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exaSound E68 Stereo DSD512 and 8-Channel DSD256 DAC


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S88 does indeed look like a very nice piece of kit. Glad to see Exasound finally fulfilling the wishes of many asking for proper XLR outputs on their gear.

 

For a moment I was a bit salty to see this unit being released just after I purchased a HAPI but after reading the output voltage specs on the S88 I don't feel bad now. No doubt for most 4v will be fine but I need at least 6v in my setup. Oddly enough, the headphone output has 2v more (6v) than the XLR Analog outputs on the S88. Scratches head...

 

Other than this one quibble the S88 looks like a very fine unit for 99% of the folks.

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2 hours ago, cjf said:

For a moment I was a bit salty to see this unit being released just after I purchased a HAPI but after reading the output voltage specs on the S88 I don't feel bad now. No doubt for most 4v will be fine but I need at least 6v in my setup.

The 4v output is sufficient to drive my AHB2 amps in their intermediate gain option.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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It's too bad they cheaped out on MQA implementation. USB-only decoding on the earlier units which tells me they just went with the MQA decoder on the USB controller like most others which eliminates the possibility of using it with MQA-CD. Full MQA decoding (on all inputs) on the 88 would be compelling with the streaming feature. Oh well.

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6 hours ago, GUTB said:

It's too bad they cheaped out on MQA implementation. USB-only decoding on the earlier units which tells me they just went with the MQA decoder on the USB controller like most others which eliminates the possibility of using it with MQA-CD. Full MQA decoding (on all inputs) on the 88 would be compelling with the streaming feature. Oh well.

Well, I am not at all interested in MQA but it seems eventually, we will all have to have it anyway...

Audirvana+3.0 / Qobuz Studio / Mac Mini (256GB SSD - 16GB RAM)

Lindemann Musicbook: 20 DSD, ATC EL 150ASL

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  • 4 weeks later...

I just ordered an Exasound s88. Kal & anyone else, a few questions if you may know the answer.

 

First, my system: In my family room/dining nook/kitchen area: Gotta have stuff grandchild safe/proof.

3 on wall Totem Acoustics Tribe V, 2 on wall Totem Acoustics Tribe III for surrounds. Due to dimensions of large great room area and high vaulted ceilings, more speakers not practical. TCL Series 8 75" 4k TV with Tribe Vs to sides and underneath for center speaker. Just ordered from PS Audio 3 Stellar M1200 and 2 Stellar M700 monoblocks. All components will be in closed cabinet, open back, childproof, below tv.

 

I love ROON. I have a Western Digital MyCloudPR4100 32TB network server with over 12 TB of music, up to 2 and 4 x DSD and up to DXD even a few 384-24! I use ROON in my currently being upgraded Trinnov/Aerial/Seaton Subwoofer home theater. 

 

My dedicated home theater, still under renovation/upgrade, is primary for movies. I have a basement system with 65" LG OLED as a secondary tv system. And the s88 system will primarily use the tv as a ROON video monitor (using a Google Chrome HDMI dongle).

 

I could connect like a Marantz SSP preamp via single-ended interconnects each monoblock, with the s88 connected via balanced interconnects to each monoblock, and when we want to watch and listen to the tv, hit the switch in back of each of the 5 monoblocks to go single-ended - too much of a pain, gettin' too old to bend down that much!

 

Questions:

 

Instead for any tv watching in family room, I could simply use tv speakers (built in Dolby Atmos) - or better yet, connect toslink cable from tv out to s88 and then I'd get stereo from tv, right?

 

(I do not want to use a multichannel switcher. My family area is for ME now (kids moved out, my wife passed away some years ago) so long as childproof for grandchild. George at Exasound said the Parasound 7.1 switcher works nice but is a bit of sonic degradation and I don't want that.)

 

Kal, any device that can take HDMI eArc out from TV and convert bitsteam t o 48k 5.1 Ch to send to s88; and if there is such a device will s88 digital to analog convert the signal and output multichannel analog? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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10 minutes ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

Instead for any tv watching in family room, I could simply use tv speakers (built in Dolby Atmos) - or better yet, connect toslink cable from tv out to s88 and then I'd get stereo from tv, right?

I am having a hard time following you and distinguishing from your post what is directly relevant to this question but..............

If both the s88 and the Marantz are connected to your amps/speakers, yes.

12 minutes ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

(I do not want to use a multichannel switcher. My family area is for ME now (kids moved out, my wife passed away some years ago) so long as childproof for grandchild. George at Exasound said the Parasound 7.1 switcher works nice but is a bit of sonic degradation and I don't want that.)

Agreed.  I keep the Parasound for convenient access to other-than-server sources but it is a sonic compromise.  I prefer my Coleman 7.1SW switcher.  Another option is a trio/quartet of the NobSound passive switches.

 

14 minutes ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

Kal, any device that can take HDMI eArc out from TV and convert bitsteam t o 48k 5.1 Ch to send to s88; and if there is such a device will s88 digital to analog convert the signal and output multichannel analog? 

(I doubt it.) x 2

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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15 hours ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

Kal, thanks.

 

Yea, after looking at tv manual, I can connect toslink from tv to Exasound s88 DAC and get stereo. Not a bad option!

 

I'll check into the other switchers you have mentioned. Thanks.

Latest smart TVs should output multichannel via digital out.

Audirvana+3.0 / Qobuz Studio / Mac Mini (256GB SSD - 16GB RAM)

Lindemann Musicbook: 20 DSD, ATC EL 150ASL

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2 hours ago, mevdinc said:

Latest smart TVs should output multichannel via digital out.

Not in a useful format for audiophile DACs.  Their MCH output is in the form of compressed DD/dts/Auro streams which require a decoder not included in such DACs.  

