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Old 15th May 2017, 12:23 AM   #1
rongon is offline rongon  United States
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Default Current fave cheap DAC HAT for Raspberry Pi?

I searched for a thread devoted to this question and found a thread from last year, but it was inconclusive.

Which DAC for Raspberry Pi?

I need only a very basic DAC with RCA line outs. I don't need an onboard headphone amp or speaker amp. Because I'll be using external amplifiers that have their own volume controls, I don't need a hardware volume control built into the DAC.

I've been reading that using a good linear PSU improves the sound quite a bit, no matter which DAC one uses. Therefore, I'm planning to build a regulated 5V linear PSU for the Pi and whichever DAC HAT I choose. 5VDC 3A should be adequate for the PSU, correct?

Reading through various MoOde and other threads, it looks like the Mamboberry LS DAC+ is considered to be the best sounding HAT DAC at the moment. It would cost about $75 USD shipped to me in the USA.

I've seen glowing reviews of the Durio Sound Basic. It would cost about $55 USD. Has anyone heard both this and the Mamboberry LS DAC+ and can say whether they sound immediately, noticeably different? Or is there a bit of audiophilic splitting of hairs involved?

The IQaudIO Pi-DAC+ would cost only about $40 USD shipped. It's based on a TI PCM5122. Does that mean it's going to sound worse than a well-implemented ES9023-based DAC?

Finally, there's the Hifiberry DAC+ Light. That's a simple ES9023 based DAC HAT for less than $30 USD. It's the least expensive contender. I've read very differing opinions on the Hifiberry DACs. Some say they sound great, others say they sound noticeably worse than the Mamboberry, Durio Sound, IQaudIO, and others. Are the differences in sound quality between DACs swamped by the improvement to be had by using a linear PSU instead of the switcher?

I've seen mention of other DAC HATs as well. It seems there are a lot of them.

So, what's the hot HAT DAC of the moment? Is it as simple as 'you get what you pay for so get the Mamboberry'?

Thanks for opinions or any guidance you can throw my way.
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Old 15th May 2017, 07:07 AM   #2
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If I were to buy a DAC now, and a Kali was not in my plans, I'd buy an Allo BOSS:

https://allo.com/sparky/boss-dac.html

I run a Mamboberry LS DAC+ with Kali, and the Boss sounds almost as good, on the same amp and driving the same speakers .
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Old 15th May 2017, 08:42 AM   #3
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Hi.

After fiddling around with some of them I'd agree with Yatshushiro.

Here's my project.

Neither a Kali, nor a 2nd supply is a must. A 2nd supply should give some advantages.


Many other DACs are rather basic implementations.

The stock MamboBerry is quite nice compared to many other HATs on the market. (There is an Audiophonics HAT that's coming very close)
The MambBerry still has "huge" tweak potential though!

Stay away from HifiBerry.
You'll get what you pay for.


And don't forget:
The Allo Boss comes with a solid kernel driver nowadays.
That's a bit of a problem if running e.g. a Sabre based HAT!
These Sabre drivers are community supplied and maintained.


And. In my opinion it's a well maintained myth that linear supplies is that what you need.
IMO it's not. I'm more than happy with my iFi iPowers ( and I have got several linears in the workshop settling dust!).


Good luck.

Last edited by soundcheck; 15th May 2017 at 08:45 AM.
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Old 15th May 2017, 10:16 AM   #4
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IQAudioDAC range is very good also. Their PRO version has a headphones out, but the price is still low, and it has excellent RCA outs. On my RPI it works flawlessly up to is maximal 384 kHz rate, both in the standard Raspbian and in the Moode.
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Old 15th May 2017, 10:27 AM   #5
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Yep.

"very good" - that's for sure a relative term.

Just by looking at the boards and the parts used,
IQ Audio gear would have never managed to get shortlisted for my projects.


Enjoy.
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Old 15th May 2017, 11:30 AM   #6
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Particularly what is what do you think is bad about the IQAudIO board? It is a very standard implementation of the BurrBrown chip, by their specs.
...because is performs extremely well in my system, with excellent sound (and I do have a VERY revealing system, according to those that have listened to it). As an engineer I tend to trust numbers, and boards with similar architecture do EXTREMLY good in benchmarks, comparable with DACs costing serious heaps of money.
"Just by looking at the board" - sorry, but this is one of the worse statements I have ever read. Look here (hifiberry uses the same DAC chip, should measure about the same). Basically no noise, very high quality sound output. I don't really think anyone can hear a difference between these boards and DAC costing 20-30 times as much, and I don't believe anyone saying they do (and trying to sell the snake oil), without a proper A-B test.
Archimago's Musings: MEASUREMENTS: Raspberry Pi 3 & HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro (Audio Streaming)

Last edited by fb2017; 15th May 2017 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 15th May 2017, 12:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundcheck View Post
Hi.

After fiddling around with some of them I'd agree with Yatshushiro.

Here's my project.

Neither a Kali, nor a 2nd supply is a must. A 2nd supply should give some advantages.


Many other DACs are rather basic implementations.
hello,
What is you thought about Kali + Piano 2.1 vs Boss...

ciao
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Old 15th May 2017, 12:47 PM   #8
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Oh Jeeze.

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....

....the perfect reference :rolleyes

####

Yep.
We could build all our DACs according to datasheet with crappy parts. Fair enough.
However. Since we're at DIY-Audio - we do know better!

The DAC chips are just minor contributors to the sound - IMO.
The peripherals (board-layout, parts, clocks, LDOs, PS) are the main contributors.
That's been discussed and "implemented" a hundred million times over here at DIY-A.

A nice DAC chip won't help if the surroundings suck.
On the other hand a potentially mediocre DAC can shine if you have the surroundings right.
That's we've seen in several ES9023 projects.

All this is not just one-dimensional.


I'm an engineer myself btw. After running numerous projects myself over the years, I think I do have a pretty good idea what's going on there. And I'm well aware of limitations
of audio measurements btw!


Enjoy.
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Old 15th May 2017, 12:54 PM   #9
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"Kali + Piano 2.1"

I own both. I read about people raving about the 2.0 setup.

I honestly never felt motivated to go for that project.

As good as the Boss already is. I still prefer my DIY ES9023 + Kali setup in sync master-clock mode.


What I don't like about these PCM51xx based DACs in particular is that DSP (filters) inside.
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Old 15th May 2017, 01:02 PM   #10
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I did analyze his measurement methods, and can't find ANY major fault with them. Asking you again, as from engineer to engineer, where can you see a fault with his results?
What "golden" parameter, drastically improving the sound, did he miss?
Are those parameters measured as very good in 1000 EUR DACs and very bad for 30 EUR DACs?
Did you personally do an A-B test and found out that IQAudIO sounds like crap?

BTW crappy parts.. HUH? exactly what do you consider crappy in the IQAudio board, and how does it degrade the sound? Like I said, I do have a VERY GOOD system myself, and it sounds very good with this small board.

Last edited by fb2017; 15th May 2017 at 01:14 PM.
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