Review: Metronome DSS : Several Metronome products have gone through HIFI Live, always high-end digital sources (their specialty) and for the most part tested by my colleague Jose Manuel Delgado , a lover of the brand. Of French origin, based near the highly technological city of Toulouse, Metronome manufactures its products entirely in France and has concentrated on the high and very high end. For the latter, in addition to some products with their brand, they also have the Kalista signature, which represents “no more”, the references free of commitments and with a unique aesthetic as well.
In their more than thirty years they have had all kinds of products but they are specialized in digital sources, both disc readers, DAC converters, and recently of course file players either in network or in local storage. Kalista aside, its three ranges are from highest to lowest level Classic, Aqwo and Digital Sharing. Precisely to the latter belongs the product that we tested this time the Digital Sharing Streamer that we will know from now on by its acronym DSS and which is one of its most affordable products (within the exclusivity).
Digital Sharing Streamer
The Metronome DSS is a pure digital source. Not only because it only reads digital files, but because it does not have an internal DAC converter: its outputs are all digital and therefore destined to one of the brand’s DACs (or another), or to an amplifier that has an internal converter. In addition to the most affordable Metronome, it is also the most compact: a small cube measuring 25 centimeters on the side and 7 high, which only has the LED on its front that warns that it is running. The apparent elongated buttons on the front are only a decorative element and there is no information screen, both a defect of the device in my opinion because it “forces” us to use a mobile or tablet.
It also does not have a remote control, because again it is based on use over the network with portable devices. That seems fine to me, and I use it, but if the manufacturer also offers me a «normal» infrared remote control, I give it a better score because it makes life easier for the user when he wants to turn up the volume, skip the song or stop. music for a moment. Those actions, instantaneous with a normal command (or controls on the front of the device), are not so much without these facilities.
The front end of the DSS, then, gives for little else. The rear, on the other hand, has many connections. The IEC power input (the well-worked power supply is internal), the digital network “inputs” (Ethernet with internal Wi-Fi) and local files (two USBs that do not appear to be type 3). On the other hand we have the digital outputs, and here a little surprise awaits us because it has all the usual types … except USB. The Metronome DSS has balanced digital output XLR AES / EBU, SPDIF coaxial RCA and optical TosLink, and an I2S output on HDMI connector for your own DACs or those compatible with this connection. But strangely, it does not have the most popular or used output lately, USB, whose asynchronous connection allows you to transfer files of any type without limitations.
Metronome seems to think that this connection (USB) does not offer such precision or especially musicality, and this is not the only device in its catalog that does not have it. In return, the “classic” outputs are highly optimized and will bring out the best in files that are played back and then converted to more traditional DACs. It is therefore a very interesting option for those who have a DAC with good SPIDF or AES / EBU inputs whose USB connection is not so optimal. In addition, without losing DSD compatibility since the Metronome allows that signal (DSD64) to be sent through the traditional outputs with the DoP protocol (which the receiving DAC must logically accept).
Inside the DSS is where we find the “savoir faire” of Metronome. Starting with the power supply, which after its own current filter uses a Talema toroidal transformer that feeds several capacitor banks. That filter (and power reserve) would be worthy of an amplifier and here it is intended to feed as stable and clean as possible to a “simple” digital circuit. The capacitors occupy a good part of the interior space of the DSS, in several “banks” before and after the regulation, and at first glance it recalls one of the principles of Metronome in its electronics, and that is that without the best possible power supply, what comes next will not it could be better.
A processor takes care of file recognition and playback, with a small dedicated board. Here we do not find the increasingly common micro-computer board (Raspberry) more or less personalized, but a dedicated integrated player. Of British origin mConnect (it is the reference CDMCM-2121 as you can see on the board), this integrated player is used in the DSS only for its I2S digital output (it has an integrated DAC chip that is inactive here) to the circuits already in the Metronome board that allow the signals to be sent to the outputs. Among other chips it uses an AKM reclocker (AK4137) with a very close precision clock, and the outputs are decoupled with precision minitransformers.
This onboard player is used by some other high-end streamer with success and its mConnect application, the one recommended by Metronome, will allow us to take full advantage of it. Although it is DLNA compatible and many other applications will also work well, with theirs it will be how we can “see” and manage libraries of music files that we have connected to their USB inputs. With other programs we did not see that option, or they did not “see” the connected files, although they did see what comes through the network, shared. In Roon the player is visible, for example, but not the files connected to it.
