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Asgard 3 paired with Modius / Modi / Chinese DAC?

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Hi friends,

a few days ago I received my first quality headphones - 6xx.

I am considering purchasing Asgard 3 + Modius but want to ask if Modi 3 will do the job too?

The headphones are currently connected to the Asus TUF X570 GAMING motherboard with the Realtek A1200, and it sounds pretty good, but not too loud, with some weird noises in the background sometimes while listening to even lossless music files with 1500-3500 bitrate(Although I'm almost certain that the sound card built into my motherboard does not support such resolutions at all).

What do you recommend? How much $ 100 makes the difference between the two DACS?

Is the difference so dramatic? Maybe even Modi + Magni will do the job without a real change in audio quality?

I realized that the most important thing is:
headphones > then an amplifier > and only then a DAC.
In addition - I realized that the DAC in Modi and Modios isn't the newest on the market, quite outdated models.
Maybe I should go for Asgard 3 which will be used by me for many years, and add me one of the Chinese DACS? For example SMSL or Topping? It will look pretty ugly, but still ...


Please help me out friends ... I got tired of searching, reading and comparing for a few months. Just want to finish with it.

Regards,
McSqueezy
 

Joe Smith

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Unless you really want the balanced connectors in the Modius, and are willing to live with just USB input to the DAC, a solid one-unit solution for you would be the Asgard with the optional ES DAC module installed, $350 US.

I use the Magni 3/Modi stack because a) I'm cheap, b) I like being able to use the DAC separately occasionally and like having coax, toslink and USB input capabilities. The Magni amp has plenty of power for everything I've thrown at it. It gets a little weak on 600-ohm Sennheisers but ah, well.

With the DAC, your streaming sources and other inputs are the question. The Modi caps at 24/192, fine for me (since Spotify has gone back into its Groundhog Day hole for now) but you need to consider if you want one of the other units that can give even more resolution.

You would probably hear 0 audible difference between the Modi DAC and the Modius.
 

AnalogSteph

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The headphones are currently connected to the Asus TUF X570 GAMING motherboard with the Realtek A1200, and it sounds pretty good, but not too loud, with some weird noises in the background sometimes while listening to even lossless music files with 1500-3500 bitrate(Although I'm almost certain that the sound card built into my motherboard does not support such resolutions at all).
Just for the record: Back L/R output or front panel headphone out? Extraneous noises are not necessarily the board's fault, particularly if they are affecting the front panel only. That's usually the case's fault then. I suspect they are trying to make up for their thin-ass HDA FP cable gauge by combing a bunch of grounds or trying to improve EMI characteristics. Either way, that leads to ground loop issues.

The ALC1200 supports 24/192 input and output, no DSD, so a fairly typical HD Audio codec.

As it happens, I recently built a new rig with a similar board for Team Blue, the TUF GAMING Z590-Plus WIFI with the same exact ALC1200, using a Fractal Define R5 case and be quiet! Straight Power 11 550W PSU. Using my trusty HD580 which should be much the same sensitivity as the HD6XX, there are no unwanted noises whatsoever on the front panel headphone out. Granted, I don't have a fancy GPU in at this point (just onboard graphics, never been much of a gamer), but even using Prime95 at various power level settings (I made a few Throttlestop presets) or toggling between full turbo and 2.4 GHz, I can hear zip, zilch, nothing, nichts, nada, rien. Likewise when using the USB 2 or 3 front ports.

This is how my ALC1200 fares in loopback (rear L/R out, rear line in) according to RMAA, once straight and once with a JDS Labs Atom Amp+ @ High Gain, gain +12.8-12.9 dB:
alc1200-loopback.png

There was some ground loop noise in the test setup affecting the measurement with external amp, DR ought to be more like the 96.9 dB seen in the better channel. I have estimated output dynamic range to be around 110 dB(A) and input dynamic range around 106.5 dB(A). There is approx. +/-0.025 dB worth of ADC periodic filter ripple, the DAC side appears to be dead flat as far as you can tell in RMAA (probably both similar to ALC898, filter ripple spec +/-0.03 dB A/D and +/-0.0005 dB D/A).

Yes, even a Xonar SE (see my Xonar SE adventures) offers substantially higher performance and higher output level, but as long as you can make do with an unbalanced output that's good for a maximum of 1.1 Vrms (and, in practice, I might stay 2-3 dB below max volume), there is absolutely nothing wrong with the ALC1200 DAC otherwise. I have yet to check distortion D/A side but it's usually fairly low, not chart-topping but certainly inaudible (most of what you see in loopback is the input side).
 
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OP
Bling Guy McSqueezy
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Just for the record: Back L/R output or front panel headphone out? Extraneous noises are not necessarily the board's fault, particularly if they are affecting the front panel only. That's usually the case's fault then. I suspect they are trying to make up for their thin-ass HDA FP cable gauge by combing a bunch of grounds or trying to improve EMI characteristics. Either way, that leads to ground loop issues.

The ALC1200 supports 24/192 input and output, no DSD, so a fairly typical HD Audio codec.

As it happens, I recently built a new rig with a similar board for Team Blue, the TUF GAMING Z590-Plus WIFI with the same exact ALC1200, using a Fractal Define R5 case and be quiet! Straight Power 11 550W PSU. Using my trusty HD580 which should be much the same sensitivity as the HD6XX, there are no unwanted noises whatsoever on the front panel headphone out. Granted, I don't have a fancy GPU in at this point (just onboard graphics, never been much of a gamer), but even using Prime95 at various power level settings (I made a few Throttlestop presets) or toggling between full turbo and 2.4 GHz, I can hear zip, zilch, nothing, nichts, nada, rien. Likewise when using the USB 2 or 3 front ports.

