Question for exaSound e38 Owners re: DSD

I have been interested in the exaSound e38 for some time now, and even more so since I’ve gotten into Roon. Curious about the exaSound e38, multichannel DSD streams, the Roon ROCK, and how they all can be used together.

Specifically I’m wondering what do e38 owners use to feed their DAC’s USB input for multichannel DSD to analog conversion? It seems that the exaSound ecosystem functions can be somewhat proprietary when one of their streamers is used in a Roon chain. Although the exaSound e38 multichannel DAC lists itself as RoonReady, will it only take multichannel native DSD from an exaSound streamer/server or a RoonServer/Core on a Windows PC? Or how about from a Roon ROCK’s USB output?

I built a ROCK NUC endpoint (not core) to use for multichannel HDMI – in which case the ROCK player/appliance has to convert the multichannel DSD file to PCM before it can be transmitted via HDMI to a multichannel AVR for DAC conversion. Does anyone know if I could use the USB output from this ROCK endpoint to transmit a native multichannel DSD stream to the e38 or does the ROCK linux OS not allow that?

Oh, also, just curious – I read something on the exaSound website that gave me the impression that they may be coming out with some newer models in the near future that might be able to handle even higher quality streams, but maybe that was referring to the Mark II version of the e38. Anyone know anything further about this?

  • john

Does your Roon Core see the e38 when it is connected to the RoonRock?

Hi John,

Roon Rock runs on a proprietary Roon-optimized Linux distribution. The e38 requires our proprietary drivers, and we offer only Windows and Mac drivers. We don’t offer Linux drivers because it is not practical to distribute and maintain closed-source drivers on Linux. The drivers play a significant role in achieving sonic fidelity. They also allow us to do things that are not possible with USB Audio Class 2.0 drivers, for example to support 8 channels of DSD256. So the benefit of multichannel native DSD256 comes with the limitations of compatibility with third-party devices.

The only way to use the e38 with Roon Rock is to use the exaSound Sigma Streamer. The good news is that at this time we have a special, for a limited time we give the Sigma for free with the purchase of an e38 Mark II DAC.

To answer your last comment, what you have read most likely was about the e38 Mark II that was released in the spring.


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Don’t have the exaSound e38 Mark II as of yet - but am considering getting one. See George’s answer just above - seems to indicate that it wouldn’t work the way I would like it to. However, if I did an install of Windows on my ROCK NUC endpoint (instead of ROCK) and then installed Roon Bridge with whatever Windows drivers exaSound has, that might work - I’ll ask George.

BTW, there’s a very affordable multichannel DAC coming out with phenomenal specs, the Okto DAC8PRO; don’t think it’s RoonReady yet, but maybe in the future? However, it only has balanced XLR analog outputs, so it wouldn’t really be compatible with most AVRs and their single-ended RCA inputs. And, adding the necessary converters (Jensen transformers, etc), that would degrade the signal as little as possible, would drive the cost way up.


Thanks for your reply. I have had my eye on the e38 for some time, and now the Mark II is out - very nice component! If I was to install Windows with RoonBridge (instead of its current ROCK install) on my NUC endpoint, with your appropriate Windows drivers for the e38, would that work? IOWs: Roon ROCK Core via ethernet to Windows NUC endpoint with RoonBridge then to exaSound e38 via USB, would that allow me to stream multichannel DSD files (native w/o conversion to PCM) to the e38? I imagine that’s kind of what the exaSound Sigma Streamer is; except with maybe a proprietary ROCK install?

  • john


Windows NUC endpoint with RoonBridge to exaSound e38 via USB works, I’ve just tested it one more time to make sure nothing has changed since we’ve tested it last time. Like any other use case scenario on Windows, it will allow you to stream multichannel DSD files (native w/o conversion to PCM) to the e38 and any other exaSound DAC.

However this is not an optimal configuration.

On the hardware level by using a NUC instead of the Sigma Streamer you are exposed to fan noise. You can use a fanless NUC case, but you will be overpaying for the NUC and for the case. The NUC will use more electricity and won’t make a better job than the Sigma hardware, as modest as it is.

On the operating system level, the exaSound Sigma Streamer uses an audio-optimized custom Linux called EXA-OS. It is custom-built in-house from the ground up. Just like the Roon Rock it is a very light-weight, no unnecessary operating system tasks. Like the Rock every time it boots it loads everything into the memory. If the power is unplugged accidentally everything will be fine, EXA-OS will preserve its integrity. EXA-OS allows us (with customers permission only) to log-in remotely for support. Users can submit diagnostic data to us and can initiate remote updates. We’ve updated EXA-OS 23 times since 2015 at no cost to our customers with new features and bug fixes. You won’t get these features and benefits from a Windows/NUC/Bridge installation.

Finally there are shortcomings at the integration level. By definition Roon Ready is the highest level of Roon integration. Roon technology is customized both by Roon and exaSound and embedded both in the Sigma Streamer and the DAC for achieving best user experience. With the Windows/Bridge solution you get the optimization done by Roon, but not the ones exaSound did together with Roon. Basically NUC-Bridge +e38 won’t qualify as Roon Ready.

