Upgrade: Dac or (SMPS Nirvana vs. Allo Kali Reclocker vs. Digital DAC + Hifiberry Digi)

Hey folks,
I have been using this little DAC here (https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B01HBJIO2I/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1) for the last years and was really happy with the sound (am still, but would like to upgrade a little :slight_smile: ).

So my first question: is there gonna be a major improvement if I upgrade the Pi DAC itself to a let’s say Hifiberry DAC2 HD?

Secondly, I am quite sure that power supply is a thing to worry about when it comes to audio playback. So I have found some cool stuff on the Allo website and cannot decide for which option to go:

  1. get an Allo Kali reclocker which will apparently power itself, Pi and DAC and shall bring quite some improvement (according to a guy who wrote a review on the volumio website)

  2. get an Allo Nirvana SMPS (https://www.allo.com/sparky/nirvana-smps.html) for more stable power supply

  3. completely remove audio conversion from the Pi board environment and outsource it to an external DAC like for example the Schiit Modi 3

Has anyone of you experience with one of the above and could give me some feedback, what he*she thinks? Or also any expertise is well appreciated in case I have not fully understood what I’m doing.

Thanks a lot!

Cheers,
Johannes

An external USB DAC will generally be better than a HAT DAC. Audio Science Review is the ‘go to’ website for detailed objective reviews of audio equipment. One of their favourite USB DACs at a reasonable price is the Topping E30

Plus you can plug your TV into it via Toslink. The separate packaging of this USB DAC almost certainly reduces many digital noise issues from the RPI.
This DAC isn’t quite ‘state of the art’ but outperforms any HAT and would be virtually indistinguishable from DACs costing many times more. It easily surpasses the Schiit Modi 3 (there is a review on ASR of the Modi 3 if you wish to compare). You can buy the Topping it from Audiophonics in France if you live in the EU, but you also would need to budget for a low cost 5V power supply for the E30. The E30 has onboard filtering so it is not necessary to overspend on an ultra low noise unit.
I’m not sure which RPI you are using. I’m familiar with the RPI4 running Volumio to an external DAC. A RPI4 would work well with the RPI4 power supply but running the RPI4 cool by using the FLIRC heatsink case isn’t a bad idea and is a neat way to package your RPI4.
With DACs like the E30 it is very unlikely that any improvement would be got from buying the USBBridge.

Thanks a lot for your quick reply! Sounds logical to me to get a dedicated DAC instead of a hat. I am using a RPi 3b and probably upgrading to 4 some time soon, hoping to increase response time of volumio. Thanks for your recommendation, I will order the E30 and see what it can do! :slight_smile: Can you recommend a good and reasonably priced 5V power supply that I can preferably get on Amazon or so?

If you’ve got a RPI3b try it out. As I have understood it the issues some people have observed is that with the RPI3b the operation of the Ethernet port and the USB socket at the same time sometimes cause the output to the USB to be momentarily interrupted. This effect does however depend on which streaming software you are using. I suspect that there are several Volumio users out there and I hope they can offer their experiences here. Anyway I think it should be pretty obvious if your RPI3b is failing this way!
As regards 5V supplies there is a thread on ASR.

It seems that any reasonable 5V/1A supply would work

Ok thank you so far! I have ordered now a Cambridge Audio DacMagic 100, iFi Zen Dac, Fiio K5pro and Topping E30 with following power supply:


Curious how they will perfom with an Oyiade USB cable. Will do a comparison and post my impressions here.

OK! So in case someone is interested in the results:
Ranking:

  1. iFi Zen DAC
  2. Topping E30
    3)FiiO K5 Pro
    I won’t even unpack the Cambridge Audio.

To me the clear winner is the iFi Zen DAC, most detailled and dynamic sound, most involving of the 3. Topping E30 is good as well, FiiO K5pro to me was not in this league at all.

I was swapping DACs around and then caught myself how I did not want to leave the iFi. It was most fun to listen to it for me. It has best build quality by far too. You get a lot of DAC for 150 Euros. But be aware of the fact that this is a PC only DAC, so you cannot feed it with Coax or S/PDIF. So unfortunately not for me too. They go all back.

Got a recommendation for a TEAC Reference DAC. Will safe some €€€ and go for this one.

Hi,
But topping e30 has spdif and coax input… Why say that it is a PC dac?

Talking about the iFi Zen. The Best of the three to me.

Where topping lacks? You have listen to mqa files or hi res?

can’t you just use the 3.5mm jack to phono on the iFi Zen ?