Metrum Acoustics Onyx (balanced Dac) and Jade (balanced Dac + Pre)

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by sacredgates, Oct 3, 2017.

  1. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Can you comment on the (reputedly) excessively wide stage of the Spring L3 vs these? Was that apparent while you had it?
     
  2. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    @rlow very good write up. have been waiting for this level of comparison with Yggdrasil A2 and Gungnir Multibit, and believe you've described the sweet spots and deltas.
    it's a shame that euro price/value of Metrum products can't out deliver the top schiit DACs, but can't say I'm surprised either.
     
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  3. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I wrote a review of the Spring last year where I mention this. I didn’t have as good a setup then as I do now, so take it with a small grain of salt. @Torq wrote a great review to start that thread as well and owned the Spring for quite a while, so he can probably speak to it way better than I. Overall I didn’t find the total stage much wider than Gumby1, but individual instruments and vocalists within that stage did seem unrealistically larger than they should be, like some kind of expander effect was present. But it wasn’t really much of a detriment to the sound, and some people may actually even prefer it: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...-impressions-reviews.3172/page-19#post-173973
     
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  4. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    If Pavane closes the SQ gap with Yggdrasil (or even exceeds it in some people’s minds) then yeah, they just really need to bring down the prices if they want to compete with the likes of Schiit. Maybe that’s not what they’re trying to do, and that’s ok too, but I really wish they would. I felt like Onyx had a really solid foundation that could kick some serious ass if it could just address some of the technicalities where it lacks. Maybe the next generation will be able to pull that off at this price point.
     
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  5. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    Thinking about your recent posts a bit, the following points came to my mind (just out of curiosity, for full context):
    • To what extent you are appreciative of NOS DACs in general?
    • To what extent you prefer Schiit MB products compared to other (OS / R2R / ...) DACs?
    • What you are after in terms of sound - do you lean towards particular sound characteristics, or rather looking for a versatile/balanced listening experience regardless of mood / genre / situation?
    The thing is that...
    • ... NOS DACs (as well as OS DACs) seems to have their advantages and disadvantages. Not that you should really care overall (everyone should just buy what sounds best to them regardless of tech) but NOS DACs may never ever close the gap with world class OS DACs on all accounts, and vice versa. Just like with SS vs full tube amps, electrodynamic vs electrostatic headphones etc.
    • ... soundstaging capatibilities of Schiit MB products seem to be largely dependent on the OS filter. I have tried to run Modi Multibit in NOS mode and the "3D" magic was for the most part gone. What you seem to mention as Schiit´s advantages compared to Onyx (soundstaging, microdetails, decay, ...) may very well be true unique selling points of Schiit MB tech. Or is there anything else in DAC world that you really dig?
    • ... your preferences seem to largely influence the outcome of your review, unless I am mistaken. (I would probably come up with very similar conclusions, just from the opposite side - "Schiit being a bit too spacious and treble-y, lacking in density of tone, accuracy of timbre and presence of vocals. A bit too unforgiving, overly focused on detailed sound presentation especially for headphone use.") That does not take anything away from the fact it is very informative though. Just not sure if any of the mentioned DACs (Onyx, Gungnir Multibit, Yggdrasil A2) is truly superior since there are impressions coming even from long term audiophiles preferring one or another over the rest. Is there even an objective way to tell? Measurements tell us so little still and controlled unbiased listening conditions are also difficult to define and deploy in practice...
    Kudos for the review, you made me want to purchase Gungnir Multibit A2 just for the fun of comparing with Onyx! :) That being said, I already reached my dreams with the current setup and will be rather focusing on ideal price/performance ratio ( = scaling down to sub-1000USD tiers). Striving for balance I find to be the ultimate goal (and fun) in life, audio included!

    P.S.: M2tech USB section quite sucks on Onyx indeed in the long term. Eitr is the solution.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 22, 2018
  6. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Hey there, some good questions and comments. I don't think I can really cover them all without writing half a novel, but I will try to hit a few areas.

    The review was definitely biased towards my reference (and preference) which is the Schiit Multibit DACs. If that was not implicit in the review, I probably should have been a bit more explicit about it.

    The reason I pointed out the specific “issues” I had wrt the Onyx is definitely because I prefer these characteristics in the Schiit DACs, and is why I own them. Openness, a broad and deep soundstage, instrument separation, imaging, microdetail, atmosphere, strong timbre and neutral organic tonality are definitely tops on my priority list. I've owned about a half dozen delta sigma DACs before and since the Schiit DACs, and prefer their multibit implementation for sure.

