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Time with the Metrum Onyx

soundbuff

Active Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2015
Messages
249
Points
28
Location
Bangalore
Time with the Metrum Onyx

It’s been a little over two days since I have had the Metrum Onyx plugged into my music system, and as I listened to Nusrat Fateh Ali punching his not inconsiderable weight, I must confess that it’s been a while since I had such an extended listening session. Thanks to Sundar, Metrum’s India Rep in Bangalore, I had with me the Onyx for a few days of listening in my own set up. My listening area, which is a study cum ‘audio room’ of about 15X10 ft. opens onto a terrace with large doors. It is moderately damped with curtains and books and a mix of hard and soft furniture. The speakers are placed on the short axis, close to the rear wall and fire across to a wall that is lined with books above seating height. I ‘slouch’ about 8 ft. from the speakers. The speakers (Blumenhofer Big Fun 17, 91db) although close to the rear wall have plenty of space on either side. It’s a near-field listening position, but not cramped. The amplifier is the mighty Xindak A600E integrated (60 W Class A) a rare and fabulous beast. The source is the Cambridge CXC transport feeding the DAC. Power conditioner is from Xindak. My usual player is the Ayon 1sc, which has been my reference for the past five years or so.

To begin at the beginning then, it was almost 10.00 at night by the time I got home with my little bundle and was rather tired. Inevitably of course I could not resist the temptation of just hooking it up and listening for a ‘few seconds’ before going to bed. Well that was not to be, even though pretty beat I was up till past midnight listening to some jazz standards. First I played Earl Hines, the pianist, which is lovely musically, but an old recording, then put on some Wynton Marsalis (Trumpet), and ended the night with Coleman Hawkins on the sax. Since it was late in the night I obviously had to play everything quite softly, but even at low volumes (the advantage of combining high power and medium sensitivity?) I could make out the character of the DAC. Yes, the Onyx DAC indeed has a signature, it is clearly in the romantic mode of interpretation. I would not call it lush, it is rather a restrained and mature kind of romantic offering. A little bit like me if I might so say!

The next day was an indulgence, such as I can rarely find myself giving in to: a whole day spent listening to music. I thought I would play some jazz, but that didn’t feel right in the morning and so I said to myself ‘let’s get classical’. As I ate my breakfast I put on some Mozart String quartets. The dining is downstairs and the music room above it, so this was background music for the most part. I did not listen to the Mozart very actively, but it generally sounded quite all right, truth is I am not all that familiar with Mozart and it is Hayden that I listen to more often. So having settled in my slouching chair with some coffee, I took one disc from my Hayden symphony sets and put it on randomly. Now I cannot pretend to know all of Hayden’s symphonies, but there are quite a few I know well, in terms of the music, the performance and the sound recording quality. I liked what I heard, but perhaps it was ‘I’ that had not yet warmed up, for I did not find the performance of the Onyx remarkable. ‘Sure I can live with this DAC’ is what I was thinking, but would I ditch the Ayon, not so sure….

If somebody asks me who is my favourite composer? That can only be Brahms. My first choice in a listening session is usually Brahms. I picked Symphony no 3, which is not in fact my favourite, (those are are nos. 2 and 4), but then it is Brahms and nothing else need be said. Whereas Haydn has great rhythm and surprise there is little drama. In Brahms there is great drama, always of course within the bounds of a ‘dignified grayscale’, but it is there, and the Onxy communicates that drama very well. There is also the spatial side of a Brahms performance, it is big, and the Onyx conveys that sense of scale as well. I said to myself ‘this is very good DAC’, I like it. After Brahms, I thought I would throw some melodrama at the Onxy, so out came Mahler no 2, I have the old Klemperer performance which is in mono I think. It is not a great recording, but it is an electric performance. Mahler through the Onyx is a thrilling listen, more so than it is with the Ayon, although I hesitate to say this outright, because after five years one’s own Kit becomes ‘dal roti’. Any how the climaxes were fabulous, the diminuendo clear and you did not need to peer hard. There is an overall composure in presenting a ballistic piece of work, but which does not undermine or tone down its visceral dynamics. I haven’t enjoyed Mahler so much in a long time. I have often wondered why, over the last few years I listen to Mahler less and less frequently. Could it be the equipment, or is it that I no longer care for such extravagance? I can actually see myself listening to more Mahler with the Onyx.

