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Matrix X-Sabre DAC review and impression thread - Page 36

post #526 of 1084
Everyone who has heard mine says the soundstage is quite wide. I would agree with John that the Phonitor is to blame.
post #527 of 1084

My brief, short, simple impressions after spending a couple weeks with the X-Sabre:

 

Sonically:

I find the X-Sabre polite and tame. I believe it presents the music as is without adding or subtracting anything. Nothing seems odd. Certainly isn't shouty or fatiguing. I can't really comment on the characteristics of the DAC in terms of FR and details such as resolution, imaging, etc. because I really have no reference point, nor do I have another DAC beside it to compare at this time.

 

vs. W4S DAC2

At first listen, the W4S sounded more appealing with the HD800 and Stratus. Vocals were more forward, and the overall sound was engaging. Then the fatigue kicked in, and the fact that the DAC2 is a bit top tilted didn't help either. Voices were shouty. Oh God Norah Jones was stabbing my ears.

The X-Sabre in comparison was more laid back, and a bit less engaging. However, I think it'd be safe to say the X-Sabre is more neutral than the DAC2. Vocals weren't as prominent as the DAC2 was but I'd take more laid back than fatigue. 

 

vs. Gungnir

The entire reason why I sold the Gungnir was because it sounded shouty and hurt my ears alot. Norah Jones would destroy my soul every time I'd listen to her...

X-Sabre? Absolutely no fatigue due to vocals. None. Nada. Don't Know Why sounds so sweet and lush, there's no excess grain and it sounds balanced overall. I am using the Mjolnir and LCD3, just like I did with the Gungnir.

Switching to the HD800, still no shoutiness, no fatigue, no ear bleeding. I'm loving this.

I think the FR signature of the two DACs are quite similar: not bright, nor dark. HD800 sibilance quantity seems to be the same with the Gungnir and X-Sabre. 

Piano sounds normal on HD800 but sounds a little bit slow with the LCD3, though the effortlessness and openness is great vs. the Gungnir. Someone somewhere said the Gungnir sounded tense. I 100% concur with this description, and the X-Sabre offers a relief of tension.

 

w/ Mjo:

LCD3 sounds incredible, maybe a teenie bit slower than HD800 which wasn't a trait in the other DACs (maybe due to less shout?), but sounds sweet and balanced, nothing added, nothing subtracted. If I didn't sell my Mjolnir, and if I didn't buy the HD800, I'd end game here, no joke.

 

w/ DNA Stratus:

LCD3 sounds terrific, but the bottom end is a bit bloated thanks to the tubey goodness, and a tad slow. I think this is because the X-Sabre is more neutral with no added treble and more laid-back, causing the natural characteristic of the Stratus and its tubes to be betrayed. Vocals are oh so sweet, and the dynamics and imaging is wonderful, although I keep thinking the soundstage sounds like a V where there would be missing space at the widest points but deeper into the sound. However, it's not as bad as it reads; it just gives me a "feeling" but it's not cut in stone. I think a lot of it is because of the recording quality. I just wanted to put it out there. 

Lots of sub bass. HD800 was almost as sweet, lush, and thick as the LCD3 without as much sub bass, but had better impact. Again, no vocal fatigue thanks to the X-Sabre.

I think the Stratus would benefit more with a more forward and top tilted DAC like the W4S. I don't want to extrapolate and hastily generalize tube amps, but at this time I'd like to suggest that the X-Sabre will suit an SS amp or an SS sounding tube amp like the Super7, better than tubey sounding amps like the Stratus and Woo amps in general. Now this is before rolling tubes, so keep that in mind.

 

Physical qualities:

The X-Sabre is built like a tank. I was just astonished at the build quality. Super hefty and feels solid as a rock. Great and effective feet. Simplistic, humble design, nothing flashy. Nice clean white LEDs and easy to read and interpret labels. Two switches that are obvious to operate; great quality, no looseness. It does attract lots of fingerprints but they're easily wiped off with a cloth.

I just wish it had toslink optical input!

 

Please take my impressions with a bag of salt, I'm not nearly as experienced enough to write like six moons, nor do I have golden ears. I'm just your average Head-fier with a sense of reality and an open mind, who likes to listen to all genres but death metal and heavy rap.


Edited by Girls Generation - 5/21/13 at 1:26am
post #528 of 1084
Agreed on all fronts! As I experience more and more audio, the more neutral the experience, the better the gear tends to sound. The things that stand out in initial impressions become tiring, and the impressions that don't wow you, but still sound good end up sounding the best. I think I've found my neutral DAC to go along with my mostly neutral HD800s. Headamp GS-X2 goes without saying being neutral. Love this trio and can't wait for my GS-X2 to be delivered.
Edited by Maxvla - 5/21/13 at 12:59am
post #529 of 1084
Quote:Girl's Guts
Please take my impressions with a bag of salt, I'm not nearly as experienced enough to write like six moons, nor do I have golden ears. I'm just your average Head-fier with a sense of reality and an open mind, who likes to listen to all genres but death metal and heavy rap.

So, who wants to read six moons' overhyped commercials?

