Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Dec 1, 2020 at 11:52 PM Post #67,456 of 78,309

GumbyDammit223

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If any of you are into electronic ambient music, you have probably heard of Robert Rich. Today, he released a new album Neurogenesis. Why I'm bringing this up is that to the best of my limited knowledge, the FLAC version, which you can purchase by itself or with the CD, is high resolution 24-bit 96 kHz. You don't have to pay extra for it. It's standard. I wish other artists would follow his lead and simply provide the higher rez version with your purchase. If you're so inclined, give it a listen here:
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 2:06 AM Post #67,458 of 78,309

White Noise

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One of my friends was saying he was thinking about buying a Schiit stack to go with his new Grados, and I told him to keep his money because I have a perfectly good vintage (because if Shiit's new stuff is obsolete then the old stuff is positively vintage) Magni and Modi 1 that I'm not using anymore. So pulled them out for the first time in a while, photographed them, boxed them up, and sent them on their way. I have a Modius now, and it really shows how far Schiit has come since I got these guys in.... 2013-2014? But I do still believe that Magni/Modi are all the DAC and amp that most people are ever going to need (unless he wants a tube to soften up those Grados...)

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Dec 2, 2020 at 2:18 AM Post #67,459 of 78,309

tincanear

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I look forward to your impressions, as I've been considering this player too, the X1100ES, or the Audiolab 6000CDT. While I like the feature set on the Sony's, I'm curious if they have to be hooked to a display, in order to play CD's, or can I press play on the remote, without having to power on a T.V., to navigate a menu? Which is why the Audiolab is in the mix. Just a basic CD transport. That, or do I want to spend the money on a Multibit card for my Gungnir, which would seem to be the best bang for the buck?

Regardless, I hope you enjoy your new Sony...! :smile_phones:

i think the X1000ES uses same chassis as X800M2, but adds D/S DAC and analog stage, plus upgraded power supply, and designed for custom installs with Rs-232 control ,etc. My Bifrost easily beats the old sony NS500's DAC and analog stage (but its using 5532's or something like that, weird transistor-shunt muting circuit instead of using a relay, and cheap coupling caps, on psu shared with the video ckts). Presume the Gungnir D/S and or multibit will be much better than the X1100 analog stage.

the 6000CDT is slot loading, and I don't the like idea of scrubbing the disk surfaces (even gently) on every load & unload.
 
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Dec 2, 2020 at 7:11 AM Post #67,460 of 78,309

inmytaxi

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Here in Saudi Arabia, since the start of the kingdom until recently it was 0%. VAT was introduced in October 2018 at a 5% level. But the economic downturn caused by the pandemic made the government decide to increase it to 15%. Income tax is still 0% though, so no complaints.
In the US there are many invisible taxes, the tariff war with China being just one of many examples, that we pay without knowing it.
 
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Dec 2, 2020 at 7:21 AM Post #67,461 of 78,309

inmytaxi

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A couple of comments in red below.

Those people are not audiophiles, they are jewelry lovers or technophiles.
I'm pretty sure one of the writers for Stereophile magazine once wrote there's a difference between a "stereophile" (someone who puts audio reproduction gear ahead of music) and an "audiophile" (someone who puts reproduced music ahead of the gear). I think he was only able to get that in print once... While I realize the gear is a means to an end, I admit to liking the gear for itself as well.

A statement product is not just about cost. I disagree with that definition. Let's face it, though, that is the common connotation of "statement product": what "we" can do when cost/ price is no object. Don't get me wrong, I applaud the discussion here of what a proper use of the term ought to be. A statement product is something that embodies the manufacturer's vision and purpose, that makes the statement of "this is what we are about." That is why I say everything Schiit has ever made is a statement product. They are taking a stand with each and every one.
I think you're selling them a little short. Every breathe they take is a statement!
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 8:12 AM Post #67,462 of 78,309

