Metrum Onyx versus Metrum Pavane

I wanted to see who has moved up from the Metrum Onyx to the Pavane or Adagio and was it worth it?

I currently run the Onyx with Metrum Ambre via I2S.

Let me know who else out there has experience with Metrum in general.

I have posted on this general topic before. I started out with the Hex (running SPDIF to transport) and "moved up" to the Pavane II a couple years ago. Subtle improvements in detail extraction and info retrieval were the yield. IMO, the Hex represents the better value but the Pavane is more complete. Bought both units new from HiFi Heaven.
Yea, I got the onyx for $1500 and can get the pavane level 3 for $3800 from a friend. Trying to decide.


Little off topic but you mentioned you were running the onyx through ambre with I2S.  Did you try running it via spdif also to compare?  I'm wondering if you heard any differences between I2S and spdif?

I have the onyx also but running it via spdif.  The only way to use it via I2S would be to purchase an ambre so wondering if spdif to I2S is significant and warrants buying an ambre.

@mrotino I have not tried any other connection with the Ambre/Onyx. I've heard from multiple people online it was by far the best connection to use.  What streamer do you use now?
I'm using a modified Wyred for Sound Sonos Connect which only has spdif rca digital output.  I'm also using a modified cd transport with the same digital rca output connection to play cds.

I know I've read the I2S is supposed to be better but was wondering for any comments from those that used both.  

The Wyred for Sound does sound very good when streaming Tidal.  At some point I may buy the Ambre with Roon and connect via I2S.
I have the Onyx, it sounds so good and I lead such a busy life that I couldn't justify the Pavane. I spoke to Metrum personnel directly and they kinda agreed. Unless you listen critically everyday, it probably wouldn't make any "real" difference.
@nitewulf @justjames72 - +1!

I enjoy my Onyx as well, and good to know that its so good that the Pavane, even though I'm sure  it's likely a "little" better than the Onyx, it may not be justifiable for the add'l $$ required.

I run mine via AES/EBU from a Gustard U16 DDC (MacBook Pro connected to the U16 via USB), and the music is highly engaging, exciting, while liquid and natural!

I would love to know if the Ambre would be an upgrade to my setup above?? Now that Roon supports Tidal and Qobuz (btw, I think Qobuz hi-res is much better than Tidal MQA, but I don't have the Metrum module in my Onyx to do the second unwrapping of MQA), it might be time to try an Ambre. Any thoughts?
@1markr Greetings! That's interesting you say that Qobuz is better. My limited testing showed MQA to be better, but obviously it's all subjective. I don't have MQA enabled in my Onyx either, but I let Roon and the Ambre take care of the first unfold. I think you should def try the Ambre. what do you use now?
Interesting thread as I also was wondering about this given the large price difference between the two.  I guess the implementation of the output stage, etc. is good or similar enough in the Onyx that the extra expensive DAC chips don't make all that big of a difference versus the added cost?  Whatever, this was interesting info. 

Given the apparently relative small gains to be had by spending $$$ on the Pavane, it would seem trying a DAC from another make might make more sense. SW1X is another R2R NOS DAC that seems to be really pleasing their owners, and they offer an in-home trial period (and an upgrade path, I believe). I’d be inclined to try that before considering the Pavane since I think SW1X may be less expensive and will likely produce more absolute differences in sound vs. the Onyx than the Pavane. Whether good or bad, who knows? But that’s why the trial period is so key. FWIW.
@justjames72 …. I've had great success using a Gustard U16 to convert from my laptops USB output to the AES/EBU input on my Onyx. Before that, I used a Matrix X-SPDIF2 powered by an Uptone LPS1.2, and that worked great too, but I think the U16 itself is better. I recommissioned the LPS1.2 to my ethernet switch.

So, are you going to take one for the team and audition SW1X against the Onyx? ;)  Would love to hear about that comparison!

Yea, I've thought about the SW1X as well. I think that does make sense though in terms of hearing a bigger difference with a different DAC. I'm really happy with the Onyx, but I'm curious!! how much better can this sound??
I think they use tubes, which I think helps with the sense of utter dimensionality that owners seem to rave about.  No idea if better or worse than Metrum (that's always a personal decision anyway), but I think the use of tubes will make them sound different.  And I emphasize "different," not better or worse.  Again, they have a trial period and if you have the means it would seem like a REALLY good comparison.  Personally, these two are in the top two in my sites so I'd love to hear a comparison.  Someone did a comparison between an Octave and an SW1X DAC and preferred the latter, but I pretty much reject that as I don't think the Octave is near the performance of the Onyx nor an appropriate comparison, so the beat goes on. 

