- Same footprint as Asgard/Lyr/Jot/Bifrost
- No separate power button. Powers on, as soon as power cable is connected
- It can be BUS powered from the host device when using USB. If you want to use the external power when using USB, connect the power cable first, before connecting the USB source
- Overall build is quite solid and the finish is good. Nothing looks cheap or out of place, although it is not as impeccable as their higher-end models
- There is a very slight rattle to the input selector button on the front. The button is chrome finished and mine had scratches right out of the box
- Overall runs very cool in my testing so far
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 DAC Background
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.