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Thread: 'Analog Dinosaur' succumbs to the joys of FBA : enter Raspberry Pi 2/IQ-Audio DAC+!!

  1. #1
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 73,291
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Cool 'Analog Dinosaur' succumbs to the joys of FBA : enter Raspberry Pi 2/IQ-Audio DAC+!!

    Tim will giggle at this, as for YEARS I've resisted the temptation of adding a music-streaming source to my system, mainly because of all those I'd heard (and there have been many to date, at varying price levels), I'd yet to hear a solution good enough that I could live with, particularly in terms of ease of use, and that could compete on sonic terms with my Sony CDP/DAC, and indeed my turntable.

    All that changed recently, when two friends (Ian Walker and Duncan, A.K.A Tubehunter) visited Marco Towers, bringing with them a Raspberry Pi 2 (Model B), a USB hard-drive, filled with various choons, and the wherewithal to connect it all up and demonstrate it to me in my system.

    Cutting to the chase, I was gob-smacked at what I heard, as this is the first time that I've listened to a streaming system that didn't sound thin, flat, tonally grey and very 'digital', the complete antithesis of the weighty and purposeful, musically addictive and rich, 'analogue-like' sound, delivered by my Sony CDP and DAC.

    What I was hearing this time, from FBA (with the Pi in the equation), had all the latter qualities, together with beautiful filigree detailing and huge globules of musical information, all contributing to deliver thrilling amounts of insight and 'fun factor', with all recordings played - and most importantly, minus any 'digital glare': an effect which to my ears, up until now (to varying degrees), has plagued every digital replay system I've heard, filed-based or otherwise.

    This had none of that. What I was hearing was truly 'analogue-sounding digital' (in the right way), with added 'grin-factor' - and hugely entertaining it was, too!!!

    However, that *only* happened when we took the preamp out of the equation and listened to the Pi (fitted with an IQaudio Pi-DAC+), directly into my Copper amp, or the equally stunning sounding Quad 405s Duncan had modified into monoblocks (more on those later). With the Pi used into my Croft preamp, the sound was still very good indeed, and perfectly acceptable, but the real magic only happened when the Pi was used directly, being controlled via Volumio, on my Macbook Pro.

    Most folk I've read with a Pi seem to use it with a HiFi Berry Digi+, and connect it to a separate external DAC, thus necessitating the use of an optical or coaxial digital cable, and the subsequent (and unavoidable) jitter such cables introduce, thus diluting the purity of the audio signal. Well, having heard just how mind-blowingly good the Burr-Brown 32-bit IQ Audio DAC is (for details, see here: http://iqaudio.com/?page_id=454), used internally and direct, I can honestly say there's most likely little point in using a 'fancier' and more expensive external DAC, as this little thing delivers utterly KILLER sound, at sweetie-money prices... 32 to be precise!!

    Ian Walker considers that it outperforms the DAC inside his Rega Isis, which is, what, an 8k CDP? That gives you an idea of the quality of the cheap-as-chips IQ-Audio DAC, and level of sonic performance obtained, when used in conjunction with a Raspberry Pi...............!

    Now I've taken my heavily-modified Sony DAC (acting as my current benchmark) to many meets and bake-offs over the years, one of which was the most memorable, was putting it up against the DAC inside Martin T's superb and rather expensive Ayre CDP, and it certainly didn't disgrace itself, in fact outperforming it in some areas, notably bass authority, rhythm and timing and overall musicality, to the ears of the assembled listeners, including Martin himself and MikeMusic, who was also present.

    The Sony has also been demonstrated at Scalford, as part of a much praised AoS system, and numerous other places where discerning ears have revelled in its highly addictive music-making abilities. Well, I can tell you that the Pi/IQ Audio DAC combo, streaming hi-res 24-bit files, connected directly to my Copper amp, and controlled on my laptop via Volumio, produces a sound that is well up there with the Sony and in some areas betters it (namely ultimate musical insight into recordings, reduction in perceived 'noisefloor', and all-out detail retrieval), most likely down to the higher resolution of the files streamed, compared to what's available in that respect from Red Book CD.

    However, I also suspect that this particular DAC chip succeeds to eke out just that bit more musical information from recordings than the TDA1541s in the Sony, but most importantly, it does so without sacrificing hardly any of the Sony's muscular authority - and it is *that* last factor that has succeeded to turn my head and finally embrace the joys of FBA! Make no mistake: by ANY sonic standards, the Pi/IQ-Audio DAC is a killer combo, outperforming some DACs costing many thousands of pounds, and at a combined cost of around 80, offers just simply bonkers SPPV!!

    This is genuine 'giant-killing' performance, no question about it, and probably one of the most exciting discoveries I've ever made in audio. The Pi/IQ-Audio combination is definitely going to worry some high-end companies producing expensive music streaming devices, as here you have all of their performance (and more), without the unnecessary frippery and huge price tag!!

