Schiit Modi 3: The Best Audiophile DAC for $100?
The moment you invest in a high-quality stereo amplifier like the Cambridge Audio Topaz SR10, your mind wanders around exploiting the rich warm sound by throwing in a cheap (but good) DAC (digital-to-analog converter) into the mix.
There are a ton of options these days when it comes to choosing a DAC - within a certain price range. The options immediately dwindle when you pitch quality against the price. The looks come last.
Listening to audio and benchmarking the sound is quite a subjective affair. Your probability of liking the recommended gear is a good 50:50. No matter who recommends 'em!
The Schiit Modi 3 looks industrial and minimal, with a good heft to it. No loose or parts dangling inside. The tactile feel to the input selector switch feels good and long lasting. It's not that you're going to fiddle with the switch too often. But, looks like it's designed to stay and function as it's supposed to do.
Bummer: What are those markings on the switch? See behind!
I wouldn't call this intuitive. You just have to turn the DAC around to see what these symbols mean. Ok, the top one is USB for sure. Score 1.
Ah, now you can see what those cryptic symbols point to. To make it simpler for you to understand, I'm posting directly from their user manual. Just get the idea, instead of having to poke around for what lies behind this DAC.
Coming to the point - the sound needs some getting used to, right out of the box. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with the slightly recessed mid-range. It was quite evident as the Cambridge Audio Topaz SR10 is known for its luscious mid-range. One listen to Leonard Cohen's Everybody Knows puts the case to rest - yes, the mids are ever so slightly recessed. But, like I said, you'll get used to it ain't that bad.
If you're a sucker for metrics, I came across this popular measurement based review by Amirm.
Again, the problem with this is that though you'll feel confident that it's a well-designed DAC, you'll still be in that 50:50 probability window when it comes to how it plays out those digital bits. I was exactly in this position, and you can see how I found out that the mid frequencies were a bit recessed.
Fantastic stereo separation. Lucid clarity when listening to layered music productions like Parandhu Sella Vaa or nasal qawwali Kun Faya Kun. It's fun. I think this is where one should look at the measurements. The noise floor is less and the designers have done a bloody good job in infusing the musicality into this little sparkling DAC.
CLIPPING POWER RECOMMENDATION: Must buy! Be it an entry-level stereo setup or a high-end system, at $100, the Schiit Modi 3 will not disappoint.
Note: If you have queries on how to connect the DAC to your iPhone or Mac, just gimme a holler.