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Dilemma on Schitt Modi DAC


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I ordered one of the last Modi DAC's from Amazon.com and received it Wednesday. Amazon had discounted this older unit to $89.

 

This is my first "real" DAC as I've been running a DAC board I got from Ebay that I rather like. I'm somewhat poor right now and can only afford very basic purchases.

 

I was convinced by the story of Schitt from the Stoddard book and from other recommends on CA to make it my first DAC purchase. I was also influenced in the direction of the iFi Nano, but made the Modi the first due to my restricted budget.

 

In the meantime, I invested in a top level USB cable from Supra which made a dramatic difference in sound on my cheap DAC board. I REALLY love the sound of the cheap board with the Supra Cable.

 

I'm running this into a Harman Kardon receiver with PSB Alpha speakers in my office. I haven't listened to it on my Grado headphones yet due to not having a quarter inch jack converter.

 

Anyway, I excitedly plugged in the Modi and cranked it up from JRiver.

 

I couldn't believe it, but the sound from the Modi fell like a lead zeppelin on my ears. Not the band... a zeppelin that can't fly.

 

I did A / B tests on these DAC units and then felt a sick feeling in my stomach. I actually strongly dislike the Modi DAC. It sounds "flitered" and "dead" compared to the cheap DAC board. I lost most studio "effects" from many recordings and the sharpness of all instruments. It's as if I went back to the output of my sound card minus the jitter.

 

I don't know what to do. I feel as though I am spitting out fine wine and picking up a bottle of Irish Rose. I want to like the Modi badly, but feel like returning it.

 

Am I experiencing some sort of "unfiltered" sound from the cheap DAC that I like and am not appreciating the finely tuned sound of the Modi?

 

I love listening to music for hours on the cheap DAC and wanted to improve the sound to the extent that the Supra USB cable improved the sound. Not in this instance.

 

I sent a message to [email protected] asking them what advice they can offer. I may want to trade the Modi in on a Fulla headphone portable amp so I can still do business with them. I love their story.

 

What is wrong with me? Am I crazy or just following my honest instincts. I like a sub par product better than a legitimate product. That's crazy isn't it?

 

Sincerely,

 

Dave H.

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Let the Modi break in for at least a few hours, and be sure to listen at similar volumes. Also, listen to ensure you're not just let down by the increased accuracy of the Modi. A more accurate device can initially sound boring... until you find yourself turning it up a little and then it comes to life.

 

But after you give it full chance (or if you feel you've already done that), if you still don't like it, then you don't like it. Return it.

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Let the Modi break in for at least a few hours, and be sure to listen at similar volumes. Also, listen to ensure you're not just let down by the increased accuracy of the Modi. A more accurate device can initially sound boring... until you find yourself turning it up a little and then it comes to life.

 

But after you give it full chance (or if you feel you've already done that), if you still don't like it, then you don't like it. Return it.

 

Ok, that's exactly what I was looking to find out. Thank you so much. I will do this Monday. Perhaps the increased accuracy and low volume has put me off. What disappointed me most was the loss of studio "room effects" that fade away with the Modi. Also cymbal hits are much less prominent. The timing of them is still perfect due to the absence of jitter, but the entire audio "spectrum" seems to be more homogeneous and even. That may be increased accuracy that I am misinterpreting. I am prepared to find out that it's the distortion of the cheap DAC that I actually like. I will kick up the volume.

 

Update: Ok, I did this. I am listening now to China Grove by Doobie Brothers at increased volume. It sounds better than yesterday, but the studio effect is more "up front" with less depth than the cheap DAC. I do hear the instruments well now on this recording. They seem more up front than the other DAC. I do like it much better on this recording I have to say. I will try other recordings at this much higher volume. It's Friday afternoon and the office has cleared out. I'm jamming.

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Cool! Glad you're still exploring. I would only add three brief points:

 

1. A "dryer," more up-front sound is sometimes (not always, but sometimes) the first, an initially unpleasant, clue that you're listening to a better, more accurate presentation.

