All posts by davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.

Schiit Pi?

Those of you who saw the John Darko interview of Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat filmed at the 2018 RMAF know that both have a passion for Schitty puns. During this interview, Mike teased a “Schiit Pi” concept. Mike’s idea was to embed an ARM processor in products to pick up additional digital signal processing tasks beyond the abilities of the Burr-Brown parts he had been using.

Jason is adamant that Schiit will not become a “software company”, that is offer IOS and Android apps or make devices having a significant user interface say like Roon Controller or Volumio remote. The ongoing maintenance of these products is simply too costly for the Schiit minimalist value first design esthetic.

A Minimalist Streaming Player

So can we make a minimalist streamer using a hatless Raspberry Pi? If we did, how would it sound? This product is as basic as a Roon Player can get. It turns out to be a very good one. Will Jason put it in the catalog? Probably not. Volumio got there first with more software integrated.

Those not wanting to tinker with hardware and software will find Volumio Primo a good alternative that provides a SBC and DAC supporting AirPlay, Rune, Roon, Spotify, and others but excludes the headphone amplifier. John Darko’s review is excellent and he likes the sound of Primo and the value offered. Primo is comparable, maybe not quite as sweet as the Allo Digi+ Signature. However, the ALLO devices requires you to bring your own DAC.

Continue reading Schiit Pi?

More Schiit — Modi and Magni

The Moocher had been mixing church service recordings using the DAC and amplifier built into his 2017 5k Retina display iMac. This sound is not bad but not the best. After a year of fatiguing sound and an inflating checking account, it was time to purchase something better for the desk. Having Gumby aboard for 9 months, what better choice than Schiit’s Modi and Magni. These two $99 products account for 1/2 the company’s revenue.

So, $200 gets you a complete personal audio system less speakers or headphones. How does Jason perform this magical feat? (The Moocher is pretty sure Jason has been to the Highway 51 Crossroads.) First, the design is minimalist, just the bits needed for brilliant musical reproduction are present, no less and no more in this music first design. Point of sale graphics, fancy cases, auto input selection logic, etc are all left out in favor of a sophisticated circuit topology, carefully selected components, and quality construction and testing. Second, they sell direct. No distributors or retailers adding vigorish. Third, they have low failure rates resulting from careful design, design testing, quality builds, and build testing. Everything runs for a day on the burn in rack to catch weak parts or assembly flaws.

References

  1. https://darko.audio/?s=modi John Darko reviews Modi and Magni.
  2. https://www.schiit.com/products/modi-1

Revision history

  1. Spell “Culcha Vulcha” correctly
  2. Add a playlist

Play List

In no particular order, the records I played to evaluate Modi and Magni with my Sennheiser HD555 headphones.

  • Trinity Session, Cowboy Junkies recorded this record on a shoestring in a chapel using an Ambisonic stereo microphone. The classical headphone record.
  • In My Life, Judy Collins Elektra debut an early stereo singer songwriter recording that shows off her great voice
  • Belafonte Live at Carnegie Hall, The RCA audiophile classic. Listen for the trio behind Belafonte’s outrageous tenor. The clearer the small sounds from the guitar, the better the gear. Challenging to resolve distinctly. Gumby does it. Modi gets most of it.
  • Thile-Mehldau, The Mac Arthur genius and friend play mandolin-piano jazz. Captures Chris Thile’s genius at pulling small detail from his mandolin and keeps piano and mandolin distinct. Brad Mehldau’s vocal debut on the Scarlet Town track. The duet harmonies are Chris and Brad, not Chris and reverb.
  • Amir, Belgian singer-songwriter Tamino’s debut record. Man does his voice smoulder. Of Egyptian ancestry, he sings in quarter tones to haunting effect. Amazing technique.

Availability

Order directly from Schiit and Magni and Modi will appear within a week. Schiit offers a 2 week audition period within which the products may be returned no harm, no foul.

Unboxing

Packaging is strictly utilitarian as no point of sale enticements are needed. Packaging is also robustly designed for direct mail delivery. Packaging for the two are designed to ship Magni and Modi as a pair. If you tried to drop-kick the box (not recommended) you’d be more likely to hurt a toe than the product as robust cardboard is used with the two products packed in individual robust boxes that are packed in an outer box sized to take the two together.

Modi

Modi, in the smaller box, includes a micro-USB cable and a 5 watt USB power supply of decent quality. Alternately, you can use any decent (low noise like those from Allo, HiFiBerry, and Raspberry Pi Foundation or Apple iPad) 5 to 15 watt USB supply. Modi includes additional power supply filtering to clean up the USB source and make the needed voltages from the 5 volt bulk DC.

