After having used the RPi with an Audioquest Dragonfly USB DAC, which offered me a very satisfying experience in terms of sound quality, I decided I wanted to try out an I2S DAC as well. After some searching on this forum, I decided to go for the Audiophonics ES9023 DAC’s. I have a Raspberry Pi model B and as I also wanted to buy a Raspberry Pi 2, I decided I would have two different ones to try, and use one for the living room and the other for upstairs.
So I ordered the following two types:
for the Raspberry Pi B
for a new Raspberry Pi 2
I have tested them both and compared the sound quality to the Dragonfly. All the DACs were connected to a Harman-Kardon PM645 Vxi amplifier and Driade 71 MKII speakers.
I need to say that I did not ABX types of comparison so my conclusions might be a bit subjective. However the differences were big enough to make me think my conclusions are valid nevertheless.
So here goes: my conclusions:
The simple DAC (for the Raspberry B) had a clearly lesser sound quality compared to the Dragonfly USB DAC. The bass response is good but the high was sharp and unnatural. Also the stereo image was messy where voices would be scattered across the left-righ spectrum. This DAC might be nice for a simple hifi setup but definitely not a more high end system.
The more advanced model with high precision clock on board for the Raspberry 2, beat the Dragonfly clearly. The sound quality is crystal clear with very good stereo placement and a very detailed high. The sound is transparent and very realistic.
So my recommendation: if you are looking for an I2S DAC, make sure it has a high precision quartz clock on board. It makes a lot of difference!
By the way: the advance I2S DAC: on the Audiophonics website, the specifications say you need to use the Hifiberry+ driver. This turned out not to be the case. Both types worked with the Hifiberry drive (without the plus). If I selected the Hifiberry plus driver, the I2S card did not show up in the audio device list in the ‘playback’ menu.