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Matrix Element X2 Streamer Review

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  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 15 5.5%
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    Votes: 81 29.6%
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amirm

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This is a review, listening tests and detailed measurements of the Matrix Audio X2 streamer, DAC, preamplifier and headphone amp. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $4,399.
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier Headphone Amplifier Review.jpg

Compared to our typical desktop audio products, the X2 is a clear step above both in construction, material and rich display. The display is touch although don't expect it to be as sensitive or fast as your phone. Swipe to the left to open the menus and select your options. Or, you can use the metal, custom remote control that comes with the unit:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier Headphone Amplifier back panal remote b...jpg


What caught my eye was support for HDMI ARC so you can integrate the X2 with your TV through its ARC output. The second interesting add-on is analog Aux input. Beyond that, we have niceties such as dual Coax and Toslink inputs. And trigger support. These features make the X2 quite unique as far as this class of product is concerned. While I did not play with it, there is an app to use for local streaming. Instead, I used it as a Roon player endpoint to "push" my streams to it which worked great.

During testing I ran into one bug: the filter settings for the DAC did not have any effect on USB input but worked with Toslink. I contacted the company and they gave me a fix the next day. Without it, the filter is stuck in slow roll off mode. Hopefully they will release this to general public soon.

Matrix Element X2 DAC Measurements
Using both USB and Toslink inputs, I ran through our gamut of DAC tests. Let's start with our dashboard:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier USB Measurements.png

While SINAD of 118 dB is certainly excellent, it is a slight degradation relative to last general Element X:
Best streamer review.png


Best streamer zoom review.png


Fortunately still "provably" transparent so no impact to sonic abilities. RCA output is almost the same as XLR above:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier Toslink Measurements.png


Performance naturally remains the same with streaming:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier Streaming Measurements.png


Noise performance likewise is a hair below the last generation:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer Stereo DAC Preamplifier Toslink Dynamic Range  Measurements.png


Multitone distortion is superbly low:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier USB Multitone Measurements.png


We see a slight hint of increased distortion in one channel of DAC:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer Balanced Stereo DAC Preamplifier Toslink IMD Measurements.png


I have a new test where I show the distortion level at various levels by adjusting the volume control (instead of input digital levels in the past):
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier SINAD vs Volume Position Measurements.png


Linearity is excellent as we would expect:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer Balanced Stereo DAC Preamplifier Toslink Linearity Measurements.png


I was surprised to find some signs of jitter but fortunately, not an audible issue:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier USB Jitter Measurements.png


The usual set of DAC reconstruction filters are provided:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier Filter Measurements.png

I was puzzled by rather high level of attenuation. I have let the company know and they are investigating. This impacts wideband THD+N measurements as it doesn't get rid of the extra "images" of the fundamental tone as well as it should be:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier THD+N vs frequency Measurements.png


If done right, you would get the green line which is excellent.

Back to filters, here are the frequency responses for each:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer RCA Stereo DAC Preamplifier Filter Frequency Response Measurements.png

I found a couple of issues here. One, which you all should check for me :), was the fact that I expected the ripples in Apodizing filter instead of Fast Linear (teal color). Second is a usability nit: hitting the filter button on the remote causes the selected one to be before the current one. So if you are on filter 4 and hit the button, you go to filter 3. Everyone else just cycles forward to #5.

Matrix Element X2 Pre-amplifier Measurements
I ran a subset of pre-amplifier measurements starting with the dashboard (RCA In/XLR Out):
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier Measurements.png


I was disappointed by high distortion levels which bring SINAD down to just 87 dB. Hopefully your analog sources are much worse than this so the impact won't be that significant. Alternatively, distortion goes down if the input level is lower:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier IMD Measurements.png


Frequency response was wide indicating no digitization of input which is nice:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier Frequency Response Measurements.png


Finally, SNR is good but I expect better from Matrix:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Preamplifier SNR Measurements.png


Matrix Element X2 Headphone Amplifier Measurements
I used USB input to give the best chance for the headphone amplifier to perform. Here is our response to 300 and 32 ohm loads:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Headphone Out 300 ohm Measurements.png

Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Headphone Out 32 ohm Measurements.png


The message is that you have tons and tons of power and excellent response as power increases. So the company statement that there is no "difficult headphone" for it to drive, is true.

I was however surprised to see non-zero output impedance in today's products:
Matrix Element X2 Streamer XLR Stereo DAC Headphone Out vs impedance Measurements.png


Matrix Element X2 Listening Tests
I used the Roon player on my desktop workstation to stream my reference tracks to the X2. I listened using my Dan Clark Stealth headphones initially. Even using unbalanced output I was getting good response but performance went to another level using balanced output. There was incredible dynamics and fidelity to die for. Track after track sounded superb. I then switched to the more common Sennheiser HD650 headphone and boy, was that a delight as well. I always forget how good these headphones sound when driven hard. :) And this is without any EQ! Just great with tons and tons of headroom available. I had the volume level around 65 for loud listening leaving plenty of room to go even higher.

Conclusions
The second generation Element streaming model from Matrix substantially increases the level of functionality with such critical inputs as HDMI ARC and analog. It now has a super powerful headphone amplifier allowing it to squeeze ever bit of performance out of any headphone no matter how inefficient. It does give up a bit of performance here and there but none got in the way of it producing a superb listening experience. It has a very nice display allowing it to be the center of your audio system.

I am happy to recommend the Matrix Audio Element X2.

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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/
 
Thanks for the review.
I know that Matrix products were always more expensive, but this is too much. Especially with that poor rca in performance. Better to not include it if they knew it was gonna be tested. The main selling point of these devices is SINAD performance.
The industrial design is still not high end.
HDMI was not tested, right?
 
I know that Matrix products were always more expensive, but this is too much.
Price has definitely taken a big jump. Product is being sold in the luxury/retail channel so perhaps there is more allowance for that.
 
The inclusion of HDMI ARC is surely helpful. Pricey though... but very functional. Good to see this tested @amirm.

1122ele.ins.jpg


Analog in is a nice inclusion, sure could be better, but then not many analog sources left in many setups;
... devices with analog outputs can be connected to your modern digital audio system by element X2. There are high, medium and low input gain options available to adapt to the different output levels of the front-end device.
Aux Input
SNR: 106dB A-weighting
THD+N: <0.0025%@1k,<0.0030%@20Hz-20kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz±0.07 -3dB@43kHz
Channel Crosstalk: >-102dB
Input Level: 2.1VRMS Maximum


JSmith
 
Kind of disappointing, regardless of price. And the price does not help...
 
At this price I'm looking for better filters. Anybody can design a DACs with low SINAD but not many can have filters that are state of the art and at this price I am looking for that as well. Fine product but not great.
 
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How is it disappointing other than the price? About which I agree it is over-priced.
There are many good things in there like low distortion, good volume control, lots of clean power for the headphone amp, streaming, and ARC.

But a shame some bad things passed under their radar like preamp performance, jitter bands, filter ripples and output impedance of the headphone amp.

If this was sub 1k USD it would be acceptable, but for over 4k....
 
Not bad but slightly disappointing measurements of the preamplifier section, especially for the price of $4399. One could have better separates (streamer + DAC + preamplifier) for the half price.
 
At this price, I would expect a Quality Control standard that would have identified the bug and performance ambiguities that @amirm found just by standard testing. For the price that is 4 times the comparable market premium of other like products, how is this retail price justifiable? Reputation, product support or real cost consideration?
 
I’m a bit old fashioned.

What does the streamer do, that my Apple TV with HDMI output doesn’t do?
 
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