I did detect a touch of digital glare/digitus. The thing with the digital glare is, it doesn’t come across as brightness or sharpness, but it tends to affect the timbre by making it more digital and less analog. But that’s me nitpicking. It’s a perfectly fine treble that is neutral and retrieves good amount of detail.
The strong bass, soft mids and neutral treble result in the DAC’s sound coming across as a slight V shaped signature. Something to note here is that, these impressions are based out of the Single Ended out. A couple of folks on SBAF, who got a chance to try the XLR Bal out, reported that the Bal out fixes some of these nitpicks. So it is possible that this DAC offers the best performance out of the Bal out. But that shouldn’t discourage people from skipping this for feeding a Single Ended amp, because this is very capable DAC even out of SE. Schiit calls this a DAC you need. While I am not sure I agree with that, I must say that this is a $200 DAC that makes sense.
My current benchmark for DACs is my Cayin N8 (2x AK4497), which may be an exception to the AKM velvet sound, because there is nothing velvet about its sound. It’s punchy and visceral, yet smooth in the treble. So it’s a very engaging sound that is free of fatigue. Its macrodynamics are not just good, but one of its forte. The mids are full bodied and palpable, and the timbre is more correct/convincing and on the analog side. Bass might not hit as hard as Yggdrasil/C2 but hits harder than the Modius. Stage is larger, deeper and airier than the Modius, with a darker background and a more precise imaging. It’s smoother, yet resolves more details. It has this tendency to boost the microdynamics a tiny bit, but for some reason I seem to like it. It has a sense of realism that I haven’t experienced on any other DAC in my chain. I have had plenty of ‘one-more-song’ moments with it.
All that said, I will not recommend the N8 just for desktop DAC duty given its price, durability and the shameful 1-Yr warranty. So I have been searching for a proper desktop DAC that gives me the pleasure similar to the N8. I have been trying to get my hands on a Bifrost 2. But it is severely back-ordered and I was in need of a proper- desktop DAC for a couple of reasons, so I impulse-bought the Modius.
Thank you so much for the write up. Also, welcome back after almost half a year. It was so nice of you to take time out of your day for this excellent review. Refined, organized, on point, and free of tangents. Always admired the audiophiles who are able to so easily dissect the qualities of their equipment. I’ve ordered the Modius with overnight express shipping to pair with the Lyr 3 and Asgard 3. Looking forward to how it improves over the built in Multibit card Schiit offers in their modular amps. I got a good laugh when you started comparing the Modius to a $3000 DAP and the mighty Yggdrasil. Good luck in your quest to get the Bifrost 2. I have one on order myself, and will likely re-home the Modius on eBay or AVexchange once the bigger brother true multibit gets here. Take care and have a great week.
Thanks for your kind words. I can’t speak for the Asgard 3, but I have owned the Lyr 3 in the past, and I am confident in saying that, those 2 would be a synergistic pairing. Modius will help with improving the bass slam and adding more airiness on the Lyr 3, while Lyr3’s body in the midrange and smoothness in the highs, will help fill out Modius’ mids and take care of the treble grain. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
As for the remote comparison with the $3000 N8, I am probably going to be judged. But I thought I’ll mention it, to let the readers know, from what vantage point I am judging the Modius. The local Schiit dealer tells me that they won’t receive the Bifrost 2 until Schiit fulfils all the direct customer orders first. So there’s a good chance your’s should be on the way to you soon.
Shipping around 6/30 now…I am glad I got mine before all this covid crap started…
Bstock Bifrosts were on the Schiit B stock page this am 6/24
Hi there everyone, my Modius just shipped yesterday and should be arriving tomorrow. For ETA tracking, it was about a 5 day delay from order processed 6-18-20 to being shipped 6-22-20, will put together a write-up once I have a few days with it.
From what research I have performed the Modius appears to be one of the lowest price-point AK4493 balanced out DACs that have some form of proprietary work done on the reference design to squeeze out it’s potential. A comparison that came up a few times had been the RME ADI-2 DAC sharing similar baseline performance being used purely as a DAC but with a $1000+ price due to more advanced DSP/EQ toolkit and amp functionality which is not needed for my purposes.
