Is there such a thing as too many value-priced DACs within the high fidelity audio industry? The Matrix Audio Mini-i Pro reviewed here is but one example of many. Personally, I don't think it is as healthy competition pushes engineers to the bleeding edge not year by year, but month by month! High-end audio manufacturers need to do their homework and take R&D seriously with in-depth analysis and an abundance of hard work. Companies cannot sit stills and glaze upon their past awards or status for too long. The present pace urges them to reinvent and constantly introduce something new. That is on par with the current trends to step ahead of the competition. The need is such that, as refrain, in the good old Iron Maiden song "Be Quick Or Be Dead!"
Enter The Matrix Audio
The Matrix Audio Mini-i Pro ($559) implements digital volume control with the goal of ensuring a tightly controlled channel balance. There are different gain intervals during volume adjustment. Matrix Audio's Mini-i Pro has a configurable filter, which allows the shaping of the different timbre. There is also a unique noise cancellation circuit that prevents loud click noises when the Matrix Audio Mini-i Pro is being turn on or shut off. Everything with the Mini-i Pro, during my first hands on experience, ensure sturdiness, quality and a well thought out design.
Inputs & Output Bits
Let us not forget that the Matrix Audio Mini-i Pro comes with a nice small, stylish aluminum remote control unit that adjust volume gain, sets the mute on/off, let you choose the digital input channels and turn the DAC in or out off.
ESS Sabre Untra ES9016
Listening To The Matrix Audio
Ola piano playing is charming, captivating and lyrical. DXD 24-bit/352.8kHz is the actually original source and the impressively recorded material played surprisingly well with Mini-i Pro. I've double checked and measured the size of this DAC in my mind and just smiled peacefully. Where have we come to? For this kind of sound, years ago we would be amazed how easily a few grand (or more) of hard-earned money only a handful of years ago. Let us not forget the nonexistence of a plethora of high-res files we enjoy today. DXD reproduction with Matrix Mini-i Pro DAC was fresh and a close match to the DSD side of audio things.
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel),
Ive rKleive (church organ) stereo FLAC at 24-bit/96kHz brought the Simon &
Garfunkel legendary classic in the church organ interpretation. It was another
vivid showcase of where digital audio is heading these days. If you have ever
been within the church listening to the real pipes making their
"presence," this recording gets you impressively close. With higher
resolution and high-quality of recording equipment we're getting closer to the inherit
ability of analog tape based reproduction. The feather-like sense of music and
lifelike 3D aural presentation are the usually only heard during analog
playback. Recently high-resolution audio pushes its boundaries closer to the
analog way of doing things, or even transcend them in some cases. Mini-i Pro is
for sure small, but loud messenger of this movement.
And With DSD...
Let me roll the ball back in time to the era and
music that was passed down to me from my dear father. Some recordings and
artists are timeless. The King is for sure one of them. Analogue Productions Stereo
'57 (Essential Elvis Volume 2) reveals the energy of that time in
such a unique and lifelike way. This is the album to have in both DSD and vinyl
formats. Like with Analogue Productions releases of Nat King Cole, you can hear
the actual happenings at the recoding studio. Man, did they knew how to play and
sing! They also had that "magical" synergy of energy. This energy is
where you forget about everything and allow yourself to be drawn into
the music. I liked the spirit with which Mini-i Pro recreated those moments of
past glory. Intimate and musical.
Joao Gilberto self-titled album might be a mixed feeling for some, yet for me it represents something very special and historically important. For me, it is uniquely intimate as I really dig the energy and flow of the bossa-nova. Along the Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto carries the same "guilt," if not even bigger portion of it, for creating one of the most emotional and sublime musical directions. Joao Gilberto in this particular DSD release evokes a hypnotic like atmosphere, that in its simplicity, is still complex. It reflects and collate with the minimalist repetitive music of Steve Reich. During the entrance of Joao Gilberto Joao Gilberto, one can slide into the atmospheric musical voyage to the sensible universe of southern hemisphere pinpointed at Brazil. The Matrix Audio Mini-i Pro embraced enough attributes in portraying the passion and flow of Joao without overthinking and reminding myself of the technicalities. That's quite a compliment for the device of this price of $550.
Summing It Up
Before summing it up let me put my attention to one more important integral part of Mini-i Pro DAC. A sneak peak under the chassis shows the Matrix elaborated dedication to the power supply. It takes almost one third of the innards! The IEC plug on the back panel opens up the power cable variety to tweak to your heart's content. Most of the units at this price range simply come with cheap outboard wall warts. We all know that as with power amplifiers and preamplifiers, a product's power supply can reflect on the music it reproduces. This is especially true with the DAC's power supply, as it is very important as with all other high-performance audio devices and its shows where funds and developing time went. The Matrix Mini-i Pro DAC represents one of the better values on the market and I can understand the strong following of the brand. It comes with the slick design, array of features and most importantly, at the right price. Recommended!