As you know, since Allo stepped into the SBC related audio scene, they proved to be a constant source of satisfaction. So, when they told me they had a new “Master DAC” under works, well, I just wanted to listen to it.
The time has come and now I have their latest BOSS DAC playing with Volumio in my system.
So, what does “Master DAC” mean? Basically, a master DAC does not take the clock from the PI itself but rather uses a separate clock (oscillators, 2 are needed, one for 22hz and 24hz and their multiples). This is nothing particularly fancy, as almost any I2S DAC uses this approach.
The clever bits of their design comes from the fact that they added some clever stuff under the hood:
- 3 different power rails, with individual filtering. One for the DAC chip itself and the digital side, one for the analog stage and one for the oscillators. On paper, this should translate with very very low noise floor and better clock accuracy
- Film capacitors on the output stage to reduce distortion, coupled with a super-capacitor to enhance bass representation
- Good oscillators
Allo suggests at least 50 hours of break-in before critical listening (I guess the super capacitor is the reason they suggest this). I’m not deeply concerned of burn in generally, but I left it playing music for a couple of days before listening to it, just in case.
By listening to it, seems that Allo did it again. If we want to make it short, I love how it sounds. The bass is punchy and present but yet very controlled. This is the best bass I’ve heard from any I2S DAC.
That does not mean this DAC has a “dark” sound signature since it delivers a balanced reproduction.
Another very evident feature is that its dead silent. There is no noise whatsoever, therefore dynamics and detail are really standing out. And I mean it: the instrumental separation and level of detail is one of the best I’ve ever heard.
As for its sound signature, I think its very neutral, just with a little more bass than you would expect. Which for me, is a good thing.
Acoustic guitars and bass guitars are just fantastic with the BOSS.
To give you some comparisons, I think this can be considered a Kali + Piano on steroids: it has the same sound signature, with a bit more bass, details and overall balance but a bit less focused stereo image.
Last, my personal favorite feature of this DAC is that it delivers an engaging musical representation. I found myself repeatedly beating my foot following the rhythm of the music, and
I got really involved in the emotional part of music during my listenings. I know some of you might think I’m talking audiophile’s bullshit, but this part of the musical message
for me is quite important and recognizable. Mark Wheeler from TNT, can surely describe such phenomenon better than me, and he calls it PRaT ( tnt-audio.com/edcorner/prat_e.html ).
Altough this term was introduced in the good old days of turntables, it describes quite well the ability of a system to foster appreciation and enjoyment of music.
And the BOSS does exactly that.
The playlist of the test
Bob Dylan - Blowing in the Wind
Waldeck - Get Up… Carmen
Metronomy - The look
Red Hot Chilli Peppers - I could have lied
Rodriguez - Sugar man
Rino Gaetano - Cogli la mia rosa d’amore
Alabama Shakes - Don’t wanna fight
The Alan Parsons Project - Mammagamma
Whomadewho - Every minute alone
Led Zeppelin - Since I’ve been loving you
Pink Floyd - One of these days
Sebastian Tellier - La ritournelle
The Offspring - Pay the man
Tom Waits - Clap Hands
The Beatles - I want you (she’s so heavy)
The Rapture - In the grace of your love