Firstly I would like to thank Matrix for sending me this review sample, it was arranged through their distributor. I always try to write honest reviews, these are my subjective findings. This DAC has been burnt in, to be honest with solid state devices I do not tend to hear big variations after burn-in, this was no different.
Dell XPS 15 > USB > Matrix Quattro II > (German Maestro GMP400 / Fischer Audio FA-003ti Wood Cup)
Marantz CD-52 SE > Coaxial > Matrix Quattro II > Marantz PM-44 MKII SE > Mission 702e
(The list is quite comprehensive, so I’ll post the link)
Packaging, Accessories and Build Quality:
Well this is a mid to high end DAC, and the box is very nice. It is white, and has Matrix written on it, upon opening the box, you are greeted with foam, dense and protective, you lift off the top layer and you will find the Quattro securely held in place, also wrapped in packing material.
Underneath this main foam in tray, there is another which holds the power cable, the USB cable and the remote, all very securely packaged and nothing moved during shipping. The packaging feels good, and again it serves it purpose very well of protecting the product during shipping.
Included accessories are a standard USB cable, a power cable and a remote, the remote is very nice and is great for adjusting the volume, selecting the source and putting the unit in standby mode. It also allows you to mute it, which is very handy if using it in a speaker system. You also get an instruction manual and a CD with the USB driver on it for windows, everything you need to get setup is included, no other accessories are needed.
Build quality is excellent, it is a very classy looking product, with its black and white colour scheme and angled edges. It sits very nicely on a desk or on a shelf, depending on what you are planning to use it with. The front has a volume knob which is stepped and also has no limit, it rotates fully to adjust the volume up and down, it also acts as a select button when you push it in, this is used for selecting the source. Volume steps are measure 0.5db each time, so you can quite easily fine tune your listening level as they are not big steps. The dual headphone sockets are both very high quality, the back has many inputs and outputs which I will go in to a little later. The casing is aluminium, and it is very neat and precise, the case acts as a heatsink, and has some vents on the top, but again very discreet and precise. Overall the build quality is excellent, and this device is built to last.
Features and Functionality:
Well this is a great DAC is you have multiple sources, it has 2 coaxial inputs, 2 optical, 1 USB and a AES/EBU input, so you can hook up multiple devices and switch the input with the remote.
The remote can control the input source, and also the volume, the line-out volume can be manipulated and can also be set to 0db or +10db if you need the extra volume.
This is a fully balanced DAC, and has XLR outputs, and also standard unbalanced RCA outputs, along with 2 stereo 6.3mm headphone sockets, allowing you to use this with 2 pairs of headphones, unfortunately there is only the one volume control which controls both headphone outputs at the same time.
This DAC is fully DSD compatible, and the firmware is upgradeable, so this DAC is futureproof.
Now it all comes down to the sound at the end of the day, and this as a DAC does not fail to impress. Its internal headphone amp, well it depends on which headphones you use, more on this later.
Playing through my Marantz CD-52 SE > Coax > Quattro II > PM-44 MKII SE > Mission 702e it is incredibly clean and crisp. It really brings out the air and subtle detail in music, and with the setup I have this compliments it very nicely as it is a tad on the warmer side usually. It doesn’t lack body however, it is very flat and true to source not adding any real flavour of its own.
Using it in to an external headphone amp also renders the same performance, clean, flat and very detailed and airy. A very good source to feed your system, with the added high resolution compatibility, you are setup for a long time.
Using the internal headphone amp really depends on your headphones, it is plenty powerful enough to drive most headphones, from sensitive in-ears to full size headphones. However I find the sound to be a little dull and lifeless, maybe I have been spoiled by the full and musical sound of my Feliks Audio Espressivo valve amp. My Fischer Audio FA-003ti sound a little off when played out of this amp, but my GMP 400 do fair better, with their excellent clarity you get very neutral and balanced sound from the Quattro.
So when paired with slightly warmer headphones, it will bring out the best in them, but I would not recommend pairing it with very flat or borderline bright headphones, otherwise the Quattro will reveal and the flaws in your music, and also may sound fatiguing.
I always considered the iFi Audio iDAC to be my benchmark DAC, being very versatile and detailed, this is twice the price, but for that you do get a lot more functionality and also this is compatible with a lot more formats. In that respect it is definitely worth the price, especially considering it is a fully balanced DAC too, meaning you can easily connect it to a balanced headphone amplifier and have a fully balanced setup.
So what is my final opinion? I would say this is a great buy, but only if you are going to use it to its full potential. You can get incredibly flat and detailed DAC’s at lower prices, but this has a lot more in terms of format compatibility, and also inputs/outputs. The balanced outputs are great for higher end amps, along with 2 optical so you can hook this up to your TV and console in the living room and flick between sources with the included remote.
The headphone amp works great with most headphones, but definitely pairs better with warmer headphones, due to its very detailed and flat sound.
Overall I do like this DAC, it is very handy having a device that I can play all my sources through, along with the USB being very quiet (my 1 big gripe with the DDS DAC-01). It plays well with my stereo setup, along with being able to plug it in to my Feliks Audio Espressivo for headphone listening. The Dual headphone output is also handy if using with friends, but I do not know how many people will make use of this feature. The remote is lovely, and the volume control is very easy and intuitive to use. A well made, good looking and future proof product, very nicely done Matrix Audio.
Sound Perfection Rating: 8/10 (Fantastic sounding DAC, but the internal headphone amp could be improved)