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Metric Halo review

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that makes two of us.


If anyone in NYC has a couple of these available for comparison, I'd be more than happy to loan out my ULN-2 for a bit to facilitate a comparison.


My assumption is that the ULN-2 might fall short of the Weiss, Ayre and top of the line Wavelengths (at half the price, or less), but everything I've read about the ULN-8 is that it's in a league of it's own. The pros using it for mic pres, ADC & DAC claim it's a world beater. Not sure how this translates as solely a DAC in an audiophile playback only environment, but folks like Barry think it sounds better than anything they've ever heard (although presumably short of DXD / DSD). OTOH, it's $6000. I've not yet been able to listen to it, and since I cannot afford it, I'm not sure I want to. ;)


My money would be on the Weiss DAC2 as the best value in hi end DACs, but this is based solely on the feedback of others. The ULN-2 costs only $1495 at B&H Photo.







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I have the Amarra Model 4, and the Weiss DACII and I like the Weiss very much, but the Model 4 /ULN8, is extremely good, the best dac I have heard,the ULN2 is arriving soon, I need to compare some of the other 'contenders' on the mac through firewire, perhaps when the new INT202 become available, also hoping to hear a Wavelength 'crimson' in the near future.

A good room and a terrific pair of speakers will make far more difference though!



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"A good room and a terrific pair of speakers will make far more difference though!"


That was certainly my experience with Amarra upgrade, the difference there paled in comparison to an amp upgrade, although the amp is Nelson Pass' latest wonder, the J2.


It would make sense that your comment applies to DAC upgrades as well.



Also, for those wondering, the ULN-2 is NOT a two channel version of the '8. The '2 was released several years ago, when not even the pros were looking beyond 96k, so it's chips top out there. It WAS MH's top performing model until this past May when the 8 was released. While the AKM chips remained constant over that time, MH did improve the ULN-2 with the addition of the 2D card recently, which included an even high quality clock, among other things.


The '8 is several years in the making, and is Metric Halo's all out assault on the pro market. It was in beta alone for more than 2 years with some of the industry's best.


The '8 should sound quite similar to the Amarra / Sonic Studio gear due to common heritage, but the Sonic gear is more suitable for audiophiles, whereas the ULN-8 is a full-on pro device.


thanks Keith, would love to hear your impressions of the '2 when you get it.






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Clay what about a review if the J2, the new Jfets? From 'semisouth' look interesting, a solid state amp that sounds like valves is the 'holy grail' isn't it?

I have been borrowing a 'digital doMain' Vfet amp, which is meant to be tube like and it isn't bad.

Re the 'Model 4' Sonic have made it more 'duffer' friendly for old codgers like me.



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Here's the link, but you won't be able to tell much from this.

Price is $7995, incl. Amarra



There's also the Sonic branded piece, made by Metric Halo as well.


Price is $6995




The ULN-8 is $5995


To really see why this piece is so special, check out the MH site in detail. Look at the 45 featured users, including (our own) Barry Diament and Bob Katz.








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We'll have to see about that - my system is in a high state of flux now, and I'd want it to settle down before actually putting paper to pen, so to speak. I will be having to choose between F-5 and J2 soon, so maybe I can share some observations then, but first I have to send my ULN-2 back to Hopewell Junction for a quick fix of the 2D card. I finally tried to listen to 96k and realized that my DAC won't lock on at either 48k or 96k, where as 44.1k and 88.2k are fine, the latter of which I had used with Wave Editor upsampling.


[note: BJ and Jon Stern at MH are the best, as you may know.]


And I've got a whole passel of stuff from Alan Maher to break in - passive line conditioning gear recommended by Silverlight, jwtrace and others. And cable comparisons to make....


This is beginning to seem like work!





PS, my initial observations are that it sounds like (the best of) both tubes and solid-state at the same time (and I don't mean simultaneously crisp highs, thin mids and wooly bass)....and that's without my Ultraverve tube pre - drive directly from the '2 using MIO as the volume control.




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"This is beginning to seem like work!"


When you start playing around with more than one piece of equipment/software at the same time it is

like work.


Keith's statement that "A good room and a terrific pair of speakers will make far more difference though!"

is very good advise. Partner the J2 with the right speakers and I think you'll stop wondering about Amarra, cables and all the other bit and pieces.










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"Partner the J2 with the right speakers and I think you'll stop wondering about Amarra, cables and all the other bit and pieces."


agreed. I need to make an appt with the guys at In Living Stereo soon, and take the amp over and hook it up to John Devore's latest. Fortunately, my room is not large enough for his most expensive effort - the Silverback. ;-)


But he made the 9s expressly to reproduce the Silverback's sound (as best as possible) in a smaller size room for those of us (including himself) who live in a NYC sized apartment.


i want to get through the next wave of upgrades and sit back and listen.




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thanks Dan, I think.


I'd have loved to be done my evaluation before reading a review, but my curiosity will probably not allow me to wait. I've pretty much made my decision anyway.