 

2. I totally respect a tight budget (I am on one myself!), but for only $89 it might be worth it to have the Modi around as an alternative, or for a future sound system (in the shop, in a different room, whatever).

 

3. Just because Schiit is a good company, and many people like their stuff, doesn't mean you have to like the Modi. You'll know pretty quickly if you are "giving it a chance" or "trying too hard to like it": You'll either look forward to listening more than you used to, or less than you used to. Listen to your gut.

 

And have fun!

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Cool! Glad you're still exploring. I would only add three brief points:

 

1. A "dryer," more up-front sound is sometimes (not always, but sometimes) the first, an initially unpleasant, clue that you're listening to a better, more accurate presentation.

 

2. I totally respect a tight budget (I am on one myself!), but for only $89 it might be worth it to have the Modi around as an alternative, or for a future sound system (in the shop, in a different room, whatever).

 

3. Just because Schiit is a good company, and many people like their stuff, doesn't mean you have to like the Modi. You'll know pretty quickly if you are "giving it a chance" or "trying too hard to like it": You'll either look forward to listening more than you used to, or less than you used to. Listen to your gut.

 

And have fun!

 

Again, this is really good advice. I am listening to Takin It To the Streets at higher volume right now. This sounds like an entirely different DAC now. The "soundstage" is very close to the "front", but this might be due to a more accurate presentation. I am thinking that I need to keep this around now like you said. I haven't tried this with my home system of PSB Stratus Goldi. The Alphas are cheap speakers, albeit by a good company but still cheap. I also need to hear both units on my Grado headphones which I've grown to love. I really think this was a volume issue and potentially burn in. I also think that my initial bias I mentioned with the cheap DAC is at play. I'm going to keep this and keep listening. The horns on the song I'm listening to sound very good in what I'd call a more "distant" background against the vocals than the other DAC. If nothing else, I have two good systems to start with as references. The money I have spent is trivial. I am purposefully not starting with the expensive DAC units. I just don't want to go the reverse direction. I can see myself owning many DAC's in the future. I have about five sets of speakers and various headphones like everyone else.

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Hmmm. I have several cables here. I have a scrub, a Belkin Gold, and a Monster audio USB. I will try this on Monday. Strangely, I just touched the Modi and static electricity just caused it to shut down. Three times. My computer is grounded along with the Harman Kardon.

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Also cymbal hits are much less prominent. ....but the entire audio "spectrum" seems to be more homogeneous and even.

 

Mirrors my experience. Sounds on lesser gear that were really cool and prominent disappeared into the music with better gear. First impression was something was missing. Longer term impressions were that I was simply hearing more of the music. I now greatly prefer to listen to music.

 

That said - Schitt has a great return policy. If after giving it some time you don't like the dac, return it.

 

Paul

Main System: Mac mini (Audirvana+, MMK, JS-2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1) -> Icron 2201 (Rex LPS-1.2) -> ISO Regen (LPS-1.2) -> Ayre QB-9 Twenty -> Headamp GS-X Mk2 -> Classe CT-M600 -> KEF Reference 201/2

 

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Mirrors my experience. Sounds on lesser gear that were really cool and prominent disappeared into the music with better gear. First impression was something was missing. Longer term impressions were that I was simply hearing more of the music. I now greatly prefer to listen to music.

 

That said - Schitt has a great return policy. If after giving it some time you don't like the dac, return it.

 

Paul

 

I am prepared to believe this. The Modi has started growing on me after listening to it at higher volume. I will test it next week on headphones. I actually sent an email to Schitt and it was returned after two days with a failure notice at their info address. It's just as well because I am back from the edge from reflexively sending it back. I will give it a week and call them if I need. I will also try it with my other cables. If I start to like it better I will have two DAC's that I like so it's really a good thing overall. My main concern was the "soundstage" which seems split into two on the Modi. One really up front and one in the distant background. It's kind of cool, but I'm not sure I am used to it yet. I also wondered about "filters" that the Modi may be using that may or may not be absent in the cheap DAC due to cost.