US Blues

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The point, just about halfway...
If any of you are into electronic ambient music, you have probably heard of Robert Rich. Today, he released a new album Neurogenesis. Why I'm bringing this up is that to the best of my limited knowledge, the FLAC version, which you can purchase by itself or with the CD, is high resolution 24-bit 96 kHz. You don't have to pay extra for it. It's standard. I wish other artists would follow his lead and simply provide the higher rez version with your purchase. If you're so inclined, give it a listen here:

Thanks for the heads-up, I've been listening to Robert Rich for years. I love his music. I was listening to his friend Steve Roach this morning.
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 8:28 AM Post #67,463 of 78,309

Randolf711

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I look forward to your impressions, as I've been considering this player too, the X1100ES, or the Audiolab 6000CDT. While I like the feature set on the Sony's, I'm curious if they have to be hooked to a display, in order to play CD's, or can I press play on the remote, without having to power on a T.V., to navigate a menu? Which is why the Audiolab is in the mix. Just a basic CD transport. That, or do I want to spend the money on a Multibit card for my Gungnir, which would seem to be the best bang for the buck?

Regardless, I hope you enjoy your new Sony...! :smile_phones:
If you can find it, a Yamaha bd-1060 is definitely worth it. I got one to hold me over until the Transport. It works well as a transport for CDs and can also go fully balanced out with SACD. It has a CD mode as well. Basically, it’s Yamaha’s take on a Oppo.
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 9:11 AM Post #67,465 of 78,309

Varejao17

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If any of you are into electronic ambient music, you have probably heard of Robert Rich. Today, he released a new album Neurogenesis. Why I'm bringing this up is that to the best of my limited knowledge, the FLAC version, which you can purchase by itself or with the CD, is high resolution 24-bit 96 kHz. You don't have to pay extra for it. It's standard. I wish other artists would follow his lead and simply provide the higher rez version with your purchase. If you're so inclined, give it a listen here:

Robert Rich is no-kidding my favorite artist - seen him in play in Philly a couple of times. I have the vinyl on order (comes with the 24/96 FLAC download too!).
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 9:15 AM Post #67,466 of 78,309

StimpyWan

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i think the X1000ES uses same chassis as X800M2, but adds D/S DAC and analog stage, plus upgraded power supply, and designed for custom installs with Rs-232 control ,etc. My Bifrost easily beats the old sony NS500's DAC and analog stage (but its using 5532's or something like that, weird transistor-shunt muting circuit instead of using a relay, and cheap coupling caps, on psu shared with the video ckts). Presume the Gungnir D/S and or multibit will be much better than the X1100 analog stage.

the 6000CDT is slot loading, and I don't the like idea of scrubbing the disk surfaces (even gently) on every load & unload.

The only reason I'm considering the Sony X1100ES / X800M2 combo, is due to the fact I do have a small collection of DVD-A and SACD discs (Shush...!). And the 1100 and 800 do share the small chassis. As you stated, the 1100 adds an onboard DAC, that would decode the DSD signal. That would preclude the need to purchase a DSD DAC. Otherwise, I'd go for the Audiolab, as the thought of a slot drive doesn't scare me. The Audiolab shares it's drive with the top of the line Audiolab CD player. So, I "assume" it's decent? :grin:
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 9:23 AM Post #67,467 of 78,309

StimpyWan

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If you can find it, a Yamaha bd-1060 is definitely worth it. I got one to hold me over until the Transport. It works well as a transport for CDs and can also go fully balanced out with SACD. It has a CD mode as well. Basically, it’s Yamaha’s take on a Oppo.

The Yamaha BD-A1040 also. It supports SACD and DVD-A. But, no balanced outputs.
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 9:52 AM Post #67,468 of 78,309

GumbyDammit223

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Thanks for the heads-up, I've been listening to Robert Rich for years. I love his music. I was listening to his friend Steve Roach this morning.
I've been loving Steve's Timeroom livestreams over the past couple of months. The music is of course amazing but getting to see him make that magic is beyond amazing. Would really love to see a live performance...once those become viable again. I still chuckle when I see these guys perform - not your typical music concert! :wink:
 
Dec 2, 2020 at 9:56 AM Post #67,469 of 78,309

GumbyDammit223

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Robert Rich is no-kidding my favorite artist - seen him in play in Philly a couple of times. I have the vinyl on order (comes with the 24/96 FLAC download too!).
Same here. Also went ahead and got the 5.1 version too, just to see if I could tell any difference. Surprisingly the surround version is NOT at 24/96...probably to keep the file sizes somewhat within reason! Would love to have some spare cash at some point to allow me to fly over and take in a couple of the Gatherings concerts. Maybe some day!
 
