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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 2
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metronome

CD1-V Signature CD player

as reviewed by Bryan Gladstone, Carol Clark, and Victor Chavira

 

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BRYAN GLADSTONE'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 2 with Target stands.

ELECTRONICS
Jeff Rowland Consonance preamplifier (phono stage removed). Krell KPA phono preamplifier w/upgraded power supply. Jeff Rowland Model 1 or Conrad Johnson Premier 11 amplifiers.

SOURCES
VPI HW-19 IV with VPI PLC, Eminent Technology Tonearm 2, Wisa pump and surge tank. Benz Micro MC3 cartridge. Audio Alchemy Digital Drive System transport. Audio Alchemy DTI v1.0. Meridian 606 D/A converter.

CABLES
Cardas Golden Hexlink 5c interconnects and speaker cables.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)Strangely, as I encounter ever-more-sophisticated equipment that extracts more and more detail from those precious grooves, my enjoyment doesn’t always increase. It seems that, for me, satisfaction doesn’t rely on perfect accuracy. In fact, I find myself eschewing newer equipment that strives for more and more extension at the frequency extremes. Why do we insist on calling this more "accurate" when it doesn’t sound more "real"? This doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes wish for more "accuracy," but not at the expense of what pushes my pleasure buttons. There’s bliss in the midrange, but only if the details, timbre, and natural overtones are not lost.

The Metronome CD1-V gets the midrange right. The CD1-V is a very handsome machine, and its build quality is first rate. It is housed in a heavy steel case that comes factory-installed with spiked feet. I usually prefer a damped base with digital playback equipment, but in my system, the Metronome did sound a bit more alive with its spiked feet. The front panel control layout is all business, with big, easy-to-find buttons that give a positive clunk when depressed. The display is bright enough to be easily read from the listening position without being distracting, and the drawer mechanism is a speed demon—table of contents booting and track switching is faster than any machine I’ve used.

I have a friend who has confided that she likes to hide the TV remote when she is mad at her husband and then watch him cuss up a storm while getting up and down from the couch to change channels. She could really have some fun with the Metronome, which never turns off completely but stays in standby mode, keeping the tube filaments warm and ready for play. A button on the remote wakes the unit up, but there is no way to power up or down from the front panel—in order to start the player, you have to locate the remote. I’d like to be able to walk up to the unit, drop a CD in the drawer and go, so this seems like an obvious omission to me. Also, at this price, I want something substantial to hold in my hand. Although the Metronome remote works well from long distances and obtuse angles, it feels flimsy, and its button size, shape, and layout are impossible to negotiate in dim light.

Back in college, I had a Counterpoint SA-3.1 preamplifier and matching SA-Pi. The SA-Pi was a tube phase-inverter, housed in its own box matching the SA-3.1 and meant to be placed between the preamp and amp. This was about the time that CDs were creating "Perfect Sound Forever!" CDs were supposedly so great that it didn’t matter what player you bought. I believed the hype, and my first player was a $399 Sony special from Steve’s Stereo Emporium, a truly awful-sounding machine. When I decided to upgrade my preamp to a solid state model, I found that the CD player became downright unlistenable. This was the first time I discovered what tubes could do for a CD player. My beer budget didn’t allow for an elegant solution to this problem—at that time my beer budget couldn’t be touched for any purpose!—so I held on to the SA-Pi, wired a pair of interconnects out of phase to maintain proper polarity, and used it as a tube buffer stage between the CD player and the preamp. Purists would argue that adding extra equipment to the signal path is never a good solution, but my ears disagreed. The tube stage added quite a bit of air and ambience, and smoothed out much of the high-end grain in the old player.

The Metronome CD1-V is a far more elegant solution, but the similarities remain. The CD1-V has the relaxed, rich, and fruity flavor of classic-style tube gear. Tonally correct and accurate? Probably not, but the Metronome has a way of making you feel right at home. It depends on what floats your boat. P. Diddy fans should look for another player. I find the ambience and warmth particularly appealing. It’s as if the tube glow fills in the microscopic gaps and flaws that separate a recording from the original event. It doesn’t take work to listen to the CD1-V. All this chewy flavor doesn’t mean that the Metronome throws away the details. Quite the contrary—despite its very warm character, an immense amount of inner detail shines through. Listening to Harry Nilsson’s "Yellow Man" from Nilsson Sings Newman, I could hear through to the engineering for the first time. It turns out that Nilsson, who did most his own background vocals, is at times overdubbed and at other times delayed and repeated. On Jonathon Richman’s The Best of Jonathon Richman and the Modern Lovers, the acoustic guitar suddenly had individual strings, and Jonathon’s voice showed its creaky character without sounding thin or etched. The CD1-V portrays the human voice beautifully, with layers of harmonic richness and detail. Violins and piano also benefit from the character of the Metronome.

