Matrix M-Stage

It’s amazing to hear the kind of sound you can get from a $290 amplifier. Coolfungadget sells the M-Stage amp for $289.95, and he was kind enough to send me a unit for review. This is the newer 2010 version of the M-Stage, which has a re-designed circuit and upgraded power travo. Moving between the HD800 and the HE5LE headphones, I totally enjoyed music through the M-Stage. The source is my new favorite DAC, the HRT Music Streamer II+. Between solid state amps, the M-Stage falls to the warmer sounding group, where amps such as the Burson, the Beta22, and the Grace m902 falls to the more neutral/transparent sounding group.

For less than $300, I don’t expect the M-Stage to compete with the leagues of the Burson, the Beta22, or the Grace m902, all top solid state amps. However, I do find myself enjoying the sound that is coming from the M-Stage. It definitely is a potent performer for $290. If I think the Burson gives a bigger sound than the $699 price tag, then the M-Stage also gives a bigger sound than the $290 pricetag.

The M-Stage; front and back.

The M-Stage comes with two pairs of RCA inputs, an RCA output, and four steps of gain settings, which makes this amp highly versatile. Having two pairs of RCA inputs is a nice convenience, and the RCA out allows the Matrix to be used as a pre-amp. It comes with four gain settings: 0, 10, 18, and 20 dB of gain, which can be changed through the dip switches below the amplifier chassis. Four gain steps turn out to be a major plus feature for the M-Stage, as that makes it a very versatile amp for driving anything from IEMs to big headphones. The lowest gain setting is very ideal for IEMs. Using the JH16Pro IEM, I’m listening comfortably at around 11 O’clock, which is nice since that gives you some real control over the volume, even for low level listening. What’s more the M-Stage is hiss free all the way to just a tad below the maximum volume, even with the JH16Pro IEM! For big and hard to drive headphones, gain 18 and 20 is recommended. plenty of gain to drive either the HD800 or the HE5LE headphones. The Matrix will drive just about anything you need short of speakers.

The 2010 version comes with a encapsulated toroidal for better noise protection.


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125 Comments

  • Reply August 22, 2010

    buz

    Glad you liked it – any recommendations for opamps? I have an AD797BR and a LT1028A lying around, I should try it some time 🙂

  • Reply August 22, 2010

    Jose

    Great read Mike. I am curious to know how this amp behaves using the Burson HD Opamp.

  • Reply August 22, 2010

    Mike

    @buz: AD797 Max supply voltage is ±15V, LT1028A max supply voltage is ±22V so both should be safe with the M-Stage.

    I've been trying to borrow an AD797BRZ (supposedly the best variant of the AD797) that belongs to Brian, but haven't gotten it yet.

    @Jose: I'm curious as well! I'm out of Burson HD Opamps though, as the last two pairs have been permanently soldered for the Grace m902.

  • Reply August 22, 2010

    blackbird_pie

    Hi, just wondering if your impressions on the M-Stage are based mainly upon its stock configuration or with the opa627s swapped in?

    • Reply August 23, 2010

      Mike

      Good question, I forgot to clarify that. Mostly the impression is with the stock opamp.

  • Reply August 23, 2010

    purrin

    1. Remove coupling caps, replace with wire. More clear, detailed, neutral, and natural. Beware of sources with high voltage offset, otherwise your headphones may die.

    2. Replace opamp with LM4562 (or OPA627x2 on dual-to-single adapters.) More detail, impact. Brings back warmness that disappeared from cap removal.

    3. Push opamp into class A with resistors from pin 4 to 1 and 4 to 7. More clear, impact, authority, slam, and energy.

    • Reply August 23, 2010

      Mike

      Yes, those mods should work well. You're one step ahead of me, I haven't even thought about modding the M-Stage! 🙂

  • Reply August 23, 2010

    Ozone3

    Hi Mike,

    It might not be a fair comparison but how would you rate the Audiotrak Imamp against the Matrix M-Stage in terms of sound signature and amplification power? I recall reading in one of your posting that you were planning to review the Nuforce Icon HDP. If you do, it would be interesting to compare it to an HRT MS2 and M-Stage combo.

    • Reply August 23, 2010

      Mike

      Hi, the M-Stage is way ahead from the ImAmp, it really won’t be a close comparison. The sound signature is both warm, but in slightly different ways.

      I must say sadly, that the HDP won’t be reviewed anytime soon, no demo unit from Nuforce. 🙁

  • Reply August 23, 2010

    Professor00179

    I wondered when you are going to review this stuff.:D It seems to be one of most respected AMPs within head-fi community. Low price and great performance. I would have bought it since it is cheaper than Corda Swing (I am going to buy Swing actually) andI am sure it performs better, but… it is so huge! Height and width are very short, but I am really scared about how deep this AMP is. I simply have no place for it.:(

    Just from 'natural' interest. Which one did you like more, Mike? M-Stage or Hifiman EF5?

