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

amirm

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Could you measure the preamp functionality of the Matrix Element X? Matrix calls their attenuation Hyper-Control. Anyway to test it out?
The unit is boxed up so I can't access it right and my workload has gone through the roof. I think I adjusted the level using it, or changing the input level and both achieved the same thing.
 
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Could you measure the preamp functionality of the Matrix Element X? Matrix calls their attenuation Hyper-Control. Anyway to test it out?
I can only subjectively tell you that their hybrid digital/analog attenuation works very well in practice and the preamp section has a very detailed, balanced, and smooth sound in my system with no harshness anywhere whatsoever.
 
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MatrixAudio

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Will I be fine with placing a load of approximately 7KG on top of this DAC? I intend on purchasing this DAC for my PC and I would likely want to sit my monitor on top of it in order to reduce the amount of space that it'll occupy on my desk.
Please trust Matrix' solid chassis. :cool:
 
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Ok, so it turns out Matrix Element X's volume control is a relay/digital attenuation combo. Every 20 dB, a relay clicks in to enable analog attenuation (simply a resistor?), So between 0 and 19.5 dB of attenuation, the attenuation is digital, at 20 dB of attenuation, the relay clicks in and gives you 20 dB of analog attenuation and no digital. At 20.5 dB of attenuation, you have 20 dB of analog and 0.5 db of digital attenuation, etc.

I'm not sure if I like this. How does the SNR and harmonics levels vary as you change the volume?

I'm trying to decide between this and a Benchmark DAC3 L, and trying to compare their volume controls. I could go nuclear and get a Benchmark Line Preamp, but I wan't to avoid that for now.
 
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Ok, so it turns out Matrix Element X's volume control is a relay/digital attenuation combo. Every 20 dB, a relay clicks in to enable analog attenuation (simply a resistor?), So between 0 and 19.5 dB of attenuation, the attenuation is digital, at 20 dB of attenuation, the relay clicks in and gives you 20 dB of analog attenuation and no digital. At 20.5 dB of attenuation, you have 20 dB of analog and 0.5 db of digital attenuation, etc.

I'm not sure if I like this. How does the SNR and harmonics levels vary as you change the volume?

I'm trying to decide between this and a Benchmark DAC3 L, and trying to compare their volume controls. I could go nuclear and get a Benchmark Line Preamp, but I wan't to avoid that for now.
I can tell you that I've owned a Benchmark DAC1, DAC2 HGC, and even auditioned the DAC3 HGC over many years to great satisfaction, but sonically for my tastes and to my ears the Matrix Element X is simply better sounding to me at any level of volume attenuation. I enjoyed the volume control of the Benchmark just fine, but I enjoy the overall sound quality of the Matrix much more irrespective of their hybrid attenuation scheme. It's as detailed and resolute as the Benchmark, but there's a minor upper-midrange glare or harshness in the Benchmark that I attribute to their house sound that is simply missing in the Element X. Let me be clear, we are splitting hairs here. I just know the gestalt I get listening to the Matrix Element X is ever so slightly more neutral or a touch smoother with no sense of a loss in detail. In fact I tend to think that this smoother neutral presentation allows one to hear even more detail. Of course this is all just subjective, but I ultimately chose the Matrix over the Benchmark based on what I remember intimately over nearly 2 decades of listening to Benchmark product offerings. Maybe there's some system synergy between my speakers, amps, and the Matrix DAC or maybe it's all in my head, but ultimately I chose the Element X over the Benchmark DAC HGC and I am very satisfied with the sound quality of the piece for what it's worth. FYI, you can purchase it through Amazon, presumably that will give you 30 days to audition it and decide. Hope that helps a little.
 
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I can tell you that I've owned a Benchmark DAC1, DAC2 HGC, and even auditioned the DAC3 HGC over many years to great satisfaction, but sonically for my tastes and to my ears the Matrix Element X is simply better sounding to me at any level of volume attenuation. I enjoyed the volume control of the Benchmark just fine, but I enjoy the overall sound quality of the Matrix much more irrespective of their hybrid attenuation scheme. It's as detailed and resolute as the Benchmark, but there's a minor upper-midrange glare or harshness in the Benchmark that I attribute to their house sound that is simply missing in the Element X. Let me be clear, we are splitting hairs here. I just know the gestalt I get listening to the Matrix Element X is ever so slightly more neutral or a touch smoother with no sense of a loss in detail. In fact I tend to think that this smoother neutral presentation allows one to hear even more detail. Of course this is all just subjective, but I ultimately chose the Matrix over the Benchmark based on what I remember intimately over nearly 2 decades of listening to Benchmark product offerings. Maybe there's some system synergy between my speakers, amps, and the Matrix DAC or maybe it's all in my head, but ultimately I chose the Element X over the Benchmark DAC HGC and I am very satisfied with the sound quality of the piece for what it's worth. FYI, you can purchase it through Amazon, presumably that will give you 30 days to audition it and decide. Hope that helps a little.
Thanks, this is very helpful. I currently have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC, and it's weird to consider going down in pricepoint for an upgrade. Maybe I'll just audition the Element X to compare. I do really love the DS, but I always like to keep my options open.
 
