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Review and Measurements of Matrix Audio Element X DAC/Streamer/Amp

gvl

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So smooth, so musical and natural, it is again unbelievable that this is not a NOS (non-over-sampling) R2R design.
NOS R2R is a high bar, indeed. And he almost invoked the "wife argument", but I suppose she wasn't very impressed as he didn't.
 

Zog

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NOS R2R is a high bar, indeed. And he almost invoked the "wife argument", but I suppose she wasn't very impressed as he didn't.
So he's damned if he does (invoke the wife argument) and damned (with an inference) if he doesn't.
 
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Music1969

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Hi @MatrixAudio

Does Element M have the “ESS Sabre hump” ?

Also, the website states Element M is mid-range model in Element series - which product is the entry/budget model in Element series?
 

MatrixAudio

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Hi @MatrixAudio

Does Element M have the “ESS Sabre hump” ?

Also, the website states Element M is mid-range model in Element series - which product is the entry/budget model in Element series?
Hi, the entry model will release soon, at end of July, or early August. Please stay tuned.
 

Veri

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Sorry Music1969, I'm not very understand IMD and 'ESS Sabre Hump', can you explain it to me?
This phenomenom: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...n-distortion-hump-on-topping-and-others.3813/

It is next to invisible on your excellent Element X. But seems to be a 'bug' in certain ESS Sabre set-ups. ESS is suposedly looking into the problem.
Topping D50s 'fixed' the problem that was in Topping D50 with ES9038Q2M. So far no certainty what needs to be implemented to have no IMD problems. I think @Music1969 is wondering about IMD performance on your Element M with ES9028Pro.
 

MatrixAudio

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This phenomenom: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...n-distortion-hump-on-topping-and-others.3813/

It is next to invisible on your excellent Element X. But seems to be a 'bug' in certain ESS Sabre set-ups. ESS is suposedly looking into the problem.
Topping D50s 'fixed' the problem that was in Topping D50 with ES9038Q2M. So far no certainty what needs to be implemented to have no IMD problems. I think @Music1969 is wondering about IMD performance on your Element M with ES9028Pro.
I dont believe ES9038Q2M can compare with ES9038PRO, that's not a fair comparing.
If possible, i will ask our engineer run an IMD measurement of element X and M. I will post the measurement result by then.
 

Veri

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I dont believe ES9038Q2M can compare with ES9038PRO, that's not a fair comparing.
If possible, i will ask our engineer run an IMD measurement of element X and M. I will post the measurement result by then.
The problem can also exist in 'Pro' chip. It depends on quality of implementation :) :) maybe no issues for matrix lol
But it is a mystery, what exactly needs to be done to get the best IMD readings.

Thanks for looking into it and your feedback @MatrixAudio :D!!!
 
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I would love to see which DACs except for the Okto8 Stereo could match these results. I think maybe a Chord Hugo TT 2 could be up there, but for twice the price of the Matrix Element X. But sadly we will never see that happening I guess.
 
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So does anyone know what the MAX PCM and DSD you can get out of this via Ethernet and roon? The spec give numbers for the digital inputs but not for Ethernet, I assume the max values should be able to be attained via Ethernet. Also DSD, native or DoP via ethernet?
I just got my Element X a few days ago. Although the latest firmware supports RoonReady it's not Certified and I don't expect it to be with out another firmware update.

RoonReady only supports up to 352KHZ/24bit/PCM vs 768khz/32bit/PCM over USB and it only supports DSD128 vs DSD512 over USB. MQA support is the same via Rood Ready and USB at up to 352KHZ/24/MQA.
*Problem: When playing successive MQA files through RoonReady the DAC emits 2 loud (depending on volume level I suspect) disconcerting transient thumps followed by digital chirps of varying lengths that they should address in a future firmware update as it may be bad for your speakers and at the very least is annoying. This doesn't affect USB.

Regarding USB playback Roon is able to upsample any PCM to 768khz/32bit upsampling and the DAC handles that perfectly. Make sure your Roon Core is at least an Intel i7 quad-core Kabylake or newer processor or you may face playback performance issues at very high upsampling rates.

If you have DSP/EQ on in Roon, have MQA in Roon configured to do the decoding, and have Roon configure your DAC as both MQA Decoder/Renderer then it won't upsample, rather it will do the initial MQA unfold, preserve the MQA signaling data, apply the DSP/EQ and then pass the signal with up to 352KHZ (if available) final unfold signal data restored at the DAC-end so it can be rendered.

