Metrum Acoustics Amethyst DAC/Amp Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Hands, Jun 19, 2017.

  1. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Red eyes from too much anime

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    Hot snot (if on a shoestring budget) or silicone caulk (if on a typical budget) application is pretty standard in tools, like drills etc that encounter vibration. Neutral cure silicone rubbers last 20+ years.
     
  2. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Just a thick pad on the top panel to hold them tight.

    The same thing happened to me with the Aurix. There was no sound on the left channel when the 10dB step up transformer was engaged. It wasn't seated properly.
     
  3. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Had a nice listening session.

    First sound impressions are pretty good. Nothing stands out as sonically annoying. However there are some ergonomic annoyances. The potentiometer seems to lack grounding, therefore there are noise problems in the mid range of the track and I get extra noise whenever I touch the pot knob. The actual knob is also finicky due to being recessed into the faceplate.

    USB seems very sensitive to noise as all other outputs stay silent even on full volume, however the headphone output hiss seems to be pot modulated. Both my PC and Amethyst have grounding pins connected, btw. In short - at around 60% pot the noise is AC hum and above that the hum goes away and noise floor gets amplified to audibility.

    Maybe this is a defective unit.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
  4. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Interesting. No hum or hiss on my end...
     
  5. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    Okay, I think I have a good handle on how this thing performs.

    I'm familiar with multibit firstly from a Parasound DA-1600 which used 2xPCM63 per channel and later from a Soekris DAM1021 board I got early on. These two have been for a long time my favorite sounding DACs, as Parasound sounded nothing like the weak DS dacs I had used back in the day. And DAM1021 took all that and added very good resolution with a nice volume control on top. Incidentally, I liked these two dacs so much, that I killed them both with with my modding efforts.

    I demoed the Amethyst with Sennheiser HD800S, Focal Elear, Audeze LCD-3 and my trusty Oppo PM-3 I use for everyday listening.

    After fixing the ungrounded potentiometer all noise problems were eliminated and I could listen in peace. Overall my main comparisons were made to a Dragonfly Red dac and my main unit - the ADI-2 Pro AE. The Dragonfly is a nice unit, if a bit overpriced, but was outclassed by the Amethyst.

    ADI-2 Pro was a different story. Feature wise it mops the floor with just about everything out there. Tonality wise it was on par, however resolution was a notch above the Amethyst. This might be bad news for people choosing between the Amethyst and ADI-2 DAC as they both inhabit similar price points.

    I'd also like to add that Amethyst is more of a competent dac with a headphone output, rather than a full fledged headphone amp. The headphone portion is being handled by a single TPA6120A2 chip. It's not bad, but for the price I would have liked something more interesting. Soekris for example offers a discrete amp for his units for the same price.

    All in all - if you like the NOS R2R sound, go for it. However I'm starting to feel that competent DS can sound as good.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2018
    scotto, Jokko, FlySweep and 3 others like this.
  6. Erikdayo

    Erikdayo Friend

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    How's the USB implementation on the Amethyst? I have one coming my way later this week. I couldn't find many impressions on the USB in this thread. Currently my options are the built in USB or toslink. I can buy an Eitr if it seems absolutely necessary.
     
  7. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    It's serviceable, but you're really best off feeding it a good SPDIF source.
     
  8. ButtUglyJeff

    ButtUglyJeff Stunningly beautiful IRL

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    I'm shocked how much better my CD player sounds through "coax in" as opposed to digital files in through USB. I imagine an Eitr will be in my future...
     
  9. Erikdayo

    Erikdayo Friend

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    I don't think one night is enough for much in the way of worthwhile impressions, but I am enjoying the Amethyst a lot so far. It's my first time trying a NOS DAC that I am aware of.

    Currently running PC > Eitr > Amethyst > Valhalla 2 > HD650. Will be upgrading the amp and also be getting an Auteur in eventually.

    The main thing I wanted to note is that the Amethyst does feel less fatiguing to me having listened to it for about 8 hours so far. Whether that's due to the slightly treble roll off or some other NOS magic I'm not really sure. I've always been particularly sensitive to sibilance and overly bright recordings, but things that would bother me from the Bifrost Multibit, NFB28, and other DACs I owned years ago seem to be less of an issue now. Again, it's just been one night. I could go home after work today and have different results, but this is the main reason I wanted to give NOS a chance. It wasn't necessarily because I expected superior sound quality to other similarly priced DACs like the Gungnir Multibit. It was more so 'this could be the right DAC for me given my previous experiences.' The long posts Hands has made about his experiences with NOS and OS DACs were very useful to me.