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Dec 2, 2020 at 10:02 AM Post #67,470 of 78,309
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2020, Chapter 15:
One Small Leap…


So, we have a new DAC, and it’s called Modi 3+.

If you want to spin this totally pragmatically, Modi 3+ is Modi 3 with Unison USB™. (Well, and a few more under-the hood things that improve performance.)

If you want to spin this in complete corporate-marketing-speak style, Modi 3+ is the highest-value DAC made today, offering three inputs for exceptional convenience, complete with what is arguably the best USB interface for the vast majority of music, offering even higher measured performance than the uber-popular Modi 3, at the same $99 cost, while being made (for real) by happy, well-paid employees in the USA.

Or we could do what you expect, and just tell the story of this DAC, in true Schiit fashion. Because, even though it looks just like Modi 3, the new Modi 3+ incorporates lots of stuff we’ve learned along the way.

And it showcases some of the things that make us special (or at least I think so).

So let’s save the pragmatism, cut the marketing, and tell the story.


A Small Nuclear Weapon

That’s pretty much the effect the original Modi 3 had on the DAC market.

Nobody—and I mean nobody—was expecting us to drop a $99 DAC that provided great performance, offered all three common digital inputs, and was made in the USA. We’ve spent almost the entire time since the introduction of Modi 3 trying to keep up with demand.

Even today, there’s really nothing else like Modi 3 out there. There are products that cost the same, but have less inputs, or there are products that cost more, and are made in low-wage countries. And that’s about it.

Surprised? You’re in good company.

I was being interviewed recently, and the question of “how Schiit was going to deal with the onslaught of low-cost products from China” came up.

I laughed. “But we already cost less.”

The reviewer blinked and went silent for a while. “Hmm, wow, I guess that’s right,” he finally admitted.

“And that’s something we’re really proud of,” I added. “Without making things in low-wage countries—where the advantages aren’t just in wages, but in lower component costs, and increased efficiency from having your foundry and chassis guys literally in the same industrial park. We’re less expensive than that—while really making stuff here in the USA.”

A bit more silence, as that sank in.

Of course, we went back and forth a bit, and I allowed that yeah, not everyone cares about making stuff in the USA (especially if they don’t live here), and if they have a whole lotta DSD or want to listen to MQA, we’re going to be more restricted in terms of formats and such.

But.

$99 DAC. Made in California.

Ah come on.

It really doesn’t sink in, I think. It’s that surprising. I was talking with a member of the press recently, who said they had a recent conversation with a prominent designer at another audio company, who bemoaned “how impossible it would be to make a $99 DAC.”

“Well, Schiit is doing that right now,” he told the designer.

“Yeah, I don’t know how they do that,” the designer said, and breezily went on about how the high end needed more affordable components, and how terribly painful and unpossible that was, even if they were made in low-wage countries.

Yeah. Just totally dismissed. If you can’t look straight into the fireball, maybe best to close your eyes. Or something like that.

Because Modi 3 is just amazingly, stunningly good. It’s inexpensive. It measures well. It sounds great. It has all the popular inputs. We could have kept making it for another two years. Or more. There’s no reason to make it even better.

So what did we do?

We made it better.

Of course.


This is Why They Hate Us

Okay. So let’s say you develop your own USB interface. I mean, you spend two person-years developing the code, implementing it on a 32-bit microprocessor, ensuring it’s compatible with UAC2 (USB Audio Class 2, the accepted standard for audio over USB) up one side and down the other, doing alphas and betas and larger tests in flagship products.

You do this, and you realize why 99.9% of all audio companies out there just go and buy a USB interface from XMOS or C-Media and be done with it. It’s a lot of work, involving engineers who have been working in digital audio for 3-4 decades (yes, decades) and a PhD to delve deep into the algorithms and code. It involves being a USB-IF member (we’re one of a handful of audio companies there.)

