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Metrum Pavane

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by goobicii, May 14, 2015.
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  1. Thenewguy007

    This is a similar conclusion I came with with my SFD2 DAC when i compared it to the Gumby. I never even remotely considered the Gumby as having recessed mids, until I got a higher end DAC. Then it was very noticeable.
  2. Energy
    I'm so sorry to hear that your Pavane sounds bright. When mine came in it was a little pitchy in the high frequencies, but once the components warmed up everything went away. Comparing to a delta-sigma DAC I own, the X-Sabre (ES9018), it sounds a couple rows closer and 4-5 shades darker. Sound wise, it's on a completely different league
    I'd say the Pavane is a hair below Neutral which I prefer. 
    I'll post impressions soon. As far as I could tell as of now is that I'm selling off my Yggdrasil & Holo Audio Spring FOR SURE. The Yggdrasil is a little too clinical compared to the Pavane and a tad brighter. The best thing about the Pavane is it's entire bass frequency, mid rage, instrument timbre, decay, and godly separation. When it calls for speed, it's lightning quick. When slowness is required, it'll a snail. It's high's roll off at the right point in which makes it sound incredibly analog. No sibilance or etch anywhere in the entire frequency range. The Holo Audio Spring comes close, but the Pavane just sounds better on every category.. The sound stage of the Pavane is also wider and has more depth. A big concern I've always have with DAC is how well it renders female vocal, and listening to Tove Lo on this thing sounds like I rie-visted her concert just late last year. It's the closest thing to vinyl I've ever heard. Period.
    My board came with the transient modules flying all over the place inside of the unit. The FPGA came loose too as well as one of the toroidal transformers. I don't blame the seller as there should be other forms of mounting tool that further keeps them into place. Everything was cleaned up and reattached. I went further as to tighten the mounting screws for the AC wires on each connection as well as shorting the ribbon cables leading to the two differential mono motherboards.
    Original ribbon cable length:
    Shorting the length:
    Shortening the front panel input ribbon cable: (closed cell foam was put under the cable to space it away from the transformer's magnetic field)
    Making sure the FPGA is well fastened:
    Testing with the Singxer-SU1 with AES/EBU and S/PDIF:
    I wish they had better quality RCA and BNC connectors on them. Plugging in my RCA cable showed that it was incredible loose, perhaps below standard size. I also wish it was surface mounted instead so there's no need for wrong impedance matched wires.. There's plenty of room in the back. I wonder why they didn't. 
    Thenewguy007 likes this.
  3. Energy
    I have done some reading lately regarding the DAC TWO modules implemented in the Metrum Acoustics Adagio. It is suppose to have twice as many R2R Ladders converters inside so I'm guessing two 16 bit ladders versus one 16 bit of the Pavane. The DAC TWO modules (compared to DAC ONE) has an FPGA built in for a shorter signal path. It's a proven advantage when the distance between FPGA and conversion is kept as short as possible to optimize signal fidelity. Not only is this able to achieve slightly lower signal to noise ratio as well as total harmonic distortion, but it also doubling the number of converter is known to improve sonic behavior.

    I've asked Cees Ruijtenberg and this seems to be the cost of upgrading the level 1 Pavane (stock) to level 2 and level 3.


    I personally will upgrade to the level 2 as most of my PCM files are 16/44.1kHz or 24/192kHz unless there is a significant difference between the DAC TWO "broadcast" module versus the "high end" module. I'm not sure if every unit is matched together for the highest possible performance or if that is just something provided for level 3.

    One of the disappointing things of switching over to the Metrum Pavane from the Holo Audio Spring is that I was no longer able to use the I2S output from my digital to digital converter, however Cees Ruijtenberg tells me I2S input is available for the Pavane in sacrifice of the USB input. I will be doing this one for sure. Bypassing the input receiver will improve measured jitter performance and in my opinion is of some worth.


