Métronome Technologie C5+ DAC

Device Type: Digital to Analog Converter
Digital Inputs: Asynchronous USB Audio Class 2.0: Up to 384kHz; DSD 64, DSD 128, and DSD256. S/PDIF 75 Ohms RCA Connector, Optical Toslink Connector, and AES/EBU 110 Ohms XLR connector. All inputs accept signals from 32 bit / 44.1 to 192 kHz.
Output: 1 Pair RCA (Unbalanced) and 1 Pair XLR Balanced
Dimensions (H x W x D): 3 inches X 17.75 inches X 16.5 inches
Weight: 24.2 pounds
Availability: Dealer Network
Price: 9,000.00 € ($11,500.00)
Website: http://www.metronome.audio/index.php/en/

As an audio reviewer, there are times I find it necessary to pull back from over-analyzing the sound of a product and get back to the fundamentals that drew me into this hobby in the first place. Engaging musicality can often be lost to one that is focusing on specifics such as soundstage, bass, dynamics, and resolution. The Métronome Technologie C5+ DAC, a DAC designed and manufactured in France, is a high-end product that helped me get back to the audio place that all of us are ultimately seeking.

For those of you that aren't familiar with Metronome, they manufacture 3 DACs; the C5+, C6+, and the top-of-the line C8+. The C5+ is a solid-state design while the C6+ has a tubed output. The C8+, at about $19,700, has the unique ability to allow the user to select a solid-state or tube output. Métronome also builds CD transports, music servers, a digital sharing converter, and DAC + CD combos. Métronome manufactures a Kalista line that combines art and technology to produce gorgeous looking products with sound to match.

Metronome_C5Plus_Photo_Front

The sleek styling of the C5+, with its curved 17.75-inch aluminum faceplate, is impressive looking with an unusual low height of just under 3 inches. But be prepared to clear your shelf as the C5+ is one deep DAC extending to 16.5 inches. The uncluttered front panel display shows the input engaged and the sample rate of the file being played. Turning off your computer will result in a stand-by message on the display. There are only two switches on the C5+: the front switch changes input, the rear panel has a power switch.

I almost forgot the coned feet that come with the C5+. I found that these also make a small, but noticeable improvement to the overall sound.

For those interested in some technical specifics, the C5+ is built around 2 Asahi Kasei AK4490 DAC chips in a dual mono design. The C5+ uses an Amanero Technologies Combo384USB module. The power supply is built around 3 toroidal transformers with 7 independent regulation lines providing inter-stage EMI/RFI radiation protection. Métronome states that their analog stage has "four operational amplifiers chosen for their sound quality with fast transitions and exceptional audio quality."

Setup
Setup was very simple; install the Windows ASIO Driver and select the driver in Roon—the music software used for this evaluation.

I employed my Asus G701VI laptop running Windows 10 Pro 64 (Version 1709) in a dual boot configuration with a standard Windows version on one partition and another partition with AudiophileOptimizer 2.20. The Asus G701VI possesses an overclockable Intel Core i7 6820HK processor with 32 GB DDR4 2400Mhz SDRAM and a fast PCIe Gen3 X4 NVMe SSD. This laptop has 3 USB 3.0 ports as well as a Thunderbolt port (USB type-C). An NVIDIA GeoForce GTX1080 with 8 GB VRAM processes the video. This powerful video processor allows significant CUDA offload processing for the Signalyst HQPlayer when upsampling files or converting files to DSD. The Asus laptop was plugged into a Shunyata Research Hydra DPC-6 v2 distribution center to firewall the noise generated by this computer from contaminating my AC line.

The Asus was placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base UEF grounded with the Synergistic Research High Definition Ground Cable / Grounding Block as was the computer. A G-Technology 24 TB G|RAID Thunderbolt 3 / USB 3.1 drive was connected to the Asus that stores my audio files. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive was powered by an HDPlex 200w linear power supply plugged into a Shunyata Denali 6000T power conditioner. The G|RAID Thunderbolt drive and its HDPlex power supply were placed on a Synergistic Research Tranquility Base.

The C5+ was plugged into a Shunyata Triton v3 with a Shunyata Sigma NR AC cord.

The USB cables used in this review were an AudioQuest Diamond and a Wireworld Platinum Starlight 7 USB 2.0 cable.