    • Reply August 23, 2010

      Mike

      Hey Professor. Yes, the dimension is a bit long isn't it. The Cordas would be more compact in dimension. I wasn't aware that the M-Stage is big in Head-Fi, but good for them, it's a good amp. Personally, I actually think that both M-Stage and EF5 are very good amps for the price, which one do I like more? That's a difficult choice. 🙂

  • Reply August 23, 2010

    David

    Mike,

    I think, what you mean by M-Stage’s supply voltage to the opamps are 30V is +15/-15 rail-to-rail…. you must be measuring from pin 8 to 4.

    both OP2134 and OPA627 can only take maximally +18/-18…

    • Reply August 24, 2010

      Mike

      That is what I meant, I should edit that part to avoid confusion. 🙂

  • Reply August 24, 2010

    blackbird_pie

    Hey just got the M-stage and listened to it with the K701 and compared its synergy with the Heed Canamp. With stock opamp the M-Stage has more impact, dynamics and PRAT than the Canamp, however it makes the K701 sound a bit edgy and lacks the warmth and musicality of the Canamp. With the OPA627s swapped in however, the sound warms up considerably with a slightly darker treble and much smoother midrange. Soundstage depth also expands significantly. I now prefer the Canamp w. OPA627s a lot more than the Heed for the K701. Great amp, amazing value especially if you have spare opamps to play with.

    • Reply August 24, 2010

      Mike

      Thanks! It's been a while since I heard the Canamp, and I've really forgotten what it sounded like. 🙂

  • Reply August 24, 2010

    Professor00179

    Hi Mike. Thanks for the response. I have read many threads on head-fi regarding some budget AMPs (since I am looking for one) and it seems like people often do recommend M-Stage. I think it is because of its price/performance ratio. I really believe that you can not find better AMP at that price and you would actually have to add at least $100 for a significant improvement.

  • Reply September 1, 2010

    Simon

    Would you be able to get a Schitt Asgard to compare against this? The Asgard and M-Stage are close in price, the former being cheaper by $40. Should be an interesting comparison if you are able to get your hands on one.

    • Reply September 2, 2010

      Mike

      Yea, that would be a killer comparison, wouldn't it? I'll try to make it happen, but no promises. 🙂

  • Reply September 22, 2010

    John

    The guy who wrote the review about updrading the m stage headphone amp with an opa627 is wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can not replace an opa2134 (a dual op amp) with a single op amp (the opa627) They are not “pin compatible” with each other and you could possibly destroy a very expensive op amp…it is possible to use 2 opa627 on an “adaptor card” like they sell on ebay….so before everyone goes out and spends 15 or 20 bucks on an opa627 check your facts…the guy who wrote the so called review certainly did not!

    • Reply September 22, 2010

      Mike

      LOL. Thanks for the enthusiastic comment, John. I am in fact using a single SOIC to dual DIP adaptor. I actually posted some photos of it on the Class A biasing article.

      So, as a confirmation. Yes, I did write the review and I've made sure that the configuration works before actually posting the article.

  • Reply December 7, 2010

    Anonymous

    […] […]

  • Reply January 8, 2011

    Gumbo

    I think my comment disappeared so this may be double posting but
    how does this compare to the Gilmore Lite?

    • Reply January 8, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Gumbo,
      Matrix M-Stage vs Gilmore Lite in a brief:
      – M-Stage is darker, bassier, GLite is brighter, more neutral
      – M-Stage is more laid back, GLite more forward
      – M-Stage warmer, GLite less so.
      – M-Stage has tons of gain, GLite is powerful, but less than the M-Stage.
      – M-Stage has a grainier sound, GLite is cleaner sounding.

      Hope that helps. 🙂

  • Reply April 14, 2011

    Anonymous

    You definitely NEED to do a Schiit Asgard vs Matrix M-Stage comparison!
    It’s a MUST!

    • Reply April 14, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes, yes. i will try to work on it.

      • Reply April 14, 2011

        Anonymous

        Thank you! Will be looking forward to it. 🙂

      • Reply September 22, 2011

        Anonymous

        Would love to see that comparison with the usual (Senn) suspects, and something from the ATH AD series… 

        • Reply September 22, 2011

          Anonymous

          Sorry, what? 

