Schiit Audio Bifrost 2 & Modius Review

Schiit Audio Modius Bifrost 2

Design and user-experience.

The Bifrost and Modius are very-much desktop-sized devices, each taking up about as much space as a hardback novel, the Bifrost-equivalent version having about one-third more pages versus the slimmer tome that is the Modius. Their footprint is exactly the same, and they’re each stackable with Schiit’s Asgard, Lyr, or Valhalla amplifiers if you’re thinking about putting together a headphone system, or the Saga pre-amp if two-channel audio is more of your thing. Build-quality is run-of-the-mill Schiit: simple, minimal, tough. The Bifrost is noticeably heftier than the Modius, tipping the scales at 2.2 kg versus the 900-odd grams of the Modius.

In the hand, the Modius’ family connection to the entry-level Modi is more conspicuous, being made of a thinner stamped aluminium compared to the solid milled top plate that the Bifrost shares with the Asgard 3. It has more of a toy-like feel to it and sounds a little tinnier when you tap the roof of it. The Bifrost feels like the more expensive, serious piece of hi-fi gear that it is. Both the Bifrost and Modius are available in the classic Schiit silver and matte-black finishes. Your preference will largely depend on the colour of other devices that you might have on hand, but for me, it’s silver all the way. I can’t help but think that the silver input switch on the black Modius looks a little comical.

This input switch on each device rotates between each DAC’s digital input sources: three (USB, coaxial, optical) in the case of the Bifrost and four in the case of the Modius, which gains an AES input. I’ve never come across a piece of source gear that made use of an AES input, but it might be handy for you. Personally, I’d appreciate an extra optical source to hook-up a TV or Xbox in addition to using my Nakamichi CD player as a digital transport. The buttons themselves are a little wobbly and janky (more so on the Modius) and make a plasticky clicking noise, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Schiit Audio Bifrost 2

“Look Mum, no hands!”

I thought that the remote on the Bifrost, despite being a nice touch, was potentially a little useless given that the Bifrost is a pretty simple, straight-up DAC. It’s a weighty, high-quality little brushed aluminium device, and, as it turns out – it’s magnetic! Very magnetic, in fact. Keep it away from storage devices.

I found myself using the Bifrost’s remote all the time to switch between sources, especially when sitting a little back from my desk when switching between Roon via USB and Xbox via optical. The remote allows you to go ‘forwards’ as well as ‘backwards’, which is nice. The mute feature is handy, but I can’t say that I ever wished for a Phase-inversion switch on a DAC. After some research, it seems that seems that some examples of digital recordings are ‘out-of-phase’, and can throw-out your listening experience. I played around with this feature for a while but seeing as I never stressed-out about phase issues during my listening in the past, I’m not about to now. This feature might be the bee’s knees for you, however, so I won’t pass judgement.

Powering-up.

The Bifrost is switched on and off via a familiar Schiit-style toggle switch on the rear of the unit. Powering-up the Bifrost causes the input lights on the front to toggle around in a festive display for around fifteen seconds before being ready to ‘go’. Hit play on your source and the Bifrost will respond with an audible ‘click’. The Bifrost will click every time it senses a change in sample rate, so if you’re going through a playlist that features tracks of varying resolution or file-types, don’t be alarmed. The Bifrost has an inbuilt power supply and now features a larger, improved transformer over the original Bifrost. Mains power is sent to the Bifrost courtesy of your garden-variety IEC power cable.

Schiit Audio Modius

Things are a little different on the Modius when it comes to powering it up. It is a little strange to have a full-sized DAC without a wall-wart or wall-plug, but hook-up it up to your USB source via a USB-micro cable, and sure enough – it lights-up. It seems incomprehensible at first, but the Modius will also happily work when paired with and powered by an Android/iOS device via an OTG cable. Naturally, you’ll need to consider the incremental battery-drain on your device if you choose to do so.

I fully anticipated the Modius to perform ‘less well’ while receiving bus power only via USB-micro, due to USB being a less than noise-free standard – especially out of my Macbook Pro’s less-than-optimal USB connection. I was pleasantly surprised to find no detectable noise nor degradation in sound quality when switching between bus-power only and mains power on the Modius. Admittedly, I’m no scientist but it seems that the team at Schiit Audio has done a great job of implementing the ‘Unison’ USB interface on the Modius.