The plan so far is to run USB in and balanced out to take advantage of the LME49724 op-amp which from multiple reviews has had a more dynamic performance compared to the single-ended output OPA1662 but will have to try it myself to see if there is an audible difference.
I will be running balanced XLR into a Monoprice THX AAA 887 headphone amplifier and balanced cable into a Focal Stellia and pass-through to my Speaker amp using the 887 pre-amp out RCA instead of the single-ended on the Modius.
The Modius, 887 and Stellia are shipped and arriving over the next few days. This will be my first full balanced setup and I hope everything meshes as well as possible.
This is also my first Schiit product after watching them develop over the last decade so I am really excited, have tentative plans for a dual monoblock Vidar setup with an upcoming 2.0 Tower project and possible SR1a/Jotunheim R combo if expectations are not met by the Stellia.
This will be replacing an Apple USB-C 3.5mm dongle, ESS9018 on my PCs Motherboard(Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Master) and AK4458 on my Onkyo TX-RZ730.
For the write-up/review I plan on covering:
-A/B comparison with other AMP/DACs I have
-Listening impressions on individual reference tracks I am familiar with.
-How easily it integrates into my desktop setup.
-Single ended vs Balanced output audible differences.
-Compatibility with Android devices(purchased a USB-C to Mini-USB OTG cable in preparation).
-Gaming audio impressions with Headphones(Stellia, HD700, Monoprice HR5C) and 2.1 near-field setup (KEF Q350, JBL SUB550p)
I will follow up once I have spent some time with the Modius.
Great looking forward to your experience…
The modius should be a really nice DS dac…taking lots of folks by storm…both measurebators and the subjective crowd…
The “Modius Maximus”(Schiit’s nickname for the unit) and 887 has arrived today. I am still waiting on the Stellia to complete my balanced setup but already at least with the HD700 (w/Dekoni fenustrated lambskin pads) and Monoprice HR-5C the increase in fidelity coming from an $8 Apple dongle and $80 Liquid Spark is noticeable but to their credit not necessarily revolutionary.
After some deep dives into my reference tracks I will try to give detailed feedback for prospective buyers.
So third day (maybe fourth?) with the Modius and I’ll say the differences aren’t as big compared to the 789 > Asgard.
It sounds more spacious than the Modi 3. It feels like Modi 3 is more in your face? I guess the best way to explain it is that the Modi 3 feels compressed. Placebo…? who knows… again I’m not musically trained, but the stack looks really nice and I really like it
also someone mentioned that the balanced sounds better than SE… not sure… but that means I’ll need to make some cables if I want to test that out.
I think I’m 100% set on D/S DACs… it has everything you could need in one I believe… SE + Balance. Aside from luxury features like a screen, remote and bluetooth. Next DAC I’ll get will be a R2R.
I have had the Modius for about 2/3 weeks now, and I think I have had enough time with it to write a review. So here we go!
I like to start off my reviews with a disclaimer. I feel the information covered in this disclaimer may help those who are reading this review to get a bit of grounding on what my chain is, my experiences, preferences, and just abit about myself so you are more accurately able to understand my review, and where I am coming from.
My current audio chain that was used to test the Modius is Modius -> Asgard3/DarkVoice 336se -> ZMF Auteur/HD6XX/Andromeda. The music I listen to ranges, but some of the genres I listen to the most are K Hip Hop, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Classical, Jazz, and Acoustic.
Some previous DACs I have tried was the FX Audio DAC X6 and a Modi 2. I haven’t tried TOTL DACs or higher end DACs, so this review will be in reference to what I am hearing, and drawing comparisons to lower end DACs I have used.
All this testing is with the SE out. I will throw up another smaller review with balanced out when I get the chance to test the Bal out.
Now we got some disclaimers out of the way lets get started!
