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exaSound E68 Stereo DSD512 and 8-Channel DSD256 DAC


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This week I have learned about a new exaSound DAC that is able to do both stereo DSD512 and 8-channel DSD256:

 

https://www.exasound.com/Products/e688-channelDAC.aspx

 

IMO this is a great concept since it allows for both great stereo use but also more sophisticated applications (such as playback of surround DSD files or optimal multiple subwoofer management or active crossovers). In fact, I believe that excellent multi-channel DACs are far too rare despite the fantastic things possible by using them. The Merging NADAC is a similar DAC allowing for both stereo and 8-channel DSD. In contrast, the exaSound takes files via USB so that all the great tools improving on USB chains can be used. Also the exaSound is much more affordable than the NADAC. BUT but why, why is it not possible to offer such a promising looking DAC as the exaSound E68 in a bigger case able to host standard balanced XLR outputs???? I know that there is a variant of E38 with mini-XLR ... but does one really want to use any adapters on a device at this level where usually high-end XLR cables will be at work, at least, when using amps optimized for XLR usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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Well, the miniXLRs on my e38II were a bit fiddly to set up but they are just fine in use.  Of course, I do not subscribe to your presumption "but does one really want to use any adapters on a device at this level where usually high-end XLR cables will be at work, at least, when using amps optimized for XLR usage."  

If you are going to be a dog-in-the-manger, take a look at the Okto DAC8. 

 

OTOH, you might just wait.............

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Thanks a lot for your comments. Probably I am just a bit oversensitive towards adapters since my 8-channel Metric Halo LIO-8 has this D-Sub DB25 connector (as on Merging HAPI for example). This has to be used if going beyond stereo ...

 

Indeed, the Okto DAC8 looks very interesting. Unfortunately it is limited to DSD128 whereas I have just experienced a substantial difference when going to DSD256 (in ROON or HQPlayer). Moreover, there is the long waiting time to get one (appearantly much longer than stated on their web page). Also - although probably more minor at this already excellent level of S/N - this cool feature to combine 4 converters for 1 channel - which is implemented on the Okto Stereo DAC - is missing on the DAC8. Still good to see that exaSound is offering this feature now with the E68.

 

According to my understanding, it is the USB usage in bulk mode on the E68 (as opposed to class compliant on the Okto) that is needed to make 8-channel DSD256 viable via USB in the first place. Maybe this imposes the DSD128 limit on the Okto DAC8.

 

Yes, maybe just let's wait a bit longer ...

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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On 11/6/2020 at 4:45 PM, fds said:

According to my understanding, it is the USB usage in bulk mode on the E68 (as opposed to class compliant on the Okto) that is needed to make 8-channel DSD256 viable via USB in the first place. Maybe this imposes the DSD128 limit on the Okto DAC8.

I suspect this is so.

On 11/6/2020 at 4:45 PM, fds said:

Yes, maybe just let's wait a bit longer ...

Hopefully, not too much longer.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Actually, I have already been waiting for quite some time now ... a bit frustrating I have to admit ... I had been hoping for an RME ADI-8 but appearantly there is no interest at RME to offer multi-channel DSD converters anytime soon ... and RME is already offering many multi-channel audio interfaces for years ... then there is Merging, where USB input is not offered but only Ethernet. Plus the HAPI again has this D-Sub DB25 connector. Now there is also Merging Anubis with a combination of mixed outputs and max. of 6 channels and Merging NADAC at more than twice the price of the HAPI with the highest quality board inside. In fact, NADAC offers normal XLR outputs ... but does it also offer so many other benefits to justify the steep price increase with respect to the HAPI ... not so sure?

 

The E68 with normal XLR outputs would have been a no brainer for me. It really seems to tick all the boxes otherwise. In fact, I am very surprised that it is currently offered with single ended outputs only. In a surround setting with active rear speakers or amps close to the rear speakers, long XLR cable runs would be the way to go. The same holds for multiple subwoofer settings a la Earl Geddes or double bass array. Assuming it will be offered with mini-XLR, it would be interesting maybe to learn more about the adapters that you are currently using on your E38II?

 

In general, I have to say that I do not understand why there are so few high end multi-channel DAC offerings. Everyone listening in a relatively small room with hard walls will encounter bass modes below 50 Hz. Those are very hard to tame with most bass traps and room treatment. If not using active bass traps (like the PSI Audio AVAA C20) or gigantic Helmholtz absorbers, multiple-subwoofers are the way to go which require a multi-channel DAC to do it in the most convincing and convenient way.

