Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
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MtnMan307

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@MtnMan307 you might consider trying out the Modius (since the Bifrost 2 is out of stock) for the 15 day tryout period, and can return/upgrade for Bifrost 2 should you prefer Multibit over D/S. Or use Modius for a second station since you already have extra HP amps and HP's.

what DAC's have you owned (and liked or disliked) ? that info my help others with recommendations.


disclaimer: I own Bifrost Multibit (OG, 1st gen) but I had a D/S DAC based CD player that I also liked (before the piece-of-junk broke down)
I have only had the Modi Multibit.
 
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Ripper2860

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I think a lot of folks would say that once they've experienced multibit, it's pretty tough to go back to D/S. I'm sure a lot of that depends on the music and your other gear, but if it is revealing enough, I think you'll want multibit. I went with a Topping D50 for a while and ultimately went back to Schiit's Modi multibit and then on to BF2. My music just sounded more 'natural' and layered with multibit -- especially cymbals and acoustic instruments.

That being said, however -- Modius does have Unison and 'secret sauce', so it might be worth a try knowing you can return/trade-up to BF2 within the trial window. There's no wrong answers here -- just good ones and better ones. :D
 
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Haris Javed

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well its interesting because me and my wife were saving up money to open a restaurant, but I always wanted to open my own speaker business - with the covid stuff going on restaurant is out of question, so speakers / headphones seemed like a good idea to fall back on :) - but obviously its easier said then done.
 
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Jot's gotta be on it's way out? Odd guy sitting at a strange price point in their line. Possibilities, possibilities.
 
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2020, Chapter 9
The DAC You Need?


Let’s get this out of the way: we have a new DAC, and it’s called Modius.

Yes, Modius. As in, “Modius Maximus.” It was a pet name used in development, because, hey, you know, this is a bigger, better, badder-ass Modi, so hey, Modius Maximus. Which quickly got shortened to Modius.

Which, er, stuck.





“But Modius Maximus is clearly a Roman-influenced name,” the more pedantic will bleat. “That doesn’t exactly fit with your Norse-inspired naming scheme, bub!”

Yes, sir, you are 100% correct. It’s a mess. It’s all mixed up.

But this is also coming from:
  1. A company named “Schiit.”
  2. People who get most of their Norse mythology from comic books and Wikipedia.
  3. Guys who thought it would be funny to call their cables PYST and used Cthulhu as a pet name for an AC adapter.
But it’s also a good descriptor. Modius is simply a bigger, better Modi.
  • Instead of an AK4490 D/A converter, it uses an AK4493.
  • Instead of being single-ended only, it has single-ended and balanced outputs.
  • Instead of having 3 inputs, it has 4 (we added AES).
  • Instead of C-Media’s USB input receiver, it has Schiit Unison USB™.
  • Instead of fitting perfectly under a Magni or Vali, it fits perfectly under Asgard, Jotunheim, and Lyr.
Like Modi, Modius can still run it off of a single USB input, or use a separate USB power in to get it to report as a 0mA device. And, like Modi, it’s super-high-value—this designed-and-built-in-California (or Utah) product is $199.

“Huh. A new delta-sigma DAC, seems a bit boring,” some are saying.

And yeah, I hear you. It’s so tempting to say, at this specific point in time, “this may not be the DAC you want, but it’s the DAC you need.”

But that really under-sells Modius. Modius is a great DAC. It is packed with amazing technology, from a 200MHz, 32-bit microprocessor to the high-performance AK4493 DAC to the excellent TI LME49724 differential amplifier, with precision thin-film resistors and film capacitors. It has our exclusive Unison USB™ input, as well as optical and coaxial and AES. It runs off of USB power alone. It sounds very, very good. It is designed and made right here in California. And it’s $199.

Stop. Go back. Read that again.

A feature-packed, high-performance balanced DAC, made right here, for $199.