The most immediate thing I noticed when plugging this DAC in and using it was that the resolution, seperation, and soundstage immediately improved. The soundstage seemed much more open, less congested, and overall more airy with room to breath. Layering and imaging was overall a bit more precise, but the real difference between the Modius and lower end DACs was the resolution. I would say it was about 40-50% more resolving than the Modi 2 (can you use percentages for resolution like this? Idk lets keep rolling with it!)
This DAC definitely leans on the warm side, with a full bass range that isn’t bloated but is impactful. It isn’t bloomy, but rather just full bodied. Bass resolution is good, and I don’t find it to be muddy at all. Mids are clean and clear, while the treble is very airy and sparkly without being sibilant at all. There is no grain in the treble, and is a rather smooth experience.
Timbre can come across as slightly metallicy, but it’s not something one will notice all the time. I hear this is a character trait of the D/S DAC type, so I am really interested trying out a R2R/Multibit DAC to see the difference in timbre compared to the D/S.
I will agree with a review higher up stating that this is a slight V shaped signature. I am interested in seeing how the BAL out will differ from the SE out. I have read that it is quite different, I am picking up an XLR to RCA converter since this should work inplace of getting a balanced amp.
Overall I feel that this is a great entry level DAC. I think if you can poney up the extra cash from the Modi to the Modius, one should do it. I didn’t know if I believed DACs could make a difference, but after getting the Modius I realize they do make a difference. I don’t think it will be in my chain for a really long time, as I now want to upgrade to a higher end DAC such as the Bifrost 2/Gungnir Multibit to try and see if multibit is the way for me now that I now DACs can make a noticeable difference.
If anyone has any questions let me know! I will try to answer them as best as I can!
Schiit Modius Review and Comparison
Hello good people! Recently I had the chance to sit down and listen to my new toy, the Schiit Modius. It is currently connected using the balanced outputs to my THX AAA 789 amplifier and has been in my system for a couple weeks now. This past weekend I directly compared it to my JDS Labs EL DAC, which was connected via single ended outputs. I realize this isn’t true apples to apples but it was the most logical way for me to directly compare. Level matching was done by using a decibel meter at the ear cup and then decreasing the output of the Modius to match the EL DAC; not the most scientific method, I know. All listening was done with the Focal Elex and HD 6XX headphones and using FLAC files with JRiver Media Center.
I hail from the 2-channel and home theater world. A number of years back I used the same forum moniker on audio forums such as AVS Forum, Audioholics and Audio Circle. While the journey and experiences were fun, I got burnt out; also, my children started getting older and therefore keeping such a large investment in home theater and 2-channel audio started making less sense each day. Eventually I sold my entire system and turned that space into a dedicated kid’s play and reading area. No regrets – family is more important. A few years and a new house later, mainly due to my love of music and because my two oldest children began playing instruments and appreciating music and good sound reproduction, the audio reproduction passion inside me resurfaced; but this time I took a more practical approach and began delving into the world of headphones. The science of it all fascinated me (still does), and before I even purchased my fist “real” headphone I began researching the science and philosophies of it all; many a white paper have been read! And now here am I in present day, many headphone auditions later, writing my first “headphone equipment” comparison for a DAC – something I would have sworn 10 years ago made no real difference in sound quality. That line of thinking was mostly wrong.
All discernible differences are subjective and were extremely minor to my ear, even during quick swaps. Headphones, amplifiers and source material will make a larger difference in sound quality compared to well performing DACs in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
The Schiit Modius:
The Schiit Modius has a handsome no frills chassis, of which I opted for the black version to match my 789. It’s a bit wider than the amp, so it sits a bit awkwardly atop it. The build feels decently sturdy though, so I can’t complain.
The Comparison – JDS EL DAC v1 vs Schiit Modius:
Both DAC’s were connecting via USB to my computer. I went into this comparison expecting…well, not much. I didn’t think there would be a difference in sound, even when comparing balanced vs single ended, and especially because I was comparing two “budget” or maybe “mid-fi” DACs. I initially chose to do abrupt input swaps so I could (hopefully) immediately hear the potential changes, but I eventually decided to just listen to each DAC separately for an extended period of time; the latter being what I believe better brings out any subtle change that may be difficult to comprehend during quick swapping. In other words, it takes time for the changes to manifest into something my brain correlates to a real change – something tangible that I can then put into words.
