I recently purchased a Schiit Modi / Magni stack for use with my Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (38 ohm) and Grado SR80 (~32? ohm) headphones. I am very happy with it, except for the channel imbalance at low volumes.
Things I already know:
- Low-volume channel imbalance is a common issue with budget analog volume controllers (link).
- My headphones are low impedance.
- My amp has high gain (5).
- The combination of the previous two points means that my headphones will be loud without turning the amp's volume pot much.
- I can decrease the volume digitally on the transport, thus allowing me to increase the volume pot on the amp to avoid channel imbalance, but this can lead to data loss (link). Disregard whether I can actually perceive the lost data.
I read that the O2 suffers from the same low-volume channel imbalance as the Magni, but I also understand that it has / can have lower gain (the default from JDS Labs being 2.5 / 6.5, but available as low as 1.0).
What I want to know:
- Would a lower gain mean that I could turn up the volume pot further (thus avoiding channel imbalance) without my headphones being so loud?
- Would sidegrading to the O2(+ODAC) be worth the money and effort?
- Alternatively, can I mod the Magni to have lower gain?
Tangentially related: With nothing playing, if I turn the volume pot to max (and even before max), I can hear quiet static with my M50. Is this normal? (I hear that the Magni is supposed to be dead silent.) Would I experience the same thing with the O2?