 

I would much rather read an honest report by someone who is only biased by their aural acuity.

 

Good job, GG.

post #530 of 1084

So I placed an order for an X-Sabre today. It had come down to this, the TEAC UD-501 and the W4S D2.

 

I own a Bifrost Uber and completely agree with what Girls Generation had said about the Gungnir being "shouty". The Bifrost is the same way. At times it will seem amazing but I can only listen to it with music that suits its sound as it is just too punchy/bright.

 

The X-Sabre shows as being in stock on the web site, so I hope it actually is. 

post #531 of 1084
Thread Starter 
Nice impressions, thanks very much for posting them. I definitely think the X-Sabre is great for people sensitive to "Shoutiness". On the flip side, some people will hear this more laid back, mellow sound as being boring or glossing over details. So it depends on your preferences. But I sure enjoy it!
post #532 of 1084

I agree, it may come off as boring, but that's ONLY if the synergy of the entire system doesn't match, and in this case, the Stratus was a tad bit slow. I can not imagine how slow and boring it'll be if you take the Soloist and pair it with the X-Sabre. Oh my god, I'd fall asleep instantly. It was a problem even with the Soloist was connected to the Gungnir. However, I feel that nowadays the shouty, forward sound is becoming the norm, and this concerns me. 

 

X-Sabre is really great with the Mjolnir since the X-Sabre offers a neutrality that the Mjolnir grips and presents in an assertive manner, creating a nice synergy, though it's not as fast sounding with Audezes. If you have something like the Soloist... well if you like it, you like a laid-back sound, meaning X-Sabre would also be for you since it won't be speeding anything up. However, if you're trying to offset the laid-back slow sounding nature of the Soloist with your DAC, I'd like to respectfully inform you that... you're doing it wrong bro.

 

I'd also like to point out that being laid-back is in no way negative because I believe it offers a sense of elegance and effortlessness that shouty DACs tend to lack. Sure it's a bit less engaging, but I think this is also dependant on your other components as well. I found the Mjolnir almost or just as engaging without the ear pain. However, I speak without absolutes, and the above is just my speculation and opinion; I'm not setting anything in stone, and I'm open to acknowledging that there may be forward, engaging DACs that are also effortless and elegant. However, I'm going to put my money down on the fact that such DACs will cost a lot more money than the DACs I'm talking about.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post
 

Edited by Girls Generation - 5/21/13 at 1:15pm
post #533 of 1084
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Girls Generation View Post

I agree, it may come off as boring, but that's ONLY if the synergy of the entire system doesn't match, and in this case, the Stratus was a tad bit slow. I can not imagine how slow and boring it'll be if you take the Soloist and pair it with the X-Sabre. Oh my god, I'd fall asleep instantly. It was a problem even with the Soloist was connected to the Gungnir. However, I feel that nowadays the shouty, forward sound is becoming the norm, and this concerns me. 

 

X-Sabre is really great with the Mjolnir since the X-Sabre offers a neutrality that the Mjolnir grips and presents in an assertive manner, creating a nice synergy, though it's not as fast sounding with Audezes. If you have something like the Soloist... well if you like it, you like a laid-back sound, meaning X-Sabre would also be for you since it won't be speeding anything up. However, if you're trying to offset the laid-back slow sounding nature of the Soloist with your DAC, I'd like to respectfully inform you that... you're doing it wrong bro.

 

I'd also like to point out that being laid-back is in no way negative because I believe it offers a sense of elegance and effortlessness that shouty DACs tend to lack. Sure it's a bit less engaging, but I think this is also dependant on your other components as well. I found the Mjolnir almost or just as engaging without the ear pain. However, I speak without absolutes, and the above is just my speculation and opinion; I'm not setting anything in stone, and I'm open to acknowledging that there may be forward, engaging DACs that are also effortless and elegant. However, I'm going to put my money down on the fact that such DACs will cost a lot more money than the DACs I'm talking about.

 

 

Bolded for truth. 

 

By the way, for people following along, I just have to reiterate - we are talking about relatively minor bits of "character" here. The different between two similarly priced DACs will generally be far less than that of two similarly priced headphones or sets of speakers. So while we call this DAC bright, or that DAC slow, or that DAC smooth, etc, it's usually nothing like the difference between an HD800, an LCD-2, and a D7000. 

 

Having said that - once you have a highly resolving system, and become acclimated to the sound, differences in DACs become something you learn to hear. And those little differences in character or ability can be very important. So it's kind of a conundrum - DACs don't matter that much, yet they matter a lot. 

post #534 of 1084

Hey guys,

 

I've been following this thread closely as I'm looking for a high end DAC to go with my HD800 and V200. From what I understand and what GG says, the X-Sabre wouldn't go nicely with the V200 as the Violectric has a kind of tubey sound. Project86, would you agree with this ? Have you tried this exact combination: X-Sabre + V200 + HD800 ?

 

Many thanks.

post #535 of 1084
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by anton2dan View Post

Hey guys,

 

I've been following this thread closely as I'm looking for a high end DAC to go with my HD800 and V200. From what I understand and what GG says, the X-Sabre wouldn't go nicely with the V200 as the Violectric has a kind of tubey sound. Project86, would you agree with this ? Have you tried this exact combination: X-Sabre + V200 + HD800 ?