Soundstaging from the CD1-V is spectacularly deep, if not quite as wide as when playing small-ensemble materials. Musicians are placed on the virtual stage with Beverly Hillbillies acreage separating them. Unfortunately, when Jethro gets to rockin’, the neighborhood seems a little smaller. Dense recordings, whether it is Exile On Main Street or Love for Three Oranges, can get a bit congested. Its soundstage here reminded me of a very low-powered, single-ended power amp when pushed too hard. The CD1-V never loses its composure by becoming hard or strident, nor did the overall size of its image collapse. However, with dense material, musicians seem to get bigger and blend together rather than maintain the air surrounding them and their position in space.

Listening to "Come On Home" from Everything But the Girl’s Acoustic, Tracy Thorn’s voice and piano are so completely free from grain and so full of three dimensional roundness and richness, you can’t help but be drawn in. There is a relaxed quality that makes you want to take a load off and spend time in the listening chair. But this smoothness can be a mixed bag. The piano lacks the attack heard through my Meridian when the felt hammer strikes the strings. There is a bit of softening of leading edge dynamics. Keith Moon is one of my all-time-favorite rock drummers. Try to play the air drums while listening to Moon on The Who’s Quadrophenia. You will never match his patterns. Moon was almost never on the beat. His playing was completely original and enormously creative, and it added a dynamically changing element to the band. When you finally figure out what he did in the first verse, he does something completely different in the second. The band and engineers obviously recognized this, as the drums are HUGE in the mix. It is as if a thirty-foot drum kit is behind the band. The Metronome, however, blends the drums and guitar a bit too much. While Townshend’s guitar benefits from the extra resolution the CD1-V offers, Moon’s drums become intertwined with the guitar. The drums don’t have enough dynamic snap to separate them from the cacophony of the mix, and therefore lose some of the uniqueness that makes the music so interesting.

Listening to Tony Bennett’s Unplugged provided a telling contrast between my Meridian and the Metronome. Bennett is the star here, not the band, and his voice is mixed front and center. He sounded very similar in timbre and detail through the two players, but the rest of the live event was portrayed quite differently. The Metronome presented much more of a sense of "space," with the band placed well behind Bennett and clearly spread across the soundstage from left to right. It revealed much more focus and detail from the background players, giving more of a sense of a supporting cast. The Meridian gives life in another way. Through the Meridian, Bennett’s vocal range was extended to thunderous levels, drums had snap, and the room became much more acoustically live. I spent more time admiring the differences than choosing one over the other.

For a modern digital product, the Metronome sounds strikingly, well, old—not old in the sense of an underdeveloped circuit incapable of revealing much of a recording, but old in flavor. The Metronome combines the beautiful inner detail, freedom from grain, and wonderful soundstaging of newer designs with old-style tube warmth and charm. In some systems, the CD1-V may be too much of a good thing. Well matched to ancillary equipment, however, the Metronome is capable of recreating the recorded event with a wonderfully liquid personality. There’s bliss in that midrange! Bryan Gladstone

 

 

 

CAROL CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Reimer Speaker Systems Tetons.

ELECTRONICS
Clayton Audio M100 monoblock amplifiers. E.A.R. 834P phono stage. Blue Circle BC3000 preamp w/Tunsgram tubes, and BCG3.1 power supply.

SOURCES
EAD T1000 transport and EVS Millenium II DAC with Audient Technologies’ Tactic and Audit, and Taddeo Digital Antidote Two. Linn Axiss turntable with K9 cartridge and Basik Plus arm.

CABLES
JPS Superconductor+ interconnects, digital, and NC speaker cables. Sahuaro Slipstream, Blue Circle BC63, Clayton Audio, and JPS Kaptovator AC cables.

ACCESSORIES
PS Audio P300 Power Plant.
Dedicated 20 and 15 amp ac circuits. Shakti Stones and On-Lines. EchoBuster room treatments. BDR cones and board, DH cones, Vibrapods, Mondo racks and stands, Townshend Audio 2D and 3D Seismic Sinks, various hard woods, etc.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)The Metronome CD1 Signature player is one the best examples to use against the, "All CD players sound the same" argument. Okay, I know that by now we have all left the "bits are bits, so any differences are to be an issue of a little more of that then this, but who gives a flying leap" debate in the distance by now, but I was really amazed by how two digital sources could sound so far apart, and yet, in their own terms, still be musically satisfying. That is, placing the CD1 in the system in place of my own reference, and listening to a butt-load of CDs, the differences were not subtle. I use the word "differences" here as while the two sources sat on opposite sides of the fence, depending on where you were standing; the grass is just as green.

The Metronome offers the listener a warm rich and harmonically lust sound while avoiding—not omitting though—details and transparency. No doubt a result of having a tube output stage, the Metronome sounded more like the clichéd "tube" amps of yore than current digital players that eschew transparency and detail to the infinite degree over naturalness and beauty. In absolute terms—that is in audio-geek-speak—the Metronome offered the listener a warmer, lusher, and fuller sound as opposed to fast, lean and analytical.

Bass was not as deep and tight as what I would prefer, being fuller, richer and more weighty with less slam and punch. Not a bad thing, just different than what I am used to with my system. Since we listen to a fair amount of music that features deep fundamentals, with a pace that is dependent on the quality of the bass being presented, the Metronome was not the player for us. That is, music that was bass driven came across as, well, less "driven." The Metronome excelled at being musical, yet it lacked the oomph to make electronic and bass-complex music reach the jump-factor we prefer.

