I had an Eastern Electric DAC with op amp ugrade. I replaced it with the Metrum Octave and haven't looked back. I found it detailed but less fatiguing to my ears.
94 responses Add your response
Thanks for the responses, frankly, I thought I'd get at least several more folks here who have direct comparison. Mr. Tennis, I am tube biased as well, pun intended, and have swapped out a number of 12au7s since I purchased the unit. These include: Mullard, RCA Clear Tops and more...I settled on Shuguang Black Treasure. Very nice indeed. I also installed upgraded fuse. I like it very much, the EE is a stellar performer stock, with these minor changes; but I am curios about th Metrum, it appears from the threads I've read so far on the A'gon to have a type of sound I "might" enjoy even more than my current set up.
as audio is a subjective hobby, your point is well taken. although you have achieved good performance from the minimax, you think that , perhaps, somewhat more reolution , perhaps, would be preferred.
is it possible that you could achieve what you feel is lacking in the minimax, by trying a different tube.
for example, i have found that a 12au7 or 12at7 yellow label brimar works best.
in addition, there are other brands and vintages, you have not auditioned.
if i were in your position, i would experiment with tubes and/or interconnects or digital cables, before i replaced the dac.
once you own the metrum, you lose the affect of tube changes upon the sound of your stereo system.
Your 2Cents is highly valued. So, the Dexa Discrete Op amp is the ticket to a more analogue sound, more warmth, more body to the sound? How much in the older volume control unit? Also, I'm in southern GA about 40 minutes north of Jacksonville, FL. How far from here are you? Might be worth a drive to drop it off and get the mod.
I'll be brief since the Olympics are on...
You need the DAC Plus version; forget about the upgrade to the original unless (and ONLY unless) you can't swing the money for the Plus version.
See my Audio Blast articles at Dagogo.com about all things EE DAC and the Plus version, as well as discrete Opamp rolling them.
The experience of the Plus version is drastically better than the original. If you have the money to do the Plus version the discrete Opamp upgrade on the original would be a mistake. Nuf said. :)
I mistakenly thought Morningstar was located in GA, my bad. Still no meaningful comparison to Metrum. If none, I believe I will buy a Metrum and conduct a shoot out and purchase the upgraded new EE if it wins, since it doesn't appear that any one here has compared side by side.
Thanks to all that replied. I bought the EE based on Doug Schroeder review.
you frequently use the word "better" , without contextual reference.
thus there is no way to assess the connotation of your statements.
better is subjective, and, as i have said, i think that the "right" tube in the original dac may be preferable to the dac plus.
however, what you consider to be "better" may not concide with my conception of the term.
i confess that i may have forgotten what you wrote in the pasr.
i think the answer to the question "what is better", aims to get at the heart of what you consider sonic excellence.
if i understand your frame of reference, e.g., the greatest resolution with a balanced frequency response, as sonic excellence, i will have the answer to my question.
each one of us has a criterion as to the nature of sonic excellence.
it is subjective, of course, since the nature of audio is based upon sense perception.
Sibelius, I believe everyone who states that EE Plus sounds better with the Discrete Op Amps upgraded; but I haven't heard from many members who have heard both DAC and can offer a comparison. In fact, I think only one Metrum owner that also owned an EE has replied. He liked the Metrum better.
I really like the EE, but I guess I will have to spend some money to find out if Metrum is better than an upgraded EE Plus. None of my family or friends own a Metrum to compare. So, I think I'll get the EE upgraded Plus, listen, and see if I can get a Metrum on lone (or 30 day trial) and conduct a shoot out with brothers and friends.
Opinions on this matter (metrum octave vs EE dac) seems to be mixed, but the major consensus is that the metrum octave have more resolution and transparency.
But the guys who liked the octave never made any tweaks on his EE dac.
@mikirob, If you have the chance to make a more detailed comparison it would be great.
I am the guy that had both DACs in my system. I did upgrade the op amps in the original EE DAC. I also tried several different tubes. In the end I preferred the solid state vs. the tube with the op amp upgrade. I have not heard the EE DAC Plus. I was considering the EE DAC Plus before I bought the Metrum but didn't want to go through the hassle of modifying a brand new piece of equipment and thus voiding the warranty to get the best sound. I am very happy with the Metrum Octave.
Even though I found the resolution of the Metrum to be greater than the EE I think it is more analogue sounding at the same time. I find it less fatiguing when listening for longer than a couple of hours. I am playing less vinyl since I installed the Metrum. Of course this is in my system, my room etc.
I really didnt expect to prefer the ss over the tube mode and was surprised that I did. I found the bass to be more controlled without giving up anything in the mid-range. Perhaps the pairing with my tubed preamp was the reason. Again this is what I hear in my system.
