Metrum Acoustics Jade and Onyx: Forward correction DAC’s
Metrum Acoustics, a manufacturer of award winning Digital to Analogue converters is blessed with having wonderful dealers, dealers who are representing high-end audio brands, and who can distinguish between the good and the bad in audio land. LEXICOM Multimedia, a Dutch dealer in Leidschendam, the Netherlands was one of the first dealers putting the latest Metrum Acoustics wave making additions, the JADE and ONYX to the test. What followed was a lot of astonishment, admiration and most of all listening joy!
A new DAC in Leidschendam’s finest audio shop, the JADE by Metrum Acoustics, the DAC with volume control, whereas the ONYX is identical but without volume control. These two models are in setup comparable to the top-level DAC’s Pavane and Adagio.
Metrum Acoustics with its own Transient DAC chips
Metrum Acoustics is a Dutch company which designs and manufactures affordable high end digital to analogue converters. The company was founded in 2012 and started building its reputation with creating game changing DAC’s in the lower price segment, quickly establishing a name for itself among audio lovers.
Throughout the years following, the company improved its technology creating devices matching the absolute top in audio land. Most famous are the award winning Pavane and Adagio DAC’s, which both are designed with a grand total of eight Transient Two modules!
As the Pavane and Adagio are in an unparalleled segment of very high quality sound, the public kept asking for an affordable combination, which would come close to the sound quality of the Pavane and Adagio combination, which eventually was answered with the release of the Onyx and Jade. The compromise to bring a lower priced DAC to market was found in using a total of four Transient instead of eight Transient modules.
The four Transient modules are set in a double mono setup, two of each serving a balanced signal to the XLR output, or unbalanced through RCA.
The appearance of both products is somewhat similar with one difference, the Jade has a volume control knob, whereas this is not the case with the Onyx. Both DAC’s can be handled with a standard remote control which comes out of the box. On the back there are several inputs, USB (24/384), AES/EBU and Coax (24/192) and to top it off, a TosLink input (24/96). The Jade, being a digital pre-amplifier also has two connections to potentially switch on/off the Metrum Acoustics Forte Amplifier. The dimensions of both the Jade and Onyx are 290x260x70 MM, power supply build in.
The Onyx and Jade process PCM signals, but no DSD, which is somewhat irrelevant as Metrum Acoustics believes in perfect processing of one signal, instead of compromising managing different signals. The conversion is handled by Metrum Acoustics own developed ladder converter which can process 24 bits. The technology is hidden in the Transient Two modules and let us take a moment to explain why this is special.
Each Transient Two module holds two 16-bit ladder converters and a FPGA. The Metrum Acoustics proprietary software splits any incoming signal between 16 to 24 bits in two, 12 bits MSB and 4 to 12 bits LSB. The high bits (MSB) stay as they are and go one by one into one of the converters, the lower bits (LSB) are scaled up in the most optimal way to higher bits, and end up in the second converter as high bits (MSB).
This scaling is done to stay out of the noisy LSB spectrum which is most common with every converter on the market, and where the distortion level is the highest. Metrum Acoustics solves this more than perfect.
The Metrum Acoustics software algorithms always use the most optimal part of the R2R DAC’s, and leaves some room per R2R for noise, which becomes totally innocent. Eventually the volume of the moved LSB bits will be too loud, upon which the algorithm equalizes it and merge them together with the none scaled result from the MSB bits. This guarantees a unparalleled noise floor of -145dB!
None of the Metrum Acoustics DAC’s do up sampling, down sampling or oversampling. What comes in, is processed native without any manipulation or filtering. As said the only difference between the Jade and Onyx is the volume knob. This has been designed, what else, in a total unorthodox approach compared to the rest of the market. Because of the usage of internal ladder DAC’s, the output voltage becomes dependent of the reference voltage in the ladders. In other words, Metrum Acoustics does not cut off bits nor influence the resolution, just changing the volume with the highest clarity, regardless of the volume output. This makes the JADE a true and more than fine Digital Pre-Amplifier. Whereas the Onyx is a DAC, and a real great one! Both are available with a black or silver front.
Let’s start by saying that the whole set we use for testing the Jade, is performing magically, we are flabbergasted from the first note till the last one. It sounds smooth, easy and natural. A match made in heaven. Next to the Jade there is a Melco N1AH60/2, connected to the Jade with an AudioQuest Diamond USB cable. An Atlas Interlink connects the Jade with a NAIM NAC-N 272 Pre-Amplifier, and next there stands a NAIM NAP 250 DR Amplifier. Connecting Dynaudio Contour 20 speakers with Chord Company Signature Reference LS cables, rising high on Dynaudio speaker stands. Power supply by NAIM Powerigel.
When going through the playlist I cannot resist listening to Eva Cassidy with her version of Time After Time. This live performance brings Eva very close, so close I immediately feel at home, enjoy fully by listening to her voice and guitar play. The sound of the guitar is full, with very complete details of what is being played. Once the crowd starts clapping, I can hear every single pair of hands. Very transparent! Lori Liebermann, who happens to be the composer of Killing Me Softly, although Roberta Flack gave it the love and attention it deserved, is also known for high quality recordings. We play Last Thing On My Mind from the CD Ready For The Storm. While listening I visualize Lori standing behind the mike, a vision easy to establish by listening to this enormous sound quality brought to me.
Contributing to these feelings is the Jade by Metrum Acoustics, no stress, no sharp edges, enormous peace because of the unparalleled low noise floor and richness in detail. If I were to put this set at home, I would be done searching for the holy grail!
The Melco / Metrum Acoustics combination is a perfect match for the NAIM Pre-and End Amplifier. One of the reasons I am so charmed by the Jade is the enormous precision, the peace, tranquillity, serenity where every instrument comes to life. I know what Metrum Acoustics brings into the game, but what I experience with the Jade beats everything I have heard so far.
The idea was to leave after having enjoyed a beautiful playlist, yet I couldn’t! One more song, and another, and another, just cannot leave. I have seen many great sets of audio equipment, less or more expensive and which often leaves me impressed. Yet, I am not just looking for being impressed. Harmonious, subtle, flexible, natural sound, clear details and a lot of listening joy is what I am after, and if this adds up with being impressed, then I am happy, very happy! And this was being achieved having the Jade as the beating heart of the system!
Eva Cassidy Time After Time
Lori Liebermann Last Thing On My Mind
Roberta Flack Killing Me Softly
Allan Taylor The Beat Hotel
Pat Metheny Cichy Zapada Zmrok
Bobo Stenson Song Of Ruth
Bobo Stenson Ubi Caritas
Max Richter Lente
Infected Mushroom Avratz