    According to Cees, the I2S that's available from Metrum Acoustics uses the RJ45 connector which as some of you know is another standard for I2S. The standard given by PS Audio is using the HDMI port. There are quite a lot of standards but to make this work, I must DIY a HDMI to RJ45 cable using the following configuration provided by the image above.. On the bright side I'm a cable manufacturer, but even this is a slightly arduous task for me. Will report back.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
    sensui123 and Spamateur like this.
  4. sensui123
    That is cool and something I might think about.....but quite honestly I'm reluctant to send my Pavane back to Cees for the conversion....bit gunshy since my 1st Pavane came with god knows what rolling around inside (doesn't power on) and had to send back to replace.  The DAC sounds so damn good right now with everything I've thrown @ it so I feel little need to 'upgrade" at risks of messing with a sound as complete and musical as the Pavane.  Did they recently start upgrading the Adagio or something?  When the Adagio first rolled out my understanding from Cees was that it's essentially the same DAC as the Pavane but with implementations for a true analog volume knob.....I personally have no need for that but just curious if something has changed along the way.  
  5. Energy
    I think the upgrade is worthwhile, but only to people who has very expensive speakers and well laid out environment should one be able to hear a subtle improvement.
    Unfortunately my speakers are only in the $1000-2000 range so it wouldn't make sense for me to upgrade at this time period. For those who have excellent setups may hear a 5% improvement, I may only hear 2%. It already doesn't make sense that I'm using a $5000 DAC for studio monitors to be honest..
    I too thought the Adagio was just the Pavane, but with a well implemented volume knob that controlled the voltage for the R2R ladder, making it one of the few preamps that won't affect the signal integrity when compared to other traditional preamps. However it seems he's also removed the stock FPGA and incorporated FPGA's in the DAC TWO modules. Eight 24 bit modules each with a built in FPGA versus Eight 16 bit sharing one single FPGA board. it's suppose to shorten the signal path and improve conversion. Since it's the low level signals that usually affect linearity and noise, I'm guessing the improve distance and increased bits helps to produce a cleaner sound, but again, my guess is it's not much better than the Pavane, unless perhaps if one has more 24 bit files. I do not however.. Most of mine at 16 bit/44.1kHz
    I'd upgrade my RCA/BNC connectors as well as incorporating the I2S board before I switch over to the DAC TWO modules (level 2 upgrade). $800-1000 is a steep price to pay for a slight improvement. But when you're squeezing the last couple percentage and have the money, it becomes justifiable for some.
    sensui123 likes this.
  6. astrostar59

    TBH with the MQA launch on Tidal and the potential extra SQ gains of retro fitting MQA in DAC processing I would wait. You can still play MQA unpacked as a 24/96k PCM, but to gain the full advantages it needs the 2nd and third processes done in the DAC.
    I was considering going for a new DAC with DSD but will sit now. MQA may kill all the other formats dead if the sound is as good as early reports and avoid the insane storage issues / cost of HD tracks. Plus it may surpass PCM upsampled to DSD which was my first idea.
  7. Energy
    Modified my Pavane to give it more of a Darth Vader feel.
    The small white accents goes perfectly well.


    The RCA connectors on the Pavane is incredibly loose. I've never had a DAC that had this issue before. It plugs in without any force and slides off with me slightly pulling with my pinky finger.. I will be replacing it with a rhodium plated (Rh) one on the next update. Mainly doing this so my cables won't fall out. But who knows. Maybe the improve material (tellurium copper > brass) and upgraded wire will open the sound up a little. One can only hope.

    When I first received my Pavane, the input i used was coaxial RCA. After opening my unit and noticing that both the BNC and RCA is connected to the mainboard by a wire, i feared impedance match could become a problem and that could induce jitter. Shortly after I switched over to AES/EBU and to my ears, it was much better.

    For a long time coming I've had this dream of hearing music as close to being real as possible though a digital source which, before the Pavane, lead me to the Holo Audio Spring. The Spring was a great piece of equipment that offered R2R ladder technology as well as the removal of filter hardware giving it the ability to do NOS (no-oversampling). To my surprise, It went above and beyond by offering I2S! For me that checked all three boxes.

    I2S + R2R Ladder + NOS

    For me, these three provide the best possible transmission, conversion, and playback. This lead to impeccable realism in sound quality. Totally rid of digital artifacts.

    After owning this device for a few months, I soon stumbled upon what I now own, the Metrum Pavane. To my surprise, it sounded better than the Holo Audio Spring even though it did not offer the I2S input. I instantly bought it and made haste of my Spring. Goodbye Spring. Maybe I'll see you again next year.

    As an audiophile among many others, I began to have this itch. Cream didn't help. I wanted what the Spring offered but the Pavane couldn't do. I wanted to see if what already sounded lifelike, could get any better. I wanted to push the envelope of what I thought was best. I wanted.. I2S.