And yeah, I know, some people don’t care where it’s made, and that’s perfectly fine too. But I’m proud of what we did with Modius, and I’m proud we’re doing it locally, just like all of our other products. It’s important to me. It’s important to the people who work for us. And it’s important to our suppliers, and the people who work for them. Hopefully this will also be important to some of you.

But, bottom line: Modius really hits the sweet spot for affordable DACs…without compromising on how we make it.


Quest for Measurements

“That’ great and all, but how does it measure?” some are asking. “Better than Modi 3?”

Yes. Modius is our best-measuring DAC. We made sure of this.

And that’s a story in itself.

It’s December 2019. We’re getting ready to launch Modius in January. Everything is cool. We’re ready to roll. We just need to confirm one last thing—does this perform as we expect? So I have Dave drop by the latest version of the board, and run it on the AP.

Looks good! Looks really good…

...except, wait…

…oh hell…

…except not as good as Modi 3.

Yeah. Modius, the bigger better DAC using a better D/A converter and a more exotic output stage, couldn’t beat Modi 3.

AAARRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Mike and Dave and I had words. One point of view was, “Well, it sounds great, who cares?” I put my foot down and said, “If we cannot make it better than Modi 3, we failed.” There was additional discussion about how making the datasheet numbers was difficult with a switching supply, cost constraints, etc. But I stood my ground.

Dave and I reconvened. Was the balanced LME47924 a problem? The datasheet never showed an output stage like ours. We built their recommended output stage. No dice. Was it noise from the switching power supply? I added a bunch of filtering. The power rails got cleaner, but the measurements didn’t. Was it compensation? Nope. Output filtering? Again nope. We literally tore the dang DAC apart, and found nothing.

Until I noticed that Dave and I had different datasheets for the part, and the later datasheets had some specific recommendations that hadn’t appeared in the (yes, manufacturer-supplied, supposedly good-to-go datasheet).

Double AAAAAAARRRGGHHHHHHHHHHH.

So yeah, the January DAC became more like an April DAC, which is the time it would take us to do a new prototype and make sure it worked. Long story short, we did a new prototype, using the additional information from the later datasheet (and a couple of secret-sauce tricks) and it worked as expected. Whew.

And then COVID hit.

So the April DAC became the maybe-never DAC, until we made all the changes we needed to make in order to operate in a world where states were busy shutting down the scourge of domestic manufacturing, while direct-ship-from-China companies were allowed to operate freely. But I digress.

Another long story short, we made the changes, and the April DAC is now a May/June DAC, and hopefully you will like it a lot.

“Well, that’s cool, but…why didn’t you use the AKM AK4499 instead of the AK4493?” someone asks.

“You try to convince Mike to use a $50 delta-sigma DAC,” I’m tempted to say, flippantly.

But, to be frank, using the AK4499 would mean that Modius was a much higher priced product. Like, a LOT higher. Modius is intended to hit the sweet spot of DACs in the $199 price range. It’s not 100% about measurements or the latest must-have chip. If that isn’t for you, that’s totally cool. There are plenty of other options out there. Though, hmm, none made in USA.

“So why not two AK4493?” someone else might ask.

“Because it didn’t really make any difference,” we say. Yep, the measurements might be a bit better, but in the end, it’s the unique output stage that probably makes the most difference.

So let’s talk about that.

As far as I know, Modius is the only DAC that has two separate output stages, one for balanced and one for SE. The balanced output stage is built specifically to the strengths of balanced—it uses the very good-sounding LME47924 balanced, differential op-amp, plus film caps and 0.5% precision thin-film resistors, and is DC-coupled. The AK4493 is inherently balanced output, so it’s balanced from start to finish.

Now, most of the time, you’d take the output of this balanced stage and sum it to create the single-ended output. Makes total sense. That’s what everyone does. Hell, it’s what we did, in some early versions of Modius.

But…Dave had a really interesting idea: There’s no reason the AK4493 can’t drive BOTH a balanced and single-ended output stage. So that’s what he did—he added a completely separate, parallel single-ended stage, based on the OPA1662, so that single-ended is as fully well-served as balanced.

