Recommended USB- SPDIF converter for Metrum Octave

I am looking for a USB to SPDIF converter to use with a Metrum Octave DAC. The primary ones under consideration are:

1. JKSPDIF Mk III ($460)
2. Audiophilleo 2 with Pure Power ($999)
5. Wavelength Audio WaveLink ($900)

These configuration would be computer->USB to SPDIF->Metrum Octave->Rogue Cronus->Harbeth P3ESR

Aside from the obvious cost consideration favoring the JKSPDIF Mk III and Linux support favoring the Audiophilleo, can anyone comment on how the sound compares for any of the units?

I would prefer to hear from Metrum owners and owners of the aforementioned converters, but any other recommendations from owners of similar USB to SPDIF converters using them with the Metrum Octave would be appreciated. The reason for asking before looking further is that I came across these comments from John Darko on the DAR website.

"How does the Audiophilleo compare to the JKSPDIF? I get asked this question a lot. I've tried them both with a wide array of budget DACs over many, many months. There really isn't that much to separate them sonically. I could happily live with either (in the long-term) but I distinctly preferred the JKSPDIF with the Metrum Octave - it seemed to bring out more elasticity and tame some of the glassiness."

"Last week a buddy and I sat down to compare four different DACs. Whilst I won't divulge the conclusions here (this piece is about transports, remember?), we both agreed that the Audiophilleo seemed to overcook the upper-mids on a couple of decoding boxes. This wrinkle was ironed flat with a digital attenuator. The JKSPDIF MK3 seems to be kinder/gentler overall. Perhaps it's the battery technology?"

Can anyway comment as to whether or not they have shared his experience of the Audiophilleo? I believe his experience was without the Pure Power unit, and I was wondering how much of a change that had brought to the table for Audiophilleo owners, understanding that these characterizations are often system dependent.
What converter does John Atkinson of Stereophile and Steven Stone of TAS use to review DACs with?
I don't know, Steve, is it the same one that costs $1300 stock, and $2500 with a power supply? Have John and and Steven bought the units or are they extended reviewer loans?

I was asking Bhobba about your Offramp on another forum. I know he loves it and many have said wonderful things about it, but I want to know if his Offramp 4 is stock or if it has modifications, and which ones? Given that the J Kenny unit comes in with battery power at $450 or so, and the Audiophillio AP2 with PP is $1000, it'd be helpful to know how a stock unit compares to others that have battery power for less money.
I have the same dilemma as Anonymoustao. Maybe I could stretch for a stock OR5 but I am not sure how much better than a AP2 w/battery it is going to be. Almost every reviewer seem to have theirs upgraded with turboclock and hynes regulator (The J Kenny is out for me because of the audio delay with video). Further, the reviews implies that the OR is less effective with well designed dacs.

Given all this, I am thinking that maybe make more sense to sell the Octave and combine the money to buy a better DAC with input less susceptible to jitter. Maybe even sell the preamp as well and get a dac with a well implemented volume control/remote. Many options available including Antelope Zodiac, Berkeley Alpha or maybe even an Empirical Overdrive.
Did you pay $700 or $1100 for your Octave? If it was $700 then there is the difference that allows you to go with the Off Ramp. The combination of the Octave and an Off Ramp 5 make for an incredible $2000 DAC

Don't for get the outstanding savings you made by not going with dCS as described by Elberoth.

["03-25-12: Elberoth2
I've been playing with my Metrum Octave DAC for the past 4 weeks, and I have to say, that it sounds spectacular. Super transparent, fast, detailed, smooth, with excellent front to back layering and soundstaging in general. It is indeed a game changing product.

No, it is not better than my uber-expensive dCS Scarlatti, which is still smoother and has even better resolution, but is not that far behind.

This DAC could sell for $5k and (fit and finish aside) could still represent a good value for money.
Elberoth2 (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)"]
"I don't know, Steve, is it the same one that costs $1300 stock, and $2500 with a power supply? Have John and and Steven bought the units or are they extended reviewer loans?"