    As an owner of the Singxer SU-1, I wanted to make most of my transport AND source. Using the AES/EBU connection on it just didn't satisfy me. Seeing the HDMI connector open to the world didn't let me sleep soundly at night. In that moment I hated the audiophile hobby. Wanting something that can't be done, yet open to knowing how good it would feel if that need was satisfied. I jumped the gun...

    The next day I contacted Metrum Acoustics and to my surprise, they had an I2S input board available. Downfall? It had to sacrifice the USB board. Even more of a downfall? It didn't have the HDMI connector, but an RJ45 Ethernet port. Cool beans... Just what I needed... NOT.

    Being the cable maker that I am, I just went with it. Waited patiently I told myself that once I get it in, I'll just make an HDMI to RJ45 cable even if it means sacrificing the balanced connection available through HDMI transmission. I made the order and waited.. Each day wondering how better it would sound than AES/EBU.. After days of wondering and contemplating, I broke down. Single ended RJ45 I2S just isn't good enough for me.

    The HDMI connection for I2S internal protocol is superior as it offers a balanced way to transmit data thus less susceptible to interruptions. The RJ45 connection can do it too. Empirical Audio for example does it well. This just isn't the case with Metrum Acoustics however, as it shares a common ground. I've made a request to Metrum Acoustics to see if they can offer independent grounds so I can still utilize balanced even with the RJ45 connector but to no avail. If that couldn't be done, at least offer it in HDMI single ended i told him, but that wasn't possible either as the default USB hole is too small to fit the HDMI connector and he didn't want to make a new input board.

    I don't have too much knowledge with audio circuitry, but I decided to contact Kingwa over at Audio-GD. He offered me an I2S input board with HDMI!


    The deal was that I had to pop out the USB Input board and analyze the circuit for him. Below the board I found a Texas Instruments ISO7640FM digital isolator that controlled the input and outputs. I checked the technical datasheets and found it to be fairly simple.


    Below is the created circuit diagram for the new I2S transmission.


    I didn't want to solder wires directly to the ISO7640FM SOIC chip, so I used a multi-meter and did a continuity check on the nearby header pins that was coming out from the main board (near the chip). To my luck, these header pins connected directly to the SOIC chip's input side. I decided to use these headers with the HDMI input module as it was more convenient and required no soldering.


    Turns out MCLK (masterclock) is not connected to Pin 6 (INPUT D) on the SOIC. Instead, it's connected to ground and isn't used on any of the headers either. I've contacted Metrum Acoustics and the designer, Cees Ruijtenberg says it's not used in their design. Great! One less to worry about.

    In I2S internal protocol, these are the 3 main bits (in bold) that are transferred over. Depending on design, the MCLK isn't always needed.

    1. DATA (Serial Data) - also known as SDATA
    2. LRCLK (L/R Clock, Word Clock, or Frame Clock) - also known as LRCK, WCLK, or WCK.
    3. BCLK (Bit Clock or Serial Clock) - also known as BCK, SCLK, or SCK.
    4. MCLK (Master Clock) - also known as MCK

    1. Pin 1 = Ground
    2. Pin 2 = NC (No Connection)
    3. Pin 3 = Ground
    4. Pin 4 = BCLK (BCK) / SCLK (SCK)
    5. Pin 5 = Ground
    6. Pin 6 = LRCLK (LRCK) / WCLK (WCK)
    7. Pin 7 = Ground
    8. Pin 8 = SDATA / DATA
    I'll need to find a way to mount the HDMI Module. I plan on using the default USB hole so no additional cutting is required. Mounting it there would be optimal as the I2S wires will be as short as possible being right above the digital isolator. Whether or not the default hole size is sufficient, we'll find out.

    Kingwa offered to make me a matching cable (female dupont) that connects perfectly from the input module to the header pins. All that's needed is to just plug in and play. Normally I would accept, however in the case of I2S, I wanted to do it myself to shorten the length as much as possible to minimize jitter. A pre-made cable doesn't achieve that. And because of how close the input module will be to the SOIC chip, a pre-made cable might not be able to fit. The cable's flexibility also becomes a concern.

