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Current fave cheap DAC HAT for Raspberry Pi?
Current fave cheap DAC HAT for Raspberry Pi?
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Old 16th May 2017, 03:39 PM   #21
rongon is offline rongon  United States
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Current fave cheap DAC HAT for Raspberry Pi?
Quote:
Originally Posted by LC1979 View Post
I lived happily with an IQaudio for many years and thought that was great too. The improvement I feel I have gained in the Boss is noticeable and pleasing to me, but not entirely earth-shattering.
Perfect, exactly what I was hoping. Thanks!

It sounds to me like there would be very little real-world, easily-noticeable difference between the Mamboberry LS DAC+ and the Boss DAC, in stock form. Plus they cost about the same.

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Old 16th May 2017, 04:30 PM   #22
Yatsushiro is offline Yatsushiro  United Kingdom
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Originally Posted by LC1979 View Post
...You pay your money and make your choice!
Precisely. And in the world of RPi audio, not a lot of money for a sometimes bewildering choice. And a further choice as to whether you leave things as they are, or start tweaking
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Old 17th May 2017, 05:39 AM   #23
ZacharyP is offline ZacharyP  United States
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Boss + an ifi ipower is the cheapest of the "best sounding setups".

It does not require a Kali, which all the other potential DAC hats will require to match the Boss SQ.

Go for a BOSS, you won't regret it.
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Old 17th May 2017, 04:23 PM   #24
rongon is offline rongon  United States
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Current fave cheap DAC HAT for Raspberry Pi?
Thanks, first a Boss DAC and then later a better PSU does sound like the most attractive option for me.
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Old 17th May 2017, 05:37 PM   #25
hifix is offline hifix  Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yatsushiro View Post
Precisely. And in the world of RPi audio, not a lot of money for a sometimes bewildering choice. And a further choice as to whether you leave things as they are, or start tweaking
This gentleman has made me $150 poorer - but i've been enjoying a RPi and a nice sounding DAC!

Back to topic...
Audiophonics i-sabre V3 gets my vote.
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Old 18th May 2017, 07:03 AM   #26
Yatsushiro is offline Yatsushiro  United Kingdom
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hifix View Post
This gentleman has made me $150 poorer - but i've been enjoying a RPi and a nice sounding DAC!

Back to topic...
Audiophonics i-sabre V3 gets my vote.
150$? That's just the first installment

Welcome to the RPi merry-go-round, where it stops, no body knows...
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Old 19th May 2017, 03:56 AM   #27
Greg Stewart is offline Greg Stewart  United States
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Current fave cheap DAC HAT for Raspberry Pi?
Default So where does it stop?

I've been doing some interesting comparisons the past several weeks. Last night I did a preliminary head-to-head of my modified Mamboberry (original, not LS) and a 'twinned'-mode Piano 2.1 (1 channel off each DAC chip), both on a Kali on an Ian IsolatorPi (in beta) and then on Pi. In this setup the Pi, IsolatorPi, Kali, and tested DAC all were powered by separate supplies... a modified K&K Audio Low Voltage Power Supply (if you go for their 12 watt version, it will be very similar to my modified 4 watt version) for the RPi and 3 Uptone Audio LPS-1 supplies, 1 each on the IsolatorPi, Kali, and target DAC. The RPi ran PcP, same exact setup for both DACs, I just powered the stack down and swapped the DACs out, then powered back up.

All of the associated LMS server machine & networking gear are run off DIY'd linear supplies.

In addition to each other, I also compared them to my modified Sony HAP Z1-ES. This is a $2000 USD retail hard-drive player to which I've applied some serious mods that dampen the structure, beef up and optimize the power supplies (including converting the DC-DC converters used for the digital processing side of the unit to linear regulators) and upgrade signal path parts. I recently had the chance to compare it to a totally stock unit and it is much above that. AND I got a chance to see a 'professionally' modified unit with $2600 of mods performed. My mods were loosely inspired by what that modifier did while going further... so by a similar yardstick, my mods could be valued in the $3000-$3400 USD range for a total value of roughly $5000.

You can see some of my mods to the Sony in this thread:

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digit...-2014-a-2.html

I've taken it a bit farther since my last posts there.

First, with all separate good power supplies, the Piano 2.1 Twinned clearly topped the modified Mamboberry... more real, more space. The MB was pretty good, but the Piano sounded more like real music.