    That said, I also hear these things on great analog/turntable based 2-channel systems as well. When they're present, they help to immerse me in the performance. All the great 2-channel systems that I’ve heard have these characteristics. Hence I desire to hear this in my own setup. Schiit aren’t adding these aspects to the recordings, they are just helping to bring them to the surface. IMO, most of these things fall under the heading of “resolution" and I absolutely want high resolution from my DAC, without creating overly bright, etched and fatiguing details, like many delta sigma (in particular Sabre) DACs do.

    So if these aspects are not well represented with this DAC, are these deficiencies or colorations then? Or just “another flavour” like SS vs. tubes as you mention? I’m definitely not here to debate that and that probably belongs on another thread. That said, I realize that a number of these characteristics are not generally considered NOS strong-suits, and that NOS brings other aspects to the table that some people prefer.

    My particular experience with NOS DACs is limited to the Onyx and the Holo Spring L3.
    With the Holo Spring in NOS mode I don’t recall hearing quite as many limitations as the Onyx with regards to soundstage and microdetails/atmosphere. This is going from memory and notes however, so take that with a big grain of salt. On the flip side, I also don't recall the Holo having the beautiful dense tonailty of the Onyx, at least I didn't make any special note of it. So I’m not saying that the Holo exceeded the Onyx on all aspects, but in the areas I noted as issues, I didn’t feel the Holo was lacking compared to Gumby1.

    As with anything in audio, there are compromises and tradeoffs. I realize that NOS has a history of some specific compromises, some of which people are willing to trade off for other aspects of their sound (I.e their natural sounding and low fatigue presentation).

    But it seems to me that NOS is getting to the point where some of the “compromises" are no longer a foregone conclusion. Maybe I'm wrong, but the way people speak about the Pavane makes me think it's possible to get closer to some of the best aspects of OS DACs but also bring the benefits of NOS. Of course, Pavane is a TOTL statement DAC with a price to match. Also my experience with the Holo DAC did not leave me feeling it was lacking significantly in many areas compared to OS DACs.

    I think what I was hoping for with the latest gen Metrum DACs, and Onyx in particular, was that more of the “limitations” (in my mind at least) of NOS would be overcome, or pushed forward more than they were. I’m not expecting it to overtake the Schiit DACs on every one of its strengths, or even any of them. But with 2-channel sound, for me, soundstage and atmosphere and really important attributes that make the experience more believable. And the Schiit tonal density is good enough that I don’t feel I’m missing much in that department, even after hearing Onyx (and compared to the other areas they excel in).Yes, they can push the edge of stridency on certain recordings, but this is not a big issue for me (although I recognize it is a problem for others such as yourself).

    Again to reiterate, this was a 2-channel review. On headphones, many of the issues I had may not matter to some people, compared to the upside of this DAC. I can see how that may be the case. Like I said, it still serves up some very tasty tones, in a really easy to listen to way. But I want more than that in order to have a chance to overtake, or sit beside, the Schiit DACs in my system.
     
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    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
  7. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Damn it's frustrating not being able to hear these DACs in person. The DAC1541 coupled with the Genelec 8030B with their metal dome tweeters just brings too much of the sheen out of sibilants for me. That said, I am sibilance sensitive on any good system I have heard. I have got pretty good with Essence in terms of taking the edge off without too much damage but I can't help wondering what a good NOS dac will do.

    Then you post the above. I had an experience buying an older Technics TT for my wife a while ago. The guy I bought it from played an Al di Meola album on CD and on vinyl back to back, and the vinyl just made the speakers disappear. It was a profound difference, and it impressed the hell out of me. That's how I want to listen to music. The DAC1541 imaging and detail through the Gennies is fantastic, just that zzzzzzing!

    It's times like this I wish I was still in L.A. making regular trips to Seattle. Dammit.
     
  8. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    I think you hit the nail on the head there. The Pavane didn't feel like a compromise alongside the Yggdrasil (gen A) when I had both together. I preferred the Pavane by a small margin in some areas. However, I would take a Schiit DAC over many other inferior (value or performance) NOS DACs. My gut feeling is that you need an extremely good performing DAC on a technical/measurements level for NOS to sound really great.

