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Budget DAC Review: Schiit Modi 2 ($99)

Sal1950

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You gotta hand it to Schitt though, they know how to strike a gold mine with the audiophools. It's utterly trivial and cheap in an EE context to take off-the-shelf chips and turn it into an end product that doesn't sound like complete crap to the ear since the big semicon design firms have already done 99% of the hard work, and if audible design flaws did exist it can be marketed with the usual weasel words and "measurements don't matter" which the crowd would happily drink the Kool-Aid.
Going all the back to the 1980s Mike Moffat has shown an incredible amount of marketing savvy taking maximum advantage of the audiophool mentality. As you look back today with 20/20 hindsight on the roads paved by him and later adding Jason, you can see glimpses of psychology genius in his understanding of how to grab the imagination of the buyers. My hats off to him and since he doesn't dive too deeply into the waters of magic-dust snake-oil worthless products I find it hard to really criticize his business model.

Heck he even caught my eye with one of his latest products, the new Vidar power amp. Just a good ole fashion "Class-AB, linear-supply, microprocessor-controlled, power-doubling, dual-mono-ish, intelligently-managed, drives-almost-anything power amp. No Class D, no switching supplies, no fans, no compromises, nothing in the signal path but music—for a three-figure price tag." It does appear to have a totally different topology then the Ragnarok that gave JA issues but I'm not the EE here.
Plus it's Made In The USA and has a 5 year warranty.
http://www.schiit.com/products/vidar
Since IMO it's probably a fully transparent High Fidelity amplifier if used inside it's performance envelope, it pushes most all my buttons. ;)
After I'd seen a good JA type review of it, it would be very high on my list if for some reason I was looking to replace my Adcoms.
 

watchnerd

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After I'd seen a good JA type review of it, it would be very high on my list if for some reason I was looking to replace my Adcoms.
You could pair it with the Freya 3-in-1 (passive line, JFET buffered, or tubes) preamp. I have one and it's fun to play with, although the tubes are damn hot.
 

Cosmik

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Going all the back to the 1980s Mike Moffat has shown an incredible amount of marketing savvy taking maximum advantage of the audiophool mentality. As you look back today with 20/20 hindsight on the roads paved by him and later adding Jason, you can see glimpses of psychology genius in his understanding of how to grab the imagination of the buyers. My hats off to him and since he doesn't dive too deeply into the waters of magic-dust snake-oil worthless products I find it hard to really criticize his business model.

Heck he even caught my eye with one of his latest products, the new Vidar power amp. Just a good ole fashion "Class-AB, linear-supply, microprocessor-controlled, power-doubling, dual-mono-ish, intelligently-managed, drives-almost-anything power amp. No Class D, no switching supplies, no fans, no compromises, nothing in the signal path but music—for a three-figure price tag." It does appear to have a totally different topology then the Ragnarok that gave JA issues but I'm not the EE here.
Plus it's Made In The USA and has a 5 year warranty.
http://www.schiit.com/products/vidar
Since IMO it's probably a fully transparent High Fidelity amplifier if used inside it's performance envelope, it pushes most all my buttons. ;)
After I'd seen a good JA type review of it, it would be very high on my list if for some reason I was looking to replace my Adcoms.
For me it would be a case of who I had the most faith in. Do I trust the 'maverick' purveyor of the DAC with a zero-crossing glitch and the amplifier with the 'innovative' bias servo or do I buy a Quad 306 for £150?
 

Sal1950

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For me it would be a case of who I had the most faith in. Do I trust the 'maverick' purveyor of the DAC with a zero-crossing glitch and the amplifier with the 'innovative' bias servo or do I buy a Quad 306 for £150?
But your automatically attaching the Ragnarok's issues to the Vidar, I'm not sure you can do that and the reason I wanted to see it measured by JA or like first.
Then there's the Made in USA thing. If I were a citizen of the UK the Quad would be of interest, but I live here. And I buy domestic products whenever possible.
 

Blumlein 88

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Going all the back to the 1980s Mike Moffat has shown an incredible amount of marketing savvy taking maximum advantage of the audiophool mentality. As you look back today with 20/20 hindsight on the roads paved by him and later adding Jason, you can see glimpses of psychology genius in his understanding of how to grab the imagination of the buyers. My hats off to him and since he doesn't dive too deeply into the waters of magic-dust snake-oil worthless products I find it hard to really criticize his business model.

