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Metrum Octave DAC: COAX vs. TOSLINK ?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hi, I am considering to purchase a Metrum Octave. As source I got an Acer Revo R3700 Nettop (Win8 & jplay) with Toslink (I use a TCI Coral cable) and USB-Audio-Out.

As I  can not afford to buy an Audiophilleo USB/SPDIF Converter (which seems to be the choice for a Metrum Dac) I was wondering how the DAC performs with Optical-Input. Would be great if someone could write about the differences in sq. Other suggestions of DACs with a similar (resolving but organic) sound signature and USB/Toslink input would be appreciated as well.Thanks!


Regards from Berlin,


post #2 of 15

The Metrum NOS DACs require a good transport to get the best sound out of them. 


Prior to getting the stello U3 (USB->SPDIF interface), my Metrum Quad sounded blurry when fed directly with the coax out of my Squeezebox Touch, especially in the bass. I could still hear the outstanding qualities the DAC has to offer, but only on "simple" tracks were each instrument plays separatelly (this is, of course, an oversimplification). When the song becomes more complexe, everything becomes blurry, especially in the lows.


Adding the U3 to the equation was, definitely, a night and day difference in my case. The sond flows like liquid crystal and the separation is excellent, even on complex passages.


Since I don't expect your nettop to be significantly superior to the Touch's S/PDIF output (especially Optical vs Coax) I would say a converter is MUST for these DACs.


You could always go for a cheaper DDC like the V-LINK192 (200,00€ on eBay). Or, go for the cheaper Quad DAC and add a good transport like the AP2 or the Stello U3.


Octave + V-LINK192  vs. Quad + AP2 is a tough call and I don't expect anybody here to have heard both. 


Based on my prior experience, I'm 99% sure that the Quad + U3 will sound better than the Octave "alone" (fed by a "low-quality" SPDIF transport).


I also own a Audio-GD Reference 5.32 which has more features:

- More inputs

- Built-in Jitter reduction stage (the DI-DSP)

- A (very) good USB input

- Balanced outputs


Technically, the U3 + Quad and the Reference 5.32 are on par. It all comes down to sound preference and system matching. The Reference 5.32 has slightly darker sound signature but both actually do sound natural/organic to the same extent.

I tend to prefere the former because I'm using the SA-31 headphone amp which, itself, is already quite warm. On my dad's speaker system, which is more neutral, it makes no odds!


Hope that helps ;)

post #3 of 15
Edit: Wrong topic!
post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the fast and detailed reply! Stello U3 and a Metrum Quad could be a way to go for me actually. As there are only a very few reviews of the Quad it would be great if you could give a short comparison of the Quad and the Octave. This would be really appreciated not only from my side I guess! And how does the Audio dg compare to the Quad in terms of dynamics and musical involvement. It is said that the metrum dacs have a somehow forward sounding signature, what would suit my somehow a bit reserved current setup well. How would you describe the audio dg in this regard? Thanks and excuse my poor English...

Edited by fluidsigns - 11/28/12 at 3:34am
post #5 of 15

Your English is not bad and I'm french so... :D


I never listened to the Octave, that's why I was only making asumption for the Octave "alone" vs. Quad + U3 in a computer-based system (or, in my case, a Squeezebox Touch).


The two Metrum DACs differ in the number of DAC chips they feature and their power supply. Basically they supposedly have the same digital input stage, which is not really good at reducing jitter. Most of the Octave users tend to agree on that: it requires a good S/PDIF transport (either a good CD transport or a DDC like the Stello U3 or Audiophilleo). My findings with the Quad are similar in this regard.


You can find other inputs in the Reference 5.2 thread. I compare it directly with the Quad and shared my concerns regarding its lack of dynamics and PRaT (in stock version) on my setup. After a simple cap mod (remove 4 capacitors in the ACSS modules as presented in the user manual) these concerns were gone. 


In term of technicalities (technicities?), they are in the same league, no doubt. They share a delicious natural tone that's extremelly enjoyable!

The rest is just a matter of preference:

- The Quad is more forward sounding, which, on my setup, is more involving and serves the music better. It is a simple design (small, 2 inputs, 1 output => that's it!).

- The Reference 5 is more prone to exhibiting its (many) strengths. As its name suggest, It is a "Reference" DAC. It has much more features (built-in DSP, many inputs, balanced outputs) but it is bulkier. The sound signature is slightly darker in comparison.