          • Reply September 22, 2011

            Anonymous

            (regarding the Schiit Asgard v. Matrix M-Stage comparison)

          • Reply September 22, 2011

            Anonymous

            (also, I forgot that you named the portable amp shootout “The Usual Suspects”, I just meant the normal HD598/600/650 line-up, which I figured you’d do anyway. Sorry about the confusion)

            • Reply September 22, 2011

              Anonymous

              And what is the question you wanting to ask? … 

              Here is a review of the HD580/600/650 if that’s what you are asking:
              http://www.headfonia.com/the-sennheiser-trio-hd580-hd600-hd650/

              • Reply September 22, 2011

                Anonymous

                If/when you do a Asgard v. M-Stage review, I would imagine you’ll use the usual Senns, but was just asking if you could squeeze something from the ATH AD line-up into the mix, it’d be greatly appreciated…

                Again, sorry for the confusion, and as always thank you for the quick replies.

                • Reply September 22, 2011

                  Anonymous

                  Oh I see I understand. Thing is I don’t plan to do any Asgard vs M-Stage. I believe some people have asked about this comparison when I did the Asgard article and I posted my thoughts on the comments section of the Asgard article.

                  • Reply September 22, 2011

                    Anonymous

                    I’ve read the comments, and you were very thorough. Just thinking wishfully.

  • Reply April 14, 2011

    Dadab12

    Hey Mike, How does the Matrix M-Stage compare with the top portable amps in the Market?
    When used with low Impendance phones particulary ?
    but not discounting the high-Impendance phones…

    I’m contemplating between buying a high-end portable amp or buying the M-stage..

    Thanks Mike

    • Reply April 14, 2011

      Anonymous

      If you dont need the current and voltage swing from the Matrix, then the RSA 71a is a better amp.

  • Reply April 14, 2011

    Dadab12

    Sorry but I forgot to mention that I have the Pro 900 headphones and plan to buy the HD650 soon. I’m looking for a wider soundstage, clarity, depth, detail.

    Thanks

    • Reply April 14, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yep. I love the HD650 with the SR-71a.

      • Reply April 14, 2011

        Dadab12

        wow, in that case, the portable amp is the way better pick then huh? It offers portability and stationary use with no compromise what so ever.
        I actually was looking at the Just Audio uHA-120U/A heard wonderful things about them and they have amazing synergy with Pro 900 and HD650.

        Do you have experience with any of them Mike?

        and thanks for the quick replies 🙂

        I currently have the Focusrite Saffire Pro 24DSP as a dac.. it’s pretty damn good for it’s price.

        • Reply April 14, 2011

          Anonymous

          I am just stating that in the context of the Matrix M-Stage, SR-71a, and the HD650. Please don’t generalize that portable amps are better than desktop amps because that is not true.

          I am still waiting for the aha 120 amplifier to arrive. I am quite excited about it, but I can’t make any comments until I’vr actually listened to it.

          Bram uses the Focusrite Lite for headphone amplifier purposes and the result is actually pretty good. I dont know how much of an improvement you’ll get by going to a separate amp.

  • Reply June 9, 2011

    Dennisk

    Hi Mike!

    I think i’m getting addicted to this site 🙂

    I want to buy an amp for my beloved k501’s. My Macbook Pro is sounding like it’s about to die when I plug in my headphones.

    I know that an amp is a must when it comes to the k501’s, but i dont want to waste my money on buying an amp that cant cope with them in the first place. On the other hand, I dont want to spend too much money on an amp (burson ha160 eg.), ’cause then I might just aswell buy another pair of headphones, that sounds good with a cheaper amp, and get a better combo! I hope you understand my thoughts on this, and possibly tell me wether or not I should go for the M-Stage? Im also considering the Little Dot mk3. Like all k501 owners I would love some more bass presence and slam. Adding this to the k501’s makes the perfect budget headphone (paid 100$ for them).

    Hope you can help me!

    • Reply June 10, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Dennis,

      I think the M-Stage would be a far better candidate to drive the K501 with. I’ve listened to the LD Mk4 before and bass slam isn’t quite its forte.

      If I want to be frank, the best solution is to get another headphone and sell the K501. 🙂 Because even properly amped, bass slam there and everything, the K501 still has a lot of issues that you don’t quite have with newer headphones like the ATH AD-series or the Senn HD5X8 series. I know, I’m just being mean here, but I want to save you the hassle of having to go through multiple amps before finally deciding that the issue is with the headphone.

      Our forum had the K501 bug about 3-4 years ago, where everybody suddenly started buying BNIB K501s from the local sellers. I remember that during that time the hype on the K501 was so big that
      there was even a thread in Head Fi discussing that the K501 to be better
      than the Sennheiser HD600. Of course we all bought into it, seeing how
      the K501 can be had for ~$100 and the HD600 was selling for about ~$400
      at that time.

