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Octavio Stream - Review & Measurements (Streamer)

Why go with a TI chip instead of a Snapdragon?
Why go with Snapdragon?

I was talking about gapless with the application Octavio virtuose provided by the manufacturer which is the "normal" way to operate this network drive, not through a third party application.
Gapless with Qobuz indeed works with Octavio Legacy. With Virtuose, they are working on it (I hope pretty soon with next updates)... :confused: But I don't see any technical limitations that would explain Virtuose couldn't.
 
Octavio Stream - Review & Measurements

View attachment 287027

Hi Folks,

Today's review is about the Octavio Stream, which, as its name suggests, is... a streamer, and by coincidence, the second French product in a row to be measured. It was sent to me directly by the manufacturer, represented here by the co-funder, @davidminard, after I asked him a sample for objective analysis.

Octavio is literally what we may call a "start-up". It is a fairly young company, strictly speaking: it is both very recent and ran by young people. They came into business by the end of 2020, and launched their first two products (Octavio Stream and Octavio Amp) a couple of years ago, after a crowdfunding campaign. Their line-up also recently included an active speaker, the Maestro. These three products are both designed and assembled in France, by a small team based in Tourcoing, which certainly is unusual nowadays. The Octavio Stream costs 199€, but I see it on sale for 179€, which by the way is also the actual European MSRP of the WiiM Pro, that I reviewed back in February. That would be then an interesting comparison, even if the latter has quite a few more features to offer. The Stream, on the other hand, does indeed show a simpler approach, and mostly focus on a straightforward design, while putting more effort in software development.​

View attachment 287028

The Stream is built around a quite minimalistic design. It fits in a tiny (12 X 6.5 cm) and rigid plastic case, that I found the molding quality to be good. It has a very discrete LED at the center, hidden inside the chassis, which blinks in either white or blue color, respectively for both Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. There are only two tactile buttons on the top, one for Play/Pause function, the second for next track. And... that is pretty much it.​

View attachment 287029

On the back, the connectivity is set at its very minimum. The central button allows you to switch between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi inputs. The unit is powered through its USB-C port, but the latter may also take Ethernet LAN connection with the proper (optional) cable. The 3.5 mm Jack (1/4") socket shares both analog and digital outputs. To use the internal DAC, you may connect either a Jack to RCA cable, a 3.5 mm Jack to 3.5 mm Jack one. You will need a 3.5 mm Jack to Toslink cable in intend to feed an external DAC. Sadly, only one of these tree cables is supplied with the Stream, so you will have to choose which option you would need when ordering.

On the software side, the Octavio Stream is somewhat more interesting. As a Linkplay module is implemented, it works perfectly fine with the popular WiiM Home app. Initially, Octavio also proposed their "own" revision of this app at launch (which was basically a reskin of WiiM Home) : Octavio Legacy. While it still is supported to date, the "Legacy" stands now that Octavio operated a significant departure from the Linkplay ecosystem, by starting to develop their own app, in-house. The latter is called Octavio Virtuose and is 100% an original design from their team.

View attachment 287037
View attachment 287038

Honestly, like this alternative by quite a margin. It is one of the best "Hi-Fi" streaming app I experienced, and among the few ones that remind me the usability of Roon (without its terrific algorithm abilities, tho). The overall presentation looks and feels definitely more modern than WiiM Home, and it works both smooth and fast. There is still some room for improvements: While you can play your own files from a NAS, Bubbleupnp or Airplay, the only streaming service directly integrated is Qobuz (edit: and Deezer!). If you want to use Tidal, then you would have to launch their own app, as the Octavio Stream supports Tidal Connect. Same goes for Spotify or Amazon Music... Sure, if needed, you still have the possibility to use Octavio Legacy (or WiiM Home) app and then have all of these in the same place, but I would really like to see more services implemented in Virtuose in the future. At the end, certainly a great proposal, and I am sure it could only get better over time.

By the way, the Octavio team is also working on the Roon Ready certification (...or waiting from Roon to get it, you know how it works), which could be a tremendous addition, especially at this price point!​


Measurements

Disclaimer: Measurements you are about to see are not intended to be as precise or extensive than what you get from a 30k€ AP. There is obviously both hardware and software limitations here, so not quite apples to apples comparison with Amir's testing. Still, this data is enough to have a pretty good idea if the gear is bad or not, stellar, broken, or sub-par...

- Instruments : RME ADI-2/4 PRO SE. E1DA Cosmos ADC (Grade B), Minimum phase filter. E1DA Cosmos APU 60dB preamp is used for DR measurements. Output voltage is measured separately, using a DMM with a 0dBFS 1kHz tone.
- Software : REW V5.20.14, Multitone Loopback Analyzer 1.0.80 and RMAA 6.4.5 PRO,
- Method : 8 runs for each test, then I choose the closest to the average. Bandwidth and sampling rate to be specified for each test.

