If you happen to decide a product purely on its specs, you’re more likely to swipe left and dismiss the Metrum Acoustics Flint at first look. This digital-to-analogue converter lacks a USB enter and is suitable with 16-bit PCM recordsdata at finest (although curiously a sampling fee of 192kHz remains to be acceptable).
It has been a couple of years since we final reviewed a home quantity cruncher at this value that’s so restricted. But, we will’t assist however just like the Flint.
Whereas most DACs are completely satisfied to make use of off-the-shelf Delta-Sigma chips from the likes of ESS Sabre or AKM and add loads of extra processing within the type of oversampling and digital filtering, Metrum has gone down a special route.
The Flint, as with the Dutch model’s different designs, makes use of multi-bit resistor ladder (R2R) DAC circuitry with no oversampling and only a easy first-order analogue filter working at round 70kHz to keep away from any points with amplification.
Metrum Acoustics Flint tech specs
Outputs 2x RCA (stereo)
Inputs Optical, coaxial
Frequency response 1Hz – 65kHz
Dimensions (hwd) 12 x 12 x 3.5cm
Metrum claims that using a real multi-bit DAC and the shortage of extra processing end in improved timing and section behaviour over the business’s regular digital design method. We’ve heard arguments for each methods, however the proof, as at all times, is within the listening.
The Flint is restricted with regards to connectivity. You’ve got a selection of coaxial and optical inputs, with the latter restricted to 16-bit/96kHz. That is definitely one thing to concentrate on in case your music assortment is filled with hi-res 24-bit PCM or DSD recordsdata.
There’s no indication of the bit depth or sampling frequency of the incoming digital sign, which is a disgrace, although comprehensible given that it’ll invariably be a 16-bit/44.1kHz (CD-quality) stream getting used.
Construct high quality is nice, although. It is a compact and properly made metal-cased unit that feels strong within the hand. Have a look inside and it’s onerous to not be impressed by the neat circuit format whereas noting the twin proprietary ‘Transient’ digital modules.
Metrum sees the Flint getting used as an improve to an older CD participant or a manner to enhance the sound of, say, a Sonos supply, and on this context the connectivity and file limitations don’t matter.
If you happen to want 24-bit compatibility, you may go for the Flint DAC Two mannequin, which comes with a £180 ($244, AU$314) premium over the Flint we now have on take a look at right here however, disappointingly, nonetheless doesn’t provide a USB choice.
We use a variety of digital sources with the Metrum, from the Marantz CD6007 and Cyrus CDi CD gamers to our reference Naim ND555/555 PS DR music streamer. Amplification is offered by our regular Burmester 088/911 Mk3 pre/energy mixture, however we additionally swap in a Cambridge Audio CXA81 built-in to see how the Flint operates with one thing extra value suitable. As for audio system, we go along with the ATC SCM 50 and extra inexpensive however nonetheless wonderful KEF LS50 Meta.
Whereas it’s admirable that Metrum has chosen an unconventional design path, that doesn’t depend for a lot if the efficiency isn’t good. However we’re glad to report that it’s.
The Flint has an unusually sturdy sonic character. It sounds extra muscular and forthright than any of the conventionally designed opposition we’ve heard. Take heed to Bjork’s Vulnicura set and the Metrum sounds proper at residence, delivering the music with verve and punch. There’s strong kick at low frequencies, coupled to a very good provide of agility and articulation.
Bjork comes by with readability and the power in her voice is communicated nicely, even when we’d like a bit of extra in the best way of texture and nuance. General, there’s nonetheless a very good degree of perception and that info is offered in an organised and composed manner.
This DAC is surefooted with regards to rhythms and has a tremendous sense of drive. It has the power to trace low-level instrumental strands even when the music turns into busy.
We change to Mahler’s Symphony No.2 and the Metrum responds with enthusiasm. It delivers the music’s sense of energy and authority in an easy method, rendering large-scale dynamic sweeps with conviction. The general impact is to make a lot of the equally priced alternate options sound a bit of smooth and tentative.
Stereo imaging is properly targeted and layered, with devices locked into place even when the music turns into demanding. The soundstage isn’t notably spacious or expansive, nevertheless it stays acceptable at this value.
However for all of the Flint’s sonic expertise, it’s a little in need of subtlety. We play Discovered Songs by Ólafur Arnalds and the Metrum tends to miss dynamic nuances for one thing meatier. This impacts its capacity to speak the calm however barely lamenting temper of this album.
We’d like a greater efficiency at greater frequencies; because it stands, these are a bit of closed in and lack each texture and chew. Slightly extra sonic refinement could be good, too.
Whereas the category chief at this degree, the Chord Mojo, is designed as a transportable system, it can be utilized in home environment given applicable cabling – you’ll want a coax to three.5mm to get a digital electrical sign from a typical CD participant, for instance, although a typical optical cable will work – and for most individuals will probably be the higher purchase. It has higher connectivity and wider file compatibility, in addition to a extra rounded efficiency.
That mentioned, there’s one thing concerning the Flint’s no-nonsense method to music-making that appeals to us tremendously. And for that purpose, we definitely suppose it’s price an audition.
Learn our information to the best DACs
Learn our Chord Mojo review