      After trying the headphones with all the different amps we had, including the top amps like the Beta22, I think everyone finally gave up and decided that while the natural sound and the huge soundstage are nice, the lack of bass impact and PRaT makes it a very hard headphone to enjoy in the long run. I don’t think I know one guy who still owns the K501 we bought from those days.

      So, if you still want to give it a try, something like the M-Stage should be powerful enough for the K501. Otherwise, I advise you to get a different headphone like the HD600 as it remains to be a highly popular headphone even now, and a simple portable amp like the Ibasso PB-1 or the Electric Avenues PA2V2 amp (~$60) should be able to drive it just fine.

      • Reply June 11, 2011

        Dennisk

        Thanks for the advice. I have been having the same thoughts, but I think that it could be a problem finding a pair of headphones with some of the same forces as the k501, but in addition to that some more bass impact and PRaT.

        Im generally not that into the Sennheiser sound and looks, so HD600 is a no go in this case 🙂

        From what I have read, the Beyerdynamic dt880 could fill my needs, but they are too expensive

        Could the ATH AD900 be the solution? 
        Im going to Florida next month, so I could buy them over there (Here in Denmark its difficult to find other brands than Sennheiser, Grado and AKG).
        And if I want to upgrade in the future: how much would they benefit from being connected to an amp?

        Im already planing to buy the sj55 as a pair of closed portables for use when i’m commuting. The Aiaiai Tracks where leaking way too much.

        I really appreciate your help!

        • Reply June 11, 2011

          Anonymous

          I’m afraid that if you choose your headphones based on the looks then
          it’s would be tough to get the proper headphone. 🙂

          The AD900 is also quite weak in the bass and PRaT. If you don’t like the
          typical Sennheiser sound, perhaps you can try out the HD25-1? It’s more
          forward and more Grado like somewhat. The HD600 is also not as laid back
          as some of the other Senns, which is why I think it remains to be one of
          the most popular Sennheiser model around.

          • Reply June 11, 2011

            Dennisk

            Well, I just know that I wouldn’t appreciate it as much if I think its an ugly headphone 😀

            The HD25-1 is too bassy for my tastes. In my head, it’s quite the opposite of the k501 in a lot of areas (+bass, -soundstage, -imaging etc.).

            I really like the k501’s. I just want slightly more kick in the bass. I’m no bass head at all – as an example the AKG k240 has plenty of bass for my taste. It just doesn’t have the resolution and airiness of the k501’s. The bass extension in k501 is also good imo.

            If you can confirm that the AD900 has a bit more bass than the k501’s, and is not a general step down SQ wise, then I think i might give them a try. Meanwhile I will try to keep an eye on a cheap pair of used HD600’s – if it isn’t as dark sounding as other Senn’s, they might be an opportunity.

            Thanks again, you have been really helpful!

            • Reply June 12, 2011

              Anonymous

              Ah.. I see what you’re looking for now. Okay, the HD25-1 won’t do then.
              You know, I can’t say if the AD900 will have more bass than the K501. I
              know I’ll prefer the AD900’s overall sound quality and easy to drive
              factor over the K501, but I won’t say it’ll have more bass than the K501.

              I also don’t think the HD600 will be good for you, after hearing what
              you’ve said just now.

              Tricky. Amping the K501 is not easy — perhaps the M-Stage is your best
              bet, but it’s also not a guarantee.

          • Reply June 13, 2011

            Dennisk

            I couldn’t reply on your latest answer, so i’m just replying here:

            If you prefer the AD900’s overall sound quality over the K501, I think that I will give the AD900’s a try, and then sell the ones I like the least after comparing them side by side. (The AD900’s might have an advantage since my only amp is a Fiio e3 😀 ).If i’m deciding to stick to my k501’s and then buying an amp for them (Probably the M-Stage), I might be able to sell the AD900’s without loosing too much money, since you can’t buy them here in Denmark.Thanks Man! You have been so helpful!Best, Dennis

            • Reply June 14, 2011

              Anonymous

              That sounds good, Dennis. Yes I think that the AD900 is a better
              headphone overall than the K501. The last time I had the K501, even with
              all the different high end amps that I had laying around, I couldn’t
              really enjoy it due to some glare in the upper midrange.

      • Reply May 13, 2014

        mintran

        Funny enough, I tried many headphones and keep the K501. My friends agreed that K501s are the most transparent, neutral headphones with sparkle treble, mellow mid and decent bass. Maybe my taste is more on the bright side. K501s really shine with jazz fusion and blues. It’s an old dog I can trust 🙂

  • Reply July 15, 2011

    Eyal

    Hi!
    how is the M-Stage compared to the AMB M^3 ?

    thanks!

  • Reply September 16, 2011

    Shane Revis

    Mike,

    Do you know anything about stepped attenuators on amps?