Note: Because the Octavio Stream does not have any regular digital input, I could not have run all my usual tests, ones working with sweeps in particular (virtually impossible to synchronize). As such, every test tones have been measured while played through the mobile app.

Note: Prior to this publication, I have shown the upcoming results to Octavio.​

Analog Performance
View attachment 287039

Octavio Stream - DAC Summary
Tests
Results (L & R)
Rating
Noise Level (REW)
-104.8dBA
Good
Dynamic Range (REW)
108.7dB
Good
THD (REW)​
0.00305%​
Good
THD+Noise / SINAD (REW)
-89.7dB
Average
IMD SMPTE (REW)​
-74.1dB​
Subpar
Stereo crosstalk (RMAA)​
/​
/​
IMD+Noise @10 kHz (RMAA)​
/​
/​
Multitone 32 TD+N (REW)​
-73.3dB​
Subpar


Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (SINAD) - 24b/44.1kHz
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Frequency Response - 24b/44.1kHz
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Noise Level - 24b/44.1kHz
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Dynamic Range - 24b/44.1kHz
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Intermodulation Distortion SMPTE - 24b/44.1kHz
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Jitter - 24b/48kHz
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Multitone 32 - 24b/192kHz

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As stated in the disclaimer, I am unfortunately not able to check the IMD Vs Level, nor THD VS Frequency. Sadly, the overall performance coming out of the integrated DAC is, at best, nothing to rave about. At some points, it is kind of better than the WiiM Pro. For instance, regarding pure SINAD and Dynamic Range. On the other hand, both IMD and Multitone 32 (here displayed with REW since I could not synchronize the test with Multitone Loopback Analyzer) offer nothing but subpar performance.

When I showed these results to Octavio, they said that they just took the reference design from Texas Instrument for their DAC Board, without any modification of their own. The D/A chip in question is the PCM5102A (Datasheet here). TI claims 93dB maximum SINAD for this one, but done at 48kHz and at -1dBFS. In addition, it does not say if it is A-Weighted. These could explain the variations with my results, not to mention the limitations of my equipment. Dynamic Range is supposed to be between 106dBA (min) to 112dBA (typ), which, to me, matches the 108.7dB (not weighted) I measured. It is also interesting to observe that both Multitone and Jitter seem to act very similar to the TI implementation in the NAD CS1, just reviewed by @amirm.

So, while the performance is indeed substandard when comparing against even the average modern DAC, at least it remains competitive against other streamers in this price range. To state the obvious, you would better think about an external DAC if you consider the Octavio Stream in a (objectively) high performing system. The irony remains that it still is doing better than the previous DAC I measured, while it costed 10 times more. Anyway...

Among the good news, the variable output performance (through digital volume in the app) behaves in an appropriate way:​


THD+N Versus Level
Volume Level
Output Voltage @1kHz
THD+N
100/100​
2.108Vrms​
-90.2dB​
95/100​
1.675Vrms​
-91.6dB​
90/100​
1.492Vrms​
-91.9dB​
80/100​
0.941Vrms​
-92.5dB​
70/100​
0.748Vrms​
-91.8dB​
60/100​
0.472Vrms​
-89.2dB​
50/100​
0.333Vrms​
-86.9dB​


Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (SINAD) - 24b/44.1kHz
View attachment 287098

Surprisingly, the Octavio Stream may act as an acceptable digital "preamp", with very little SINAD variations down to about 0.5Vrms. This, while I would personally not recommend using any volume settings controlled by software. Updates and resets happen... Certainly not the safer bet for your power amp.

Assuming that the analog part is not a tremendous accomplishment, we can now explore the digital domain.​


Digital Performance
View attachment 287054


Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (SINAD) - 24b/44.1kHz
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It is important to note that for better flexibility, I now use a different sine wave than the one in the WiiM Pro's review (previously from APx Tone Generator). This particular test file, generated in REW should give around -139dB THD+N (instead of -141dB with APx) when measured. As you see in this FFT graph, it does not. With a 24bits dithered 1kHz sine, the noise floor in the digital domain should be dead flat down to -180dB. While I have zero complain to address when it comes to strictly audible transparency (no DAC on Earth will be impacted by this "issue"), it is a pity to not have a 100% transparent digital signal.

Same remark goes for the Intermodulation Distortion:
Intermodulation Distortion SMPTE - 24b/44.1kHz
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Again, nothing close to be any kind of audible, yet, it falls short of textbook perfect results I should expect. When I showed this to Octavio, they responded that there was nothing in their app or with the firmware version of the Octavio Stream that could explain it (no DSP, nor post-treatment involved). I also backed up these results using the WiiM Home app, and got the exact same picture. So far, my personal guess is that there is something to fix (internal firmware) with the Linkplay module itself.

