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Review and Measurements of Okto DAC8 8Ch DAC & Amp

MWC

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I'm considering the Okto DAC8 for use with:
OUTs = 4x Adam A7 (powered monitors with xlr input)
INs = PC/NAS LAN > USB using Foobar2000, ASIO driver, Custom Channel Mapping

I hope I have understood that this would work. Otherwise please enlighten me.
 
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Me too!

This just hits too many points that are must haves for me!
But, adds further analysis paralysis decisions to be made - nothing really good is ever simple, it seems.

As to who the target consumer is, I suspect it was originally the 3-way mains + 2 subs crowd, but like so many 'good designs', user feedback likely expanded the target audience. This is a pretty impressive bit of kit for the money.

I have an 8ch system with 2-way active crossover mains + sub (handled by a dBX Venu 360) which will be downstream of the OcktoDAC via its stereo AES main outs.
(I wrote and asked - pleaded - for them to include AES stereo main outputs - Done - Thank you!)

My personal 'use case' for the Okto will be 99% LAN file access; not particularly interested in paying monthly fees for streaming services at this time.

Controlling music access/search/selection via a smartphone or tablet, and volume control via the Okto remote would seem to be the least complex solution (and avoid a further cluttering of remotes!).
But I wouldn't rule out a PC based 'tv-screen' display either.

But, 'what to drive it with' is still not clear (decided) for me yet, and I'd sure appreciate suggestions - there just seem to be too many 'almost/maybe' products out there to track down (most of whom market gee-whiz features but are painfully short on info about What They Can Actually DO).

The Home Theatre vs. Just Audio (HDMI vs. USB) conundrum (as discussed above) is annoying, but not a hard deal breaker for me, and worst case managed via a hard analog switch between the HDMI pre-pro +Oppo and the Okto outputs.
(Ideally, the Vanity 103 card for the Oppo would be perfect, but seem to be unavailable even used now)

So, PC vs. 'streamer' is where I'm stuck now.

A dedicated PC would, in theory, allow me to apply room EQ to the surrounds (the Venu360 manages the front and subwoofer EQ), but I now consider that to be of minor benefit.
It would also allow me to chose the software I like the best - UI design is pretty important to me. I'm running MusicBee now, and like it very much, but JRiver and others considerations.

However, A simple Roon endpoint streamer like this is tempting:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...d-review-of-sotm-sms-200-network-player.1846/
But the whole multi-channel file source thing is unclear, not to mention the other concerns brought up there.

I'd sure like to find a product like Element X - a streamer that acts as a USB host.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...matrix-audio-element-x-dac-streamer-amp.7782/
But without the DAC features and is much too costly for me.

So, that's my story and I'm sticking with it (and many Thanks to Kal for all his multi-channel work & reviews!).

Any USB source suggestions would be greatly appreciated - I hope to place an order for the OktoDAC shortly.
Thanks!!
 
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Right, which is why it made sense when they had a version with an integrated Nanosharc. On the other hand, I would prefer to have the flexibility of separating the DSP and DAC separate because I think the DAC may have a longer lifespan in my system (DSP technology is advancing more rapidly). However, I can't find a suitable DSP to use with the Okto. The older Minisharc is still available, and one may be able to add 4x Digi-FP boards to get AES/EBU out to the Okto.
I bought the DAC8 module back then, when it was available, feeding it from a miniSHARC via i2s. I guess they stopped selling it, because they needed to give to much support, and because miniSHARC and nanoSHARC are discontinued, so there is no useable i2s source anymore.

One could try to use a nanoDIGI 2x8 and feed the S/PDIF signals over transformers to the AES/EBU input. The formats are more or less the same.
 
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Thanks @Labjr. Metric Halo seems to check a lot of boxes, and I am not against pro gear, but it's hard to wade through all the features that are lost on me to find the ones I care about. Features I am looking at:
  • 2 channel SPDIF in: yes
  • 8 channel balanced analog out: yes (for three ways plus subs)
  • IR remote capable, but no master volume control or display?
  • The "equivalent DSP power of 30 of the SHARC DSPs" sounds great, but unsure what the practical limits are e.g. # FIR taps at 96kHz
There are a few DIY projects I am aware of, but some have performance problems and some are still vaporware. Pro gear like Metric Halo seems to have all the capabilities in place, but delivery is not necessarily there because it's packaged for the pro market.
 

audimus

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From the responses to my question I see that it is for a very niche audience with a hobbyist or pro-gear bent (to even know the difference between balanced and unbalanced outputs let alone figure out what can be connected to it and have the ability to acquire such equipment).