    I was going to buy a Sheer Audio HA-006+, which is a Dynalo design, but it doesn’t have a stepped attenuator. The builder said that the volume would be inbalanced in the channels without the attenuator.

    How bad is the volume inbalance? Does this M-Stage have a stepped attenuator?

    • Reply September 16, 2011

      Anonymous

      Yes I’ve used stepped attenuators on several amplifier builds. Most amps actually don’t come with stepped attenuators, and they work just fine. Stepped attenuators are better but costlier, one of the amps that come with them is the Burson HA-160/160D.

      Here is a picture of the Burson stepped attenuator: http://www.headfonia.com/burson-ha-160-unboxing/2/

      And here you can find some photos of the DACT stepped attenuator: http://www.headfonia.com/the-beta22-amplifier/2/

      The M-Stage doesn’t come with an attenuator, but a very popular ALPS blue potentiometer (you can see it’s the little blue box behind the volume knob), which is also used in the $2,500 Zana Deux amp (http://www.headfonia.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/ec_zana_deux_02.jpg).

      • Reply September 16, 2011

        Shane Revis

        What is your opinion about the unbalanced volume in the seperate channels?

        Is it noticable?

        I’m really not too sure that the HD 600 would work with the M-Stage since the headphones are warm, and the amp is warm.

        • Reply September 16, 2011

          Anonymous

          Regular potentiometers normally have an imbalance in very very low volumes, so they may be an issue with IEMs, but for headphones normally those are not a problem.

          I think the M-Stage pairs better with the Hifiman orthodynamics. For the HD600 the Schiit Asgard would be better. http://www.headfonia.com/triple-schiit-asgaard-valhalla-and-lyr/

  • Reply October 15, 2011

    Pete

    Hi mike
    Im using little dot mk 3 as preamp
    Is the m stage preamp a upgrade to the mk 3?
    Thanks

    • Reply October 17, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi Pete,
      Maybe not an upgrade, but more of a different sound. Personally I think tubes make a better preamps.

      • Reply October 17, 2011

        Pete

        Thanks!!

  • Reply October 20, 2011

    david

    Hi Mike, 

    If you were to choose an amp for the Grado RS1i, would you go with the M-stage or the Asgard.
    They both seem to be warm amps but which would maximize the best and minimize the worst in the Grados?  And why.

    thanks
    david

  • Reply October 20, 2011

    david

    Hi Mike,

    Did some searching and found the answer.  i guess many asked the same thing. 

    thanks

    • Reply October 20, 2011

      Anonymous

      Okay that’s good then.

  • Reply October 25, 2011

    Diego Effio

    Hi, I just bought an HRT Music Streamr II to use with my laptop, would this amp pair well with that? would be using Sennheiser HD595, but planing to upgrade to the 6xx series later.
    Thanks! great site

  • Reply November 6, 2011

    Kevin

    Hi Mike, 

    I’ve been looking a good starter amp for my HD598, would you recommend the m-stage or ibasso p4, or maybe other choices? 
    Thanks a lot.

  • Reply November 10, 2011

    Hyunwoo Kim

    wrong section

    • Reply November 11, 2011

      Anonymous

      1. Yes, though probably mostly differences in sound signature, tonality. Technicalities tend to be comparable within the same price range (I don’t know how the manufacturers do that — but there seems to be a standard going around the different manufacturers that a $200 device should be this good technically). 2. Never heard the Maverick and the D100 Yulong so I can’t comment. The Audinst is a DAC/Amp box, so you won’t need the HRT. I think at the price range that you are looking at I’d recommend the HRT and the Schiit Asgard for the HD650.

  • Reply November 14, 2011

    Likeit

    Are you gonna test the Lehmann clone frome China – Lovely Cube?

    • Reply November 14, 2011

      Anonymous

      Hi,
      No plans for now. I’m aware of the Lovely Cube amp, but I think we rather move on to new things for now.

  • Reply November 28, 2011

    Ron

  • Reply December 10, 2011

    Melanie81

    A well written review. I currently have an underpowered Sennheiser HD650 that needs some amplification. Mike, based on your personal experience, which Dac and amp combo would you choose for the HD650 from the following: 

    DAC: Audinst HUD-MX1 or HRT Streamer II
    Amp: Schiit Asgard or Matrix M Stage

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply December 10, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Melanie,
      I have made some comparisons of both amps a while ago. I really need to update it on the article so people can read it.

      Basically for non orthodynamic, current hungry cans, the Asgard is a better choice as it’s significantly more refined than the M-Stage. The M-Stage is more powerful for driving orthodynamic headphones.

      • Reply December 13, 2011

        Vince3

        What is the title of that article that compares both the Matrix M-Stage and the Schiit Asgard? I am interested in reading it.

