CD Transport + D/A Converter
Métronome Technologie DREAM PLAY CD: KALISTA
he French company Métronome Technologie was born, like many other major audio companies, out of passion - passion for music. It was founded in 1987 by Dominique Giner, previously engaged in production of furniture. And it all started with furniture because already in 1984 he built an audio rig shaped after a metronome. It was a huge success and thanks to the sale of more than 1,200 copies of this unique piece of audio furniture, he founded his own company, adapting the metronome as a company's name and logo. In the center of his interests were CD Players, and although in the meantime he also presented a turntable, company remained focused on digital audio. Interestingly, the first product designed by Mr. Giner was the JD 1 CD Transport, prepared for Jadis.
In the summer of 2014 and therefore twenty years after the foundation of his company, Dominique Giner retired (partially), passing the management of the company to the hands of then 57-year-old Christian Bata and Jean Marie Clauzel (53 years old). Both gentlemen, as well as the founder of the company, are true audio aficionados although they come from completely different worlds - Mr. Bat had worked as a financial director in the automotive industry, and Mr. Clauzel had been an agricultural engineer. Dominique Giner remained in the company as chief designer and is responsible for the latest version of the top of the line source called Dream Play CD.
Métronome Technologie is a small company, highly specialized, that in addition the above mentioned bosses employs just six people. All mechanical parts - except transports – are made in France, and that's also where they are assembled. The lineup includes currently three models of CD transports (T-5, T-6 and T-8), three models of DACs (C-5, C-6 and C-8), integrated CD Player CD8 (with its special version, CDT8, with a tube output) and, as a response to market demand, a music server called Music Center 1.
A top of the line system, Kalista, is in fact a separate line. It even has its own website and is called the "reference CD turntable". The system consists of four elements: CD transport, DAC and two power supplies. Name Kalista has been known for many years and during that time we have seen new versions of the system. However, the basics are always the same: a CD transport and D/A converter with characteristic shape, which you can be placed one on top of the other, or next to each other. As far as the top version is concerned elements may be stacked one upon the other using tall feet which makes this device look a lot like some turntable, for example the Transrotor Artus.
It features a remarkably artistic form and the only other brands that offered something similar were Jadis and Oracle (model CD 2500).
The Philips transport mechanism CDM12 Pro 2 v6.8 and the electronics are placed in aluminum blocks, suspended under very thick acrylic elements. The latter have a shape resembling a three-bladed propeller. At their ends they mounted thick stainless steel columns, ie. feet. These used in transport end with wide cones, and those in the Converter are in fact a decoupling system with a ball placed between two polished, concave planes (see HERE).
The form is flawless, and the construction extremely refined. What draws attention, however, at the beginning is a way used to load a disc. Nominally Kalista is a top-loader CD transport, ie one placed the disc directly on the motor's shaft without using a classic drawer. Version used by the French, however, is similar to the one used by the Polish Ancient Audio and Japanese 47 Labs, because the disc is not hidden and spins outside the device so that one can see it.
Two things distinguish Kalista from Lektor: how TOC ("table of contents" of the disc) is loaded and the puck/clamp. It took me a long time to get used to it, but it still sometimes annoys me with my Lektor - to make Ancient Audio Player read TOC I have to press a button. Metronome chose a better solution, because there is an optical sensor placed under the disc. So after one puts the disc on the axis, apply pressure (with the "puck"), Player starts reading the disc. At the same time, the puck had matching shape to the base, which helps to control the vibration of the disc. There is a metal cylinder fixed axis of the motor so that the puck is precisely centered. Similar solutions are used by companies such as: Audionet and Vitus Audio.
A novelty compared to the previous version is the absence of the control buttons, and using a touch screen instead. This is a very convenient solution and it looks great. Brightness of the screen can be adjusted with the remote control, or it can be turned off completely. Transport features three digital outputs: TOSLink, RCA (both S/PDIF) and AES/EBU. Next to these high-quality output jacks one find a display on/off switch.