For example with the exaSound Sigma Streamer we do thinks like convenience input switching and integrated volume control. In addition, with the Sigma Web User Interface you can control volume level channel by channel. Roon has no such feature, you will have to connect a monitor, keyboard and mouse to get access to the user interface of the exaSound driver on the NUC-Bridge to do volume trimming. With the Sigma you do it from your listening chair, from the iPad that you use to control Roon.

The Sigma Web UI can do many other things, check the owner’s manual and the tutorials on our blog.

With the Sigma Streamer Roon and exaSound with a joined effort deliver the power, flexibility, and performance benefits of networked audio, with the easiest setup and highest reliability available.

I suspect that will work but, since I have not done it, I cannot be certain. George should know. The only bridges I’ve used with the exa DACs have been made by exa. The Sigma Streamer works very well.

I am waiting for one of those but I would not presume that it will be RoonReady and have not seen any driver offerings yet.


Thanks for all the detailed info. I know not everyone feels the same, but I don’t have a problem with you offering proprietary streamers, etc, labeled as RoonReady that work only with your products. You’ve got a very nice, almost singular product, and want to protect its integrity and the development and investment you’ve put into it and still get a profitable return – that’s just good business, and I applaud that.

Now, just got to decide if the e38’s for me. Thanks!

Can I ask you why you need the bridge? I generally run the e38 connected directly to the RoonCore,

Sure - The Core (Intel NUC7i7DNHE with ROCK OS) will eventually be run in another location than beside my primary AV stack, although, right now it’s located in close proximity and I could run components directly connected to the ROCK, and have in the past. However, currently there is nothing attached to my Roon Core except the Ethernet. It seems, from our previous discussions, with my ROCK (linux-based) Core, an e38 could not get native multichannel DSD (without the Sigma Streamer). If you are getting multichannel native DSD from your Core directly to the e38, I’m assuming your Roon Core is Windows/Mac PC-based?

Yes, PC or Mac. Connected directly to the e38 by USB gets native multichannel up to DSD256. Same for via LAN using the Sigma Streamer. Quite equivalent.

:+1: Sounds like a nice setup with lots of options !

  • john

I think there’s a little confusion here. I own an e38, but just went to the e38 mk 2 webpage, and it’s properly advertised as “Roon tested.” This means Roon Labs has tested the DAC via USB and/or SPDIF, and everything works as expected. This involves running Roon core or Roon Bridge on a Mac or Windows PC, with exaSound’s proprietary driver. (Yes, I understood this limitation when I bought the DAC. Not my preference, but the only other multichannel, DSD-capable DACs cost far more.)

The “Roon Ready” mark applies only to products that speak RAAT; in practice, this translates to having an Ethernet jack. From exaSound, that would be other products than the e38 (mk 2), such as the Sigma streamer. The only good news is that Roon Labs is consistent in this usage, and enforces it.

I completely understand how this is confusing if you’re new to Roon, but it’s not false advertising.

Good luck with your journey!

Not “other products than the e38 (mk2), such as the Sigma streamer.” “Rather other products in addition to the e38 (mk2), such as the Sigma streamer.” The latter is not a DAC and is needed only to provide the LAN link to the e38.

So, I think John has it figured out correctly.

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This involves running Roon core or Roon Bridge on a Mac or Windows PC, with exaSound’s proprietary driver. (Yes, I understood this limitation when I bought the DAC. Not my preference, but the only other multichannel, DSD-capable DACs cost far more.)

The last time I checked USB Audio Class 2 was unable to handle 8 channels of DSD256 because of bandwidth limitations. The only choice for exaSound was to develop proprietary drivers. The other more expensive DAC that can do 8xDSD256 also relies on proprietary drivers. Our drivers utilize packet streaming over USB, their divers do packet streaming over IP/Ethernet.

Installing the drivers is much easier and more reliable than setting up audio streaming infrastructure over a home network.

It is considered a best practice to invest time and effort in cables to fine-tune the sound of a high-end system. A better understood and more consistent method is to install specialized drivers that offer advancements in reducing jitter and error correction for the USB stream.


Yes, every since the Play Point, exaSound has had a great 1 - 2 pairing of Roon Ready Endpoint into a multi-channel DAC.

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Hi @George_Klissarov , I’m interested in your Sigma Streamer, my question is will it support DSD 256k as an endpoint for this DAC-60 using a Mac Mini 2012 with HQPlayer and Roon?
I’m currently using an ifi Streamer but it’s limited to 128K in DoP (I’m actually enjoying it but … just wondering)

Also, I visited your website:

When you choose the country for shipping country address it does not show “Hong Kong” (only for this product, for other products it shows it)

Many thanks!!!

The exaSound Sigma Streamer will work only with exaSound DACs as Roon endpoint.

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