@1markr -- I'd absolutely love to do the comparo, but my amp is currently dead as would be my marriage if I tried to both repair my amp and buy another DAC at the same time.  Very much hoping someone else can do it though. 
The onyx is the best value for money. As said by the developper Cees Ruytenberg himself. But that said the Pavane delivers a bit more relaxing, punch en extra deep bass. It has a bigger powersupply. The only way to notice iff its worth the investment is to compare them both.

I2s is a better step compared tot Spdif or AES/Ebu in my set. The match is also SuperB WITH ONYX OR Pavane.
its adviced in MQA to do the unfold by roon. Although it possible to use a MQA module there is hardly SQ improvemend. Because the Metrum is a ladder dac an has no limited filter opions; there for no problems with MQA in standard mode.
Yup Tommd. Agreed, I let Roon do the first unfold for MQA and think it sounds fantastic. Anjo at Metrum told me to not worry about getting the MQA module for Onyx. so there's that!
It's not so much about "how better can it get" rather, how astonishingly good the Onyx/Jade are for the price.

Pavane has more output hardware, dual transformers and two more r2r chips (same generation chips as Onyx/Jade) per channel.  So in theory better channel separation and faster calculation. How audible? You decide.

At this level, I'd concentrate more on speakers, speaker placement, room correction than wondering about source upgrades.
+1 @nitewulf -- sage advice.  Do you own the Onyx?  If so, what have you compared it to?
Yes I own the Onyx, I have owned it almost since it came out. The dac progression would be:

Peachtree Decco integrated > HRT Music Streamer + > Cambridge Audio Dacmagic + > PS Audio Perfectwave MK2 > Metrum Onyx

I own a portable high res audio player from Pioneer (XDP 100R) which uses the Sabre ESS9018 chips. This is also a fairly high end player as far as that space is concerned.

And of course I heard plenty of other dacs such as the T+A DAC8 DSD, Mytek Brooklyn etc.

I prefer the rounded, tangible nature of the Metrum over the delta sigma dacs I have owned.  This is also an extremely high resolution, noiseless dac. 
I can’t comment on the Pavane but I feed my Onyx from the baby Ambre via spdif and it sounds better than when I had the USB connection from SoTM sms-200 (which was itself improved when I went through a schiit eitr to convert to spdif prior to getting the baby Ambre!) simpler is better, hence replacing both SoTM and eitr with baby Ambre. I still plan to go i2s from regular Ambre at some point in the future.
Hi guys! I am interested in the Metrum dacs, but I have a few concerns. Can you detail a bit how the two (Onyx and Pavane) stack up to each other as well as in absolute terms with respect to:

a) the soundstage width (I’ve read that Onyx is quite narrow, I can’t stand anything narrow) and

b) HF extension (I don’t need / like a piercing treble, but I can’t stand a rolled off one, I need to hear all the beautiful HF resonance of a lightly hit triangle decaying naturally, for example, instead of cut short or borrowed in the mix)?
Please if possible mention the inputs and outputs used in your comparison. I’d probably use a CD transport via electrical SPDIF and both the unbalanced and balanced outputs.
Oh, by the way, can something like Ambre be also used for playing music from the computer’s HDD? Sorry if this is a dumb question...


Why, you disagree with this assertion?The impressions I've read are quite contradictory in this regard - hence my specific questions above. Please, feel free to contradict this statement.

To put things in perspective, when I had the Gungnir Multibit in my system for a few weeks I Ioved many of its sound traits but wanted a wider stage, much blacker background, better treble extension (the stuff above ~10kHz, probably), a more relaxed, effortless presentation (difficult to put it into words, it was a bit as if I was kept in a bit of a tension all the time, perhaps something similar to how I felt about my ex AKG K1000 / D class amplifier as opposed to the effortlessness my Stax) and maybe just a little thicker tone (but this latest thing might have been more a matter of synergy). All heard in a couple of solid state systems + my Stax headphones. It was the (supposedly) latest, unofficial "A2" version (November 2017), kept on all the time and with more than 200 hours of burn in.

The issue is, many of your questions are system dependent, as in, what are the speakers and how are they placed in the room.  Anything to do with sound stage is more dependent on speakers and speaker placement than electronics. At this level, the electronics are high fidelity and detailed, there's great channel separation, bandwidth and signal to noise ration. 