Set the Mamboberry aside and compare the Piano 2.1 to the Sony... hmmm, close. The Sony bests the Piano, but not by much. I wouldn't feel like I downgraded much if I had to stick with the Piano. The Sony led on inner detailing and palpability. And it should... better DACs in true dual mono mode with current output so you can use a better I/V stage by themselves should have the Sony beating the ES9023 MB or PCM5122 Boss or 2x PCM5142 Piano.

Then in my other system, I have a Boss on a Kali on an RPi, also running PcP with a duplicate of the LMS server/networking setup with the linear supplies. While I haven't gone head-to-head Boss vs Piano, these systems are similar in sound and what I hear from the Boss in Kali-fed slave mode is a bit more transparency than the Piano 2.1 with sweeter highs and mids (those SMD film caps). I'll go head to head between the 2 soon AND compare the Boss in master vs slave modes... a quick check a couple of weekends ago when 1st setting up the IsolatorPi had me preferring the Kali-fed slave mode, but both were good.

My lessons out of all this?

1. You can get very good sound out of an R-Pi setup, but power supply and signal integrity is key. On the power supply side I consider a good linear (and likely also the iFi Soundcheck-modified... I haven't tried one myself, but have no reason to doubt his assessment) as a minimum.

2. Also as a minimum for good sound use separate supplies on the R-Pi and DAC (or Kali-DAC stack... the twinned Piano 2.1 still sounds very good when sharing a supply with the Kali). You can always start with a single shared supply and add more as budget allows for improvements in SQ.

3. If you don't want to start with a Kali, go for a Boss in master mode. If you can start with a Kali, then it's a matter of preference for your ears and system... both the Boss and Piano 2.1 are good on a Kali. To my ears and in my setups I think the Boss is better, but others might decide differently.

4. Reclocking and isolation are great in this setups. An upgrade path might be a RPi / Boss combo with 1 supply (the Boss has best-in-breed noise filtering), later add a separate supply for the Boss and again later a Kali. And top it off someday with a couple more power supplies and either Ian's or the up-coming Allo isolator.

Soundcheck, Yatsushiro, and DJ have some great advice here and I'd follow all if starting out.

But the final lesson here is that a well-powered and setup RPi DAC stack in an optimized setup (see Soundchecks blog on the LMS server & networking optimization) can hold its own with some of the higher price spread... even if you discount the improvements and cost of the my mods to the Sony, that my RPi setup could come that close even to a stock HAPZ would be a feat.

RPi setups, done right, aren't just for low-fi anymore!

Greg in Mississippi
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Last edited by Greg Stewart; 19th May 2017 at 04:08 AM.
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Old 19th May 2017, 09:58 AM   #28
soundcheck is offline soundcheck  Germany
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Greg.

Interesting writeup. I'm wondering if your setup complies to the OPs idea of a "cheap HAT".

Would be nice if you could also tell us what software and what setup, including alsamixer settings for PCM51xx dacs you're using. A single (wrong) setting can make "the difference".

How does your "twinned" Piano2.1 setup look like? You might have seen over at the Piano21
thread that I finally got stuck after putting some hours into it.

On the other side, by looking at your conclusion "Piano21 vs. Boss", my motivation to put any more work into this is kind of fading away. You basically confirm what I was expecting. And since I still prefer my Sabre9023 over these (my) PCM51xx dacs putting any more effort would be just for the fun of it.

And... ...not a single word about your Soekris - to put all what's being said into perspective.
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Old 19th May 2017, 10:55 AM   #29
Bas Horneman is offline Bas Horneman  Netherlands
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I should have known. Another follower of Archimago - A guy who never measures any differences (and fails to question his tools and measurements), who never hears a difference of anything and who never expects anything to be different....
I do not know this Archimago fellow. But his paragraph on Hans Beekhuyzen's review is rather spot on.
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Old 19th May 2017, 01:09 PM   #30
fb2017 is offline fb2017
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I also don`t know this guy, and just read this one article from him. His measurement method is sound, though. And the differences are that small, that I can really say that anyone thinking one sounds better over the other do it in a purely subjective manner, and as such should redefine better as "better for my particular system, room, and MY ears"...
Despite what the "golden ears" think about themselves here, their brains still won`t be able to distinguish a 0.055% difference. Reminds me of the discussion where audiophiles were bragging about the warms and transparency of coat hangers used as speaker cables, and how they sounded better than 1000 dollar cables.

Last edited by fb2017; 19th May 2017 at 01:14 PM.
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