    Since the HDMI cable I will be using to connect to the Metrum Pavane is a Apollo AV Lightning V2, the wiring will be of the same material.
    - 26 GAUGE

    The connector used to connect to the header pins will be Dupont Female Pin Connector (2.54mm).




    I received the HDMI i2S Module from Audio-GD. After plugging everything in correctly, there was still no sound coming from USB input (now i2S). I checked the voltages and realized the digital isolator chip that was suppose to output VDD1 +3.3V (pin 1) for the module to work, did not output 3.3V, but 5.47V instead.

    Kingwa said that the chip will work anywhere from 3-3.6V and so I stacked two large 1.5V batteries in series which gave me 3.2V. It still did not work. Being confused, I took a look at the RJ45 module sold by Metrum Acoustics and noticed that the signal wires in which connected to the digital isolator were different than the diagraphm that I had found online. I realized that LRCK and BCK needed to be switched with one another so I went to the i2S module and resoldered them opposite, then Bam! There was music! (I updated the original diagram so there isn't any confusion)


    When it comes down to inputs and their sound quality, i find AES/EBU and Coaxial to sound nearly identical. AES being the better performer at longer lengths as it suffers less from jitter due to its balanced design which removes common mode noise. At longer runs they start to differentiate themselves but only by 2-3% at most. The AES connection has a slightly blacker background, more stage depth, better instrument timbre and decay, and the imaging was a bit more stable when compared to S/PDIF. This only becomes apparent when using a cable longer than 2-3 meters. At short 0.5-1M, they sound very much the same. I's have to have longer than a 30 minute listening session to spot the difference and with the right songs too.

    And last but not least, THANK YOU Metrum Acoustics for the input buttons. I was able to switch from i2S, AES, and S/PDIF in a jippy. I will eliminate S/PDIF from this comparison as it sounds too much like AES to differentiate it as its own category. Immediate I noticed the improved laid back sound. Like how R2R Ladder sounds more detailed but not forced, and how NOS sounds more lifelike and can be compared to vinyl, the i2S connection took the benefits gained from those two things, and added another 10% above it. What's amazing was that the sound stage widen up by a good 10%. It was also deeper (taller) as well by 8%. Before the sounds I heard through AES was extremely natural, but after switching to i2S, i instantly found it to be heavy and not as musical. I had a badly implemented SABRE chip DAC at one point in time and to me that sounded bright, sharp, ringy treble, digital, bleached, and artificial. When I bought the Metrum Pavane, I found all those things gone. I really thought there wasn't any way sound could get anymore musical or realistic, but listening through i2S, it became apparent. The treble is now more natural and thus less fatiguing. High pitch vocals like Sam Smith no longer hurts to listen to. It comes out effortlessly and doesn't pierce the ear canal. It becomes more apparent on electronics genre's such as EDM in which the DJ's adds some digitalization to vocals, especially female vocals, but through i2S it's no longer filled with digital glare of a "zzzzzz" sound. The imaging of every vocal and instrument is so precise that there's no Second guessing from the ears or brain receptors.The bass along with all other instrument timbre's were less thumpy. It was like a weight or veil has been lifted. The best way I can put it is like going into a small venue and hearing a band sing and play music. Sometimes the music is recorded through a microphone, amplified, and projected onto the crowd. The problem is that the microphone has its own tone to it. A hollow sounding response as it picks up sound at a single direct point. The thing about i2S is it makes all this go away! It sounds like a live performance, very audible, but without a microphone-ish tonality to it. Like a well mastered recording. There's just so much precision, realism, and air.

    For a long time, I didn't think digititus affected bass, midrange, or instrument timbre by much. I just assumed that it simply took away some clarity and made treble sound sharper than it should. Boy was I wrong. Once you improve on a transmission and remove extra digital transmitters and receivers, you get a sound that is better throughout the frequencies and more true in tonality to how it SHOULD sound.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
    Articnoise and ToroFiestaSol like this.
  8. ToroFiestaSol
    @Energy Hey buddy, I just have a dumb question, could you fit the Audio GD I2S card inside the Pavane? I mean, not like in the last picture, where the card is above the normal height, could you put the top plate of the Pavane? (Sorry if I can't explain better, my english is limited)
    I'll buy an Adagio soon and would like to take advantage of what you did, "balanced" I2S
  9. Energy
    Yes, the Audio-gd I2S was able to sit right above the digital isolator and use the default USB hole!