        • Reply December 14, 2011

          Mike

          Hi Vince,
          Not a specific article, rather spread out over on the comments section as many people have been asking about the two.

          • Reply December 14, 2011

            Ron

            Hey Mike,  in your comments comparing the M-stage and Asgard are you basing it off the stock m-stage or upgraded opamp/class A biased m-stage?

            • Reply December 14, 2011

              Mike

              Hi Ron,
              Stock and/or class A biased.

              • Reply November 29, 2013

                FL Guy

                Thanks much for all the thorough and useful reviews – and comments. A really big help to many of us…

                Would you also prefer the sound of the Asgard vs the M-stage w an op am upgrade – say perhaps OPA627B
                ?

                • Reply November 29, 2013

                  Mike

                  Asgard, though the latter batches have a different sound.

                  • Reply November 29, 2013

                    FL Guy

                    Yeah, I’ve heard (read) that. Interesting – thanks much as I have not yet had a chance to hear or compare them. So I really appreciate your input having heard both.
                    I was/am curious since you and others have written about potentially “congested vocals” and somewhat lacking in bass control in the current version at least (Asgard 2). Of course, all equipment has its strength, and weaker areas…
                    I’d be very interested in any additional thoughts comparing the strengths (and lesser points) of the two – and if I may suggest, I think this comparison might be of interest to others what considering this part of the price / sound quality spectrum also.
                    I plan (or is that hoping? 🙂 make a decision soon (probably within a few days), but if/whenever to get time to elaborate I’d welcome more on your thoughts and experience with both.

                    • November 30, 2013

                      Mike

                      I may not be able to do that comparison for you. However the only Schiit amp I’ve ever considered as good is the first gen Asgaard. Then they made some revisions to the amp and somehow it ruined the sound. Then the Asgard 2 came out which I’ve never heard either but Dale wasn’t thrilled with it and I too wasn’t too thrilled with the mjolnir gungnir combo so, I don’t know.. I’m just not recommending their newer amps I guess.

                      If you can get a second hand Asgaard with an early build date they should cost very cheap now and are among the best sounding sub $500 amps in the market.

                    • November 30, 2013

                      FL Guy

                      Ah, well, that would explain. Thanks!

                    • December 6, 2013

                      FL Guy

                      And just fyi, the M-stage ‘refresh’ has been released, visible on the Matrix web page, and other web sites…

                    • December 6, 2013

                      Mike

                      Thanks

      • Reply January 5, 2012

        Myster Enigma

        Hi Mike, I am contemplating between the Burson and the M-Stage for my HD800 and Denon D7000, well mainly to power the senns. I’m  not that much of an audiophile so out of the 2 which one would you recommened? Do you think it is worth paying double for the Burson or would the M-Stage be a great buy. Thanks

        • Reply January 5, 2012

          Mike

          You really owe those two headphones the Burson. 🙂

  • Reply December 14, 2011

    Laurent Monin

    I just bought the new m-stage amp, with USB input.

    Out of package it is working great, but i tried various op amps instead of provided ones.
    After many iterations and listening tests, i ended with 2 LME49720 (one in amp part, one in usb converter part), with much better results.
    Sound was improved on all criterias, better bass impact and depth, trebles are much less harsh, voices beautiful. I’m using an AKG 271 MKII for now, decent neutral headphones imho.

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Derrik

      Do you use only Dac in M-stage??
      The sound is enough dynamic for mixing  in studio with AKG ?

  • Reply January 10, 2012

    Biergourmet

    What do you think about the USB input of the new model?

    • Reply January 10, 2012

      Mike

      Well I really haven’t had the chance to listen to one, but I think they kept the price roughly similar to the non-USB model right? So that should be a good thing.

      • Reply January 10, 2012

        Biergourmet

        Buying from a German eBay shop the prices are:
        215 € for non USB version
        259 € for USB version

        Furthermore the shop offers:
        Yulong U100  for 165 €
        Matrix Cube for 229 €

        I wonder which one to get. I want to have a all in one device, so I can sell my current DAC (Pro-Ject USB).

  • Reply January 10, 2012

    Greg440

    Hi mike,
    I recently just sold my AKG K 702s that I had paired with my Matrix M-Stage because I didn’t like the lack of midrange. I am now looking for a new set of headphones to pair with the Matrix M-Stage but I am finding it difficult to find recommendations for headphones with good synergy. I noticed that you liked the Hifiman HE-5LE with the M-Stage and so was wondering if the HE-500 (which is now the same price) was a good pairing or even the HE-300, which might go better with my lower-end set up. My set-up will be Ipod-> Cambridge Audio id100-> Matrix M-Stage-> ?

    I mainly listen to classical and acoustic but also some rock. You’re opinion is greatly needed and appreciated. I just need to find some headphones so I don’t have to sell the M-Stage as well and start over again.

