I use Tonal in my main system, and Roon in my secondary system. Unfortunately, Tonal is no longer being developed. There are a few things it does really well:
sound quality is better than Roon. I have compared them many times, even ran some blind tests with some friends. The sound is simply better - more natural, more depth. The difference is striking. Comparison was made with Roonbridge on a Mac Mini, and on an Allo USBridge. Tonal stores files online, and is highly optimized for Mac OSX. You can read about it on their website.
the other interesting thing about Tonal is the metadata management, which is not based on tags, but on an html description, which can be edited, and is richer than what is available in Roon. I will not go into all the details, but it is an interesting model.
Tonal as of today is a working application but has limitations and I am only using it because of the better SQ.
Unfortunately today all DACs are source sensitive, and many people spend considerable time and money trying to optimize their source. Most DAC manufacturers will admit this: DACs today are not immune to the quality of the source - and techniques to reduce jitter and electrical noise from incoming signals are far from perfect.
Tonal offers a simple and high quality solution. It has not gotten the attention it deserves. It did generate some interest with some streaming services (I will not divulge their name here) who were also impressed with the sound quality and data management. Unfortunately no deals could be made and the developer of the application had to move on and let go of this project.
I am currently using a DAC from ECDesigns. They are working on a new model, expected for year end, that will bring a number of innovations, and promises to be “source immune” (toslink input, Battery power supply, low jitter Pll with custom logic, mirror DAC to reduce noise sensitivity… You can read about some of their designs on a dedicated thread on Diyaudio. A previous model was also reviewed on hifi-advice.com ).
Hopefully, this will put an end to the insanity surrounding servers and streamers, and provide the ability to use any bit perfect source with very high results, without having to worry about usb cables, reclockers, isolators, fancy ethernet switches and cables, expensive servers with multiple power supplies, etc…
Until then, I will continue using Tonal…
I do not see what added value Octave brings over Roon as an application. They do plan on making it part of a music server, because they also contend that Roon SQ can be improved. It may be just a marketing gimmick, we will not know until people try it. Regardless, I do not believe optimising music servers is the way to go. I put more faith in advances in digital audio conversion, as highlighted above, and believe Roon should stick to what it does best, the application (with some room for improvements).