Jump to content
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
SSL

Quick and dirty thoughts on Bifrost 4490 vs Modi 2 Uber 4396

Recommended Posts

Posted · Original PosterOP

I recently acquired a used Schiit Bifrost 4490 and have been listening to it for the last week or so. I feel I have enough of a handle on the sound to give some succinct impressions versus my previous DAC, the Modi 2 Uber. This DAC has been around for a little while already, so I offer this mostly as a point of interest to other forum members or people that haven't jumped off the deep end with DACs just yet.

 

My current chain is Exact Audio Copy > FLAC > Foobar > WASAPI > USB > Bifrost 4490 > Magni 2 Uber > HD 650. I listen to a variety of music, including minimally mic'd classical. I'll be getting a Valhalla 2 in the near future, and will update my impressions if I have anything to add at that point.

 

Background and Technology

So what makes the Bifrost worth buying over a Modi, you may be wondering. These are the stand-out features:

  • Upgradability: both the DAC/output section and USB input section are on modular cards. So far, Schiit has offered upgrades at or below the cost of their Modi line. The Bifrost is therefore not a dead-end product, in theory. These upgrades include Schiit's own proprietary multibit implementation.
  • Bit-perfect clock management: the Bifrost switches the DAC chip sampling rate to exactly match the sample rate of your music. This ensures that the original bits are preserved for dat fidelity.
  • Power supply: the power supply is bigger, mounted internally, and has more filtering.
  • Analog section: every DAC has an analog section that is responsible for filtering and boosting the analog output of the DAC chip before sending it off to downstream equipment. The Bifrost 4490 features a fully discrete analog section with no capacitors in the signal path.
  • Build and aesthetics: whereas the Modi feels a bit like a toy, the Bifrost is way beefier and feels like a real piece of serious equipment. It is made of much thicker aluminum and stacks nicely with the mid-size Schiit amps.

 

Now, the impressions.

 

Dynamics / Impact / Slam

Bifrost is the winner here. With the Modi 2U, the loudest portions of say a full orchestra piece tend to sound a bit flat and compressed, both in terms of volume and space. Bifrost handles these peaks without sounding notably congested. Bass hits a touch harder and digs deeper, with more texture. The Tron soundtrack by Daft Punk, which is challenging for a headphone like the HD 650, is improved in terms of staging and bass texture. There is more foundation and rumble to all tracks with deep bass.

 

Clarity / Attack / Focus

Bifrost again pulls ahead, particularly in the treble. Cymbals and other high percussion tends to sound slightly blurred on the Modi 2U, whereas they have more focus and delineation with the Bifrost. Imagine the difference between the impact of a thrown bean bag versus a dart. The Bifrost is not fatiguing, though.

 

Resolution / Contrast

Yeah. The Bifrost resolves things like instrument decay and ambient cues better, even at lower volumes. In general, sound has more texture and faint timbrel changes are more apparent. The Bifrost digs into the music more; with my limited vocabulary of pithy audio descriptors, I can only call it more "crunchy".

 

Headstage / Imaging / Separation

This is the area where the Bifrost brings the most improvement over the Modi 2U. It may sound crazy, but I'm hearing more space between sounds with the Bifrost. The slightly closed-in sound of the HD 650 is partially alleviated with the wider, more open presentation. Obviously it will not turn Beats into an HD 800, but I do feel it moves the staging of the HD 650 a bit closer to my previous main headphone, the HE-560.

 

Tonal Balance

I get the sense that the Bifrost with the AKM 4490 chip is in effect ever so slightly V shaped. While I'm sure it would measure flat, the combined effect of the above points means that it has a little more punch and sparkle relative to the Modi 2U, which is itself slightly lean. I enjoy the pairing with the HD 650 so far.

 

Conclusion

I managed to snag my Bifrost for a mere $220 shipped. A Modi 2 Uber is $150, while a Modi Multibit is $250. In other words, I got a really good deal on a good DAC. I think the $400 MSRP is a more difficult value proposition. Even though I pointed out a lot of positives above, I would say the overall improvement in my current system was 5-10%. Maybe 15% on certain tracks. It's also possible that I imagined the whole thing and NwAvGuy was right all along.