Opera is not really my cup of tea, and one composer whom I have never warmed up to is Wagner, so I said, ‘what the hell’, lets listen to some Wagner. I rarely listen to Wagner, but when I do I listen loudly and usually potter about doing something else, like its ‘background rap’. So I put on Solti (I bought the full set with my meagre student money some 30 years ago) at full blast (actually only 10 O Clock position) and went down to make myself some more coffee. Came back, Segfried was still hollering away, and I manfully sat and heard it out. No this DAC will NOT get you to like music you don’t enjoy!

So much for that: ‘How can a listening session not have Beethoven?’ I thought, and having said ‘no’ to the fifth, sixth and ninth I settled for the eight, again by Solti and the Chicago Phil. The problem with Beethoven, for perhaps everyone, is the number of times one has heard him, in my case from when I was 13. It was nice listening, the eight is a delightful pieces, but I wasn’t paying attention and Beethoven is no longer high on my listening fervour these days. Then, since this is Bangalore, the electricity went. My system does not play from the back up.

About an hour and a bit, the line comes back. For warming up I play some Stravinsky, who again is not really a big favourite of mine. I thought I will play Shostakovich whom I love, and Bruckner whom I simply worship, once everything is warmed up. The Rite of Spring is an obviously challenging piece for reproduction, but I find it to be a very studied and even though intense it is sort of clinical and distant. The Rite is a piece which I personally don’t find very enjoyable, I would rather listen to Mingus if ‘funky’ is what I am looking for… {Idiot Alert! These are pure and simply my illiterate rantings, nonsense for the musically better learned} Anyhow, contrary to what I said at the beginning, the Onyx did full justice to the speed, attack, complex instrumentation and tonal intermixing that give the piece its reputation. The Onyx ‘interpretation’ is neither, soft or laid back in any way. Those who like the Spring will not have anything possibly to complain.

After Stravinsky, I put on Bernstein’s version of Shostakovich’s fifth. The fifth is easily the most accessible of Shostakovich symphonies, not for nothing is it called the romantic. While the fifth has a lot of drama (but not as bombastic as the tenth), it is also introspective, and even though melancholic, it is not gut wrenchingly morbid. In my view the Onyx is completely at home with both the power and glory of the Fifth, as well as in communicating its thoughtful passages. I would say it did an excellent job of keeping me involved. Then once more the electricity went kaput.

Evening walk with Ginger (the beloved’s ‘beloved dog’), dutifully accomplished, I returned to find that the electricity was back, switch everything on and put on some jazz piano assorted to warm up, think I will listen to Mingus once that is done. Get caught in other stuff and the Mingus gets forgotten. Eventually, after dinner I put on some Quawalli and yes it is a treat. Unlike western classical music which I have rarely listened to live, I have grown up with sufi quawwali, having heard it live from my childhood. The Onyx brings the performance to life, it is close to a physical presence in the room. The singers, three of them are easily distinguished, but more than that the DAC brings out the atmosphere and informality of what seems like a live concert. I have heard this same CD with the Ayon many a time, and while the details are all there in the Ayon, I felt that the Onyx provided a more involving presentation of both the rhythmic drive and the communication between performers. There was simply more atmosphere or immediacy with the Onyx.

There are DAC’s a plenty these days. I have the entry level topping D30 for instance which measures well and is very detailed, and it costs a fraction of the Onyx. The Onyx is not the king of detail, the details are all there for sure, but that is not what the DAC is about. I would say this is a DAC which can communicate less tangible aspects like atmosphere or even ‘mood’. There is also a considerable sense of body to the instruments and voices which makes for a more physical sound. It is not a DAC if you want to make out every little sound, there are others which do it better, this one has a gestalt kind of presentation. It is never harsh, although some might say ‘an attenuated upper range’. Oh yes the bass is excellent, subtle and dry. I don’t know what a neutral sound could be, and I have long stopped looking for it. Once upon a time – in my audio youth- I bought my first amp the Cyrus One instead of the Musical fidelity A1 because I thought the Cyrus was more neutral. Stupid me! the A1 was an infinitely superior piece of kit. To use a familiar analogy from times when photographs were printed, the sound quality of the Onyx is like a photo on ‘matte paper’ not on ‘glossy finish’. I know which one I prefer.

