What would you suggest for a new DAC?

Hi,
I’m an happy owner of a Raspberry PI 3B+ which I bought from Volumio shop when they were selling them. It is connected to a vintage Mission Cyrus I and speakers Mission 781, both bought in 1994.

After missing the community for some time (but still enjoying Volumio on my audio system) I came back to see the news also because a friend of mine is interested in getting something similar to what I have.

What could be a good configuration without spending a fortune nowadays?

I have heard that with the new Raspberry PI 4 the I2S hat is not anymore a good option but it’s better to have an external USB DAC. Apparently one of the best is the Topping E30. Are there others?

And why someone is suggesting to use a hat to connect the USB DAC? Can you explain me what is the advantage?

I’m using a Khadas Tone 1, which I find very good. I’ve ordered a Tone 2 Pro. They are both very reasonably priced.

From what I understand the USB bus is compromised on the rpi 2/3, due to sharing lanes with the ethernet. Thus it is not able to handle high quality bitrates sustained. This is not an issue with the RPi4.

If you want to use an external DAC (and it seems the sky is the limit here in terms of price), then you can either go with an RPI4 and use the USB to connect, or use a digital-output HAT (either RPI 2/3 or 4). Theres a range of options and pricepoints here too. The connections will either be SPDIF (coax / optical) or I2S (over HDMI or RJ45 connectors). The higher end external DACs seem to be supporting I2S natively now (Topping DX7-Pro, D90… PS Audio etc), PS Audio championed I2S over HDMI cables in recent years, but there isnt really a standard for it.

Personally I re-used an old RPI2 I had laying around and added this HAT, since it gives me all the options for digital out I might possibly need in the future AK4118 Digital Interface COAX/OPT/12S Sound Card for Raspberry Pi 384KHz DSD128 | eBay

I went with the Schiit Audio modi 3+ for now, which is in the same league/pricepoint as the E30. I’ve had my eye on the Denafrips Ares2, which is supposed to be amazing, but decided to wait a bit for that upgrade… it seems DACs can be quite the rabbit-hole… Schiit Audio: Audio Products Designed and Built in California

Goodluck!

I have Allo Digione Signature transport on Pi 3b+ and Schitt Modi 3.

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