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Iphone to Matrix M-stage not sounding good: Amp, headphone or DAC?

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by jc89, Jan 18, 2013.
  1. jc89
    I finally purchased a Matrix M-stage to go with my Q-701. I connect my iphone to it via a 3.5mm to RCA, and the sound quality is very dissapointing, not even as good as directly using iphone's headphone jack. [​IMG]
    The sound stage is much improved, but the sound is not clear, quite distant, and resolution is reduced, and noise floor is quite high.
    Does anyone have experience with iphone directly to M-stage? Is this expected, or my M-stage might be defective? Do I need an external DAC or good CD player to really make the M-stage work? I read that K701 is great with M-stage, but how about Q701? 
    1) I ordered a 110V M-stage, and the correct model arrived, but the power cord included in the box says "250V 10A". I used a spare computer monitor's "110V 10A" power cord instead. Could this be a problem?
    2) This is my very first headphone amp, so i have no reference to compare with. However, when I set gain to 20dB, and turning M-stage volume all the way up, and iphone volume all the way up, it seems that the sound is not un-bearably loud, and not much louder than using iphone's headphone jack alone. Is this strange? I expect M-stage to significantly boost the volume, offering decent volume when both iphone and amp's volume are around mid-point, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Both iphone and M-stage have to be turned up almost to maximum...
    3) When I hook my PS3 to M-stage, and turn up the volume nob without playing anything, the noise floor is very noticeable. I assume it's caused by PS3 not M-stage, since it's quite if I do not input any source to M-stage. The sound quality with PS3 is bad, too, and I'm not sure if it's due to PS3's internal DAC, or M-stage. When I use PS3's internal DAC and A/V receiver, the loud speakers sound fine.
    4) When I connect iphone to M-stage, the noise found in PS3 is gone, but when I play music, the background noise in the recording is much more noticeable. I primarily listen to classical music, and many recordings are from the 60's, so noise in recording is kind of expected, but it is much more noticeable through M-stage+Q701 than just iphone+Q701, or through the loud front speakers. 
    Is it because M-stage unveils more "details" in the recording? Is there a way to resolve this issue?
    As a newbie to the hobby, I would really appreciate your patience and help! 
    Many thanks!
  2. HeatFan12 Contributor

    Connect it via line out. If you use the headphone out you are double amping and not getting a clean signal to amp.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. jc89
    Thanks for the reply!!!!!!
    I did some more testing, and it gets weirder. I think there is definitely something not right with my M-stage.
    1) I found my old ER4P earphone, and connect it to M-stage. Using either PS3 or iphone as the source, the sound is clear, nothing like with Q701. However, the sound is very unbalanced: right side is a lot louder than the left side.
    2) ER4P sounds both clear and balanced when connecting directly to iphone.
    3) Q701 sounds balanced, but unclear with M-stage.
    I'm sooooo confused.... what could be wrong??? [​IMG]
  4. HamilcarBarca
    Try setting the gain on the the M-Stage to its minimum (0dB?.) The labels on at least some versions (including mine) are reversed.
  5. jc89
    Aha, setting the gain to 0db fixes the unbalance for EP4R! Thank you!!!
    The Q701 seems to improve, too, but the SQ is still no where what other people described for the M-Stage+Q701 pair....
    This confirms that the issue lies with M-stage. There doesn't seem to be any other settings I can change besides the gain.... Maybe my Q701 needs some extensive break-in?
    I'm pretty surprised that the gain setting could distort the sound so much...
    Thanks again.
  6. HamilcarBarca
    Did your headphones get noticeably louder? If they did, you've been setting the DIP switches backwards. I know I did. It might look as if the gain is 0dB but, when you reverse your interpretation of the settings, you've actually chosen 20dB.
    I haven't heard the Q701.
    What wrong with the SQ? I wouldn't expect the M-Stage to do anything other than (essentially) make things louder. I don't recall it's output impedance but I think it's low enough for the '701.
    Have you ever been satisfied with the '701?
    What issues?
    The Q701 is reputed to require extended break-in time. Recommendations for 100 and 200 hours are common, and they go to at least 400 hours. Note: I can't say it couldn't be true, but I don't believe it.
  7. jc89
    I am sure I get the gain setting correctly: white dots on the graph represent the white switch bottons. 20db sounds the loudest.
    I am OK with the sound of Q701 directly out of iphone's headphone jack. It does feel flat and underpowered, but everything is clear. With M-stage, even though the sound stage is wider, the sound is not crystal clear, like through an old radio's speakers: muffling, low resolution, and the positioning of instruments are kind of unfocused, and in general it sounds quite distant, not upfront.
    ER4P is great with M-stage though, offering many details I've never heard before...
    Thanks again for your help.
    I will continue to break in Q701, and try a better source. If all things fail, I will probably return Q701 and get another can...
  8. jc89
    Problem resolved!
    I posted in the main M-stage thread already, but just want to post in this thread again so that someone with similar issue might find the discussion useful in this thread.
    The cause is the 3.5mm to 1/4 converter coming with Q701. 
    When I change it to the old one coming with K240 the issue is resolved. 
    Thanks HamilcarBarca and HeatFan12 for helping!
  9. Mshenay
    happy to hear it, I also noticed mall my cans sound HORRIBLE If I have the gain to high! So combine the BAD jack with an additional to powerful gain setting.... and u've got a real mess. Non the less my cans sound exactly as you describe when the gain is to high, SO in teh future be sure to try to user lower gain settings if you can! 
  10. HamilcarBarca
    I notice some noise -- buzzing and occasional pink noise -- with the M-Stage's high gain. It's reduced but still present at its 18dB setting. At low gain, its quality is more than acceptable.
    Despite my initial enthusiasm for the amp, it's now clear it's at best a second-rate design.
  11. Mshenay
    it's a $200 amp lol
    and for the price it's just fine with all my cans. No nasty noise or wierd pink noise. It could purely by synergy, even good amps hell GREAT amps can sound terrible with some cans just due to well synergy. Some stuff just doesn't work well together. Some one elese might b able to tell you why 
  12. HamilcarBarca
    It's noisy, which means either the construction or the design is defective. Your LOL is misplaced.
    The O2 (US$150) is completely silent. Only second-rate vendors try to justify noisy equipment.
  13. HamilcarBarca
  14. Mshenay
    Then quit ur complaining and go buy an O2 sheesh, the noise issue could be one of Many things do you want to even START that conversation! 
    I sure DON't
    anyways best of luck to you have a nice evening <3 
  15. HamilcarBarca
    The noise defect is real. Sorry.

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