Métronome Technologie AQWO SACD Player/DAC Page 2

What's more, switch in the tube output stage and these characteristics are amplified in their effect – I hesitate to use the term 'enhanced' – to the extent that you'd have to be quite a big fan of the lush school of listening to consider this option.

What is very clear, however, is that the AQWO offers a consistent performance whether music is played from disc or file, and whether using the USB-B connection or the S/PDIF inputs in the case of CD-quality or above PCM content. Connected to my usual Naim/PMC reference system, and with digital sources including my 'optimised' Mac computer and the digital outputs of the Naim NDS, the Métronome player/DAC never sounded anything less than highly impressive and utterly engaging.

519met.remAnd all this despite a nagging sense that the content might have more to give, and the information available being mildly subsumed by the overall balance. It's almost as if the 'Velvet Sound' labelling on the DACs was being taken to the ultimate extreme. Experiment as I did, I couldn't help thinking that some listeners would be hankering for a bit more bite and punch from the player.

Stadium Rock
Spinning the SACD release of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon [Parlophone 7243 582136 2 1] was a case in point: the sound was, without a doubt big and magnificent in its weight and deep bass, for example in the rhythm section of 'Money', but some of the finer details in the mix were slightly muted, and the character of instruments and voices a little, well, too richly gilded. As a recording to wallow in, this was peerless, but I listened in vain for any new, penetrating insights.

Similarly with the eponymous Dire Straits album, whether played from CD [Vertigo 800 051-2] or SACD [Vertigo UIGY-9032], the sound was more akin to the larger-scale production of the band's later outings, lacking some of the anticipated 'early days' rawness. The explosive attack when the band kicks in on 'Down To The Waterline' was never edgy, just as the menace of 'Six Blade Knife' slipped away into the overall warmth.

It was arguably more akin to stadium-rock, rather than the bar-band mentality of what remains possibly the group's best album. In the same way, the AQWO plays up the slickness of the production of Boy George's Culture Club comeback album, Life [BMG 538398012], rather than bringing out the singer's now lower-pitched and somewhat rougher textured voice.

Almost from the off the sound of the player is apparent, as the chorus of opening track 'God & Love' kicks in and the AQWO goes for the 'big wash of audio' option rather than crystallising the details of the recording. It certainly delivers the rhythms here – and there are some fine grooves in this set – even though it's the power and weight of the drums and bass guitar that leads the charge rather than the of thrill of brass or the crispness of the accompanying percussion.

Mesmerising Music
For all that, this is a player that's more than capable of pleasing with demonstration-quality recordings, as it shows with the unusual trumpet and percussion pairing of Colin Currie and Håkan Hardenberger's The Scene Of The Crime [Colin Currie Records CCR0002; 96kHz/24-bit].


The spare recording suits the tone of the AQWO extremely well, and even with the tube output in play there's good presence, the brass slightly distant, the percussion sometimes subtle, sometimes hitting hard. All the same, this is mesmerising without reaching out and demanding your attention.

Moreover, the balance here is heard to fabulous effect with Frage [Sony Classical 19075889192; 96kHz/24-bit], the player delivering fine focus with Christian Gerhaher's lyrical, emotional baritone and the sympathetic accompaniment of Gerold Huber in this first volume of a complete recording of Schumann's songs. This simple recording has a lovely luminous quality, and the warmth offered by Métronome's AQWO enhances the music's intimacy to striking effect.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
To say that the AQWO is a matter of taste is no cop-out: indeed, so nuanced is this player/DAC that I would advise long and hard auditioning before one even considers a purchase. And that's especially true if you are tempted by the tube option. Bottom line is this – if you like the things it does, then you'll love it, bit it's not a straight swap-out for those plain vanilla player/DACs that offer the same compatibilities.

Métronome Technologie
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909