Doge 8 tube preamp w/ phono
Wyred4sound SX500 monoblocks
Von Schweikert VR4jr
SoundQuest SQ12 cdp used as transport
Metrum Octave DAC
MMF 7.1 tt w/ Ortofon Bronze
would you consider the possibility that a particular tube could provide more bloom and a more relaxed presentation than the ss mode of the minimax.
i have listened to both modes and have not liked the ss mode at all, even listening to a tube preamp and tube amp, so i am puzzled at your findings.
the very nature of tubes is the presence of less odd order harmonics and more even order harmonics than solid state.
I owned a first gen Minimax which I subsequently had the Bolder Cable Co level 1 modifications done to and while they were great dacs (in both iterations) I *think* I prefer my current Metrum Octave. I know I prefer the Octave to the LampizatOr 3 is replaced and going from memory it has a more natural presentation than the Minimaxs in either iteration. The Minimaxes with the Sabre32 (especially with bolder mods) *may* have been more resolved, but the Metrum just has good flow and is not fatiguing to listen to--especially with high res.
i'll raise the same question again:
is it possible that with the "right" tube, the minimax (original) can sound more relaxed, fuller and richer than the metrum ?
i find it hard to believe that a ss product can be superior to a tubed product with respect to the characteristic classic tube sound.
>>i find it hard to believe that a ss product can be superior to a tubed product with respect to the characteristic classic tube sound.
Mr Tennis, why this kind of comment? Stay happy with tubes (FWIW, I own/owned a lot of tube gear) but please refrain from adding non-contributing entries.
As for the comparison, I own a Metrum Octave and A/Bed this with an MiniMax from a friend and found the Octave more detailed and faster.
I used a 1950s Mullard Longplate in my Minimax, which was an excellent tube. Don't get me wrong the EE DACs were awesome--very competent, but I believe I prefer the Octave. It is a little tough to say due to the fact that I've had a lot of variables to my system change between the two dacs.
That said--discrete tube output or not, I think the sabre32 is intrinsically more analytical then most NOS offerings.
hi d patterson:
i have been thinking about what you said. the fact that i have not heard the metrum octave.
i think however, that you missed my point.
let me put it in another context.
i would say that i would make you a bet. the terms as follows:
i will pick my favorite tube dac, you can pick your favorite ss dac. design a blind test, and i will prefer the tube dac every time.
now let's apply this to the quesrion raised by thread, namely the minimax vs the octave.
what i was trying to say is that i would guarantee i would prefer the minmax, because i could select my favorite tube, perhaps, change some caps and op amps, over the metrum octave.
such a statement is an expression of my preference for tubed devices over solid state based devices, regardless of the component.
thus i would probably subscribe to the adage "solid state is an unpleasant state".
so i will admit my predilection for tubes does not require me to audition a solid state compoent.
there are a few instances where i can enjoy a solid state dac.
for example, i am using a vinvincent cd s6 tube cd player as a transport connected to a ps audio perfect wave dac, linked by an spdif cable. however, i would prefer the original zanden or original lector.
the reason i can live with the aforementioned components is the interconnect from the dac to a tube preamp. i am using fusion audio romance gold stranded cable.
the cable counteracts the objectionable qualities of the dac. you could also say the cable, colors the sound.
this situation does not change my original statement about tubed vs ss components. i have just found a way to overcome the objectionable qualities of solid state.
Mr Tennis, I'm not so sure I agree with your premise that you would pick the tube DAC everytime, especially in a blind test, maybe, maybe not. In any case that would have to be proven to me. I don't find the EE DAC to have a typically characteristic "tube sound" at all although by changing out tubes you can alter its sound, on that I agree.
Having purchased several budget DAC's in the 1K range over the past year and a half, 2 tube and 2 SS, I personally settled for one that is not tube and EVERYONE to a person that has listened to all of them in my system agrees with my preference, overwhelmingly. As my moniker implies I generally prefer tube devices, over SS but I would be going out on a limb to say that this is ALWAYS the case. I haven't heard the Metrum but there seems to be a concensus concerning it and the aspects of NOS over upsampling/oversampling digital devices.
how confident are you:
regarding the three dacs that you recently auditioned, suppose i could pick the stereo system and the tubes, would you bet that i would pick the ss dac that was universally preferred, or would you bet that i would pick a tube dac ?
since you don't know my preferences, i can tell you that i prefer the classic tube sound and no ss dac has it.
We all like what we like,nothing wrong with that. If you prefer the "classic tube sound"(what ever that may be to you) then SS just is`nt going to make you happy, simple as that. I generally prefer tube to SS for amplification(see my system). But when it comes to source that preference does`nt hold under all comparisons.
I selected the Yamamoto DAC SS version and like it as much or more than tubed digital sources I`ve heard.Tubes are`nt 'always better all the time' in all situations.It just depends.
