Their biggest challenge remains to gain recognition in the computer audio and streaming segments which now make up the lion's share of the high-end digital market; and to do so at lower prices than their CD transports. That undoubtedly will be a big step. The brave new world of network players and audio servers requires two different skill sets: audio engineering and electronics, particularly relevant given the departure of their famous founder and chief designer; and computer/software experience which so often sorely lacks in many otherwise renowned hifi companies. The two new owners have opted to invest in information technology via a crowd funding strategy and a specific partnership with IT experts.

This world of course moves on rapidly. Digital technology has become not only a matter of complexity but also of identifying the really most efficient solutions. Those are not necessarily the most complicated or expensive. To my eyes that's in fact the biggest challenge of today's digital high-end business where relative newcomers such as Schiit Audio with their Yggdrasil DAC or Metrum with their Pavane propose innovate solutions with closed-form digital filtering techniques or error-forward correction compared to stratospherically priced devices like the last MSB Select DAC flagship. For Metronome, this new field of investigation led to the development of their first media server called Music Center 1 [above] which can play and burn CD and stream or read high-resolution files including DSD. It is to be released in early 2016.

It's a rather delicate shift for our physical disc transport experts. How to release a music server or network player without the risk of outclassing your own transport flagship at a significantly lower sticker? What could be the possible justification to sonically dominate the Kalista transport with something costing ten times less? Furthermore, there is zero guarantee that Metronome can maintain their established prestige status whilst switching to computer audio. Perhaps a certain level of technical capitalization is achievable but given the large number of competitors, who would be too optimistic about that? In my opinion, the same complicated strategic transition explains why Esoteric of Japan waited so unbelievably long to include a network player in their lineup which should launch shortly.

From a pure business perspective, if you want to boost your D/A converter sales, you must offer a network player, i.e. a complete digital solution. Perhaps that's a sign of our times which announce the end of CD transports before a future revival revitalizes them in the same way as turntables enjoy at present. Today it is a fact that D/A converters must be open architecture, USB and high-resolution capable, network compliant and completely versatile. My Metronome Technologie loaner C8+ DAC seemed to fulfil all of these requirements with a double output stage of parallel solid state and tube, various digital inputs and DoP via USB compliance.

This updated version of the Metronome C8  (+ denotes DSD) completes a broad range of converters which start at the bottom with the C5 and C6 units sharing the same design, with the C5 having transistor outputs, the C6 valves. Both work in PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz with two DACs per channel using 32-bit internal processing, a 24/96 sample-rate converter and an integrated power supply within a single chassis. Their type B USB input allows you to stream high-resolution files from a computer. The C8 combines both output stages (solid state and 6922 tube) in a twin chassis featuring the external Elektra PSU. It supports higher sampling rates by running four AKM 4395 chips in parallel. The C8+ adds DSD via a double 32-bit AKM 4490 converter operated in dual mono (resampled to 192kHz at whatever frequency, handling files up to 32/384 PCM and DSD) and with an Amanero USB transceiver in lieu of the previous M2Tech.

The top range is represented by the Nausicaa converter in the same baroque style as the flagship CD transport. The extravagant Nausicaa adds over the C8 a flashier industrial design and superior immunity to ambient vibrations and electromagnetic interferences. The filtering of the D/A conversion stage also is a bit more sophisticated. But, one might view the C8+ as a Nausicaa converter in a more conventional chassis with additional DSD capabilities. Metronome Technologie should soon update the Nausicaa flagship to DSD.

For digital transports, Metronome Technologie still offer a broad range starting with the T5, T6, T8 (all based on a modified Philips CDM12 PRO with sophisticated ultra-regulated power supplies, the T8 transport being available with the optional external Elektra PSU), up to the Calypso and Kalista flagships featuring dedicated power supplies and a tripod stand. The Kalista remains a kind of Rolls Royce to compete on naturalness and fluidity with the craziest of traditional turntables. On a more reasonable affordable scale, the CD player CD 8 and recently released Le Player share more or less the same DNA with a bit more sophisticated mechanics on the CD 8 signature and an optional tube output stage. Both are equipped with a USB input for computer audio use and major versatility.