DAC for Pi3 or Pi4 - which one next ?


Volumio was running for 1 year on my Raspberry Pi 3B+ and an PiFi DAC+ V2.0 (HiFiBerry-clone with cinch connection).
Now, after buying some mich better loud speakers and a Marantz SR5010 A/V-Receiver, I am planning to upgrade the DAC for getting better sound (flac) quality using digital connections like toslink.

Parallel I am planning to upgrade to an Pi4 4GB RAM.

Which DAC is currently the recommended option, supported by Volumio out of the box, for a budget of up to EUR 120.

Thanks in advance.

Schiit Modi 3 or Topping E30 - both work well with RPI 4 and Volumio.

I myself use the E30 and it is amazing!

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I believe that Toslink is the least capable digital connection.
USB or digital coaxial (S/PDIF) are better choice as far as I’m aware.

I am wondering that brands like HifiBerry are offering so much cinch-connections.

What kind of connection offers the best quality for flac-files? I thought it has to be a digital solution like toslink.

I think my Marantz SR5010 is able to receive all those signals.

Because the DAC on those hats is usually high quality and the line out is a flexible way to connect to amplifiers, active speakers, etc.

Toslink is often not particularly well implemented and has limitations that some other digital interfaces don’t. It’s usually considered the least attractive connection method for high fidelity sound. USB is better (when the USB implementation is good (as it is on a R Pi 4), HDMI is better, and coaxial S/PDIF is better.

if you want to spend some time in getting hands a bit dirty, I will suggest HifiBerry’s DAC +DSP , DSP part will make up more than enough for what DAC is missing.
But it is just 2 channel, if you want 5.1 then it is different story

I am a very happy Allo BOSS listener.
Together with an ifi-audio power supply, it sounds much better.
It sounds awesome!

With a digital output, you always need a good external DAC.

That’s why I love the simple but excellent sounding system!


Ok, thx… some more questions, please:
Are all those DACs compatible to a Raspi 4?

I understand, SP/DIF coax, USB and HDMI are better than toslink. But, I hardly can imagine that the old cinch connectors are offering best sound quality.

Is there any DAC on the market with very good price-performance-ratio?

Allo BOSS, for example, offers an isolator option. Do not really know if I need this.

Which one would you prefer? USB, SP/DIF ?

When you use an I2S connected DAC like the Allo Boss, the RCA (what you call cinch) output is line level audio. It is a high quality, the DAC is good, performing above its price point.
If you want an outboard DAC, by all means get one. With a R Pi 4 a USB connected DAC is a good option.

Does this mean my cheap HiFiBerry-Clone called PiFiDAC 2.0+ (GPIO-HAT) offers the same quality like an Allo BOSS, because it is connected through I2S, too?

Buying an I2S or USB-DAC does not increase sound quality?

No. I2S or USB are simply the means by which the signal data is transmitted from the RPi to the DAC. The timing of the signal depends on whether the DAC is a master or slave. Once the signal data is ‘at’ the DAC, the power supply to the DAC and the DAC electronics come into play.

There are USB DAC’s which are worse/better than I2S DAC’s and vice versa.

One more question, please!

I would like to choose the Schiit Modi 3 as my next DAC.
Should I connect the Schiit Modi 3 directly to the Raspi USB and RCA to my Marantz SR 5010 A/V-Receiver.
Alternatively, I could upgrade the Raspi 4 with an Allo DigiOne and connect this to the Schiit digitally. Then, again, the Schiit using RCA to my receiver.

Does ist make a diference?

And, do you recommend to use an external power supply for the Schiit instead of an USB-cable, which offers power?

As far as I’m aware, the Schiit Modi 3 is a well regarded DAC and performs well in it’s price bracket.
If you have a Raspberry Pi 4 it should be a good thing to connect it to a USB port, then use the line out audio from the DAC to connect to your AVR.
No need to do that Allo DigiOne - DAC - AVR thing, the R Pi 4 has decent USB for connecting your DAC.
Use an external power supply for the Schiit DAC by all means, preferably one made for low-noise and audio use.

Hi! I own 2 rpi + volumio systems. Both sounds incredible:

  • Rpi 3b + allo boss 1.2 + ifi ipower
  • Rpi 4 2gb + khadas tone board

I highly recommend both dacs.

For less than 100€, the khadas tone board is an outstanding dac. Conected to the usb port, its free of noose or jitter. It sounds transparent. You will hear every detail. You can play DSD files native.

The allo boss + ifi ipower its a little expensive (I paid 115€). Sounds wonderful. IMO less analytical, but very very musical. You can hear it for hours and never be tired of it.

A little more than your price but take a look at the PecanPi DAC:

So… I am looking for an european store for shopping the Schiit Modi 3.
Seems to be much more exprensive to buy it in Europe/Germany.

I am not sure if I should buy a Schiit Modi 3 AND an external Ifi power supply.
Is there any hearble difference between Schiit Modi 3 + ifi or Schiit Modi 3 w/o any external power supply ?

What do you recommend for Rpi4?
Topping e30 (polarity issue fixed on USB )
Khadas tone board?

Well the current problem is not the price, but the supply. The official Schiit distributors have zero stock and they do not know when they will be replenished. Seems related to Covid.
I wanted to buy the Modi 3 as well, but now opted for the Topping e30 in the same price/quality category with more features, remote and a display.
I have purchased an external power supply (Alo Nirvana), which will power both, e30 and RPI independently (it does have 2 ports), the powering setup is the same as for Modi 3…

Thought, the e30 has a polarity issue?

In germany, the e30 costs EUR 130.
Used ones are not available.