The result? A DAC you can use the single-ended OR balanced outputs from…with NO nervosa. Both are fully optimized. Neither passes through a conversion stage. That’s one reason that Modius is a really good-sounding DAC.

Now, of course, there are other reasons as well, including our own Unison USB input (cue the barfing from the pure objectivist audience, but hey, we can believe in UFOs and Bigfoot and Elvis sightings just like we can believe we have a better USB interface, so there you go) and lots of other little tweaks and stuff that doesn’t show up on an APx, but that we believe is important. Again, maybe we are insane. You can be Scully. We’ll be Mulder. It’s fine.

Or, well, maybe we should talk about that a bit more.


Unison USB™ for Everyone

Modius is also important because it’s the platform that makes Unison USB affordable. This means you get the same unique, super-high-performance UAC2 USB input we’ve been shipping in Bifrost 2, Gungnir, and Yggdrasil for a while now—in a $199 DAC.

What’s more, it broadens how we use Unison USB—the same 200MHz, 32-bit microprocessor runs the whole show in Modius. That kind of efficiency is key to keeping the price down, while providing very high performance.

“So you’ve done your own USB input, we get it,” someone says. “So what?”

So it allows us to concentrate on just one thing: handling PCM digital audio. Which makes it a very, very good USB input, built for universal standards that will be current long, long after the latest unicorn formats die out. It also makes us one of just a handful of companies that have the expertise to do this in-house, and maybe only one of literally two or three that are doing it for USB Audio Class 2, rather than the slower UAC1 standard. It means we don’t buy our USB receiver from another company, which allows us total control over how it works.

In addition, for a UAC2 input, it’s very low-power. This allows us to run the whole DAC off of USB.

Yes, that’s right. Modius is just like Modi. It’s USB-powered.

Yes. Just plug it into your computer, and you’re off and running. Or, use an external USB wall-wart and cable (included) to power it for your SPDIF sources. When it’s run with external power, it reports as a 0mA device, just like Modi, so it's easier to use with phones and tablets.

All of this flexibility is now built into the Unison USB receiver for Modius. That’s a really neat accomplishment, and we’re very proud of it.

“Though you’re still using micro-USBs!” someone yells. “What a pain in the ass.”

And yeah, we hear you. It’s getting close to the point where we’ll start introducing products with USB-C, but for right now, they’re still a bit dear for a product at the Modius’ price point. We’re really, really, really trying to deliver huge value here.

Again, all this tech philosophy may not matter to some of you. Or you may want the latest unicorn format. That’s perfectly fine, and there’s tons of great gear out there for you. This is something we believe in—something we spent two person-years developing—so it’s important to us. Hopefully some of you will find it important, too.

And…to have some fun with this…you can now compare Unison USB to AES on a DAC that costs less than 1/10 of an Yggdrasil!


Back to Stacks

When we introduced Jotunheim, we introduced the concept of a modular amplifier that could take a USB DAC or phono input as an option. I loved the idea, because I like single-box solutions; they’re simpler and neater.

A lot of people loved this, too, so we extended it across the line, to Lyr and Asgard. Now we have a line of modular desktop headamps/preamps.

But a lot of people hated this, too.

Because there’s only so much you can fit in a Jotunheim-sized chassis. More than one DAC input? Nope. Different cards for different DAC inputs (like optical) are also a no-go, because we didn’t want to have 12,423 different product variations. If you wanted phono, you couldn’t get a DAC. If you wanted a DAC, you couldn’t get phono. And so on.

So now there’s Modius. It’s exactly the same footprint as any Asgard, Valhalla, Jotunheim, or Lyr. It also matches any Saga. Stack any of those on top of Modius, and you keep your desk space…and gain 4 digital inputs. Stick a phono in the any of the modular products, and you have analog and digital inputs.

So now, if you want flexibility, you’ve got it…for $1 less than the single-input True Multibit™ card, and $500 less than Bifrost 2 (which is a great DAC, but can make for some pricey stacks!)