Heck he even caught my eye with one of his latest products, the new Vidar power amp. Just a good ole fashion "Class-AB, linear-supply, microprocessor-controlled, power-doubling, dual-mono-ish, intelligently-managed, drives-almost-anything power amp. No Class D, no switching supplies, no fans, no compromises, nothing in the signal path but music—for a three-figure price tag." It does appear to have a totally different topology then the Ragnarok that gave JA issues but I'm not the EE here.
Plus it's Made In The USA and has a 5 year warranty.
http://www.schiit.com/products/vidar
Since IMO it's probably a fully transparent High Fidelity amplifier if used inside it's performance envelope, it pushes most all my buttons. ;)
After I'd seen a good JA type review of it, it would be very high on my list if for some reason I was looking to replace my Adcoms.
I think it probably uses the same microprocessor controlled bias system as the Ragnarok though I am not sure of that. I don't think I would want an amp with that. I also don't see the benefit. The things he says it allows hardly seem like big advantages and the giving short shrift to the problems seems backwards. My guess is it may act something like tube amps and transformers on sustained loud portions of music. It would give it a sound maybe even a 'nice' sound. I would prefer my amps don't do those sorts of things. Plug ins for playback software would be better for that. We already know it shut down on Chris due to the speaker cables he used.

The following is from the webpage for the Vidar.

Intelligent Oversight and Protection

In Vidar, a microprocessor oversees important aspects of amplifier operation, from DC offset to over-current and over-temperature faults. This provides stable, safe operation without invasive current-limiting, fuses, or active devices in the power supply path. In English, Vidar makes sure it’s operating optimally at all times—and protects itself when it needs to, so you can be assured of excellent performance for a long, long time.

This from the Ragnarok page.


Nothing In the Signal Path Except Signal

Ragnarok is an "intelligent" amplifier, using a microprocessor to oversee every aspect of its operation—from quiescent bias, to DC offset, to complete fault protection. It’s also designed so that any major problem mutes all the outputs and reverts the amp to its low-gain, zero volume mode. This means we can dispense with coupling caps and DC servos entirely, for a gain stage that has nothing in the signal path—except for your music.

Maybe they learned from the Ragnarok and it isn't doing quiescent bias, or maybe they decided simply not to mention that it does.


Off topic:

Maybe Amir should test out their Schiit Eitr USB buffering device.

 
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Sal1950

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Maybe they learned from the Ragnarok and it isn't doing quiescent bias, or maybe they decided simply not to mention that it does.
Maybe, and then maybe not, that's why your the EE and I'm not. ;)
I saw the system simply as a protection device and not something that would inject any sound of it's own, as they claim.
In any case I'm not buying anything, just saw the amp as something interesting in a world full of Class D, switching power, and a lot of stuff I'd pass on if possible.
 

maul

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Could you measure it with spdif? Schiit has never had good USB implementation apparently, so it would really be interesting to see if there is a difference, with the Bifrost as well.

Edit: I guess it's not the Uber version so it would only have USB, regardless I'd love to see the Bifrost measurements.
 
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amirm

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OP
amirm

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Since this review was published, I have more DAC measurements so I thought I add that data here:

J-test Comparison.png


Note that the Schiit measurements were just repeated with my laptop (previous ones were with my desktop). As avid readers of the forum know, the Schiit modi 2 is highly sensitive to USB bus and power so its response changes depending on what drives it. Here it puts out both random noise in 7KHz to 17 Khz range (the wide skirt around our main 12 Khz tone) and deterministic spikes near our main tone (pulses hugging it). This is an amplified display so audibility is not certain but poor engineering definitely is :).
 
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amirm

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And here is test of linearity/ability of the DAC to produce the rightmost bits in a 16-bit sample cleanly (for technical reasons the audio file itself is at 24 bits). This is a sine wave at -90 dbFS so an ideal DAC would create a pure sine wave devoid of noise/spikes and steps in the middle.

