Modius image courtesy of Schitt Audio.
A new camper arrived at Camp Dismal (our summer name) a few weeks ago. As you may suspect, Dismal Wizard has some more audio stuff. This time it is a Schiit Audio Modius DAC. Modius is a new “low end” DAC conceived after Jason and Mike had made yet another visit to The Highway 51 Crossroads to find a new DAC and some new output parts. After the break, some impressions of Modius.
Schiit Audio in a Nutshell
Schiit Audio owners Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat are in their third goat rodeo. Jason worked at Sumo as chief engineer and Mike Moffat founded Theta Audio and Theta Digital and conceived the modern DAC. After some time away from audio, both were jonesing to return and Mike sensed that there was a need for a new channel and new products to introduce millennials to good audio and the joy of well reproduced music. That led to Schiit Audio and the company’s first headphone amp and then to a line of low cost kit for young adults setting out on their own. To make these things happen, Jason and Mike developed a simple business model summarized below.
- Schiit sells directly to the owner. No dealers. No warehouse stocking. No middle man costs to double the price of a product.
- Schiit aims to provide value. At any price point, Schiit Audio stuff is among the best sounding you can buy.
- Schiit aims for reliability. You can’t make money when returns and repairs are high.
- Schiit aims for straight-ahead business practices and excellent customer service.
- Schiit designs equipment it that real humans can actually make right the first time. Nothing requires fuss ‘n love before it is ready to ship. Just straight ahead careful assembly and QA testing.
- Make stuff near home using local sheet metal and circuit assembly jobbers. Assemble and do final test in house. Ship in house.
- Hire curious, flexible, and self-motivated people who take initiative to make things happen correctly.
Ten years on, the result is a line of audio products that are among the best in the industry and are unmatched in the value they provide.
So What is Modius
Modius is a new delta-sigma digital to analog converter having USB, SPDIF, TOSlink, and AES-3 digital inputs and balanced and unbalanced audio outputs. Oh, and it costs $200. The presence of an AES-3 input and balanced outputs are unique at this price. Modius uses Schiit Audio’s in-house developed music-specific high performance USB interface.
How did they do it? Careful parts selection, reuse of subsystem designs from other products, attention to detail in circuit design and industrial design, and direct sales without dealers and stocking distribution channels.
So Why Give Modius Ink Here?
Modius made my jaw drop the other evening.
- https://youtu.be/TWTPRioF6o4 Joey Alexander playing from home some Ennio Morricone film music
- https://youtu.be/RZ4Z12oqjAo Julia Lage playing from home Ornette Coleman’s Chanting
The purity of tone on these two tracks is striking. Modius is beautifully voiced without the least bit of harshness or reconstruction artifacts. In the frequency domain, Modius equals my Gugnir Multibit DAC. What it can’t do is reproduce the temporal detail that Gugnir and the other Schiit’s multi-bit devices do. The spatial phenomena are not as precisely focused. You won’t hear that on these two tracks. To hear what is possible in space, you have to listen to Scarlett Town from Thile-Mehldau.
I like this one better. Listen to the mandolin scratching and mandolin break. Magic happens on the Live from Here Stage.
Where does Modius Fit In?
- As a first DAC for anyone. Modius will make your ears smarter. It is small and USB powered.
- As an AES-3 DAC in pro audio needing a good sounding endpoint
- As a second DAC for radio and TV audio. That’s the role of Modius in my system.
After the Julian Lage, this bit of funk by Norrbotten Big Band popped up. https://youtu.be/_AtSzBrW6mo
Jacob Collier plays us out with Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TusGgD89hLw