• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Matrix Audio Element i USB DAC & Streamer Review

Joined
Jul 8, 2019
Messages
22
Likes
2
#22
A streamer shows up on your home network as an end point for another computer to send music to it. A streamer also connects to the internet so that you can play streaming music services directly through it.

A regular dac only had digital inputs and relies on a computer or dedicated streamer box for those functions.
Thank you,
so defenetly not for me a simple DAC will be more than enough
 

TulseLuper

Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 1, 2019
Messages
7
Likes
14
#23
No, it's not a ripoff/PS Audio style - but given all the alternates we have, IMO it's 'value for money' at maybe $400. Not $1000..
The BlueSound Node2i would be the closest competitor I can think of, which is $500. And this performs dramatically better, although there are many happy Node 2 owners around. As far as DAC/Streamer combo units this is an attractive package, and I'm considering it to replace my Node 2. If it had an analog input and subwoofer output I'd be sold. But I don't use those on my Node 2 anyway so we'll see.

Edit: I wasn't thinking that hard for competitors. The BlueSound is maybe the most popular competitor, but there are plenty of mainstream ~$1000+ DAC/Streamer units from Cambridge, NAD, TEAC, Marantz... So of course you can piece together some components that stream and convert with the same performance for less, but there appears to be a market for this where the Element i represents value for money.
 
Last edited:

Balle Clorin

Active Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2017
Messages
117
Likes
132
#25
Why no comments or discussion of the strange spikes at 4K etc in the plots? Look like somerhing is not quite as perfect as the conclusion suggest.
 

tmtomh

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Aug 14, 2018
Messages
508
Likes
1,192
#26
Why no comments or discussion of the strange spikes at 4K etc in the plots? Look like somerhing is not quite as perfect as the conclusion suggest.
Only one plot has a 4k spike: the jitter measurement. The 4k "spike" using the PLL Low/best setting is at about -147dB, which is well below the range of audibility, and shows up at all only because all the other jitter below about 8kHz is below -150dB. So the 4k spike is "strange" only because the jitter performance is so excellent. (The 4k spike using the normal/default setting looks to be very low too, about -143 to -145dB.) A unit whose jitter performance was 10 or 15dB worse than this one would still be considered excellent (or at least very very good) - and such a unit would not display that 4k spike, simply because it would be masked by the higher overall jitter.

It's similar to several excellent pieces of equipment amir has tested recently where a small 60Hz power supply spike is visible, but only because the unit's noise is so very low that the power supply noise becomes visible.
 

Soniclife

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 13, 2017
Messages
3,298
Likes
3,292
Location
UK
#27
How developed is the streaming side of this, the app looks poor, underdeveloped and is triggering my 'this is going to get abandoned very quickly' sense. Streaming support is hard long term is hard, roon support is a great start.
 

Soniclife

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 13, 2017
Messages
3,298
Likes
3,292
Location
UK
#28
No. Didn't realize it had headphone out until I was typing the review. :) Will measure tomorrow and post.
Does not sound like a tacked on solution, but done properly.
element i has a discrete component headphone amp with up to 1300mw of power, it can easily drive various high-resistance full-sized headphones and high-sensitive IEMs. The excellent dynamic performance and inaudible background noise, make you concentrate to the music.
Did you forget the linearity measurement?
 

paddycrow

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 28, 2019
Messages
192
Likes
207
Location
Dearborn, MI
#30
The feature that interests me is being able to plug an SSD into it and using it for a server. I'm currently using a Linux machine running Vortexbox, so the bar for app/interface isn't very high.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
28,567
Likes
75,884
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #31
@Amir,

why not compare USB input vs ethenet and wifi inputs?.
I already did. It is noted on the graph and the EtherRegen linked to where I tested the Ethernet input:





The performance is the same.
 

mi-fu

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 7, 2018
Messages
570
Likes
588
Location
New York
#32
It is a really good looking streamer. I think its strongest sell is user experience, decent performance, and the look. So whether it is worth the 1k it is asking, I think much depends on how the app / software works.

For those who use Roon, the bar is high though ;)
 

beefkabob

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Messages
856
Likes
936
#33
MiniDSP SHD has 4 channels and Dirac. Also toslink in. More inputs. More outputs. Close but not quite as pristine sound quality. All beyond human hearing, likely.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

Founder/Admin
Staff Member
CFO (Chief Fun Officer)
Joined
Feb 13, 2016
Messages
28,567
Likes
75,884
Location
Seattle Area
Thread Starter #34
It is a really good looking streamer. I think its strongest sell is user experience, decent performance, and the look. So whether it is worth the 1k it is asking, I think much depends on how the app / software works.

