This post marks a departure from my general reviewing style. Normally I get a new piece of gear, burn it in, listen to it, dismantle it for pictures, listen to it again, compare it to competitors, listen some more, etc. until I have a complete understanding of how it performs. Then I write up a detailed review and post it. The process generally takes at least a month or two depending on the complexity of the equipment. Meanwhile, people are sending me PMs asking about the device, and the more time I spend chatting with people about it (which I love to do) the longer it takes to finish the review. Taking some cues from my friend Average_Joe, and to a lesser extent 6moons.com, I’m trying a new format: posting initial info and impressions early on, and then incrementally adding more until I have a complete review. So with that in mind, I present the Matrix Quattro DAC.
I got my Quattro system (DAC and matching amp, XLR cables, and balanced headphone adapter for the amp section) from Jeffrey Tam at www.TamAudio.com - Jeffrey is an excellent seller - very helpful, very trustworthy, and very fast with shipping. He has proven himself time and again, and I wouldn't purchase a Matrix product from anyone else. Someone else will eventually pop up on eBay selling the Quattro gear for a few dollars less, but in my opinion it isn't worth the risk to buy from an inferior seller. Plus Jeffrey throws in extras and has options like the cables which nobody else has. I just can't recommend him highly enough.
The DAC sells for $699 with shipping included. It ships in a nice box with a good amount of protection. Inside we find the DAC itself, a user manual, a basic power cable, BNC adapter, and the remote (which is a $5 option).
The manual covers both the Quattro DAC and the Quattro amp.
The remote is the same for both Quattro products – when ordering them both, you really only need one remote. This is the same remote used with the latest Matrix Mini-I DAC.
I’ll expand on the internal design as this review progresses. For now the pictures tell a lot of the story.
AKM digital receiver
AD1896 asynchronous sample rate converter
LM1085 voltage regulator
LM4562 opamps in the output stage
TAS1020B USB controller
LME49600 as buffer in headphone section
Noratel toroidal transformer
The Quattro DAC has a good amount of inputs: Toslink, BNC coaxial (can be used with standard SPDIF coaxial cable via included adapter), AES/EBU, USB, and a single analog in. Outputs can be either balanced XLR or single ended RCA. The USB input accepts up to 24-bit/96kHz audio, the other three inputs up to 24-bit/192kHz. Analog in is handy, allowing you to use hi-res SACD or DVD-A discs (since those won’t usually send out a digital signal) or even a turntable setup if desired.
Front panel has dual headphone outputs. Using the jack on the left side automatically mutes the output on the rear. The right side headphone jack does not. This muting function can be disabled via an internal jumper.
This device can also be used as a pre-amplifier. Volume can be controlled manually or via the remote control. This function can be bypassed by moving the rear panel switch from “variable” to “fixed”. Volume control is done in the analog domain using a motorized Alps potentiometer. Gain is adjustable via internal jumpers.
The Quattro has a pleasing appearance and seemingly high quality construction. It isn’t flashy but it has an understated appeal to it.
I am very impressed by the sound of this DAC. For many folks, this is about as high end as they would ever need to go. Sure, there is improvement to be had if you have really high end headphones/speakers, really well recorded source material, and are a really critical listener. For some of us it is worth taking that step, but for many this is as high up as I would recommend. You could easily spend much more than this and not get any better sound. I know because I've done it myself.
But I'm not going into as much detail about the Quattro DAC at this point. Why? Because I'm sending the system around to some other HeadFi members to listen to, and I don't want to influence them. Their impressions will be added to this thread as they come in.
Here is the thread about my loaner program.
Here is a bit of feedback, including some Youtube videos, from the first participant.
Edited by project86 - 9/19/11 at 2:55pm