Upon reflecting on my past speaker and gear reviews – which I recently went back and read – I’ve realized my reviews were long winded. And since this write-up already has several paragraphs that have nothing to do with the actual comparison I’ve promised, let’s just get into it; I’ll try to keep things straight to the point.
Struggled as I may, I did not find any differences in detail retrieval. Nothing was missing, nor was anything new discovered. However, the way these details were presented was something that did change when swapping from the EL DAC to the Modius.
Presentation, Soundstage & Imaging:
The Modius widens and deepens the soundstage a little, and the space between instruments seems to have widened, with relative distance becoming more apparent. When listening to “Gotcha” from Patricia Barber’s Live: A Fortnight in France, there is more stage depth when swapping from the EL DAC to the Modius. The upright bass is placed further back than Patricia, giving the sensation that she’s up front and center stage while the bass player is placed stage-left and a bit further back. Through the EL DAC, everything sounds more crammed together and on the same plane. Listening to Joe Satriani’s “Rubina” (An Anthology Disc 2) using the Modius, 3-demensionality is quite improved over the EL, with better layering and depth. Imaging is solid through both DACs, but due to the perceived change in soundstage through the Modius, I hear it as tighter and more precise. Jennifer Warnes’s “Bird on a Wire” solidifies my thoughts about this. I give the Modius the edge for overall stage presentation.
The most obvious change to my ears moving from the EL DAC to the Modius is the bass response. Through the Modius it is tighter and faster (decays quicker?) but without losing dynamics (punch/slam). It also provides better detail, allowing you to hear the texture and better differentiate the tone; through the EL DAC the bass is more one-note and blob sounding but gives the perception of more quantity/loudness. For those looking for the latter qualities, the EL DAC will likely suit you better. I prefer the presentation of the Modius, however. Modius wins this round as well.
This was a difficult comparison for me, as I heard no tonality changes or major differences. The subtle changes heard were likely due to the extra space and air between breaths and around the vocals caused by the changes in presentation/staging. I’ll call this a draw.
Within the upper range of frequencies, the EL and Modius are extremely similar, with the Modius sounding slightly more present, but with equal detail compared to the EL DAC. It’s not that the EL is dull or dark, but just that the Modius has a little more sparkle and snap. This may simply be a difference between single ended vs balanced performance, and I likely would not have noticed without a direct comparison, but take it for what it’s worth. I don’t have a preference toward one presentation or the other – which again is a super subtle difference – so I’ll say this is a draw.
If you’ve made it this far and are thinking, “your results are null and void because you compared the balanced outputs of the Modius to the single ended of the EL,” well, you might be correct. But the confidence of moving to balanced outputs and the sound improvements that it may (or may not) bring are more than worth the $200 price tag of the Modius for me. I’m quite happy with my purchase and will retire my EL to an upstairs listening area. If time permits, I’ll compare the single ended outputs of the EL and Modius – if that actually happens I’d be happy to share my experiences. Thanks for reading!
Great review @Nuance.
Thanks you - much appreciated!
Nice review and thanks for sharing your experience…
Thank you very much!
Update on the Schiit Modius:
The supplied Micro-USB cable has officially broken. It literally just sits plugged into the Modius and then my computer - I don’t move it around - but even a slight bump to my desk or the laptop and it loses connection; I tried multiple USB ports and also my desktop computer. Thankfully I have several around the house from older android phones, but it’s something to take note of if you own or plan to purchase the Modius. I ordered a “higher quality” one in hopes it’s more durable, but I think it’s just the nature of the old USB-Micro technology. Just something to be aware of!
Give Schiit a call and let them know…I am sure they would replace the cable.
They need to hear this from us end users…
Definitely - will do. And really, a 5 dollar cable isn’t a big deal; I just wanted potential owners to be aware. Happy weekend all!
I just realised I have my Modius plugged into a iFi ground loop breaker. Which cuts the power rail on the USB…
So…how is it still working? Gets enough power from the other rails…???