For what it is worth, I have a EE DAC + with NOS (Mullard)tube and Dexa opamps. For my money, the biggest improvement (by far) in regards to sound quality came from swapping out stock opamps to the Dexa's or Bursons. Replacing stock tube to NOS did improve things but not nearly as much as the opamps. I have also spent a lot of time listening to the unit in both SS and tube mode. While I prefer tube mode the difference is much more subtle than I would have expected. Again, the discrete opamps have a much larger influence on sound.
In regards to the OP's question, I have placed an order for a Metrum and will be able to do a direct comparison between it and a Dexa modified EE. While I have generally preferred tube equipment over SS in the past, I consider myself equipment agnostic and will keep the unit I like best. Will post more after I receive the Octave.
I'm not even going to get into the convo of tube vs. ss as there is no definitive answer or empirical evidence one way or another.
Anyway, If we're comparing "modded" units Paul Hynes has a modded Metrum octave using his shunt regulators and an upgraded pulse transformer.
I personally use Shindo (tube) preamp/amp and Metrum Octave (ss) DAC.
I'm considering the Paul Hynes upgrades and a also getting te new Metrum Hex just recently announced.
Mr. Tennis I don't fully understand your question. When you say pick do you mean prefer? I have no clue as to which you might prefer, I can only say what other listeners prefer in my system. So far as "classic tube sound" ala your preferred Conrad Johnson MV 125 amp, the Minimax Plus is in no way reminicent of that type of sound, actually it doesn't have a tube sound at all to my ears. This is neither good or bad. It is a fine DAC, just not the most preferable is all. The tonal balance in stock form does not meld ideally with my system even using different tubes and I've tried them all. I agree with what Charles stated, my preference for tubes generally lies in amps and pre-amps. I don't mean to get too off topic from the question of the thread, Metrum vs EE since I haven't compared the two but my experience leads me to believe that the design of the output stage and power supply are the most important factors in designing a DAC. Tube vs SS, less a factor, YMMV.
Received my new Metrum Octave last Tuesday and have had 5 extended sessions listening to a variety of music (jazz, rock, solo piano, solo violin, orchestral). In all sessions I have also been switching in and out my modded Eastern Electric Dac Plus (with Dexa discrete opamps and Mullard NOS tube) for comparison purposes.
My impression of the Metrum is that this NOS DAC is very smooth and analog like. The music has great flow with little sibilance or listener fatigue.
When I swap the modded EE Dac plus back in my system there is more resolution and dynamics while also eliminating any unpleasant digital glare. This has been my impression across all listening sessions and musical selections. The smoothness of the Metrum renders every disc I've played extremely listenable and satisfying. However,the modded EE Dac just seems to capture a bit more detail and nuance in the music and in the end I find I have a stronger emotional connection while listening with the EE Dac.
That being said, I can see situations where a Metrum may be preferred. Folks with very detailed systems might enjoy the more laid back presentation of the Metrum compared to the more dynamic EE. As with everything in Audio, system synergy and musical priorities are paramount.
For reference,the following is the rest of the equipment I have been using:
Shindo Vosne-Romanee Preamp
Shindo Haut-Brion Amp
PS Audio PWT Transport
Tonian classic 12 Speakers
I will continue to play around with the Metrum for a while to see if any of my impressions change over time.
Wow Sibelius. After checking out the equipment in your system, I really am quite envious and hold your opinion regarding the EE/Metrum comparison in high regard. High efficiency speakers driven by low power tube amps is definitely my cup of tea. Thanks for you input and looking forward to a follow up.
Devilboy: Thank you. It's taken me a lot of time and experimenting to get to the point where I recognize my musical biases and feel like I've matched my equipment reasonably well. I would never claim that HE speaker/low power amp camp is the most accurate way to reproduce music. However, I find I respond emotionally to the music more with this combo than any other I've tried to date.
The emotional response you mention is more significant than any supposed accuracy(how would you determine it anyway?). Live music provokes an emotional involvement. If your system provides that you`ve done something right in putting it together.This attribute has the highest priority for me,without it what`s the point of listening if there`s no connection.HE speakers and low power amps is a good pathway.
I concur with Sibelus' findings ... the EE DAC Plus is a very 'exciting' sounding DAC. The Metrum is more laid back and smooth, but sometimes overly so in my opinion. I have the DEXA's in my EE DAC, and they are a very noticable upgrade that I'd suggest all buyers opt for direct from Bill at Morningstar.
I just live a few miles from Sibelius and I just bought his Metrum Octave as I too have an EE+ Dac with upgraded discrete opamps, but I used Sonic Imagery opamps (a local California company). I will post my impressions after I receive the unit. I will say that the opamp upgrade was a huge upgrade and really brought the emotional enjoyment factor in my system up several notches! I also have the latest version of the Tranquility SE Dac so it maybe fun to compare all three.
And Sibelius it maybe fun sometime also to compare the Sonic Imagery opamps with the Dexa. Maybe we can find a time to do that in person!