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Matrix Audio X-SABRE 3 Measurements (DAC & Streamer)

Rja4000

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Intermodulation Distortion (swept tones)
imdswept.png

Left​
Right​
IMD + Noise at 5000 Hz,
0.00025​
0.00022​
IMD + Noise at 10000 Hz,
0.00024​
0.00020​
IMD + Noise at 15000 Hz,
0.00023​
0.00022​


That one confuses me.

Is that THD vs Frequency ?

Or, if that's IMD vs Frequency, what is the definition ?

What is the other Frequency (or frequencies) ?
At what level ratio ?
 

pseudoid

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What exactly is DC offset %? DC offset is measured in Volts (usually mV) right on the ouptut terminal of the device in question.
It is, indeed.;)
In these specific tests (DR and Noise), you just get the raw data straight from RMAA Pro. They describe it as such:
"DC offset – amount of direct current in the recorded audio signal (in per-
cents of maximal amplitude)."

Which is pointless if you ask me (not to mention it does not measure either voltage or current) : I've got 0.0% with just about any DUT so far.
Could this be an attempt at measuring (some form of induced) DC leakage currents between balanced line pairs?
May be some bias currents in some tube stage, possibly indicating a capacitor is getting old?
It may even cause overloading the front-end of measuring device (if present).
 

Spocko

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Matrix Audio X-SABRE 3 Measurements

View attachment 234969

Hi folks,

Here is another review, measurements-based, of the Matrix Audio X-SABRE 3 DAC and streamer. This unit has been kindly loaned to me by @Audiophonics for the purpose of this review. This is the third version since the original X-SABRE Pro, which has been initially released in 2017 and by the way, one of the very first ES9038 PRO implementations on the market. For the record, the second model was at the time one of the few DACs to hit 120dB SINAD in Amir's measurements, more than three years ago.

The X-SABRE 3 has been released in mid-2021 and now comes with streaming features... and a premium price. It costs 3039€, incl. VAT as of this writing. Yes, for those who are not familiar with Matrix Audio, their products are usually much more expensive than other Chinese brands we used to see. At such prices, the expectation bar is set high, not only for sound quality, but as a whole product: Design, build quality, or even packaging. For the latter, there is nothing to worry about: Matrix delivers. About objective performance, tho... let's find out !​


There is a lot to comment about aesthetics here. This is easily one of the prettiest piece of gear I had the chance to put my hands on. Both industrial design and finish quality are absolutely stunning. There is no plastic anywhere, everything is made of either thick machined aluminum or (tempered?) glass. As a result, the X-SABRE 3 is unusually heavy for its compact size. There is no physical button, as all controls on the front are tactile. Fortunately, they are very responsive. Unfortunately, this is, as expected, a real fingerprint magnet for both the front and top glass parts. For those buying this unit, you should also order microfiber cloths with it. Contrary to previous generations, the circular screen is not monochrome anymore. It seems to be IPS, and is very tiny, while the resolution is good enough to have a proper reading at reasonable distances. Should we expect OLED at this price, in this niche market? I don't know, but overall brightness, contrasts and viewing angle are all decent for an audio product.​

The back is what you expect: regular digital inputs with the addition of IIS/LVDS. Quality of all connectors is just fantastic. You see a LAN socket only, with no apparent antenna, but the X-SABRE 3 supports Wi-Fi just fine. Speaking of which, the streaming connectivity is only Roon Ready, DLNA, Tidal/Spotify Connect and Airplay 2 compatible. Yep, no MA Player. It seems that Matrix chose to reserve it exclusively for their element line.​


Measurements

Disclaimer: Measurements you are about to see are not intended to be as precise or extensive than what you get from a 30k€ AP. There is obviously both hardware and software limitations here, so not quite apples to apples comparison with Amir's testing. Still, this data is enough to have a pretty good idea if the gear is bad or not, stellar, broken, or sub-par...

- ADC : E1DA Cosmos (Grade B). Minimum phase filter. Cosmos APU as preamp for lowest levels (no Notch Filter). Output voltage is measured separately, using a DMM with a 0dBFS 1kHz tone.
- Software : RMAA 6.4.5 PRO, Multitone Loopback Analyzer 1.0.49 and REW V5.20.7.
- Method : 8 runs for each test, then I choose the closest to the average. All regular tests are running 24bits / 44.1Khz, except for Jitter and Multitone ones.
- Matrix X-SABRE 3: First batch of tests is done at 4.2V output through XLR, for fair comparison against previous products tested. Next tests are caught at fixed output (5.1V). Settings: DPLL: Low. Default filter. USB input unless specified otherwise.​