Does it need to be? I have the same frustrations with miniDSP products. There is always something missing or in the way of using it for the feature I need. But more than just self-interests, it also impacts company viability.

Not being an audio engineer, is this an engineering limitation or is it from a techy mindset without product management?

I don’t necessarily mean the mass-market consumer as the audience who is happy buying the latest Denon or Yamaha kitchen sink product.

But let us say, a consumer wants to step up from an all-in-one AVR to use a better engineered and cleaner external DAC, and hopefully multi-channel so they have the option of either stereo or surround audio applications.

What does it take for manufacturers to accommodate the required connectivity to insert a device like this in a plug-and-play fashion of a typical non-esoteric and non-pc based audio setup even a high end one? Will that necessarily compromise the designs of the main feature here which is a DAC? Is it a licensing issue?
 

Kal Rubinson

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What does it take for manufacturers to accommodate the required connectivity to insert a device like this in a plug-and-play fashion of a typical non-esoteric and non-pc based audio setup even a high end one?
That's what mainstream consumer audio is for. miniDSP is an excellent example of a product line that spans consumer, hobbyist and pro audio and, as such, does not fit all simultaneously. The motivated and informed find ways to use their products to there advantage. The OKTO DAC8 is similar in that regard.

But let us say, a consumer wants to step up from an all-in-one AVR to use a better engineered and cleaner external DAC, and hopefully multi-channel so they have the option of either stereo or surround audio applications.
There are many other options for this. If you stay within the confines of consumer-targeted solutions, they are not complex. If you want to venture further afield, well, here you are. :)
 
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Mini DSP doesn't outperform an analog active crossover. So pretty useless. Would be good to see a DSP crossover that has the specs of some of these inexpensive DACs, to use with the Linkwitz LX521 speakers.
I own LX521s and find that creating the required x-overs/eq for them in JRiver's Parametric EQ works very well. I currently use a Mytek ADDA8x192 with a USB Dio card. However, the Mytek also has AES/EBU inputs like the Okto Dac 8 and I have fed those with a MiniDSP nanoDigi using Neutrik transformers. It works fine, but to me seems more cumbersome than implementing DSP in software.

I have also created the required LX521 x-overs/dsp in Acourate (no room correction or FIR filters) and implemented these using JRiver's convolver. Again it works and sounds fine. I can't see any reason to go back to using an external DSP unit.

The Mytek is considerably more flexible (8 analogue inputs and 8 AES/EBU outputs) than the Okto Dac 8, but is a 13 year old design. However, as old as it is, it still ranks in the top 10 of Gearslutz's DAC loopback test the last time I looked and is still in production. The Okto is much more handsome, though! :)

I'm looking forward to comparing the Okto and Mytek, hopefully in the not too distant future.
 

audimus

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That's what mainstream consumer audio is for. miniDSP is an excellent example of a product line that spans consumer, hobbyist and pro audio and, as such, does not fit all simultaneously. The motivated and informed find ways to use their products to there advantage. The OKTO DAC8 is similar in that regard.
I find there is a large gap between mainstream consumer audio that is moving towards more of an integrated kitchen sink product and pro and esoteric brands that are typically priced to be out of reach of most or require other esoteric devices. Two extremes. No doubt this product is useful for a niche target segment, that wasn’t my point. But is it necessary from the company’s perspective and viability to cater to such a niche exclusively? miniDSP is a good example of a company with good engineers but again poor product management so they have shortfalls in every target audience except for a niche that is able to jump hoops to make it fit or don’t care that there are serious last mile shortfalls in implementation in some aspects.

There are many other options for this. If you stay within the confines of consumer-targeted solutions, they are not complex. If you want to venture further afield, well, here you are. :)
With multi-channel capability? Name one that is even close to this in the quality of DAC (as measured) and preferably not priced at multiples of this price and yet plug-and-play for a typical audio chain (even for serious audio enthusiasts).

My question was really, this seems to be a well-engineered product but with serious limitations on how it can be used except for a niche. Is this a natural consequence of achieving that quality of product from an engineering/cost perspective or is it from not worrying about market fit for commercial viability being enthused about technology (like so many engineer-founded startups)?

Would having a version of this with HDMI in and 8xRCA out totally destroy the quality of the product or make the cost prohibitive? This is what I am trying to understand not having any experience in the production side of things.
 