    In any case, I'm not going to argue that the Pavane justifies its price alongside Yggdrasil... but you could say the same about Yggdrasil vs Modi Multibit, for instance ;)
     
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  9. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    My speaker system has a Yggdrasil A2, and that's what I want there for the reasons given by @rlow . But I've really enjoyed the Holo Spring L3 in my headphone system, and the Onyx I'm testing now (I2S from an Ambre streamer) is still a bit more satisfying. What I appreciate in these NOS DACs for headphones, especially in the Onyx, is their dense but liquid tone, the rich presentation of overtones (plucked and hammered strings, percussion), a bolder and involving "materiality" in the sound. If I had the time, I would do a lot more permutations all the gear I have at hand, but I prefer to spend more of the time listening to new music. @GoodEnoughGear : did you explore the different filters on your dac1541? I have one at work, with a Neurochrome HP-1 solid-state headamp and Æon closed headphones, no sibilance I can detect with the amber filter (1.20 firmware).
     
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  10. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Thanks @earnmyturns - yes, I do use the filters actively, especially in conjunction with the de-esser. Typically red+de-esser or none (soft buitterworth). I'm on firmware 1.20 but may drop back to play with some of the earlier filter packs.

    I'm not primarily a headphone user, it's mostly monitors, so I take headphone-based reviews with a 1/4 pinch of salt. And I fully acknowledge this is an individual thing for me, and a lot of it is a sin of the source, as in the recording. It's just frustrating not to be able to listen to these DACs and figure out what suits best - am I one of those NOS guys? Does Yggdrasil blow the DAC1541 out of the water, or is it close enough that I can be satisfied with what I have for a few more years?

    Interesting that you prefer Onyx to L3 Spring. If you end up with time and a stab of boredom I'd love to know what the Onyx sounds like in your 2-channel setup vs Yggdrasil!
     
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  11. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    When my Yggdrasil was being upgraded to Analog 2 and then getting back to cruising speed (that is, quality) powered on, I used the dac1541 on my speaker system. Pleasant enough, but lacking the definite edges, sound stage, and layering that I get from the Yggdrasil A2. Overall, dac1541 felt subdued, 2D, distant on the speaker system (HEGEL H360>KEF Reference 1s+REL77is) compared with even the Yggdrasil A1, let alone with the Yggdrasil A2 after sufficient burn-in. Nothing specifically wrong, and better than the H360s built-in D-S DAC (which is no slouch itself), but not Yggdrasil impact or realism. I got the dac1541 because originally the single box DAC/headamp was a good fit for my work needs. If I was doing separates without tight space constraints, I might go Gungnir Multibit (silent A2 upgrade)>headamp instead. Yggdrasil is definitely too big for my work setup, and Gungnir Multibit marginal. If you are space/budget constrained but really curious about NOS, this is intriguing. But I never do deep listening at work, and the dac1541's clean signature combined with the neutrality of the headamp (Neurochrome HP-1) and balance of the headphones (Æon Flow Closed) are perfect for music-to-concentrate-on-work-by.

    As for Onyx vs Spring L3, it's a tough decision. My wife, who has a better musical ear than I and has no prejudices about gear, had difficulty in deciding. Her judgment varied between tracks, but overall she voted for Onyx more often than for Spring L3. I can't be objective because I know what's what, and I also keep changing other parts of the headphone system (digital sources, headamp, 6SN7 tube, even headphone tuning) but I've never had such concentrated headphone delight as with the current setup. To recap, the headphone system is Metrum Ambre>I2S>Metrum Onyx>Apex Peak+Volcano+Psvane 6SN7-SE>MrSpeakers Ether C Flow 1.1 has an incredible presence and rich timbre on small ensemble jazz, solo guitar, chamber music, and vocals. For big orchestral, electric jazz/world, live jazz, I'd rather listen to the speaker system but that's not always possible because my better 1/2 likes to enjoy her rest ;)

    This weekend I'm doing a lot of gear rearrangement because of forthcoming minor construction at home and I may be able to do some testing of different DACs on my speaker system.
     
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  12. GoodEnoughGear

    GoodEnoughGear Evil Dr. Shultz‎

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    Thanks, the Cyan is on my radar too. Good luck with construction, that's always an 'adventure' - bonus if you get to do some DAC tests as you rearrange.
     
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  13. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    After a few months of listening to the Flint in my office speaker system, it turns out that I like the NOS sound, or maybe it's the Metrum house sound. Anyway, it has me wanting to try a higher level Metrum in my main system, so I've been following the used audio markets.