 

The point is that the price-performance curve is not that great if buying new. This is alleviated somewhat by the fact that the Bifrost is upgradable, and these upgrades have so far been pretty affordable. I also have to point out that while the Bifrost provided only an incremental bump in overall performance, the "improvement" from my Modi 2U was even less noticable; 1-5% max. But I stand by my standard recommendation: get the best possible headphones first, and an amp to drive them. Then, if you decide to dive down the endless rabbit hole that is high end audio, think about buying a DAC. For me and my system, the purchase was worth it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

You must have run into this question before, but why Bifrost 4490+Valhalla 2 instead of Modi Multibit+Jotunheim? Seems like tonally they'd be similar, but the second combo would be technically better at almost everything. Fatigue, maybe?

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I wonder how it compares to modi multibit. There seems to be some mixed feelings about the modi multibit, from It's amazing, multibit for cheap, too It's not so good.


n0ah1897, on 05 Mar 2014 - 2:08 PM, said:  "Computers are like girls. It's whats in the inside that matters.  I don't know about you, but I like my girls like I like my cases. Just as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted · Original PosterOP
51 minutes ago, Nimrodor said:

You must have run into this question before, but why Bifrost 4490+Valhalla 2 instead of Modi Multibit+Jotunheim? Seems like tonally they'd be similar, but the second combo would be technically better at almost everything. Fatigue, maybe?

 

One, I want the components to stack nicely. A silly reason, but there it is.

 

As for why not Jotunheim, a lot of impressions note that the Jotunheim has weird-shaped and upfront staging and that it is also upper-mid aggressive. So, yes, fatigue. That is something I want to avoid. The Valhalla ought to stage better and just complement the HD 650 well in general.

 

I also suspect that Bifrost will be receiving some kind of update this year, hopefully a revised multibit board to set it apart from Modi Multibit. As everyone was busy crying salty tears over the value of the modibit, I was able to snap up the Bifrost for a ridiculously low price.

 

36 minutes ago, spwath said:

I wonder how it compares to modi multibit. There seems to be some mixed feelings about the modi multibit, from It's amazing, multibit for cheap, too It's not so good.

 

Based on impressions I've read, the modibit would win in resolution and accuracy, but lose in clarity. At least on SBAF, the modibit seems to be getting the nod as the superior DAC over the Bifrost. I expect that pendulum to swing back when the Bifrost is next updated and becomes the new FOTM.

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, SSL said:

 

One, I want the components to stack nicely. A silly reason, but there it is.

 

As for why not Jotunheim, a lot of impressions note that the Jotunheim has weird-shaped and upfront staging and that it is also upper-mid aggressive. So, yes, fatigue. That is something I want to avoid. The Valhalla ought to stage better and just complement the HD 650 well in general.

 

I also suspect that Bifrost will be receiving some kind of update this year, hopefully a revised multibit board to set it apart from Modi Multibit. As everyone was busy crying salty tears over the value of the modibit, I was able to snap up the Bifrost for a ridiculously low price.

 

 

Based on impressions I've read, the modibit would win in resolution and accuracy, but lose in clarity. At least on SBAF, the modibit seems to be getting the nod as the superior DAC over the Bifrost. I expect that pendulum to swing back when the Bifrost is next updated and becomes the new FOTM.

interesting.

seems especially good now with rumors of new upgrade.

 

for now, and probably for the next few years, I'll stick with my Vali 1 and go450. Audio stuff is expensive. As is College.


n0ah1897, on 05 Mar 2014 - 2:08 PM, said:  "Computers are like girls. It's whats in the inside that matters.  I don't know about you, but I like my girls like I like my cases. Just as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎2‎/‎24‎/‎2017 at 8:36 AM, spwath said:

interesting.

seems especially good now with rumors of new upgrade.

 

for now, and probably for the next few years, I'll stick with my Vali 1 and go450. Audio stuff is expensive. As is College.

So much for this...

Getting a Valhalla 2 this week.

Bifrost eventually.


n0ah1897, on 05 Mar 2014 - 2:08 PM, said:  "Computers are like girls. It's whats in the inside that matters.  I don't know about you, but I like my girls like I like my cases. Just as beautiful on the inside as the outside."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×