Matrix Audio Element X Network Attached DAC Lab Report

Lab Report

Since our review of Matrix Audio's X-Sabre Pro [HFN Nov '17] the company has improved its ES9038 Pro/32-bit Sabre DAC-based platform still further. Most notably the 'untidy' 200psec jitter revealed in my lab report for the X-Sabre Pro has now been fully resolved – the Element X incurs just 5psec/48kHz and 55psec/96kHz, the latter a very low-rate ±6Hz pattern. Distortion is spectacularly low at 0.00003-0.0002% at the maximum 4.3V balanced output (20Hz-20kHz), holding to a mere 0.00015-0.00027% over the top 30dB of its dynamic range [Graph 1, below], while the A-wtd S/N is a class-leading 116dB via all digital inputs and resolution true to ±0.05dB over 100dB and ±0.2dB over a 110dB range.

The frequency response(s) depend on which digital filter is chosen [see Graph 2, below] while the negative-going time/impulse responses show the Element X is phase inverting. Filters 1 (Minimum Phase/Fast), 3 (Linear Phase/Fast), 5 (Brickwall), 6 (Hybrid) and 7 (Apodising) all have sharp roll-offs, with Filters 2 (Minimum Phase/Slow) and 4 (Linear Phase/Slow) offering gentler treble roll-offs, reduced 'ringing' but poorer stopband rejection. Otherwise, Filters 1, 3, 5-7 offer a similar 73-83dB rejection of digital aliasing images with 48kHz media, but just 18dB/14dB with Filters 2 and 4 which are better suited to higher sample rates. With CD/48kHz files the responses reach out to –0.1dB, –5.0dB, –0.1dB, –3.5dB, –4.0dB, –12.3dB and –0.8dB/20kHz (Filters 1-7, respectively). With 96kHz media, the 45kHz response limits are –0.09dB, –7.0dB, –0.4dB, –4.9dB, –14dB, –23dB and –7.5dB while, with 192kHz files, the 90kHz response limits are +0.2dB, –6.9dB, –0.3dB, –4.8dB, –14dB, –23dB and –7.3dB. PM


THD vs. 24-bit digital level over 120dB range (1kHz, black; 20kHz, blue). Note extended Y scale


Time (Minimum phase/Fast Filter 1, black; Minimum phase/Slow Filter 2, red; Hybrid Filter 6, green) and HF magnitude responses at 96kFs

Max. output (<1% THD, DAC/Pre) 4.34Vrms at 97ohm (Balanced)
Max. output (<1% THD, headphone) 10.2V/600ohm / 1250mW/32ohm
Headphone output impedance 700-1000mohm (20Hz-20kHz)
A-wtd S/N (S/PDIF / USB / headph.) 116.2dB / 116.1dB / 115.9dB
Dist. (20Hz-20kHz, DAC/headph.) 0.00003-0.0002%/0.0005-0.0048%
Freq. resp. (20kHz/45kHz/90kHz) +0.0dB to –0.02dB/ –0.1dB / +0.1dB
Digital jitter (48kHz/96kHz) 5psec / 55psec
Power consumption 13W
Dimensions (WHD) / Weight 340x60x281mm / 4.2kg
Price £2795

Matrix Electronic Technology Co. Ltd
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems, UK
07738 007776