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REVIEW: Matrix Cube DAC - Page 2

post #16 of 143

 

 

My own feeling is that using the Matrix Mini-i with the balanced hook up is what makes it a special product for the price (and somewhat more). There really is no comparison between the SE operation and the balanced...(nor should there be since the balanced Matrix Mini-i  DAC outputs twice the power to the amp). I'm looking forward to comparing the DacMagic with the Matrix Mimi-i (both balanced into a LD  MKVII+).

 

Also...can't help noticing the similarities in the PCB layout of the two Matrix products with the Mini-i looking like it has a more populated circuit board.


Edited by Hellenback - 10/15/10 at 5:23pm
post #17 of 143
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellenback View Post

 

 

My own feeling is that using the Matrix Mini-i with the balanced hook up is what makes it a special product for the price (and somewhat more). There really is no comparison between the SE operation and the balanced...(nor should there be since the balanced Matrix Mini-i  DAC outputs twice the power to the amp). I'm looking forward to comparing the DacMagic with the Matrix Mimi-i (both balanced into a LD  MKVII+).

 

Also...can't help noticing the similarities in the PCB layout of the two Matrix products with the Mimi-i looking like it has a more populated circuit board.

I admit I haven't heard the Mini-I so I just can't comment on its performance. A lot of people seem to enjoy it and the balanced option is definitely great if your system can take advantage of that. That's why I think Matrix should continue to offer both of these DACs concurrently, because they aren't really direct competition for each other.

 

As far as PCB layout: I don't see them as being that much more similar than any random pair of similarly shaped compact DACs with built in amps would be. The Mini-I is necessarily more populated because the Cube has a simpler design: Single DAC chip instead of dual. No MCU controller or any of the other stuff associated with the display. SRC4382 chip handles upsampling as well as digital receiving, so no seperate receiver chip is needed. Less inputs/outputs due to the single ended design. Still, I think they are both roughly equally populated for their size (the Cube is smaller):

 

Matrix_Inside.jpg

DSC_0007.jpg

 

 

The Mini-I has received many excellent reviews, has scores of fans, and by all means is still a good option to consider. I'd love to hear your impressions when comparing it to the DacMagic.

post #18 of 143

 

I meant to thank you for your excellent review....very well done!

 

If I hadn't already owned the MKVII+ I would very likely have purchased the CUBE along with the M-Stage as it seems to be the SE combo to beat for the price (and even somewhat more).

 

Quote:

I think they are both roughly equally populated for their size (the Cube is smaller)

 

When I see the pictures of the two Matrix products together it puts their respective board lay-outs in better perspective. I didn't realize the Cube was that much smaller than the already compact Matrix. You are certainly right about these Matrix products being hard to beat.

 

post #19 of 143
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hellenback View Post

 

I meant to thank you for your excellent review....very well done!

 

If I hadn't already owned the MKVII+ I would very likely have purchased the CUBE along with the M-Stage as it seems to be the SE combo to beat for the price (and even somewhat more).

 

Quote:

 

When I see the pictures of the two Matrix products together it puts their respective board lay-outs in better perspective. I didn't realize the Cube was that much smaller than the already compact Matrix. You are certainly right about these Matrix products being hard to beat.

 

Thank you. I'm totally ignorant about the Little Dot amps.... how is that MKVII+? I keep meaning to try something from them, but the ones that interest me most are pretty expensive and I need to slow down a bit.

 

As for size: the Cube is roughly 6.3X5.7X1.7 (in inches). Mini-I is roughly 8X6.1X1.9

 

Doesn't sound like much of a difference, but it comes out to be about 25% more area for the PCB. Bot are suitably small to fit almost anywhere though.

 

post #20 of 143

Project86,

Thank you for the excellent and comprehensive review. There is something to read!

 

I have Matrix mini-i and Matrix M-Stage, and with great amazement and curiosity, I look at what the Chinese company will produce more good.

post #21 of 143

it appears that there are some different parts.

