No USB cables included. Thankfully, I own the Aune T1 Dac, which happened to come with a good B-USB Cable. Build quality is identical to the Magni. The backside features only standard RCA-out and the USB input. Shockingly, my trusty Aune T1 sounds near identical to the Schiit Magni and Modi Combo. I mean it. Its 95% the same, right down to build quality and size. The only differences would be the T1’s tube rolling options and that it can be used as both a DAC or a powerful 1-watt amplifier and the ocassional track that seems to push the upper region more forward on the T1 than the Modi. Tracks like Michael Jacksons’ “Billie Jean.” Noticeably more forward hi-hats on the T1 experience by itself. The Modi is more solid, more intimate, and noticeably less broad sounding than the Aune. The T1 is more aired out and both wider and taller in sound staging by a small degree.
I feel the Modi to be one of the better DACs that I have come across in any price range. I would rate the DAC experience as excellent, very responsive to low-end EQ and smooth in the mids and upper regions. Normally, in the $99-and-under world, USB DACs tend to have sharp upper regions that are splashy and unable to stay in control when there is a load of low end. The Modi plows through like a champ. I have nothing to gripe about. It is a simplistic design that gets the job done, and gets it done very well. The overall experience is smooth and excellent on the HE-500 and most other headphones known for a more linear sound. This Magni is going to make a lot of business people or college students very happy. I recommend it for those who are looking for a stepping-stone amplifier, an introduction to Hi-Fi Audio and do not want to break the bank while doing so. Also, for business people at a desk who want a very small, very powerful amplifier for their budget-midrange headphones…this Schiit is for you. If you have a good portable player or source, the Magni will be a great choice. If your source does not have good EQ, then you might want to skip using bassy headphones with it. It is a great little dac. If my T1 wasn’t equally as good by itself, I would keep the Modi as my primary DAC. It is noticeably better than the Fiio E10 in every way. I also enjoy it more than the Fiio E17! Which, by comparison, seems a bit loose on the upper end and noticeably sharper, especially when amped with either the T1 or the Magni. For what it is worth, the Modi is the real brains of the operation. It won’t cost you $99 though, in reality it will cost you more like $130 with the purchase of a B-style USB cable that is not total garbage or recycled from your decade-old printer.
The Thorson Combo is a real win in my book. I think most audio enthusiasts will go bananas for this setup. Unfortunately, I have already technically owned the Schiit Combo for some time. The Aune T1 DAC/amp sounds almost identically the same but due to tube customization and it being both a DAC and a very good amplifier all by itself, I am going to say the Schiit combo is a step or two behind the Aune in quality. I think the T1 offers more.
I can dedicate an entire page to headphone combinations that I think will sound great with the Schiit Combo, but I am going to encourage you to ask questions instead. Headphones that are smoother sounding should sound really nice here, sets like the Sennheiser HD598, Sony MA900, Hifiman HE-300/500. I’d avoid bass-heavy headphones, as well as sets known for great soundstage depth. The Schiit Combo just doesn’t cut it in those areas. If you prefer to use the bassier headphones with these little pieces of Schiit, I recommend investing in a Digizoid Zo2 or using Foobar2000’s Bassexciter DSP. If not, you are going to miss out with the Basshead headphones. This $200 DAC and amp Combo becomes more like $250-275 when you factor the need for higher quality RCA cables for use with expensive headphones, as well as a decent USB cable for the Modi. My cheap Monoprice RCA interconnects sound atrocious with the Magni and Modi. Despite that, I enjoyed the hell out of them both. I prefer the Magni and portable player much more than with my USB DAC. The reason is because the USB DAC line-out method generally relies on the amplifier to provide the low end, and the Magni does not have the low end to do justice with the Ortho headphones or anything bassy. Beyond that, the sound staging qualities are not up to par with the Schiit Asgard, so it doesn’t go well with spacious sounding headphones. However, again I enjoy the Magni+HE400 and HE500 when I am using my Cowon J3 portable player as a source. It has a magnificent EQ and puts out excellent bass. Without that extra boost on the low end, the Schiit Combo will fall very short for use with those bassy headphones.