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Kal Rubinson

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Would having a version of this with HDMI in and 8xRCA out totally destroy the quality of the product or make the cost prohibitive?
Do you know it has USB input which can come from servers or computers? HDMI is expensive to license for small volume manufacturers.
 
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Thanks @Labjr. Metric Halo seems to check a lot of boxes, and I am not against pro gear, but it's hard to wade through all the features that are lost on me to find the ones I care about. Features I am looking at:
  • 2 channel SPDIF in: yes
  • 8 channel balanced analog out: yes (for three ways plus subs)
  • IR remote capable, but no master volume control or display?
  • The "equivalent DSP power of 30 of the SHARC DSPs" sounds great, but unsure what the practical limits are e.g. # FIR taps at 96kHz
There are a few DIY projects I am aware of, but some have performance problems and some are still vaporware. Pro gear like Metric Halo seems to have all the capabilities in place, but delivery is not necessarily there because it's packaged for the pro market.

I talked to Steve Devino of Granite Rocks Pro Audio 7-8 years ago. He's an expert a t programming that equipment. At that time, he told me the current DSP in MH would struggle to do 2 four channel crossovers at 192 khz in one box. But all that's changed. Steve is a great guy to talk with about that stuff. He also does live sound mixing for some big acts. BJ Buchalter, owner of Metric Halo is a brilliant engineer. No BS, no hype kind of guy. However, I'm not sure what the current state of their products is.

I'd like to see some products by some of these small companies that outperforms junk like the mini DSP. An analog active crossover is better than that. Siegfried Linkwitz confirmed that. God rest his soul.
 

audimus

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Do you know it has USB input which can come from servers or computers? HDMI is expensive to license for small volume manufacturers.
Yes, but having a device with a USB out for audio (in an entertainment center rather than for people at a desktop with a computer or laptop) is by no means a typical audio chain. I do have a HTPC in my media center that can output via USB if necessary but only for sources from that HTPC. Then there is the output connectivity issue also.

Typically, this unit would be the most useful if it is placed in line just before the pre/amp with line in and all digital sources coming through it. Future upgrades would likely place an all digital room correction equalizer just upstream of it, so even a single hdmi in might be acceptable (or external hdmi switchers with remote are plenty and cheap).

I suspect I represent a much, much larger addressible market than the current niche, one for which 90%+ of the required hard work has already been done.

HDMI adopter fee is max $10k per year and between $5k and $10k depending on units sold. The royalty fee is a few pennies per unit and in the noise. I didn’t think this would be a cost barrier (may be a cash flow barrier initially if not well funded) since the increased market size, even with guerilla marketing by word of mouth for such a well engineered product can cover more than that cost. Some of that cost can also be passed on to the price of the model with HDMI capability as cheaper video card manufacturers do. Should not be an issue at the price point of this unit.

That is exactly where good product management helps to make the trade-offs.

But, I am not sure of the engineering cost of design to ensure that these connectivity alternatives don’t affect the quality or reliability of the unit as a whole. Additional staffing costs might be the most expensive. HDMI processing, for example, can apparently introduce noise into other components in the box unless care is taken, etc. But this is not my area of expertise.
 
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Kal Rubinson

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Yes, but having a device with a USB out for audio (in an entertainment center rather than for people at a desktop with a computer or laptop) is by no means a typical audio chain. I do have a HTPC in my media center that can output via USB if necessary but only for sources from that HTPC. Then there is the output connectivity issue also.

Typically, this unit would be the most useful if it is placed in line just before the pre/amp with line in and all digital sources coming through it. Future upgrades would likely place an all digital room correction equalizer just upstream of it, so even a single hdmi in might be acceptable (or external hdmi switchers with remote are plenty and cheap).
Personally, I would use it in place of the preamp. For me, the USB is generally sufficient and I would prefer a network input to an HDMI or, even, the 8-channel AES3 but I do agree that an HDMI input might open it up to a new market. I am not certain that the market would be sufficient to justify the investment.

I suspect I represent a much, much larger addressible market than the current niche, one for which 90%+ of the required hard work has already been done.
I am skeptical that this market will respond.
 

audimus

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Personally, I would use it in place of the preamp. For me, the USB is generally sufficient and I would prefer a network input to an HDMI or, even, the 8-channel AES3 but I do agree that an HDMI input might open it up to a new market. I am not certain that the market would be sufficient to justify the investment.