Hopefully (and obviously), FR is not affected by any means:
Frequency Response - 24b/44.1kHz
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...Nor is the Jitter:
Jitter - 24b/48kHz
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There is indeed nothing to complain on that side. What we get is just a perfect J-Test picture (24 bits ENOB), as it should be!

Note: This is digitally recorded by the RME ADI-2/4 PRO SE, which has State Of The Art Jitter rejection. As such, results may vary depending on your DAC, as each could add Jitter of its own. Yet, this test shows that the Jitter will not be introduced by the Octavio Stream itself.

Moving from regular Wi-Fi connectivity, let see what we have when using AirPlay:

Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (SINAD) - 16b/44.1kHz
View attachment 287096

This test is done via Roon, and gives results mostly as expected. Near the very maximum measurable with my 16 bits dithered test file. I call it suitable for many 16/44 lossless content. Needless to say, it performs way better than Bluetooth :
Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (SINAD) - 16b/44.1kHz
View attachment 287097

This is unfortunately what you would expect from (very) lossy codecs, such as regular AAC or SBC. You do not want this kind of performance in any High Fidelity system.

I do not see anything else that could be measured at this point.

Conclusions
For the objective part, the conclusion is very easy. If taken as a standalone budget streamer, the Ocatvio Stream is, unfortunately, doing on par with its own competition. Meaning: far from the competent DACs we used to see more and more often these last few years. When looking at the actual market, though, I am not sure if there is much to blame about this one, since even much bigger companies, such as Linkplay, or more recently NAD do not offer any better analog performance, while costing either the same or much more. I could also think about the quite popular Bluesound Node, which presents extremely similar data, also with a TI D/A chip, but is retailing for more than three times the price. In my book, a 199€ streamer is intended to be paired with a (good) DAC. Perhaps, we still need to wait a bit more to see actually good measuring integrated DACs in streamers in that range. Now, there is the digital output. It will be transparent as far as audibility is concerned, that's for sure, but it does not measure exactly as such. I hope that the issues observed above could be fixed by firmware in the future. Meanwhile, I will not hold that against it, as it does not (and cannot) impact listening experience.

Speaking of which, I really enjoyed my time with the Stream for the couple of weeks I had it in my system. The Virtuose app really has some great potential, and that is where they need to put the effort. I do need for more services support, with melted research from the same menu, and I also think that Roon Ready support would offer even more flexibility. So, if you are wondering, yes, I recommend the Octavio Stream on the subjective side. And I am not talking about sound (it has no "sound"). What some could want to reward here are both local assembly and in-house software development. Well, I personnaly do. I would also like to congratulate the Octavio team for loaning me this product to be measured, and for being nice and professional people to talk with. Keep it up, guys !

Flanker rating:
Octavio Stream (analog): Not Great
Octavio Stream (digital):
Very Good
Very minor correction: 3.5mm jack is 1/8" (not 1/4")
 
Why go with Snapdragon?


Gapless with Qobuz indeed works with Octavio Legacy. With Virtuose, they are working on it (I hope pretty soon with next updates)... :confused: But I don't see any technical limitations that would explain Virtuose couldn't.
Snapdragon is a much better chip than any TI chip IMO
 
For spotify/tidal/deezer streaming, is it better or worse than the Wiim pro ?
 
Is there any streamer that accepts FIR filters apply do room EQ? With digital output, preferably AES/EBU. I am not expecting the streamer to do the measuring and creating the filters, just accepting filter files I created manually elsewhere. That would be a killer feature if someone has it already.
 
In every way. I don't know which one to buy
The one that fills your needs. That's it. Both are very different offerings, feature-wise...

I would rather use Tidal app through Tidal Connect than Tidal integration in both WiiM Home and Octavio Legacy, so both are similar on that matter. Deezer is integrated in Virtuose, so I would prefer the latter over WiiM Home. Spotify, I don't use it at all, as such, I cannot say.
 
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Hi @VintageFlanker, thank you for the interesting and detailed review.

I presume the Octavio Amp has the Stream built-in, I am not clear how Octavio's multi-room feature works. For example, if one had 10 or more rooms in a house where music is required would each room show up in Virtuose e.g. Lounge, Kitchen, Dinning, Deck, Tom, Peter, Lilly, Sasha etc.?

Provided all the Amp units are hard-wired via CAT-6, each member of the family should be able to play different music in their rooms via a streaming service such as Spotify, is that right?

If certain rooms or all rooms are grouped then the music is synchronised effectively?

Is there a limit to how many Amps (or devices) can be used in a single installation? - Sonos has a limit of 32 devices per household.

No comprehensive information pertaining to multi-room setups on the Octavio website.

If any forum member has any experience with multi-room setups, please share your thoughts.
 
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Will their app work with the WiiMs?
I gave it a shot, briefly. I couldn’t figure out how skip the setup process and I didn’t want to reset my Wiim(s) from scratch. So, I think the answer is maybe, but it does not seem to automatically recognize already setup Wiims. See below.
 
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