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Metrum loads Pavane DAC with in-house-designed R2R chips

  • Cees Rujtenberg’s Metrum Octave, Hex and then MK2 Octave have made quite the splash in DAC circles these past few years. And rightly so – each model has contributed to redefining what’s possible at their respective price points. The undisclosed nature of each model’s ‘industrial’ decoding chips has helped to keep the whodunit mystery going and Rujtenberg’s attention to detail with the Hex’s internally powered m2Tech OEM module showed that not all USB implementations are born equal. The Hex’s (optional) USB input was up there with Audiophilleo1/2 and Resonessence Labs Concero/HD S/PDIF intervention.

    Given Metrum’s recent-ism you’d be foregiven for thinking that our man from the Netherlands is a relative newcomer. That his DACs sound so good out of the gate gives lie to Rujtenberg’s pedigree: he’s been in the audio business for knocking on 25 years, a little factoid that only came to light when first perusing a new Metrum flagship DAC – the Pavane.

    For this even bigger fella, Rujtenberg has foregone the secret ‘DAC’ chips of old and begun brewing his own. He’s now building his own chips and the Pavane will sport 8 R2R converters per side, divided equally among 4 modules.


    Parallel-driven R2R ladder networks ensures their handling of very high sample rates. For the corresponding high-speed output, super swift IV conversion is also deployed.

    “Do you have any photos of the DAC ‘chips’ or have you sealed them into modules to protect you IP?”, I asked Rujtenberg via email.

    His reply: “I was working a full year on it and a bit scared to show it to the world therefore the units are completely sealed. As it was quite an expensive exercise they are also available for OEM.”

    And then more on the R2R ladder chip’s workings: “First we have the serial to parallel conversion. The chip handles several formats like RJ24 and I2S and is realized by some logic which translates the serial data to parallel data. These data is supplied to the R2R ladder. The dac is available as current out or voltage out version. The voltage out version is using an I/V section having a slew rate of 1500 Volt/sec. After this circuit a second order passive filter is used and starts at 65 khz.”

    In the engine room, every DAC engineers new favourite toy – an FPGA. Rujtenberg has coded his as a ‘forward correction module’, which reportedly splits up the audio samples for each channel into new separate data streams; that’ll no doubt do good things for channel separation (reportedly 120dB). Yes, the Pavane is dual mono

    “Each DAC cluster processes a portion of the data in the most linear region of the DAC chips. The result of this process is an extremely high linearity, right down to -140 dB, which gives the Pavane a realistic 24 bit dynamic range.”


    Rujtenberg elaborated in a follow up email: “The FPGA splits the dynamic range in two sections and will feed them to the two DAC clusters available on each mono board. Assume that we have a very low level signal in the digital domain , in normal cases this should be supplied to the lower part of the R2R ladder network. This approach leads to noise and linearity errors. In our case this part is sent from the FPGA to the uppermost part of the R2R ladder of the second dac cluster which leads to a very high output and will be present in the most linear part of the DAC. The next step is to combine both outputs coming from the two dac clusters in the analog domain. To bring back the original low signal we should attenuate it until the right level is back again. The result is a extreme linearity down to -140 dB. Switching noise as always present coming from the ladder switches will be attenuated as well and is on an un measurable level of -170 dB.”

    The Pavane promises considerably more serious casework than the Hex in order. Heavy aluminium front and side panels and a double-damped inner frame seek to immunise against external vibrations. Not only that but this: “The top panel differs from earlier models because it consists of a sandwich of steel and 4mm of tempered glass, giving the Pavane her own distinct look”, says Rujtenberg.

    Also unlike the Hex, both AES/EBU and USB inputs and balanced outputs come as standard.

    The Pavane will be available in both silver and black and ships with matching aluminium remote control for source selection.

    Pricing will ultimately land at €4095 (+ VAT) but an introductory price of €3695 (+ VAT) will hold until the end of January 2015.

