Metronome DSC1 Digital Sharing Converter Review


Like 18th-century French naval explorer Nicolas Thomas Baudin, there is more to the Metronome than just one story. Baudin may have made a name for himself as a captain of a number of military and transport vessels sailing to far-flung ports around the world, but his tendency to indulge the cartographer and naturalist in him led to expeditions of a more scientific nature focused on bringing back to France what he found and sharing it with others.

So too has Metronome made a name for itself for a number of decades as a manufacturer of CD transports and players, yet on this journey they have found expertise in D/A convertors, digital servers and now Digital Sharing in the guise of the DSC1 being reviewed here and they’re taking the ‘sharing with others’ part seriously.

The DSC1

The $21,000 USD DSC1 is the company’s first foray into hybridizing a classic DAC with DLNA/Airplay compatibility for streaming from network-connected devices. The DSC1 can take digital signals from disparate sources for analog conversion via SPDIF, AES-EBU, optical or USB-B inputs – or use it as a dedicated network player via LAN. The unit comes equipped with a dual-mono circuit topology consisting of two 32-bit/384kHz PCM capable (DSD 512 – 8x) AK4497 DAC chipsets which are floated on independent PCBs plugged into the main board. Sample rate conversion features a 175dB dynamic-range capacity with a THD+N of -140dB, and a frequency bandwidth of 10Hz~20kHz +/- 0.1dB. A Class-A analog output stage with four operational amplifiers and 10 independent regulation lines “for each critical part of the convertor providing inter-stage EMI/RF radiation protection” are also part of the focused attention on the noise-critical power supply chain and keeping any AC-related sound quality issues at bay.

The DSC1 comes in black or silver finish, with my silver unit looking the business (and weighing it too at just under 40 pounds) with solid and chunky aluminum-alloy construction and three heavy-duty machined and thread-adjustable cone-spiked feet. The large 5-inch LED display screen is a bit too bright for me (even turned down) but is easily legible, with a high-contrast dark-text-on-white-background readout. Operations such as secondary powering on/off, menu selection and display brightness are all handled by the cleverly disguised panel buttons on the front fascia that blend completely with the integrated slotted panels which grace the unit’s faceplate. The rear of the DSC1 is cleanly laid out with the aforementioned digital inputs clearly clustered in the centre of the unit’s back panel and bookended by the IEC/Mains input socket and main power rocker switch on the left and both balanced and unbalanced output on the right.

Set up

For this review I fed the DSC1 a mix of 16-bit/44kHz and 24-bit/192kHz PCM files from cloud-based streaming services like TIDAL/Qobuz and local USB-HD based mp3, PCM and DSD128 files via Roon/Ethernet through an audio-only dedicated Apple MacBook Air 11-inch. I also fed the same files through the DSC1 via its USB input through an Aurender N10 music server. The DSC1 unit I had did not allow for Lossless Roon playback via Ethernet (Green light in Roon signal path indicates “High Quality” not “Lossless,” but this was because the unit showed up under “Zones” as a “ShairportSync” device due their Roon Ready implementation still being in the works (coming soon according to Roon’s VP of Marketing Dipin Sehdev), so everything above Redbook was being downsampled to 24/48 to accommodate the AirPlay protocols. Therefore I used the DSC1’s USB port via the Aurender N10 for critical listening. That said, I have to say, even via AirPlay, the Metronome sounded organic and had a very satisfying analog authenticity to its portrayal of voices, wood-bodied string instruments, brass and piano. I think many would be impressed at how well the circuit implementation handled the Apple compression algorithms. *I did not use the Mconnect suggested by Metronome for playback because I have an extensive Roon/Aurender library and while initial noodling around with the Mconnect application proved satisfactory, it did not behoove me to rebuild my library in yet another disparate app.

Associated equipment downstream from the DSC1 for this review included a McIntosh C2600 Tubed Preamplifier, McIntosh MC611 mono blocs and DeVore Fidelity Gibbon X loudspeakers. All digital cabling, interconnects and speaker cables were a mix of TelluriumQ Black, Ultra Black, Silver and Diamond. AC cabling and power requirements were handled by PS Audio AC5 cables and a Power Plant 20.

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Patatorz's picture

I had the chance to be able to test a DSC1 few month ago in order to simplify my system (Metronome C8 and dCS Network Bridge). I was exited to be able to listen to the sound of Metronome that i was enjoying since years with the famous C8 and is AOP or tube outputs. Metronome is really able to pull out of this machine the Metronome sound : warm, relief, resolution, impact. This is a great dac but when it comes to the ethernet renderer it is another story. As i was expecting to simplify my system i was expecting that the ethernet renderer would have been at the same level as the competition. Roon was in beta (not validated) but fully functionnal. The problem is that through ethernet you can not read DSD. All files under this format are converted to PCM by the DSC1. Perhaps it is not a big problem, but nowadays you expect much more from a renderer especially in terms of capacity to read formats. You want to read DSD....need to go through the USB input limited to DS64....So no difference with my C8 and we are back 3 years from now where digital era was only managing PCM....Something is missing and it is a pity when you can hear how this unit can play music. In 2019 we should expect more.