JA has an extended reviewer loan of OR4. It replaced his reference. Steven Stone owns his OR5.

"I was asking Bhobba about your Offramp on another forum. I know he loves it and many have said wonderful things about it, but I want to know if his Offramp 4 is stock or if it has modifications, and which ones? "

It has Turboclock and USB Hynes.

"Given that the J Kenny unit comes in with battery power at $450 or so, and the Audiophillio AP2 with PP is $1000, it'd be helpful to know how a stock unit compares to others that have battery power for less money."

There have been shootouts already with all converters on the market except the Diverter HR. Posts can be read on all of the forums. Links on my forum and website.

Hew - good luck finding a DAC that is immune to incoming jitter. I have never found one.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Thank you for the candid respone, Steve. I appreciate it. It seems like your solution is among the best, judging from reviews and forum accounts, but it's too rich for my blood at $2250 with TC+Hynes, especially considering the rest of the system it'd be used in.

Hew, I believe John Kenny, Audiophilleo and Empirical Audio all offer a trial period after purchase, so that's your best bet to start. I don't care about video issues, so I'll start with the JKSPDIF. You might just start with the AP2 and see how you like it in your system. You can always move up to the Empirical and make upgrades to it over time if the AP2 doesn't work for you. From my reading, Steve is correct that there is no DAC completely immune to jitter. I would stick with the Octave if you like it and find a solution that works for your ears and your wallet.

Vicdamone, what are you using with your Metrum?
One you might want to check out is the little Digital Interface from GD Audio.
I don't make it a habit ordering from China, but after reading about it I ordered one. It cost less then $200 and works great with my Wyred 4 Sound dac.
There is a little info on the net.
Thanks, I'm aware of the Audio-Gd DI, but have gotten the impression from forums/reviews that it is not in the same league as the AP2 or JKSPDIF. It does seem pretty neat, though. USB and SPDIF inputs, so you can use it with a Squeezebox Touch, as well as a computer.
If a new Off-Ramp is out of your budget, get a used one. I had an Off-Ramp 4 for a long time and loved it, compared directly to the Audiophilleo it was the better unit.
Better in what way? Could you elaborate on that?
The uber Off-Ramp with all options sounds more natural, real, and analogue like. It bests any other converter I have tried into the Metrum - and I have tried a lot - Stello, AP2, Wavelenghth, JK, Berkeley - they all fell.

The only issue is cost. If that is an issue get the AP2.

The Metrum and Off-Ramp is a competitor for DAC's in the $3k price bracket - which is what the combo costs. Other DAC's in that price bracket are preferred by some - its not consistent. If you are spending that sort of money listen to others such as a PDX and Tranquility.

Anonymoustao, Mac Mini (up sampled via Pure Music) > MeiCord Opal > Apple Time Machine / Airport Extreme > Logitech Squeeze Box Touch > Straightwire Data-Link RCA > Metrum Acoustics Octave.

Since my analog library far exceeds my digital, my systems focus and budget are mainly analog. Until recently I was very dissatisfied with the $2,000 and below digital audio converters (DAC's) I'd auditioned. I took a flyer on the $689. NOS Metrum and finally found listenable digital that suits my taste.

Currently I'm using the Squeeze Box Touch's wireless function so I have no need for a USB converter though the Empirical Audio Syncro Mesh is in the near future. The combination of the Octave, Touch, and the Syncro Mesh is still well below my $2,000 budget for digital.

You should look into this, I don't think you need to go full boat on the Off Ramp 5 to exceed the performance of the other candidates. Also, look into replacing the RCA with a BNC connector on the Octave. SP/DIF connectivity is important.

Anonymoustao - E-mail me through my Audio Asylum contact info. I have the same user name there. I have an off-line comment for you, if you are interested. Best.
I have tried all converters mentioned here with my Metrum Octave DAC (AP1, Off Ramp 5, JK SPDIF 3). IMO The AP2, possibly with the optional battery PSU (which I have yet to try), represents the best value-for-money BY FAR.
Oddly enough I had the opposite experience as Elberoth2...