Secondly I don't think many have compared the Pavane to the Onyx directly, unless there's DAC meetup, these comparisons are difficult to do.

OS dacs sound different than NOS dacs. Delta Sigma dacs sound different than R2R dacs. Onyx/Pavane are both NOS and R2R. Typically these sound more relaxed than delta sigma dacs, I don't know why. But keep in mind all dacs have a sin(x)/x roll off which is compensated in OS dacs. And you can compensate for that in NOS dacs by oversampling in software before sending to the dac.

Either way, with My speakers and electronics (Legacy Signature SE, Lyric Audio Ti 140 MK2, home built HTPC w/ SSD feeding the Onyx via USB) the sound is effortless, noise free and high resolution. You can check my original review for more technical stuff.  If you name some test tracks you use I can play them and get back to you.
Thanks for your answer and your offer to provide me with further information!
Regarding the soundstage, I have found that various sources (CD players, Dacs) can have a significant impact upon its width. My hearing is probably not trained enough to hear depth or height very well (I’m an avid headphone listener) and my speakers system + room is not very helpful, but I hear the width clearly. I have heard these soundstage width differences easily in speakers as well as in headphohes. So, compared to any other sources you have heard, is Onyx’ soundstage broader or narrower? I don’t have a specific track to test soundstage width, for me it’s pretty apparent on any material. If you need something very specific, maybe, from the top of my head: track 1 "Yulunga: Spirit Dance" from Dead Can Dance - "Into the Labyrinth" (after min. 2:53 or so). For example, the hard panning of the left side maracas at min. 2:53 and the rest of the track following this. This is, by the way, a track I’m using to check for reasonable bass extension (tympani at 2:29 and a few times later - not extremely deep but it’s about my threshold for "reasonably extended") and tactility / snappiness / punchiness (from min. 3:02 on).

As for the highs, I often use the beginning of track 7 "Desolate Mountains II" of Jan Garbareck’s album "Visible World". I pay attention to the actual treble extension as well as to the chromatic contrast between the various percussion "notes" - the Gungnir Multibit tended decrease a bit the highest frequencies, accentuate the mid-treble (8-10 kHz? - I don’t know the exact frequency band) and attenuate a bit the aforementioned chromatic contrast (making everything a bit more uniformly grey and metallic). Small things, but I could hear them clearly and it did bother me. How do you find the Onyx compared to my description of the Gungnir?

I think if I was looking what you're looking for, I might look for a DAC with tubes.  My first choice would be SW1X, which offers an in- home trial period that I think is invaluable.  Given the feedback by owners, this is an outstanding DAC that you're probably unlikely to return.  BTW, if you want another recording with outstanding width, pick up one of these.  A lot of the recording lives 3 to 5 feet outside the speakers.  Don't know if it's a phase trick or not, but it's a really cool recording and great music to boot.
@don -- And BTW, I agree with @nitewulf that a lot of width has to do with speakers and placement, but also amp and preamp. Unfortunately, IME, it ALL matters. IMHO, any very good DAC will provide this width information. My question is, maybe you're looking for enhanced or maybe even artificial width in audio reproduction? And that's perfectly cool if that's what matters to you. Anyway, I'd echo my previous recommendation to audition a DAC with tubes like the SW1X. You can do so almost risk free, and owners speak very positively of an expansive soundstage. Best of luck.
I have been very busy but I will get back to my impressions on known audiophile tracks as well the tracks you mentioned. One quick note is as a headphone listener your experience of soundstage is different than a primarily speaker listener. Of course it’s extremely easy to place instruments and even follow instruments as they move with the Onyx ( Train Song):

my issue is more what soix mentioned, do you like exaggerated soundstage width beyond speakers all the time? As most tracks aren’t recorded that way.

