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Matrix M-Stage amp review: simple, cheap, and excellent. - Page 257

post #3841 of 4888
Copied from the HD800 thread:

After my positive experience with the Matrix X-Sabre and having known about the M-Stage being a popular inexpensive amp for HD800s, I began to recommend it to a few people in this thread and elsewhere who were trying to build a amp/DAC combo for HD800s for $1000 or less. I recommended the $600 Concero and the $260 M-Stage. A week or so later I decided to get one for myself so that I wasn't just recommending blindly. I got it Thursday and got it plugged in and playing on Friday and it's been going nearly 24 hours a day since then, only taking breaks when I was comparing with the BHA-1. I got the M-Stage with USB DAC for an extra $30 because why the hell not, and initially listened through the built in DAC.

At first I was pleasantly surprised at the performance, it wasn't super detailed, but it seemed clean with a wide though thin sound. I honestly didn't expect much from this DAC since it was so cheap, and after listening for a while longer I began encountering some showstopping harshness on some tracks. I would say this DAC could be a decent stand in DAC if you had to be without, but you'd want to keep the volume below live. The sound was dynamic and punchy, but not overly clear or well textured. The harshness became regular as I began to recognize it everywhere, but most of the time it was ignored easily enough.

Having given a few hours to the onboard DAC, I was ready to move up to a real DAC and hooked up the X-Sabre to the M-Stage and gave it a listen. The difference was as expected given the $1070 price difference in the DACs, but I was also relieved to know most of the negative bits about the M-Stage was from the DAC, and not the amp. With the X-Sabre the M-Stage opened right up with very good clarity and without any of the previous harshness. After listening for a few hours and noting that the performance was really special, I knew the next step was to compare to the BHA-1. I was reasonably sure before making the switch that I knew what I was going to hear in the difference, but after having listened to the built in DAC, the X-Sabre -> M-Stage combo was worryingly good.

With the X-Sabre and BHA-1 in balanced mode and balanced connection to the HD800s, I listened to a dozen or so specific tracks I thought would highlight differences easiest between the M-Stage and BHA-1. Despite the balanced connection and the price difference, the performance was really not as much better as one might expect. I was right, though, in what I did find. As I described in my post above about mid-fi vs high end, the main aspects people focus on were better, but not a lot better. The big strides for the BHA-1 were in the refinement areas, textures, layering and the sort. There is certainly a distinct difference in performance between these 2 amps, but in the core aspects, it is remarkably close.

I am glad to say my faith in the reviews of the M-Stage/HD800 combo was not unfounded. I will certainly recommend this combo to anyone wanting to step into high end with the headphone first. It is the most important part, by far, but not spending a truckload on the amp right away takes careful consideration. The M-Stage is a great stepping stone for the HD800s, such that you could even make a DAC upgrade before worrying about the amp. Listening to the X-Sabre -> M-Stage -> HD800, is truly a high end experience, though just barely. There is plenty of room to improve, but it is mostly in the refinement areas that take good to magical.
post #3842 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

Copied from the HD800 thread:

After my positive experience with the Matrix X-Sabre and having known about the M-Stage being a popular inexpensive amp for HD800s, I began to recommend it to a few people in this thread and elsewhere who were trying to build a amp/DAC combo for HD800s for $1000 or less. I recommended the $600 Concero and the $260 M-Stage. A week or so later I decided to get one for myself so that I wasn't just recommending blindly. I got it Thursday and got it plugged in and playing on Friday and it's been going nearly 24 hours a day since then, only taking breaks when I was comparing with the BHA-1. I got the M-Stage with USB DAC for an extra $30 because why the hell not, and initially listened through the built in DAC.

At first I was pleasantly surprised at the performance, it wasn't super detailed, but it seemed clean with a wide though thin sound. I honestly didn't expect much from this DAC since it was so cheap, and after listening for a while longer I began encountering some showstopping harshness on some tracks. I would say this DAC could be a decent stand in DAC if you had to be without, but you'd want to keep the volume below live. The sound was dynamic and punchy, but not overly clear or well textured. The harshness became regular as I began to recognize it everywhere, but most of the time it was ignored easily enough.

Having given a few hours to the onboard DAC, I was ready to move up to a real DAC and hooked up the X-Sabre to the M-Stage and gave it a listen. The difference was as expected given the $1070 price difference in the DACs, but I was also relieved to know most of the negative bits about the M-Stage was from the DAC, and not the amp. With the X-Sabre the M-Stage opened right up with very good clarity and without any of the previous harshness. After listening for a few hours and noting that the performance was really special, I knew the next step was to compare to the BHA-1. I was reasonably sure before making the switch that I knew what I was going to hear in the difference, but after having listened to the built in DAC, the X-Sabre -> M-Stage combo was worryingly good.

With the X-Sabre and BHA-1 in balanced mode and balanced connection to the HD800s, I listened to a dozen or so specific tracks I thought would highlight differences easiest between the M-Stage and BHA-1. Despite the balanced connection and the price difference, the performance was really not as much better as one might expect. I was right, though, in what I did find. As I described in my post above about mid-fi vs high end, the main aspects people focus on were better, but not a lot better. The big strides for the BHA-1 were in the refinement areas, textures, layering and the sort. There is certainly a distinct difference in performance between these 2 amps, but in the core aspects, it is remarkably close.