Magni

Magni comes in the larger of the two boxes which also includes a power transformer. Magni’s internal linear power supply develops the regulated voltages for the line stage, preamp output line driver, and the headphone amplifier. A short listen reveals why Jason went this route. The cans are dead quiet when nothing is playing.

If you order short RCA interconnects, Schiit will package them with Magni. There is a little extra space in the box for this purpose. A bit of protective foam and 5-mil poly packaging prevents scratching in shipment.

Setup

There’s not much setup but just enough that you should read the instruction leaflets with each product. Lets start with Modi.

We ran into a couple of things. First, the Moocher missed disabling the Mac internal speakers so was hearing them rather than the headphones for first playing. Second, you have to set the input on Modi and turn the level up on Magni. When the level is full left, the amp is dead quiet, dead dead quiet. The level control is active with both the line outs and the phone outs.

Modi

Setting up Modi is simple:

  • Connect Modi to a source.
  • Connect USB power if needed
  • Connect audio outputs to Magni’s inputs
  • Set the toggle switch to select USB, SPDIF, or TOSlink (optical SPDIF) input to service.
  • Turn the power switch on.
  • Select Schiit Modi 3 as MacOS audio output device.
  • Enable Schiit Modi 3 as a Roon output zone.

Modi has 2 USB inputs, one is a USB audio output device micro USB connector that can supply power. The second is a power-only micro USB connector. If your USB audio source complains about excessive load, connect the provided USB power adapter to the second micro USB connector. Modi will automatically disconnect the power supply from the signal plus power connector.

Magni

Magni has a small bit of setup also. There are 3 controls, a sensitivity switch, a power switch, and a volume control.

  • Connect Modi and Mangi using decent RCA connectors.
  • Connect the power transformer. This is best mounted where it can be supported or with a pig tail cord (cheap from Cable Matters). Gravity needs to be in your favor to keep it connected. It will likely come out of a vertical plug.
  • Set the gain switch to high for use with headphones or low for use with in ear monitors.
  • Optionally, connect the rear panel audio outs to a power amplifier.
  • Connect your unbalanced headphones on the front panel.
  • Set the volume control to 9 O’clock or so.
  • Disable computer internal speakers

The Sound

Magni and Modi have the Schiit house sound. They are naturally voiced with no apparent coloration and dead quiet. Silence separates the notes. The pair offer a rich and engaging musical experience for the cost of a handful of concert tickets.

The pair are a great way to audition the Schiit house sound before purchasing one of the larger DACs or power amps. If you like what you hear with these two, it is likely that you will give the more expensive products a friendly hearing.

The pair are small enough to set on an end table or night stand for evening listening.

Small Ensemble Reproduction

Modi and Magni resolve the small sounds in Chris Thile’s mandolin playing on the eponymous Thile-Mehldau recording while preserving the authority of Brad’s left hand on the piano. Right hand piano play dances in space behind the mandolin.

Tonal balance is what you’d expect hearing them live. On Scarlet Town, Brad’s voice is distinct from Chris’s voice on the duet parts. On other DAC’s the Scarlet Town vocals have sounded like Chris was accompanying himself multi-tracked. But not with Gumby or Modi.

Big Band Reproduction

Moving on to Snarky Puppy’s Culcha Vulcha record, Modi and Mangi easily deal with the complex play of this post bop jazz funk big band. Snarky Puppy play is beastly in its complexity yet masterfully tracked and mixed to put all the parts together in balance. Michael League’s bass gives each track a hefty funk bottom with percussion, horns, guitars, and synths on top. Mini-Moog and Hammond B3 are in the mix and Mark Letteri’s searing guitar tone is there in all its overdrive glory. These little guys bring this complex music with authority that belies their small size and small price. Tarova, Gemini, Grown Folks, Go, are fan favorites on this record.

Voice Reproduction

  • Chris Thile — well he still sounds like an “oboe going through puberty”, his description opening Live For Hear for the first time.
  • Tamino, well he smoulders gloriously.
  • Harry Belafonte’s complex tenor keeps its rich texture and overtone structure. The small stuff happening in the trio is almost as distinct as when rendered by Gumby. It’s there but the guitar is not quite as clear as when rendered by multi-bit Gumby.
  • Judy Collins on In My Life is just beautiful. I’ve been listening to this record for 50 years and her voice still amazes me on this beautifully tracked and mastered record.

Nick’s Low Back Pain Update 1

In the first article of this series, I outlined Nick’s initial presentation of low back pain and the therapy he is receiving from his regular vet and his late in life care vet, Hampton Roads Veterinary Hospice. This practice specializes in late in life palliative care to maintain an elderly pet’s comfort and function late in life.

