In case you may have missed it, Métronome Audio is French; calling its digital converter Le DAC is a bit of a clue. Also, in case you missed it, Métronome Audio is the more attainable sister brand to the cost-no-object Kalista digital range, all a part of the same Métronome Technologie company. Based out of Montans in southern France, the company’s products have garnered a fantastic reputation for sonic performance, but – in fairness – Métronome Audio is often overshadowed by its more up-market stablemate. This overshadowing is at once understandable, unfortunate and unfair, because taken in and of itself the Le DAC is a truly stellar digital converter.
The reason why Kalista understandably takes a lot of the limelight is down to the distinctive tripod look – all chrome and methacrylate – the attention-grabbing price-tag and the fact it sounds extremely organically musical. That commands respect from those who’ve heard Kalista… and draws angst from those who don’t need to experience something to be angry about it. Meanwhile, Métronome’s Le DAC has a more traditional look, a price tag that puts it in the ‘attainably priced’ level, and a performance that has the same easy to like performance envelope of the Kalista.
Métronome Audio itself has three lines in its own right: the ‘Digital Sharing’ range comprising DSc1 digital converter and DSs1 network player and streamer; the AQWO trio of CD/SACD player, CD/SACD transport and DAC, and Classica, which comprises the popular Le Player 2S CD player and the Le DAC tested here.
‘Classica’ might suggest a product line that had been collecting dust as new ranges eclipse it, but in fact the Le DAC has been in production since December 2018. In this case, ‘Classica’ is related to its product design brief, which has visual cues that hark back to the power supplies for the Kalista line and many of Métronome’s more classic products. It’s not simply some back-of-the-storeroom rehash or a product that has been in production for decades.
As the entry-level converter for Métronome, it still packs quite a digital punch, sporting an AK4493 decoder chip that allows for decoding of PCM files up to 32bit, 384kHz and DSD512. The DAC is well specified in terms of digital inputs (AES/EBU, twin optical and two coaxial S/PDIF connections and a USB type B input) and analogue outputs (RCA and XLR), but there are no digital outputs. There is also a central blue ‘fluro’ display with tiny toggle switches to move through the inputs. There are no fancy tweaks, elaborate filter options, no provisions for clocks. Just the basics.
The basics do not include the build quality. This is a very solidly built DAC. Sitting on three decent feet, the case feels well-constructed in part because Le DAC weighs in at a very un-DACcy 14kg. In fairness, some of this comes down to the use of a trio of torioidal transformers feeding some 10 independent power supplies. The universal use of toroids is uncommon in digital audio circles, with many brands preferring to use either switch-mode power supplies universally, or a hybrid of switch-mode for the digital side and toroidal transformers for the analogue stages. Métronome uses a similar analogue-style power supply feed for other products in the line-up, including the mighty Kalista range, so the brand is clearly onto something good here.