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Thread: Allo Audio Piano DAC for Raspberry Pi

  1. #11
    Join Date: Dec 2015

    Location: vancouver

    Posts: 602
    I'm danilo.

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    Erm... Amp? Speakers... are? Fairly essential elements in getting those wonderous sounds to one's ears :-)
    My audio bits: Thorens / diy phono, CD/dvd player(s), diy pre, F6, Tannoy Golds in my boxes / my xovers, and of course all strung together with basic diy Wires
    Lots of Cd's, yet more audio files, a couple of hundred semi worn Lps.

  2. #12
    Join Date: Apr 2009

    Location: Chippenahm, Wilts, UK

    Posts: 586
    I'm Richard.

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    Well, I've now had an evening with just the Piano DAC in situ and a second evening with DAC plus Kali board in place, so here's a first review, and a few pics.

    This is the Pi (2) with both Kali board and Piano DAC in place:



    The Kali plugs directly on top of the Pi via the GPIO connector and then the Kali in turn has an identical set of connectors onto which you then connect the Piano DAC. This is what the Kali looks like on its own:



    On the left side, that connection block is a 5V input, so when you power the Kali, there's no need to separately power the Pi as that 5V input filters down into the Pi and up into the DAC. You need a 3A 5V PSU for everything to work.

    The Kali has LED indicators to show the incoming sample rate and will work happily with everything between 44.1 and 192KHz 16 and 24-bit. These LEDs become rather pointless once you've fitted a DAC on top of it though as you can't see them. What the Kali does is to take the incoming audio data from the Pi, buffer it, then re-clock it using a super low-jitter clock, so the DAC gets fed with a signal with far less jitter. This board should in theory work with any existing DAC board, but I didn't have much success in getting any audio out when I initially plugged it into my IQAudio DAC.

    You can of course just use the Piano DAC without any Kali reclocker in place. This is what the underside of the Piano DAC looks like with what seems to be an op-amp for the output:



    Those four phono outputs are 2 for left and right, and 2 extra labelled subwoofer outputs. The sub outs I have not used but I can imagine this could work rather well for anyone with an active setup where you can tune the exact crossover frequency between your sub and sats or even into standard speakers sans crossover giving you a tuneable active system for 2 way speakers. As you can see there are two DAC chips on the board. These are TI 5142 chips. Oone for left and right, and one for sub/LF outputs.

    As you'll notice there's no case at the moment. The kit was supplied with a perspex top and bottom and a bunch of spacers to separate and secure the boards. All very basic but functional. I've just got mine sat on a rubber pad at the back of my rack at the moment while I decide whether I build the entire thing plus power supply into one good looking case. That's for another thread entirely though.

    Setup was very simple. Plugging the board in to my Pi and loading my existing Raspbian installation which has RoonBridge installed picked it up immediately and running alsamixer showed me the familiar volume controls and filter selections identical to what you get with the IQAudio DAC (to all intents, the DAC chips in both units are pretty much the same).

    The one slight issue I did get at first was that the max volume was a little high for my pre-amp input, so I minimised the 6dB boost setting in alsamixer and all was well.

    Now for some listening. First of all I can see why it's been called the Piano DAC - Pianos have a tonality and realism that I very rarely hear with digital and for the first time in years (since I built my little DDDAC kit with the stacked 1543 chips in fact) I heard how the keys were being played, the weight, the pedals, the wood, all of the feeling conveyed by the player. In fact all instruments have this wonderfully full tone to them and are projected into the room with real depth and solidity. Solidity is another key facet of the sound here. Bass is full, but tight. It's definitely one for fans of PRAT: Pace, rhythm and timing are all spot on and where I often get tempted to flick through tracks at random, this sound persuades you to start at track one and listen all the way through an album which is something I've found myself doing for much of the listening. Vocals, along with instruments are projected right out into the room, there is so much depth both front to back and side to side. It's the biggest sound stage I've heard in a long time, you really can get lost allowing it to completely envelope you.

    All this was just the DAC. Fitting the Kali brings about further noticeable improvements. I would say you get an extra 10% on top, so it's not night and day but it's wringing the last ounces of performance out of the system. What the Kali brings is layering. When I first fitted the board, I thought it had become a little analytical, pulling recordings apart, but as things warmed up that turned into extra air around each instrument, more insight into the recording and the ability to follow each and every player in a performance. Even when things get busy, everything is held together with vice like grip. With the extra air, space and layering where that 3D soundstage really comes into its own, comes extra detail - again not in a clinical way, but the recording just seems to be laid utterly bare and you're right in the middle of it. I listened to Beck's Mutations (24/192). This is one of my favourite albums of the last 25 years and there were LOTS of details I had never heard before, little bits of percussion here, an extra bassline there buried under the other guitars. It was mesmerising from start to finish, so although I say it was an extra 10% in the performance, having heard it, I wouldn't want to be without it now!

    Is it perfect? Not quite. There's a slight pop when switching between tracks with different sample rates but I guess that will get fixed in time, and the way that it lays recordings entirely bare, means you get the warts and all, so it will be ruthlessly revealing of bad recordings to the point of making them unlistenable so if it's the musical equivalent of lithium you're after, this setup will not be for you. Give it a decent recording though, and it will reward you with a sound that is thoroughly engaging and totally addictive.

    In conclusion, this is a DAC that shakes my long held preference for vinyl. Of course it won't replace it, but the decision between a digital or an analogue purchase has seen a major shift towards digital, and that is something I never expected.
    Rich

  3. #13
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 6,925
    I'm Josie.

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    Excellent write up, Richard.

    Have you done an A/B comparison with the IQAudio DAC+ ? Or is that on the cards?