Overall, I must admit I prefer the sound of the U3 + Quad because it just plays music. Before that, I was expecting a DAC to exhibit its strenghts (resolving, focused sound, instrument separation and so on) to get that "WoW" moments. In this regard, the Reference 5 is the better one. In comparison, the Quad does not have that precise soundstage/layering, the sounds just come out from "nowhere" (I'm exagerating on this point, of course) but in such an enjoyable manner that I just don't care. I'm not saying the Quad is not resolving, it is (on par with the Ref 5 in term of detail retrieval), just that when I'm listening to it I don't try to locate the origin of the sounds, I'm just enjoying them coming at me in a very natural way. Like I said, the music just flows......


If I had bought the Reference 5 earlier, I probably would have had a big "Wow" moment and wouldn't have any urge to upgrade it. The thing is, I already owned the Quad for 1 month when I bought it. There was no big step between the 2, so no big "Wow" moment happened (and I wasn't expecting any, to be honest). I bought it for its many features and the matching case for the SA-31 headamp but I realized I don't need the extra features right away so I'm gonna sell the Reference 5.

Edited by Clemmaster - 11/28/12 at 5:50am
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks for sharing your insights! After having read your comments and after what I've read in the Reference 5.2. thread I think that the Metrum Quad might better fit to my expectations. For now I have speakers from a  German manufactorer called NuVero 10 paired with the nettop, an Creek Evo2 amplifier and the DAcMagic. The setup is quite neutral in general but lacks a bit of involvement and forwardness. I was wondering whether it is possible to buy the Stello DDC somewhere in Europe for a reasonable price as taxes/customs will be quite heavy when shipped from Asia.




post #7 of 15

I bought the stello directly from a eBay reseller in Korea (Stello's home country)  for 350€ with free delivery and 40€ taxes.


The V-LINK192 can be found for 200€ in France and makes it a much better value (I found that after I bought the Stello), though less neat looking :D. From a technical standpoint, they look pretty much identical to me ;)


One my dad's speaker system (exposure 2010S + focal 826W) which is neutral, Its a draw between the Quad and the Ref 5. On my headphone setup (Audio-GD SA-31 + HE-500), I prefer the Quad over the Re 5 because the latter adds its dark sound signature to an already warm sounding system. With a neutral sounding amp, I might have preferred the Ref 5 actually :p 

post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 

Yeah, of course system matching is as always the key for most answers. So you would say that the V-Link192  might be on par with the Stello. This would be great news for my pocket ;). As far as the Metrums Dacs are concerned I thought that I need to invest at least 400€ for a proper DCC.

post #9 of 15

See if you can't find a second-hand Audio-gd Digital Interface for it, especially the version 2 or DSP version. It wont be as good as the Audiophilleo but it will be a lot better than using the Toslink input.

post #10 of 15

I'm also considering the Quad or Octave - trying to figure out the audio chain......From the pc - USB out - to a Wavelength USB/SPIDF converter (bottom one I already have http://www.usbdacs.com/Products/Products.html to the Quad / Octave coax input and also from a Cambridge Audio Azur 540D toslink into the Quad / Octave. 


Clem - When you are talking about a transport - you are referring to the USB/SPIDF converter - is that correct? Sorry for the noob question, but I want to make sure I'm getting that right. Would the 540D through toslink into the Quad / Octave sound poopy?

post #11 of 15
Transport is what feeds the DAC with digital signal (in the present case: SPDif).
A CD player with digital output is a transport.
The squeezebox touch is a transport too. Its SPDif outputs are not that great, hence the use of a USB/SPDif converter to make it a (fairly?) good source transport.

CD players are usually good transports compared to the SBT's SPDif out. Even some cheap DVD players are pretty decent.
Edited by Clemmaster - 1/16/13 at 5:03am
post #12 of 15

Thanks Clem - perfectly understood - I should be good shape. 

post #13 of 15

I made a mistake as well, I wrote source instead of transport for the Squeezebox Touch + DDC.


A source is a Transport + a DAC. Via its analog outputs, a CD player is a source. The same goes for the Squeezebox touch which can be either a transport or a source.

post #14 of 15

Just purchased the Metrum Octave to replace my Burson DA-160. Already am using the Audiophilleo 2 so that part is taken care of. Will be using my Soloist to power my HD-800/HE-500. So looking forward to this new audio adventure. My tastes run to jazz and acoustic. While waiting for my new toy I sure would appreciate any comments on my new chain......my music is all generated by computer using both MOG and JRiver 17.....

post #15 of 15

Looking forward to your impressions when you get it in.smile.gif

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