Aside: Let’s face it, we’re a loooong way from the garage here.

I know a lot of people think Schiit’s a silly place with a silly name, but the depth of knowledge we have in digital filtering, perceptual algorithms, USB interfaces, and implementation of both multibit and delta-sigma DACs really is second to none. You can argue with our approaches, but not with the underlying talent.

So, anyway, as I was saying, let’s say you develop your own USB interface. Where would you put it? In your most expensive DAC, of course.

But in a $99 DAC? No. That’s totally crazy. Imagine all the beancounters pulling their hair out, screaming about unamortized R&D costs! Imagine all the marketers yelling at you for undermining the perceived value of their top-of-the-line products!

Yes. That’s totally and completely bananas.

And that’s exactly what we did. Modi 3+ now features Unison USB™, just like Yggdrasil.

(Good thing we don’t have beancounters or marketers, eh?)

Now, with the exception of our gaming products, we are 100% Unison USB across the line. So, with Modi 3+, you’re getting arguably the best USB interface available anywhere, for the vast majority of music out there.

“But I have 8,000 SACDs I ripped to DSD,” someone says.

Yeah, well, then you’ll want a different DAC. Sorry.

“But I want to play MQA, because I totally believe in it and I also believe that it will continue to be available in the future,” someone says.

Well, if you want to play MQA, that’s totally fine. Modi 3+ will play it, as will all of our DACs. It just won’t do any unfolding/disorigamiing/defolddespindledemutilating or whatever processing the MQA licensees pay for. So that’s your own choice.

Someone frowns. “How can I get my audio nervosa on if I can’t play 10,000 unicorn formats?” they ask.

Well, maybe that’s the point. Worrying about formats seems to be about the least fun thing in the world. We don’t like nervosa for the sake of nervosa. It seems positively Cromwellian. (And man, if they bring in a foreign king to get rid of your residual un-fun-ness, holy moley you must have sucked.)

But then again, as I have said many times, we may be crazy. You decide.


Poking Around Under The Hood

“So Modi 3+ is a Modi 3 with Unison USB,” someone says.

Yep, that’s literally the second line of this chapter. But it’s also an oversimplification. We learned a lot from our time tweaking the Modius, so we applied some of the tricks we learned to Modi 3+. The result is that it measures better, and sounds better, than the outgoing Modi 3.

So what did we do? Nah, sorry. Buy one and reverse-engineer it, like anyone else can. It’s only $99. Not that big of a deal.

What I can say is that we did stick with the AK4490, rather than moving to the AK4493 DAC. The AK4493 is fairly similar to the AK4490, and, when well-implemented, they measure very close to each other. I’d call the AK4490 a “classic” DAC chip, in that it’s a very good part, and it’s hard to do much better than it without throwing a whole lot of money at a design. So it’s totally appropriate that we kept it for Modi 3+.

I can also say that we’re using the exact same codebase across Unison USB implementations, from Modi 3+ to Yggdrasil. Yes, as in the exact same code. The different functionality necessary for various products is incorporated into the codebase. We just tell it what unit it’s in, and it’s off to the races.

This has the side effect of simplifying Modi 3+ production. Now, Modi 3+ needs to be programmed only once. The outgoing Modi used separate firmware for the motherboard and the C-Media receiver. Now, program it once, and the single Microchip 32-bit processor does everything—including housekeeping stuff like input switching, muting, etc.

Now, as you’re poking around under the hood, you may notice we kept something you might want to complain about, so let’s get that out in the open: the USB Micro ports.

Yes, Modi 3+ is USB Micro. Yes, I know it’s 2020.

However, USB-C connectors, at least from reputable, not-fly-by-night manufacturers, are still pretty pricey. So that killed the idea of going to USB-C.

Aside: that doesn’t mean we’ll never go to USB-C. In fact, I’m certain you’ll see it soon, starting on the transport and continuing on some other products. It’s a better connector, and I’m happy that it’s almost time to start using it. Just not on an already price-constrained $99 DAC, thank you.

