In recent years we have seen quite a few Chinese brands appear on the European market, some of which are already receiving support from Dutch importers. Only a handful are really worth spending our precious time on and today the honor goes to Matrix Audio, a young company from Xi’an that was started in 2013 by three friends with a passion for hi-fi. Where have we heard that before? We were sent the Matrix Audio Mini i-pro 3 by Magna Hifi. A small, affordable device that turns out to be extremely versatile. We have a lot of work ahead of us so let’s get to it. Enjoy!
Matrix Audio specializes in digital audio and has mostly multifunctional dacs in its portfolio. The Matrix Audio i-pro 3 is one such device. It is a dac, streamer, preamplifier and headphone amplifier all-in-one. Yes, anno 2021, all this gets smoothly into a small box. Wonderful. Whether all these elements possess sufficient quality we will see later but once out of the box we see a particularly well made device. The time that Chinese stuff broke down after a few months is long gone and the quality is now at least as good as the stuff made here.
The Matrix Audio i-pro 3 (third version indeed) is a silver device with a black rounded front, metal casing and large LCD screen. The ventilation holes on the side are necessary to release the heat from the powerful output stage because inside is a serious Noratel power supply to drive the whole thing.
Although this device weighs only 1.7 kg, it feels very solid. Because the wifi antenna is built in, the i-pro 3 also looks very sleek. Because of its modest footprint, you can put the i-pro 3 anywhere. On a desk, next to the television, directly on a power amplifier, in a regular system,…. The choice is yours.
The heart of the i-pro 3 is an ESS 9038 chip that should take care of the digital conversion. We have heard quite a few Sabre dacs in recent years and depending on the implementation the signature differs considerably. In the i-pro 3, a Crystel clock and a powerful Cortex A7 mini-computer provide the needed processing power and stability.
Despite its limited size, the i-pro 3 has a huge number of connections. There is Ethernet (LAN), optical, coax, USB and i2s. That’s not bad. In addition, there is both rca and xlr out and analog in. But it does not stop there. There is also wifi, Bluetooth 5.0, AirPlay 2, MQA and at the time of writing the i-pro3 was Roon Ready! Are we missing something? I didn’t think so.