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Matrix Quattro DAC and amp loaner program - Page 4

post #46 of 160

If you think the qualification for a review is only praise, you are most mistaken. I went out of my way to find people who would review the Reference 7 and be critical (not necessarily negative though) of the sound, so it should be the same for every other program IMO.

post #47 of 160

Matrix Quattro DAC Impressions (Balanced Outputs)

For a SE output impressions clicky here.


My personal preferences and expectations for DACs: 

  1. Good tonal balance
  2. Smooth treble
  3. Wide apparent bandwidth - extended bass and treble
  4. Unadulterated peaks and attacks
  5. Ability to resolve low level information
  6. Clarity
I expect “cheap” DACs to do at least 1 and 2, and maybe a little bit of 3,4, and 6.

The kind of DACs I don’t like:

DACs that claim to sound “analog” or “organic” which are in fact really dark, rolled-off, or have blunted transients. These “analog” sounding claims are used to trick people who have never heard vinyl before, whereas the real problem is with the sound engineers of today who are deaf or beholden to artists who listen via the speakers on their iPhones. (I do have a modest TT setup BTW.)
As a rule: generally the longer I stay listening to something, the more I like it. I had to struggle to keep listening. It basically was over for me after 2 ½ tracks.

Test Setup: 

PC - > USB (Matrix Quattro)
Balanced output -> Eddie Current Balancing Act (7N7 NU tall bottle, EML300B solid plate)
Mogami XLR Cables
HD800 (Anax Modded)
Stock HD800 headphone cable terminated into 4 Pin XLR balanced

Reference Setup:

Same as above with the following exceptions:
PC -> Ethernet crossover cable
Bridge -> PS Audio PerfectWave DAC

Other Things You Should Know:

Let’s say people don’t send me free stuff and I scare a lot of manufacturers.
Stuff doesn’t impress me easily. I already have really good stuff where the components have been selected and set up to play with each other well. I can be overly critical, but that doesn't necessarily mean that if I don’t like something I wouldn't recommend it for someone I knew with a limited budget. My belief is all stuff is flawed and that criticisms (if warranted) are the only way for people to get meaningful information.
Finally, I will tend to exaggerate differences, especially with DACs.


This is definitely not my kind of DAC. It is a forgiving sounding DAC. Live music can hurt sometimes. Snare drums snap. Trumpets blare. Bass drums hit. Wind instruments bite. This DAC cannot reproduce these exciting aspects of live performance. The DAC also sounds somewhat flat. Bass is extremely slow and muffled. When the music gets complex, the DAC falls apart.

Major weaknesses:

  • SLOW - Peaks of attacks seem like they are behind in time  - and they never reach where they should. Some smearing.
  • MUDDY BASS - Bass is muddy and smeared. The DAC can manage to sound dark and thin at the same time.
  • LACKS MACRO DYNAMICS - Inner dynamics is OK sort of though (see below)
  • FLAT - Somewhat lacks ability to convey instant dynamic contrast
  • LACKS RESOLUTION - Rather poor in this area. It misses a lot!

Minor weaknesses:

  • TREBLE SLIGHTLY HARSH WITH GLARE - Still not too bad. Not the most relaxed. I’ve heard much worse.
  • SLIGHTLY RECESSED MIDRANGE - Tends to be buried behind muddy bass and sharp treble.
  • LACKING LOWEST OCTAVE / BASS EXTENSION - or at least I can't get a sense of it because the bass is so muddy. EDIT: it is missing.

Impressions With Each Track Listened To (direct from my notes):

Soundgarden - Fell on Black Days
  • Don’t know how this grunge track could sound so unexciting.
  • This is dull - it’s killing my system
  • Turning up the volume -  it’s still putting me to sleep
Sarah McLachlan - World on Fire
  • No “blackground” - everything is really grey
Talking Heads - This Must Be the Place
  • Damn - where’s the drive with the bass line on the intro?
  • Where’s the attack for the snare and pluck on the bass string?
  • Oh gawd - David Bryne sounds like he’s on ‘ludes
  • All those wierd synth effects have no pop.
  • Screw this - going to another track
Mozart Requiem (AAM Hogwood / Kirkby) - Dies Irae
  • WTF is wrong with this DAC - oh c’mon!
  • How could one of the most dramatic parts of this recording sound so... I mean the choir is supposed to be singing about Judgement Day. I guess Judgement Day isn’t so bad.
Mozart Requiem (AAM Hogwood / Kirkby) - Tuba Mirum
  • Soloists making me sleepy.
  • Next track please
Madonna - Lucky Star
  • Decent bass volume. Slightly bloated (for a DAC). Slow
  • Recessed midrange works for Madonna’s voice.
Madonna - Into the Groove
  • Notes, sounds, and effects sort of blending into each other.
  • Flat
Nirvana - All Apologies (MFSL)
  • This a highly dynamic track with well recorded drums that hit hard and some really grating guitar. This MFSL recording is even slightly bright. F this. F this. THIS IS BS
K.D. Lang - Helpless
  • Lots of spacial cues, air, and information in this track. I heard none of them.
  • K.D. Lang’s voice sounds surprisingly thin, wierd.
K.D. Lang - Case of You
  • This track sounds OK. Better resolution. Maybe the DAC needs to warm up for something. Maybe I’m getting tired. Maybe I don’t care anymore.
Beethoven #6 (Norrington) - 1st Movement
  • This is supposed to be a really dynamic and sweet recording - what I’m hearing is nonsense.
  • Instruments like winds have no bite. Violins sound wrong.
  • Ouch no dynamics. ZERO dynamics.
Vegas - Busy Child
  • This sounded pretty good - it’s not a demanding recording though. Just some bass and effects, all poorly produced. The DAC manages this track well.

