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Schiit Modius Balanced DAC Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me by the company for testing. The Modius costs just US $199 which is quite cheap for a balanced DAC from a western company.

The design language is Schiit all the way (sorry, could not resist :) ), which I tend to like in wider form factor:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Audio Review.jpg

I am not a fan of symbols for input selection but I guess if you don't switch DACs all the time like I do, it is fine. There is no other input here so you can't change filters and such. No power switch either.

The back panel is as you expect except USB and power connections:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Back Panel Inputs and Outputs Audio Review.jpg

A micro-USB jack is used both for USB connection and independent power input. A phone charger adapter comes which I used for all of my testing. But reading the manual after the fact, seems like this is optional and the unit works from USB port alone if there is sufficient power.

I was hampered a bit in my testing of Modius. My Audio Precision software only supports ASIO interface in talking to DACs on Windows. I usually use ASIO4ALL wrapper which normally works fine but in a few instances, mostly with Schiit DACs, it truncates samples to 16 bits. That happened here. As a work-around, I used my Roon player to send the static tones to Modius. For dynamic measurements, I resorted to using Toslink and Coax.

DAC Audio Measurements
Let's start with my favorite connection, balanced XLR output:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Audio Measurements.png


Very nice! Distortion is below threshold of audibility in both channels at around -120 dB. Noise is higher than it, setting SINAD to slightly lower value resulting in very good ranking especially for price:

best balanced UBS DACs reviewed 2020.png


Here is a zoomed version:

Best USB DACs Measured 2020.png


Here is the same using RCA outputs:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Unbalanced RCA Audio Measurements.png


Jitter using USB is excellent:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Switching to either Coax or Toslink optical degrades performance a fair bit objectively:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Toslink Coax Jitter Audio Measurements.png


But with levels near -120 dB, definitely not something you will hear.

Dynamic range is very good:
Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Toslink Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Intermodulation+noise versus level is in the same category:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC IMD Audio Measurements.png


Linearity is nailed:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Toslink Linearity Audio Measurements.png


Here is our 32-tone test signal:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Coax Multitone Audio Measurements.png


There is a bit of weakness at lower frequencies where noise floor goes up. We see the same in THD+N versus frequency:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Coax THD+N vs frequency Audio Measurements.png


There is only one filter and that is the default in the DAC chip:

Schiit Modius Balanced USB DAC Filter Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
Just a year ago we could not imagine a balanced DAC at $199 let alone from a western company. But here we are with Schiit Modius. Company shows that when it focuses on excellent engineering together with great value, it can deliver.

As a big fan of balanced XLR outputs (to reduce chances of nasty ground loops due to connection to PCs), I am happy to recommend the Schiit Modius.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Was going to go and plant more seedlings in the garden but here I am, doing another review. This has to make you feel guilty enough to donate some money using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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#2
Can anyone seriously hear the difference between the top 10-20 DACs on ASR? Sure the M400 is measurably a bit superior and a hell lot more expensive but can anyone seriously hear the difference in a blind test?

Anyway, I think this is priced very reasonably. Any comments or pictures of the guts would be welcome.
 
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majingotan

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I knew it. Schiit tends to under-report their specs on their website. I don't see glaring faults nor any IMD hump, and the 90 KHz bandwidth looks great. Perfect DAC for those with thx balanced amps who don't want to spend a huge money for a true balanced in/out DAC with discrete/separate analog signal path for SE. That Unison USB that I've been using with their Bifrost 2 DAC definitely is on the level of those latest X-mos chips in terms of USB performance
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #15
Question: Why are recent reviews no longer includes frequency response test? Or am I missing something?
I don't run them on DACs usually. Instead, I show the filter response which is the only thing that impacts frequency response in DACs.
 
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#16
I knew it. Schiit tends to under-report their specs on their website. I don't see glaring faults nor any IMD hump, and the 90 KHz bandwidth looks great. Perfect DAC for those with thx balanced amps who don't want to spend a huge money for a true balanced in/out DAC with discrete/separate analog signal path for SE. That Unison USB that I've been using with their Bifrost 2 DAC definitely is on the level of those latest X-mos chips in terms of USB performance
AKM 4493 used. Not known to have a hump.

What's this Unison USB stuff ? My Audioengine D1 from MANY years ago never needed any driver so it is plug and play on Mac or PC. Is this something new?!
 

EchoChamber

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#17
Nice going Schiit! I wish you had made the Yggdrasil with these specs... :-(
 

majingotan

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#18
It’s plug and play for Windows 10 PC. No need for drivers at all. Dunno about OS X. Unison stuff is just Schiit’s latest USB iteration that’s completely proprietary to them that performs much better than their previous USB from C-Media. See Schiit Modi’s USB measurements here and that’s pretty awful in today’s standards.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #19
What's this Unison USB stuff ?
They implemented their own USB interface rather than buying an off-the-shelf USB interface. Likely that saved them a few important dollars.
 

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