The converter is a new design. There are actually two converters in a single Kalista body. The designer decided to leave a converter from the previous version, featuring two 24-bit, 192 kHz chips, but also a second one was added, based on two 32-bit AKM chips. The latter is a reaction to the popular market demand, because now Kalista over the asynchronous USB input can accept PCM signal up to 32 bits and 384 kHz, as well as DSD64 and 128. The user can decide which DAC to use at any particular moment.
What's more, user can also select a type of an output. This can be a semiconductor, or a tube one. The latter uses Philips JAN 6922, the military version of the 6DJ8/ECC88 dual-triode. They use powerful polypropylene capacitors made for Métronome Technologie by a French specialist SRC. Next to the tubes, illuminated additionally with blue LEDs (McIntosh uses green LEDs to backlight the tubes) one finds very expensive low-inductance resistors, so-called. "naked" ones. Recently I saw similar ones used for the top of the line Dynaudio loudspeakers. The selection between “DACs” is very simple, one just has to press the icon on the display panel.
DAC accepts signals from four sources via: USB, RCA and TOSLink (S/PDIF), as well as the AES/EBU inputs. The company prefers the latter. Devices features balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) analogue outputs.
The test was performed in my reference system, where the Métronome replaced my Ancient Audio Lektor AIR V-edition CD Player and Audionet Planck tested beforehand. For comparison, I used also the Döhmann Helix 1 turntable. Dream Play CD was placed exactly at the same spot as earlier the CEC-a TL0 3.0 + DA0 3.0 system on the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack. Power supplies were placed on the shelf below, and the second one on the Ayon Audio Spheris III power supply.
The signal from the player to the preamp was sent with Siltech Triple Crown interconnect and digital signals between the components using the new AES/EBU cable by Polish company Albedo. Transport and DAC were connected to power outlet using Acoustic Revive Power Reference Triple-C.
Recordings used for the test (a selection)
Japanese issues available at
The French like to do things their way. They are proud of their culture, industry, and are proud of themselves. I'd like to use this opportunity to say that I am their fan and that Paris is a city where I could live. These idiosyncrasies, ie. selecting solutions that would distinguish them, mainly from the circle of Anglo-Saxon culture, do not always lead straight to the point, just because the Americans and the British are very pragmatic nations and they often choose more practical solutions.
This is something well known and noticeable both in appearance, handling, performance, and sound quality offered by audio products. A “designer's” appearance of the Callisto player, the icons on the display, which are halves of commonly used icons "start", "stop", and so on, the way a disc is loaded and other, less significant features could indicate that type of approach. But all one has to do it to listen to just one track, and it turns out that all this elements of device's “charm”, and the sound is absolutely classic. “Classic” in a sense that the events are presented in a way that helps listener to understand music, without drawing any more attention to the device itself than necessary.
I can confidently say that this is one of the most precise sources, I know, regardless of the format. A method of shaping the sound reminded me the precision of the best analog sources, because there is even no hint of attack blur, I could not hear any veiling or haziness of the sound. This applies not only to events in the front of the soundstage, but also to what happens behind and way back in the soundstage. It seems like the “computing” abilities of this player were so huge that the device does not have to choose what to focus on. This, of course, is not a problem of computing power, but the phenomenal resolution and stunning way of attack delivery.
The "Hi-Fi News & Record Reviews" magazine reviewed the previous version of Kalista and stated that it is the "Master of the Rhythm" (December 2013). I can't disagree with this, although I would like to modify this statement, adding "and coherence". The "rhythm" itself could in fact be associated with a slight emphasis on the leading edge. And it usually leads to insufficient richness of the sound which makes the sound dry. Kalista is not dry, one could even say that the sound is as ripe as the grapes basking in the warm sun of the South. There's a sweetness, fleshiness and light sourness. The sound is amazingly rich.
Speaking of the remarkable resolution of this player, I had to hold myself back, not to add immediately that the sound is also incredibly detailed. I didn't want you to think that it is a player that mercilessly pulls all the details of the disc. It does deliver a sound rich with details, it is true, but it does it with love, enjoying those details, polishing them and combining them into a very clear, "analog" presentation. And this is something completely different than what most understand as highly detailed sound, it more about "presence" of the sound.
