So I spent a little time with the X-Sabre yesterday. Setup: Auraliti PK90 with NuForce LPS-1 power supply, Audiophilleo AP1 with PurePower, X-Sabre as DAC (obviously), Icon Audio HP8 MkII amp, switching between Thunderpants TP1 and Beyer T1.
First, some observations. I love the look and feel of this thing. The enclosure brings to mind Esoteric DACs I've experienced in the past - literally and figuratively. In fact I have a $5k Esoteric D-07x sitting right here and externally the X-Sabre is right up there with it. But inside, the D-07x is a more typical enclosure while the X-Sabre continues to impress. Another thing that stands out, and isn't obvious from the pictures - the LEDs are a very relaxed, soft color which I'll call "ice blue". So many of my other DACs and amps feel the need to burn my retinas with a blazing LED.... why? It's so annoying. Kudos to whoever it was at Matrix that made this choice. It's a small thing yet a big thing if you know what I mean.
Listening - played some Metallica and it sounded excellent. "Metallica?!?! Aren't their albums all terrible sounding?" No, not the older stuff like the DCC Gold release of Master of Puppets, mastered by Steve Hoffman. I had this same setup going with my Yulong D18 and the X-Sabre is in no way lacking in comparison. If anything, it's got somewhat better bass texture, and an even more expansive soundstage... which are areas that the D18 already excels in compared to most other DACs. Tonal balance is more neutral than the D18 though - D18 is smooth on the top end; some would say overly smooth to the point of being dark. X-Sabre is more extended up there, but still doesn't strike me as being analytical like some other Sabre based units.
I also ran through some Marta Gomez and Nils Petter Molvaer to get a sense of how the X-Sabre handles pace with complex percussion sections. So far, so good. Definitely improved over their Quattro DAC which was very good in many areas but fell short in a few - like this one. This is the advanced stuff where us audio nerds get all excited and the average listener doesn't hear a difference (or maybe just doesn't care).
That's it for now. Still need to do way more listening to draw any meaningful conclusions. But I like what I'm hearing so far.