We seem to have been waiting an age for the new Valve DAC from Synthesis to arrive. But the good news is, it’s been well worth the wait.
In case you’re wondering what a DAC is, we’ll start with a small explanation.
Inside of your CD player (this is also the case for your DAB tuner or even your iPod, but for the moment we will concentrate on your CD player) is a transport with a Laser, this reads the digital information from the disc as a stream of ones and zeros, something like - 000010100010010011110001100110011............ - and so on. However you wouldn’t be able to hear this as music, it first needs to be turned into an analogue form of music that your ears can make sense of. To do this your CD Player has inside of it a thing called a DAC. This stands for Digital to Analogue Convertor. So the quality of sound - although dependent on many factors - is directly related to the quality of the DAC fitted in your CD Player.
Now obviously, what you normally do when you want better sound from your player is to buy a better one. But, if you look at the back of your current machine, most of you will find that rather obligingly, manufacturers have seen fit to put on the back a Digital output, hopefully in the form of a digital coaxial output (looks like a single phono socket output) or a less desirable, but still usable, Digital Optical output (on this there will be a little cover which if removed while playing music a small red light will be seen). Some machines have both, in which case use the considerably better Coaxial one.
This allows you to attach an external DAC of far better quality than that which is initially fitted to your machine. You then plug your analogue phono leads into the DAC and then to your amp, rather than from your CD Player and then to your amp.
So, pre-amble aside, what the Matrix is, is an external Digital to Analogue Convertor.
So now we know what it is, but what you really want to know is, what is it like.
Synthesis have produced some good gear over the years, and they have also produced some great gear. The Matrix is not just Great, but outstanding.
On the back you will find a pair of phono outputs, Two digital coaxial input, Two Optical Toslink Digital input and a very handy USB input. The USB offers outstanding capabilities for those of you using audio servers that have an Asynchronous USB output.
The DAC itself uses a pair of Walfon DAC chips in mono mode, and features a quartet of 12AX7WA valves per channel for the output stage.
Running from the digital output of my own Tom Evans Audio Design Eikos Final CD Player, we used a pair of Rothwell Torrent interconnects from the analogue outputs on my Eikos to the amp, and then connected a Rothwell River D coaxial digital link from the Eikos to the Matrix DAC. From the Matrix DAC we used a second pair of Torrents to connect again to the amp. This enabled us to switch between the two inputs and get a live feel for the difference the DAC was making, without any lag in time while we changed interconnects from one device to the other. As a side note, the Matrix was plugged in using a WireWorld Aurora mains lead.
For those of you not in the know, the Eikos CD Player is a Tom Evans heavily modified Pioneer 903 CD Player that with its off board Pulse power supplies comes in at around £5500.00 and quite frankly at that amount, it’s some what of an audio bargain. So, baring that in mind it is with no small degree of trepidation that we can tell you that the difference is startling. Switching from Eikos to Matrix is a real ear opener. The most impressive thing that initially hits you is the sheer depth of the musical presentation. Instrument seem to have huge space around them which inevitably means you hear more detail, not because it wasn’t there before, just because there is room for the instruments to breath. They don’t have to fight with louder more forward sounds to be heard. In fact, it’s this total lack of confusion that takes your breath away. That the sound is fluid, well presented and completely lacking in the overt harshness that so spoils many high end CD Players seems almost a mute point.
Of course it may seem completely biased of us to say all of this, and of course it is. We are biased because we love it. But don’t take our word for it. Come in, listen, and decide yourself.
We dare you.....!