Matrix M-Stage amp review: simple, cheap, and excellent.

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by project86, Mar 3, 2010.
  1. Pharmaboy
    Really interested in your comments on sound of the HPA-3B. I'm interested in this amp, though the last thing I need is another amp (!) ... it's an addiction.
  2. Pharmaboy
    Update on my M Stage Matrix HPA-1: Finished burning in the new dual OPA827AID opamps (~100 hrs) and have done some focused listening to a wide range of .wav files (R&B, funk, pop, classical). I'm really happy with the sound I'm getting out of this amp now:
    • The borderline/too much glare in upper midrange/lower treble I was getting w/the LME49990 opamps is gone. Now that part of the frequency range sounds very even w/no apparent dips or elevations. The upper registers of the HPA-1 sound quite pleasing now: plenty of resolution & detail (far more than w/stock opamps), but presented in a musical, relaxed way.
    • Just as the LME49990s did, the OPA827s greatly improve the somewhat boomy bass of the stock amp/opamps. The HPA-1 was always a bassy amp, and I enjoyed the bass; still, I knew it could be tighter & the notes more distinct. And now the bass is really solid/tighter, with good impact: fun listening, as always, but "the technicalities" definitely got better vs stock.
    • My other sorta/kinda problem w/the LME49990s was that the soundstaging went from sort of vague/indistinct (stock opamps) to the total opposite--very distinct placement of voices, instruments, etc in space--but a little too tight & clustered between channels, not quite as spread out as I get from other amps. Well, the OPA827s really get soundstaging right. On my Fidelio X2s, this amp's soundstaging is now well above average IMO. It's pretty wide, not too distinct or too diffuse: everything's in its place, but again, it's quite musical and natural.
    I was apprehensive that the noticeable benefits of the LME49990s vs stock opamps might disappear, even if the issues I had with their sound were ameliorated by the changing to OPA827s. But as it turns out, the OPA827 do just about everything right. I like this sound signature a lot. I can definitely recommend these opamps to others who cherish their HPA-1s, as I do, and want to improve on the sound of the stock opamps.
  3. AltCtrl
    So you just need 2 OPA827AID's and a browndog adapter to do the mod? I'll admit the stock HPA-1 makes headphones like my Fidelio X2's sound a little to boomy and as someone else mentioned it does the same to the HD650 which makes sense. However my Beyers sound great on the HPA-1 so it's all about finding that balance.

    Have you tried any Hifiman products? I find their bass to be very distinctive and even addictive at least that's what I find with my RE-600 IEM's, just be careful with the build quality of some of their products. I'm looking forward to trying their Planars.

    I'm actually looking at more compact amps and dacs like the Schiit Mimby + Magni 3 and a used Chord 2Qute. Would be interesting to do a comparison. My HPA-3B is still in the mail it should be here by the end of the week.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
    Pharmaboy likes this.
  4. Pharmaboy
    Yep: 2 OPA827s attached (surface mounted above & below) a browndog adapter:

    The HPA-1 is really an interesting amp. With stock opamps, it doesn't sound particularly boomy on headphones that have tight bass to begin with. But if the headphone has relatively loose/undamped bass to begin with (like my Fidelio X2s), it can be a little uncontrolled.

    I actually heard just as much change from opamp rolling in my powered monitors + sub, on which:
    • The stock opamps sounded musical/ear friendly, but a little boomy
    • The LME49990s sounded very different: very controlled/deep/tight bass; better, more focused soundstage; more resolution; but also, some brightness in upper midrange/lower treble.
    • The OPA827s kind of average the sound of stock opamps + LME49990s: no brightness/glare anywhere, but good soundstaging, solid soundstaging and bass.
    The only thing I can't be totally sure of (because I can't directly compare the LME49990s vs OPA827 opamps w/o taking the cover off and swapping them out--the OPA827 might (just might) be a little lighter in absolute low reach & impact of bass. Hard to be sure. Still, it sounds terrific, the best of all the opamps I've heard on the HPA-1.

    I've never heard a Hifiman headphone. I know a lot of people like various models a lot.

    The best bass I ever heard came from 3 headphones, 2 of which I own:
    • Best of all: ZMF Eikon (plenty of sub-bass plus flat/powerful bass throughout entire bass range, not affecting midrange at all
    • Next-best: a tie between the ZMF Ori (planar bass is kind of awesome--different from dynamic in ways I'm not sure I could describe)
    • and the E-Mu Teaks, which on the right amp hit like a sledge hammer
    Really interested in what you have to say about the HPA-3. I have too many amps already, but amp lust is still there (sadly).
  5. rikk009
    For that price Schiit DACs can be pretty good, also Audio GD if looking for Chinese product?
  6. Pharmaboy
    Just read a very positive review of a JDS Labs DAC ("El DAC") I'd buy in a heartbeat, if I wasn't already DAC'd-to-the-max:

    I'm 100% into multi-bit at this point, not delta-sigma. But here's a delta-sigma DAC said to sound not bright, though having sufficient detail/resolution (big +) and to have a pleasing fullness/impact in lower registers/midrange (huge +, very difficult to find this quality in any DAC).
  7. rikk009
    $250 seem okish for what it seem to offer. AKM 4490 does sound good in the mids specially. I am also getting more into R2Rs and was seriously looking forward to Audio GD R2R11 but for some insane reason bought Let's see how it goes. If this bombs my next purchase would be the R2R11.
  8. trybeingarun
    I have only used delta sigma dacs before. Is there a major benefit to go from DS to multibit, R2R etc
  9. Oscar-HiFi
    I love my EL DAC :D
  10. Pharmaboy
    Yes, I'm pretty curious about the R211 (an all-in-one R2R! might be the only one in existence)--even though I don't need it.

    You can still get an Audio GD DAC-19 or NOS 19 from Magna HiFi in Netherlands. I got both from them--the NOS 19 totally changed how I "hear" digital (as in, I don't hear it--I just hear music now). I'm in the U.S. These transactions went very smoothly.
  11. Pharmaboy
    Oh, yeah! I guess it depends on your sonic preferences (some people just love that D-S sound). But if you lean towards more organic/relaxed music reproduction, multi-bit can really change things.

    I have the Audio GD DAC-19 (my backup DAC, believe it or not); and their NOS 19 (my day-to-day). Non-oversampling multibit digital changed just about for me (for the better).
    trybeingarun likes this.
  12. rikk009
    I won't say benefit but it's personal choice. When I first heard a NOS dac I felt it lacked treble response(too smooth) but then when I did A-B with any other Delta-sigma treble was on DS dac felt crude and harsh. It's worth giving it a try to see what it's all about.
    trybeingarun likes this.
  13. leeperry
    NOS is a terrible idea anyway, most R2R manufacturers oversample because it's mandatory for good treble response.

    Getting back OT, rolling opamps is one thing but anyone here did cap rolling huh?
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2017
  14. Pharmaboy
    Absolute statements like this ("NOS is terrible idea") usually don't hold up very well.

    In any case, my ears say that NOS is the total opposite of terrible...which probably means the quality of NOS vs OS DAC sound is implementation-dependent, like everything else in audio.

    In any case, I'll trust my ears over proclamations like this any day.
    rikk009 likes this.
  15. leeperry
    Unfortunately, they very much do:

    Mr Lavy is a judge at the AES and built several DAC's, let's say he's quite knowledgeable about digital audio and whatever Schiit Multibit or Soekris R2R do upsample for the aforementioned reasons stated by Mr Lavry.

    This discussion with Mr Lavry back then has been discussed in other threads:

    Anyway, roll the caps of your mstages already :)
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2017

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