One small quibble I had with regards to everyday use with the Modius is that you can’t really switch it off while it’s plugged into your computer. As long as it’s seeing a USB connection, it’ll stay on, and the USB signal light on the front will continue to stay lit. You’re going to need to yank that USB-micro cable out if you want to fully turn it off. Speaking of USB-micro, that’s probably my only other mild complaint about the Modius. With the industry inexorably shifting towards USB-C as a standard protocol, it’s a bit of a hangover and it does mean that you’ll blindly struggle with upside-side cables at the back of the unit from time to time. My once vast supply of USB-micro cables is also slowly beginning to dwindle. Hopefully, with a bit of luck, I can phase it out completely at some point in the 2030s.

The Bifrost and Modius are both pretty simple units in terms of form-factor and user experience, and they’re generally pretty easy to live with. I had no problems with any of my devices recognising them, and they both perform the task of stationary digital-to-analogue decoding and source-switching as intended. The fact that they both have balanced XLR and single-ended RCA-out is extremely welcome when it comes to creating a balanced audio system, and the fact that it’s available on a DAC the price of the Modius would have been frankly inconceivable a few years back. The Bifrost’s remote gives it a small edge in terms of ease of use, but I did also find myself appreciative of the fact that the Modius didn’t rob me of a valuable power-point behind my desk when in use.

The review continues over the jump on page 3

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Matty's a musician, music-fan, and 'gear-phile' from Sydney, Australia. Outside of his day-job in creative advertising, Matty enjoys live music, lawn bowls, craft beer, and spending far too much money collecting vinyl.

    16 Comments

    • Reply December 1, 2020

      Mike I

      Very nice review again, Matty ! I just miss one thing in your reviews: some classical music when you compare.

      • Reply December 3, 2020

        Matty

        Hey Mike, I can promise you that I have nothing against classical music! Check back for my next Monday review and I’ll include a reference or two for you : )

    • Reply December 1, 2020

      JD

      I’ve owned both at the same time. The modius is a great DAC. The bifrost2 sounds about 12% better with overall smoothness. The modius separation is more deliberate.

      • Reply December 27, 2020

        Surya Pratama Wijaya

        Anong the bifrost or modius, which has more treble and midrange sparkle?

        • Reply December 27, 2020

          Matty

          I’ve made notes about this in the review.

    • Reply December 1, 2020

      TheKindlyDragon

      This was great, and I will definitely take it into account when pondering whether to upgrade my Modi Multibit to either the Modius or the Bifrost to enable balanced output.

      Although, the way ads are implemented here made the site an infuriating read with how they made the text jump around as they loaded in and out on mobile UI. The amount of times I needed to readjust, find my place, and restart reading was getting old quick.

      • Reply December 2, 2020

        Mike I

        I also have problems with the display of the ads: the way they make the text jump is very disturbing.

      • Reply December 2, 2020

        Coconut

        Had the same issue with ads using google but switched to DuckDuckGo non trackable search engine on my phone to read this great article (super job).
        Try it, the all review displays and no pesky bouncy ads in the way.

      • Reply February 3, 2021

        Twoh

        Same problem with the ads. It does help some if you request the website as desktop version (bottom right in settings for Chrome on iPhone X).

    • Reply December 2, 2020

      Luis André Ferreira

      Dear Headfonia, I love your website, your reviews, and I find my self reading Headfonia reviews every single day for the last 3 years.
      But your advertising adds make the text jump a lot and sometimes I just quit reading the review because it’s very disturbing…

      • Reply February 3, 2021

        Lieven

        In reply to all the ad comments. Matty did report this to me, and I immediately asked the agency to cut down on the ads displayed.(Which was done)

        I hope the experience is better now. Do realize that this is our only way of income. Any way, there’s always an ad blocker for those who still find it annoying.

    • Reply December 12, 2020

      Jim Anderson

      I am very much considering an Asgard 3 for my soon to arrive HD 660S as well as a preamp. My main question though is whether to get

      1) the Multibit dac card installed
      2) The Modi multibit or
      3) the Modius

      I don’t need balanced out. Sure the extra inputs on the Modi multibit or Modius would be nice but not necessary.

      It sounded like the Card was close to the Bifrost (way out of my budget).

      Any more comparisons between the Card and the Modius?

      • Reply December 13, 2020

        Matty

        Hey mate, if you don’t need the extra inputs and outputs of the Modius you’ll be very happy with the Asgard + card. Plus, it’s a much neater package.

    • Reply January 4, 2021

      Joseph Renthlei

      As always great review. You are my go to reviewer when looking for an audio gear. I read your Topping A90 review and found it genuinely useful. What would be a better pairing for the A90 between the D90 and the Bifrost.

    • Reply January 4, 2021

      Jose R

      As always great review. You are my go to reviewer when looking for an audio gear. I read your Topping A90 review and found it genuinely useful. What would be a better pairing for the A90 between the D90 and the Bifrost?

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