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Matrix Audio mini-i 4 Streamer Review

Rate this streamer/DAC:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 11 6.0%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 49 26.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 103 56.3%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 20 10.9%

  • Total voters
    183

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Matrix Audio mini-i 4 streamer, balanced DAC and preamplifier. It was sent to me by Shenzehenaudio and costs US $649.
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC review.jpg

I am neutral on the look of the unit. The only button for power is on top. The front panel is touch sensitive in different areas. It is not discoverable as the up and down indicators for volume and input flanking the display go off after you use them. Likewise, to go into settings, you have to swipe left and right on the main display -- something I had to look up to find out. Fortunately touch sensitivity is very good and the processor behind it and the display is quite responsive. Older streamers from Matrix were not so situated.

Back panel shows clear differentiation:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC back panel preamp review.jpg

Notice the inclusion of HDMI ARC and RCA for analog input. This completely eliminated the need for a pre-amp for just about audiophile.

I was sad to find out that the remote was optional and not included. I downloaded the Matrix control app. It however was not able to discover the unit by itself. I had to manually configure it using a QR code that it shows under the settings. Upon doing so, the app noted that there was an update. I told it to download and while it started, it just hung with its hour glass showing forever. So I resorted to using the front panel to do the upgrade. That went OK except for it getting stuck for a long time in one point, making me think it is hung. Fortunately I waited a while longer and it eventually finished.

Matrix mini-i 4 DAC Measurements
Let's start with USB input and XLR output with level adjusted one notch to get closer to nominal 4 volts:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Balanced Measurement.png

Distortion is very low at less than 130 dB, landing the unit squarely in our "Excellent" category (red) and inline with other Matrix products (pink):
Best audio streamer review.png


Best audio streamer zoom review.png


Performance naturally drops a bit with RCA:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC RCA Measurement.png


I wanted to test the streaming functionality using Roon. Alas, Roon complained that the implementation was not certified and it would not let me use it. :( I also don't have HDMI ARC test source so couldn't test that as well. Previous Matrix streamers have had similar performance with network vs USB so I am not too worried about that.

I expected noise to be the limiting factor for SINAD but for reasons I can't explain, that performance is much better:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC DNR Measurement.png


Multitone test shows the very low distortion again:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Multitone Measurement.png


Combination of noise and distortion in IMD is excellent:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC IMD Distortion Measurement.png


Here is the reference 50 Hz distortion test for comparison to reviews elsewhere:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC 50 Hz Measurement.png


I did run into a bug with linearity test though:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Linearity Measurement.png

When the test starts -120 dB, there is huge deviation which is likely due to the unit muting. I discovered a second bug when I ran the filter tests:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Filter Measurement.png


The unit ships with "Minimum Phase" as the default. That response was surprisingly slow (in red). But after I went through all the filters, it showed the more correct response (in dark blue #9). I have seen this once or twice in other DACs. It seems the DAC filter is not setup correctly. At any rate, I like fast linear filter better anyway so set it to that:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Filter frequency response Measurement.png


Using that filter, wideband THD+N vs frequency response is quite good:

Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC THD vs frequency Measurement.png


While not an audible concern, I expect better from Matrix engineering than what I saw in the Jitter test:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Jitter Measurement.png


These could be interference patterns from onboard streaming processor.

Matrix Mini-i 4 Analog Preamplifier Measurements
It is super useful to be able to route the output of a turntable or Reel to Reel deck through the streamer so let's see how that does with RCA in and out:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Analog In Measurement.png

Distortion is kind high resulting in unexciting SINAD of 89 dB. This is inline with the last streamer I tested from Matrix although the approach is different due to use of an ADC (see below). Using XLR balanced out gives similar performance:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Analog In XLR Out Measurement.png

You do get nice format conversion though with output being a proper 4 volts now.

As noted, the implementation here is with digitization of input signal:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Analog In Frequency Response Measurement.png

Fortunately sample rate is quite high so not a worry.

Noise performance is better than distortion:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Analog In SNR Measurement.png


At nearly 17 bits, it is certainly a lot cleaner than any analog source you through at it.

Finally, here is a comparison of IMD distortion relative to Matrix Element X2 streamer:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Analog In IMD Measurement.png


The X2 has lower noise but somewhat higher distortion.

Conclusions
The measured performance is in excellent category which is nice for a streamer at this price. Alas, there seems to be a few bugs that need to be resolved. On functionality front, the feature set is excellent with inclusion of HDMI ARC and analog input -- something I wished more DACs would support.

Prices for Matrix products have really climbed since their inception so it is very good to see products in this price range.

Personally I wouldn't buy the mini-i 4 due to lack of certified Roon support and bugs observed. Your situation may vary.