Questions and Answers:

Q: Aren’t you being a bit too critical?
A: Yes.
Q: Dude. What is your problem?
A: My problem is that something like that AMB Gamma 2, a DIY DAC that can sometimes be found in the FS section for $250 can do 1,2,3,4 and 6 (but not 5) of those preferences I listed above.
Q: It's not fair that you compared this DAC with a $2000+ reference
A: Indeed, it's not fair.
Q: WTH? Can’t you recommend something that is reasonably priced?
A: I just did at the very top of the Q&A. Also the Schiit Bifrost from my quick listen at a meet seems to be pretty good for the money. I can’t say for certain. Maybe if someone can convince Schitt to lend me a Bifrost to review, I could confirm.
Q: Don’t you think you need to listen to the DAC longer to make a proper evaluation?
A: I would, but listening to it causes me discomfort. I have listened to it for bits at a time for three days now. UPDATE: Actually I forced myself to go back and forth a bit with my reference after I wrote the above to confirm. I've got another week for so and maybe I will come back to it. Or maybe I will force myself to get used to its sound. I would have no problem if my opinion changed in a week and had to eat my words.
Feel free to ask me any more questions or clarify my impressions.

Edited by purrin - 11/13/11 at 5:08pm
post #48 of 160


Originally Posted by CEE TEE View Post

Well, you don't seem to be that big a fan of the Benchmark so I didn't think you would dig the Matrix...


I would still lend you stuff because I want to know what you think.  We won't agree on everything!

I'm not a big fan of the Benchmark, but if I had to choose, I would take the Benchmark. The Benchmark is more tilted toward the treble than most all DACs that I've heard. However, IMO it's not nearly as bad as how most people describe it - the treble is not as harsh as the Matrix Quattro, even considering the Quattro is not treble tilted.


I've actually heard the Benchmark on many occasions because of its ubiquitousness. I find the Benchmark clearer sounding than the Matrix Quattro. It has better real resolving capability too. The Quattro is poor in this regard. As for the Benchmark's tonal balance, it's just matter of using different tubes or headphones to suite it to my tastes. As I indicated, the HP1000 and Benchmark headphone out is a great combo.


Edited by purrin - 11/8/11 at 9:49pm
post #49 of 160

great read, very interesting impressions thus far


@Purrin, you used to own the M-Stage, how does that compare with the Quattro amp?

post #50 of 160


Originally Posted by EraserXIV View Post

great read, very interesting impressions thus far


@Purrin, you used to own the M-Stage, how does that compare with the Quattro amp?

That's next. My M-Stage didn't stay stock for very long - it ended up having significant mods on it.

Edited by purrin - 11/8/11 at 9:51pm
post #51 of 160

^Hey, that was educational, entertaining, and interesting.  Veritable trifecta.


I didn't need a translator at all.  (And one version was just fine.)


Last few hours, I was off listening to Dunntechs and what I was thinking about after listening to your DAC (PWD) on 2 occasions doing "something cool" but maybe "unnatural"- it was kind of turned on its head tonight.


Speakers/room can "mix sound" along those lines...there is a LOT we still don't know how to measure/relate but we can definitely sense.


As for the Matrix/Benchmark comparo- with my level of experience, I didn't find the differences <quite as obvious> but I definitely had my preference of the Benchmark too.



post #52 of 160
Thread Starter 

Purrin - I loved it! Great read. I am curious to hear whether you change your mind about any of it in the future, or if things (gasp!) actually get worse.


That's the cool part about doing this myself - you aren't beholden to a manufacturer to say good things about them. I'm not insulted in the least if you absolutely hate the item or just aren't impressed with it. As we've seen, Sarals really liked it, CEE TEE seemed to like it for the most part, and you didn't care much for it at all. Certainly a wide range of impressions and I look forward to hearing what everyone else thinks. 