Aside to the aside: y’all know that USB-C is just a connector, right? As in, if you want to do all the crazy stuff that USB 3.1 can do, including the super-high-power stuff and super-high-speed stuff, you need a USB 3.1 interface, which is far and away beyond the valley of overkill for audio products, I mean it’s literally like building a 20-lane superhighway so your Glorious Leader can ride a single 10-speed bicycle alone down the middle of it.
Aside to the aside to the aside: wait a minute, you don’t know that USB-C is just a physical part and USB 3.1 is a protocol that requires tons of handshaking and highly specific layout and specialized parts and stuff, and that literally NO audio product uses it? Yeah, weird world, huh? But I do agree that USB-C is worth doing just for the reversable connector alone.


The Development Two-Step

As in, it was two steps: Dave put Unison USB into the Modi 3, then we did a rev that added a few analog tricks from the Modius, and that was it. I mean, Modi 3+ uses the same chassis as Modi 3.

Yes, that’s about the most boring development story ever.

And yeah, it does gloss over the code work that Dave had to do to make sure that Unison USB worked with Modi 3+. And some of the back and forth on parts tweaking.

But…there really isn’t much to talk about.

Sometimes you get lucky. Or you get better. (Nah, you get lucky.)


Looking Into the Future

So what comes after Modi 3+? Heck, I don’t know. Like I said, it’s really the highest-value DAC out there right now. Or at least it’s arguably the highest-value DAC out there. So this is a DAC we could make for years and years.

Unless something changes.

If better D/A converters come out, we’ll have to take a look at them.

If improved analog components come out, we’ll have to listen to how they perform.

If making the Modi 3+ in Texas means we can offer more value, we’ll have to see what we can deliver.

If I get to make a common chassis architecture for Magni, Modi, and the other small products like we did with Magnius/Modius (complete with formed-in standoffs), I have a few tricks I want to try to see if we can simplify their construction (and make them look even better). But that’s blue-sky stuff, I’m not sure if it will even work.

One thing’s for sure—we’ll keep improving the Modi (and Magni, and Fulla, and Yggdrasil, and every other product we make) as much as we can, to provide the best-possible, fun, affordable audio experience out there.

For now, Modi 3+ is the best we can do in a $99 DAC.

We hope you enjoy it!


Reprise: The AKM Disaster

Because it’s 2020, and because I wrote this chapter in advance of the Modi 3+ launch, of course something had to happen, like a garbage meteor from the 20th century, coming home a thousand years later: the AKM factory, as in the factory that makes the AKM 4490 D/A converter used in Modi, burnt to the ground…and they won’t be shipping parts for a year or more.

Yeah. **** you 2020, **** you bigtime.

Thankfully, Schiit is run on a very rational (er, I mean paranoid) basis, with a realistic (I mean terrified) future viewpoint, so we over-buy nearly everything. Which means we have a little over 1 year of AKM DAC stock before we’re boned.

So what does this mean for Modi 3+? Well, to continue the theme from the beginning, if you want to spin this totally corp-speak, it means: we’re going to work closely with AKM and their distributors, in the hope they will be able to supply parts for Modi 3+, Modius, Hel, Fulla, and the AK4490 DAC card before we run out of stock. And, at the same time, we’ll be exploring other options that ensure our popular, affordable DACs and DAC/amps continue to be available, and deliver the same high performance they are known for.

Or, I can be direct and say, “Yeah, fingers crossed, AKM delivers and the creek don’t rise, but in any case, Plan B boards have already been designed and sent out, so we have plenty of refinement time in case we need to swap out AKM for a different manufacturer.”

Aside: you guys wonder why I’ve been scarce for a while? Yeah, that’s part of it, because I did Fulla, Hel, and the AK4490 module. So I needed Plan Bs for those.

Which brings us back to what the future looks like. Well, it’s simple: at this exact moment in time, we have a truly spectacular Modi 3+. It may change sometime in the future. Or not. But regardless of where the path leads, I can guarantee you that it will be a fun, affordable, and high-performance DAC!
 
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