The "a" word is another one that I wanted to wait with before using it. Opening this review with it would also create a wrong impression from the start. It is used by the Métronome Technologie quite often and it is clear that for the designers it must be their reference. The problem is that it is usually misunderstood and automatically associated with vinyl record. Those who had the opportunity to listen to an analog "master" tape or digital hi-res recording, preferably in the studio, know that vinyl is only an approximation to what was actually recorded on tape or in the form of a file. Most often it is a brilliant approximation, but also an art in itself, changing the sound of the original.
The analogue sound of which I speak means that all the details are presented together, in an instant, creating an extremely rich, nuanced performance. Bass and treble are not rolled-off nor warmed up. Most importantly, it does not enlarge objects in the front of the stage. It presents all elements in a perfect perspective, but not by emphasizing a voice or piano or another instrument. And yet we know exactly who the leader of the band is because we focus your attention on him/her, following the suggestions of musicians and producer of the recording.
Never before, yes, that's exactly what I mean, piano recordings sounded so natural for me. Attack and vibrancy of this player brought me closer to the source of the sound, as if I opened the window wide. I listened piano recordings for hours. Mostly older ones. For Example Nat 'King' Cole's Penthouse Serenade. Recorded by the trio in July 1952 is a wonderful display of amazing skills of both, the leader and the accompanying musicians. Listening to that I could easily understand the regret often pronounced by Cole and many critics, that his vocal career overshadowed perception of him as a pianist. And he was one of the best jazz pianists of all times.
This recording was originally released on 10" LP and included eight tracks. Its 1998 digital re-issue (Super Bit Mapping!), introduced additional tracks from this session, as well as recordings from the January session, when Cole also sang. It was then when the iconic version of Unforgettable was recorded. This part clearly shows what I described before, that the vocal is the most important element of the presentation even though it is in no way enlarged. It is rarely played in such a great proportion to other instruments, that seem equally distinct as the voice but still properly placed in the back of the stage.
With that said, I can finally move to the essence of this sound: it's a dark, unobtrusive presentation insanely rich with information. Hence the term starting with "a", and that's why CDs with recordings from the 1930s and 1940s sounded so good, it is why the digital maxi-singles by Depeche Mode sounded really good, thanks to this the hyper-purist Japanese recordings, such as the Duet by Arimasa Yuki & Hisatsugu Suzuki, sounded in equally refined and sophisticated way. It's the kind of player that is completely agnostic when it comes to expressing its "own" opinion, as it goes so deep into the music that a listener forgets about the medium, format or any other technical feature of the recording because he is totally immersed in music.
If I had to define the basic features of this device in a way that audio products are usually described, I would say that the bass is well extended, goes really deep and is perfectly controlled. It also has a velvety attack, which gives it a refinement and helps in creating a realistic image of the instrument. Upper treble is as crystal and as it is velvety. The Player rolls off nor rounds anything. Despite this, we have the impression that this is a dark presentation that is slightly soft, but very complex. There is no emphasis in the midrange, but listener focuses on it anyway, because we are made this way.
A step back
The dynamics of the French source is above average due to the precise attack. Kalista, however, is a product like any other, and that means that it has its specific features, that are a result of designing goals and choices. I would point out a slight shortening of a decay. A long sustain makes the sound of Kalista meaty. But we focus attention on instruments and direct sound, slightly ignoring the acoustic environment, which makes is less present within our perception of the sound. The same happens when you listen to an analog tape.
The presentation takes place rather behind the loudspeakers and between them. Recordings that include lot of reflected and out of phase sounds, might not present their full galore. Listener will know what was the idea behind the recording but not because it will be clearly stated, but because there will be some clues that he should recognize. Also those who like large vocals, perhaps even enlarged, may feel disappointed - Kalista will never enlarge them. It always tries to present everything in a balanced way, so it rather withdraws vocals instead of highlighting them.