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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4 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

Not in a useful format for audiophile DACs.  Their MCH output is in the form of compressed DD/dts/Auro streams which require a decoder not included in such DACs.  

You are absolutely right.  Sorry, my bad.

Audirvana+3.0 / Qobuz Studio / Mac Mini (256GB SSD - 16GB RAM)

Lindemann Musicbook: 20 DSD, ATC EL 150ASL

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  • 2 weeks later...
37 minutes ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

My 75" TCL Series 8 manual states it will output stereo via toslink - there's a menu setting for this.

Nice but no cigar (multichannel).

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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Just got my Exasound s88 yesterday! NICE!

 

Its in my family room/dining area/kitchen great room. 5.1 on wall Totem Audio system, 5 Tribe IIIs and 2 REL 7ti subwoofers. Will shortly have 3 Tribe Vs up front and 2 REL 9ti subwoofers replacing the above to go with the existing 2 Tribe III surrounds. PS Audio monoblocks, 3 Stellar M1200s and 2 Stellar M700s. Furman Ref-15i power conditioner - Must use existing 15 amp circuit, unable to put in dedicated 20 amp circuit for now without way too much heartache and cost and hassle. 75" TCL Series 8 2019 4k tv.

 

As my dedicated home theater still down for upgrade & renovation, I initially set up my Trinnov Altitude 32 SSP in the family room, and also used its optimization/room correction. Its remapping feature was absolutely helpful, and yes sounded even better than not using remapping. And I could adjust its Auro-3D upsampling to make 2 channel sound a bit more fuller/nicer even in a 1 layer system

 

However, just turning on the Exasound DAC (disconnecting the Trinnov), I am quite pleased even initially prior to recommended burn-in. Using XLR cables for 5.1 channels. The best word I can use is "fluid" - everything sounds so fluid, so connected, even more pleasing. Those "extra" capabilities of the Trinnov SSP in my dedicated theater to be 11.12.12 will be essential - not so much in my family room. I already know the "purity" of sonics of the s88 overcomes its lack of optimization/room correction features - and I understand that ROON or added software modules (for which I'd need to get a new and more powerful ROON Core device) can to some extent make up for this.

 

For now I am using my existing Small Green Computer Sonic Transporter i7 for ROON DSP. 

 

Out of the box, got up and running via ROON Ethernet quick and easy!

 

Kal, do you or anyone have any tips/shortcuts for me in experiencing the sonic nirvana potential of the s88? Should I upsample everything to DSD, 2 x DSD, 4 x DSD and/or upsample all PCM to 384-24? Any other suggestions. Should I consider getting HQ player or some other software to use in conjunction with ROON?

 

I am considering possibly getting a Coleman 7.1 switcher as Kal has discussed - which would make it easy to switch between tv and music - but I am still a bit concerned about degradation of music quality even if a tad. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Congratulations for receiving your S88. Will be super interesting to hear about your listening impressions in the future as well. In fact, I would expect the S88 to perform best when upsampling to high DSD rates via HQPlayer. To my understanding it can be used as an NAA directly. Thus, the use of HQPlayer seems to be a very natural choice in my view.

 

My own experiences with HQPlayer Desktop are extremely positive. I fed the T+A DAC8DSD with DSD512 obtained from redbook material with HQPlayer (filter: poly-sinc-ext2, modulator:ASDM7). The purity I got thereby e.g. on voices and instruments is amazing. Bells, cymbals, brass etc. sound so natural at DSD512 ... and your S88 shall be able to work with DSD512 for stereo files too. Highly recommended to give this a try ... and the demo version of HQPlayer Desktop allows you to play 30 min at full functionality. Thereafter you have to restart the program ... a very generous demo possibility in my view.

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

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3 hours ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

Kal, do you or anyone have any tips/shortcuts for me in experiencing the sonic nirvana potential of the s88?

Nope.  Enjoy it.

3 hours ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

Should I upsample everything to DSD, 2 x DSD, 4 x DSD and/or upsample all PCM to 384-24? Any other suggestions.

I rarely ever upsample anything except for testing.

3 hours ago, Steve Bruzonsky said:

Should I consider getting HQ player or some other software to use in conjunction with ROON?

Try it.  I use JRiver most of the time.

2 hours ago, fds said:

Highly recommended to give this a try ...

Why not?

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Ted,

 

can't say if two linear PSUs would make a difference. My experience is suggesting that it doesn't. The opposite may be true. All the tests I ran with replacing a swiching mode power supply (for DIGITAL equipment) with a linear type have worked, but it didn't become better!

 

Looking forward to hear how it works within your setup! 

 

Regards, SMSWAP

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Good to know.  I should have probably, then, phrased my question this way: has anyone tried an upgraded power supply with both the analog dc input and the digital dc input on the new exaSound?   George gives both options. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just a brief update: Have tried 2nd the Teddy Pardo linear PSU on the s88 "digital" power supply. It sounds different, but to me, it doesn't sound better!

 

It appears that the switching mode PSU (default of the s88) is superior for digital circuitry.

 

Has anybody else tried it as well? Any experience?

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  • 4 weeks later...

@Kal Rubinson's Stereophile review of the S88 is now online:

https://www.stereophile.com/content/exasound-s88-multichannel-da-processor

Many thanks Kal for this great well-written review!

 

I really like your closing words: "For some who are already committed to multichannel, the s88, with its superb DAC, convenient streaming and that oh-so-welcome volume control, may be the realization of their dreams. It is of mine." 

 

Have you explored its stereo DSD512 capabilities together with HQPlayer as well? If so what have been your findings?

 

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

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7 hours ago, fds said:

Have you explored its stereo DSD512 capabilities together with HQPlayer as well? If so what have been your findings?

I have not because I do not upsample.

Kal Rubinson

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

 

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