I listened to Norah Jones for the first time in a long time last night, and heard a chestiness that I don't believe I should be hearing. I need to identify the source of that, could be due to some excess bloom in the upper mid-bass. any thoughts?




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Well, I won't disagree with anything Srajaen said about the sound of the J2, except to say I think the differences between F5 and J2 are more pronounced than he implies.


Admittedly I haven't done cable matching and whatnot that he might have, but the aggressiveness/forwardness I heard in the F5 was not something I could live with long term. Perhaps I'm just more sensitive to issues of that nature, or have something in my system that exacerbates it, as I'm sure the F5 is a fine sounding amp.


One of my favorite songs is the Pink Panther Theme. :) The brass section sounds just right with the J2 - but over the top with the F5. Miles' trumpet sounds great with either, as does the signature bass line.


Also, I heard greater resolution with the J2 than the F5, more than I believe Srajaen implied. His review was a LOT of words, so I may have glossed over some of it and missed a point of emphasis.


As I said the other day - sounds like the best of tubes & the best of solid state to me. Said another way, it sounds like tubes coming from solid state, as I don't think those we strongly prefer solid state amps over tubes will agree with the first comment, since the J2 is much lower powered with less damping factor than full-on sand amps. But if you're a Class A fan, and a tube fan, this could be the one that melds the two. Shouldn't even need a tube pre.


Srajaeb didn't notice/mention the bit of upper bass (or lower midrange) bloom I hear, maybe it's my setup, or maybe it's normal to him - as a tube biased (no pun intended) audiophile. Maybe my Aleph 30 was thin? Naaah, it sounded more like tubes than the J2. I've got to sort this out.


I predict the J2 will sell more units than all the F series combined, which is only to say, more than 500 pieces. Not one of my riskier comments!





ps, hang on a sec, the girlfriend is yelling again. probably wants me to turn it down to 9. Katell Keineg is sounding quite wonderful.









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...hear a J2. But being in Europe that makes it very difficult until someone will buy one here.


Anyway, I own a F3 and i find it the most tube-like solid state amp with low distortion and very nice highs.

The J2 would add extension and dynamic on top on that.


About the review, I think the speakers that SE used in his review were not revealing enough.


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The dynamics on the J2 are incredible.


I find myself having to reset the volume on most every song to hit the sweet spot, and I have to leave more than normal in 'reserve' (for the more dynamic sections) when I do set it.


Perhaps you noticed my post elsewhere wishing for some sort of standardized recording level vis-a-vis the intended volume for best listening. The need for something like this became more obvious (to me) after listening to the J2, which incidentally has the same wattage as my previous Nelson Pass amp, athough with more gain.




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This is my first post on this forum. I upgraded from using Logitech Transporter to Amarra Model 4. I used Red Wine Audio Signature 30 and FirstWatt F1 as my amps and DeVore Super8 in my small den. FirstWatt F1 is not well matched for the Super8 but still, it is a very accurate amp -- much more revealing than Signature 30. I am expecting delivery of FirstWatt J2 today and it should match my Super8 well. A day after listening to Amarra Model 4 (rebadged ULN-8 with possibly some firmware changes), I didn't bother with comparison against the Transporter since the difference was apparent to me. I played dozens of 24/192, 24/96, 24/176 downloads and regular 16/44 aiff files using Amarra on my MacMini (64G SSD with 500G Seagate Freeagent Go external as my music disk) and I am very happy with "I am there" sound. Of course, bad recordings still suck, but great recordings even at 16/44 sounds fantastic.




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A while back I emailed Metric Halo about making a DAC for the audiophile market. They said they currently have no such plans but that there was a lot of interest from audiophiles.


My feeling is they probably aren't doing to make a DAC for the audiophile market but hopefully will make a 2 channel unit like a ULN-2 with upgraded performance similar to ULN-8.


I hope to build a J2 clone also. Hopefully, we'll be able to achieve the same magic as the original. I think using the same parts is an important part of that magic.


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Welcome to CA, Ken.


Sounds like we have similar tastes in gear.


I use ULN-2 as a DAC, am upgrading from Aleph 30 to J2 (and had the F5 in for consideration as well, just prior to the J2 being announced).


I'm currently listening to J2 serial number 702 (second off the production line per the handwritten note in the user guide) with Audio Physic Virgos - sold to me by John Devore before he started Devore Fidelity. The Virgos were the model he used as the basis for his speaker lines - there were his favorite speakers as a salesperson, and the 9s and Silverback share the some approach, albeit with his special crossover concept.


My next speaker upgrade will very likely be the 9s. I'm expecting a great match with the J2, which I hope to confirm shortly at In Living Stereo here in Manhattan.


I agree, bad recordings still suck, and are actually made more obvious.

But the girlfriend keeps saying, "I didnt know it could sound better", or "It sounds like she's 'in the room'". As long as the sound improves, the extra space the gear takes up seems okay.
















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