Metronome Technologie’s distinctive approach to digital replay
By Roy Gregory
One thing France isn’t short of is eclectic companies producing distinctive (and often distinctly different) digital electronics. But few are as distinctive as Métronome Technologie’s Kalista transport/player. The striking, three-legged construct, all clear acrylic and CNC machined aluminium, is surely one of digital audio’s most iconic and enduring designs. Yet despite a name that might well be the envy of digital audio companies the world over, this company started out in 1987, manufacturing loudspeakers, the Métronome moniker deriving directly from the truncated pyramidal shape of their cabinets.
Their transition into digital electronics started with a joint project, developing the original JD1 player with Jadis. Essentially – and like an awful lot of early, audiophile CD players – it was basically a repackaging exercise, creating a heavier and better-engineered chassis for existing Philips electronics. That association with near neighbours Jadis continues to this day, with Métronome based just outside Toulouse while Jadis are located a short hop down the A61 autoroute, just outside Carcassonne. But having dipped their toes in the water, it wasn’t too big a leap for Métronome to start producing their own digital electronics, leading in 2003 to the launch of the first Kalista. With strikingly original, even futuristic aesthetics – aesthetics that still look fresh and striking today – the Kalista was conceived as very much a turntable for optical discs. With its stable footprint and top-loaded mechanism, the mechanical similarities are obvious, but it’s the concept that’s more important – a concept (and approach) that endures to this day. Look at that first generation Kalista and you can clearly see the design DNA of the current range, both in the styling of the transport and in the substantial, separate power supplies that accompanied both it and its associated, standalone DACs.
Fast-forward to today and it’s very much a case of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose! The original owner sold the company in 2013, yet such is the continuity of design and brand integrity that you’d never know that from a quick glance at the products. Indeed, first priority for new owners Jean Marie Clauzel and his partner, was to restructure the business and operational side of the company, creating the structural conditions to properly support the success achieved by the existing products. That involved moving to a purpose-built facility in 2016 and extending that facility in 2019. Meanwhile, they also set about restructuring the range, so that the entry level and more affordable products wouldn’t be eclipsed by the iconic but expensive Kalista. They achieved that by the simple expedient of separating the two lines, creating Kalista as an independent, luxury brand, while the Métronome line embraces the more conventional looking and far more affordable products.
What’s in a name?
Over the years, the Kalista itself has evolved from a simple red-book transport into a single, multi-capable, configurable replay platform. The original Kalista Dreamplay series was a multi-box, stackable solution, offering CD transport (or player) a separate DAC and separate Streamer, all in variations on that iconic three-legged chassis. In stark contrast, the latest Kalista Dreamplay X is both a CD/SACD transport and streamer, with the option to add a slim-line DAC/digital pre-amp that mounts almost invisibly below the still striking transport chassis. In another example of high-level cooperation, the digital pre-amp is licenced from French mavens, Leedh. The substantial external power supply is vertically disposed and is designed to be tucked away. Look inside and the board that runs the transport and streamer carries enough capacitance and regulation to shame a modest power amp! Spec your Kalista with the DAC option and the power supply gains a second, identical board, mounted back to back with the first. A company that always took power supplies seriously has clearly graduated to another level entirely!