I'll try to clarify my observations, comparing it to the best digital sources, I know. dCS Vivaldi (I have not listened to the version 2.0 yet) delivers even smoother performance with a slightly stronger emphasis in the upper midrange. That's why the sound is so beautifully lit, and tonal balance is placed slightly higher than with the French CD Player. The Ancient Audio Lektor SE is equally coherent and as detailed, but when it comes to the leading edge and bass extension, the French source wins hands down; Kalista sounds also darker. Finally, the CEC system (with a SUPERLINK) sounds even more like an analog tape, without clear edges, no precise acoustics, with transitions between instruments rendered in a more pastel manner. However, there is no such precision as offered by the French system.
Actually, everything has already been said. There are other, also excellent digital sources, let me mention one more, the totaldac, but Kalista does not have to compete with any of them. It delivers a performance that is simply self-explanatory and it doesn't need any external support or recommendations. You might have been waiting for it, but I did not want to say that before: this system will deliver such a stunning performance in a setup preferred by the manufacturer, ie. with the “older” 24/192 and a tube output. The solid-state output does not deliver such a good, rich structure of the sound, but it does slightly modify the emphasis around 800 Hz, that appears with the tube output. That is why from time to time I listened to music also with the solid-state output. It delivered a darker background and a slightly higher dynamics. The new DAC is also good, especially smoother and more fluid, but neither as resolving nor so rich as the old one. Kalista CD represents the absolutely highest sound quality, so the GOLD Fingerprint award is simply a must.
Kalista comprises of two devices: CD transport ("CD Turntable") and digital-to-analog converter. They are built in-house by Métronome Technologie in Roquemaure near Toulouse. The system consists of four elements, because each of the two already mentioned devices features also a separate Electra power supply.
The basic elements have a unique look that shows, however their function. It is about a combination of aluminum, that transport mechanism and electronics are placed in, with acrylic and stainless steel. This results in a very heavy, compact, vibration-resistant structure. An aluminum element with the transport mechanism is suspended under the acrylic "propeller" and it stands on three steel cylinders. The cylinders end with large cones, which can be placed on the large pads, or directly on DAC's feet (it is a similar solution to the one used by the British Chord).
Information about the disc, as well as the buttons are displayed on the color 4,3'' touch screen display. It is mounted on an aluminum element projecting from the player. A disc is placed directly on the motor shaft, with a metal cylinder fixed to it. It allows to precisely center the acrylic “puck” that has the same shape as the base of the player. TOC disc is loaded automatically just a few seconds after the disc is placed in the transport. So there is enough time to put the puck on. The blue LED visible from the back is just a decoration.
There are three digital outputs on the rear panel: S/PDIF (Toslink and RCA) and AES/EBU (XLR). On the back is also a socket for power cable connecting transport with power supply. The remote control is made of aluminum and features small buttons with a clear point of operation.
The shape of the converter's housing is similar, but not identical. Here, the acrylic top and aluminum bottom form the sandwich, bolted together to the metal feet. The element with a display, however, is the same - the display shows information regarding inputs, DACs and outputs. User may choose between them by touching a proper icon, which are joined together to show user how the signal runs in chosen combination. On the upper side, in a cut-out, one can see two tubes, illuminated additionally with blue LEDs.
The inputs are located at the back – there are RCA and optical (S/PDIF), XLR (AES/EBU) and USB jacks. Next to the latter there is a power inlet. Within the electrical system one finds highest quality components such as: polypropylene capacitors and expensive, low-inductance resistors. The analog outputs feature Lundahl matching transformers.
The power supplies feature a classic appearance, ie. they have a rectangular shape, chassis made of bent metal sheet and a thick, aluminum front. In the cut-out or a "window" under a layer of acrylic, there is a blue LED, and two switches next two it - one switches off the device, and the second disconnect the power cord's protective conductor (useful for eliminating ground loop).
Each power supply features three power transformers, a bank of tens of capacitors damping pulsation from power grid. The voltage regulators (seven for transport and 12 for DAC) feature large, beautiful SRC capacitors, custom made for Métronome Technologie.
Specifications (according to manufacturer)
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One