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Repeat after me , it's a 99 dollar device . Repeat after me ...........

 

I hear you. I really do. My Amazon account has my wife's Discover card attached. She saw the box and asked me what I bought. I told the truth and felt terrible. We have five kids, three are college age. My business has been operating on zero cash flow for a couple years. I'm digging into this music as an escape partly so I don't focus on financial issues. It only cost me 89 dollars. My expectations were strong since my only experience with a DAC is three junk boards that cost 30 bucks, 15 bucks, and 8 dollars respectively. I'm a believer in double blind tests and audio myth busting. I know it's not much money. Would anyone be willing to blow thirty bucks on the same cheap DAC I love just to see? I'd be happy to put a link from Ebay.

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I hear you. I really do. My Amazon account has my wife's Discover card attached. She saw the box and asked me what I bought. I told the truth and felt terrible. We have five kids, three are college age. My business has been operating on zero cash flow for a couple years. I'm digging into this music as an escape partly so I don't focus on financial issues. It only cost me 89 dollars. My expectations were strong since my only experience with a DAC is three junk boards that cost 30 bucks, 15 bucks, and 8 dollars respectively. I'm a believer in double blind tests and audio myth busting. I know it's not much money. Would anyone be willing to blow thirty bucks on the same cheap DAC I love just to see? I'd be happy to put a link from Ebay.

 

I'm curious to see what it is. Post the link!

W10 NUC i7 (Gen 10) > Roon (Audiolense FIR) > Motu UltraLite mk5 > (4) Hypex NCore NC502MP > JBL M2 Master Reference +4 subs

 

Watch my Podcast https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXMw_bZWBMtRWNJQfTJ38kA/videos

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Just a word of caution: as your playback chain improves, i.e., becomes more neutral and revealing, don't be surprised if familiar recordings become unlistenable (or less enjoyable). What you are hearing is the true poor quality of the recording that was masked by the lesser equipment. What you need is a few "reference" recordings that you know should sound good. Using material of unknown quality will only make evaluation more difficult. You need to reduce the number of variables.

Main System: Auralic Aries G2, Ayre QX-5 Twenty, Ayre KX-5 Twenty, Ayre VX-5 Twenty, Revel Ultima Studio2, Iconoclast speaker cables & interconnects, RealTraps acoustic treatments

Living Room: Sonore ultraRendu, Ayre QB-9DSD, SimAudio Moon 340iX, B&W 802 Diamond

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Just a word of caution: as your playback chain improves, i.e., becomes more neutral and revealing, don't be surprised if familiar recordings become unlistenable (or less enjoyable). What you are hearing is the true poor quality of the recording that was masked by the lesser equipment. What you need is a few "reference" recordings that you know should sound good. Using material of unknown quality will only make evaluation more difficult. You need to reduce the number of variables.

 

Ok. This does sound logical. I listened to a bunch of music on the Schitt Modi yesterday that sounded really good. The base recordings were excellent quality. That seems to make a huge difference.

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I hear you. I really do. My Amazon account has my wife's Discover card attached. She saw the box and asked me what I bought. I told the truth and felt terrible. We have five kids, three are college age. My business has been operating on zero cash flow for a couple years. I'm digging into this music as an escape partly so I don't focus on financial issues. It only cost me 89 dollars. My expectations were strong since my only experience with a DAC is three junk boards that cost 30 bucks, 15 bucks, and 8 dollars respectively. I'm a believer in double blind tests and audio myth busting. I know it's not much money. Would anyone be willing to blow thirty bucks on the same cheap DAC I love just to see? I'd be happy to put a link from Ebay.

 

You should sent the Modi back and ask for a refund. For you it's not ONLY 99 dollars. Music is supposed to be a source of joy and wonder. If it is source of family dissension and bad feelings you should go back to your sound card which you enjoyed. I understand the desire for an escape, but take care of you family first.