Test
Results 4.2V (volume: -1.5dB)
Results 5.1V (fixed output)
Rating
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB
+0.05, -0.02​
+0.05, -0.02​
Excellent
Noise level, dB(A)
-124.9​
-125.1​
Stellar
Dynamic range, dB(A)
124.5​
124.5​
Stellar
THD, % (RMAA)
0.00013​
0.00013​
Excellent
THD + Noise, dB (REW)
-117.0
-119.0
Stellar
IMD + Noise, %
0.00032​
0.00031​
Stellar
Stereo crosstalk, dB
-122.9​
-122.5​
Stellar
IMD at 10 kHz, %
0.00023​
0.00020​
Stellar


At fixed volume, we now got this figure :

Note that the output voltage measured at 1kHz is a bit higher than manufacturer's specs, since it supposed to be 4.8V maximum. Back to my "standard" 4.2V setting, let see the group of tests in RMAA:

Frequency Response

Left​
Right​
From 20 Hz to 20 kHz, dB​
-0.57, +0.05​
-0.55, +0.07​
From 40 Hz to 15 kHz, dB​
-0.02, +0.05​
-0.01, +0.07​

Noise Level

Left​
Right​
RMS power, dB
-122.8​
-123.6​
RMS power (A-weighted), dB
-124.4​
-125.3​
Peak level, dB FS
-87.1​
-87.1​
DC offset, %
-0.0​
-0.0​

Dynamic Range

Left​
Right​
Dynamic range, dB
+123.0​
+124.0​
Dynamic range (A-weighted), dB
+124.1​
+124.9​
DC offset, %
-0.00​
+0.00​

THD + Noise (at -3 dB FS)View attachment 235241

Left​
Right​
THD, %
0.00013​
0.00013​
THD + Noise, %
0.00023​
0.00021​
THD + Noise (A-weighted), %
0.00022​
0.00019​

Intermodulation DistortionView attachment 235242

Left​
Right​
IMD + Noise, %
0.00033​
0.00031​
IMD + Noise (A-weighted), %
0.00021​
0.00019​

Intermodulation Distortion (swept tones)View attachment 235244

Left​
Right​
IMD + Noise at 5000 Hz,
0.00025​
0.00022​
IMD + Noise at 10000 Hz,
0.00024​
0.00020​
IMD + Noise at 15000 Hz,
0.00023​
0.00022​

Stereo Crosstalk

Left​
Right​
Crosstalk at 100 Hz, dB
-126​
-123​
Crosstalk at 1000 Hz, dB
-123​
-121​
Crosstalk at 10000 Hz, dB
-105​
-104​

These are overall top-of-the-class results. My measurements, while being not 100 % optimal, are yet very close to manufacturer's specs (0.00010% THD+N versus 0.00011% measured). The only one flaw that I could point to is the left channel being not as clean as the other. The "issue" here, if I may call it that way, could be related to the USB input only. None of the others (coax, toslink or streaming) inputs appreared to behave that way. I could also mention its harmonic profile, that seems to acting kind of weird (aliazing?), not that anyone should care when highest harmonic is below -130dB.

Now, switching to unbalanced outputs...​

XLR versus RCA
Test
XLR 5.1Vrms
RCA 2.5Vrms
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB​
+0.05, -0.02​
+0.03, -0.02​
Noise level, dB(A)​
-125.1​
-124.8​
Dynamic range, dB(A)​
124.5​
124.3​
THD, % (RMAA)​
0.00013​
0.00015​
THD + Noise, dB (REW)​
-119.0​
-117.2​
IMD + Noise, %​
0.00031​
0.00034​
Stereo crosstalk, dB​
-122.3​
-117.5​


This is fairly good consistency between XLR and RCA. Looking at the FFT above, you can see that the LF spikes are still there, but surprisingly the noise floor did not rise quite significantly as I usually measure with some DACs. At fixed output, max voltage is about 2.54Vrms with single ended.​


S/PDIF
View attachment 235650

USB versus Coaxial versus Optical
Test
USB
Coaxial
Optical
Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB​
+0.05, -0.02​
+0.05, -0.03​
+0.05, -0.03​
Noise level, dB(A)​
-125.1​
-124.8​
-124.9​
Dynamic range, dB(A)​
124.5​
124.4​
124.5​
THD, % (RMAA)​
0.00013​
0.00013​
0.00013​
THD + Noise, dB (REW)
-119.0
-118.1
-119.3
IMD + Noise, %​
0.00031​
0.00034​
0.00034​
Stereo crosstalk, dB​
-122.3​
-122.2​
-122.3​

Extremely consistent results between inputs, as I like to see. There is no typo: optical steal the crown of performance when it comes to raw SINAD, now pushed up to 119.3dB ! One of the reasons for it is that the 50Hz/180Hz hums are now gone when using toslink. The initial "issue" would eventually be related to some kind of ground loop, if we were not talking about balanced signal... My guess here is simply that the USB input itself is noisier than others at low frequencies.​


