Chinese tube brand Psvane
immortalized a typo which Metrum's Pavane corrects. But Cees had his own surprise when a second production batch of front panels arrived with a silk-screen typo. He called me to explain that rejecting those parts would delay my loaner delivery. I told him not to worry about typos. I commit plenty of my own. It's mentioned here only to illustrate one of those many hurdles which face any maker with new product. What can go wrong with outsourced parts isn't for the faint of heart; or those with immovable dead lines. Want to become a hifi brand? Gird your loins and prepare to pull hair. And practice good communication skills. This stuff is perfectly normal. What's not is failure to update waiting customers whilst weeks turn into months. No such issues with Cees. He simply picked up the phone. Bravo!

Lifting the Pavane out of its double-boxed carton immediately communicated new seriousness of purpose. This box was bigger and heavier than its stable mates. Laying eyes on the machine then underlined it also on industrial design. Given its posher metal work and Wadia-style black glass cover plus the new tech and Transient converter modules inside, one should really call the €1'000 price increase over the previous Hex range topper surprisingly modest. Most makers launching a new flagship with flatly more advanced circuitry and cosmetics would position it above their previous kit with a rather bigger gap. Going Dutch means a cheap date. All things considered, this Dutch flagship would seem to hold on to its country's rep for frugality. Buy a similarly priced DAC elsewhere and you'll mostly be driving off-the-rack silicon. With the Pavane, you get the more adventurous competition's FPGA not as a chip replacement but to handle Cees' unconventional 'forward correction' logarithm. For actual chips without the fish, his potted converter modules are once again built on silicon not from the usual hifi sources à la AKM, BurrBrown/TI, Crystal, ESS Labs, Philips & Co.

To rack up the recommended 100 hours, the Pavane displaced the Hex in my bedside headfi system to feed a Bakoon AMP-12R and Audez'e LCD-XC woodies sourced from a digitally docked iPod Classic 160GB. After insuring that the set made proper noise, I walked off. On the first evening checking in, a track from ex Shadowfax keyboardist Armen Chakmakian's brilliant and well-recorded first album Ceremonies was spinning. As I settled into the densely layered groove, I noticed not only the mellow background palmas but how they were clearly performed by multiple people. That's because the hand claps had plainly different textures. Later a djembe-style hand drum doubles up on the palmas. Again this was rendered as a clearly discrete voice not merely on image location. This was my first hint that the transient moniker of the Pavane's conversion engine was well chosen. Teasing out small differences in percussive textures is rather harder than separating out harmonically far more padded string or woodwind instruments. It's one thing to keep a viola and violin or clarinet and bassoon apart who play in unison. Doing it with something as harmonically sparse as hand claps is quite another. With that self-verifying first evidence rendered, it was time to break into the casing before completing the signal's break in.

Both cheeks are lined with thick mats.

Here we see the latest XMOS USB transceiver board with its two HLX clocks for the 44.1/48kHz audio/video sample rate families which is fronted by a board with triple Xpresso clocks and a blacked-out large IC (presumably this is the forward-correction module and its FPGA). The IEC power inlet is greeted by a Schurter module to filter AC line noise, the S/PDIF inputs see small isolation transformers for their welcoming committee.

Here we spot four of the eight Transient modules and the Lundahl output transformers which convert dual-differential into single-ended signal. As we already knew, the Pavane's converters and I/V stage are potent enough to not require a conventional output stage. Hence there isn't one.

After this bit of peekaboo, it was back on the bedside stand for another week of pre-competition training. As you may figure from this last shot, the top cover simply slides out riding those slots in either cheek metal. All that takes is the removal of the four Hex screws. Just like the innards, everything about the Pavane speaks to clever tidiness which eschews complications.