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Thanks, this is very helpful. I currently have a PS Audio DirectStream DAC, and it's weird to consider going down in pricepoint for an upgrade. Maybe I'll just audition the Element X to compare. I do really love the DS, but I always like to keep my options open.
I've never heard the direct stream, but I've heard good things about them and have respect for the brand. I hope if you do try the Element X that you post your impressions. I'm hoping others can comment on their experience with the unit so I can get out of my own echo chamber.
 

Matias

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If it only came in black.....
 
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There's one thing I look for in every new DAC and am always dissapointed to not find: An analog-in.
The Benchmark DAC1 Pre / HDR / DAC2 and DAC3 have that and let you connect a turntable, you can really use them as preamps.

The Benchmark hybrid volume control with digital control (And passive attenuators) on digital + Analog control on analog in is so perfect (Functionally) that I cannot think of an alternative other than the Auralic Vega G2 (But this one doesn't have passive attenuators and its output is too high for my system).

www.sunshipaudio.com
Hi Sumship. I remenber the old Luxman DA-200 has TWO Analog-In, and the new one DA-250 preserve ONE of them, take a look.
 

MatrixAudio

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Is there a good reason they didn’t include a 1/4 headphone jack?
The two balanced plugs to the left are combo plugs, for balanced and 2x single end, I guess.
Correct, element X supports 4-pin XLR balanced, dual 3-pin balanced, and 2 pairs of 1/4 unbalanced headphones.
 

MRC01

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... The headphone amplifier is also wonderful. It is certainly better than my everyday combo unit, the Topping DX3 Pro and by a mile as far as available power.
...
This doesn't seem consistent with the 50 mV SNR at only 81 dB. The 50 mv measurement isn't just for IEMs, but represents a moderate listening level on a variety of full size headphones. On the Audeze LCD-2 it's about 83 dB SPL, and on the Senn HD-600 it's around 79 dB. In this spec, the RME ADI-2 is the king (so far).

Some amps have a big drop in SNR going from near full power to lower levels, others a much smaller drop and they're almost as clean at low volumes as they are near full power. I wonder what kinds of things in EE design cause this difference. I suppose it would have to be how the volume control is implemented.

PS: by example: The RMI ADI-2 measures about 112 dB full scale and 93 dB at 50 mV, so it drops by 19 dB. The Matrix measures about 120 dB full scale and 81 at 50 mV, so it drops by a whopping 39 dB!

PPS: for each device, full scale was at 4 VRMS, so 50 mV is about 38 dB quieter. That could explain why the Matrix is 39 dB worse at 50 mV; noise at the same level with signal 38 dB quieter would be 38 dB worse SNR. But the RME SNR drops by only 19 dB when the signal drops by 38 dB.
 
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JohnYang1997

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This doesn't seem consistent with the 50 mV SNR at only 81 dB. The 50 mv measurement isn't just for IEMs, but represents a moderate listening level on a variety of full size headphones. On the Audeze LCD-2 it's about 83 dB SPL, and on the Senn HD-600 it's around 79 dB. In this spec, the RME ADI-2 is the king (so far).

Some amps have a big drop in SNR going from near full power to lower levels, others a much smaller drop and they're almost as clean at low volumes as they are near full power. I wonder what kinds of things in EE design cause this difference. I suppose it would have to be how the volume control is implemented.

PS: by example: The RMI ADI-2 measures about 112 dB full scale and 93 dB at 50 mV, so it drops by 19 dB. The Matrix measures about 120 dB full scale and 81 at 50 mV, so it drops by a whopping 39 dB!

PPS: for each device, full scale was at 4 VRMS, so 50 mV is about 38 dB quieter. That could explain why the Matrix is 39 dB worse at 50 mV; noise at the same level with signal 38 dB quieter would be 38 dB worse SNR. But the RME SNR drops by only 19 dB when the signal drops by 38 dB.
Pot resistance and output stage noise. In terms of dac, it's the attenuation method. Some will have combination of switching and digital attenuation. Idk why matrix doesn't do well, they should because the hybrid volume control.
 

Matias

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If only it came in black....
 

MRC01

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Pot resistance and output stage noise. In terms of dac, it's the attenuation method. Some will have combination of switching and digital attenuation. Idk why matrix doesn't do well, they should because the hybrid volume control.
If they're using digital attenuation (say, built into the DAC chip) to drive an analog stage with a fixed gain-feedback loop, wouldn't that make analog noise at the output roughly constant at all volume levels? If so, perhaps digital volume controls aren't the way to go if you want the best possible SNR at the low to moderate levels people actually use when listening. You're making the analog stage pass a small input signal, and it might be cleaner to give it a big signal then squash it with less than unity gain.

For example: assume we want 50 mV of analog output from the DAC chip whose full scale output is 2 Vrms, and offers built-in digital attenuation. What would be cleaner:

A) Use the DAC's built-in digital attenuation, so the analog output of the DAC is 50 mV, to drive an analog stage having unity gain.

B) Use the DAC's full scale analog output, to drive an analog stage having less than unity gain (1:0.025 or -32 dB).

C) Use the DAC's full scale analog output, to drive an analog stage having unity gain, followed by a volume pot attenuating by -32 dB.

D) something else?

PS: my question is in italics above. Grammatically it's a statement, but presented as a question.
 
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