    From what I can tell, the Menuet and Onyx are almost the same DAC. Different chassis and power supply, but both using 4 DAC 2's in balanced configuration. Am I missing something?

    Most important, can anyone comment on how the Menuet sounds compared to the Onyx? Certainly, this thread has convinced me that an Onyx would be a good target. I am just wondering about the Menuet because it is a bit cheaper and more available in the used market.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  14. mrflibble

    mrflibble Friend

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    Menuet is the old model which Onyx has replaced. The Onyx uses the new DAC TWO modules (as developed for the Pavane) which are reportedly a significant upgrade over those used in the Menuet. I have not heard either, so cannot comment further.
     
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  15. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    mrflibble,
    You point directly to an area that confuses me. The Metrum website talks about the DAC ONE as 16 bit with no FGPA and the DAC TWO as 24 bits (split 12 bits) with FGPA. Reviews of the Menuet in 2016 talk about it having 24 bit with FGPA but never mention DAC ONE or DAC TWO. I'm not clear. Is there a difference in the DAC modules between Menuet and Onyx? If so, that would be a good reason to hold out for an Onyx.
     
  16. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    @lehmanhill
    there is a very significant difference between the Onyx with the DAC TWO modules and the Menuet which still had the older DAC ONE modules. It is a no brainer which one to get except your budget is tight and you can get the Menuet very cheap second hand. Technicalities improved a lot with the latest series of Metrum dacs which have the DAC TWO modules, without loosing the NOS qualities. All the series before the current one (especially the first one) still showed more limitations of the NOS implementation.

    One simple way to look at this is that 2 dac one modules working in tandem are one dac two module, so Onyx has actually double the dac modules compared to the Menuet. This results in more precision = better resolution among others.
    Menuet as it stands now is more comparable to the Amethyst but with better power supply which of course also matters.

    BTW you could have a Menuet upgraded to DAC TWO modules, but you would have to calculate if that would be worth the money + hassle. Probably not if you don´t already own a Menuet.

    Also I don´t know if the Menuet can be fitted with the I2S board option that would give you the best connection to the Metrum Ambre if Roon is on your roadmap...

    However, if you are mostly looking for a gentle and smooth NOS signature and are not so much bothered about certain technicalities you might love the Menuet. You should consult @Hands' very informative comparative comments in this thread, if you have not already done so.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  17. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    Thank you Sacred Gates and mrflibble. That clears up my confusion. I had already read @Hands comparison, but hadn't seen anything comparing Onyx and Menuet, so this very helpful. It will be Onyx or nothing for me.
     
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  18. lehmanhill

    lehmanhill Almost "Made"

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    I have been trying to educate myself on the Onyx. Metrum doesn't give out much technical detail on their product pages, so I have been reading on transientchips.com and trying to find information in photos.

    At this level, I would expect a dac to have input signal buffering and reclocking, plus possibly isolation from the source. Metrum doesn't say that they do this, at least I haven't found it, but in the photos I can detect Murata input transformers for isolation, 2 clocks on the USB board, and what might be a clock near the power supply edge of the main board.

    Does anyone have any experience with the Onyx and a poor jitter source (something like an RPi)? Does a decrapifier improve sound? If they do reclock the data inside the dac, I am guessing that a decrapifier wouldn't improve sound quality.

    In particular, I am interested in using the I2S input and, since my source would be an RPi, can I use the I2S data right from the RPi pins? Does anyone have any I2S experience with Onyx?

    Thanks.
     
  19. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    If you are already familiar with the RPi as a source, I would recommend either the DigiOne HAT (Signature if you can swing it) or their Kali reclocker, which I think will do I2S out.

    IME the Metrum USB implementation is only so-so. Don't even bother trying to feed it decrapified USB stuff. Best to go with a really good SPDIF/AES source. I haven't tested I2S with Metrum stuff.

    Either DigiOne HAT is probably the best choice at a relatively affordable price. That should keep the Metrum stuff running near the top of their game.

    Don't stress all the internal reclocking and isolation stuff if you have a good SPDIF/AES source. Seriously.
     
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  20. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    I mentioned in my writeup about the Onyx earlier in the thread that the USB input was not very good. I fed it very high quality USB streamer, but it sounded way better through going through the Eitr into the SPDIF of the Onyx (vs the Schiit DACs which almost sound identical going direct into their Gen5 USB or via SPDIF through Eitr.)
     
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