Who is it for? First let us exclude: I doubt very much if someone just entering hi fi should go for the Onxy. It is for a more matured taste. To put it crudely, not worth it with anything below a Re. 3 lakh set up. Second, this is probably not for those with really big pockets. The Onys is for people who have been upgrading with their hard earned and limited money for some years now and know what they are looking for at a budget which is still high but may be not impossibly so. In my case the Ayon is still a very good DAC with variable control, so I may or may not go for the Onyx. But if you do have a CD player/ DAC in the one lakh range then the Onyx is worth listening to as a possible upgrade.

Thanks for reading.
 
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mpw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2009
Messages
3,472
Points
113
Location
Mumbai
Hi

Did u use the Onyx as a dac from the cdp coaxial output ?

Sorry.. I could not infer.

Regards
 

Spinning

Member
Joined
Sep 2, 2018
Messages
18
Points
13
Location
Netherlands
Dear Soundbuff, first of all thank you very much for this wonderful insight on your experience with the Onyx. When you wrote that you were listening to Wynton Marsalis I felt like responding to your review.

Several jazz artists who have been working with Wynton, like Willy Jones III, Eric Reed and the late Roy Hargrove are/were loyal clients of Metrum Acoustics! Roy Hargrove who recently passed away used his onyx all the time, so we lost not only a great artist but also a wonderful client!

To me when listening to jazz, and especially wynton and Roy, brings a extra layer of joy to my listening sessions and I sincerely hope you will continue to have that smile on your face when enjoying our dac now you know this story!

Thank you sir for this story and welcome to the Metrum Acoustics family! Many have gone before you and many will follow you, so please enjoy this experience day in and out and if there is anything please Do not hesitate to contact us,

Thank you, Anjo
 

mpw

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 28, 2009
Messages
3,472
Points
113
Location
Mumbai
Many have gone before you and many will follow you, so please enjoy this experience day in and out and if there is anything please Do not hesitate to contact us,

Thank you, Anjo
Story of life..

Good one..

Regards
 

audiocrazy

Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2019
Messages
55
Points
8
Location
India
Time with the Metrum Onyx

It’s been a little over two days since I have had the Metrum Onyx plugged into my music system, and as I listened to Nusrat Fateh Ali punching his not inconsiderable weight, I must confess that it’s been a while since I had such an extended listening session. Thanks to Sundar, Metrum’s India Rep in Bangalore, I had with me the Onyx for a few days of listening in my own set up. My listening area, which is a study cum ‘audio room’ of about 15X10 ft. opens onto a terrace with large doors. It is moderately damped with curtains and books and a mix of hard and soft furniture. The speakers are placed on the short axis, close to the rear wall and fire across to a wall that is lined with books above seating height. I ‘slouch’ about 8 ft. from the speakers. The speakers (Blumenhofer Big Fun 17, 91db) although close to the rear wall have plenty of space on either side. It’s a near-field listening position, but not cramped. The amplifier is the mighty Xindak A600E integrated (60 W Class A) a rare and fabulous beast. The source is the Cambridge CXC transport feeding the DAC. Power conditioner is from Xindak. My usual player is the Ayon 1sc, which has been my reference for the past five years or so.

To begin at the beginning then, it was almost 10.00 at night by the time I got home with my little bundle and was rather tired. Inevitably of course I could not resist the temptation of just hooking it up and listening for a ‘few seconds’ before going to bed. Well that was not to be, even though pretty beat I was up till past midnight listening to some jazz standards. First I played Earl Hines, the pianist, which is lovely musically, but an old recording, then put on some Wynton Marsalis (Trumpet), and ended the night with Coleman Hawkins on the sax. Since it was late in the night I obviously had to play everything quite softly, but even at low volumes (the advantage of combining high power and medium sensitivity?) I could make out the character of the DAC. Yes, the Onyx DAC indeed has a signature, it is clearly in the romantic mode of interpretation. I would not call it lush, it is rather a restrained and mature kind of romantic offering. A little bit like me if I might so say!