    • Reply January 11, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Greg,
      Yes the HE5LE is amazing with the M-Stage. I think the HE-500 would be wonderful on it as well, but I personally haven’t had the chance to listen to it on the M-Stage, so there is no guarantee there. But the HE-500 should give you the midrange and should be good for the music you listen to.

      • Reply January 11, 2012

        Greg440

        Thanks for the reply Mike,
        I think I will get the HE-500. They should be good enough with the M-Stage and if not I can upgrade to the Graham Slee Solo SRG II in a year or two. Do you think the HE-500 is a better headphone than the HE5LE or that they are just suited to different tastes?

        • Reply January 11, 2012

          Mike

          Hi Greg,
          That sounds good. The HE-500 indeed is a clear improvement, although there are sound signature differences as well.

  • Reply January 10, 2012

    Greg440

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that I am using the Cambridge Audio DacMagic in my set-up.

  • Reply February 9, 2012

    Anonymous

    Mike,

    Can you let me know what you think of the M-stage vs. Schiit asgard.

    Thanks, Ian

  • Reply February 19, 2012

    swede92

    Hi Mike please answer to this:) Well Im gonna buy the Senn HD 600 and the HRT music streamer 2011 edition as a DAC, then I need an amp to, I live in sweden and cant decide If I should  go with the Harmony Design Ear 90 rca(and I dont think you have test lisent to that amp), but I have talk to one that have the Senn  HD 650 and he like it with the harmony amp, and the HD 600 is a little bit simlair to the HD 650. And the Harmony amp  is build in Sweden(easier to buy it here) and I think they offer 5 years warranty and it cost 593 us dollar here, but the Matrix m-stage is little bit cheaper than the harmony and I want an amp that I can have for a long time atleast 5 years or more does matrix hold up to that you think? what would you pick? The Matrix is clone of the Lehman Audio Black Cuce Lineear and the lehman fit well with the HD 600 but it cost a lot do you think the M-stage is a good choise with the HD 600 sorry for my long and messy text:D pls answer.

  • Reply March 9, 2012

    branko.liber

    So M-stage would be the best choice of all amps under say 300-400$ for AKG Q701?  I currently use them with Little Dot MkV, and find the setup too bright…well, not necessarily bright in the sense that there’s too much treble, but it’s just very sibilant with most recording and quite thin and fatiguing.  Also, sound stage is somewhat weird. There’s no depth to it, and center image is non-existent. I don’t know whether its because of a dual-mono nature of MkV, but it certainly isn’t pleasant to listen with majority of records. Not to mention MkV hasn’t got the power it takes to drive Q701’s, I find myself dialing the knob to 100% too often.

    • Reply March 9, 2012

      Mike

      That sounds like a nasty set up.

      I’m more inclined to recommend you the Hifiman EF-5 simply because the treble is going to be softer, and the soundstage would be much better (especially the center focus part). Personally I’ve never tried the EF-5 & K701 pairing, but based on your complaints this is the amp that I would recommend.
      FYI the EF-5 is able to handle much harder headphones than the K701, so I think you shouldn’t have any problem as far as power is concerned.
      http://www.headfonia.com/hifiman-ef5-review/

  • Reply March 9, 2012

    derbii

    So
    M-stage would be the best choice of all amps under say 300-400$ for AKG
    Q701?  I currently use them with Little Dot MkV, and find the setup too
    bright…well, not necessarily bright in the sense that there’s too
    much treble, but it’s just very sibilant with most recording and quite
    thin and fatiguing.  Also, sound stage is somewhat weird. There’s no depth to it, and center image is non-existent. I don’t know whether its because of a dual-mono nature of MkV,
    but it certainly isn’t pleasant to listen with majority of records. Not
    to mention MkV hasn’t got the power it takes to drive Q701’s, I find
    myself dialing the knob to 100% too often.

     

  • Reply March 14, 2012

    Son Nguyen Minh

    Hi Mike
    How does this amp compare to similar priced DIY amp like M3 or Dynalo?

  • Reply April 10, 2012

    Michael S Teufenkjian

    Would this work well with a DT990/600ohm?