I had the AP2 for about 3 days before I sold it. It sounded hard and fatiguing in the upper midrange/lower treble with slightly compressed imaging, though it did offer noticeably more detail than the Squeezebox Touch and TOSLink direct from PC, but not hugely so. When I put it up for sale I got a message from a person inquiring about my impressions and he felt the same way about the AP2. The guy I sold it to got rid of it within a week. With all the raves about the device I wonder if it was fully broken in. I bought it used but the previous owner did not mention anything about its age.

I currently use, and have for a few months now, the JKSPDIF MK3 and like it far better than the AP2. The sound is fuller and just as detailed, if not more so, than the AP2, imaging is precise and 3D, bass definition and weight improved quite a bit, but above all the tone of instruments sounds natural and just "right". It is a great, great piece of gear, and whereas the AP2 made me a little skeptical about the value of these USB to SPDIF devices, the John Kenny MK3 makes me want to explore more expensive units such as the base Off-Ramp or Berkeley Alpha USB.

Also, I watch a lot of videos through my audio rig and have never had any issues with audio lag through the MK3.

I used both products with the Berkeley Alpha DAC and Bel Canto DAC 3.
Please excuse my lack of knowledge here, I am just getting into the digital business (Mac Mini, Naim Nait XS int amp, Harbeth shl5) . Just need a dac.

Why would one choose to use the usb output from, in my case, the Mac and then insert a spdif converter when you could use the optical out from the Mac direct to the optical input to the dac??? Fewer inter-connects, lower cost.
check out the converter from Mapleshade

here's my understanding: the clock inside the Mini is not great, and the output has a lot of jitter. This is true both for optical and USB.
If you choose an asynch USB DAC, then the clock that matters is the one inside the DAC and the Mini is slaved to it, eliminating that source of jitter.
The converter would be used if your DAC didn't have a good asynch USB input. Said converter would have asynch USB input and a very good clock, therefore outputting low jitter optical and making the combo Mini + converter a good transport.
Lewinskih01 pretty much got it right. However, I think he may have meant, "outputting low jitter coax", which would then go to the DAC. I actually had two USB/SPDIF converters: one from Mapleshade and one from M2Tech. The Mapleshade needed a driver to download, (which I never got to work), and the M2Tech caused "clicks" and "pops" through the speakers. I returned both. I'm currently using the VERY high jitter optical output until I figure out how to make the converters work.
My thanks to Lewinskih01 and Devilboy.
Eugene81 - maybe the brightness you were experiencing with the AP1 was a system voicing issue ?

The JK SPDIF mk 3 is indeed smoother sounding tha AP1. However, in my system, the JK SPDIF was actually too laidback, lacking in sparkle and ultimate midrange resolution to the best converters I tried.

I have tried in my system 13 different USB converters, including EA ORT 5, JK mk 3, AP1, M2Tech Evo (with and without the battery PSU and external clock), M2Tech HiFace 2, dCS U-Clock, MF V-Link, Halide Bridge etc.

Devilboy - which M2Tech converter have you tried ? I have tried M2Tech evo and HiFace 2 and didn't have the issues you are describing.
Check out John Darkos review. He prefers the JKMk3 to the AP2 with the Octave, It's smoother and less digital.

I have the JKmk3 with my Octave fed by a 2011 Mac mini using Bitperfect or Audirvana plus up sampled to 176khz and it sounds great.

