A metronome’s job is usually to set a steady tempo. It’s a clock, a musical timekeeper. And it is the brand name under which digital electronics have been developed in the southern French municipality of Montans since 1987. Time, timing, digital data? That makes sense. If you then look around a little on the company’s own website, you will notice where Métronome clocks in its own creations: namely, quite nonchalantly at the top of the world market. Well, I haven’t had a very precise focus on the manufacturer so far. a mistake?
Arnd Rischmüller will certainly say yes, after all, the Hamburg which represents well-known brands such as Audiomat, DeVore Fidelity, JMR or Tellurium Q, has recently been taking care of that in Germany Product portfolio of the French.
Our test device Métronome Le Dac comes from their Classic series and actually marks the entry into the sound world of the Gauls. But even the self-confident naming quite bluntly indicates that our test subject has nothing to do with classic “entry-level hi-fi”. Its price of 6,100 euros clearly positions Métronomes Le Dac in the high-end segment.
The entrances mentioned can be found on the back. Coax, AES/EBU and Toslink are even doubled, the asynchronous USB-B input is single. On the output side there is a cinch and an XLR output.
If you remove the sheet steel cover, the first thing that strikes you is the power supply, which is provided by four toroidal transformers . Three of these deal exclusively with D/A conversion and audio circuitry, with this trio providing no fewer than ten independently regulated voltage taps. The fourth is responsible for the display and control of the Métronome Le Dac.
Last but not least, the armada of over one hundred smaller capacitors is unusual , which all in all hold a whopping 144,000 microfarads ready. Plentiful for a DAC. The advantage of smaller capacitors compared to larger ones is usually shorter charging times and the associated faster response times. The discrete (no SMD) and double-mono design of the output stage also shows that the French digital specialist definitely knows where to get the essential sound points in the analog circuit spheres.
The actual D/A conversion in the Métronome Le Dac is performed by an “Asahi Kasei Microsystems AK4493” DAC chip in stereo design. It’s no secret that the 32-bit processor, which has been available since 2018, can also be found in significantly cheaper DACs. But the overall performance of a converter is decisively influenced by the circuit periphery in which a chip does its work. The DAC assembly of the Le Dac is also interesting because the AK4493 is occasionally said to imitate the sound of so-called ladder DACs. I’ve been using such a ladder DAC myself for some time, namely the Wavelight from Rockna .
Even if the Métronome Le Dac and my Rockna Wavelight don’t immediately drift into completely opposite sound spheres, there are enough tonal differences that underline the individuality of the solutions in each case.
But first things first: During this test, I primarily streamed Qobuz, Tidal, and self-ripped through an Innuos Zenith SE via a USB cable to the Métronome’s USB-B input. Alternatively, the multiplayer Electrocompaniet EMP-2 drive can be used. To do this, its digital cinch output is connected to one of the corresponding SPDIF inputs on the Le Dac. It starts with “Making love on the Mountain” by The Woodlands (album: Gems And Bones). The Rockna already presents the track in a very plastic way, with a firm bass and excellent resolution. The Métronome Le Dac is by no means inferior. However, with it, the silence behind the synth’s opening bell-like tones seems even purer – or blacker, if you will.
Nice black, nice big
The tones float gracefully through the listening room and seem to fade away fractions of a second longer – I also attribute this listening experience to the deep black background, the clearer contrast. How elegant that sounds. Then the rasping impulse of a ratchet and a full beat on a larger drum drive the piece forward, whereby both instruments can be localized to the millimeter between the loudspeakers. Singing begins and the stage that the Métronome Le Dac is now raising is higher and wider than I have seen from the Wavelight, but also from other DA converters that have been used recently, such as the Abbingdon Music Research DP-777 SE or SOtM EX- 1000, am used to. In terms of the absolute room depth, the converters don’t take much, but the Le Dac really puts in the effort when it comes to to reproduce the sound far beyond the outer limits of my acapella loudspeakers. One is inevitably reminded of the majestically wide cinemascope image of a cinema screen.
A lot also happens between the speakers. The Métronome D/A converter reproduces voices like those of the Woodland duo in a larger, larger format. This may seem unusual at first, but this change in perspective has its appeal. Especially since the Frenchman’s performance has nothing flashy or grandiose about it, but always remains coherent. For my part, I could certainly get used to this kind of confident presence.