(And yeah, of course you don’t need to use it with only our products…it’s a great DAC for any system, balanced or single-ended.)

So, welcome back to the Schiit Stack…now jumbo-sized!


The DAC You Want vs The DAC You Need

Like I said, it’s unfair to say, “this may not be the DAC you want, but it’s the DAC you need,” when it comes to Modius. It’s a really excellent-sounding, great-measuring, super-affordable DAC, period.

So let’s change it up. Here we go:

“Modius: may not be the DAC you expected, but might be the DAC you love…”

Enjoy!
Jason,

Now all that is missing is the Modius Multibit.

- Same chassis size and I/O as Modius
- Two AD5547 16-bit chips with CAB (Cheap-Ass Balanced) circuit
- MicroSD card slot for firmware updates
- $399

giphy10.gif
 
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myquealer

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well its interesting because me and my wife were saving up money to open a restaurant, but I always wanted to open my own speaker business - with the covid stuff going on restaurant is out of question, so speakers / headphones seemed like a good idea to fall back on :) - but obviously its easier said then done.
speakers is a very very competitive (low tech on the low-middle range of the price spectrum) business, there are only a few driver companies making the material costs about the same for every mfr, so you need good woodworking skills and a way to make a cheap but rigid cabinet to stay in business and make a decent profit. Jason started out (before Centric) in a garage making speakers with Eddie, but is making (high tech) electronics from clean-sheet designs along with Mike, Dave and Ivana and the rest of the team, so that should be a hint.

IMO, when COVID passes, there may be some deals on restaurant spaces and fixtures from all the failed businesses that had to close for 3+ months but still pay their equipment leases / mortgages, etc.
 
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MtnMan307

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myquealer

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Les Strat

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I'll pass on giving my recommendation. Since I own 2x BF2s it could not really be considered an impartial recommendation. :smirk:

Good advice Ripper 2860 :beyersmile:
As an extremely happy Yggy owner, I couldn't give an impartial recommendation either!
The Modius looks fantastic value, and the BF2 looks an absolute killer product at the price.
All I can suggest for MtnMan307 is that all Schiit products are likely to be tough to beat at their respective price points, and the only real way to decide which is right for you is to hear them.
Failing that, the DAC product guide on Schiit's website is a good place to start, although it hasn't been updated with Modius yet.
https://www.schiit.com/guides/choosing-a-dac
 
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dieslemat

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A feature-packed, high-performance balanced DAC, made right here, for $199.
Nice! this really hits the gap between Modi and BiFrost.
It now makes even sense to get an Asgard, cause the stack would look nicer than an Asgard + Modi.
Asgard + BiForst (to me) doesn't makes sense price wise.
but Asgard + Modius do!
 
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Alcophone

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And amirm at ASR has published his measurements of Modius and recommends it. https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/schiit-modius-balanced-dac-review.13769/
As if 2020 wasn't weird enough already! Amazing. Who would have expected to read praise like this on ASR:
This is good to see, shows that a company can offer a high performance product line together with euphonic products (tubes, multibit) without issues. Smart move, because that means your brand will always show up in some positive way when people are asked for recommendations. "I like tubes/multibit". "Ok, then buy this Schiit". "I don't like tubes/multibit and just want the best measurable performance." "Well, then you buy this Schiit". Clever
(Comment #31 by user "Koeitje")

Nicely done, Schiit. It may not matter from a sound perspective, or may even have required some sacrifices (pure conjecture, the only Schiit D/S DAC I have is the original Jotunheim DAC card), but from a marketing point of view this was an excellent move. Especially since I doubt you'll give up on multibit. May the hatred on Drop.com subside as well (if that's still a thing, haven't visited in a while).
 
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yeboyi

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I like this Schiit Modius. Now we need single ended version of this (Modi 4) at $99 and THX killer balanced Asgard 4. I want Modius + Asgard 4 endgame balanced dac+amp stack. Oh also fix your shipping and availability outside of USA.
 
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