Matrix Audio mini-i Pro + 2015 Review – A Balanced DAC with Headphone AMP
Testing and Subjective Listening
Once you have set the right voltage, plug the power cord and connect the Matrix Audio mini-i Pro + 2015 to your computer via the USB cable. Install the appropriate driver for Windows and power it on. Note: Mac OS X 10.6.4 and above versions have native support and do not require a driver.
When I turned on the mini-i Pro for the first time, I immediately noticed that there was no popping sound, unlike some DAC/Amps I have tried before. Also I noticed that the area of the OLED display is actually quite smaller. I was expecting that it would occupy more space. Nevertheless, the amount of light it emits is just right, not too dim and not too bright as well. Another thing that I like about the mini-i Pro 2015 is its digital volume control. It feels nice to rotate and you get a nice and soft bump or click one notch at a time. Pressing the volume control will cycle from one source to another. You can see from the display that the active source is highlighted in white.
Overall, operating the Matrix Audio mini-i Pro+ 2015 is as easy as listening to it. My primary source is my desktop PC connected via USB cable and I’m using Foobar as my music player. I configured Foobar with an ASIO output because it’s the most convenient configuration for me. The mini-i Pro automatically detects the format of the file and output it as PCM or DSD depending on the source. When the music player is playing a FLAC format, the mini-i Pro will display something like 44.1KHz or 384KHz on the screen, otherwise it will display something like DSD64 for higher formats.
I’ve been listening to the mini-i Pro for more than a month now. And I tested it with some of my headphones that I am also currently reviewing like the Grado SR225e, Master&Dynamic MH40 and some custom IEMs from Heir Audio. I also tried it with some of my older headphones, like the B&W P7 and UE 900s, just to have a good feel with what the mini-i Pro can do.
For me, I find the highs in the mini-i Pro tamed and controlled. The highs have a certain amount of extension and it does have a good amount of sparkle. It’s clear and detailed enough for me to enjoy the music, and above all, I think the highs are smooth and not sibilant. This was noticeable when I plugged the SR225e with the mini-i Pro. Before, I wasn’t accustomed to headphones that are natural and bright, and I always like warm sounding headphones. The mini-i Pro helped in smoothing the highs of the SR225e and at the same time somehow improved its bass response.
Mids on the mini-i Pro are fantastic. They don’t sound laid back, but rather they sound just a little bit forward. It’s forward enough to make the artist’s voice sound engaging and lively. This is something that helped my UE 900s improved in terms of its mid-range. A lousy mid-range would have ruined the whole synergy of the music, and I don’t believe that the mini-i Pro disappointed me at all in this section.
Like my portable setups, ALO Audio’s The International+ and iFi micro iDSD, the Matrix Audio mini-i Pro has a hint of warmness despite being neutral and balanced. Bass response is great, it doesn’t make your headphones sound boomy. I think the bass is well extended, but at the same time well-controlled and doesn’t bleed into the higher frequencies. It’s not overpowering as well, but it can bring out the bass in some headphones like the SR225e.
The Sound stage in the mini-i Pro is great, instruments are well separated and they don’t sound like they are cluttered into one group or in the mid-section. Overall, I find the sound that the mini-i Pro produce is lush, fun, musical, never fatiguing and offer an enjoyable experience.
Just a bonus, I tried playing some games, specifically The Witcher III Wild Hunt, just to see how it compares with the onboard sound card that motherboard companies nowadays are bolstering. Honestly, they don’t even come close to the audio quality that the mini-i Pro produces. PC gamers don’t usually invest on something like an external DAC/Amp, but for those of you who like to enjoy high quality music like me, I think it’s high time to considering getting an external DAC/Amp for your desktop.