Le son vrai. On that score, our French deck declared close allegiance with our upstairs Denafrips Terminator + so minor divergence from the downstairs Sonnet Pasithea. That throws shade at Arnie on micro resolution, top-end energy and perceived speed. Speed is the ability to render truly spiky transients wherever the material demands. T+ plays up density and minor warmth instead. In general parlance that puts it into the 'organic' drawer. That's also where Le Player 4+ set up shop. In this league, I hear DAC differences as rather mild. Today certainly didn't trigger me into corrective après. That's when after changing one thing, we feel the instant need to change others to reset our personal balance. Otherwise we notice the shift right after the hardware shuffle. We rapidly settle in, soon think no more of it. That's because the effect won't linger with any aftertaste. That's my toed line. Nobody knows where that line of virgin-snow neutrality runs. If hardware swaps have us equanimous, I call them toeing the line. There's not enough deviation or deviant behavior to show up strong voicing like inebriation. Whatever voicing is in place is artful enough to leave no permanent burnt rubber mark, no look-at-them donuts on the blacktop. It's down to mild shadings. Though we may declare allegiance on an instinctual level, we can't earnestly call one more correct than the other without first exaggerating the offset. That also was the case for Le Player.

Perhaps because it runs on ESS not AKM silicon; perhaps because it's the company's entry-level machine to reserve stronger flavors for further up the line; I didn't hear as distinctive a psych profile as I remember from previous gigs at Le Mét. To accommodate lazy swaps from the seat, I set up a passive-magnetic autoformer volume control between converters. Both got the same S/PDIF signal through my Singxer SU-6 super-cap powered USB bridge. It's how I tracked that ultimately, our Dutch DAC digs still deeper into ambient recovery, depth and specificity cues. It's how I mapped that the French DAC was slightly warmer as though the lower mid/upper bass zone held a tad more weight. But again, after exhausting my input switcheroo, I simply settled into Le Player as is and soon felt right at home.

As a shopper by proxy, I weigh looks, build quality and functionality not just sound. With competitive digital, it's often functionality and looks which trump sound as the ultimate decider. For looks, I really fête Métronome's decision to put the main capacitive-touch controls on the top. It looks super sorted and elegant and avoids fatty finger prints on a touch display. I found the CD player functionality a bit sparse but really loved the big legible display. I found the remote features adequate but wished that hitting the menu button would first confirm by also showing 'menu' in the display; and that the CD/amp assignation button were moved to the wand's very top to not get accidentally hit. In my experience Métronome build quality has always been impeccable, big and solid. Nothing on that score suggested any changes.

At €9'400, Le Player 4+ styles more conservative than its German MBL Corona alternate in gleaming white lacquer and chrome. The French reserve opulence for their Kalista division. Le Player's more understated cosmetics should mingle far easier in mixed systems. Had my sample been the silver option, you can see how seamlessly it would have blended in the above rack. With Le Player 4+, you can straddle the delivery fence of physical disc and USB. The latter means that Qobuz, Tidal, Spotify & Co. are just a browser window away. That's a full-boat CDP; and with an in-production not NOS top loader which takes the famous CD-Pro2 to the next level so optimizes Redbook rather than kowtows to SACD, DVD and Blu Ray. It obviously does CD-R. I checked. Nestling seamlessly into our system also on sound meant that if Le Player 4+ stayed on because Métronome forgot it—fat chance when I was told how closely production tracks demand—I'd not change one cable to adapt to the addition. Once you have a well-sorted mature system, that's exactly what you should want from high-performance digital. It's what I'd want!