 

coolfungadget site:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260657442646&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT

 

and then i saw it for 10 bucks cheaper here i think it is the hilly ebay site not 100%:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=330468835315&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT

 

all the parts look similar but you can tell that some are different, the caps look very different as well as the transformer which even has a different number.  coolfungadget cube : trs #1001 and the hilly cube: trs#1504

 

 

 im curious which uses better components

 

thanks


Edited by RockinCannoisseur - 10/18/10 at 3:33pm
post #22 of 143
Thread Starter 

I see the different numbers on the transformer, but the caps all appear the same to me. The Hlly listing also incorrectly lists the USB input as handling up to 192kHz which is not true.

 

Some people have reported good buying experience with Hlly, others have had terrible results. I'd stick with Coolfungadget.

 

Jeffrey (Coolfungadget) seems to have some sort of connection with Matrix, and I believe he is more than just a reseller. I've never clarified that with him though.

post #23 of 143

Agree with project86, but I do see a small heatsink just above the two big caps there in the HLLY pic.

post #24 of 143
Thread Starter 

 

I think I see what you are talking about. It's actually there on my Cube as well, it's just obscured by the big Nichicons from certain angles. Here are the best pictures I could find, unfortunately not from the same angle but you get the idea:

 

 

DSC_0008.jpg

 

 

DSC_0013.jpg

 

I am curious as to what is under the heatsink. Not curious enough to remove it though....

post #25 of 143

I think it should be visible here in this pic

DSC03208.jpg

but it isn't, so it might not be there on the one shot by coolfungadget. That unit might be an early version, I think.

post #26 of 143
Thread Starter 

You could be correct. Maybe they didn't have the heatsink added yet, and they later discovered that it got too hot without a little assistance. I wonder what chip it is?

 

Anyways, I'm still enjoying the heck out of the Cube. I just received the Unique Melody Miracle IEM in the mail and the Cube pairs very well with it. As I mentioned, the built in amp seems to shine with IEMs.

post #27 of 143

project86,

thank you for your very detailed and compelling reviews of both matrix cube and yulong d100. it so happens that i'm now in the market for such a unit. you've made a comparison of both wrt the bass region; what are your observations about the rest - treble, midrange, soundstage, 3-d, etc. ?  if it matters, my source(s) will be either a 10 yr-old dvd player or the sony bdp-s370 blu-ray player.  how does the amp section of the cube rate against the yulong?

 

tia,

don
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post

...

 

The overall spectrum is nicely balanced. Bass is deep and impactful, and does not bleed over into the mids but retains a nice sense of control. I did notice that there was slightly less energy at the very lowest extremes as compared to a higher end DAC like the Yulong D100 or Wavelength Cosine. This was only really noticeable when directly comparing to a DAC of a higher class; on its own the Cube has great bass.

 

Mids are what I would call smooth and creamy. They do show a good amount of detail, but that doesn’t seem to be the priority. Instead, the Cube seems to focus on a more involving sound that is very non-fatiguing. So while the mids might not initially jump out and announce their superiority, I found them to be very enjoyable, especially during long listening sessions. This aspect is key for me as I definitely prefer to sit and listen for a while. Some gear that initially stands out as being excellent during a short demo can turn very grating in the long term. For this reason, I feel that you really need to put some time in with a product before making any kind of meaningful judgment on it. It can be fun to go to a meet or an audio shop to demo something for 15 minutes, and that can be a good indicator as to whether or not you might be interested in a more long term trial. But by it self that is just not enough time to make any definitive conclusion.

 

Highs on the Cube seem to extend well and there is a nice airy feel to them. Cymbals have a realistic shimmer but don’t overdo it. This is another area where the Cube strikes a great balance between detail and smoothness, and the result is very pleasing. Once again if we compare to reference class components, there is that last bit of extension and musical realism missing, but that is to be expected at this price. The Cube gets you most of the way there and doesn’t commit any serious offenses along the way.