Theres no way to pass the signal to your DAC for full MQA decoding using Roon if you have DSP/EQ on in Roon regardless if you turn Roon's decoder off and indicate to Roon that the DAC is able to handle Decoder/Rendering. You must turn off DSP/EQ for it to pass the unadulterated MQA to your DAC for decoding and rendering.

*Problem 2: I don't care about MQA just for the record, but here's the chink in the armor in Roon or the Element X's firmware. Playing MQA files whether 44/88/96/192/352KHZ originating from Tidal or on a HDD/SSD in your library, makes no difference, Roon will invariably suffer playback problems and glitches forcing you to reboot your Element X and restart Roon to play another file. As to blaming one over the other, who knows. So for me, having a MQA file coming from Tidal in my playlists causes the DAC and Roon to hang and your are forced to restart/reboot ad nauseum.
Sometimes the track will play some or all of the file before MQA borks both Roon and the Element X and other times it's the next track and future tracks that won't play whether or not it's Flac or MQA.

Work around: Tell Roon that your DAC is not a MQA decoder or renderer and turn on Roon MQA Decoder. Room will pricess the first unfold, but no upsampling beyond that unfold/decoding. At least you won't have to restart Roon or reboot the Element X.

Problem 3: Roon and Native DSD support is inconsistent and don't even attempt DSD256 or higher over USB (RoonReady limited to DSD128) because unless you have a server or gaming rig for Roon Coreserver it will choke and not play for more than a few seconds. By inconsistent I mean at times DSD files will Natively decide to decode in the Element X and at others it will register as a 44.1khz file on the Matrix DAC. Weird, I know.

Problem 4: MA Player will not accept my network share regardless that it's inputted correctly and verified working on both my phone through ESS file explorer or another computer. It simply displays a message in Chinese, presumably an error code, and refuses to enable the share.
UPDATE 7/31: Latested firmware up supports SMBv2.0 for windows shares. They also added support for Tidal which works great and looks good in the MA Player App. When playing MQA files from Tidal's Master tab they decode properly to 352khz, but the MQA indicator doesn't come on, but it appears to be functioning fine for the most point sans an indicator.

The firmware is buggy, but you already know this by now since I've elucidated on several other issues as well and hey maybe it's all Roon's fault, but I can't access my library over a network to a Roon core sitting close enough to the DAC where it would be more prudent to test MA Player out using the USB hard drive that's connected to Roon currently vs attempting to establish a simple network connection with good share credentials that it refuses to work with.

IMPORTANT: MAKE SURE YOU SWITCH THE UNIT TO 115V BECAUSE IT COMES FROM CHINA AT 240V. The switch is inconveniently located on the bottom with no notes or warning explaining this on the unit. Sure it will quasi power up with 115v feeding it in 240v mode, but you'll attempt to plug in a network cable or configure wifi and it won't work and it will drive you nuts swapping ethernet cables, switches, and trying to diagnose what will end up being a simple switch on the bottom unbeknownst to you is in the wrong position.

I would ask Matrix to please set the unit for the origin country or at least put a sticker on the unit indicating that unit comes set to 220v, but considering I've submitted 2 unanswered support requests that, I'm not sure they'll listen to that advice.

Problem 4: Switching between the Element X's inputs causes minor thump/chirp sounds. It's more annoying than anything. Hopefully it won't damage anything, I'm not an expert.

UPDATE 7/31: I am in communication with Matrix through a Facebook post which has been very responsive towards the minor issues with the Element X. The latest firmware added SMBv2.0 window share support and support for Tidal natively. They are doing a great job being responsive and getting the bugs worked out and the features added. Good job Matrix!

Subjective Review of Sound Quality:
I own a used Ayon Audio Stealth Tube DAC with somewhat respectable advertised measurements at least as far as any tube dac can measure. It's a fantastic sounding piece costing a lot more than the Matrix Audio Element X dac streamer.

SUBJECTIVELY SPEAKING THE ELEMENT X COMPLETELY TROUNCES IT SONICALLY FOR A 3RD THE PRICE!

Even with the problems I'm having with the firmware and operation of the unit I will categorically be keeping the unit and will be waiting for firmware updates like a good little audiophile.

The sound quality of this unit is revelatory, detailed, smooth with no harshness, produces a realism to music that is uncanny, emotionally engaging, and will have you grinning from ear to ear. To say this is the best I've ever heard would be cliche. I won't talk about veils lifting or palpable midranges, but to me the Element X sounds about as close to live music and the real thing as you're going to get.
 
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Veri

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SUBJECTIVELY SPEAKING THE ELEMENT X COMPLETELY TROUNCES IT SONICALLY FOR A 3RD THE PRICE!

Even with the problems I'm having with the firmware and operation of the unit I will categorically be keeping the unit and will be waiting for firmware updates like a good little audiophile.

