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Review Metrum Acoustics DAC3 upgrade

Pros

  • Great upgrade
  • Extends life span of the DAC
  • Can be done yourself

Cons

  • Price perhaps
  • Price: € 150 p.p

    Build quality
    Usability
    Sound
    Price

    Intro

    Contents

    We have been playing with the Metrum Acoustics Pavane d/a converter for many years. A NOS dac with ladder dacs that Cees Ruijtenberg developed in-house. Over the years a substantial upgrade has come in the form of the Transient DAC2 modules. These simply fit into the sockets, making an upgrade a piece of cake. The same goes for the DAC3 modules: they just fit into the sockets, making it literally plug and play. But then the question: is it worth the 1200 euro investment in case of the Pavane?

    For those interested in the setup of the Metrum Acoustics Pavane DAC, we refer you to the full review of this particular converter. The short summary is that in the DAC2 two ladders are linked together under the hood. Of the 16 bits per ladder, 12 are used. The bottom four bits are not used due to linearity. The remaining 12 bits are then leveled and merged into 24 bits. A DAC2 chip can also theoretically be used in stereo because of this setup. So can the DAC3. A DAC1 chip had one ladder with 16 bits on board.

    In the DAC3 there are four instead of two ladders used. This provides an even lower noise floor and this dac is ‘native’ balanced. In the DAC2 the reference voltage is reversed whereby the ‘minus’ is also flipped. This makes the DAC2 also balanced, but with DAC3 this is no longer necessary, since the 4 ladders can simply send out a ‘native’ balanced signal. An advantage. So combined with the doubling of the number of ladders, this should give more control, calmness and cleanliness. At least in theory.

    Swapping

    Replacing the DAC chips is a piece of cake. On the back of the cover of the Pavane (or other Metrum dac, think the Onyx, Jade, Adagio) are four small Torx screws. You unscrew these, after which you can slide the cover out. The eight Transient modules can then be carefully taken out. Do not just pull hard on one side, but gently remove both sides at the same time, otherwise the pins may get bent.

    When placing the DAC3 modules back, pay close attention to ensure that they are correctly positioned. There is a small white dot on the module. This should align with the dot on the base. If they go in the other way around, you have a short-circuit and that could mean the end of the module or the complete d/a converter. We have noticed that the pins of the DAC3 modules are somewhat longer than those of the DAC2. Do not push through: you can damage things.

    Warm-up

    We received brand new modules for testing from Metrum, so we let them play for a while after installation before we really sat down. The first day the whole thing sounded a bit messy. The day after, it was much, much better. And the days after that, the dot is put on the ‘i’. We estimate that two to three days are needed to reach the full quality. Day one is the most noticeable difference.

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