Review and Measurements of X-SABRE Pro by AudioScienceReview

2019-09-23 12:48Reviews
 This review originally published at AudioScienceReview.com, click HERE to view the original thread.

 

I reviewed the Matrix Element X streamer and DAC a few months ago which achieved the highest measured performance of any DAC I have yet measured. Will the X-Sabre Pro MQA match or possibly beat it? I am here to answer that question. Company was kind enough to send me a unit for testing. It is not cheap at US $1,999.

If there was a measure of weight per square inch in audio products, the X-Sabre Pro certainly is the champion of it. Despite being rather small, the thing weighs a ton, making it almost impossible to pick up with one hand! The industrial design as with Element X is excellent, being modern but have a bit of "retro" look to it with the circular display:

 

A set of touch controls flank the unit allowing instant selection of inputs and volume levels.

Unit configuration is a bit obscure though. You have to hold the power button down where it counts with one, two and three dashes and shuts down. Continue holding the button and you will be greeted with configuration menu. Volume + and - then control the option and the power button is your select button. I did not mess with much in there other than selecting the different audio filters, upon which the unit will power cycle. It does this quickly but does cause the player to complain that it has lost connection with the unit.

There is a remote control but gives no filter setting controls. Wish they would add a button to it for that purpose for people who want to mess with it (not me). Or at least a setup button to get you into that mode rather than the long press on the power button.

For my testing, I focused on USB input as I always do. And unless noted, the main output I tested was XLR balanced output.

DAC Audio Measurements

OK, here is the moment of truth: the Element X garnered a SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) of 120 dB, pushing the limits of my Audio Precision APx555 analyzer. Let's see how X-Sabre Pro MQA does:

 

That's right! The previous record is shattered. With the output level reduced to 4 volt with -1 dBFS of input, we reach 121 dB. If you let it be at full level of nearly 4.4 volts, you lose 1 dB so still superb. Here is the official ranking graph:

 

Note that distortion products are at -126 dB or so. This means that the SINAD is actually more determined by noise level which includes my analyzer noise. In reality then, performance is even better than 121 dB! Wow!

Now we have to hold our breath through the rest of the measurements to see if anything else is a let down. How about linearity?

 

Nailed! Perfectly flat despite noise that impacts both the analyzer and DAC in this measurement. And it does this for both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA output.

Jitter test shows incredibly low noise floor which naturally reveals a few spikes here and there but they are utterly inconsequential:

 

How about intermodulation distortion versus level? Could we see the dreaded "ESS IMD Hump?"

 

Of course not. The Topping DX3 Pro is very tough to beat in this test yet, the Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro sails past it with significantly lower noise and intermodulation distortion.

Here is the intermodulation test with 32 tones instead of the two above:

 

We essentially clear the -120 dB mark meaning all distortions are below 20 bits (120 divided by 6).

Since some of you are in love with intermodulation tests of all sorts, here is the test of 19 and 20 kHz tones:

 

For grins, I left in there the TotalDAC d1-six dac measurements in red. You rather have your soup with a bunch of flies in it or bug-free?

Signal to noise ratio is spectacular:

 

It is actually 3 dB better than that of Element X.

THD+N versus frequency with a bandwidth of 90 kHz shows highly controlled distortion and ultrasonic junk:

 

Here is the response of the different reconstruction filters with #2 being the default:

 

I would probably go with filter 3.

Conclusions

The Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA is beautifully made, putting to shame many products in its price range. It oozes class and quality.

That beauty runs deep when it comes to performance as Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA unseats its own brother to take the crown of the best DAC I have ever measured. Considering that the list now includes nearly 160 DACs, this is an incredible achievement.

I met the team behind Matrix Audio at the last audio show and you have not seen a more soft-spoken, unassuming team of engineers than them. None of the ego that is so prevalent in high-end audio. The company is active here and on some other forums. And of course volunteers to have its products tested by us, rather than hiding in the bushes. So they score high on both product and customer service.

Needless to say, it is my absolute pleasure to recommend the Matrix Audio X-Sabre Pro MQA. We are here to find the best engineered audio products and the Matrix Audio Proves that it is among a handful of companies to produce such trophy class products one after the other. It put a huge smile on my face after testing it, one that will be hard to erase!