I am glad to say my faith in the reviews of the M-Stage/HD800 combo was not unfounded. I will certainly recommend this combo to anyone wanting to step into high end with the headphone first. It is the most important part, by far, but not spending a truckload on the amp right away takes careful consideration. The M-Stage is a great stepping stone for the HD800s, such that you could even make a DAC upgrade before worrying about the amp. Listening to the X-Sabre -> M-Stage -> HD800, is truly a high end experience, though just barely. There is plenty of room to improve, but it is mostly in the refinement areas that take good to magical.

 

 

Incredibly interesting finding here. I also originally bought the MStage as a recommendation for my Denon D7000, but I have found this thing is far more competent than I originally gave it credit for. I really like this unit for a strange variety of headphones. I also have found this thing really does well when I hook it up to my Audio-GD reference 1, vs lower end DACs. Really does scale well. I'm curious to give the HD800 a run with it now. I always found the BHA-1 a little too hot for me : /

 

What opamp are you running in this guy?

post #3843 of 4888
Whatever is stock.
post #3844 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

Copied from the HD800 thread:

After my positive experience with the Matrix X-Sabre and having known about the M-Stage being a popular inexpensive amp for HD800s, I began to recommend it to a few people in this thread and elsewhere who were trying to build a amp/DAC combo for HD800s for $1000 or less. I recommended the $600 Concero and the $260 M-Stage. A week or so later I decided to get one for myself so that I wasn't just recommending blindly. I got it Thursday and got it plugged in and playing on Friday and it's been going nearly 24 hours a day since then, only taking breaks when I was comparing with the BHA-1. I got the M-Stage with USB DAC for an extra $30 because why the hell not, and initially listened through the built in DAC.

At first I was pleasantly surprised at the performance, it wasn't super detailed, but it seemed clean with a wide though thin sound. I honestly didn't expect much from this DAC since it was so cheap, and after listening for a while longer I began encountering some showstopping harshness on some tracks. I would say this DAC could be a decent stand in DAC if you had to be without, but you'd want to keep the volume below live. The sound was dynamic and punchy, but not overly clear or well textured. The harshness became regular as I began to recognize it everywhere, but most of the time it was ignored easily enough.

Having given a few hours to the onboard DAC, I was ready to move up to a real DAC and hooked up the X-Sabre to the M-Stage and gave it a listen. The difference was as expected given the $1070 price difference in the DACs, but I was also relieved to know most of the negative bits about the M-Stage was from the DAC, and not the amp. With the X-Sabre the M-Stage opened right up with very good clarity and without any of the previous harshness. After listening for a few hours and noting that the performance was really special, I knew the next step was to compare to the BHA-1. I was reasonably sure before making the switch that I knew what I was going to hear in the difference, but after having listened to the built in DAC, the X-Sabre -> M-Stage combo was worryingly good.

With the X-Sabre and BHA-1 in balanced mode and balanced connection to the HD800s, I listened to a dozen or so specific tracks I thought would highlight differences easiest between the M-Stage and BHA-1. Despite the balanced connection and the price difference, the performance was really not as much better as one might expect. I was right, though, in what I did find. As I described in my post above about mid-fi vs high end, the main aspects people focus on were better, but not a lot better. The big strides for the BHA-1 were in the refinement areas, textures, layering and the sort. There is certainly a distinct difference in performance between these 2 amps, but in the core aspects, it is remarkably close.

I am glad to say my faith in the reviews of the M-Stage/HD800 combo was not unfounded. I will certainly recommend this combo to anyone wanting to step into high end with the headphone first. It is the most important part, by far, but not spending a truckload on the amp right away takes careful consideration. The M-Stage is a great stepping stone for the HD800s, such that you could even make a DAC upgrade before worrying about the amp. Listening to the X-Sabre -> M-Stage -> HD800, is truly a high end experience, though just barely. There is plenty of room to improve, but it is mostly in the refinement areas that take good to magical.

 

Um, um, um, um, um...........

I think I'm speechless!confused_face_2.gif

Are you trying to save us $1,000? LOL!

I think I'll print your M Stage vs. BHA-1 review and frame it.

I was thinking about getting the Bryston, but now, I ask myself, why bother?

 

Personally, I think I'll try getting a kick butt DAC and see how I like it before I even considering EVER getting a better headphone amp!

beerchug.gif


Edited by Chris J - 4/1/13 at 9:45am
post #3845 of 4888
No, they are not the same. The M-Stage is just a good value amp that sounds better than it's price point. The BHA-1 is the better amp for sure.
post #3846 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

No, they are not the same. The M-Stage is just a good value amp that sounds better than it's price point. The BHA-1 is the better amp for sure.

Sorry for getting into this conversation..but..the mstage is one heck of an amp for the money...a steal! but ofcourse for more money..and i say much more..u ofcourse can get better sounding amps.

post #3847 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

No, they are not the same. The M-Stage is just a good value amp that sounds better than it's price point. The BHA-1 is the better amp for sure.

