Building a better streamer than Node 2i

Chrotto

Member
2019-10-19 9:37 pm
Need help :)
Please, if you're the "bits are bits" kind of guy, I would ask that you refrain from commenting, as by questions are based on the opposite attitude.

A couple of weeks ago I came to the conclusion that I wished to upgrade my Bluesound Node 2 (not 2i) streamer in 2020, and I began contemplating if the upgrade should be Raspbery Pi (or other SMC) based.

This is my baseline:
Bluesound Node 2 (connected with a coaxial cable)
NAD C510 DAC
Dual mono Pascal L-Pro2s amplifiers
Dynaudio Contour 60

Originally I wanted to switch my streamer out with a Node 2i, as it has been apraised for the improvement in sound quality compared to the Node 2 that I own. So my goal is to either match the SQ of the Node 2i or exceed it. I do wish to keep my external DAC, which does include both coax and USB input.

So for the last week I have been looking into SBC's and HAT's that be interesting, but I lack a comparison of the majority of them, and especially comparison between "tweaked" SBC's and RPi with hat.

These are some of the SBC's I've seen:
- Raspberry Pi 4
- Asus Tinker Board S
- Allo USBridge Signature
- Khadas VIM3

HAT's:
- HIFIBERRY DIGI+ PRO
- IAN CANADA TRANSPORTPI
- I2SoverUSB v.III
- Allo DigiOne Signature
- Allo DigiOne
- JustBoom Digi HAT

What should I go for?
Seing that my DAC accepts USB input, would it make sense to use an audio improved SBC as the Allo USBridge and just use the USB port, of would I get a better result using a RPi 4 with a hat and using coax, or even a combination of improved SBC and HAT? How do I get the best possible result with what is possible to buy and assemble?

All input and pointers are very much appreciated, just keep in mind that the total cost of electronics needs to a maximum of a $700. :)
 
I can’t answer most of your questions, only report on what I have and what I would do based on what I’ve read. First, I recently bought a RP4 with an Allo DigiOne. It was a clear upgrade over my Apple TV gen 3. The sound is the same, just more relaxed somehow. I bought this relatively inexpensive setup this because I was sceptical that a streamer could make a difference when my DAC reclocks the digital signal anyway, but I’m now a convert.

Based on reading I’m lead to believe that the USBridge Signature is a better Raspberry Pi than the Raspberry Pi due to its many on-board voltage regulators. I’m also lead to believe that there’s no way of knowing which input on your DAC (USB or coax) will sound better, or sound better to you. Because of this, if I had $700, I would go with the USBridge Signature along with the DigiOne Signature and Shanti power supply (P.S. I make no money from this endorsement).
 

Chrotto

Member
2019-10-19 9:37 pm
(...) Because of this, if I had $700, I would go with the USBridge Signature along with the DigiOne Signature and Shanti power supply (P.S. I make no money from this endorsement).

This is my impression also, but I have no measurements or experiences (from my self or others) to back it up, I only read about the USBridge and DigiOne seperate.

I did however also read a lot of great things about Iancanada products too, so I feel I need to consider those products as well. Some things I just don't know enough about... E.g. would it make sense to use a reclocker as well, even though I don't intent to use a RPi HAT DAC?
 
I can’t answer most of your questions, only report on what I have and what I would do based on what I’ve read. First, I recently bought a RP4 with an Allo DigiOne. It was a clear upgrade over my Apple TV gen 3. The sound is the same, just more relaxed somehow. I bought this relatively inexpensive setup this because I was sceptical that a streamer could make a difference when my DAC reclocks the digital signal anyway, but I’m now a convert.

Based on reading I’m lead to believe that the USBridge Signature is a better Raspberry Pi than the Raspberry Pi due to its many on-board voltage regulators. I’m also lead to believe that there’s no way of knowing which input on your DAC (USB or coax) will sound better, or sound better to you. Because of this, if I had $700, I would go with the USBridge Signature along with the DigiOne Signature and Shanti power supply (P.S. I make no money from this endorsement).


Tests have shown that the best sounding connection between a streamer/transport and a DAC are:
1. Coaxial
2. Optical
3. USB


Coaxial and Optical are very close to each other in sound, USB is said to have slightly less sound quality. The differences are said to be small though, so if you can even hear the difference depends largely on the rest of your equipment.
 

sinski

Member
2004-09-27 2:35 pm
Tests have shown that the best sounding connection between a streamer/transport and a DAC are:
1. Coaxial
2. Optical
3. USB


Coaxial and Optical are very close to each other in sound, USB is said to have slightly less sound quality. The differences are said to be small though, so if you can even hear the difference depends largely on the rest of your equipment.