This practice offers selected Chinese therapy including acupuncture and herbal therapy in addition to cold laser and message therapy. They care for Nick in home and a significant portion of the visit is spent interviewing me about how Nick’s condition is changing, a thorough leg hip and back exam, and some coaching while the acupuncture session completes. I recommend this style of care for late in life care. This is the first time I’ve not felt alone with a geriatric hound.

How he’s doing

Nick is facing two problems, gradual deterioration of his hips and lower spine resulting from aging and slow wasting from loss of appetite resulting from pain and possible age-related metabolism changes that cause him to extract less energy from his ration.

Over the summer, Nick has stopped running the fence line and vaulting the porch steps to enter the house. He’s also been doing his toilet along the street fence rather than the customary area behind the shed that is a 100 foot walk so he’s consciously minimizing the distance walked. Over August and September he stopped doing a late night garden prowl with Missy.

His bowls are mostly regular with an occasional poo in an i’ve fallen and can’t get up context and the occasional spontaneous emission while sleeping. He remains in good bladder control.

I’ve taught him to walk up the steps and he has it mostly down but needs some support to compensate for imperfect control of his aft end. The Ruff Wear Webmaster harness has been a good thing for both of us. I can tailor the assistance provided to his needs of the moment allowing him to maintain strength and confidence. Without the harness, I’d have to carry him like a puppy risking injury to both of us in the event of a misstep and fall.

Weight Maintenance

Nick continues to experience slow wasting, mostly as a result of eating less than maintenance on the average. Nick is receiving a high quality grain free food with most of its protein from animal sources, usually salmon or duck flesh and meal plus menhaden meal. Legumes and sweet potatoes provide carbohydrates and fiber without added beet or tomato pomace. Food macronutrient ratios conform to industry standards. Nick is supplementing pot roast which he eats eagerly and packet tuna which he eats eagerly. He receives either cream cheese spread or peanut butter as a pilling aid.

Nick and Missy are eating the same diet and the same amounts roughly. Missy is chubby while Nick is distinctly under weight. Some of Nick’s weight loss is a result of him leaving a small amount of kibble at each feeding but some may result from metabolic changes associated with aging. I try to intercept Nick’s leftovers and offer them later in the evening between meals. This was a matter of teaching Missy some restraint and having a treat for her when Nick was receiving his later feedings.

Nick is a grazer so I have to feed him when he wants to eat even if that is 2300. So I offer about 1/3 of his food in the morning around 9 AM, 1/3 at 5 PM and 1/3 around 8-9 PM with pot roast at 5 and tuna at 8. This has improved his eating. I give his medications at 9 and 9 with the gabapentin at bedtime around 10 to give him the best mobility during the day.

Pain Management

Nick continues to receive 3 primary medications for pain management, carprofen, gabapentin, and Hindquarters Weakness. He also receives PhyCox supplement and GlycoFlex supplement mostly for added glucosamine and chondroitin but each has a different system of anti-inflammatories that is supposed to help maintain hindquarters comfort.

Hindquarters Weakness is a traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine believed over centuries of experience to be effective at managing hindquarters pain in Chinese draft animals. The formulation Nick receives is from a US supplier that runs an FDA style quality program to verify the purity and potency of China-sourced leaves and roots from which the product is prepared. The Chinese herbs have proved much more effective than the glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. I suspect this is because his food has adequate glucosamine and chondroitin while the Chinese herbs found only in Hindquarters Weakness have a robust anti-inflammatory action.

We started the gabapentin first followed by the Hindquarters Weakness. When we started 2 a day gabapentin, Nick became sedated and showed reduced rear leg control as indicated by a drunken gait with slouching hindquarters.

He’d improve at random. Invariably, each good day was preceded by a missed round of medication remaining in his pillbox, usually the bedtime dose. This suggested that one of Nick’s medications had slow removal kinematics in Nick.

We tested the Hindquarters Weakness first by reducing the dosage from 2 and 2 to 1 and 2. I started with it because I knew none of the ingredients had been FDA trialed to determine kinematics and that greyhounds have slow liver function relative to other breeds.

The dosage change produced no change in sedation and slouching. So I returned to 2 and 2 and reduced the gabapentin to one tablet at bedtime and stuck with it. Nick showed an immediate improvement in alertness, appetite, and walking posture.

At hospice vet’s suggesting, I increased Nick’s Hindquarters Weakness to 3 in morning and 2 in evening. This appears to have improved his mobility. We’ve been on this protocol for about 2 weeks. In that period, Nick has been much more alert during the day, is sleeping through the night, and is waking around 9. He can be a bit rubber-legged in the morning but this walks off in 10 minutes or so.