Manufacturer Specifications:​

Hardware Platform​

CPUQuad Cortex-A55 2.0GHz
D/A ChipES9039Q2M

Digital Input
COAXIAL & OPTICALPCM 16-24Bit /44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
DSD 2.8MHz (DoP)
HDMI ARCPCM 16-24Bit /44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz
USB AudioPCM 16-24Bit /44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz,
352.8kHz, 384kHz, 705.6kHz, 768kHz
MQA 16-24Bit /44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz,
352.8kHz, 384kHz MQA or MQA Studio stream
DSD 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz, 11.2MHz (DoP)
DSD 2.8MHz, 5.6MHz, 11.2MHz, 22.4MHz (Native)

Aux Input​

SNR100dB A-weighting
THD+N<0.0035%@1k, <0.0035%@20Hz-20kHz
Frequency Response20Hz-20kHz ±0.1 -3dB@46kHz
Channel Crosstalk>-105dB
Input Level2.1VRMS Maximum

Line Output​

XLRSNR: 127dB A-weighting
THD+N:<0.00015%@1k, <0.00018%@20Hz-20kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz ±0.1 -3dB@90kHz
Channel Crosstalk: >-146dB
Output Level: 4.4VRMS@0dB
RCASNR: 121dB A-weighting
THD+N:<0.00015%@1k, <0.00030%@20Hz-20kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz ±0.1 -3dB@90kHz
Channel Crosstalk: >-133dB
Output Level: 2.2VRMS@0dB

Network​

LAN10/100/1000 Mbps

USB Type C​

The USB Type C port provides a maximum power of 5V/1A.
The USB Type C port works with devices which conform to the USB mass storage standard and supports FAT, FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS file formats, but is not guaranteed to be compatible with all storage devices.

MA player​

Controller app:MA Remote App
Local Playback
Format Supported:MP3 , WMA , WAV , AIF, AIFC, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, OGG, APE, ALAC, M4A, DSF, DFF, CUE
PCM Sampling Rate:PCM 16-24Bit 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kHz, 384kHz, 705.6kHz, 768kHz
MQA 16-24Bit /44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 352.8kHz, 384kHz MQA or MQA Studio stream

DSD Sampling Rate:2.8MHz, 5.6MHz, 11.2MHz, 22.4MHz
AirPlay 2The audio specs depend on the service provider
DLNA/UPnPThe audio specs depend on the service provider
TIDAL ConnectThe audio specs depend on the service provider
Spotify ConnectThe audio specs depend on the service provider
vTunerThe audio specs depend on the service provider
Radio ParadiseThe audio specs depend on the service provider
HIGHRESAUDIOThe audio specs depend on the service provider

Power Specs​

Power VoltageAC 100V-240V 50/60Hz
Standby Power Consumption< 5W
Maximum Power Consumption< 20W

Weight & Size​

Weight1.3 kg (2.87 pounds)
SizeWidth: 224 mm (8.80 inches)
Depth: 186 mm (7.32 inches)
Height: 53 mm (2.07 inches)

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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renaudrenaud

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Thanks for the review.

Is there any version of the Matrix Control app software available in Linux?

Ha, iPhone and Android.
 
Last edited:
OP
amirm

amirm

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It seems to becoming the norm in streamers. Fiio and Eversolo left it out as well. They seem to think that streamer users will download their app and use for control, not realizing things like volume control are much better managed using a actual remote.
 

xaviescacs

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I was about to recommend this device to a friend who wants to keep the turntable. I'll put that on hold, hope not for very long.

Thanks amir for raising that functionality issues and everything else. Great review!
 
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VintageFlanker

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Thank you, @amirm ! Glad to see this one to be actually cheaper than the previous gen... Still it's a shame that they dropped the knob. :confused:
While not an audible concern, I expect better from Matrix engineering than what I saw in the Jitter test:
Matrix Mini-i 4 Music Streamer DAC HDMI ARC Jitter Measurement.png


These could be interference patterns from onboard streaming processor.
@amirm is there a DPLL setting in the Mini-i 4 ? This reminds me my measurements of the X-Sabre 3, where DPLL had a huge impact on Jitter figures.

Not a bad result given that these things can be addressed via firmware updates
This should have been done before the product has been released. For the WiiM Pro, I accepted the pending Roon Certification for some 179€ streamer. Not at four times the price.
 
Last edited:
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amirm

amirm

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respice finem

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Matrix Audio mini-i 4 streamer, balanced DAC and preamplifier. It was sent to me by Shenzehenaudio and costs US $649.
View attachment 324545
I am neutral on the look of the unit. The only button for power is on top. The front panel is touch sensitive in different areas. It is not discoverable as the up and down indicators for volume and input flanking the display go off after you use them. Likewise, to go into settings, you have to swipe left and right on the main display -- something I had to look up to find out. Fortunately touch sensitivity is very good and the processor behind it and the display is quite responsive. Older streamers from Matrix were not so situated.

Back panel shows clear differentiation:
View attachment 324546
Notice the inclusion of HDMI ARC and RCA for analog input. This completely eliminated the need for a pre-amp for just about audiophile.