    Will this work with Moode, Volumio etc too?
    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

  4. #14
    Join Date: Apr 2009

    Location: Chippenahm, Wilts, UK

    Posts: 586
    I'm Richard.

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    Thanks Josie. Yes, I did make the comparison, but I thought my clear preference for the new DAC made me a little too biased for an objective view.

    That said, they are two very different sounding boards, which is incredible when you consider that the actual DAC chip in terms of specs is identical. Even taking out the Kali and comparing like for like, I think most people would be able to tell which DAC they were listening to within a few tracks.

    The IQ is a much smoother presentation, which will translate into an easier listen for a lot of people. Much more forgiving of poor sources or bad recordings and I think is generally fuller sounding. The Piano is faster, snappier, more strident and dynamic and projects sound further out into the room, where the IQ creates more of a wall of sound.

    Of course everything is going to come down to system matching. My Dynavector amps seem to work much better with sources that are a bit more up front, but if your amps are a bit bright or forward, the IQ is probably going to be a better match.

    There should be no problems running this with Moode, Volumio etc. The Kali is transparent to the system anyway so no drivers etc. required. Because this is such a new DAC there's going to be no 'Piano DAC" entry in any of these distros but given that the DAC chip is the same as the IQAudio, you can set it up as an IQDAC and that will work fine - That's how I've done it on my setup.
    Rich

  5. #15
    Join Date: Sep 2009

    Location: Derbyshire

    Posts: 6,925
    I'm Josie.

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    Ah, thanks, Richard.

    I wouldn't mind doing an eval on that too!

    Looks and sounds very interesting.
    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

  6. #16
    Join Date: Aug 2016

    Location: France

    Posts: 110
    I'm Andre.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lovejoy View Post

    Is it perfect? Not quite. There's a slight pop when switching between tracks with different sample rates but I guess that will get fixed in time, and the way that it lays recordings entirely bare, means you get the warts and all, so it will be ruthlessly revealing of bad recordings to the point of making them unlistenable so if it's the musical equivalent of lithium you're after, this setup will not be for you. Give it a decent recording though, and it will reward you with a sound that is thoroughly engaging and totally addictive.

    In conclusion, this is a DAC that shakes my long held preference for vinyl. Of course it won't replace it, but the decision between a digital or an analogue purchase has seen a major shift towards digital, and that is something I never expected.
    hi there Rich and thanks for the rich and honest write up. Impressive.
    On the above, i am glad to let you know that the "pop" issue was fixed in the latest KALI firmware.

    We can discuss in private how to get it to you.

    Thanks
    Andre

  7. #17
    Join Date: Aug 2016

    Location: France

    Posts: 110
    I'm Andre.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Black Adder View Post
    Ah, thanks, Richard.

    I wouldn't mind doing an eval on that too!

    Looks and sounds very interesting.
    Hi Black Adder, I PMed you...
    thanks
    Andre

  8. #18
    Join Date: Apr 2008

    Location: Warrington

    Posts: 2,238
    I'm Neil.

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    Interesting name for a DAC, in fact, piano is one of the most difficult instruments to get right in digital, maybe this DAC is one of the few that cracks it?
    Mana Acoustics Racks >> Custom Silent Media Server >> Halide Bridge USB (with AQVOX USB power) >> Pedja Rogic's Audial Model S DAC + Pioneer PL-71 turntable / Vista Audio phono-1 mk II / Denon PCL-5 headshell / Reson Reca >> LFD DLS >> LFD PA2M (SE) >> Royd RR3s.

  9. #19
    Join Date: Aug 2016

    Location: France

    Posts: 110
    I'm Andre.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yomanze View Post
    Interesting name for a DAC, in fact, piano is one of the most difficult instruments to get right in digital, maybe this DAC is one of the few that cracks it?
    #LoveJoy... how does the piano instrument sound on the pinao DAC ?

  10. #20
    Join Date: Feb 2013

    Location: W Lothian

    Posts: 32,113
    I'm Grant.

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    Indeed he reckoned it sounded more like a piano than a well, piano lol. Awaiting the price though. Would like to try it myself actually
    Regards,
    Grant ....
    Sometimes incompetence is useful. It helps you keep an open mind.
    .... ..... ...... ...... ................... ..... ..... ..... ..... .....
    IMUTO TAURUS X4 BATTERY SUPPLY. - RPI2B & AUDIOPHONICS DAC running MOODE 3.6- TONBRUX BATTERY SUPPLY & CHROMECAST2 AUDIO DONGLE no1 - JBE SERIES 3 SLATEDECK & EMOTIVA XPS-1 PHONO - DENON DV2900 & HEAVILY MODDED MF X10v3. BERESFORD SWITCHBOX. - TWIN PRO MONOBLOCK AMPLIFIERS. - CREEK OBH-11SE HEADPHONE AMP. -AUDIO TECHNICA ATH-MSR7 HEADPHONES - WIN10 JRIVER22, SPOTIFY PREMIUM- OPPO PM-3 PLANAR HEADPHONES, KINPS CABLES, SMSL M6 MINIDAC, CHROMECAST2 AUDIO DONGLE no2 POWERED BY ANKER BATTERY PSU - FULL RANGE TWIN & SINGLE TELEFUNKEN's - TANDBERG TCD310 - CARTS.. AT95 Shibata, SHURE M55E original, JVC MD1029. - RCA CABLES BY BRIAN SPKR CABLES BY MOI HAIR BY MARCO FEET BY ELECTRICBEACH - MAINS REGENERATED BY POWERINSPIRED AND FILTERED BY BELKIN PUREAV.

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