The excellent packaging of the Metronome DSS protects it when it arrives in our hands. Its connection to our system will be very simple: look for a hole, not necessarily in sight (advantage of not having a screen or controls) and connect it to our network on the one hand and to the DAC or amplifier that we are going to use on the other. If we also have hard drives or USB memories with music files, we can connect them as is to one of the two rear inputs of the device. This is an advantage because it can make us independent of computers or NAS servers depending on the size of the digital library we have, or if we select a part to have it more “at hand” in this way.
The first tests were done on my equipment in the living room, where now the Alchemy DDP-2 “presides” as a digital source that we tested here in its day and that finally “stayed” due to its virtues and versatility. In addition to the DAC and preamp (with analog inputs) it has its own internal streamer board and is Roon Ready (earning a lot of points). The Metronome test here was simple and straightforward: plugged into the Alchemy DAC inputs, and how much would your internal player improve?
Well, as we have already mentioned some other time, “I wish” there were not those differences between digital sources … but there are, there are. It is true that in this case it was subtle, which speaks very well of the Elac-Alchemy, and in fact they were very similar differences to those that I recently encountered when testing the Telos network filters. Switching on the fly or letting the music play, I almost always ended up choosing the sound as “best” when DSS was busy playing. The music, the sound scene, was better organized: a Kari Bremnes song with a multitude of “sounds” in the three dimensions of the scene sounded more believable or realistic, since those sounds did not move and that greater stability left the brain to identify the better the scene. The same with an orchestra, where the strings and the piano were kept, or a chamber ensemble where each interpreter and each desk or each score was stable. With the Alchemy playing as well as decoding, it all sounded big, nice, open, but those sound sources were harder to identify. It is curious that the DSS allowed you to discover something and then you would “follow” it … but you would always discover it with the other.
I have to open a brief parenthesis here and it is that the Alchemy has an I2S “HDMI” input (I put it in quotes because it is one thing to use that connector and another for the protocol used to be yours). But there was no luck: the Metronome and the Alchemy must use forms of communication or internal wiring different from HDMI because the clock recognized it but nothing else … So I connected them using coaxial (SPDIF) or balanced (AES / EBU) cable without appreciating noticeable differences between the two.
After the show the Metronome spent a season in the basement, where it became more apparent why the French have opted for “conventional” digital outputs. In this equipment, the resident DAC is a classic Meridian 568 (which is also a multichannel processor and a previous one) that when the USB connection was born almost did not exist as they say … But its coaxial inputs appreciate a “good” digital source and that is precisely the DSS .
Here I compared it as a digital source with a Linn Sneaky (excellent and versatile device, unfortunately unknown to most) and the difference was somewhat less subtle than with the Alchemy but because the Linn has always had a profile, either due to its analog output or digital via external DAC, warmer, smoother. Compared to the Metronome DSS, also less dynamic: the DSS sounds so much more energetic that I had to verify that the level was identical, at the output of the DAC, between the two, since it seemed to sound somewhat louder. With the big Legacy boxes, and with rock music, that was welcome, and the great scene that I get in this team maintained the virtues of what was said in the other system. It even seemed that the voices were better understood, that you catch the first time what they say either in your native language or, moreover, in another: everything seems to express itself somewhat better,
Metronome DSS Conclusion
As is often the case in this hobby, we find differences that seem very subtle in direct comparison, but that in the long run can become more listening pleasure and more hours enjoying music. This is what the Metronome DSS offers: a highly optimized “base” as a pure digital player, with which to forget a good season and with which to take advantage of a good level DAC converter that we may have had for a long time. Far from getting into -and getting- into a technological race in search of the latest, but without forgetting its compatibility with DSD, the DSS is that small step that can be missing in a good level equipment with traditional sources (plate and CD).
At the level of usability, it has the point in favor of its direct USB inputs (we do not need to configure a server or computer) and, against, of not having a front screen or a dedicated remote control. Both things are supplied as is increasingly common with a mobile or tablet. And at the level of pure performance, I would say that it is in a good point with respect to the competition with a fair price in the middle of its (I would say) two biggest rivals, the Lumin U1 Mini and U1 “just”, which Ars Antiqua also imports. Audio. The differences between them are sometimes subtle, as I said before, but let’s not forget that the nuances are precisely the art of music.
Highlights of Metronome DSS
+ Digital streamer source perfect for traditional DACs
+ Ease of use with the mConnect application
+ Direct access to the internet and files stored on USB
– No remote control, direct controls or screen
– No USB output for DACs that have it