If the cinemascope process in film involves a certain risk of blurring, especially in the peripheral areas of the screen, this is hardly noticeable with the Métronome Le Dac. It may not draw as razor-sharp as the Rockna Wavelight or even the SOtM EX-1000, but there is still no trace of ambiguity. It’s quite possible that the Le Dac even seems a bit more organic and liquid, a touch less technical – surprisingly even in comparison to the ladder DAC from Rockna, whose species has specifically written this property on the flags.
A small coal shovel
Whether you prefer a gracefully flowing or a more analytical and harder gait is ultimately largely a matter of personal taste. Tonal peculiarities, on the other hand, are usually subject to narrower limits, at least if you don’t want to stray too far from the high-fidelity goal.
“Pirouette” on Hopp (and Smile) by Karl Seglem and Christoph Stiefel, a short piece that quickly reveals tonal coloring, which I often consult for an initial assessment, is mastered by the Métronome Le Dac without any complaints. When it comes to tonal neutrality, our fine-spirited Frenchman and the Romanian Rockna are even closer than I first thought. Both reproduce the Stiefels grand piano confidently and powerfully, i.e. exactly how a concert grand piano should look. Wood notes resonate as well as resonances of hard clamped steel strings. The Frenchman is a bit more sonorous, my Romanian a touch lighter and slightly crisper. Of course, the Rockna doesn’t sound as incorruptibly neutral as the SOtMs EX-1000 demonstrates – rather a few degrees warmer. And Monsieur Le Dac? He’s upping the ante, which no doubt wins the hearts of all those who primarily want to see the emotional side of music illuminated. A whitewash at the end? no But I would place it on the nice side of neutral. But never so exaggerated that it lulls you. Concealing musical content is not what Le Dac is about.
Tubular without tubes
On the contrary: If you concentrate a little more on the performance of the Métronome, you will notice that it does not withhold any detail, even with the finest high-frequency webs. The finely crafted percussion work in the background of “Pirouette” is, if not overly present, at least perceptible in its entirety and clearly perceptible. This somewhat softer type of high-frequency precision reminds me of the AMR DP-777 SE, after all a tube DAC with a sophisticated circuit based on selected NOS tubes. The Frenchman also shares the ability to imagine individual sound events particularly freely and vividly in space with the Anglo-Chinese AMR. Is the Le Dac at the end of theConverters for lovers of tube DACs who distrust the long-term stability of smoldering bulbs too much to actually buy one? Not so far-fetched, this thought.
Especially when you experience how the Métronome Le Dac allows the digital data stream to flourish when it comes to Mitten . More intense and richer in tone than the DP-777 SE, which in the end works a little more soberly, the art of the acapella troupe The Persuasions , transformed by Le Dac, makes a lot of fun.
The fact is: I have never heard a reproduction that does not unreasonably exceed the limits of neutrality with such a rich range of tones in this price range. The Yesterday cover of the four well-spoken gentlemen about the Le Dac heard sounds simply moving. At the end of the day, if it’s all about music touching us emotionally, then this DAC has got to do a hell of a lot right.
Where can you find something similar? Pretty safe with D/A converters from manufacturers like Kondo or Aries Cerat. But please don’t complain if, after fulfilling audiophile dreams of this caliber, you end up with a heavy mortgage on your house. Of course, the big bangers manage one or the other in the end a little better than our Le Dac. As a rule, sovereignty and stature are even more format-filling with them, sound structures continue to gain in materiality and haptics – in fact it is often the bass foundation, whose more pronounced depth and blackness made the decisive difference.
On a solid foundation
Even the Métronome Le Dac would probably not play music so convincingly if its fireworks of sound were not based on a very respectable and solid foundation. It certainly keeps a respectful distance from the cars mentioned. And yet: Whether it’s reproducing the rich acoustic bass of “Easy going” by the quartet Pure Desmond (album Audrey) or the ultra-low, electronic vibrations of These New Puritans– the Le Dac shakes them almost nonchalantly out of the sleeve in a quality that I have only heard from the Wavelight with my own and previous DACs. The Le Dac is slightly more juicy, the Ladder DAC is a little gnarly. In the end, the AMR does not reach deep enough into the frequency range to be able to keep up with the younger DACs. And with the South Korean SOtM, I remember a certain stubbornness underneath that prevented him from letting Paul Chambers ‘ legendary bass on Kind of Blue really swing.
