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Matrix M-Stage Observations

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I decided to buy the M Stage in the hope it would adequately drive my k701, on the basis "if it doesn't work out, if havent spent much money." However I found the results to be quite interesting. I thought I would say what I found with my different phones, as it appears a partner for the M Stage should be chosen with care.

 

For reference, my other amp is the superb Ben Duncan Phones 01 and the sources tested were a Rega Planet, Rega Apollo and Rio Karma DAP. I have however, tried many, many amps in search of something that works with the k701

 

AKG K701

 

A match made in heaven! For this first time I can understand why people rave about the K701. They just seemed to come alive, gone was the hollow, shrill and bass-light sound I got from other amps. Instead we have well ballanced and controlled bass, beautiful mids and highs, and acceptably fast timing. Honestly, "bought to life" is the best phrase I can think of to describe the M-Stage's affect on the K701. I have not heard the K701 sound as good with anything cheaper than £800 (the amp in question was a Chord Toucan, and even that sounded average with some other phones). I found my self re-listening to favourite CDs, just to experience the new insight this set-up gave.

 

Negatives? The highs did not have the ultimate extension that, say, the Phones 01 and some of the more expensive competitors demonstrated. Also, accoustic instruments could sound a bit "plasticky" and lacking in realism. I don't know if this is the character of the K701, or perhaps the M-Stage is not accurately reproducing some of the very high harmonic frequencies, or both.

 

Senn HD600

 

A match made in hell! As the K701 is supposed to be harder to drive than the HD600, this was a real surprise. I found the sound to be almost muffled; the infamous Sennheiser veil was there in spades. Bass lost the impact these phones demonstrate with well-matched amplification, although extension was good. Really, they just sounded like a dreadful, sluggish, muddy mess and I couldn't listen to them for long! I must add these phones can sound sensational, for example the Phones 01 is a great match.

 

ER4P and ER4S (with converter)

 

I have never heard so much bass from the Etys. In ER4P guise the bass was actually overpowering! I could not believe the Etys had the ability to reproduce so much bass, both in extension and perceived volume. However, the M-Stage did not do justice to the ER4's truly impressive capacity for treble extension, and as a result a lot of music was somewhat lifeless. I noticed this aspect of the M-Stage with the K701, but to a lesser extent. Given the similarities in presentation between the ER4 and K701, I was surprised at how much more they were affected by the M-Stage's character.

 

I actually think the M-Stage would be a good back-up amp if you have ER4P/S, but occasionally crave an eardrum-loosening bass session!

 

UE Triple.fi 10

 

If the ER4 was bass-heavy, you can guess what happened here. The bass pretty much blotted out the rest of the music, but did not sound particularly controlled (although we're still talking about a BA earphone here). The presentation was also very coloured and had the "muddiness" I noted with the HD600.

 

Summary

 

If you have the K701 and want a budget amp, don't hesitate. I have heard nothing that sounds this good, even with some amps 6x the price. It's not perfect, but can make for a great listen and I have seldom felt so connected to some of my favorite tracks. However, if you're not an AKG owner and don't plan to be, try before you buy to avoid disappointment. The M-Stage can sound great, but only with the right phones.

 

The question is does the M-Stage/K701 combo work so well because:

 

a) It's a great amp driving a great pair of phones

 

or

 

b) The M-Stage has overblown bass and rolled-off highs. The K701 can be bass-light and too shrill. Together they counteract eachothers weaknesses to somehow produce a listenable sound.

 

To be honest I don't know. Be it combined technical excellence or freak of nature, I'm happy with the results!

post #2 of 11

I have the Matrix original version and I disagree about overblown bass  and rolled off highs. I have not heard the V2 so I cannot comment but the original is a gem and has tight deep bass and very clear highs.

post #3 of 11

I have to disagree about both the sound signature of the M-Stage and Senn synergy. I have Auzen Prelude (OPA637)>M-Stage>HD650 and the sound is anything but muddy and bloated. The bass is tight and powerful, the highs crisp and detailed. I think the M-Stage is basically pretty neutral (I have the V2). No sign of any 'veil' here.

post #4 of 11

good job,  your observation also makes a lot of sense considering the 701 detail and the fact thatt he matrix is designed aftger the lehman linear which was the amp paired for the release of the highly detailed hd800.  im sure the hd800 also have great synergy with the matrix.