I am skeptical that this market will respond.
That is precisely why one would need good product management that cannot be swayed by technology enthusiasm or anecdotal requirements from random samples in forums to make the right product decisions to maximize their returns. Even a small sample market testing/polling using good statistical measures will help make the right trade-offs. I really hope they have done this.

But, just the inability for anyone even here to state a simple, compelling and obvious canonical usage (which is what primarily drives most of the revenues) and the devices that would be connected to it rather than “I would use it” does not bode well for its traction beyond the early adopters (to “cross the chasm”). It looks like a well-engineered solution looking for a problem.

As a personal opinion though based on working with a lot of technology startups as part of my vocation and interest, I don’t see this company as being financially viable, with the niche it has selected and a single product. The product pricing at least as of now is too low for that niche market to make it viable even if you assume 60%+ margins (with direct sales and minimal marketing costs, much less through channels). If growing the market beyond this niche is not possible, then that is their fate but it would be sad if they have not done the required market study to position the product correctly or strategically to be viable for the long term.

I sincerely hope I can be proved totally wrong for the sake of the company as they seem to have done some excellent engineering work with a good eye for aesthetics as well.
 

MWC

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audimus are you prospecting for a marketing job from Okto?
IMHO audio, in general, is better served via USB than HDMI. It seems all your problems fitting this DAC into your current set-up are based on you not moving forward into audio from PC, yet you say you have a HTPC. So why don't you solve these issues, at your end, and have all your audio on your HTPC, say via a networked NAS? There is no point in sticking to playing silver discs only, it's not where audio is going, that was yesteryear.
 
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As a personal opinion though based on working with a lot of technology startups as part of my vocation and interest, I don’t see this company as being financially viable, with the niche it has selected and a single product. The product pricing at least as of now is too low for that niche market to make it viable even if you assume 60%+ margins (with direct sales and minimal marketing costs, much less through channels). If growing the market beyond this niche is not possible, then that is their fate but it would be sad if they have not done the required market study to position the product correctly or strategically to be viable for the long term.
I fail to grasp why this is such a niche product: there a numerous companies that make sufficient revenue of selling stereo DAC's right? Indeed, they should not only target DSP projects, and I think their stereo offering reflects this.

I do recognize the risk that adding too much functionality will scare off potential buyers, as it somehow does not feel right to pay for functionality that one won't be using. The irony of course is that regardless this device will outperform numerous more expensive stereo DAC's without the additional functionality. However, we have to consider that people do not make rational purchasing decisions in general. A degree of modularity does seem to have benefits (such as removing the streaming unit).

Perhaps there is an issue with the internet-direct model, but afaik they are running currently at maximum production capability. I would not be surprised if a majority of their target audience does internet research. It thus seems to me that for them to become successful is mostly about creating a buzz, and being visible on the internet. SVS for instance has been very successful at doing this.
 

graz_lag

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As others around here, I am considering the purchase of this unit, however I cannot weight what it's real advantages are vs. a typical layout where a nice transparent DAC (e.g. the Sabaj D5) feeds a processor (e.g. the DBX DriveRack PA2) to the speakers / subs via dedicated amps.

1) I only play FLAC files stored on a dedicated Linux-based HTPC
2) Not interested to LAN file access
3) Looking for a simple reliable room correction & speaker management
3) Not interested in Spotify, Tidal or other streaming option

Some very basic requirement's, actually.
 
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As others around here, I am considering the purchase of this unit, however I cannot weight what it's real advantages are vs. a typical layout where a nice transparent DAC (e.g. the Sabaj D5) feeds a processor (e.g. the DBX DriveRack PA2) to the speakers / subs via dedicated amps.

1) I only play FLAC files stored on a dedicated Linux-based HTPC
2) Not interested to LAN file access
3) Looking for a simple reliable room correction & speaker management
3) Not interested in Spotify, Tidal or other streaming option

Some very basic requirement's, actually.
Your typical layout with a 2-channel DAC feeding an analogue preamp before sending the signal into a DSP processor (i.e. DBX DriveRack PA2) will contain one "high quality" 2-channel DAC feeding into a A/D conversion inside the processor, processing the signal with limited processing power before converting the digital signal back to analogue . The AD process will degrade the signal (lower DB/signal rate on an A/D than on D/A conversion)

As an example using the DAC8 Pro with a computer based setup:
If you want to input analogue signal (i.e. record player, tape etc) with the OKTO DAC8 Pro you will need a A/D conversion with an external unit or a built in sound card of a PC, JRiver or similar software will input the digital stream into the software, and the software will convert / upsample / EQ (i.e. large number of FIR filter calcs) in the Convolver before routing the signal to each of the 8-channels of the DAC8 Pro through either USB or an sound card with 8-channel AES3 output. The advantage is one less D/A conversion. Measurements by Amirm show the 8-channels have a measurable higher quality than most 2-channel DAC which is also possive in the last stage of conversion.