When it comes to heartier orchestral fare, Mercury’s 1960 recording of Stravinsky’s ballet Firebird with the London Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati (SR-90226) remains one of my all-time references. The reissue in particular, which Bernie Grundman mixed for Classic Records in 1997, often rotates on my TW-Acustics Raven AC for comparison purposes.
A hybrid SACD obtained from the original three-track master of this recording ends up in the tray of my Electrocompaniet EMP-2 multi-format player, which sends the PCM signal (the CD track, of course) to the S/PDIF input of the Le Dac delivers.
The Métronome Le Dac plows through the ballet with the verve and verve that one would rightly expect in this class. The Le Dac brings the “Infernal Dance of the Firebird” with its rapid succession of quite brute orchestral hits with a powerful attack and the necessary emphasis. A lack of concentration or a “fraying” of the impulses are not recognizable.
Where can I sort what I heard? Well, it’s pretty great how the Métronome Le Dac handles the complex impulses. His powerful bass foundation suits him well, the way the big drum is staged can confidently be described as live – above all, the loudspeakers and amplifiers have to be able to keep up. When it comes to sheer attack, I see the Rockna Wavelight as an advantage. He acts a touch faster and has the harder punch. The appearance of the metronome, on the other hand, is more powerful.
Métronomes Le Dac is characterized by its large-format, three-dimensional image and a dynamically appealing liveliness that sparkles with timbres. Against a pitch-black background, he creates large, lifelike musical images with flowing, graceful gestures, whose imaginary power one can hardly escape.
At the same time, he does not lose sight of the classic hi-fi virtues. So it remains tonally on neutral ground, but knows how to use the leeway to warmer areas in a way that promotes the sound. In fact, he prefers to leave the rigor of the sound engineer to other DACs and, when in doubt, aims with his emotional side more at the stomach and heart of the connoisseur than at the intellect of the humor-free sound engineer.
It is surprising that the Métronome Le Dac manages to do all of this without a single tube in the signal path and using an extremely commercially available converter chip. And it shows that in the small French town of Montans, the greatest possible musicality is not just a lofty goal, but actually knows how to implement it technically.
It could be criticized that many other DACs offer more flexibility and can serve as the center of an entire system using analog inputs, volume control or streaming functionality. But such feature orgies shouldn’t really upset the highly musical Monsieur Le Dac, since he puristically feels committed body and soul to exclusively excellent sound.
The profile of the Métronome Le Dac:
- Métronome’s “entry offer” offers great sound in the literal sense. The Le Dac gives sound bodies a stately format. Nevertheless, the proportions are right, it remains conclusive.
- The impressive three-dimensionality and plasticity of the stage presentation go hand in hand with an almost material feel, which one does not necessarily expect at this price. The room depth is on a good level.
- The sharpness of detail is impeccable, but the Le Dac does not drag details in the music into the glaring headlights. Integrating them harmoniously into the elegant overall presentation is rather one of his particular strengths.
- Tonal colors and musical flow are generally among the identified strengths of fine tube DACs. The Le Dac is very similar here. And it’s absolutely tube-free.
- Extremely comfortable on the ear in the treble. Insubordinately analytical or even harsh highs are not part of the Le Dac’s repertoire.
- Outstanding, super musical mids. If there were a Grammy for something like that, the Métronome Le Dac would be shortlisted.
- The bass response has a powerful, broad-shouldered tone and goes deep enough.
- Dynamically, the Le Dac goes to work with concentration and believable emphasis. The massed general attack suits him more than hectic pin-prick attacks. Great, not least with large symphonies. When it comes to speed and strength, however, there are alternatives.
- The Métronome appears mechanically very robust, the workmanship and quality are perfectly fine for the price range. However, this puristic music servant does not want to be a glamorous “jewel box”. In return, it comes up with detailed solutions such as the easy-to-read display, snugly clicking toggle switches or magnetic fixation of the conical spikes.
- Product: Metronome Le Dac
- Concept: D/A converter
- Price: 6,100 euros
- Inputs and Compatibility: S/PDIF up to 192kHz (2 x Coax, 2 x Toslink, 2 x AES/EBU), 1 x USB-B to PCM up to 364kHz and DSD512
- Outputs: XLR, RCA
- Dimensions & Weight: 130 x 425 x 415 mm (H x W x D), 12 kg
- Colours: aluminum silver or black
- Miscellaneous: two-part device feet for fine tuning the sound
- Guarantee: 2 years