Looking for CHEAP USB DAC solution

Hello, I have been assembling a bunch of old Pi’s running Volumio for a whole home system and am looking for a DAC solution that doesn’t break the bank. I am aware that hat type DACs are probably the absolute cheapest solution in a vacuum but a lot of times I have Pi Zeros or older Pis that already have cases and a tall hat compatible case is almost as much as the DAC itself. Then there are the breakout board DACs but that introduces its own issues with cases mounting.

So I am wondering if anyone knows what the absolute cheapest, widely available USB DAC that is plug and play with Volumio even on older Pis (1/2/zero) and can do 24/192. Something like the Apple dongle would be PERFECT but I don’t think it works? The DAC compatibility list is helpful but many entries are old and no longer available and don’t have any information in regards to price.

Thanks for any help you can give.

I never tried dongles with my Volumio Pi. (Because I do not want 3,5mm to RCA adapter cables.)
Don’t know whats your budget. But with my own experience I can 100% commend the Topping D10s on the low end. Does a great job. You can find countless YouTube reviews.
Only USB input.
Display! So you can always see whats coming in and out.
No additional PSU required, gets his power via the USB!
In Germany the item is around 90 €.
One thing: I tried it only with Pi3 and Pi4. So know idea if it works with your items.

Yeah just looking for literally as cheap as possible, usb, 24/192. I am aware of all the options at $100 ish and more that are great dacs

I’ve built 4 PI based streams this year, 3 PI Zero W’s & 1 PI 4. I used USB C to 3.5mm phone dongles from Amazon. Volumio identifed them as 384KHZ devices. No problems and they sound quite good all for less than $10 each. You will need 3.5mm to RCA cables, but those don’t cost much either.

Mark Gosdin

I use USB DACs; a Topping 10B and a Khadas Toneboard with a Topping E50 on the way. Just watch your power consumption and I/O.

The 10B and Toneboard are great but they get power from the PI USB port. If you are also operating a display or external SSD the PI might struggle to supply enough power. While I did not select the E50 for power consumption, it does have an external power port. It would be a better choice if, for example, the PI has an external SSD.

I only use the Pi4B but I do see messages on the this forum concerning I/0 bottlenecks on the PI 3 and 2. I believe the Ethernet and USB ports share the same I/O bus. You would need to do a search to get a better idea of what the issues are.

Edited

I was curious about that so tried yesterday evening:

Pi > USB A to USB C cable > iNassen dongle (Amazon, +/- 10 €) > 3,5 mm to RCA cable > Accuphase amp

Works stable.

But, as I have no Pi2 here, no idea if it will work with your Raspis.

I’ve used a VERY cheap dongle DAC from aliexpress (less than 20€) with Pi0, Pi3 and Pi4 with no issues.

Edited: it’s a bit more expensive now, but it’s this one.

Are they still available, do you mind linking if so?

Hifiberry DAC+ Zero just went on sale on amazon for $17 the other day. At that price + $10 for Pi zero W board + $7-9 for a case/header + whatever for a cable/SD card seems hard to beat building from scratch. Just having the DAC stick out over the case (acrylic type) is fine in my use case. Probably preferable to the USB considering the form factor issues?

For say a used Pi that already has a case that can’t fit a hat, though, that $10 usb seems like a good choice.

I bought the iNassen brand that @achim1812 used. Unfortunately that is out of stock at Amazon US right now.

There are a number of 384K capable USB C dongles available on Amazon US, virtually identical to the iNassen. This one from JSAUX for $12.99 is an example.

Mark Gosdin

I am quite sure, that all these dongles are more or less the same. Amazon Germany lists min. 20 “different” items. Each a clone of each other.

Good to know. I had tried two random ones off Amazon a while ago - one well regarded for $50 and one totally cheap for like $14 - and they both did not work out of the box.

If you don’t care the sound, why do you want 24x192 ? I tried 10-y.o. 4-5$ USB sound card (dongle), and it works at Pi 3B. I’m sure it would work with any Pi.

This one : https://aliexpress.ru/item/32942895761.html

If you really need 24x192, that one ($12) fits your needs :

https://aliexpress.ru/item/4001359693276.html

I have been using the IQaudIO DAC Pro Sound Card for the raspberry Pi about $25. I am pumping through a Yamaha to Klipsch speakers and love it

If finding an affordable case is the problem check out this case kit:

The case is tall enough to accomodate a RasPi and a DAC hat attached directly. I’ve also been able to mount the DAC on top of the case and connect it with a ribbon cable. The end product may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s very sturdy, about $20 and has a certain techie chic.

@vtv I know you said USB in your initial post, but if you wanting to drive a speaker (rather than an amp) I can recommend the Adafruit MAX98357A. It’s around £5 in the UK. So super cheap.
This tiny DAC is for single speaker output and I believe there is now a stereo speaker output version. There is a bit of soldering and desoldering required (removing a 1MΩ off the board and putting 600KΩ resistors between GPIO4 and the SD pin) but if you don’t mind doing that sort of thing, can’t really go wrong.
Paired with the Volumio 3 beta works perfectly!
Just a different idea for you!

I don’t know what you mean by “cheap”, but I just bought and started using a Schitt Modi 3+ USB DAC. It does the job and gets lots of good reviews. I bought it directly from Schitt for $99 plus shipping and tax. One nice thing: Schitt products are made in USA. (Don’t be put off by the name! The web site has lots of jokes about it!).

By cheap I mean as close to 0 as possible :crazy_face: