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Matrix Audio Element i USB DAC & Streamer Review

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...

A refreshingly excellent reply, and I seriously mean that. First in order, questioning if it's worth $1,000 was a bit different than claiming it's worth $400, but lets just ignore that, it's not a particularly interesting conversation. But if you do want to go into it further be sure to let me know.

One thing about the price, is you have to take economy of scale into consideration. I think this device would perhaps cost as much as a cellphone (or less) if Matrix was selling as many units as cellphones do.

As for your desire for reduction of future obsolescence, that is not contingent at all upon number of functions (though I will admit, the more functions that exist, the more points of failure exist technically if we're being pedantic), the current global economic paradigm is geared toward planned and intrinsic obsolescence, when maximization of profit is the main goal. Anyone not operating under this mode, is disadvantaging themselves on the market with competitors that are purposefully doing this. So if you're in for a uphill battle if you're actually looking for products made to last as long as possible.

If you feel removing the headphone portion of the device for example and then lowering the price will contribute to less of an obsolescence, I don't understand why that would be the case. The only time a product like this would become obsolete would be if it cannot interface with any products anymore, or has had a catastrophic failure that cannot be fixed (and the company that made it also doesn't exist). I guess in some other weird ways it can become obsolete, is if the design makes you vomit every time you see it because it's so ugly in some point in the future. Or the electrical standards of the world become so different you can't hook the thing up anymore I guess?

At any rate, I don't know what counter-measures a company would be able to take this instance to avoid these situations? Unless they openly detail the work they're doing in order to provide the longest lasting product they can?
@MatrixAudio please put THX headphone amplifier technology inside this DAC, for the endgame DAC + headamp combo (one box) solution.

No analogue volume control.

Just use THX tech for the amplification performance. Keep DAC's digital volume control
@amirm have you tested the "MA player" by Matrix? I mostly listen to offline-files from HDD/SSD/USB/ect... So this local streaming software get my attention most :/
I am not clear on the benefits of Roon-ready streaming devices. You anyway need a computer to run Roon Core, so is the only advantage that the Core PC can be located remotely from the DAC?
Did you forget the linearity measurement?
I did indeed. Just updated the review. Here it is also:

DIT: O btw, can we get Toslink measurements by any chance :\ I think making them and USB a standard fair would be nice :\
Good DACs don't care which input you use. Here is the Toslink:
Matrix Audio Element i USB DAC and Streamer Roon Toslink Optical Measurement.png

Nothing is different whatsoever.
I am not clear on the benefits of Roon-ready streaming devices. You anyway need a computer to run Roon Core, so is the only advantage that the Core PC can be located remotely from the DAC?
Yes, the core can be anywhere in your house, on your network, keeps the listening room PC free. My main amps are roon endpoints, so is my phone, and my Chromecast, so I can get music in lots of places, all from the same server.
Headphone measurements together with listening impressions added to the review.

headphone's measurements very close to DAC's limit. Is there a real engineering advantage on DAC/headmp combos?. Removing the wires/connectors brings any advantage with respect to separates?.
$990 is a nice chunk of cash. But I suppose if you want a SOTA streamer that you don't have to worry about basically FOREVER then It would make sense as long as you can afford it.

There has been a few posts complaining about the price of this marvel of engineering. I understand we are a tough crowd bent on performance for vanishingly low prices. It bears sometimes to look at the market: we, audiophile are after all a tiny market: IOW they will not sell a million units per year. I doubt they would sell 100,000 even at $400. We have a ROON endpoint, a DAC, a streamer, a superb headphone amp, a balanced preamp for our amplifers or active speakers... in a well-crafted, ergonomic, good looking (not measurable .. then again :p) box. Superlative in all aspect and priced at less than $1000. What is there not to like? Seriously? :rolleyes:
I am looking to replace my Sonica DAC with a streamer capable of Airplay and Roon endpoint but do not need a headphone amp. This device appears support Airplay but not Airplay 2. Are the any advantages to Airplay 2 or a different device I should consider in this price range?

- Rich
I tried putting this product in my cart but it requires that I also purchase a $79 USB cable.
Not good.

The United States is not an option for shipping. This does not inspire confidence. ;)


- Rich
What is there not to like?
One of the questions you might have with an 'all in one' bespoke device like this is: 'What do you do when one of the key features becomes obsolete?'. Perhaps you can bypass it with a replacement external device..maybe not so easily..

In the case of the Matrix Element i, it seems one feature may already be obsolete.. or at least obsolescent..

If I read the manual and specs correctly, wifi is 2.4g only. No 5g. For streaming, I would posit that there are circumstances where 5g would be preferred. If your streaming cellphone didn't have 5g, its easy enough to replace it. But what do you do with the ME i?

(Yes, just add an external 5g access point thru the Ethernet port. Just as you could add an external HP amp if you wanted to for some reason. But my point is: does paying $1000 for an 'all in one' make sense when in future (or today) you are going to want to replace one of its functions? When you could have started with individual connected replacable devices for each function at less cost in the first place?)
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