 

The soundstage of the Cube is one of my favorite aspects. It has a very spacious feel to it, with a defined width and depth that is practically three dimensional. For me this is probably the single biggest standout feature of the entire product. I’ve heard a few people mention that sound stage was not the greatest strength of the Matrix Mini-I, so perhaps this was a deliberate focus on the part of the Cube’s designers. I suspect it might be a result of the ASRC function, because when I disable that option the sound shifts to a more intimate presentation. Whatever is causing it, I’m certainly enjoying it, and I have to say I’ve not heard a soundstage this expansive and accurate ever produced by a DAC of this price.

 

One concern I had was with the USB implementation. I had been hoping that it would accept 24/96 signals and not be an inferior option like the usual TI PCM270x based USB sections that a lot of products seem to add as an afterthought. I was a bit disappointed when I saw that it had the C-Media CM108 chip. I don’t know how the CM108 stacks up against the PCM270x, but my only prior experience with it was in the Cambridge DacMagic where I felt the USB option was noticeably inferior to the SPDIF options. I’m happy to say that the USB input here sounds indistinguishable from the other inputs. I’ve heard reliable sources who felt the same thing about the Valab products that use the CM108 chip. In both cases the CM108 simply decodes the USB info and sends it out in I2S form, and I’m not sure what the DacMagic does differently that causes the degradation. Perhaps there is some sort of I2S to SPDIF conversion in the chain that causes the trouble, but that would be pure speculation on my part. I’ve also heard that the CM108 has fairly high jitter compared to some other chips. If this is true, perhaps it is the ASRC process in the Cube that is taking care of that problem, enabling the USB input to sound identical to the toslink and coaxial. I don’t know and frankly I’m just glad it works so well. I do still wish for 24/96 capability though.

...

 

 

 

 

 

post #28 of 143

Project 86,

 

Thanks again for a stellar review.

This one has really helped me in making up my mind regarding future

buying / selling of equiment due to a future DIY project.

Visions of Matrix this and Matrix that and DacMagic kept colliding in my head.

Thanks to your review, my search has taken on some more focus.

I definitely need to look into Yulong D100 reviews now....

post #29 of 143
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by geetarman49 View Post

project86,

thank you for your very detailed and compelling reviews of both matrix cube and yulong d100. it so happens that i'm now in the market for such a unit. you've made a comparison of both wrt the bass region; what are your observations about the rest - treble, midrange, soundstage, 3-d, etc. ?  if it matters, my source(s) will be either a 10 yr-old dvd player or the sony bdp-s370 blu-ray player.  how does the amp section of the cube rate against the yulong?

 

tia,

don
 


 


Thank you for the kind words!

 

Both the Cube and the Yulong D100 are excellent products. The Yulong is obviously significantly more expensive, and does deliver a pretty sizeable improvement for the money. As I mentioned, bass depth and control are the most noticeable improvements, but the Yulong pulls ahead in almost every area by at least a small margin. Soundstage is the one place where the Cube is very close to catching up; that seems to be the strength of the Cube.

 

For the amp sections, it sort of depends on what you are using. With something relatively easy to drive like a Grado or most IEMs, the difference is rather small. But throw something more difficult in like an AKG K702, Sennheiser HD800, or 600ohm Beyer, and the Yulong starts really pulling ahead. They each have their own flavor though; the Yulong has a sort of clear transparent sound, while the Cube is a bit more warm and dark.

 

I think for many people the Cube would probably be the more sensible solution. On a limited budget, it would make more sense to get a Cube with a higher end set of headphones, rather than a Yulong with a lesser set of cans. But if you are going all out with high end gear the Yulong is definitely the right choice.
 

post #30 of 143

project86, thanks again for some sage advice.

matrix cube here i come ... the kicker is the analog input which the d100 sorely lacks.

 

don

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