I was sad to find out that the remote was optional and not included. I downloaded the Matrix control app. It however was not able to discover the unit by itself. I had to manually configure it using a QR code that it shows under the settings. Upon doing so, the app noted that there was an update. I told it to download and while it started, it just hung with its hour glass showing forever. So I resorted to using the front panel to do the upgrade. That went OK except for it getting stuck for a long time in one point, making me think it is hung. Fortunately I waited a while longer and it eventually finished.

Matrix mini-i 4 DAC Measurements
Let's start with USB input and XLR output with level adjusted one notch to get closer to nominal 4 volts:
View attachment 324547
Distortion is very low at less than 130 dB, landing the unit squarely in our "Excellent" category (red) and inline with other Matrix products (pink):
View attachment 324548

View attachment 324549

Performance naturally drops a bit with RCA:
View attachment 324550

I wanted to test the streaming functionality using Roon. Alas, Roon complained that the implementation was not certified and it would not let me use it. :( I also don't have HDMI ARC test source so couldn't test that as well. Previous Matrix streamers have had similar performance with network vs USB so I am not too worried about that.

I expected noise to be the limiting factor for SINAD but for reasons I can't explain, that performance is much better:
View attachment 324551

Multitone test shows the very low distortion again:
View attachment 324552

Combination of noise and distortion in IMD is excellent:
View attachment 324553

Here is the reference 50 Hz distortion test for comparison to reviews elsewhere:
View attachment 324554

I did run into a bug with linearity test though:
View attachment 324555
When the test starts -120 dB, there is huge deviation which is likely due to the unit muting. I discovered a second bug when I ran the filter tests:
View attachment 324556

The unit ships with "Minimum Phase" as the default. That response was surprisingly slow (in red). But after I went through all the filters, it showed the more correct response (in dark blue #9). I have seen this once or twice in other DACs. It seems the DAC filter is not setup correctly. At any rate, I like fast linear filter better anyway so set it to that:
View attachment 324557

Using that filter, wideband THD+N vs frequency response is quite good:

View attachment 324558

While not an audible concern, I expect better from Matrix engineering than what I saw in the Jitter test:
View attachment 324559

These could be interference patterns from onboard streaming processor.

Matrix Mini-i 4 Analog Preamplifier Measurements
It is super useful to be able to route the output of a turntable or Reel to Reel deck through the streamer so let's see how that does with RCA in and out:
View attachment 324560
Distortion is kind high resulting in unexciting SINAD of 89 dB. This is inline with the last streamer I tested from Matrix although the approach is different due to use of an ADC (see below). Using XLR balanced out gives similar performance:
View attachment 324561
You do get nice format conversion though with output being a proper 4 volts now.

As noted, the implementation here is with digitization of input signal:
View attachment 324562
Fortunately sample rate is quite high so not a worry.

Noise performance is better than distortion:
View attachment 324563

At nearly 17 bits, it is certainly a lot cleaner than any analog source you through at it.

Finally, here is a comparison of IMD distortion relative to Matrix Element X2 streamer:
View attachment 324564

The X2 has lower noise but somewhat higher distortion.

Conclusions
The measured performance is in excellent category which is nice for a streamer at this price. Alas, there seems to be a few bugs that need to be resolved. On functionality front, the feature set is excellent with inclusion of HDMI ARC and analog input -- something I wished more DACs would support.

Prices for Matrix products have really climbed since their inception so it is very good to see products in this price range.

Personally I wouldn't buy the mini-i 4 due to lack of certified Roon support and bugs observed. Your situation may vary.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
This will sell as hell - analog input (many still have turntables) and HDMI ARC will also be a selling point.
The downside is the touch thing without showing the controls. It should be like with my Logitech keyboard: when my hand nears, the light comes on.
Or maybe it's even the case, only the firmware is "too early"? Or (conspiracy theory LOL) it is to force the customer to buy the optional remote?
 

VintageFlanker

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It does but I don't expect it to have a difference on that sort of thing.
Well, with my experience with Matrix (or some other DACs where this setting exists), I think it might. ;)
Another example with the Topping E70:
Sure, it's not that big of a deal, but if ever you still have the product, and a few minutes to waste...
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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I don't think there is actually... this is using ES9039Q2M, however there is no note in either manual about DPLL user settings;
I am pretty sure I saw it in the menu.
 

Koeitje

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It's good, but I'm afraid a dac now needs to stand out and be flawless in order to be even close to appealing.
No, they are all good enough in terms of D/A conversion. So they need to stand out in terms of feature set.
 

daniboun

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Not so bad. There is also The mini-i Pro 4 which adds a fully balanced headphone amp along with a 6.35mm single-ended output and 4.4mm balanced output up front as well as a dual-band Wi-Fi connection @ $959. Both are based on the ES9039Q2M chip.
 

morillon

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I am pretty sure I saw it in the menu.
could you recall the exact conditions, here with a streamer, of this jitter measurement? ...
the major interest seems to me to be in its streamer function..not on num input (in fact the variable dlpp aspect becomes sensitive in this case)....
thank you
 
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