The next day was an indulgence, such as I can rarely find myself giving in to: a whole day spent listening to music. I thought I would play some jazz, but that didn’t feel right in the morning and so I said to myself ‘let’s get classical’. As I ate my breakfast I put on some Mozart String quartets. The dining is downstairs and the music room above it, so this was background music for the most part. I did not listen to the Mozart very actively, but it generally sounded quite all right, truth is I am not all that familiar with Mozart and it is Hayden that I listen to more often. So having settled in my slouching chair with some coffee, I took one disc from my Hayden symphony sets and put it on randomly. Now I cannot pretend to know all of Hayden’s symphonies, but there are quite a few I know well, in terms of the music, the performance and the sound recording quality. I liked what I heard, but perhaps it was ‘I’ that had not yet warmed up, for I did not find the performance of the Onyx remarkable. ‘Sure I can live with this DAC’ is what I was thinking, but would I ditch the Ayon, not so sure….

If somebody asks me who is my favourite composer? That can only be Brahms. My first choice in a listening session is usually Brahms. I picked Symphony no 3, which is not in fact my favourite, (those are are nos. 2 and 4), but then it is Brahms and nothing else need be said. Whereas Haydn has great rhythm and surprise there is little drama. In Brahms there is great drama, always of course within the bounds of a ‘dignified grayscale’, but it is there, and the Onxy communicates that drama very well. There is also the spatial side of a Brahms performance, it is big, and the Onyx conveys that sense of scale as well. I said to myself ‘this is very good DAC’, I like it. After Brahms, I thought I would throw some melodrama at the Onxy, so out came Mahler no 2, I have the old Klemperer performance which is in mono I think. It is not a great recording, but it is an electric performance. Mahler through the Onyx is a thrilling listen, more so than it is with the Ayon, although I hesitate to say this outright, because after five years one’s own Kit becomes ‘dal roti’. Any how the climaxes were fabulous, the diminuendo clear and you did not need to peer hard. There is an overall composure in presenting a ballistic piece of work, but which does not undermine or tone down its visceral dynamics. I haven’t enjoyed Mahler so much in a long time. I have often wondered why, over the last few years I listen to Mahler less and less frequently. Could it be the equipment, or is it that I no longer care for such extravagance? I can actually see myself listening to more Mahler with the Onyx.

Opera is not really my cup of tea, and one composer whom I have never warmed up to is Wagner, so I said, ‘what the hell’, lets listen to some Wagner. I rarely listen to Wagner, but when I do I listen loudly and usually potter about doing something else, like its ‘background rap’. So I put on Solti (I bought the full set with my meagre student money some 30 years ago) at full blast (actually only 10 O Clock position) and went down to make myself some more coffee. Came back, Segfried was still hollering away, and I manfully sat and heard it out. No this DAC will NOT get you to like music you don’t enjoy!

So much for that: ‘How can a listening session not have Beethoven?’ I thought, and having said ‘no’ to the fifth, sixth and ninth I settled for the eight, again by Solti and the Chicago Phil. The problem with Beethoven, for perhaps everyone, is the number of times one has heard him, in my case from when I was 13. It was nice listening, the eight is a delightful pieces, but I wasn’t paying attention and Beethoven is no longer high on my listening fervour these days. Then, since this is Bangalore, the electricity went. My system does not play from the back up.

