Matrix vs coax w/high end interconnects

I have read much positive feedback in the forum on how the Matrix thingy improves a USB connection to the DIrectstream, but nothing I can find on whether the Matrix and I2s HDMI significantly improves SQ over the spdif inputs via great cables (from a Lumin streamer). Thoughts?

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My Matrix arrives in 2 days and I intend to test both I2S and SPDIF (Coaxial and AES)

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My general feeling is that AES/EBU is the best single-cable solution. If I may interpret your question that way around. Unfortunately the cable quality still matters - they all sound different.

USB seems to be the most “upgradeable” means of getting digital from one device to another. But maybe that’s because there are so many USB-related devices, such as the Matrix, which is only USB in.

Of course, the AES thing is only if the Lumin has one. Matrix vs. spdif on a Lumin specifically? I dunno. I’d pretty much bet money that the Matrix would best it. But there is betting of money involved in answering that question for you and your system in any case, as one size (or cable) Does Not Fit All. And Every cable in the chain matters with the Matrix, as well as the power supply. So the Matrix with the wall wart it comes with and “any old cables” for USB and HDMI are not at all the same thing as say, $2k-worth put into that chain.

However, how much you’ll extract from that difference is very much dependent on what is downstream of it (the rest of your system).


Lumin U1 and U1 Mini provide AES digital out. Other models do not.

So is the general thought that AES is the best DIrectstream input, even compared to a Matrix assisted USB? I have the U1 mini so it is an option, but I never considered it. I just went straight to the coax option because that’s the cable (expensive) I already had.

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Cool. My personal thing is - as crappy as USB can be shown to be, by virtue of how much better it can be made by…almost everything you do to it😝 - it also is ubiquitous, and handles pretty much all formats. And is in fact capable of sounding great. You can’t cross it off the list just because it isn’t always executed properly - otherwise pretty much NO stereo component would be useful. And lots of manufacturers are spending a lot of time and money on it as a result of all of the above.

On the other end, as much as standard Optical has its adherents, it is often limited to 24/96 and oddly bright/tilted, even with glass cables (not talking about dual/Ted-ish versions of optical).

Coax is a nice “workhorse” in my mind, but is somewhere “in between” optical and AES in various respects. Doesn’t suck, but I’m often not thrilled with coax. Used to be all I used, for many years.:man_shrugging:t2:. Maybe once I got to this audiophool juncture, I’ve just never had a Really Good One. AES is a more “Pro” version of these. That doesn’t necessarily mean any old AES will be better than a coax.

Aside from this list of biases developed over decades, mostly in studio applications, where we frankly don’t think at all about gear in the same way, my recent (last year or two) experiences with multiple devices in several “hi-fi” systems - multiple USB, coax and AES applications and cables - have generally supported that. But I can only speak from my subset of gear and experience. And from those biases - which I’m always willing to give up when I experience something better.

EDIT: As long as this post is - I have to tack on here that cables are only as good as the bits you plug them into. That refers not just to the Components, but how much money and love was spent by the manufacturers of those components on the (typically) ten-cent I/O connections coming in and out of the boxes. So there is a certain potential futility to cables at some point.

Which is one of the things that has been fun for the run of the DS DACs enabling i2s.

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Sorry - just occurred to me to go on some more. Expecting the arrival of a used WW Platinum USB today to replace the Pretty Darn Good WW USB (it’s red - I forget which that is) in the Matrix chain.

News at 11 :cowboy_hat_face:

I would like to see BNC as a standard instead of RCA coax, but I am not holding my breath.


I think the red WW USB is the Starlight, which is what I have. I will be curious to know if you hear a noticeable improvement with the Platinum, as I’m thinking of upgrading.

I’ll check in with CNN at 11.

They use the appellation Starlight a lot. The Platinum Starlight (solid silver, no Platinum involved, and talking Series 7 - now there’s some in S8! Oh, the Shame!) in both XLR and HDMI, were clear and significant improvements. Also clearly and significantly more costly.

One of the things that I like about WW however is that, more than most other manufacturers I’ve experienced, they ACTUALLY get better with cost. Perhaps because, like Iconos, the basic Design is sound. So then the metals do what the metals do - along with the design.

I’m using the many-nines copper XLRs from pre to amp in my bigger system, as my amp is 3-4 meters away from the pre. I’d get the Platinums, but too much money. Like $7-8k?. And anyway, the copper sounds really nice. Have always liked good copper. But the current state of silver is another deal compared with the Olden Days when I came to dislike it.

Yeah. Locking connectors are nice. Have to think it has something to do with your average coax for audio being 50 Ohm via RCAs and BNC, usually for video, being 75. At least, as I recall or in my experience. Design Again! Can’t get away from it! Not to mention RCAs being cheap and familiar - which are attributes which inform a lot of decisions in audio.

Maybe that’s my thing with AES. Mmmm…110 Ohms…

So I checked and I have the Starlight Series 8 USB, which I think is the update to the Starlight Silver Series 7. Of course I’m rationalizing picking up the Platinum Series 7 because I’m thinking of moving my equipment around and might need a longer cable.

Are Thursdays in January a good time to turn a good rationalization into action?


The best Month of the Year for that, for sure. Thursdays…hmmmmm.

So - @baybun - apologies for hijacking this thread. The Short Answer is, “I Dunno?!”

Both locking and the correct impedance of 75 ohm for S/PDIF.

Locking XLRs on all equipment would be nice, too.

Pretty sure some of my first handmade “SPDIF” coaxes back in the day utilized 75 Ohm “cable” cable, and (little did I know) 50 Ohm RCA ends. “Hmmm, why don’t these beat what I’m using for SPDIF? They’re made of better parts…”

Fascinatingly, a 75 ohm RCA connector cannot be made due to its design.

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I have a BNC output on my Both Naim rippers / servers. One of them doubles up as CD player too. I have been using BNC to RCA into the DS DAC until October 2020 when I got the USB connection from Roon Nucleus+ To extract the best of USB and make sound as good as the BNC / RCA I had to use a decent USB cable and HDPlex 3000 LPS. The last time I used AES was 1994 - 2002 on the tube based Musical Fidelity F-CD but at that time, it was not any better than coax. Mind you, my awareness of the effect of power cables was quite limited then, though I used good interconnects.

I am also asking myself the same question, also with a Lumin. Hopefully someone on the forum has compared aes to usb with matrix, from a good streamer into the DS and can share some feedback.

I’m not sure if it was clear, but I have - not on Lumin, but with Auralic G1 (and now modded G1). But I would be surprised if it did not have the same effect. USB/Matrix/i2s is a significant improvement. With average cables and PSU perhaps not as dramatic as with better ones.

How much you’re willing to spend is a factor. For example, whatever you were willing to spend on the AES cable, you would want to spend that much on each of the USB and HDMI cables. Plus the Matrix, plus a PSU. So it adds up fast.