This is how my ALC1200 fares in loopback (rear L/R out, rear line in) according to RMAA, once straight and once with a JDS Labs Atom Amp+ @ High Gain, gain +12.8-12.9 dB:
View attachment 180815
There was some ground loop noise in the test setup affecting the measurement with external amp, DR ought to be more like the 96.9 dB seen in the better channel. I have estimated output dynamic range to be around 110 dB(A) and input dynamic range around 106.5 dB(A). There is approx. +/-0.025 dB worth of ADC periodic filter ripple, the DAC side appears to be dead flat as far as you can tell in RMAA (probably both similar to ALC898, filter ripple spec +/-0.03 dB A/D and +/-0.0005 dB D/A).

Yes, even a Xonar SE (see my Xonar SE adventures) offers substantially higher performance and higher output level, but as long as you can make do with an unbalanced output that's good for a maximum of 1.1 Vrms (and, in practice, I might stay 2-3 dB below max volume), there is absolutely nothing wrong with the ALC1200 DAC otherwise. I have yet to check distortion D/A side but it's usually fairly low, not chart-topping but certainly inaudible (most of what you see in loopback is the input side).
thanks for your time to write this. appreciate it a lot.
so basically, if I want better a better dac so just buy a cheap one. yes? even a cheap one that outside the PC case is better right?
 

AnalogSteph

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My point was that you may not need another DAC at all. You may need a headphone amp with more gain to make up for the somewhat lower output level compared to the 2 Vrms common in HiFi gear, but in all other parameters the ALC1200 is just fine, generally speaking, and should be audibly transparent. You'll generally have to spend $70-100 to get something external that measures appreciably better (and I say measures because other than higher max output level, you're not going to hear it).

And if you can't get rid of the noises in the front headphone out but happen to like your PC case otherwise, you would have to investigate how best to modify the front output board and wiring to resolve the issue and beef up HDA ground return.

I wouldn't use the Asgard with it though, or even at all. That particular amp model is a bit of an unfortunate construction, being IEC Class I with unbalanced inputs only (owing to it sharing a chassis with Jotunheim and Lyr). With any source that is also IEC Class I (like a PC) or otherwise earthed, issues with ground loop noise are virtually a given.
Better stick with a Magni Heresy with its IEC Class II (ungrounded) plug pack supply - this model has marginally less gain on the high setting but should still go plenty loud enough (1.1 Vrms x 5.5 = 6.05 Vrms, or 118 dB SPL SPL peak with your HD6XX - NwAvGuy recommended shooting for 110 dB SPL, and he wasn't exactly a quiet listener). You'd also have money to spare that could be invested into a better PC case instead. Cases and power supplies are two things you should never skimp on, it's just not worth the trouble.
 
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Bling Guy McSqueezy
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My point was that you may not need another DAC at all. You may need a headphone amp with more gain to make up for the somewhat lower output level compared to the 2 Vrms common in HiFi gear, but in all other parameters the ALC1200 is just fine, generally speaking, and should be audibly transparent. You'll generally have to spend $70-100 to get something external that measures appreciably better (and I say measures because other than higher max output level, you're not going to hear it).

And if you can't get rid of the noises in the front headphone out but happen to like your PC case otherwise, you would have to investigate how best to modify the front output board and wiring to resolve the issue and beef up HDA ground return.

I wouldn't use the Asgard with it though, or even at all. That particular amp model is a bit of an unfortunate construction, being IEC Class I with unbalanced inputs only (owing to it sharing a chassis with Jotunheim and Lyr). With any source that is also IEC Class I (like a PC) or otherwise earthed, issues with ground loop noise are virtually a given.
Better stick with a Magni Heresy with its IEC Class II (ungrounded) plug pack supply - this model has marginally less gain on the high setting but should still go plenty loud enough (1.1 Vrms x 5.5 = 6.05 Vrms, or 118 dB SPL SPL peak with your HD6XX - NwAvGuy recommended shooting for 110 dB SPL, and he wasn't exactly a quiet listener). You'd also have money to spare that could be invested into a better PC case instead. Cases and power supplies are two things you should never skimp on, it's just not worth the trouble.
Asus TUF GT501 case, PNY 3080Ti, AMD 5800x, Arctic Freezer Liquid Cooler 280
 

AnalogSteph

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Not bad stuff right there. (You forgot the PSU though.) The case may be a tad expensive for what it does (it is quite big, mind you, and materials haven't been getting any cheaper), but the only real indication that the front panel I/O may not have been the #1 priority is the presence of a measly two USB3 Type A ports. Hmm.

Can you provoke the unwanted noises by running e.g. CPU benchmarks, Furmark, or other things that are heavy on either CPU or GPU?

Here's a free tweak for ya: When using the front headphone out, go into Realtek Audio Control, click the "dts Custom" logo and turn it OFF. Otherwise you'll get this:
ALC1200-HPout-wSFX.png

instead of the normal:
ALC1200-HPout-noSFX.png


(Realtek driver build 9087 as offered for my board by the Asus website)

Ah, the eternal battle with sound misimprovements. At least I found out how to get rid of them without having to "Disable sound effects" entirely, which would kill Equalizer APO as well (I think... looks like it wasn't working on this output yet, as I had mistakenly installed it as LFX/GFX instead of SFX/EFX, oops).

Update: You will have to disable all effects if you insist on more than 48 kHz output in shared mode. (Same exact quirk as on the Xonar SE, except the Realtek control panel isn't a jerk.) WASAPI exclusive mode or ASIO should fix this, but it is worth knowing.
 
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