About an hour and a bit, the line comes back. For warming up I play some Stravinsky, who again is not really a big favourite of mine. I thought I will play Shostakovich whom I love, and Bruckner whom I simply worship, once everything is warmed up. The Rite of Spring is an obviously challenging piece for reproduction, but I find it to be a very studied and even though intense it is sort of clinical and distant. The Rite is a piece which I personally don’t find very enjoyable, I would rather listen to Mingus if ‘funky’ is what I am looking for… {Idiot Alert! These are pure and simply my illiterate rantings, nonsense for the musically better learned} Anyhow, contrary to what I said at the beginning, the Onyx did full justice to the speed, attack, complex instrumentation and tonal intermixing that give the piece its reputation. The Onyx ‘interpretation’ is neither, soft or laid back in any way. Those who like the Spring will not have anything possibly to complain.

After Stravinsky, I put on Bernstein’s version of Shostakovich’s fifth. The fifth is easily the most accessible of Shostakovich symphonies, not for nothing is it called the romantic. While the fifth has a lot of drama (but not as bombastic as the tenth), it is also introspective, and even though melancholic, it is not gut wrenchingly morbid. In my view the Onyx is completely at home with both the power and glory of the Fifth, as well as in communicating its thoughtful passages. I would say it did an excellent job of keeping me involved. Then once more the electricity went kaput.

Evening walk with Ginger (the beloved’s ‘beloved dog’), dutifully accomplished, I returned to find that the electricity was back, switch everything on and put on some jazz piano assorted to warm up, think I will listen to Mingus once that is done. Get caught in other stuff and the Mingus gets forgotten. Eventually, after dinner I put on some Quawalli and yes it is a treat. Unlike western classical music which I have rarely listened to live, I have grown up with sufi quawwali, having heard it live from my childhood. The Onyx brings the performance to life, it is close to a physical presence in the room. The singers, three of them are easily distinguished, but more than that the DAC brings out the atmosphere and informality of what seems like a live concert. I have heard this same CD with the Ayon many a time, and while the details are all there in the Ayon, I felt that the Onyx provided a more involving presentation of both the rhythmic drive and the communication between performers. There was simply more atmosphere or immediacy with the Onyx.

There are DAC’s a plenty these days. I have the entry level topping D30 for instance which measures well and is very detailed, and it costs a fraction of the Onyx. The Onyx is not the king of detail, the details are all there for sure, but that is not what the DAC is about. I would say this is a DAC which can communicate less tangible aspects like atmosphere or even ‘mood’. There is also a considerable sense of body to the instruments and voices which makes for a more physical sound. It is not a DAC if you want to make out every little sound, there are others which do it better, this one has a gestalt kind of presentation. It is never harsh, although some might say ‘an attenuated upper range’. Oh yes the bass is excellent, subtle and dry. I don’t know what a neutral sound could be, and I have long stopped looking for it. Once upon a time – in my audio youth- I bought my first amp the Cyrus One instead of the Musical fidelity A1 because I thought the Cyrus was more neutral. Stupid me! the A1 was an infinitely superior piece of kit. To use a familiar analogy from times when photographs were printed, the sound quality of the Onyx is like a photo on ‘matte paper’ not on ‘glossy finish’. I know which one I prefer.

Who is it for? First let us exclude: I doubt very much if someone just entering hi fi should go for the Onxy. It is for a more matured taste. To put it crudely, not worth it with anything below a Re. 3 lakh set up. Second, this is probably not for those with really big pockets. The Onys is for people who have been upgrading with their hard earned and limited money for some years now and know what they are looking for at a budget which is still high but may be not impossibly so. In my case the Ayon is still a very good DAC with variable control, so I may or may not go for the Onyx. But if you do have a CD player/ DAC in the one lakh range then the Onyx is worth listening to as a possible upgrade.

Thanks for reading.
Thx for your great review.
 

soundbuff

Active Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2015
Messages
249
Points
28
Location
Bangalore
Thanks folks,
For all the appreciation of my little write up.
Looks like I am in excellent company with the Metrum.
 

Nikhil

Moderator
Staff member
Joined
Dec 8, 2007
Messages
2,423
Points
113
Location
Hyderabad
Soundbuff,

Thanks for putting down a fantastic review. Well crafted and a very enjoyable read!

I noticed that the Onyx has some trickle down tech from the Pavane.
Good to see that Metrum has some quality scaled down offerings at lower budgets.

Regards


.
 
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