At the other end of the sonic spectrum, the treble was presented as being soft and airy, but still very clean and sweet. Though lacking a degree of bite and sparkle, again the Metronome’s sound came across as not as transparent and more tonally "soft" than what we prefer. For example, bells as cymbals were portrayed as softer with less detail and clarity. Again I would have liked to hear more transparency and tonal clarity, but the Metronome will never drive you out of the room with an etched or gritty presentation of what’s on the disc. Which is right? That’s up to you to decide.

The midrange was darker and richer than our reference, offering a more laid-back perspective. We like a "front-row center" perspective where the music is brought out into the room, as opposed to that offered by the Metronome. Meaning that I had to listen into the music more than I am used to with my own set-up. Like sitting towards the rear of the hall, music had considerably less presence and involvement than one gets by getting in the rows up-front. The finer details and textures were there, but not as readily transfixed onto the listener as with other players, especially our own.

Bad? Could be, if that is not what you are after. Then it becomes more a matter of taste and preference. Not only a preference in what one wants to hear from a player, but also a preference in terms of the music one chooses to listen to. Using classical, chamber and music that is simpler and not dependant on character traits that could be construed as being more "hi-fi-ish" the Metronome came across as a player that one could listen to forever. When I played discs to just enjoy and relax with, the Metronome never drew attention to itself, but simply allowed me to immerse myself in hours of stress-free enjoyment. Time moved by at a relaxing pace with nary a nod to being irritating or boring. Not the best player for a reviewer, but definitely one to have if enjoying music is more important than impressing your friends—though the unit is very attractive and glitch-free.

What the Metronome offers is a relaxed and musical player that brings the "essence of the performance" to the listener—be that a listener who is sitting way back from the performance in terms of musical "clarity". It is not the player to have if one is looking for the impact and presence nor is it the last word in transparency. Yes, using different AC cords and "brighter" interconnects can help, as would no doubt choosing other tubes. I did try several interconnects and AC cords before settling on DH Labs Air-Matrix and Blue Circle AC cord. These helped to make the sonic character more reflective of where I am sitting on the fence—faster, leaner, etc.—without sacrificing the unit’s strengths. Recommended. Carol Clark

 

 

 

VICTOR CHAVIRA'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Magneplanar 1.6 and B&W DM 302.

ELECTRONICS
Magnum Dynalab 208 receiver.

SOURCE
NAD T541 CD/DVD player.

CABLES
Nordost Quattro-Fil interconnects, Analysis Plus Oval 9 speaker cables, and El Dorado power cords.

ACCESSORIES
Monster Cables HTS 1000 AC center. Vibrapods, Lovan Trisolator, and Echo Busters.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes)A metronome is a mechanical device designed to keep perfect time. The Metronome CD1V is an electro-mechanical device designed to play music perfectly. Actually, nothing is audio is perfect, but the CD1-V came closer to perfection than any other CD player I have heard in my home. The appearance of the CD1-V is rather unremarkable. Four heavy brass pucks support the unit and add considerable mass. Inside, the player features custom circuitry and a tube output stage. The CD1-V was set in the place usually reserved for my Audio Electronics CD1, which also has a vacuum tube output stage. The differences in the two units, however, are much greater than their similarities. Whereas the Audio Electronics player was an attempt to sweeten up the sound of the mass-market Marantz CD63, the Metronome CD1-V is a fully realized high end design from concept to production. The build quality of the Audio Electronics reflects compromise. The build quality of the Metronome reflects class and confidence. These differences extend to the two players’ musical performance as well.

Listening to CDs on the Metronome was always a musically satisfying experience. Beginning with the bass, the CD1-V possessed control and authority. Subharmonic pedal tones only hinted at by my reference player were clearly defined, and contributed greater emotional impact and understanding to recordings such as Piano Music of Johannes Brahms, Volume II by Antonin Kubalek, on Dorian. The midrange was another area in which the Metronome was consistently engaging. The guitar and vocals on Eliades Ochoa’s Tribute to the Cuarteto Patri a sounded full, rich, and detailed within the setting of an ambient soundstage. Not only were the timbres of the instruments accurately realized, but the band’s momentum through each song was convincingly communicated.

Highs are usually the scourge of CD players. Most CD players can’t capture the entire harmonic event of such instruments as flute, violins, and cymbals. This was not the case with the CD1V. For example, Orlando "Maraca" Valle’s flute and accompanying violins on "Danzon Barroco," from his CD Tremenda Rumba, sounded pure and completely devoid of harmonic distortion. The CD1-V’s absence of distortion in the high frequencies had the effect of drawing the listener into the music. The Metronome CD1-V is highly recommended for listeners with substantial CD investments, and who wishing to get more musical enjoyment from their collections. I certainly did. Victor Chavira

 

 

 

CD1-V Signature CD player
Retail: $2750

Metronome
web address: www.metronome-technologie.com
e-mail: contact@metronome-technologie.com

 

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