Elberoth2: I had the latest HiFace2 and was getting very annoying clicks and pops. Sometimes I would get 1-2 second pauses in playback also. I' running PureMusic. Have you heard of anyone having these issues? So at the end of the day, which one do you prefer?
Devilboy - I had the same issue with HiFace 2 in my system (PC server running Win 7/64 + Jriver 17 + Jplay), but changing the buffer size from 1 to 2 samples, solved the problem.

dCS U-Clock and Stello U3 - which are also XMOS chip based designs, just like like the HiFace 2 - also displayed the very same issue, so I concluded that this problem was Xmos chip specific. At least in my system.
How do you change the buffer size?
I am close to pulling the trigger on something out there, I have been reading that the Audio-gd Di V2 is a very different beast than the orginal Di. Tan43
which do you have and have you compared it to anything else?
Anonymousao, the only reviews that I have found comparing have been with the original Di... Some of the other forums are saying that they have just worked out driver bugs within the past few days.... a couple people liked it better than the JKSPDIF MK3. I'm not trying to sell this thing to anyone, I just can't buy all and compare, so I'm trying to get as accurate info for all of us as I can. I'd like to hear if anyone else has any info, Thanks Tim
Elberoth2: How do you change the buffer size? Do I go in Midi or something else? Is it done in PureMusic? I think PureMusic may be the problem I had with using my M2Tech HiFace2. So, buffer size in what? Where?
Timlub - "I have been reading that the Audio-gd Di V2 is a very different beast than the orginal Di."

Where have you been reading those comparisons?
The threads that I read also said they added a li-lon battery that last for 8 to 10 hours ... I'll let you know, I just ordered the Audio-gd Di V2 with the upgraded clock, then went to ebay and found the li-lon battery, I'll have them in a couple of weeks... Kingwa at Audio-gd has been superb in his communication, explanations and speaking with great knowledge and experience. I've actually been surpised. If its good enough, I'll post some sort of review. In about a month.
I just got a Weiss INT203 and it is clearly superior to both the Audiophilleo 2 and JKSPDIF Mk3. It plays on the strengths of both but on a higher level with great detail, transparency, and openness, but very natural and balanced, never strident or overly pronounced in any way. It is a great value on the used market. I just saw one go for $799! That's probably about what a used AP1 + PurePower would go for. Even new it looks like prices have come down a lot on the INT202/203 to about $1350. The only caveat is firewire, not USB. I had to ditch my Zotac nettop for a Mac Mini.

I have a Wavelink HS on the way and will post my impressions.
After some limited testing I have found that the Wavelink HS is again better than both the AP and JKSPDIF, but I prefer the Weiss over it. Compared to the INT203, the Wavelink is more like the AP -- more direct, very clear, transparent, and resolved -- with more emphasis on leading edge definition than the Weiss. The Weiss has a more relaxed character... but still vivid and exciting somehow. I find it a little more open and bigger and maybe more "natural" than the Wavelink. I do not find the Wavelink hard or fatiguing at all like the AP, however. I like the Wavelink a lot and am using it in my bedroom with the Squeezebox Touch -- a great converter for that purpose as USB support is somewhat limited on the Touch. Both the Wavelink and Weiss are great and I think it's a matter of preference.

Personally I think of the Wavelink HS and INT203/202 as counterparts to the Audiophilleo and JKSPDIF Mk3, respectively, at the next level of performance.
In the 6moons' Metrum Hex review, it states the following:

"Adam Mokrzycki organizes the Warsaw Audio Show and also is senior contributor to the Polish Audio magazine. His test of 14 USB bridges netted the following ranking:

Matrix 24/96 - 60
TeleVox 24/96 - 65
Hegel HD2 - 65
Musical Fidelity V-Link II - 75
Halide Design The Bridge - 80
M2Tech HiFace Evo - 80
Stello U3 - 85
M2Tech HiFace Evo + Evo Supply - 90
JK SPDIF Mk3 - 90
Audiophilleo 1 - 95
Empirical Audio OffRamp Turbo 5 - 95
dCS U-Clock - 95
M2Tech HiFace Evo + Evo Supply + Evo Clock - 100
Scarlatti CD/SACD transport - 100

Subsequently he reported that with the new Pure Power battery supply, the Audiophilleo became "one of the best if not the best S/PDIF converter I know. Apart from those I reviewed above I also tried the ├╝ber-expensive Soulution 590 which was average at best."