 

Many thanks.

 

I have tried that exact combo. The result is quite nice, imo. But it really depends on your view of the HD800 - do you find it extremely bright? If so, you will want the smoothest DAC and amp chain possible. Do you find it perfect as is? If so, you'll want a mostly neutral DAC and amp. 

 

Personally I don't think the V200 is all that colored. It's just got some minor character to it, kind of like the X-Sabre. So it works for me. But I tend to prefer smoothness to extreme detail/clarity, most of the time anyway. 

post #536 of 1084

Thanks.

I find the HD800s a little bright on some genres, for example rock, metal. But I love them on classical and jazz. And, depending on the recording, I seem to detect some sibilance. I plan to try this week the Anax v1 mod to see if I can tame down that brightness a little. If the loss in the air and soundstage is not that much, I'll be glad with that.

 

I think it depends on the genre. I would prefer detail and clarity when listening to classical and jazz, but more smoothness for rock.

 

I'll be watching closely opinions on the new Yulong DA8 and then I'll probably decide on the DAC. Looking forward to your review.

post #537 of 1084

I don't think V200 is so warm as to conclude that it's "tubey." It definitely has a nice pleasant tone with wonderful pianos, but it isn't as laid back as a Soloist. I think you're confusing laid-back with rolled-off treble, which the X-Sabre certainly is not [depending on your reference point].

Although I haven't directly listened to the V200 with the X-Sabre, I'd say you shouldn't write the X-Sabre off with your amp and your tastes. In fact, I'd think it would complement the V200 well with its overall smoothness. In the case of detail/clarity vs. smoothness, I personally think the HD800 is plenty detailed and clear enough that it doesn't need such a DAC/Amp to accentuate it more, and would like to obtain smoothness to the glare and grain the HD800 imparts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anton2dan View Post

Thanks.

I find the HD800s a little bright on some genres, for example rock, metal. But I love them on classical and jazz. And, depending on the recording, I seem to detect some sibilance. I plan to try this week the Anax v1 mod to see if I can tame down that brightness a little. If the loss in the air and soundstage is not that much, I'll be glad with that.

 

I think it depends on the genre. I would prefer detail and clarity when listening to classical and jazz, but more smoothness for rock.

 

I'll be watching closely opinions on the new Yulong DA8 and then I'll probably decide on the DAC. Looking forward to your review.


Edited by Girls Generation - 5/21/13 at 4:32pm
post #538 of 1084

Wow, really useful review, GG. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

post #539 of 1084
Quote:
Originally Posted by project86 View Post

 

Bolded for truth. 

 

By the way, for people following along, I just have to reiterate - we are talking about relatively minor bits of "character" here. The different between two similarly priced DACs will generally be far less than that of two similarly priced headphones or sets of speakers. So while we call this DAC bright, or that DAC slow, or that DAC smooth, etc, it's usually nothing like the difference between an HD800, an LCD-2, and a D7000. 

 

Having said that - once you have a highly resolving system, and become acclimated to the sound, differences in DACs become something you learn to hear. And those little differences in character or ability can be very important. So it's kind of a conundrum - DACs don't matter that much, yet they matter a lot. 

 

This.

 

I'm pretty positive I can tell the difference between any two DACs when I'm laying in bed, lights off, no ambiant noise. Yet, I have a hard time actually A/B 2 DACs of same "class" because those listening conditions are not met (eyes opened, actively switching between the 2 DACs).

 

When I first listened to the Reference 5.32, I thought it sounded exactly the same as the Metrum Quad I was using before it. Same "R2R tone", smooth treble and non fatiguing sound. Then I listened to it in better conditions and the difference went from roughly non-existent to "huge" in my mind: the Ref appeared "much" darker and I could notice channel imbalance as well as some glariness/hardness that made the listening fatiguing quickly!

This fatigue was not a mind invention, it was really existent and I got the same issue with the NFB-27 at first, when I was using a cheap power cord/power strip.

 

From this experience, A/B ing two DACs can be quite difficult and takes much more time than headphones since the environement / listening conditions are critical.

So those who claim all the DACs sound the same (after a certain price point), I would answer: listen to them properly...

post #540 of 1084
Thread Starter 

Agreed. But I wouldn't hold it against someone if they couldn't hear a difference, or if they said it was small enough not matter much to their ears.

 

Everyone has their own area which they find worthwhile. There are plenty of audiophiles out there who are insanely focused on their preamp, for example. These guys have speakers with 4 or 5 figure price tags, and preamps to match. Yet they run it all from some aging Theta CD player or Sony SACD player. Not that Sony or Theta made bad gear but it doesn't stand up to todays better $1K+ DACs. Yet these guys just aren't very concerned about their source. On the flip side, there are people running crazy expensive digital gear with very modest headphones (HD600 for example). In either case, a clear upgrade path seems visible, but these people have their niche and they prefer to focus on that instead. I find it interesting. 

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