Flatulence

Since starting added pot roast, both dogs have shown reduced flatulence. It appears that adding some additional meat has shifted gut bacteria and less fermentation is happening in the back end. Of both dogs.

Thoughts on Greyhound Low Back Pain

When Nick began 2018, it was with good posture and mobility. As the year progressed, Nick began to display indications of low back and hip arthritis. The primary indication is that that standing posture slowly deteriorates from an erect stand to a slouch like that shown in the featured image. Note that neither rear paw is being dragged or knuckling over during gait. Gait is normal but maybe bowlegged or somewhat stiff.

Low back and hip arthritis is common in greyhounds and in humans. As with humans, it reduces quality of life by causing pain that the critter accommodates by reducing activity volume and diversity.

As with humans, there are things you can do to maintain quality of life including use of supplements, pain management via medication, and physical therapies such as acupuncture. After the break, the Head Moocher will talk about what is helping Nick.

A house call goes wrong

While looking after his church’s Ubiquity UniFi network plant, the Moocher scrapes his knuckles. A simple update and put guest policies on the various guest wireless networks.

A year ago a local managed network services contractor configured our USG, switches, and access points. The church played the role of contractor subbing some of the wiring, doing some ourselves, and hiring a network installer to dress out the rack and install the service outlet plates. A second contractor configured the church purchased network core.

A year later, we discover that one of our contractors had left the guest WiFi networks open to the main LAN from whence the controller could be configured. So change that right? Yes, but not from the WiFi. All hell broke loose. The hot wash is after the break.

Continue reading A house call goes wrong

Digital Recording of House of Worship Services

This is the first of a series of articles about contemporary digital recording practice in a volunteer church service recording context. The advent of digital mixers and digital audio workstations has completely changed this game allowing a patient amateur to make a clean pleasing service recording for distribution to shut-in and traveling members.

Those wishing to learn more about copyright in house of worship program production are advised to see reference 1 for a complete discussion. Copyright law specifically exempts houses of worship from royalty payments for material performed or presented as part of a worship service proper. Houses of worship are required to pay royalties for non-worship use of copyrighted material not in the public domain. For this reason, we distribute service recordings to members on physical media and include only material copyright by the church or our speaker in our weekly sermon podcast that is publicly available.

After the break, we’ll talk about track capture off of a digital mixer. Although not hard, each mixer has its quirks and limitations so our intent here is to alert you to typical challenges and limitations rather than to provide switchology for a specific mixer or mixer family.

Continue reading Digital Recording of House of Worship Services

Installing Unifi In-Wall Access points

The Retired Moocher decided to make the move to all Ubiquity UniFi home networking equipment. The moocher’s home network is typical of that found in a residence or small business. We have a wired Ethernet network that serves all of the high bandwidth stuff plus a WiFi network that serves the Moocher’s iThings, guests, and Internet of Things. A Netgear Orbi had been carrying this traffic with the occasional mysterious fade. Desiring more visibility into the network’s behavior, the Moocher decided to retire the Orbis and install UniFi In-Wall HD and AC access points. The Moocher describes his deployment.

Continue reading Installing Unifi In-Wall Access points

Moving to Unifi USG Router

For the longest time, Apple Airport Extreme secured the Dismal Manor networks. This began back in 2002 when, out of curiosity, the Head Moocher bought an Air Port Express to add WiFi in the early days. The Moocher had noticed that firmware updates kept showing up for the Airport products so concluded, rightly, that Apple was making an effort to keep these products up to date and secure. When Apple discontinued the Airport product line, it was time to move on. But to what?

Continue reading Moving to Unifi USG Router

Music Discovery in the 21st Century

Are streaming services evil? For some. For others, they are the gateway to new artists, concerts, and record purchases. Audiophiles that have made the leap are in this latter camp. There’s more to life than the next Beatles reissue. Read on to learn how Roon, Qobuz, and Tidal combine synergisticly to promote artists and music. Roon 1.6 Radio is the secret.

Continue reading Music Discovery in the 21st Century

Allo Digione gets a Face

John Darko of Darko.Audio fame asked what you hide your Raspberry Pi based audio player behind. That got me thinking. Give it a face like a Bryston Audio BDP-Pi player. Could that be done?

John was a fan of the RoPieee Linux plus Roon Bridge distribution so I gave RoPieee a try. In reading the RoPieee installation notes, I noticed that it supported the Raspberry Pi 7 inch touchscreen display. Having one lying around, I decided to add it to the basic Signature One player.

As always with DIY, some assembly is required and it is not all in the fine manual. I was using my display with an Allo DigiOne Signature HAT assembly. This HAT blocks access to the GPIO power pins. Oops — what’s the work around. Keep reading after the break.

Continue reading Allo Digione gets a Face