Thanks for your inputs so far. I suppose I can get it for the streaming and DAC functions first and treat the amp as a nice add-on in the meantime. I can always add a phonitor or a gsx MK2 in the future if I am itching for an upgrade.
The iOS app is great to hear. Can’t wait to read your review.
I actually emailed them asking for a black casing and they said they don’t have one. What a shame. Probably the dealers need to feedback to them for them to take action. I also prefer black colour in my audio gear!
I’d assumed that black versions wouldn’t be far behind the silver models, simply because the more complex chassis of the X Sabre Pro (MQA) - which is a less expensive unit - already offers that option.
It’s disappointing that they don’t have black in the pipeline - and for me, for this particular unit and use-case/location, a deal killer.
Earlier this year I decided to prioritize (or even limit) my feature-length reviews towards gear that had the potential to be something I’d actually buy for my own use. Absent a black version the Element:X drops way down on my review queue. I might do it as a “Stream of Consciousness” style review, but it’s too much functionality to cover “just because” for something I won’t buy as-is.
I blew off reviewing the iFi Pro iDSD for the same reason - though in that case it was down to it having streamer functionality without Roon support and not having a sensible balanced output option (2.5mm TRRS is a no-go for me for desktop use - bad enough on portables).
I had to use it wired with Roon while I had it, though that performed flawlessly.
And it seems they’re in the process of getting official Roon certification (which I’m sure they’ll get - it was more of a question of Matrix’ commitment to the feature initially, but it is now officially called out in their product info), which was a question I had originally.
I’ve had my Element X for several weeks now and have been very pleased with it. I currently use it to drive Focal Utopias via balanced headphone output and a Benchmark AHB2 via XLR outputs. I recently took advantage of a TIDAL promo for 4 months for $1.99 and have been playing around with the MA remote app. I have to say that this is quite the all-in-one component that offers a lot of capability in a small package while also measuring very well. You can probably match its performance for less if you combine a few separates, but the convenience of having a DAC/streamer/headphone amp/pre-amp all in one device makes it a great deal for me.
For a while I was seriously considering one of these because of the great reviews and as you say, “the convenience of having a DAC/streamer/headphone amp/pre-amp all in one device.” But, what if you want to add EQ, a tube buffer, crossfeed, etc. to your chain? With most headphones I now find EQ to be almost indispensable. What I would find very interesting would be an Element X that had the DSP features of the RME ADI 2.
Thanks for the assurance @DVass13, @Torq and @andrew as I have already made the decision to spring for it. It is indeed a neat little package. As it will be placed on my desktop, its all in one features and convenience is too appealing for me. No need to mess with interconnects and wire management. I can always just add a better amplifier (which is the unit’s weakest feature) down the road if I so desire. The dealer from which I purchased the unit says it pairs great with the Auris Audio HA2-SE.
@DVass13 may I know what you liked about the utopia + element x combo? It is such a coincidence that I have also acquired the same combo for my first serious personal audio setup. I have auditioned the Stellia, VC, VO and Utopia extensively with the element x. With the music that I listens to (mainly jazz with a little classical), the intimate and visceral presentation, coupled with the tonality of the utopia wins it for me. I also enjoyed the vc and vo immensely and they will make a great second pair when I have the means again. It also helped that my dealer offered a massive deal during black friday and that sped up my decision making process.
A little off topic, but I had to put a plug in for Arthur Powers. US distributor for all Matrix products. Total support 2nd to none. He’s on most forums as Arthur Powers. I’m sure he would be happy to answer any questions not answered in our forum. Sorry for the mini-hijack
I can attest to his support. I bought a pair of Matrix Mini-i amps from him recently and one showed up DOA. After a few emails, he arranged for two new units to be sent to me express direct from Matrix and provided a return shipping label. It was a shame the first unit was DOA, but Arthur made sure everything worked out.
@Ramenik To be honest, I didn’t have the chance to listen to the Element X + Utopia combo until it arrived at my house. I started originally with an Yggy + Raggy to feed the Utopias and then added a HeadAmp GS-X mkii. Eventually, I replaced the Yggy with a PS Audio DirectStream DAC just to switch things up (still with the HeadAmp). I didn’t get a chance to direct compare the Yggy vs. the DSD. Then I sold pretty much my entire setup in preparation for a cross-country move. For a while I had just the HeadAmp + Utopias using the headphone out from my desktop (not optimal). Finally, I sold the HeadAmp and picked up the Element X. The cross-country move left me with a new appreciation for simplicity so I decided to just pull the trigger on the Element X.
I will say that I am happy with the combination. It sounds very good to my ears. But without the opportunity to compare it directly with anything else, it’s a bit hard to really give impressions. I am a bit curious if I would have gained any benefits by keeping my HeadAmp, but I don’t regret selling it. I’ve thought about picking up a Benchmark HPA4 someday to see if that gives any improvement, but I’m not sure if the investment would be worth it for as little critical listening as I actually do. At the end of the day, I’m not even sure if I could pick out differences between the setups I’ve had if I did have the chance to directly compare them. Maybe if I really focused on some detail I could differentiate, but at this level it’s more about the headphone and, somewhat, the amp.
I think I’m finally at a point where I can focus more on the music again than on the next upgrade or constantly swapping out headphones/amps/DACs. At one point I owned the HiFiMAN HE-1000, HD800, and Utopia headphones. They each had their own pros and cons but I felt like it was a waste trying to split time between them all and settled on the Utopias as the best all-around headphones. I really like the imaging and dynamics with them. They resolve very well and have a nice intimacy to them. I do miss the vast soundstage of the HD800 sometimes for orchestral music and I miss the deep bass of the HE-1000, too.
I think I would be interested in trying out a pair of Abyss headphones again as I remember really liking the AB 1266 when I demo’d them a few years back. This is more of a curiosity than a desire, though.
I like your ice cream analogy. There are so many flavors. Even if you’ve sampled a number of them and found your favorite, it’s near impossible to try them all out. So there’s always that little curiosity that there could be an even better flavor out there.
Thanks for the detailed narrative of your audio journey. It is always interesting to see how other people arrive at their current setup and preferences over the years. I went through somewhat the same thing for my stereo speakers setup in the past. Hopefully I can reach the same stage of ‘zen’ as you without bursting my pocket again.
My headphones arrived and I think the silver element x looks better in person compared to the pictures. Contrasting with the black side grilles, I think it suits my room very well.