 

 

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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After reading more about the E68 (and E38II), it now seems to me that these units are not compatible with Linux-based devices. Thus, it seems that it would not work with my OpticalRendu or with AudioLinux/Euphony/Stylus/... so missing regular size XLR outputs do not seem to be the only issue. 

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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6 hours ago, fds said:

After reading more about the E68 (and E38II), it now seems to me that these units are not compatible with Linux-based devices. Thus, it seems that it would not work with my OpticalRendu or with AudioLinux/Euphony/Stylus/... so missing regular size XLR outputs do not seem to be the only issue. 

I understand that and I am sympathetic.  There are precious few options for those of us interested in multichannel playback apart from the use of HT devices.  When one makes additional demands, such as insistence on XLR output or direct USB connection, the options shrivel even more.  The farther one goes from the mainstream, the harder one has to work.

 

Sure, none of the exaSound DACs is Linux compatible (and that is unfortunate, imho) but I think that your disdain for Ethernet is unfounded.  Running an e38II via a Sigma streamer obviates that problem for me. 

 

Instead of a long XLR all the way to your speakers (or switch) with a miniXLR on the DAC output, I suggest you buy/build short miniXLR-to-XLR cable to connect to a long(er) standard cable to minimize the physical stress on the mini.  Pay attention paid to the miniXLR connector itself.    I like the REANs.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Many thanks for your reply also confirming the non-compatibility with Linux and the streamer and miniXLR recommendations.

 

No real disdain for Ethernet here. I just like the benefits that I experience with the OpticalRendu a lot. Actually, now with e.g. two OpticalModules e.g. Fiber can be brought to the Merging devices as well I believe. In fact, after updating my Metric Halo LIO-8 with the new 3D card recently it has now an Ethernet input as well (MHLink) which works very well in particular when isolating the Mac by using

 

Mac -> copper -> standard (i.e. non-audiophile) router with SFP port -> Fiber -> OpticalModule ->MetricHalo LIO8

 

and replacing the router with a second OpticalModule would improve things even further I believe. As in the Merging case, the MHLink requires Gigabit Ethernet (so that e.g. an EtherRegen cannot be used when one wants to cross A->B on the ER).

 

 

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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Please visit https://roonlabs.com/partners/exasound and you'll see a product called s88.

I am completely speculating;  "s" may be a streamer and "88" may be a future generation 8-ch DAC in one package.

The question still remains if the internal connection is via USB or something else and whether the analog outputs are XLR.

I guess Roon is listing some future exaSound products before they appear on manufacturer's web pages.

 

PS. I wonder how e38 and NAD m28 (purifi based 7-ch power-amp) combination would work - has anyone tried?

 


UbuntuFileServer > CAPS like Music Server + WS2012 R2 Core Mode + Jriver MC21 + HDplex 100W LPS > exaSound e28 > power amp.
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Well spotted ... the shown casework for both S88 and E88 looks promising to host regular XLR outputs. Ok, so let's wait and see how connectivity etc. will turn out. 

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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33 minutes ago, fds said:

Well spotted ... the shown casework for both S88 and E88 looks promising to host regular XLR outputs. Ok, so let's wait and see how connectivity etc. will turn out. 

Yes, according to what I've seen so far.  S88 arrives tomorrow.

Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Cool, looking very much forward to read your review at some point! Exciting times ahead in your listening room I believe. :-)

Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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On 11/6/2020 at 11:45 PM, fds said:

According to my understanding, it is the USB usage in bulk mode on the E68 (as opposed to class compliant on the Okto) that is needed to make 8-channel DSD256 viable via USB in the first place. Maybe this imposes the DSD128 limit on the Okto DAC8.

 

Yeah, USB Audio Class limits the available bandwidth. The solution is to either use bulk mode transfer, Thunderbolt, or network.

 

Signalyst - Developer of HQPlayer

Pulse & Fidelity - Software Defined Amplifiers

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I want a full size case and regular xlr ... never like mini xlr.

I own e28 and e38 dac with sigma streamer and teddy pardo supply.

 

I dropped wireworld starlight platinum usb cable for a blueberryhill usb cable -> BIG CHANGE ...

 

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