    The soundstage being wide but not having much depth doesn't really bother me. I thought it was quite nice. Not completely 2D to my ears but definitely less depth than the Bifrost Multibit. I do feel that things may be just slightly less clear on the Amethyst compared to the Bifrost Multibit, but I also could see it sounding less congested over the next few days since it is R2R. I never turned off the Bifrost Multibit while I owned it. The Bifrost Multibit seemed to have a little more sparkle and a slight treble harshness to it in comparison.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2018
  10. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    I´ve had the pleasure to have the Amethyst with me for a while during the European loaner tour.

    The Amethyst had just been with @Hrodulf, who solved some noise problems by grounding the volume pot. He warned me already that he noticed some connections and also the Dac modules were loose when he did his soldering work.

    When unpacking I heard some strange rattling so I decided to open the unit before switching it on: both dac modules were completely loose/disconnected inside the case floating around freely. Also two wire connection plugs were still in place but very loose. The box must have been transported upside down loosening the rather heavy dac modules bit by bit, even though everything was wrapped well with bubble plastic.
    I have added a warning to check this after every major transport and added a small torx screwdriver to open the casework before shipping it to the next person.

    I´ve done all listening with headphones and have especially compared the Amethyst to my Soekris Dac1541.

    The Amethyst has a smoother presentation: smoother flow of notes and smoother dynamics. The Soekris presents the music more finely chiseled, more analytical, but without the glare of lesser D/S implementations. Attack and decay are faster, with a deftness to each note and with a more assertive presentation of dynamic contrasts.
    The lows and highs are more highlighted, compared to the Amethyst.

    The Amethyst has a more closed in, flatter and less believable soundstage, especially over USB.

    The Soekris seems to have the better USB implementation. The Amethyst gets a substantial hit when comparing SQ to its cinch input, resulting in a flatter presentation.

    The amplifier on the Amethyst is based on a small of the shelf Texas Instruments solution and is not able to do fully justice to the dac section; on the contrary it rather accentuates its weaker aspects.
    When connected to my Trafomatic Head 2 tube amp the Amethysts soundstage opened up, dynamics were presented with more verve and resolution went up a notch.

    So where the Amethyst presented itself from its best side was when being fed over SPDIF cinch and with a proper headphone amplifier doing the amplifying work.
    It was the weakest when fed over USB and listening over the built-in amp.

    Still, the Amethyst as an all in one solution fared quite well with the ZMF Auteur. Volume was just sufficient to go loud enough for me before compression kicked in (btw the Soekris balanced out has more power).
    My modified ATH-W3000anv however, became too loose and too smoothed over. The ATH-W3000anv has sometimes been called syrupy and even though I tightened up its presentation quite a bit by reducing some of the cup reverb with Dynamat extreme, it still does not gel so well with the already smooth Amethyst. Bass became rather loose and uncontrolled.

    So for me, with the headphones and amplifier I have and my taste, I prefer the Soekris.
    However, I could imagine recommending the Amethyst to somebody who is looking for an all in one solution with a smooth and non fatigueing sound signature (like for long time listening at work).

    I definitely enjoyed the R2R NOS signature of this Dac and prefer it over the D/S dacs in a similar price category I have heard (caveat: I have not heard the RME ADI-2 yet; it would have been great to compare this new offering with the Amethyst and the Soekris Dac1541 as well ).
    Personally, however, I would save up and look into the more expensive Onyx or Jade offerings by Metrum Acoustics. I only heard these at a show, but both seemed to be a small -but for enthousiasts like us significant- step up regarding most SQ aspects: soundstage, bass control and definition, extension, resolution.

    Thanks a lot to SBAF and @MrButchi for organizing this loaner tour!
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2018
  11. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    @sacredgates sorry but i have to ask, do you have, by any chance, an eitr with you? Just curious if it could help that not-as-good usb connection.
     
  12. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    No, but I am quite sure that would bring a significant improvement, and I would get one if I owned an Amethyst right away... Maybe somebody can share their first hand experience...
     
  13. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Thanks for your impressions. Although it's not something on my horizon it was a good read.
     
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  14. buonassi

    buonassi Rando

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    I wholeheartedly agree. I was using USB passed through the iUSB3.0 reclocker/clean power toy and was getting decent results, actually pretty good results on my Amethyst. Thought to myself, there's no way it can get better than uber clean asynch USB, hogwash.

