RPi 2 with I2S DAC or external DAC?


I plan to buy a new RPi 2 and now I´am thinking about a good DAC solution to stream Spotify music via AirPlay to my “Luxman L-81”.

What would you prefer?

A RPi 2 + I2S DAC (there a actuall not much on the market) or is it better to use an external DAC with the RPi 2(RPi 2 with Hifiberry Digi+ and external DAC). Or the third way: RPi 2 with USB DAC (Meridian Explorer or similar).

Thanks, Tom

No opinion from anyone? :confused:

Bought a HiFiberry DAC+ the other week but found it too bright and brittle for my ears i preferred the audio from my Pi 2 without a DAC but last week i got myself a Meridian Explorer 2 which had me sitting there saying to myself i don’t remember hearing that in different tunes i’ve played hundreds of times, it opens up your music which will make your ears happy :slight_smile:

Did you try to log in ssh and alsamixer and change FIR to IIR or others, as well play with kernel profiles. I use ACX on my Dac+.

Tried all the kernel profiles but never found one which made the HiFiBerry sing to my ears

I can at least say i own some Meridian HiFi now which is something i’ve always wanted to do just a shame it’s not one of there £11,000 CD players :smiley:

Did you consider getting the Cubox i instead of the Pi2+ digi? If you get the cheaper of the Cubox’ the price tag should be quite similar and the optical out is readily installed.
I have no own experience yet, but I am somewhat in the same situation and this is possibly the way I will go. I am just looking for the right DAC yet.

Most good external DAC’s usually outperform most I2S DAC’s. Yes, the path is short but a good clock signal and clean power is not easy.

When using an external DAC, it is all about how to feed it.

The RPi has some issues with its USB port, so feeding your DAC over USB might be an issue. Some people have good experiences and some bad. In theory USB would be one of the best ways IF your DAC support asynchronous USB, meaning the DAC determines when it want data from the USB bus and pulls it from the RPi. This way the DAC can use it own (good) clock to do the D/A conversion.

Feeding the DAC using Coax or Toslink is also possible, but you need your RPi to generate such a signal. A good way could be like the HifiBerry Digi+. It also uses the I2S signal path and converts it to SPDIF for both outputs. Using Coax saves you another conversion to Optical compared to Toslink but you need a properly shielded cable.

My personal suggestion? Go for an external DAC :slight_smile:

If you are using USB DAC then remember the USB bus is shared with the Ethernet on the Raspberry Pi. So care needs to be given to large file transfers (read 192/24b media for example).

Horses for courses.


Why is a Cubox better than a RPi? Do you see there any significant improvements?

The Meridian Explorer 2 has an asynchronous USB interface. So it should be a good solution, or? The Meridian is praised everywhere - maybe in interaction with the RPi it should fit my needs?

External DAC would be nice but I don´t want to spend too much money. The price of round about 300€ is my maximum I want to spend.

Maybe an good external DAC solution could be a Schiit Loki DAC on a RPi 2 + Hifiberry Digi+?
Is it comparable to the Meridian USB solution?

Large file transfers are not my problem. Mostly Spotify will be played.

Been using the Meridian Explorer 2 for about a week now and it works great just make sure you use a good power supply as had problems when i also plugged in a WiFi dongle ie the Pi 2 wouldn’t boot or it would lock-up

I have a 1500 mAh power supply and behind this a self made power supply regulator in a 3D printed case for a low ripple current.

I hope 1500 mAh are enough?

I was using a iPad charger but got myself a power supply from modmypi.com and everything is working fine now

i had a variety of problems getting my system up (none of which were due to the DAC+). Gordon was fantastic with email help and was even prepared to ship me a new DAC+ (to US!) just to be sure the board was not a problem. I cannot say enough about his support. And the card is GREAT as well.

I bought Hifiberry and iqaudio. After 2 weeks listening i sold iqaudio dac. Its just my opinion. There is too much hype around iqaudio dac.

Everyone is entitled to enjoy what sounds best to their own ears. I have built systems using the Pi B+ and Pi 2.

USB DACs have included:

nuforce.com/index.php?optio … /index.php
and a few generic PCM2704 boards in the $8 range

I have also built a box with the i2s DAC:

audiophonics.fr/audiophonics … -8396.html

My source material has been “ripped” CDs streamed from a local NAS, or web radio, or Spotify.

I have used digital amps (TPA3116), a tube amp (12ax7, 6BQ5), and some older solid-state amps. For speakers I have used a variety of home-brew systems and my old Klipsch Heresys.

My opinion would be that your source, amp, speakers and listening space will have a larger impact on sound quality than any of the DACs above. Add an equalizer to fine-tune any slight differences if you want.

One nice thing about the USB DACs is that they can be treated as connectors between your Pi and your amp, and can be easily “rolled” just as I might roll 12ax7 tubes on my tube amp. Most USB DACs also allow Volumio to control volume in the hardware mode, which might be convenient for you.

On the other hand, my next box may be a portable, using a Pi A+ and the above i2s DAC, because that combo would be cheap and compact.

In my opinion, all sound quite good. Pick one (or several) and have fun!

I’ve just made my first experiences with this configuration:

  • Raspi 2 B
  • HifiBerry Digi+
  • external German DAC (“Destiny”)
  • Volumio (of course)[u]
  • Toslink connection between HifiBerry and DAC[/u]
    Sometimes I’m not quite sure, if the sound quality is really as good as it could or should be.
    Might somebody could check my settings whether they are okay?
  • MPD Configuration
    – Audio Output: sndrpihifiberry
    – DSD over PCM: no
    – Audio output format: disabled
    – Sample rate converter: Fastest Sinc…
  • Settings
    I2S driver: I2S DAC Hifiberry Digi
    Sound quality tweaks: Kernel profile default
    Compatibility fixes: CMedia fix: off

Thanks and Greetings!


I own a Modi2 Uber DAC which I have it connected over USB to my RPi2 running Volumio.
Does anyone happen to know (in theory or even better in practice) if I’m going to get any better results if I buy a Hifibery DIGI+ (either standard or Pro) and connect my Pi to the DAC via optical Toslink?

Does this setup worth the investment?

Also, I’ve heard that the Digi+ is not yet supported by Volumio. Is it true and if so, does anyone know when is it going to be natively supported?

Many thanks.

Any ideas anyone?

No, IMHO its not worth

Thanks for the prompt and honest reply Michelangelo.
That saved me a few money.