No use having the best sounding / measuring DAC in front of a processor if the output of processor is bad.

The main advantage of using PC based EQing is the FIR filter processing power on all channel with more or less unlimited calculations over a MiniDSP style unit.

I have run a setup with active crossover and DSP where I had one 2-channel DAC into my Cary SLP-05 into a mediocre DSP crossover with a 4-way active speaker. The possibilities with active crossover and DSP is great but one can still feel / hear the degradation of the sound due to low quality of the DSP / DAC circuit. This is why I am looking at using this setup with the Okto DAC8 Pro.
 

graz_lag

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Your typical layout with a 2-channel DAC feeding an analogue preamp before sending the signal into a DSP processor (i.e. DBX DriveRack PA2) will contain one "high quality" 2-channel DAC feeding into a A/D conversion inside the processor, processing the signal with limited processing power before converting the digital signal back to analogue . The AD process will degrade the signal (lower DB/signal rate on an A/D than on D/A conversion)

As an example using the DAC8 Pro with a computer based setup:
If you want to input analogue signal (i.e. record player, tape etc) with the OKTO DAC8 Pro you will need a A/D conversion with an external unit or a built in sound card of a PC, JRiver or similar software will input the digital stream into the software, and the software will convert / upsample / EQ (i.e. large number of FIR filter calcs) in the Convolver before routing the signal to each of the 8-channels of the DAC8 Pro through either USB or an sound card with 8-channel AES3 output. The advantage is one less D/A conversion. Measurements by Amirm show the 8-channels have a measurable higher quality than most 2-channel DAC which is also possive in the last stage of conversion.

No use having the best sounding / measuring DAC in front of a processor if the output of processor is bad.

The main advantage of using PC based EQing is the FIR filter processing power on all channel with more or less unlimited calculations over a MiniDSP style unit.

I have run a setup with active crossover and DSP where I had one 2-channel DAC into my Cary SLP-05 into a mediocre DSP crossover with a 4-way active speaker. The possibilities with active crossover and DSP is great but one can still feel / hear the degradation of the sound due to low quality of the DSP / DAC circuit. This is why I am looking at using this setup with the Okto DAC8 Pro.
Thanks I see what your saying.
One of my setup integrates the Harman Kardon HK990 int amp (which @Kal Rubinson reviewed some years ago), which features a 2.2 channel DSP, of course via the analog input digitization's (at 24-bit): 'analog sources won't suffer if you redigitize them ...'
So based upon the excellent results I have got with the HK990's DSP and 'cause DBX is a company of the Harman Group, hopefully they share some grams (ounces) of designing between the different departments.
That's the reason for which I was looking to keep the same layout with the integration of a more versatile DSP processor, whilst the two dedicated amps will be the Benchmark AHB2.
https://www.stereophile.com/content...tegrated-amplifier-page-2#plGCXIdOhDWrkh3H.99
 
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As others around here, I am considering the purchase of this unit, however I cannot weight what it's real advantages are vs. a typical layout where a nice transparent DAC (e.g. the Sabaj D5) feeds a processor (e.g. the DBX DriveRack PA2) to the speakers / subs via dedicated amps.

1) I only play FLAC files stored on a dedicated Linux-based HTPC
2) Not interested to LAN file access
3) Looking for a simple reliable room correction & speaker management
3) Not interested in Spotify, Tidal or other streaming option

Some very basic requirement's, actually.
Depends. If you are running stereo only, and doing DSP in the DriveRack, then I can't really see much benefit over other (great) stereo DACs, esp since you'd be 'polluting' the Okto's clean output with the DSP conversion in the Driverack.
However, I'm using the Driverack Venu 360 (for crossover and stereo room EQ), which accepts 192K AES, so hopefully avoiding the DAC->ADC->DAC chain that the Okto without AES (stereo) outputs would present.
(The remaining surround channels will be 'just what they are'.)
LAN direct inputs would be nice, but not a deal breaker for me - same with HDMI (esp given the asking price of the Okto).
Agree with you on streaming options - just not interested...but could be added upstream easily enough (esp with a PC USB source).
 

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