Here's my review of the Matrix Quattro:
First things first, I want to get some things get out of the way. Yes, my current gear only consists of my Cowon J3 and Audio Technica ATH-M50. I've already gone through the beginner's M50 fanboy phase, but still think this headphone does a decent job anyway.
Now, the excuses. For some reason, I couldn't find any spare AC cable in the house for the DAC and amp, so I had to constantly pull out the only one I could find from my family desktop. The problem is that the desktop computer has been having trouble turning on recently(it usually is never turned off for this reason), and I could only borrow the AC cable couple of times as I was afraid of losing all the data on the desktop. Also, this desktop was the only place I could find an AC cable, so please keep in mind that my review is based on a few, relatively short listening sessions of the DAC gear only.
My listening went from my laptop to J.River Media Center Wasapi Output through Matrix Quattro DAC to my M50. The comparison was done only with my J3, so there won't be any fancy comparisons in this review.
- Silent Background: Unless the volume knob was turned all the way, I thought that the background noise of the Quattro DAC was close to being silent. This helped me a lot in getting into the music. I think I would buy a DAC just for the benefit of this silence. The music that were not just replayed but seemed to just come to being as they were played. I felt like this silence let me hear more details that were previously covered up by the background noise. For old recordings that contain the background noise artifact like the Jacqueline Du Pre’s Elgar Concerto, the hiss was noticeably less distracting.
- More articulation between notes: Again with the Elgar Concerto, I was surprised to find each notes more articulated since I thought those details were lost with the older recording technique. What was thought to be a single bow stroke was actually shorter two, or three strokes. As for other songs I’ve tried (many of them were Korean, so I’m not sure if there’d be much benefit in listing them) I thought I could better understand what the singers were saying.
- Bit harsh high frequencies: I didn’t notice in other songs, but on one of HDTracks’ free trial songs, Marta Gomez’s Lucia, there was quite a strong sibilance in her voice. Unfortunately I didn’t think about listening and comparing other 24/96 files at that moment to determine whether the sibilance was only unique to this specific recording or was universal to the hi-res files. I did not recognize any sibilance when I played normal 16/44.1 formats.
- More impactful but also a bit muddier bass: Korean hiphop and rap are some of the genres of music I listen to, what I heard universally across these bass-heavy recordings, was that the bass was hitting a lot harder through the headphone out of the DAC. However, I thought that some of the details of the bass were lost. Bass also seemed a bit monotone, perhaps due to this loss of detail. There was a sense of muddiness (bloated?) in the bass as well. Surprisingly, however, they didn’t interfere much with the vocals.
- Less dynamics: One of my habits when listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony is to constantly increase the volume, to feel the impact of the music rather, compared to just listening to them. With the Quattro DAC, there was less dynamics than I could hear on my laptop computer (I generally find this to be the case even when I compare my laptop to the J3), and I found myself turning the volume knob again and again.
Finally, thanks again to John for this opportunity, and I apologize to everyone for taking so long to turn out a review.
Thanks for reading.
**Edited for grammar mistakes**
Edited by juman231 - 12/22/11 at 1:21pm