Introduced at the end of 2018 with the Le Player 2S model we tested in issue 81, the Le-DAC digital-to-analog converter is at the beginning of the offer of French high-end manufacturer Metronome.
Of course, the quality and quality of workmanship and reproduction that are the standard for Metronome should not be lost, so we are sure that Le DAC will remain a dream come true for many audiophiles – because with exceptional quality always comes a not so affordable price. However, if you want even more good sound and finances are not a limiting factor, more powerful DS and AQWO models are available.
Outside and Inside
The quotes from the subtitles are confirmed at first glance, as the Le Player and Le DAC share virtually the same housing, made of massive and very rigid metal panels. The front panel is made of brushed aluminum with a much larger dimension than the rest of the cabinet – a similarity to the CD player is also noticeable here, in the form of a simple design with only two upright notches, which distort the completely flat surface of the front. As for a “dry” DAC, with no accessories like preamplifiers, digital source attenuators, or headphone amplifiers, the front-facing setup is reduced to a large LCD screen in the center, with two input change buttons on its right.
On the back, two digital optical, coaxial and AES / EBU ports are provided for connection, as well as a USB-B port for direct connection to the computer, while analog signal transmission can be via RCA or balanced XLR output. All chinchas are chassis-type and with gold-plated contact surfaces, and the contents of the rear panel complete the IEC connector for the detachable power cable and main power switch.
Despite the large size, the interior of the Le DAC is almost entirely filled with electronic components, which is not always the case with more expensive devices of this type. To the left are four smaller torus transformers from the American manufacturer Talem, shielded by separate enclosures with refrigerators. However, most of the surface is occupied by an impressive bank of over 160 smaller electrolytic filtration capacitors, while in the right corner are four large MTPA 02 film capacitors from the French manufacturer SCR. The Asahi Kasei AK4493 converter wheel is located in the back of the case, while the renowned Amanero is located in the USB module position. This circuit includes an Atmel controller with 32-bit ARM processor circuits, followed by the Complex Programmable Logic Device (CPLD) module CoolRunner-II series Xilinx XC2C64A, which is responsible for thorough digital signal reconstruction.
Despite its unobtrusive black color, the Le DAC in the audio system draws attention with a considerable size and appearance reminiscent of professional devices. Located behind the darkened plexiglass, the front panel display at first glance resembles that of the similar Le Player 2S model, but when turned on, it is a far larger LCD panel, which offers a close-up view and can be easily read from a greater distance. Immediately below the screen are the logo and company name, while above it, on the aluminum front panel, is a discreetly engraved model name.
We started our critical listening with the album “Thimar”, a great fusion of jazz and traditional Arabic motifs performed by top musicians. Already the introductory part of the track “Talwin” shows us great microdynamics, with massive double bass tones, which are clearly present even at lower volume levels. The bass clarinet plays a dominant role here and carries a melody, with a large and organic tone, on the verge of penetrating and with a low dose of echo. The second part of the track highlights the Brahemian lute, with extremely articulate and pronounced oscillations in tone, with the presence of fine details such as the firing of wires and a clear difference in the pressure of the fingers on the wires in the neck. In total, here Le DAC has proven to be a converter of authentic sound, with impeccably measured color and true naturalness, side by side with the best analogue sources.
In the continuation of testing something completely different: after a full five years, one of the most influential blues-rock bands of the 21st century, The Black Keys, has been making us happy with a new album, which can be said to be one of the best ever. Although it has a slight loudness effect throughout the area, the Let's Rock album was recorded well enough to be heard on high-quality audio systems. Unstoppable energy has been present since the first beats, and the take-off “Eagle Birds” is presented with an infectious rhythm and impressive rhythm section. The sound of the electric guitar is penetrating and sharp, with full tones, an abundance of distortion and a clear separation of echoes from the base tone. So not only is DAC made for subtle, audiophile acoustic recordings, it also plays fantastic underdog production like a garage rock.
The final part of the test marked the encounter with one of our favorite albums, which combines jazz and avant-garde electronics in a great way. With Le DAC, the album “Miles_Gurtu” sounded like an ambient utopia in our system: the tones were floating in space, confined only by the walls of the room, with a deep positioning we had never heard before. The lowest tones came to the fore again, in the form of perfectly defined and seemingly infinitely deep bass. The bass drum is presented in a slightly drier tone, as it should be, while the double bass notes are oily and echoing. Gurtu's vocal effects in the track “Small World” are presented precisely on a huge stage, and at the same time beautiful and airy. Finally, Le DAC gave us an unforgettable glimpse into all the finesse of this extraordinary release and actually showed how it really should sound.
During our testing, we tried out Le DAC with a wide variety of music genres and audio formats. And, of course, while the higher quality material will sound better, this high-end D / A converter is not a cold-blooded executioner that will judge worse recordings by the short process, but will approach every record with enthusiasm and desire for the best possible sound. In terms of supported formats, Le DAC accepts everything you might need right now – PCM up to 384 kHz and 32 bits, as well as DSD up to 22.4 megahertz (DSD512).
Le DAC's timeless and timeless design, similar to professional devices, is underlined by glossy metal lever buttons, which further emphasize rugged workmanship and ubiquitous quality. Comparatively, the sound of this converter is unforgettably large – everything is perfectly clear to the smallest detail, yet completely natural and honest. This is precisely the hidden, almost magical appeal of Le DAC, which represents Metronome's entry into the world of true high-end.
Metronome Le DAC
D / A Converter: Asahi Kasei AK4493
Formats supported: PCM 384/32, DSD512
Frequency range (+/- 0.1 dB): 10 Hz – 20 kHz
Dynamic range: 123 dB
Digital inputs: 2x coaxial, optical and AES / EBU, 1x USB-B
Analog outputs: 1x RCA and XLR
Dimensions (WxHxD): 425x130x415 mm
Weight: 12 kg
Price: € 5,700
Vox Trade, 011 / 3016-230