When I was part of the Audio GD Reference 7 program, there were several people who had negative opinions of that DAC. I personally loved it. On the flip side, I've heard a lot of DACs that I really disliked - yet other people seem to enjoy. The most recent examples of this were the Esoteric D-07 and the Musical Fidelity M1-DAC. Neither of those did anything for me. I try to stop myself from actively preaching my dislike for those models, but if someone solicits my opinion I'll certainly be honest. I feel like that's exactly what you are doing here, so I appreciate it.



post #53 of 160

It is important for me to listen to DACs next to each other, otherwise (and even still) it can be hard to discern differences.


I found it really close between AMB DAC, HRT Screamer II, Benchmark when I compared.  Some more extension on the Benchmark.


But I don't think I had the best amp or phones at the time.  As my system and experience grows I may notice more if I keep trying DACs.


At least a few things contribute to being able to hear differences I think (besides possible expectation bias):

  • Need good amp to run DACs through- transparent and capable of resolving what the DAC can present
  • Resolving phones to hear the differences too
  • Listening skill/attention/some sort of process/practice
  • Familiar tracks help me


Sometimes there is just something that jumps out at you, like a voice or horn that does not sound right.  Or the Stello has a warm/soft sound.


Okay, more impressions!


post #54 of 160

BTW - my impressions were with the balanced outputs. Sometimes the balanced outputs sound worse than SE because of additional amplification requirements (extra circuitry like cheap op-amps.) I may need to try SE.

post #55 of 160

Like I said, the way something sounds affects people different ways!  I'm enjoying reading this.  I'm surprised no one took me to task for soft pedaling the Matrix.  I kinda did.  But you know, the difference between it's sound (except through it's built in headphone amp) and the other DAC's I had on hand was not huge.  When I finally laid my little hands on a reference DAC, I noticed differences, and I preferred the reference - BUT, I didn't have the Matrix on hand then to directly compare, so - invalid, IMHO.  Even so, the Matrix is a very good piece - it does nothing wrong, but - BUT - it is MUSICAL.  Is that "musical truth", and does that make it inaccurate or bad?  That's in the ear of the beholder!


Oh, one other thing.  I listened to the balanced line outputs, too, when I was driving a piece of balanced pro gear.  Otherwise, the Matrix was connected to my preamp via the unbalanced RCA's.  I had the Matrix pair interconnected with my own balanced XLR cables (I said that, didn't I?).  I did not listen to balanced headphones, because I don't have any.


Anyway, I'm looking for more opinions!  Great writing, fellas!

Edited by sarals - 11/9/11 at 3:35pm
post #56 of 160

Cee Tee, I've had my eye on the AMB y2.  You really seemed to like it!  I appreciate that.  (I've been a fan of Ti's designs for a while.)

post #57 of 160

Size/$...AMB y2 sounded nice to me.   Have really liked the MisterX builds that I have seen of AMB designs too.


My experience with mini^3 has been a great one and was built by MisterX.


Hopefully someone can eventually compare AMB y2 with the Matrix Quattro on this thread!



post #58 of 160
Originally Posted by CEE TEE View Post

Size/$...AMB y2 sounded nice to me.   Have really liked the MisterX builds that I have seen of AMB designs too.


My experience with mini^3 has been a great one and was built by MisterX.


Hopefully someone can eventually compare AMB y2 with the Matrix Quattro on this thread!



I hope so!


BTW, I built my Mini3.  I like my builds!!  biggrin.gif  I'd love to hear a build by Mister X.  I know he does fine work.


post #59 of 160
Thread Starter 

Yep, good discussion here, no matter how many people end up loving or hating the Quattro gear.


Purrin - perhaps it would be enlightening if you would list some other DACs that you've heard that you did enjoy. Maybe with a wide range of prices? Sometimes that might give us a better picture of your sonic preferences. No rush, maybe wait until you've finished all your listening.


For my part, I'll say that I like the Quattro gear way more than Purrin, maybe a little more than CEE TEE, and a little less than sarals. But I'll go more into detail when we've had more impressions from other folks.  

post #60 of 160

If there are any slots left on the loaner program, I'd love to have the opportunity to audition and review. I am relatively new here, though I have both trade and forum references, but absolutely no offense on my end should my request be passed over.


I've written a review of the Cavalli Liquid Fire (http://www.head-fi.org/t/577294/review-cavalli-audio-liquid-fire-headphone-amplifier) , am working on one for the Resolution Audio Cantata Music Center, and have an LCD-3 on its way, for what it's worth. I live in South Florida. To add context, I've personally auditioned and compared four mid-to-higher end amps (Woo Audio WA22, Red Wine Audio Audeze Edition, Cavalli Liquid Fire, Leben CS-300XS), a few DACs (Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2, Cambridge Audio 840c, Resolution Cantata)


The reason I'm interested is that I'm looking for a secondary setup for my office, to use for my current LCD-2.


Thanks for your consideration.

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