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Matrix Audio X-SABRE Pro MQA: Best Audio DAC in the World?

amirm

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I reviewed the Matrix Element X streamer and DAC a few months ago which achieved the highest measured performance of any DAC I have yet measured. Will the X-Sabre Pro MQA match or possibly beat it? I am here to answer that question. Company was kind enough to send me a unit for testing. It is not cheap at US $1,999.

If there was a measure of weight per square inch in audio products, the X-Sabre Pro certainly is the champion of it. Despite being rather small, the thing weighs a ton, making it almost impossible to pick up with one hand! The industrial design as with Element X is excellent, being modern but have a bit of "retro" look to it with the circular display:

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Audio review.jpg

A set of touch controls flank the unit allowing instant selection of inputs and volume levels.

Unit configuration is a bit obscure though. You have to hold the power button down where it counts with one, two and three dashes and shuts down. Continue holding the button and you will be greeted with configuration menu. Volume + and - then control the option and the power button is your select button. I did not mess with much in there other than selecting the different audio filters, upon which the unit will power cycle. It does this quickly but does cause the player to complain that it has lost connection with the unit.

There is a remote control but gives no filter setting controls. Wish they would add a button to it for that purpose for people who want to mess with it (not me). Or at least a setup button to get you into that mode rather than the long press on the power button.

For my testing, I focused on USB input as I always do. And unless noted, the main output I tested was XLR balanced output.

DAC Audio Measurements
OK, here is the moment of truth: the Element X garnered a SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) of 120 dB, pushing the limits of my Audio Precision APx555 analyzer. Let's see how X-Sabre Pro MQA does:

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Audio measurements.png


That's right! The previous record is shattered. With the output level reduced to 4 volt with -1 dBFS of input, we reach 121 dB. If you let it be at full level of nearly 4.4 volts, you lose 1 dB so still superb. Here is the official ranking graph:
Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC SINAD Audio measurements.png


Note that distortion products are at -126 dB or so. This means that the SINAD is actually more determined by noise level which includes my analyzer noise. In reality then, performance is even better than 121 dB! Wow!

Now we have to hold our breath through the rest of the measurements to see if anything else is a let down. How about linearity?

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Linearity Audio measurements.png


Nailed! Perfectly flat despite noise that impacts both the analyzer and DAC in this measurement. And it does this for both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA output.

Jitter test shows incredibly low noise floor which naturally reveals a few spikes here and there but they are utterly inconsequential:
Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Jitter Audio measurements.png



How about intermodulation distortion versus level? Could we see the dreaded "ESS IMD Hump?"
Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC IMD Audio measurements.png


Of course not. The Topping DX3 Pro is very tough to beat in this test yet, the Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro sails past it with significantly lower noise and intermodulation distortion.

Here is the intermodulation test with 32 tones instead of the two above:

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Multitone Audio measurements.png


We essentially clear the -120 dB mark meaning all distortions are below 20 bits (120 divided by 6).

Since some of you are in love with intermodulation tests of all sorts, here is the test of 19 and 20 kHz tones:

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC 19 + 20 khz IMD Audio measurements.png


For grins, I left in there the TotalDAC d1-six dac measurements in red. You rather have your soup with a bunch of flies in it or bug-free?

Signal to noise ratio is spectacular:

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Dynamic Range Audio measurements.png


It is actually 3 dB better than that of Element X.

THD+N versus frequency with a bandwidth of 90 kHz shows highly controlled distortion and ultrasonic junk:
Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC THD vs Frequency Audio measurements.png


Here is the response of the different reconstruction filters with #2 being the default:

Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA DAC Filter Response Audio measurements.png


I would probably go with filter 3.

Conclusions
The Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA is beautifully made, putting to shame many products in its price range. It oozes class and quality.

That beauty runs deep when it comes to performance as Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA unseats its own brother to take the crown of the best DAC I have ever measured. Considering that the list now includes nearly 160 DACs, this is an incredible achievement.

I met the team behind Matrix Audio at the last audio show and you have not seen a more soft-spoken, unassuming team of engineers than them. None of the ego that is so prevalent in high-end audio. The company is active here and on some other forums. And of course volunteers to have its products tested by us, rather than hiding in the bushes. So they score high on both product and customer service.

Needless to say, it is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA. We are here to find the best engineered audio products and the Matrix Audio Proves that it is among a handful of companies to produce such trophy class products one after the other. It put a huge smile on my face after testing it, one that will be hard to erase!

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

Driving around Portland Oregon, enjoying the incredible beauty Dahlia flowers at an amazing farm here (we come every year). Had to board the Panthers and so when I get home, have to pay the bill for that. So please donate generously using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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Impressive results! Did you understand how the clocking system is working? Matrix mentions something on their website but I don't really get it.
 
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#6
I ordered my X SABRE PRO MQA when you posted the review of the Matrix Element. The Element has features that I don’t need but I a saw this on their website and it fit my needs perfectly. This DAC has absolutely blown me away detail and resolution that has made me question audible thresholds. I had a Dragonfly Red that I thought was decent but lacking in some areas and this has been a revelation! Thanks for the review Amirm!
 
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#8
I ordered my X SABRE PRO MQA when you posted the review of the Matrix Element. The Element has features that I don’t need but I a saw this on their website and it fit my needs perfectly.
If you don't need MQA, there are some places still selling the non-MQA model - that's a few hundred bucks saved.
 
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#9
It sure is pretty.
 
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#15
If you don't need MQA, there are some places still selling the non-MQA model - that's a few hundred bucks saved.
I thought they discontinued that model. I don’t mind having MQA as it also comes with a better usb input chip. Some of the MQA stuff I’ve heard has been stunningly good! Some not so much...
 

amirm

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