Unfortunately, I have not heard the Onyx but I have owned the Octave II, Hex, Pavane, Adagio, and finally settled in with the Pavane L3.  After owning the Adagio as well as the original edition and (more recently) the highest level Pavane L3, it is my opinion you cannot go wrong with either.  The Adagio run amp-direct provides a very simple and great sounding alternative.  The Pavane L3 is just as good but only improves on the Adagio in the area of tonal density and only when used with a very high quality preamp.   The Adagio has slightly better resolution  but that is splitting hairs.
I use the Antipodes DX Gen3 with a Roon endpoint, which is currently either the Metrum Ambre or the SOtM triad (three boxes) consisting of SOtM's sPS-200ultra (Roon endpoint), tx-USBultra (USB reclocker), and sPS-500 (power supply for both).  At about 1/3 the price of the SOtM gear, the Ambre sounds arguably just as good although slightly different.  I have not yet decided which endpoint I will keep - they both sound great.  Running I2S directly into my Pavane is a plus and probably the best connection between that and the Ambre, but is not an overwhelming improvement over using AES/EBU from the Ambre to the Pavane L3.  I think it is awesome that Metrum offers a user-installable board to facilitate the I2S connection.
As you move up in the line, IME each successive Metrum upgrade provides more of their signature, natural sound while improving dynamics, tonal qualities, detail, and refinement.  They are a very complete company that manufacturers practical, great-sounding, and high quality products, and they are very easy people to work with.
BTW, speaking of unnaturally expanded soundstaging, that is what I heard when I tried the early Lampizator L4 G4. 
Thanks everyone for answers and suggestions.@soix: I know what I’m asking for seems to invite some tube gear recommendations. However, there are also some other things I care very much for in audio reproduction and I didn’t mention because between the 2 Metrum dacs they were irrelevant. One of them is a very low noise floor / "a black background". I’m using powered studio monitors, often nearfield and in a quiet environment and the hiss is annoying me a lot. Also, I didn’t like the Gungnir’s grey background (or at least this was my perception). So I’m a bit afraid of tubes... On the other hand, I’m more of the "set and forget" kind in this period of my like, I don’t want to think about hunting for new tubes, maybe NOS ones, learn about testing or even matching them etc. So I’d rather stay fully solid state, if possible.
You guys are asking me if I like an exaggerated soundstage. To be honest, I don’t know. But I’ve never had the feeling that the stage is too wide, so maybe the answer is positive. I like the soundstage ("headstage"?) width of my first audiophile headphones (AKG K500 and later on AKG K501) very much. My current source, while much cheaper and indisputably much lower quality that the dacs in discussion (Cambridge D300 CD player), has a wide soundstage too which I also enjoy - wider that the unbalanced outputs of the Schiit dac. I have perceived the very wide soundstage of the Sennheiser HD800 headphones as a great asset, not as being exaggerated.
Jan Garbareck - Pygmy Lullaby - Sax is center focused, percussion starts stage slight left backstage with the hand held tambourine drums (I believe that's the instrument) slight right backstage. Then the percussion comes in at stage right backstage. Sax solo ends with keys, drums kick starting center, backed up by bass. Then sax comes back on with the percussion on both sides .

Desolate mountains 2 - chimes in different tones way left off center, keys in middle, snares behind chimes - very slight, way left, then chimes again (different tones....shifting from left to right, back to left - snares very slight behind chimes way left), sax solo accompanied by louder chimes, snares and brush on snare drums, very deep percussion way back center stage, bass stage right. 

I believe you're talking about the tonal shifts in what we call timbre of the chimes, their frequency and amplitude shifts, as well as at the end the varying pitch differentiation....all very clear on Onyx. Beyond that I can't say....this is my high end setup (I had the $200 vintage Kenwood integrated hooked up before)...very high res full range speakers and high end, low distortion tube integrated.

The headstage on phones is very different from a "you're watching a performance" soundstage provided by speakers, so it'll not be comparable. Plus your monitors and unsure if you're sitting on a desk, will not provide the width and depth I am getting from my setup. I would highly suggest using it (if you decide) with your headphones to compare against your current dac.

Onyx is quite transparent, it accurately portrays the drama in this particular recording which I've not heard before. Once again I commend Metrum on a bargain. 
I’m using powered studio monitors, often nearfield and in a quiet environment and the hiss is annoying me a lot.