    Further information: Metrum Acoustics

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. Really nice that Metrum is keeping the NOS DAC tradition alive and kicking so that it won’t cease to exist when supplies of old R2R chips run out. Very happy with my Hex which stopped my DAC hunt though the Pavane looks interesting but expensive

    2. It’s nice to see more R2R designs making a comeback that don’t rely on the ancient, mediocre Philips TDA1543 or the somewhat flawed and increasingly rare and expensive PCM1704.

      The real game changer though will probably Schiit’s upcoming Yggdrasil. Their DAC does basically everything that Metrum’s does for 1/3 the price.

      • Also interested to hear the Yggdrasil. But now interested to hear how these Metrum R2R chips might sound in alternative designs too (the Pavane looks quite pricey for what’s on offer), perhaps with a tube output stage.

    3. I believe Metrum stopped using m2Tech OEM modules a while back. They now use the superior Amanero one.

    4. As a former original owner of both the Octave and the Hex my view is they were wonderful sounding dacs but were backed by sparse (at best) customer support when it mattered. The whole of the product experience ncludes both the sound and the support after purchase.

        • My Metrum Hex was outfitted with the m2Tech usb interface that later would not work properly for quite awhile with Mac OS X Mavericks as many of us know. Although the problem was later solved, Metrum’s response to my inquiries was limited to an initial “we are aware of the problem” and that was it…no further reply, update or roadmap to a solution whatsoever was provided to me by Metrum. I was on my own for a solution despite being Metrum’s customer for both the Hex and the Octave. Luckily, the larger support community including this and other websites identified the solution later when it became available. Metrum provided me with shabby support during this time so I would not buy their products again regardless of how well they are reviewed. I’m not trying to be negative but I do believe customer support after a sale is an important factor not to be overlooked in a buying decision.

          • As far as I’m aware Scott – and feel free to correct me – Cees’ hands were tied by m2Tech’s (lack of) driver support. I guess he was waiting on Marco Manunta to get things up and running, which I believe is now the case. Isn’t that why Metrum moved to an Amanero OEM board (for a while)?

            • Yes John that is my understanding of the events as well. The Hex was not inexpensive. When buying any product, I expect the company that sells the item to make an effort to satisfy their customer’s problems and reasonable concerns after the sale is made even if it’s a sub-component (which they of course selected) causing the problem. Metrum simply did not do anything at all to help me with the problem. Maybe other Hex owners had a different experience with this issue and if so I’d like to hear about that. I don’t think this lack of support is somehow ok in the world of high end audio when it would never be if we were talking about a television or even a computer.

    5. In my experience Metrum’s support is as wonderful as their sound.
      (as for the tube buffer, I am using Hex with a tube preamp from Croft Acoustics and suspect – judging by Srajan’s detailed comparison – the end-result is not that different from La Scala Mk2)

    6. I totally agree with MICHAELG and DAVE regarding keeping the NOS DAC tradition alive. As a new, proud and privileged owner of the French Totaldac d1-monoblock I cannot wait to also hook up my new “polder made” Pavane. For what I was able to extract out of the press and several mail and phone conversations with a very accessible Metrum, they do seem to share some DNA. And DAVE: The price difference between that Totaldac 3-box DAC and the Pavane is astronomical, but as to why that is, I can only guess. Both Totaldac and Metrum claim it is very difficult to keep the R2R resistors within a certain precision range. The Totaldac d1-monoblock uses 400 0.01% Vishay resistors, where Metrum developped a little black box, like a thick-film chip of some kind. Anyway, as far as my musical experience with NOS R2R is concerned: TO-TAL-LY A-MA-ZING…! I can simply go over my whole music collection again and discover “things” I’ve never heard before. I am not kidding you, for me all this stuff is the best thing since the invention of electricity…! I feel like a kid in a toy shop. Thanks John for elaborating on this particular subject.

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