 

Ahhh...now I understand. A relatively small improvement for a relatively large financial outlay.

 

Now the big question:

How does the M Stage compare to the Bryston when the Bryston is used Single Ended Input and Single Ended Output? This is assuming that the headphone is a reasonable load for the Matrix.

I'm sure the HD800 does not stress the M Stage unduly.

 

HiFi Rookie:

hey man, it's an open conversation!

post #3848 of 4888
The unbalanced out of the BHA-1 IMO is not as good as the balanced. It is intended to be a balanced amp, so I evaluate it as such.
post #3849 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxvla View Post

The unbalanced out of the BHA-1 IMO is not as good as the balanced. It is intended to be a balanced amp, so I evaluate it as such.

 

It's not fair to compare the BHA-1 as a SE amp at all. The SE is pretty sad compared to the balanced. 

post #3850 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by elwappo99 View Post

 

It's not fair to compare the BHA-1 as a SE amp at all. The SE is pretty sad compared to the balanced. 

 

I think it is fair to compare the BHA-1 in SE to another SE amp.

The Bryston has (2) SE inputs.

And not all headphones can be converted to balanced operation.

post #3851 of 4888
Should you evaluate a Ferrari as a grocery getter just because it can?
post #3852 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris J View Post

 

I think it is fair to compare the BHA-1 in SE to another SE amp.

The Bryston has (2) SE inputs.

And not all headphones can be converted to balanced operation.

 

I don't think it's fair to say "the mstage outperforms this $1300 amplifier!" if you aren't going to compare it to the full $1300. Using it in SE will bypass half of the circuitry

 

I don't see how having a SE input is relevant at all. 

 

All headphones can be converted to balanced connections. 

post #3853 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by elwappo99 View Post

 

I don't think it's fair to say "the mstage outperforms this $1300 amplifier!" if you aren't going to compare it to the full $1300. Using it in SE will bypass half of the circuitry 

 

These arguments are turning out absolutely ridiculous........

Anyway...............No, SE uses the same input stage, Bryston reconfigures the input stage into balanced or SE depending on how you select the input.

 

SE output still passes the signal thru both the inverting and non-inverting output stage.

 

But it would not surprise me if the SE Bryston still sounded better than the M Stage.

It is up to the purchaser to figure out if they want to pay for a M Stage or a BHA-1, i.e. is the Brytson that much better?

Personally I'd rather have the BHA-1 over the Matrix Quatro without having heard either. The Quatro is...........well, not the greatest balanced topology.

 

Contrary to popular beleif I'm not an idiot.

I'm out.


Edited by Chris J - 4/1/13 at 4:09pm
post #3854 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris J View Post

 

These arguments are turning out absolutely ridiculous........

Anyway...............No, SE uses the same input stage, Bryston reconfigures the input stage into balanced or SE depending on how you select the input.

 

SE output still passes the signal thru both the inverting and non-inverting output stage.

 

But it would not surprise me if the SE Bryston still sounded better than the M Stage.

It is up to the purchaser to figure out if they want to pay for a M Stage or a BHA-1, i.e. is the Brytson that much better?

Personally I'd rather have the BHA-1 over the Matrix Quatro without having heard either. The Quatro is...........well, not the greatest balanced topology.

 

Contrary to popular beleif I'm not an idiot.

I'm out.

Ur. Right on some points..it would be rediculus if a 249 worth of amp would better a 1300 worth of amp..redeculus as that 1300 worth of amp would be a shame then for that company in my eyes!

 

Yes, the mstage is almost unbelievable good for the money..but when u go up in the chain there are much better amps..like my 337 for my he500..i had a mstage..but after hearing the 337 i was stunned How that amp made my he500 sound..it was on another level..so i had to have one myself..i tried burson, musical fidelity, shiit, violectric, bottlehead crack and even one of the cheaper woo audio's..but i loved the 337 the most with my he500....so  i sold my beloved mstage..and until now (4months ago) never looked back..but i am sure  that my new project, a custommade amp with dac inside, made by blue circle audio will blow my 337 out of the water..hope to get it in november as the due time is 32-34 weeks..

post #3855 of 4888
Quote:
Originally Posted by hifimanrookie View Post

Ur. Right on some points..it would be rediculus if a 249 worth of amp would better a 1300 worth of amp..redeculus as that 1300 worth of amp would be a shame then for that company in my eyes!

 

Yes, the mstage is almost unbelievable good for the money..but when u go up in the chain there are much better amps..like my 337 for my he500..i had a mstage..but after hearing the 337 i was stunned How that amp made my he500 sound..it was on another level..so i had to have one myself..i tried burson, musical fidelity, shiit, violectric, bottlehead crack and even one of the cheaper woo audio's..but i loved the 337 the most with my he500....so  i sold my beloved mstage..and until now (4months ago) never looked back..but i am sure  that my new project, a custommade amp with dac inside, made by blue circle audio will blow my 337 out of the water..hope to get it in november as the due time is 32-34 weeks..

 

Hey!

The Blue Circle amps are made a few miles away from where I live!

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