Thursday, September 11, 2014

Good Schiit! (OptiModi)

I'm very pleased with my $99 Schiit Modi with Optical interface (OptiModi).  It looks, works, and sounds great, and is an incredible bargain!!!  Also made in USA, in a nice little metal box, audio jewelry on the cheap!!!

Unlike other devices I've had, the Toslink suffers no dropouts when I wiggle the connector.  It doesn't hold the Toslink connector as tight as I like, but no matter if it's completely insensitive to connector movement, as all Toslinks should be, but some aren't (my next post discusses Toslink connectors).

Loaded with top silicon, such as one of the latest converters from AKM, it may be the best sigma delta DAC out of a few dozen in the house.  I won't be testing it against my R2R 1704 DAC for the living room panels.  I am slightly afraid I might think this little job was better…

The night I first plugged the Modi into my Kitchen system, I was rocking out to the good sounds it made.

I plugged it into my Pioneer DVR-LX70, as it has always been intended to provide the analog audio that machine requires.  My living room receiver accepts digital inputs, so it seemed natural to provide it an optical input.  And so I have long used some kind of optical splitter on the Mac output to produce one Toslink for the receiver, and one Toslink for a DAC which produces the analog required for a DVR.  The DAC has always been the Emu 0404 USB I repurposed as a DAC for this use, temporarily, in 2011 or so.  I really intend the 0404 for use in making electronic and acoustical measurements.  It's been a pain in the neck because after each power outage, the 0404 has to be reset (since on power up, it goes to "OFF" on the main selector.  And then I can't remember if I need to do to get it working again.  (I strongly dislike DACs that forget their last state on power cycling.  My Aragon DAC was like that and I hated it.  Then it died.)

So the purchase of the Modi was really about streamlining and making my Kitchen system more robust, rather than "getting better sound."  I had every reason to believe the 0404 was top shelf, didn't really need replacement.  And further, that routing an analog converted signal through the LX70 and thence to my receiver in analog form would not, could not, be as good as sending the receiver the original digital.

But it was sounding so good as I was listening to Abby Road mixes, I was thinking my thinking had been wrong.  If the Yamaha 5790 is fed analog in direct mode, it never goes through the Yamaha's ADC and DAC.  It goes through in pure analog, "Pure Direct", which is made possible by having a parallel volume control that controls the DSP when doing digital processing, and an digitally controlled amplifier (an analog circuit that does not sample or quantize the input, but is controlled by a digital signal).  I tested and determined that the receiver does actually operate this way when I received it.  In "Pure Direct" you see no digital artifacts at the output if you provide an analog signal without digital artifacts (typically a waveform generator).

So perhaps the better sound (or at least heightened experience) resulted from the superiority of the Schiit Modi over the DAC built in to the Yamaha.  Of course Hydrogen Audio objectivists would say this is impossible, modern DACS and ADC's are completely transparent, and moreso than much analog circuitry.

Anyway, on Thursday I compared the two DAC's more directly bypassing the LX70 (which may be boosting the bass a bit--Legato Link???) by plugging the Modi straight in to the Yamaha.  While I initially thought there was a difference, as I flipped back and forth after the first comparison in critical listening I found there wasn't really any way to distinguish the two.  Finally I got very bored at the possibility of finding a difference, they were just too close.

So there you go.  At first I though there was a huge difference, the Modi was a "revelation", opening up music better than ever before, perhaps better even than my cherished 1704 dacs.

Later I find no reliable difference between the Modi and my receiver, which would exactly be an audio objectivist belief, all DACs sound the same.

It's easiest to have a strong belief if after doing A and B you then quit testing.  Going back to A again confuses things.  I have always found this.  But going back to A perhaps also reveals that the difference  experienced between A and B was not due to the stimulus being detectably different, but rather the state and expectations of the listener.

The Schiit Modi is perfect for what I bought it for, and perhaps more.

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