First comparison to Topping D30 which I just made after doing the same for Schiit Modi 2:

-90db vs Topping D30.png


It is easy to see how much cleaner the output of Topping D30 DAC is relative to Schiit Modi 2. There is far, far less noise and steps are smoother showing us a decent representation of a sine wave. The Topping D30 retails for $129 which is just $30 for that Schiit Modi 2.

Here is the comparison to Behringer UMC204HD which at $79, is $20 cheaper than Schiit Modi 2:

-90db vs Behringer.png


The behringer is not as linear as the Topping D30 but it is still far better than Schiit Modi 2. That noise that we saw in the J-test results of Schiit Modi 2 shows up here and causes those spikes and lack of accuracy.
 

oni

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In fairness, the Modi 2 is really their entry-level DAC, and anecdotes from forums tell that most buyers end up with the Modi 2 Uber or Multibit variant, which do not draw power from the USB bus but from an external wall-wart and, in theory, shouldn't suffer from host system power bleeding into Modi's analog circuitry. I'm not defending their poor USB power regulation, just laying out the reason why so many people end up with this particular DAC. They are not gullible, they're just not buying the variant that you have tested here.

The Behringer uses an external power adaptor, too, so if anything you should compare a Behringer DAC with external power adaptor to the respective Modi with external power adaptor.
 

watchnerd

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In fairness, the Modi 2 is really their entry-level DAC, and anecdotes from forums tell that most buyers end up with the Modi 2 Uber or Multibit variant, which do not draw power from the USB bus but from an external wall-wart and, in theory, shouldn't suffer from host system power bleeding into Modi's analog circuitry. I'm not defending their poor USB power regulation, just laying out the reason why so many people end up with this particular DAC. They are not gullible, they're just not buying the variant that you have tested here.

The Behringer uses an external power adaptor, too, so if anything you should compare a Behringer DAC with external power adaptor to the respective Modi with external power adaptor.
Actually, I'd probably call the Fulla 2 their real entry level product, since it's a DAC/amp for the same price as the Modi 2 and no upgrade path.

It's also potentially USB powered, so could likely exhibit the same issues.

I happen to have one.
 

Jinjuku

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In fairness, the Modi 2 is really their entry-level DAC, and anecdotes from forums tell that most buyers end up with the Modi 2 Uber or Multibit variant, which do not draw power from the USB bus but from an external wall-wart and, in theory, shouldn't suffer from host system power bleeding into Modi's analog circuitry. I'm not defending their poor USB power regulation, just laying out the reason why so many people end up with this particular DAC. They are not gullible, they're just not buying the variant that you have tested here.
In all fairness it's a piece of junk.

Other products costing less have it solved. Also the Modi 2 isn't the only schitt product with a carelessly designed input. Their $400 DAC does as well.

The Behringer uses an external power adaptor, too, so if anything you should compare a Behringer DAC with external power adaptor to the respective Modi with external power adaptor.
No it doesn't... Look at the back of the UMC204HD. It's only option is to be USB bus powered.
 

oni

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In all fairness it's a piece of junk.

Other products costing less have it solved.
Can you please share pointers to some of those other products [*] that have it solved and that are not a piece of junk? Thanks in advance.

[*] ... at the same price point or less, please.
 

Jinjuku

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Can you please share pointers to some of those other products [*] that have it solved and that are not a piece of junk? Thanks in advance.

[*] ... at the same price point or less, please.
Maybe you missed all the DAC's that have been benched here... Do your own research.
 

oni

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So you had time to write those two sentences, but didn't have time to point to a single DAC? Nothing off the top of your head?
 

RayDunzl

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Sal1950

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oni

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I find it quite ironic that my request for one or more pointers to DACs that are not as "junk" as the Modi is answered by the very definition of unreliable, mass-produced products:

https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-UM...r&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar
https://www.amazon.com/Behringer-UM...e=all_reviews&pageNumber=1#reviews-filter-bar

And before someone tries to accuse me of being selective or anecdotal: This thread's verdict of the Modi 2 is based on a single (1) Modi 2 tested in a single (1) configuration. I'd say the vast amount of anecdotal evidence on the Behringer's unreliability at Amazon easily beats the single body of evidence against the Modi's performance.
 
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