Have you ever heard of a DXD or DSD file? Then you’re probably a serious audiophile, who cares about bitrates, and knows that the ‘Digital eXtreme Definition’ standard is the hot new way to listen to music. Granted, few folks can tell the difference on anything but truly expensive gear, however if you’re already moving to those file types and are looking for a quality digital-to-analog converter with a decent amp built-in, then we’ve got a product for you to put on your wishlist. Of course, you should make sure you have plenty of hard drive space ready- we tried out a few files, and they are enormously large, making lossless FLAC files seem puny in comparison.
But, hey, you’ll get inspired too with gear as cool as the new Matrix Mini-I Pro. For starters, it probably features the best display we’ve seen on a DAC- and we’ve tested out quite a few. We’ve seen Matrix gear before as well, and their Mini Portable is one of our favorite little pieces of equipment for it’s combination of solid build, attractive styling, and excellent output. The Mini-I Pro isn’t quite as sleek, but offers a little more of a traditional look, ideal for sitting with your other home audio equipment without drawing too much attention. As you might expect, the components feel expertly-crafted and engineered, with a smoothly turning knob with stops at half-decibel intervals, an aluminum body, and an easy-to-read OLED screen that packs in plenty of details. The included remote isn’t amazing, but it’s still a nice addition.
Around back, we were a bit blown away by the sheer number of input and output options. We always like coaxial and optical and RCA to be available, though tend towards the basic USB connection for a lot of our testing, since we store so much of our music library on our computers. That said, we did hook up our receiver and played some movies back through the optical connection to great effect. Note that you will need to install a driver in order to use the Mini-I Pro; it’s fast and painless though. For those with XLR equipment, like pro audio gear, it’s the rare DAC that supports this cable type, and you’ll find it here- even balanced outputs. As alluded to above, this baby can handle 24bit/384kHz, a decoding rate as high as we’ve ever seen.
Most importantly, how does it sound? From start to finish, it’s engaging and rich- noise cancellation circuitry eliminates those popping noises during power off and on, and we never heard any other line noise even during silent sections. We wouldn’t use the Mini-I as our only amplifier choice, especially for the most demanding headphones, but it’s perfectly capable- a bit warm, and slightly mellow, even after burn-in. Bass is chipper, approachable and friendly, present but not overpowering. On a couple of tracks, like ‘Silent Shout’ by The Knife, it seemed a bit held back; on classical and jazz, it was nearly ideal, with every strum and thrum resonating nicely. The soundstage is phenomenal; everything sounds larger. And we never got tired of listening, there was no fatigue and no sharpness in the upper registers that we have found regularly, especially in smaller DACs.
For the price, it’s hard to quibble with the excellent value put into this fairly compact package. Matrix continues to shine, boosting specs and improving quality with every new product. The Mini-I Pro might not convince you that DXD or DSD files are worth the hassle and storage space- but it’s still a top-notch DAC and amp. Available now, online and in stores, for around $519.