Metronome are a relatively recent addition to the Audio Therapy portfolio but since their arrival I’ve simply been too busy and pre-occupied with other things to even begin to think about scratching the pad and actually writing a blog about them, which is a shame as they are a wonderful product and deserve some time on a pedestal.
Metronome were founded back in 1987 in a small town just outside of Toulouse in the south of France. During their early years Metronome certainly earned their audiophile credentials with a highly regarded range of CD players and transports, as well as amplifiers and loudspeakers. Fast forward 36 years and their range is heavily focussed on digital with a concise range of CD Players, Transports, DAC’s and Servers/Streamers.
I carry their entry level Classica range on demonstration which comprises of 4 products all of which are designed and manufactured in France:
Le Player 4 CD Transport (£7300)
Le Player 4 Plus CD Player, DAC with an optional Network Streamer Card (£8900 plus £2000 for the network card)
Le Streamer – standalone Network Streamer (£4800)
Le DAC 2 – standalone DAC (£6700)
As the title of this post gives away, this blog is all about the £6700 Le DAC2. Unusually in these modern times of streaming music, Le DAC 2 is literally just a DAC, there is no on board network connection for streaming and no volume control/preamp either and as such it can’t be used a standalone source component but requires either a Melco, CD Transport, Network Streamer or Computer to connect into one of its digital inputs.
Connectivity is excellent with Le DAC 2 sporting 5 digital inputs, USB-B, Optical, RCA SPDIF, AES EBU and I2S. The USB-B and I2S inputs support playback of all files up to 32 bit / 384kHz and DSD files up to and including DSD 512. The other 3 digital inputs all support up to 24 bit /192 kHz.
Analogue outputs are both single ended RCA and fully balanced XLR.
As with the other Metronome Classica components such as Le Player 4+ and the Transport version, Le DAC 2 is beautifully designed and incredibly well screwed together, weighing in at 12kg. The front panel is 10mm thick aluminium, there are 2 toroidal transformers with 6 independent power lines. It feels reassuringly solid when you pick it up.
The front panel display is large and easy to read and it shows you the selected input and sample rate of whatever music is playing and there are 2 touch sensitive buttons on the front panel that allow you to scroll through the inputs. No remote control is included, changing input is literally the only function you can perform so it’s not really necessary and, to date, every Le DAC 2 I have supplied is being used in a single source system so the DAC literally doesn’t need to be touched.
There are 3 feet fitted to the underside, but also included are 3 magnetic conical feet that snap into place when offered up to the bottom of the feet, these improve performance over the flat feet so are worth using, but offer up 3 Stillpoints to the chassis of Le DAC 2 instead and the sonic rewards are quite obvious, it’s a strong future upgrade path – more on that later.
Le DAC 2 came about due to a component on the original Le DAC becoming discontinued, namely the DAC chipset itself. The original Le DAC used an AK chip, but their factory fire caused no end of component supply issues for many industries (not just audio) and Metronome had no choice but to look at alternative options from a different vendor.
The ESS9028 PRO chip was eventually chosen, but it wasn’t just a case of replacing one chip with another. By the time Metronome had finished revising Le DAC, all of the circuitry had been redesigned and updated, internally it was very different to the original version so Le DAC 2 was born. Ultimately, there was no point in designing and releasing a new model for the performance to simply stand still, it needed to pull ahead over the previous version by a decent margin to make it a worthwhile change.
I’ve had my demonstration Metronome pieces for some time know and I’ve been lucky enough to install a few Le DAC 2 for customers so I’ve had plenty of experience using one in a variety of different systems plus, of course, in my demo room. Source components have included a Melco N50 and N1, plus the digital output of the Metronome Le Player 4+ CD Player. In terms of amplification I’ve partnered Le DAC 2 up with Alluxity, Vitus (RI-101 mk2 & SIA-025 mk2) and also the T+A PA 3100 HV. Loudspeakers such as the Fyne F1-8, Vimberg Amea & Mino and the Avalon PM1 (and PM1.2) have all been used as well. I’ve not had a Le Player 4 transport here to test the I2S so that will be saved for another day.
Sonically Le DAC 2 has an effortless presentation, tonally it it sits just on the warmer side of neutral, it produces a large expansive soundstage that is wide, tall and deep and one which draws you right into the music. Listening to the brilliant album ‘Ash’, by Ibeyi, the bass weight is deep and solid, but it never feels ponderous and it always stops and starts when needed with no overhang at all and the weight never gets in the way of the rest of the music.
Dynamics and detail retrieval are outstanding, but they are never thrust upon you in a way that pins you to your chair, sounding artificial and contrived like so many modern DAC’s can. Metronome don’t manipulate the shape of the sound this way or that to make it sound impressive. The resolution is superb, as good as anything I’ve experienced until you get to the Vitus RD-101 (which is double the price). You get real insight into the music, it is incredibly neutral and accurate and it has a timbral richness that really highlights tone and textures that in many digital systems are simply sonically invisible. Le DAC 2 leaves no digital fingerprint on the final sound either, quite the opposite in many ways, the presentation is rather seductive and alluring.
Listening to some electro/ambient jazz from Erik Truffaz or some brilliant American acoustic folk from Iron & Wine was equally rewarding, hugely different genres of music and Le DAC 2 takes it all in its stride, intimate, beguiling and above all else incredibly enjoyable to spend time with.
I’m often guilty of jumping around my music collection, one track inspires another and so on, but with the Le DAC 2 I was putting on a track and 45 minutes later I was still sat there entranced and the album had played through to the end, which is a telling sign. Personally I always strive for a system or component to be as engaging as possible and for me to be emotionally involved in the music, goosebumps, hairs on end or tears are the holy grail and Le DAC 2 has delivered on all 4 fronts equally.
I used the Le DAC 2 in a variety of different systems, connected to a Melco N50 it sounded superb and would make for a really compelling combination, but switch up to the flagship N1 and everything about what the Le DAC 2 was doing simply got better, almost as if it rolled its sleeves and said ‘come on then’. One of my customers used to own the superb Exogal Comet DAC (which was around £3000) and it really punched above its station. Le DAC 2 was the first DAC that was an obvious and meaningful upgrade over the now defunct brand from the USA. The bigger and better the system, the more Le DAC 2 impressed with its abilities.
I mentioned Stillpoints earlier in this post, they are an incredibly powerful product range and I’ve been a huge advocate of theirs for some time now. When a system is in a good place, adding Stillpoints under a component (like Le DAC 2) is always a positive experience – you gain air, clarity, better bass articulation and textures. The increased level of micro detail and nuance always takes people by surprise. They are a good honesty filter as they will quickly show you what your system is doing (both the good bits and bad bits), more than once they’ve been used to help identify the bottleneck in a system.
Using both Ultra 2 and Ultra 6 under the Le DAC 2 elevated performance to a new place compared to using the standard conical feet, the impact they make in both cases was instantly audible and they serve as a great potential upgrade to get even more from the DAC and the system as a whole.
I can see the merits of the Le DAC 2 working well in a wide variety of systems, it’s so easy and enjoyable to listen to and just lets you focus on the music.
Le DAC 2 is available in black and silver, on demonstration now, as ever part exchange is welcome, please get in touch if you have any questions.