    Did not take me very long to notice a gain using the schiit eitr doing simple A/B comparisons. The tells were the sibilance control and the cymbal decays, a more focused center image and added depth of the stage. I honestly was thinking it was a bunch of BS. And I purchased the Eitr fully expecting to return it (why I didn't go B stock). How's that for expectation bias? Ahem, the iUSB is listed now for sale. Eitr is here to stay. And I'm definitely not a schiit fan after owning both Modi Multibit and Asgard 2 for reasons beyond the scope of this post.

    How could two sources sound different when they measure so damn closely? Clearly an indicator that distortion and J test isn't the be all end all of measurements. The hardcore objectivists can go ahead and miss out, fine by me.
     
  15. sahmen

    sahmen Rando

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    I am interested in where the Menuet stands between this Amethyst and the New Onyx and Jade. I have a Hex that I could trade up for a Menuet, which is now selling at a very discounted price because of its discontinuation (about $500 less than a new Onyx)... Under these conditions, should I trade my Hex up for the Amethyst, the Menuet, or the Onyx?

    Note, if I were to get the Menuet, I might also consider going for the DAC two upgrade, and I do not know how much that would cost. To be frank, I am not really interested in getting the Amethyst, because it does not have the connectivity options I want (they should at least match those of the Hex, which has a balanced circuitry, and XLR analog connectivity...)... I am also skeptical about the sq, and I think I might soon require another upgrade were I to settle for the Amethyst now.

    I would also consider going straight for the Onyx, but i have no idea of the delta which separates it from the Menuet. Thoughts?

    By the way, I have a Yggdrasil Analog 2 based Headphone/2.1 channel stereo speaker rig, that is serving as my current reference standard for both Headphones and speakers listening... The Metrum Hex upgrade is meant for a second rig which I want to put together in the near future, so I do not necessarily have an urgent need to trade in my Hex immediately... I have considered doing it now only because of the discounted/discontnued Menuet, which may not be around for too long... I guess the main question I have is whether it is better to wait and get the Onyx, or get the Menuet now for $500 less, while it is still around.

    I am only familiar with the sound of the Hex, which I still enjoy very much. I have never heard the Amethyst, the Menuet, nor the Onyx.
     
  16. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I thought the Menuet sounded kind of weird, though it helped if you ran XLR out. It was still kind of an oddball sounding DAC, and I'd even take the Amethyst over it, personally. Just sounded more cohesive.

    If you can do the DAC TWO upgrade, I'd recommend that. I think those modules sound better overall and worth the jump. I haven't heard the Menuet with that upgrade, but it probably addresses most of the issues I heard. Just a hunch. I could be wrong.

    If at that point the Menuet + DAC TWO modules is about the same price as the Onyx, I'd just go Onyx.
     
  17. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    @sahmen I agree with Hands. Pavane is a little bit better than Yggy1, but they are crazy prices now. Amethyst didn't have the magic for me, I would take the much cheaper Modi Multibit instead. I'm not sure where the Onyx sits in the middle.

    If you have to trade in, get the Onyx. Otherwise, another Yggy2 makes most sense to me, and just sell your Hex. Metrum value < Schiit value.
     
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  18. sheldaze

    sheldaze Friend

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    Perhaps a bit of side-noise, but per my taste - I would add that I preferred the Onyx over the Yggy1 (basically stopped using my Yggy1 after my upgrade to Onyx):
    • If the decision is simply to have another "flavor" of sound and to utilize funds from your current Metrum DAC towards an upgrade (I did the same when I traded in my Amethyst towards Onyx), I wholeheartedly support the Onyx decision.
    • But if you aren't partial towards NOS and can enjoy the OS sound 100%, I would advise getting a second Yggy2. It is still the better technical DAC, without much loss of the NOS richness.
    Amethyst, neither through its headphone or RCA output, ever sounded like the best rendition of NOS. When I upgraded to Onyx, I got both the NOS richness and much more sound clarity. I preferred Gungnir Multibit (which I was able to borrow - to warm up for a week prior to sitting at the Schiit booth in my area) over my then Amethyst.
     
  19. sahmen

    sahmen Rando

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    Okay, I just found out I can do the trade up to the Onyx (instead of the Menuet), and pay a little under half of the price of the Onyx for the exchange... I can gather from these answers that this would be the more preferable route -- trading up the Hex... I posted this same question on another forum today before finding out that I have got responses here...

    Thanks for the helpful input.
     
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  20. scotto

    scotto Rando

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    Please forgive me for a very late reply, but was wondering how this Amethyst might compare to an Octave Mk 1? I'm wondering how much of an upgrade I could expect?
    Wonderful review!
    Thanks :)
     

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