The sound quality of this unit is revelatory, detailed, smooth with no harshness, produces a realism to music that is uncanny, emotionally engaging, and will have you grinning from ear to ear. To say this is the best I've ever heard would be cliche. I won't talk about veils lifting or palpable midranges, but to me the Element X sounds about as close to live music and the real thing as you're going to get.
Ahh, I started to fear there were no positive impressions at all coming :) hope they can resolve some of the problems you've been having..!
 

maxxevv

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Ahh, I started to fear there were no positive impressions at all coming :) hope they can resolve some of the problems you've been having..!
The software part of things is probably much easier to solve than any performance related ones.

Do hope they can address and solve them as soon as possible.
 
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Ahh, I started to fear there were no positive impressions at all coming :) hope they can resolve some of the problems you've been having..!
Thanks for your response. Yeah, I have support tickets with both Roon and Matrix Audio and hopefully my input will aid them in resolving these minor issues and get them ironed out with a software or firmware update.

Since 99% of the time I'm playing lossless flac files from my library or Tidal through Roon so I'm not affected by any DSD/MQA issues, but I mention them because people may care more than I do regarding those formats and should be well informed.

The network share issue I experienced is totally unacceptable and they need to get that fixed.

The transient thumps/digital chirp sounds between input changes and playing consecutive mqa files through RoonReady is more startling and annoying than anything else.

Ultimately I'm confident in the companies' abilities to fix these quirks. I still recommend the Element X for its impressive sonic performance. I rarely, after 30 years in this hobby, have WOW moments when listening to a component, but the Element X is such a component. I would buy it again in a heart beat.
 
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The network share issue I experienced is totally unacceptable and they need to get that fixed.
I faced the same issues when the unit arrived and agree on all points.

Fortunately, I was able to overcome the problem with the network share myself, since support does not seem knowledgeable.

To make the share work, try enabling legacy insecure authentication on your NAS, also sometimes called NTLM 1.0.

To add to the pile of issues, there is also a problem with digital input. I have Samsung TV that I was trying to connect to the unit via TOSLINK, and experienced intermittent loss of connection when trying to watch movies - random sound interruptions. Support is not helpful in this case, and I ended up getting a cheap SMSL M100 to do the job with no issues. I hear there might be some problems with Dolby signals making it into the data, but none of the cheaper DACs that I have are having those issues.

Also, my first post here, long time lurker. :)
 
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To make the share work, try enabling legacy insecure authentication on your NAS, also sometimes called NTLM 1.0.

To add to the pile of issues, there is also a problem with digital input. I have Samsung TV that I was trying to connect to the unit via TOSLINK, and experienced intermittent loss of connection when trying to watch movies - random sound interruptions. Support is not helpful in this case, and I ended up getting a cheap SMSL M100 to do the job with no issues. I hear there might be some problems with Dolby signals making it into the data, but none of the cheaper DACs that I have are having those issues.

Also, my first post here, long time lurker. :)
Thanks for your reply. My network share is on windows 10. Supplying 192.168.0.123/music plus my verified login and password should simply work. I don't know if I can enable ntlm on this NIC or in the OS, but I'll look into it. I'm sorry you ran into an issue with your TV not working over toslink and I'm assuming the TV optical was switched to pcm audio output mode only and you were having this issue anyway, intermittently over toslink, but not over coaxial spdif once converted? That's very weird and disheartening, but at least you found a work around. Still kind of sucky to have to buy something as an intermediate device to make it work, but I'm glad it works. I use a Blusound Powernode 2i strictly for TV/Movie/youtube related audio to spare my tubes from excessive wear when I'm not critically listening to my system because the tubes are prohibitively expensive to replace 4 pairs of Emission Labs 300bxls tubes. I use a Luxman AS-55 Amplifier Switcher to switch output between the Powernode 2i and my Allnic A6000 Quad Parallel 300bxls SET Monoblocks. All this is to say I've not ran into your problem since another Dac-Amp is handling the optical output from my nvidia shield via my Samsung 4ktv digital audio output.
 
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Thanks for your reply. My network share is on windows 10. Supplying 192.168.0.123/music plus my verified login and password should simply work. I don't know if I can enable ntlm on this NIC or in the OS, but I'll look into it.
Try looking into SMBv1 https://support.microsoft.com/en-nz/help/4034314/smbv1-is-not-installed-by-default-in-windows

As for the TV link, I tried all digital inputs, same result. In my case I had to bypass Element X completely, since it does not work with TV data. Yes, I did set PCM and had all of the fancy Dolby configs off.
 
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