Preamp
View attachment 234975

THD+N versus level
Volume
THD+N
Output
0dB​
-119.0dB​
5.12Vrms​
-1.5dB​
-117.0dB​
4.23Vrms​
-4dB​
-116.4dB​
3.22Vrms​
-9dB​
-113.6dB​
1.82Vrms​
-15dB​
-108.1dB​
0.91Vrms​
-21dB​
-102.4dB​
0.45Vrms​
-30dB​
-92.7dB​
0.16Vrms​
-60dB​
-70.9dB​
≈0.0Vrms​

"Preamp" could be a touch misleading, as there are neither analog inputs, nor a dedicated preamp board to my knowledge. I assume that we are still dealing with common digital attenuation we see most often. Sure, with 5V on tap, the X-SABRE 3 should drive most power amps just fine. As for the control itself, I am also glad to see volume acceleration implemented, that is clearly lacking in my Mini-i Pro 3.

I had to use the Cosmos APU Preamp to compensate for -30 and -60dB, both signals being way too low for the minimum input sensitivity of the Cosmos ADC. Here is the lowest I could measure, at -60dB volume :​


Worst case scenario is -81dB second harmonic, which should not be any concern when listening to such low volumes.​
So far, all these measurements have been done through classic wired inputs. But I assume that some of you would eventually want to know how this so-called streamer could perform... when streaming. I just needed at first to either get or create a 24b/44kHz file containing a 0dBFS 1Khz Sine wave. The plan was simple: playing in Roon player, to the Roon Ready input, straight from Wi-Fi. Thanks to @amirm, who advised me to use the very simple tone/file generator provided by Audio Precision, I managed to get this result:
WOW. Literally no drop in performance when using Roon Ready wireless input ! It even looks cleaner than USB at some points (no LF hums). When looking closer, in fairness, we lose about 1dB in amplitude at the main 1kHz tone. Please also note that the tone is seen here as 997.00Hz, as opposite to the 999.95Hz when using the REW tone generator.​


Filters

Frequency Response
View attachment 235245

Well, this is something not very common. Usually, I can capture significant variations in frequency responses depending on the filters. By "significant", I would mean at least 1 to 1.5dB differences at 20kHz, even under 44.1kHz testing. Not here. If you cannot read the different lines considering how close these are each others, I noticed that both Slow filters get rid of the "0.05dB bump" others have around 15kHz.

Jitter
(48Khz, 1-24Khz bandwidth, 16 averages, 262K FFT)

USBView attachment 235232

CoaxialView attachment 235233

OpticalView attachment 235234

For some reason, the X-SABRE 3 has a setting called "Jitter Eliminator". I'm not sure why this feature even exists, and why anyone would like to turn it "on" or "off". Sorry, but it sounds like "I want my DAC to perform properly: On" to me. Anyway, I could not measure any difference with or without this setting active, so at the end it did not matter that much... What did, however, is another setting called "DPLL: High/Medium/Low". Before you ask, none of them had any influence on the other graphs published above. But they did quite significantly on the S/PDIF Jitter. While Low and Medium performed equally (as great as previous J-tests), DPLL: High, however, ruined my plots. During the captures, none of graphs showed the same shape :

View attachment 235235

I would recommend to stick with DPLL: Low setting.​


Multitone 64
(192Khz, 20Hz-22Khz bandwidth, 10 averages, 262K FFT)

XLRView attachment 235236

RCAView attachment 235237

Unsurprisingly, we just get cohesive performance with all other measurements. Spotless results for both BAL and SE, as you would expect.


Conclusions

Just a reminder: I try to do not consider prices when I evaluate objective performance. A good performer is still a good performer, whatever its cost. Well, it better be the case in this situation, because performance/price ratio is clearly not the major advantage of the Matrix X-SABRE 3, by 2022's standards. Nonetheless, I care about prices when I consider a piece of gear as an entire product. That way, I prefer to look at the X-SABRE 3 for what it is, an industrial piece of art. I am sure some are ready to pay (a lot) more for such irrational considerations, and if this exact same product was made by a well-known and established western company, I would not be surprised to see it coming at a real high-end price tag.

As a bonus, it works flawlessly with responsive controls, it performs greatly on the bench and as such, obviously sounds excellent. It has been very close to get my State Of The Art rating, if it wasn't for this (clearly inaudible) left channel noise, but it falls short of technical perfection. It still has my entire recommendation. Go buy it, at least to satisfy your obsession of cleaning your unit three times a week (trust me, you will).