    I will show you photos I took during the project.
    ToroFiestaSol likes this.
  10. ToroFiestaSol
    Thank you very much!
    Hope to see the photos, it's a very interesting project
  11. Energy

    Here's a quick photo.
    It's mounted to the existing USB Hole.

    The bottom right resistor on the board is a 150 ohm (1/8W). It drops the digital isolator's 5.5V to 3.3V for the I2S board to work. I had to solder on the hex screws myself to the PCB so that it could be mounted to the chassis. The existing USB hole is too small for the female HDMI connector to come out but has adequate room for the male HDMI connector to enter.
    Last edited: May 1, 2017
    atsq17 and ToroFiestaSol like this.
  12. ToroFiestaSol
    Wow, that's incredible!
    Unfortunately, I don't know how to solder, proabably I'll have to find someone to solder it for me.
    My plan is to buy a KGSSHV Carbon without volume control and use the Adagio as preamp and DAC, with a Pink Faun I2S bridge (which is made for the Audio GD I2S HDMI boards) and take full advantage of my Stax SR-007...damn, end-game rig is costly and complex as hell haha
    Energy likes this.
  13. Energy
    I can help you but only to a certain degree. Without the actual Adagio in my hand I cannot mount the I2S board in for you. All I can do is show you the steps and procedures.

    You also have to use a multimeter and test to see if the digital isolator is giving you 5.5V (mine was 5.47V) or a another value. Even though the Adagio and Pavane are similar in majority, small differences can still change the value of things.. This voltage value can be found by touching pin 1 (VDD1 +3.3V) on the digital isolator chip and any one of the ground header pins (1, 3, 5, 7).


    1. The board came like this. To mount it you need to solder to a hex standoff (M3 spacer) to the board. I recommend getting one made of brass. The one I had was aluminum so I had to cut multiple groves on the side of it then wrap it with some strands of silver plated wires. It was a pain in the ass.

    2. Audio-gd I2S Board

    3. Use an exacto blade and accurately cut the PCB circuit trace as shown in the photo below. This makes mounting the resistor that will drop the voltage from 5.5V to 3.3V later on easier.

    4. Testing to see if the HDMI male connector is small enough to fit through the USB hole

    5. Connecting the HDMI male connector to female connector. Make sure there's paper holding up the connected part so that you can level the board.

    6. Using an exacto blade, mark how far the hex will go by scratching a line on the surface.

    7. Solder the Hex Standoff (M3 Spacer) to the Audio-gd I2S board.

    8. Lining up the board while the HDMI cable is plugged in and marking where the holes should be drilled (so it can be mounted).

    9. REDO STEP #8, but instead of mounting the the board inside and HDMI cable outside, have the board outside and the cable inside. Use paper to hold the board up by filling up the bottom section of the input hole. With a lead pencil trace around the hex standoff (M3 spacer) so you know where to drill the hole on the back of the chassis panel. Drill a hole with a drill bit that is smaller than the hex standoff but big enough for the M3 screw to go through.

    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
  14. ToroFiestaSol
    First of all, million thanks for such a detailed and useful response, would give you 100 likes if I could.

    The mod looks way more complicated than I tought, definetely not something I could do without burning my entire house on fire or something like that (yes, I'm that retarded with that kind of things, took me 3 attempts to do the port mod correctly to my 007a, so go figure).
    Will try to find someone to do it for me or maybe stick with the RJ45 card that Metrum provides, I don't know, time will tell.

    Thanks for the Pink Faun info, I have the Singxer SU-1 but wanted the Pink Faun card to have everything on my NAS and no additional boxes...I'll have to search a bit more

    Thanks for everything mate!
  15. TonyNewman
    On Thursday I left Club Yggdrasil for Club Pavane. No regrets at all so far. What a great sounding DAC. Not completely at its best after only 2 days of running 24/7, but already I am getting a sense of engagement with the music that I really struggled for with the Yggdrasil - technically excellent, but too cold and neutral for my tastes. The Pavane injects some warmth and musicality, but doesn't seem to give up any technical ground to the Yggdrasil in doing it.

    My DAC journey has been long and expensive: Vega -> Hegel HD30 -> Bricasti M1 ->Yggy -> Pavane. I think the Pavane might the end of the road for me.
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