Dare I ask what speakers you're using and how much they cost?  I'm fearing a potential gross mismatch here in source vs. speaker and amp expense, but I'll just wait to hear what speakers you're using.  I'll just say that if imaging and sounstaging are high on your wish list, not sure powered studio monitors are the right place to start.  But maybe that's just me. 
Just picked up a Jade DAC/preamp and it sounds amazing for the money.
After putting it in my main system today, I am reevaluating whether I should be using the Adagio rather than my Pavane L3.  Consistent with my earlier comments, they are cut from the same cloth and the sound is close but there is maybe just a touch less body and tonal warmth with the Adagio (compared to the Pavane L3 through my preamp) but the resolution, natural sound, definition, and frequency extension are very good.....and that from the Jade, not the Adagio, which is even better.  The Onix is to the Jade what the Pavane L3 is to the Adagio, fyi.
@mitch2 so not worth it to upgrade from Onyx to Pavane unless you are super critical listener? 
@nitewulf: Thank you!
@soix: Right now I’m using my old Mackie HR824 (mark I, USA made) monitors, but I’ll upgrade to better speakers + amp within a year or so. Not sure to what, though, from all I’ve listened so far I liked a pair of Spendor SP2/3R2 driven by a Densen B175 amplifier the most (other possible contenders: other Spendors, Proac D30RS, Harbeth SHL5+, Atc SCM40A etc. - kinda all over the place, I know). Choosing speakers is very difficult IMO, so I’ll start with the dac and thus reduce the number of variables.
@justjames72 , to your question,
"so not worth it to upgrade from Onyx to Pavane unless you are super critical listener?"
I would say, probably not, unless the rest of your system is dialed in at a fairly high level. 

However, this stuff is subjective and more than a few say the source is your most important component (closely followed, or led, by speakers).  I definitely would not trade the Onyx or Jade for the Level 1 Pavane, that doesn't use the Transient DAC Two modules. 
I have been on a small mission to simplify my system and I am strongly considering purchasing an Adagio so I can remove the preamp from my system.  One thing I didn't notice the first time I auditioned (i.e., owned) the Adagio, is that in addition to improved resolution and HF extension, the Jade (or Adagio) direct seems to provide a bit of a boost in dynamics over the Pavane L3/preamp....possibly because the DAC direct route is providing a higher voltage output than my preamp or, maybe just because there are less electronics in the path.  The differences are relatively small. 

The other thing to consider is that my amplifiers are relatively optimal for both passives and DAC-direct because of their high'ish 100K ohm input impedance.  This DAC-direct option may not work as well with amps having lower input impedance.   However, the output impedance of the Jade and Onyx is a low 100 ohms and output impedance of the Adagio is 100 ohms for the RCA output and 320 ohms for the XLR.
@mitch2  My system is currently:

Metrum Ambre > Metrum Onyx > McIntosh MA6600> B&W 702s2

I use Roon as well.

Whats your system comprised of ?

I definitely would not trade the Onyx or Jade for the Level 1 Pavane, that doesn't use the Transient DAC Two modules.
Really? Have you heard the level 1 Pavane and you prefer the Onyx / Jade soundwise? I find this quite surprising (and very good news for me - I think a Jade would meet my needs very well so I really hope I will like it, I think I'll try it later this year). Pavane level 1 has received some very good reviews and I didn't expect for the Transient Dac Two modules to make such a big difference as to compensate for the other advantages of the Pavane level 1 against Onyx / Jade (such as the all important power supply).
@don -- So, I looked up your speakers and they’re like 700 bucks. For BOTH speakers and amps!!! Why are you even messing with a DAC at this point??? Upgrade your speakers and amps first, THEN talk to us about a DAC. C’mon man. If you’re concerned with imaging and sounstaging, $700 for active pro speakers ain’t getting it done! You’re putting good money after bad. Don’t waste our time talking about $2k DACs to play with "toy" speakers at this point. End of story!!!
I see that I should probably clarify the intent of my comments.  I have owned quite a few Metrum products and they have all been great for their intended purpose at their price points.  I have owned the Octave II, Hex, Pavane L1, and Adagio, and I currently own the Pavane L3, Jade, Amber, and Baby Amber.

I am not saying I believe the Jade or Onyx are better sounding than the Pavane L1, but rather that I wouldn’t trade-in the Jade/Onyx on a Pavane L1.  If the Onyx and Pavane L1 were side-by-side, I may very well choose the sound of the Pavane L1, if cost were not a factor. The Pavane (at any level) offers obvious improvements resulting from a much larger and superior power supply and larger number of DAC chips.  

However the newer Transient DAC Two modules with the FPGA within the module do offer sonic advantages over the original Transient chips.  Metrum have done such a nice job with the Jade/Onyx that IMO the sonic difference may not be worth paying more to purchase a Pavane L1 vs. saving up to afford a Pavane L3 or Adagio, or whatever else they may come up with in the future.

As you can see from my ownership and from Metrum’s product history, this digital stuff is continually evolving so I personally wouldn’t move in a backward direction for the Pavane L1 unless my plan were to upgrade it to the L3 version.  Even then, I would make sure the rest of my system were dialed in first.  It is all relative.