Flanker rating: Almost perfect
At this price premium, I'm very much focused on I/O flexibility and the UI/app streaming functionality because my wooden ears cannot hear the engineering excellence being offered here. Although a little more, I think it competes directly with the HiFi Rose RS150 which has significantly more I/O options plus a well designed app and huge/attractive display. For a little less, I'd buy the little brother Matrix M2 because of the HDMI ARC, larger display and volume knob.
 

Vacceo

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The RGB lights give extra transparency. ;)

Review data and information aside, I cannot help but love the quality of the photos.
 

pseudoid

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The RGB lights give extra transparency...
I prefer to treat my audio equipment as hidden hardware, which (imho) increases their 'transparency'.
If I can figure out a way to watch our television while the lift-TV is still in the hidden mode (behind the hidden audio hardware), I will know I've reached Feng-shui of audio/video nirvana!;)
 

Vacceo

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I prefer to treat my audio equipment as hidden hardware, which (imho) increases their 'transparency'.
If I can figure out a way to watch our television while the lift-TV is still in the hidden mode (behind the hidden audio hardware), I will know I've reached Feng-shui of audio/video nirvana!;)
It's a common pc user joke: RGB lights gives you a bump on frequency...
 

pseudoid

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It's a common pc user joke: RGB lights gives you a bump on frequency...
I bought a white Corsair K70 RGB (keyboard) for the missus' all white desktop rig last month; haven't seen a bump yet! How long does it take?
 
Last edited:

Vacceo

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I bought a white Corsair K70 RGB (keyboard) for the missus' all white desktop rig last month; haven't seen a bump yet! How long does it take?
Only when you're not measuring the FPS on screen, of course! ;)
 
OP
VintageFlanker

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That one confuses me.

Is that THD vs Frequency ?

Or, if that's IMD vs Frequency, what is the definition ?

What is the other Frequency (or frequencies) ?
According to Maxim from RMAA, it's "two sines with 1 kHz difference sweeping over the spectrum".

At what level ratio ?
-3dBFS.

I put the WAV test file attached:
 

Attachments

  • Test signal (44 kHz 24-bit).zip
    735.8 KB · Views: 21

Rja4000

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I had a look at the wav file.
I can't do anything with it.
Just figured out it seems to start with a level-setting tone, than a sweep, indeed, were both signals seems to be at the same level.
The level is low, though, so I wonder how usefull or relevant this can be...
 

Offler

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Slightly off topic, but...

The photos of the DAC are really nice. I never did product photography, but this could pass at pro level without any trouble.
 
OP
VintageFlanker

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The photos of the DAC are really nice. I never did product photography, but this could pass at pro level without any trouble.
Thanks. Neither camera (Google Pixel 5) or light (Philips Hue) fit my exigences. Maybe I will somehow improve the quality of pics with my new Pixel 7... But it remains nothing but a smartphone. :confused:
 

enricoclaudio

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New Firmware update for the X-SABRE 3 that enables MA Remote app was released. I just updated mine, and I was able to add my X-SABRE 3 to the MA Remote app successfully :)

IMG_5966.PNG


IMG_5965.PNG


IMG_5964.PNG
 

Docmoggy

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I'm really glad a full review of this product has finally been made and phew! I bought one on the assumption that it would hold my expectations of at least being excellent in SINAD. However, it appears to be top draw in every department, but sadly I am going back to PCM/USB and the latest offerings are much cheaper and have matching performance. It is sadly going to be sold, but I've really enjoyed it. The visual display is small. It gets pretty hot on a hot day. For some reason my TV remote control switches it on when I adjust its volume and the remote that came with the unit eats batteries and is pretty ineffective further then 2m. Having said that, the MA XS3 blasted much more (exponentially) expensive DACS out of the water. I did chose to use a Topping Pre90 in combination with it running through AHB2s. The staging can be shocking especially with Apple hi-Res Lossless. Quite a few of the latest DAC releases offer MQA this and that, but for me just totally clean sonic reproduction is enough. What more do people want?
 
OP
VintageFlanker

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New Firmware update for the X-SABRE 3 that enables MA Remote app was released. I just updated mine, and I was able to add my X-SABRE 3 to the MA Remote app successfully :)
Interesting. Does that finally turn the X-SABRE 3 into a fully standalone streamer?

Could this also been done with the Mini-i Pro 3, @MatrixAudio ?
 

enricoclaudio

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Interesting. Does that finally turn the X-SABRE 3 into a fully standalone streamer?

Could this also been done with the Mini-i Pro 3, @MatrixAudio ?
Yes, that is correct. Now you can surf your own DLNA library stored in your NAS and stream from the MA Remote app directly or enabling TIDAL and Qubuz in the MA Remote app. You can also adjust the X-SABRE 3 settings directly from the MA Remote app.
 
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