    As such, I cannot recommend the above combo highly enough, to the extent that it would be simply ludicrous now to recommend the use of any modern CDP, at virtually any price, as properly partnered and set-up, the Pi/IQ Audio DAC combo, IMO, is likely to sonically outperform it. The respective manufacturers have got it *so* right with the designs of both items, by most importantly keeping the signal path as short as possible and using genuine bit-perfect transfer of data. It is so good that I would confidently put it up against any so-called 'high-end' streaming source, costing many thousands of pounds.

    In that respect, it will be interesting to hear what the dedicated linear power supply, which Duncan has built, adds to the party. Full details of that to come... However, for the meantime, I'll be sitting back enjoying going through and listening to the 2TB worth of files I've just obtained from a friend's CD collection, and revelling in how shockingly believable and lifelike the music sounds...

    Honestly, folks, try using the Pi without an off-board DAC and digital cable, or a preamp, and instead, direct with neither (into a quality power amp), with a built-in DAC from IQ Audio. Quite simply, you need none of the former to build a high-quality streaming device, capable of top-notch audio performance.

    My advice? Well, what are you waiting for?? Just go out and BUY a Pi - it's even tastier than the famous porky ones from Melton Mowbray!

    For reference, the following streaming set-up now in situ, chez-Marco is:

    1 x Raspberry Pi 2 (Model B) in 'Ninja' case, with Raspberry switch-mode PSU.

    1 x IQAudio Pi-DAC+.

    1 x Maplins 8G Class 4 SD card.

    1 x NAS (shuttle) box with 2TB of music, contained on two hard-drives.

    15m of Maplins Cat-5e RJ45 patch cable (connecting NAS box/hard-drives and router, to Pi).

    1 x pair of 0.5m Klotz MC5000 interconnect cables, fitted with MS Audio RCA plugs (to connect IQ-Audio DAC directly to Copper valve power amp).

    Volumio operational interface (with Kernel parameters set at 'Buscia'), used with a Macbook Pro.

    Total cost (excluding laptop and router): less than 350.........

    Some pics....

    NAS (shuttle) box (containing 2TB of choons, many of which are high-res 24-bit):





    Raspberry Pi (with IQ-Audio DAC inside):







    Volumio (with Macbook Pro):





    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

  2. #2
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 7,211
    I'm Josie.

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    I've heard of this before, seems to be getting quite a cult status. I did some stuff for the PI with the BBC Micro a while ago.

    How can this iddy liccul thing do such a good job?... Witchcraft my friend, witchcraft. ..lol
    Preamplifier: Croft Epoch Elite - Dual external PSU & Upgrades
    Amplifier: Tube Distinctions Copper Amp No. 5 using KT150's
    Digital: Raspberry Pi & ALLO Piano DAC & KALI - IQAudio DAC with SBooster Linear BOBW PSU & Trio DP700 CDP
    Turntable: Thorens TD124 MkII - Schopper refurbished
    Tonearm: SME 3009 S2 None Improved - Audio Origami modified
    Cartridge: Ortofon SPU GT
    Speakers: 15" Tannoy Monitor Golds in Lockwood Majors with Tannoyista Spec 3 crossovers
    Cables/Mains: Mark Grant Black Series mains cables & 6-Way power bar
    Cables/IC's: Mark Grant HDX1 Pure Copper + Custom made Silver/Gold interconnects
    Mains Other: Tube Distinctions/Mark Grant 'The Power Works' Digital noise mains power filter TD2414-MG - Nick Gorham DC Blocker unit constructed by Mark Grant

  3. #3
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 37,844
    I'm Grant.

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    I looked at these and although fancied it felt it was beyond me to set it up being a dunce. shame as they get good rep and are cheap. think it was our pink friend that gave me some info but think its past me building it and worse setting it up

    great your converted even if its just a bit
    Regards,
    Grant ....

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply-doesn't-work
    .... ..... ...... ...... ................... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
    DENON DV2900 - TWIN PRO MONOBLOCK AMPLIFIERS - XIANG SHENG DAC\PRE\HEADPHONE AMP - AVANTREE OASIS CLASS 1 BLUETOOTH - AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-MSR7 & OPPO PM-3 PLANAR HEADPHONES - WIN10 JRIVER23, SPOTIFY PREMIUM - ECHO DOT - SMSL M6 MINIDAC - FULL RANGE TWIN TELEFUNKEN's - Q ACOUSTIC BT3 actives - CANTON SUB - MAINS REGENERATED AND FILTERED.

  4. #4
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 73,291
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Black Adder View Post
    I've heard of this before, seems to be getting quite a cult status. I did some stuff for the PI with the BBC Micro a while ago.

    How can this iddy liccul thing do such a good job?... Witchcraft my friend, witchcraft. ..lol
    I know, mate. It's been a veritable 'amazing new discovery' for me.... Btw, you have a PM

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

  5. #5
    Join Date: Jan 2008

    Location: Wrexham, North Wales, UK

    Posts: 73,291
    I'm AudioAl'sArbiterForPISHANTO.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by struth View Post
    I looked at these and although fancied it felt it was beyond me to set it up being a dunce.
    It's a piece of piss, Grant - or at least it certainly seemed that way, watching Duncan set it up for me!