My virtual system is posted here under “Sounds Good”
It is mostly up-to-date.


Thank you for the detailed answer. So you are one of the few who can compare directly the Onyx / Jade to the Pavane / Adagio. Would you say that the later do improve upon the former in terms of treble extension and soundstage width?
@ soix:
I don’t want to hijack this thread talking about my plans, but as I said I will also upgrade the speakers and amp to something much better. Total system cost will be around 10k - 11k euro (I am living in EU) and I don’t exclude the idea of buying used. I’ll get the source first, among other reasons, because I want it to be a good match to my current Stax electrostatic headphones (which I really don’t think are too low end for a 3000 euro dac). My experience has been that synergy plays such a huge role that I don’t want to be forced to look for a source to match BOTH my speakers and my headphones system, it might prove a very difficult game to play! Anyway, I appreciate the advice!
"compare directly the Onyx / Jade to the Pavane / Adagio. Would you say that the later do improve upon the former in terms of treble extension and soundstage width?"
I would say the latter improves on the former in terms of tonal density, power/drive, bass, and maybe soundstage my system the Pavane L3 and Adagio display just a little more of everything but it is much closer than you would expect for the price difference. The one thing I don’t really notice being too different is treble extension although you might convince me the Pavane L3/Adagio portray just a slight touch more natural ambiance through the treble range. I suspect these differences are related to the more expensive units having more DAC modules and a larger power supply with three transformers instead of one.

Below I have linked a review of the Onyx and Jade by Rene’ van Es, with The Ear. The author has significant experience with Metrum gear and he owns both the Pavane and Adagio. He discusses comparisons between those more expensive DACs and the Jade so this is a good review for your questions. A couple of excerpts following the link provide an insight into how much Mr. van Es enjoyed the Jade. 

A quick comparison to the Pavane in this system shows the Jade has a little less authority, is a little less detailed but is otherwise very similar. The family signature is clear, the Jade will not surprise you in that way but it’s remarkable that both DACs are so close considering the price gap.

Acoustic instruments are beautifully arranged around the singer and backing vocalists. Every individual is easy to pick out, all the instruments are in harmony but still separated from each other. The impact of the voice is bigger than you probably expect at this price, a lot of brands sell DACs for less, even Metrum, but compare the sound quality and you’ll soon realize that these two are in a different league. My costly system shows no flaws, no faults, no negative issues with the Jade, no matter how loud or soft I play my music.

Thanks! Your comparison is very helpful. I was aware of the professional review, but  I also wanted an opinion from some private users.
I would spend bulk of the budget on speakers, and then a very good source. At this level, Onyx is certainly not going to be the limiting factor. 
Lost two boxes today when I removed my preamp and its outboard power supply from my system.

After recently purchasing a Jade and Baby Ambre for a second system, I put the Jade into my main system (in place of a Pavane L3 into an SMc Audio preamp).   After I heard how good the Jade sounded, I decided to revisit my Adagio vs. Pavane L3 + Preamp comparison. 

I still hear the DAC-direct approach as a touch more extended with slightly better resolution compared to the Pavane L3 into my SMc preamp, which sounds slightly more rounded with a touch more bloom and a bit less resolution.  However, the two set-ups sounded close enough that my desire to simplify my system caused me to order a new Adagio.  Using the Jade DAC-direct into my amps (until the Adagio gets here in a week or so) simplifies things significantly - less boxes, less PCs, less ICs and less shelf space needed.  I look forward to hearing how much the Adagio will improve on the (already quite good-sounding) Jade.
@mitch2 have you had time to listen to the Adagio?

Also, what are the main benefits in using the Jade as opposed to Onyx? Is it mainly just being able to hook directly to a power amp?
Correct, removing the preamp from the chain and any effect (positive or negative) that it may or may not have on your system. There are also jumpers in the Jade that allow you to bypass the volume adjustment and send a fixed output of either 2V or 4V (IIRC).
have you had time to listen to the Adagio?
Just a little - it is nowhere near broken in but sounds pretty good. It does improve on the Jade by displaying a richer tonal quality probably due to more dac chips and a bigger power supply.
I will not be able to try it again until Sunday. I plan to also try the Adagio through my preamp -both through the volume control and after taking the volume control out of the circuit. I have received instruction on how to take the (very high quality) volume control out of my preamp’s circuit so I would then be running my preamp as a unity-gain buffer. It is going to be a lengthy audition if I want to try all configurations and to make sure the Adagio is sufficiently burned to sound its best.