For those who use Roon, the bar is high though ;)
Yes, I don't bother with local streaming on these devices. Best to use a great solution like Roon and "push" content to it.
 

Tks

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 1, 2019
Messages
1,929
Likes
2,537
Location
NYC
#36
No. Didn't realize it had headphone out until I was typing the review. :) Will measure tomorrow and post.
Damn bossman, you must be swamped to have missed that lol..

EDIT: O btw, can we get Toslink measurements by any chance :\ I think making them and USB a standard fair would be nice :\
 

Tks

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 1, 2019
Messages
1,929
Likes
2,537
Location
NYC
#37
This was precisely my reaction as well - pricing. When you look at alternates, is it worth $1000? The DAC performance, while excellent, is not class-leading. 113db vs. 110db for an $120 LG V20 Quad DAC 'streamer'. Is 3db worth $900? Amir hasn't measured the HP amp yet but we know excellent choices there for $100. For 'streaming'? Again. Cellphones and BubbleUnPN, the $120 V20 as an endpoint, $25 LG Rebel 4 'tracfone' to access your Tidal whatever-- $30 Fire7" tablets to do the same thing if you use Amazon Music HD and Alexa streaming capabilities.. A limited 2.4g wifi only apparently..

I can buy a pretty good pair of HP for $1k. A decent as701 power amp. A pair of Maggie LRS with money left over..2 WXA-50s...

No, it's not a ripoff/PS Audio style - but given all the alternates we have, IMO it's 'value for money' at maybe $400. Not $1000..
Sorry but I disagree.. Unless you want to throw something like a 789 under the bus for offering little value for instance. It's also at $400.. I'd take this Matrix device any day over it at the same price. So the whole $400 dollar valuation is a bit meh, even when simply condering the wealth of functionality in an enclosure as nicely done as this one. There has been lots of headway in performance lately, so it's easy to get hungup on numbers in this blue realm of performance. Lastly, a phone is such a totally different form factor, and doesn't offer balanced output for example to other amps you may want to use and such.

(Tbh I haven't seen any company have higher quality enclosures than MA on average, what they did with their Matrix-X SABRE Pro is just stunning.. if anyone has seen the internals of that case, I challenge you to find anything remotely better in a standard DAC for example of it's size). I'm sure you can find some bespoke stuff from now non-existent companies at prices they're too scared to openly state on their own site..
 

Cahudson42

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Sep 21, 2019
Messages
689
Likes
761
#38
Sorry but I disagree.. Unless you want to throw something like a 789 under the bus for offering little value for instance. It's also at $400.. I'd take this Matrix device any day over it at the same price. So the whole $400 dollar valuation is a bit meh, even when simply condering the wealth of functionality in an enclosure as nicely done as this one. There has been lots of headway in performance lately, so it's easy to get hungup on numbers in this blue realm of performance. Lastly, a phone is such a totally different form factor, and doesn't offer balanced output for example to other amps you may want to use and such.

(Tbh I haven't seen any company have higher quality enclosures than MA on average, what they did with their Matrix-X SABRE Pro is just stunning.. if anyone has seen the internals of that case, I challenge you to find anything remotely better in a standard DAC for example of it's size). I'm sure you can find some bespoke stuff from now non-existent companies at prices they're too scared to openly state on their own site..
The Matrix Element i is a great performance achievement. Not questioning that. Just asking if it is worth $1000.

That question comes from seeing over the last 40 years how mass-produced items (i.e today -cellphones) when software adapted to specific functions and perhaps augmented by external hardware additions, overwhelm low volume manufactured specific solutions. Even if, initially, they may not be superior.

In a way, the Matrix Element i is todays Lexitron. The Lexitron was a superb dedicated word processor. It was destroyed by the initially inferior PC WordPerfect combination. The Matrix does a number of things well. But it has already been pointed out that it's specific streaming app may show limitations. With cellphone based streamers not tied to a specific app, there is no such limitation and far more choice.

Lexitrons did their job, and did so for years. So will the Matrix Element i.

But to reduce the chances of future obsolence, my view is we are best off to buy specific devices for each function. A DAC to do 'DACing'. Cellphones/DAPS (another Lexitron) to do streaming. Amps to do amping. etc.

Just one members opinion...
 
Top Bottom