  • […] than the reviews from head-fi linked above, here are some more reviews about this excellent amp: Matrix M-Stage | Headfonia http://www.amazon.com/Matrix-m-stage…DateDescending Some more photos of this amp to show its […]

  • […] på brukten – den kan være et svært godt alternativ. M-Stage er en klone/kopi av Lehman BCL. Matrix M-Stage | Headfonia m-stage with grado – Google-søk Sitat fra Mala Sitat fra tittentei1000 […]

  • […] 2008 Matrix M-Stage | Headfonia Reply With Quote Rate Seller […]

  • Reply November 2, 2012

    George

    Dear Mike

    I ‘ve ordered the m-stage to drive my K701.Until now I have been using the JDSLabs Cmoy with a second TLE2426 soldered parallel to the stock one ,to handle my demanding headphones ,as well as the built-in amp of my Xonar STX which I also use as a source through the speaker-out.To be frank the Xonar amp is clear and loud enough for the AKGs but the sound is kind of cold and harsh.The cmoy on the other hand is a bliss to my ears especially when I play HD recordings.Transparent,airy,detailed and warm ,makes the AKGs rise and shine (with the help of some extra bass gain through the EQ).Allthough I ‘ll have the chance to compare it myself to the m-stage in a few day’s time ,I was wondering if you could throw me a few lines as to what to expect ,the pros and cons of the Cmoy vs matrix comparison.I know you have reviewed both and being the expert you are ,I would very much appreciate your opinion.Thanks a lot…

    • Reply November 2, 2012

      Mike

      George,
      The difference may be smaller than you’d expect.

      One of the strong point about the Matrix is the power output which can comfortably drive the average Hifiman orthodynamics. Other than that, the regulated power supply section does a much linear and better articulated bass section than the Cmoy’s. On the other hand the Cmoy is extremely musical and makes for a good pairing with high impedance dynamics. The midrange quality, soundstage and transparency is amazingly good. With the HD650 I definitely prefer the Cmoy. With the 701, I’m not so sure, I think you ought to share your impression with us after you’re done comparing.

      Cheers

      • Reply November 2, 2012

        George

        Thank you for your for your immediate response,much obliged.

      • Reply May 11, 2015

        Emilio Vargas

        Hi Mike!!!
        I’m in the urgency of expert advice!!
        I’m looking for the best bang for the buck desktop amplifier I’m quite new to the audiophile community but enjoy very much your reviews! So many it’s quite hard to make a choice!!
        The thing is I listen to mainly electronic music bass oriented genre, for that task I bought the sony xb1000 and have performed well, driven by the fiio e 12 I know these cans are very efficient and have a low impedance but very much needed an amp to show the very nice bass response these headphones are capable of , but I’m looking to upgrade my rig, my budget gets up to $300 Max so what amplifier a should I get shiit’s magni/modi,jdslabs o2/odac,matrix mstage with the built in dac? I haven’t pushed out of the boundaries of 16 bit /44.1 khz so should I really need to focus on dac/amp or only amp? I mainly listen music from my smartphone soon I’ll get a better system!!

        • Reply May 11, 2015

          dalethorn

          If you listen mainly from a smartphone, are you going to change that and start listening mainly from the computer?

          • Reply May 11, 2015

            Emilio Vargas

            Yes im just short of money by the moments but in plans I will get the pc and I’ll buy a dac not sure if modi or hrt ms2+ is it a good option buying from hifimediy I know they use super high end dac chips in small form factors will that be great too?

            • Reply May 11, 2015

              dalethorn

              Schiit is a good budget brand. I have had a few HRT DACs – they’re good too. All you need to do now is read all the reviews you can on the things you mentioned, so you can be sure they have the right connectors and design for your application.

  • Reply November 23, 2012

    thecansmancan

    Hey, I read another review on head-fi that gives an opposite opinion as to coloration.

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/475618/matrix-m-stage-amp-review-simple-cheap-and-excellent

    Take a look. Why is there such a discrepancy? I just purchased one of these off mass drop. Now I’m a bit confused as to what to expect when it arrives.

    • Reply November 23, 2012

      Trent_D

      Well, you can find someone on head-fi with almost any opinion. Wait for it to arrive and draw your own conclusions. Only way to be sure.

      • Reply November 23, 2012

        thecansmancan

        that’s true, but this isn’t just some random review. This guy is pretty well known and respected.

        • Reply November 23, 2012

          Trent_D

          See what your ears think, and then let us know.

  • Reply December 23, 2012

    fsgb80v7cbwe

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    The information mentioned in the article are some of the best available…

  • Reply December 23, 2012

    lida zayiflama

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  • Reply August 6, 2013

    Aakshey

    Compared to Schiit amps like A2, does Matrix have better vocals? Better mids I mean, in terms of articulation and clarity?

    • Reply August 6, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Well, I wasn’t too impressed with the mids on the A2. Congested.

      • Reply August 6, 2013

        Aakshey

        And matrix m stage? How did that perform? Any other commercial offering in $250 which had better vocals?

        • Reply August 6, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          The JDSlabs cMoy has nice mids and is fairly transparent to the source.

  • Reply December 25, 2013

    alfminus

    Is the HPA 2 (2013) similar anyone herd it ??

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