After weeks of listening to the Metronome in its full glory, I reinserted the Meitner and discovered one big reservation about the Metronome. While the Meitner sounded ragged, particularly in the highs, it also possessed far more slam and swagger, especially in the bass. The VTL amps simply leaped to attention. On the Keb Mo cut “For What It’s Worth” [Epic Records], for example, the bass was simply much more prodigious with the Meitner. Bloated? Not in my view. It packed a punch that was lacking with the Metronome, and I don’t think it was merely a result of greater distortion. Maybe the tubes in the Metronome DAC were ever so slightly softening the sound or perhaps the voltage output of the Metronome needed to be raised. Don’t get me wrong: The Metronome wasn’t dynamically compressed. It always sounded wide open and exceptionally transparent. But the sense of grip, power, and explosiveness delivered by the Meitner was greater.
Ultimately, I suspect that this is an issue of voicing and personal predilection. One friend of mine, who is a Kharma fan, heard the Metronome combo and was so agog at the sound that he could barely tear himself away from listening to it; another was less than overwhelmed. My own take is that the Metronome designers were aiming to produce the subtlest, most musical, and refined player possible. They did. But the Metronome also underscores the importance of, at a minimum, extensively auditioning the player and, if possible, of trying it out in your own system. The better equipment becomes, the more individualistic its sound becomes. You’re not just buying a hunk of metal, but someone’s vision of what music is supposed to sound like. Made for the connoisseur who has a large collection of CDs and insists on ultimate performance, the Metronome sounds ravishing. Other great CD players are out there with more bang and pop, but I’d be pretty surprised if any approach the beautifully blissful sound of the Metronome Kalista.