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.
Matrix Quattro DAC and amp loaner program - Page 4
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Matrix Quattro DAC Impressions (Balanced Outputs)
For a SE output impressions clicky here.
My personal preferences and expectations for DACs:
- Good tonal balance
- Smooth treble
- Wide apparent bandwidth - extended bass and treble
- Unadulterated peaks and attacks
- Ability to resolve low level information
The kind of DACs I don’t like:
Other Things You Should Know:
- 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!
- NO TREBLE EXTENSION - No air.
- 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):
- 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
- No “blackground” - everything is really grey
- 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
- 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.
- Soloists making me sleepy.
- Next track please
- Decent bass volume. Slightly bloated (for a DAC). Slow
- Recessed midrange works for Madonna’s voice.
- Notes, sounds, and effects sort of blending into each other.
- 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
- Lots of spacial cues, air, and information in this track. I heard none of them.
- K.D. Lang’s voice sounds surprisingly thin, wierd.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
Edited by purrin - 11/13/11 at 5:08pm
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
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
^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.
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.
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!
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.
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
I hope so!
BTW, I built my Mini3. I like my builds!! I'd love to hear a build by Mister X. I know he does fine work.
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.
- 958 Posts. Joined 12/2009
- Location: South Florida
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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.