I have different experience:

1. i2s
2. USB
3. Coax
4. Optical
 

Chrotto

Member
2019-10-19 9:37 pm
I have different experience:

1. i2s
2. USB
3. Coax
4. Optical

This matches what I have read so far as well, but mainly for COTS systems. I've noticed that more and more hi-end streamers end up with only an USB port as output.

So, given this rank, what is the theoretically best sounding solution for Raspberry Pi 4? And what about reclockers, do they add value in a situation where I don't want a DAC added to the Pi?
 
This matches what I have read so far as well, but mainly for COTS systems. I've noticed that more and more hi-end streamers end up with only an USB port as output.

So, given this rank, what is the theoretically best sounding solution for Raspberry Pi 4? And what about reclockers, do they add value in a situation where I don't want a DAC added to the Pi?


With the Pi the opinions differ quite a lot. Some people say you'll always need a reclocker. I use a Pi 3 with a Hifiberry Digi clone HAT whit a Wolfson chip coupled by Optical to a modified Cambridge Dacmagic 100. As that DAC also uses a Wolfson chip and both chips have jitter cancellation onboard, it sounds pretty good to me. And it's a relatively affordable option. A Hifiberry Digi can be found for around €40-50 and the Cambridge is around €150.
 
USB in Pi4 is much better, than Pi3.


True, but USB simply has drawbacks that the other interfaces don't have because it isn't really meant to be an interface for audio equipment. And as a HAT is relatively cheap and gives you the flexibility to choose between optical and coax for me that was the way to go.
I can hook up any DAC I want, without having to worry if the DAC has a USB port (which a lot of high end DAC's don't have) and with the Wolfson interface chip in the HAT my base set-up already has autocorrection for jitter, which is a nice bonus of the HAT. As the Dacmagic 100 also uses a Wolfson interface chip my set-up now has jitter correction at both ends of the cable which should pretty much eliminate the possibility of jitter degrading the sound.
 
I was using few hat dacs and i was always sure, that hat dac for pi is the best. Than i connected Tone Board to pi 4 and this experience has changed my opinion ...


It is an option. I wanted a bit more flexibility and choose to fit a HAT to the Pi3 and couple it to a stand-alone DAC. This way I could tweak the DAC to my preferences and compared to standard specs my Dacmagic 100 now sounds amazing.
 

Chrotto

Member
2019-10-19 9:37 pm
I’m interested in how this story ends.
Thanks in advance.

So two things have happened since I started the thread:
- We bought a house, which paused any hifi purchases at the moment
- I've tried to get more information in DIY streamers and the like, which have made thoroughly confused!

The goal is still the same: create a streamer better than the Node 2i, but the format is not made in stone. I've been looking into NUC's, USB reclockers or regenerators, hifi-USB soundcards to add to my current MacBook Pro and more.

But since I rarely find anyone comparing the differend kind of products, I haven't really decided what to do, even if I stretch the price range a bit. I wouldn't want to spend a whole lot of money trying to make the USB of my MacBook Pro sound better, if the same amount of money could buy a better sounding commercial streamer or Pi kit.. So for now, I'm kind of stuck.
 

User42

Member
2016-06-24 4:07 pm
I had the Node 2i here for a week and was able to compare it with my Allo Katana (THD version).
While the Node 2i has a nicer sound signature (somehow richer sound), it was also more tiring for me. The katana has a cleaner, more revealing sound with better hights and base and more depth and width. Note that the Node 2i uses TI 5102 DAC chips, which are fairly simple (and cheap).
I suspect an allo Boss v1.2 (TI 5122) already sounds better than the Node 2i. Before the Katana, I used the allo Boss v1, which was similarly pleasant to me in terms of the sound signature as the Node 2i.
 

Chrotto

Member
2019-10-19 9:37 pm
I had the Node 2i here for a week and was able to compare it with my Allo Katana (THD version).
While the Node 2i has a nicer sound signature (somehow richer sound), it was also more tiring for me. The katana has a cleaner, more revealing sound with better hights and base and more depth and width. Note that the Node 2i uses TI 5102 DAC chips, which are fairly simple (and cheap).
I suspect an allo Boss v1.2 (TI 5122) already sounds better than the Node 2i. Before the Katana, I used the allo Boss v1, which was similarly pleasant to me in terms of the sound signature as the Node 2i.

What if you where to use an external DAC and ignore the TI chips entirely?