Modi 3+ is the newest version of the popular budget DAC by Schiit Audio. It is promised to deliver the “all you need” performance, and it is priced at $99.
I’m not gonna lie – I’ve been a fan of Schiit Audio for a couple of years now, having the original Asgard, Lyr, Ragnarok, Bifrost, Mjolnir and Gungnir in the past. Whenever they’re launching a new model, I can’t make myself not to go onto their website to read the FAQ (trust me, you’ll have fun reading those).
Their philosophy is to offer quality and well-engineered products made entirely in the US for a very fair price. While their lineup is very impressive, ranging from budget DAC/AMP offerings all the way to turntables and some crazy speaker amps, they’re probably most known for their budget modi/magni line. Is this little champ worth buying at 99 bucks?
Here’s the fact: Don’t expect anything special when it comes to unboxing any Schiit Audio product. They come in a generic carton box, and the included accessories are basically the essentials. While I would probably criticize it while speaking of some more expensive stuff, it’s a quality DAC made in the US for $99. Come on, you simply can’t expect anything more.
Having that in mind, all you’re gonna find in the box is the Modi itself, a USB-A to Micro-USB cable and a small USB power brick. That’s it, and it’s all could ask for to be honest.
Build quality and Design
Let’s talk build quality. For 99 dollars it’s basically perfect. Metal chassis, the switch on the front works flawlessly, it has some weight to it and the finishing is good. Compared to the JDSLabs Atom DAC (review here), it feels more premium and better made, as you’d be able to imagine comparing the plastic body to all-metal chassis.
When it comes to the design…it’s basically a Schiit Audio product. It looks like one, feels like one and it’s just cool. You can buy it in both silver and black, but if you want that classic Schiit Audio vibe, silver is mandatory in this regard.
What I really like about the whole design is that it’s just as big as it has to be, which means that you’ll be able to fit it basically everywhere. I have no problems fitting it between the screen and the stand of my LG Oled TV, and its stand is really, really low. Very well-thought.
Schiit Modi 3+ uses a trademark USB interface called Unison USB. It’s built around the AK4490 DAC chip and it uses OPA1662 op-amps. It can be powered via a single USB cable from your computer, as well as from the included 5v USB wall adapter, if you’re using it via Coax or Toslink.
It’s capable of playing 24/192 files from all the digital inputs. It has a single pair of RCA outputs for plugging into the amplifier of choice, and last but not least – it doesn’t need any drivers. Just plug it into any computer and you’re ready to rock.
This surely won’t be a long review, because for 99 dollars Modi 3+ simply does everything great, being an all-you-need DAC for many.
The bass is natural, neutral and detailed. It’s not the most detailed, the fastest, or the cleanest bass you can get, of course, but it’s simply great for what you’re paying for. Even when using it with my Hifiman HE1000se or the HEDDphone I simply cannot say anything bad about it. While the likes of SMSL SU-9 or Topping D90 both offer more detail and better control, they also do cost quite a lot more.
The low frequencies are just well executed and rich, so you won’t be having any problems with synergy. It’s not lean nor thick, razor-sharp or bloated, it sounds just right and that’s basically everything to wish for from the DAC in this price category
The midrange is once again – natural, controlled and detailed. Sure, you’ll get a better timbre and richness from a high-end DAC, but that comparison doesn’t really make any sense. For $99 it’s more than great – no harshness, no dryness or any tonality errors. Voices sound rich and forward, they have a proper body. Modi 3+ also ensures that you’ll have enough room around the instruments. Don’t expect a very wide and saturated soundstage, like you would get from a really high-quality DAC, but…well, I guess you got my point already. Absolutely no problems with the mids.
The treble tends to be quite a risky job when it comes to budget audio equipment, and I’m happy to report that it’s not the case with the Modi 3+. Of course, you’re not getting that sweetness and smoothness from something like R2R quality DAC, but it’s a good quality, airy and well-extended top end. I’m actually quite impressed when I’m using the Modi 3+ with my stereo setup. I’m rocking the Chario Amelia loudspeakers, and they do have a wonderful tweeter, but it really requires a quality system for it to shine as it should. I’m not having any problems with harshness or lack of refinement, and that specific driver does really tend to show those if they end up getting a poor-quality signal.
Now onto the soundstage. It’s really good, nothing less, nothing more. The width and depth are both well extended, but not extraordinary, but who would expect that for that kind of money?
The imaging and separation are again – very good, but definitely not remarkable. This section of the sound is probably the easiest part to differentiate it from a really high-quality DAC. While the latter is often able to expand the stage in every direction and provide a ton of air between the instruments, the Modi 3+ is just modest and conservative. It won’t add anything, all you’re getting is a properly executed and medium-sized soundstage. Still, for 99 bucks it’s more than you could wish for a few years back.
What’s most important – the Schiit Modi 3+ really punches above its price point. I’ve used it with products costing almost 50x more, and it did a great job. A $99 DAC providing the signal for $5000 Chario Amelia or $3500 Hifiman HE1000se? Here you go: you won’t be getting the best quality possible and of course, you’re bottlenecking the two, but you’d be surprised how good of a job it did.
At the same time, the Modi 3+ is easy to use, small and convenient, it has three digital inputs, and it can be powered by your PC or the wall adapter. About five years ago you’d have to spend about $500 for a DAC of this quality, and I believe it sums this review up just perfectly.
The Schiit Audio Modi 3+ is an incredible value in the current hifi market. For $99 you’re getting a US-made DAC that can provide the signal for a system that costs thousands of dollars and still give you a very enjoyable experience. If you want a good quality DAC, but there’s no way you’re spending a lot, just get it and call it a day. This Schiit is bananas.
Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:
- Headphones – Hifiman HE1000se, HEDDphone, Hifiman Ananda, Unique Melody MEST, Fir Audio M5 Custom, Hifiman Deva, Dekoni Blue
- Amplifiers – SMSL SH-9, LittleDot MK III se, Luxman 1040, Accuphase E800
- Speakers – Chario Aviator Amelia, RockPort Atria, Dynaudio C2 Platinum
- Cables – Tellurium Q Black RCA, Siltech Queen RCA