As we actually point out in the video, the differences between the Metrum Acoustics Ambre and the Sonnet Audio Hermes are extremely small. The Hermes seems – when listening very intently – a little more precise; a little more pointed…. faster perhaps? But what we quickly notice is that this is almost indistinguishable in a blind test. What has much more influence is the used cabling and optimization of the network.
What both streamers do very well is give a clean presentation of the music. Both – that is, both the Ambre and the Hermes – do not give the impression that there is anything between the files or stream and the reproducer. And that, of course, is how it should be. This rule, of course, applies to everything within audio: an amplifier, dac, a set of speakers, cables streamers.
The thing is: it is so difficult to really make it happen! It is true that the I2S output really is cleaner than for example optical. AES comes very close. Coax is good, but audibly less refined than AES. To what extent that really plays a role, depends of course on the system in which the Hermes will be placed; how precise is that? In short: will you really notice these differences?
Wekk: both are very clean, both add nothing (or very little) to the sound. But what are the differences? And is there an improvement to be made with cables and tweaks? As said, the differences are very small. The Ambre seems to play slightly – really slightly – warmer. But that could also be due to the number of playing hours. However, we can very easily tune things. A better mains cable is just audible for example. That makes a much bigger difference. Network tweaks are always subtle. Those who speak of “gigantic” differences, we always find somewhat suspicious. Nevertheless, a good switch can make an audible difference. More than a ‘high-end’ Ethernet cable. Although we sometimes hear subtle differences. And that in itself is not very strange if you consider that a network is mainly about electrical connections, with all the associated misery.
In short: if we optimize everything in both streamers, both grow along at the same rate. And so the differences remain nil. And the performance, with all the tweaks – power-cable and Ethernet optimizations – is very good. So good, in fact, that if we were to get the urge for further optimizations, we would look elsewhere.
Set and forget
What is very nice about a test that lasted longer, is that you live with the device for a while. We have been ‘living’ with the Metrum Acoustics Ambre for years and have really never experienced any problems. The same goes for the Hermes. It really is plug and play. At least with ROON. It just recognizes the Hermes and configures everything the right way. Delightful.