    Marco.
    http://www.thestainedglasscompany.com

    "A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do" -- Milan Kundera.

  6. #6
    Join Date: Aug 2009

    Location: Staffordshire, England

    Posts: 18,137
    I'm Martin.

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    sounds interesting but as an even bigger dinosaur than you all I can say is 'first dibs on yer Sony'
    Martin



    Current Lash Up:

    Sony X505ES CD Player * NVA P90SA passive pre / NVA A30 Power amp * JM Lab Electra 926 loudspeakers *



    "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S Thompson

  7. #7
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 7,211
    I'm Josie.

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    I don't quite see what input interface board fits on top of the dac board... or is it really that simple? I take it that the input board has SD/USB/COAX input?
    Preamplifier: Croft Epoch Elite - Dual external PSU & Upgrades
    Amplifier: Tube Distinctions Copper Amp No. 5 using KT150's
    Digital: Raspberry Pi & ALLO Piano DAC & KALI - IQAudio DAC with SBooster Linear BOBW PSU & Trio DP700 CDP
    Turntable: Thorens TD124 MkII - Schopper refurbished
    Tonearm: SME 3009 S2 None Improved - Audio Origami modified
    Cartridge: Ortofon SPU GT
    Speakers: 15" Tannoy Monitor Golds in Lockwood Majors with Tannoyista Spec 3 crossovers
    Cables/Mains: Mark Grant Black Series mains cables & 6-Way power bar
    Cables/IC's: Mark Grant HDX1 Pure Copper + Custom made Silver/Gold interconnects
    Mains Other: Tube Distinctions/Mark Grant 'The Power Works' Digital noise mains power filter TD2414-MG - Nick Gorham DC Blocker unit constructed by Mark Grant

  8. #8
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 37,844
    I'm Grant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marco View Post
    It's a piece of piss, Grant - or at least it certainly seemed that way, watching Duncan set it up for me!

    Marco.
    its easy when someo!e knows what their doing thought you might have liked my pun?
    Regards,
    Grant ....

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply-doesn't-work
    .... ..... ...... ...... ................... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
    DENON DV2900 - TWIN PRO MONOBLOCK AMPLIFIERS - XIANG SHENG DAC\PRE\HEADPHONE AMP - AVANTREE OASIS CLASS 1 BLUETOOTH - AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-MSR7 & OPPO PM-3 PLANAR HEADPHONES - WIN10 JRIVER23, SPOTIFY PREMIUM - ECHO DOT - SMSL M6 MINIDAC - FULL RANGE TWIN TELEFUNKEN's - Q ACOUSTIC BT3 actives - CANTON SUB - MAINS REGENERATED AND FILTERED.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 7,211
    I'm Josie.

    Default

    I'm actually thinking of moving away from the external dac to be honest... I have a lovely dac but I'd rather have something inside a player seeing as file (HD) audio isn't getting much better in terms to gapless.

    What do you need to get a full dac up and running with either a HD or a transport, Marco?
    Preamplifier: Croft Epoch Elite - Dual external PSU & Upgrades
    Amplifier: Tube Distinctions Copper Amp No. 5 using KT150's
    Digital: Raspberry Pi & ALLO Piano DAC & KALI - IQAudio DAC with SBooster Linear BOBW PSU & Trio DP700 CDP
    Turntable: Thorens TD124 MkII - Schopper refurbished
    Tonearm: SME 3009 S2 None Improved - Audio Origami modified
    Cartridge: Ortofon SPU GT
    Speakers: 15" Tannoy Monitor Golds in Lockwood Majors with Tannoyista Spec 3 crossovers
    Cables/Mains: Mark Grant Black Series mains cables & 6-Way power bar
    Cables/IC's: Mark Grant HDX1 Pure Copper + Custom made Silver/Gold interconnects
    Mains Other: Tube Distinctions/Mark Grant 'The Power Works' Digital noise mains power filter TD2414-MG - Nick Gorham DC Blocker unit constructed by Mark Grant

  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2012

    Location: London and Somerset

    Posts: 1,986
    I'm Dave.

    Default

    All this sounds great, but i am a numpty dinosaur. I need someone to spell it out plain and simple, Streaming????? Does that mean i need to upload my CDs to my laptop, what happens next? cable from laptop to pi thing then to amp? will i be using my laptop instead of CD player? The problem i have always had with computers compared with HIFI is that i have had so many computers die, or back up stuff get lost etc. even with my mrs Mac, which needs to upgrade every few years otherwise it wont work etc, or have to spend a load of dosh on a new one.
    I have never had any problems with HIFI kit.
    I would love to go down shed loads of music from a tiny box type of thing as it would be ideal for my tiny London flat, just no room here for CD storage there.
    Kraken, Saturn, Emotion, Flying V Rocket, Planets.

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