Raspberry board or USB DAC?

I’m a huge Volumio lover and great raspberry fan.
Willing to improve my sento system I am wondering:

Should I get a raspberry DAC board or get a good sounding USB DAC that I can connect to raspberry but also to another PC?

Thanks for your help

I wouldn’t go for the USB DAC as the RPi has a bottleneck running all networking, including USB, through the one controller chip. USB output is less likely to be good than even a cheap I2S DAC. Given the price/performance of the RPi stuff, you’ll spend much more on a good USB DAC than on an excellent I2S DAC,

Chris M

Did you consider using an external DAC connected via SPDIF? Using a hat-board with coaxial SPDIF output you get around the USB limitations of the Pi and still use a good external DAC.

In general, most external DACs outperform I2S DACs but offcourse this depends on the build quality of the DAC.

And don’t forget to look at proper powersupplies for your Pi and DAC as those can be even more important sometimes than the DAC and hat-board.

As always, YMMV.

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thank you fro your answer.

Taking into account that this should be my second setup attached to active speaker mainly streaming spotify, I thought Rpi and a DAC board was a good idea. any thoughts on that?

Makes sense. You get a nice small setup that way which will perform fine with spotify as input.

Depending on the quality of your active speakers, it might be worth upgrading the Power Supply of your Pi. Instead of a standard one, look at an iFi or other audio grade PSU.

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Hi Guys. I run Volumio with a Topping D30 via USB with a Pi 3B.
Just to show my findings:
It’s connected over wifi.
1- At least in my home, it has to use the 5GHz and I had to install a wireline bridge in my room or the network throughput isn’t enough to avoid very bad breaks in playback.
2- It’s flawless with Spotify.
3- I “think” RPi bus starts to suffer on FLAC 44.1 kHz files but it’s still very hard to notice. I think I would need very high end gear to be sure (I run a topping D30 + Schiit Magni 3 + HD650 or budget Microlab monitors)
4- You can clearly notice eventual ticks and pops on 96kHz and over. They are bad on 192 KHz and DSD files.
5- I tried a spdif connection using a Hifiberry DIGI+ Pro board and it solves the problem (and improves the sound), on the other hand I can’t run my DSD files over spdif and I have to remove my 3,5 ‘’ display so I decided to keep the original version and try a new RPI4. Maybe for a next project where I can put them all in a fancy box.

OBS: my NAS is also a RPi 3 connected over wired ethernet running Openmediavault. The bottleneck might be there also.

I just purchased a RPi 4 hoping to solve this problem. It will come from China, so in 1 or 2 months I put the results here.

I would go for a good USB DAC.

Possible candidates are:
Chord Mojo (500€)
DragonFly (between 100-300€ depending on which type).

Even when the external USB DACs are more expensive, you get a product with full flexibility: when you don’t use it with the RPi, you just hook it up to your phone and enjoy the huge difference.
You can sell these later better because you are not limited by the specific I2S interface.

Additionally, some of the DACs have already good power filters and you can use a cheaper power supply.


If you’re using a USB DAC, use a Pi 4.

Earlier models of Pi have problems with USB packet loss that will cause glitches in the audio especially at high sample rates. This is fixed in the Pi 4!

I was getting serious pops and clicks on my Behringer UMC204HD with a Pi 2, (bad enough that I’ve been using a Cubox-i instead) playback is flawless now with my Pi 4 even at 192Khz 24 bit.

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