Family Room: Panny TCP65S2, Panny BDP-55, DTV HR-24, SB Touch, Schiit Bifrost Multibit, Yamaha RX-V3900, Emotiva XPA-3, Rocket NM 550's, Rocket 150's, X-CS, UFW-10, Harmony 700.

 

Computer Room: Dell laptop, Uptone Regen Amber, Schiit Bifrost Multibit, Decware SE84C+, Zu Omen, ALO National, Mr.Speakers Mad Dog headphones

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You should sent the Modi back and ask for a refund. For you it's not ONLY 99 dollars. Music is supposed to be a source of joy and wonder. If it is source of family dissension and bad feelings you should go back to your sound card which you enjoyed. I understand the desire for an escape, but take care of you family first.

 

I appreciate your support. I'm going to give this a week to see if I'm in the same place. I know that Schitt is a good company that will work with me. My wife understands that I need some minimal enjoyment beyond television and the internet. I have always loved good audio and music for my entire life. I used to sneak into my brother's room when he was in Vietnam and listen to his Dynaco amps and Sansui Reel to Reel with Dark Side of the Moon and Brain Salad Surgery on huge tapes. I have been listening to crappy sound card output for a decade now thinking "bits are bits" until about two months ago when I found this forum. I am willing to take the hits from my wife. I can't afford to make even 99 dollar mistakes. Thanks.

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Update: I decided to keep listening to the Modi on speakers in my office. It really exposes the quality or lack thereof on recordings. I listened to a bunch of Beatles recordings today and heard things I couldn't believe were on the tracks. I finally got my headphone converter jack and plugged in my Grado phones into the Harmon Kardon receiver.

 

First impression is the receiver output on headphones is not strong enough to drive the Grados. I had to turn volume to noon in order for it to get loud enough for my taste. I listened to several recordings over the period of a half hour including an acoustic guitar piece by Edward Van Halen. I have a whole new theory and understanding now.

 

The Modi was "tuned" in my opinion for headphones. The sound I heard on the Grados surpasses the best sound I've ever heard in my life any source any headphones. I could actually hear Van Halen's breathing picked up through the acoustic pickup on his guitar.

 

So, I'm going to keep this DAC and be happy with it AFTER I get the paired up headphone amp. My guess is that they have a marketing strategy where headphones are the sweet spot because they're selling a complimentary headphone amplifier.

 

I'm still listening to it on my speakers in the office and am going to set up an A/B system with both DAC's running into different inputs on the receiver so I can do more comparisons.

 

For those of you who told me that my ears would have to adjust to the more accurate signal, I'm on board with that completely now. I haven't listened to the cheap DAC since last week though. I will adjust completely to the Schitt Modi and then switch back just so see and will report here what my impressions are over time.

 

The Modi for anyone who is looking at buying one, does have some "brightness" to the sound or digital glare that other reviews have reported on it. The soundstage is very forward as has been reported on other reviews too. If you want to use it primarily as a headphone DAC then I give it a very high recommendation. If you want to use it on loudspeakers then I'd demo it with other units. The speakers I have are PSB Alphas which are the cheapest of all PSB speakers. Stereophile and other publications LOVE these speakers, but they are kinda old now.

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Having owned a pair of Alphas years ago, I think I can say with confidence: the next thing to be replaced should be those. They were very good for the time, but you can get a lot of speaker for relatively little these days, especially if you buy used.

Mac Mini (+Tidal +Roon) -> WiFi -> Lyngdorf TDAI1120 ->JM Reynaud Lucia (Tellurium Q Black v2)

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Having owned a pair of Alphas years ago, I think I can say with confidence: the next thing to be replaced should be those. They were very good for the time, but you can get a lot of speaker for relatively little these days, especially if you buy used.

 

Bummer. I do have Stratus Goldi speakers and two center channels. This is for my office though. I also have Harman Kardon speakers and Klipsch 3.2 speakers. I thought about bringing the Stratus huge speakers to my office since my wife doesn't let me enjoy them often.

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