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

TGB

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A quick question to fellow Element X owners in this thread: Do you, too, encounter problems with streaming Tidal Master/MQA content to the Element X?
I am getting glitches and dropouts galore which render the Element X useless for this purpose. The (very responsive and friendly) Matrix support suspects the WiFi connection and the internet access bandwidth to be the cause. As I do get at least 100Mbps - mostly 140 to 180 Mbps - of troughput over the repeater (and at least 250 Mbps - mostly 350 to 450 Mbps - directly and still have these problems) and never had any troubles with Tidal hires files on my WiFi linked laptop, ipad, and iphone, I have a somewhat hard time seeing that as the real cause.
Right now I can airplay-stream Tidal content from my tablet and phone to the Element X or attach them by USB without any troubles. Yet it nags me that direct streaming on the Element X doesn't work.
Thanks in advance!
I tested one for some days a week back (with latest firmware). No issues with MQA directly from the Tidal App, or via Roon.

You should test with network over cable. Wifi worked fine for me (I have a business class managed Cisco access point that cost too much and it is connected directly to the router with 1.25Gbit/s throughput out in the world - I manage to get stable 700+ Mbit/s over wifi), but there can be issues with your setup containing repeater etc. A lot of weird stuff can happen when streaming audio over poor (read: too complex) wifi.
 

chi2

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Thanks @TGB for sharing your experiences and thoughts. As the dropouts occur, too, when connecting the Element X to the main wifi directly, the repeater doesn't seem to be the (only) cause. Remarkably, I never had a single hickup with MQA files in the Tidal app on smartphones and tablets (iOS and Android), even over the wifi repeater. I don't know if the Tidal Software has better buffering than the Element X. It's just weird and disappointing to have to use a phone attached by USB to the Element X to get the highest available streaming quality. BTW, a wired connection is no option for me but I may try it just to see if/confirm that the wifi part of the Element X is the source of the trouble.
 

TGB

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I would report this to Matrix Audio directly. It might be possible to increase buffer (there is a Linux OS running on the device; so most of the stuff is configurable).
 

raykkho

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Can anyone comment if there is any discernible audio quality difference between the element X and element M from their analogue output?

I plan on using it for a new headphone rig, but I need balanced connection for my cans, so if I get the M which is cheaper, I will need to get a headphone amp such as the Drop THX 789. Wonder which is a better option, and AIO or separate. Thanks a lot.
Hi there, can anyone comment on this? Unfortunately we don't have a local agent here for testing.
 

chi2

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@TGB I have done that but while their support people are very responsive and polite they just see the wifi as the culprit not taking into account the fact that there are no problems whatsoever with other devices.
 

TGB

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@TGB I have done that but while their support people are very responsive and polite they just see the wifi as the culprit not taking into account the fact that there are no problems whatsoever with other devices.
Try again, explain that their competitors devices does not have this issue on same setup :)

Usually makes them react ;) It's a cultural thing.
 

TGB

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Hi there, can anyone comment on this? Unfortunately we don't have a local agent here for testing.
The beauty of the Element X is the combination of a fantastic DAC, fantastic streamer and fantastic headphone amplifier. There is no way you can beat this combination by splitting into several devices with cables between (and multiple PSU)

In my opinion it is critical to have balanced cables against the headphones if that is a possibility. Else the Element X will no deliver enough juice for the more demanding headphones (usually the less demanding plays better with more effect from the amplifier as well).
 

raykkho

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The beauty of the Element X is the combination of a fantastic DAC, fantastic streamer and fantastic headphone amplifier. There is no way you can beat this combination by splitting into several devices with cables between (and multiple PSU)

In my opinion it is critical to have balanced cables against the headphones if that is a possibility. Else the Element X will no deliver enough juice for the more demanding headphones (usually the less demanding plays better with more effect from the amplifier as well).
Thanks a lot for the comment, I totally is for the one-box setup, just wonder how the HP amp section is when comparing to other stand alone ones like Topping A90, which has better measurement.
 

TGB

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I found out the Isotek Sigmas EVO3 gave no value for the Matrix Element X, it is really well designed it seems.

Edit:
Regarding Isotek Sigmas; I change my mind - when measured noise goes above a certain threshold it actually helps (I really wanted to sell this "meaningless" device).
 
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TGB

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I played a bit with the setting DPLL bandwidth.

Feedback from Matrix Audio:
Digital PLL bandwidth=Digital Phase Locked Loop bandwidth
There are three options in this setting menu.
Low: Low bandwidth High: High bandwidth Normal: Standard bandwidth (Default)

In general, Low bandwidth need high quality front end signal quality, but also have the best output performance.
High bandwidth only require lower quality signal from front end device, but it maybe reduced the output performance.
I did some testing and could clearly hear improvement when selecting "Low" for this setting. I don't think people are aware of the potential here for sources with high quality clock. Selecting Normal gave a slightly more "muddy" presentation of the audio, and much worse when moving up to "High" setting.

Further feedback from Matrix Audio is that this setting applies to all inputs (I have registered a feature request to get setting for each input) including the internal streamer.

@amirm: Did you change this setting for your measurements ?
 
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Thanks a lot for the comment, I totally is for the one-box setup, just wonder how the HP amp section is when comparing to other stand alone ones like Topping A90, which has better measurement.
Planning to get the A90 for my Element X,.. I’m still searching for info regarding the Element X + Topping A90 combo
 

TGB

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Works fine on Audeze LCD-4 at least. But to get the required juice you need to have them connected balanced.
Skjermbilde 2020-07-23 kl. 16.28.59.png


Yes I know the measurements are for balanced output for [email protected] Gain :)
 
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raykkho

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Planning to get the A90 for my Element X,.. I’m still searching for info regarding the Element X + Topping A90 combo
Wow that would be something. Do you think the HP amp section on the X is not good enough?
 

TGB

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Wow that would be something. Do you think the HP amp section on the X is not good enough?
In my experience it is good enough; the LCD-4 (200 ohm) falls through without 1000mw capable amplifier, but fine for everything above. But regardless the Element X manage to handle the Audeze LCD-4 fine at least. Also a bonus in not needing multiple devices with cables etc.
 
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Wow that would be something. Do you think the HP amp section on the X is not good enough?
The amp section is good enough, Linear and detailed. But sometimes I want to have a warmer sound sig and punchier bass on some of the songs i listen to, based on user experience on other forums the A90 has a warm sound sig with enough power. Hopefully someone here has an experience with the Element X and A90 combo.
 

raykkho

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In my experience it is good enough; the LCD-4 (200 ohm) falls through without 1000mw capable amplifier, but fine for everything above. But regardless the Element X manage to handle the Audeze LCD-4 fine at least. Also a bonus in not needing multiple devices with cables etc.
".. a bonus in not needing multiple devices with cables etc." that is indeed the reason I am putting the X on top of my list although it is more than double than say Topping A90+D90+ Allo USBridge.
 

raykkho

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The amp section is good enough, Linear and detailed. But sometimes I want to have a warmer sound sig and punchier bass on some of the songs i listen to, based on user experience on other forums the A90 has a warm sound sig with enough power. Hopefully someone here has an experience with the Element X and A90 combo.
Very interesting indeed, I imagine the X is powerful enough to drive cans like the Empyrean.
 

TGB

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I found a bug in the Element X.

When enabling auto dim of display
Wait until display dims
Switch input via remote will lead to wrong input being shown in the display of Element X.

Reported this to Matrix Audio, they had already fixed it - available for next firmware.
 
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