 

a note to matrix owners, if you havent tried using the multiple easy front panel switch to a/b your gear, i highly recommend it. so easy, the gain and input features are my favorite actually and i dont think i could buy  another head amp without at least 2 input, i luv switching source at flick of a switch, i am quite addicted to it seriously.

 

so a/b some cables,   dac's, or heck even use the matrix as a preamp to another head amp(which is actually quite cool and you will be very surprised how good it sounds!)

 

it  has been very handy comparing phono stages as well, it has been quite the swiss army knife of the a/b variety,

 

congrats on the synergy

post #5 of 11

 At this moment I'm listening K701 trough this headphone amp (arrived 10 minutes ago). My first impression is a lot more detail compared to my Starving Student, and that's all, hope this gets better with some tens of hours on it.

post #6 of 11

I'd like to take back some of what I said above. I swapped the stock opamp on the Matrix with an LM4532, and there's a big difference. The sound is far less bass-heavy, and the midrange seems much clearer and not as "thick". As a result, the highs are more pronounced. I still don't think the sound was veiled before, but by comparison it is now much more open, perhaps a little too bright for my taste. I'll see if I get used to it. To the OP: maybe try a different opamp?

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tip, have been thinking about swapping the opamp on the M-Stage and this has given me more motivation to do so. It will be interesting to see if the K701 still sounds good after the swap.

post #8 of 11

just thought I'd throw in my experience with the first version.

 

I'd probably have to echo what the OP said re: 701/2; and on my own experience with the HD650s, not the HD600s, I'd probably go with what the OP said as well. I thought the bass on the 650s sounded bloated, muddy and lacked any control, but these are obvious exaggerations, but nonetheless, still it just felt like the bass was there, just lacked any quality about it. I did however, feel that the HD800s worked effortlessly on the M-Stage, personal opinion of course. My IE8s in no way work with the M-Stage just because even at 0 gain and minimum volume, there is a hum emitted.

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by cravenz View Post

just thought I'd throw in my experience with the first version.

 

I'd probably have to echo what the OP said re: 701/2; and on my own experience with the HD650s, not the HD600s, I'd probably go with what the OP said as well. I thought the bass on the 650s sounded bloated, muddy and lacked any control, but these are obvious exaggerations, but nonetheless, still it just felt like the bass was there, just lacked any quality about it. I did however, feel that the HD800s worked effortlessly on the M-Stage, personal opinion of course. My IE8s in no way work with the M-Stage just because even at 0 gain and minimum volume, there is a hum emitted.


I am starting to wonder about the V2. I hear very tight and controlled bass on my D7000 and T1 when I use the original. Sometimes its better not to mess with a good design unless they had no choice.

post #10 of 11

Quick update: I lasted 1 day with the LM4562 before swapping it back out for the stock OPA2134. The LM4562 was impressive at first, but really fatiguing after a couple of hours listening. I couldn't find a single recording with a natural sounding snare drum or hi-hat - snares lacked body and hi-hats were very metallic, much the same effect you get from turning up the top end in an EQ. There was a lot more detail, but music just didn't sound natural. The extra clarity in the midrange was nice, but in the end the brightness just made my ears hurt. Now I'm looking for something in between the two - suggestions welcome.

post #11 of 11

I dislike LM4562 for the same reasons plus it sounds so plasticky.  Yuck.

 

I strongly recommend HA3-2525-5 if you can get your hands on a pair, otherwise ADA4627-1, THS4081, and OPA1611 should please your ears.  You may also like LT1363/1364.  Any of these are improvements over LM4562 and OPA2134.

I have too many opamps to roll, I'll be busy for a couple of months or more, probably, lol.  HA3-2525-5 is king so far, and surprisingly quiet in this circuit.  It is noisy in other gear I've tested it in.


Edited by Mad Max - 9/9/10 at 6:56am
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