Getting Back to the Fundamentals
Metronome_C5Plus_Photo_JaegerReidThe C5+ is a well-balanced DAC that is very neutral in its presentation. As I listened to the Blue Coast Records Jaeger & Reid, a DSD256 recording that was originally recorded on analog 2" tape, I was impressed with the sheer musicality of the C5+. This folk-style recording that was mixed through an analog console to DSD256 delivered first-class resolution and transparency. The inner detail and resolution of the acoustic instruments was very impressive. The C5+ allowed me to focus on the music without experiencing any hardness or unnatural brightness to the overall sound. A big fundamental that was satisfied listening to the C5+ was that it allowed the music to flow effortlessly with timbral fidelity. The acoustic space of this recording was reproduced with an open and airy sound.

Metronome_C5Plus_Photo_BrucknerThe C5+ does not have the biggest soundstage I have experienced, but it does present a richly layered soundstage that allowed me to listen deep into the music with no distractions such as an overly-rich midrange or a polite and reserved high end. The Bruckner Symphony No. 9, with Riccardo Muti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, presented a wonderful sense of bloom around the instruments. The C5+ had a tonal naturalness to the sound that was delicate in tone and texture. The C5+ allows one to get back to audiophile fundamentals of an engaging musical experience as opposed to a spectacular presentation that while momentarily impressive, can be distracting to the general enjoyment of the recording. This 24/96 recording reproduced by the C5+ was extraordinarily expressive and involving. Not so much as in a spectacular audiophile extravaganza, but a beautiful sounding experience with low distortion and an unprocessed sonic signature.

Metronome_C5Plus_Photo_FourplayThe C5+ is capable of good transient quickness and impact with an outstanding control of the bass and mid bass. I have heard Fourplay's Esprit De Four (24/44.1) many times but found that listening to it with the C5+ resulted in one of the best renditions of this recording I can remember. Again, it's not that any one element of playback was overly extraordinary, but the overall sonic presentation was not only believable, but pulled me into the music in a way that many other fine DACs I have evaluated fall short. The dynamic life and detail of this recording was quite good with the expected definition and impact that Fouplay recordings generally present. The C5+ was able to deliver micro dynamic nuances as well that were impressive to hear. Overall, the sound was lively with a good rhythmic drive that resulted in a lifelike presence to the sound.

Optimizing the Operating System
I have found that using software like AudiophileOptimizer improves the sound of USB DACs connected to a computer and the Metronome C5+ was no exception. Running Audiophile Optimizer 2.20 in Windows 10 Pro 64 made a positive impact in the overall sound I heard from the C5+. The soundstage became wider and deeper with a small improvement in midrange clarity. I also noticed a small improvement to the bass with enhancement of bass impact and extension. I felt that AudiophileOptimizer was reducing the amount of noise passed down the USB cable allowing the C5+ to strut its acoustic stuff.

Long Term Listening
This brings up the topic of long term listening experience with a product as opposed to an attribute dissection of the general music presentation. The C5+ excels in its overall musical reproduction but just might fail to impress the audiophile that likes to rank a DAC's performance in terms of overall bass slam, size of soundstage, etc. The C5+ has an overall balance and general sound quality that is truly musical and a joy to listen to. Don't waste your time with rapid A/B comparisons if you truly want to experience what the C5+ can do for your system.

Comparison
I compared the sound of my reference DAC, the Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty with the Metronome C5+. I used the USB inputs of both DACs fed from my Asus laptop. The QX-5 Twenty had a bigger soundstage than the C5+ and a more prominent low end. The QX-5 Twenty had a bit more presence than the C5+ and seemed to be better in its dynamic presentation in both macro and micro dynamic changes. The C5+ had a wonderful sense of balance and general listening ease that I felt was superior to that of the Ayre DAC.

Metronome_C5Plus_Photo_Full

Conclusion
The Metronome C5+ is an impressive sounding DAC that is extremely musical and engaging to listen to over an extended period. While it doesn't have the soundstage, overall definition, and impact of the best DACs I have experienced, it more than holds its own due its inherent sonic quality. I feel that the Metronome C5+ will delight those audiophiles that have the good fortune to experience music played from this DAC.

COMPANY INFO
Wynn Audio
Unit 31, 20 Wertheim Crt.
Richmond Hill, ON, L4B3A8
Canada
info@wynnaudio.com
212 826 1111

COMMENTS
BradleyP's picture

Personally, I will never be in the market for a $10k DAC. Still, I appreciate the inclusion of the covers of albums used to evaluate the DAC. Many audio reviewers have diverse and excellent taste in music, much of it recorded in a superlative fashion. 80% of the reason I follow the audio press closely is to find excellent music. I'm stuck with the audio gear I have for the foreseeable future, but it's decent stuff, so I'm okay.

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