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Upgrade from Pi3b+ / HifiBerry DAC+ to which DAC?
#1
Music 
Hi there!

I've plugged my Raspberry Pi 3b+ to my NAD amp using a HifiBerry DAC+ that I bought years ago when the whole things started and this was one of the simple ways to get started.

It works fine but looking around the internet it seems like there's been a lot of development in the DAC world and I'm wondering if it's worth for me to upgrade to a better DAC.

I'm mostly streaming Amazon Music HD via AirPlay to the Pi and don't want to spend more than $200, my wife would prefer no more than $100.

First of all, is there a notable difference with better DACs, and if you'd have to put it in percentage terms (I know it's also subjective), how much better? Like do I have 90% of what's possible with my setup?

Happy for any suggestions!

Marco
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#2
Hi Marco,

What speakers are you using, and which NAD amp?
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#3
You might find this interactive table in the AudioScienceReview useful: Audio_DAC_Performance_Index/

Amirm and colleagues have measured and collated the performance of a huge number of DACs priced from ca US$ 8 to US$ 11500. You can select on a number of different characteristics to help zero in on DACs of interest. Many of them are accompanied by interesting threads in the site's forums.

Regards,
Kent
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#4
(05-22-2020, 11:07 AM)jonners Wrote: Hi Marco,

What speakers are you using, and which NAD amp?

I've got KEF IQ9s on a NAD C 326 BEE
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#5
(05-22-2020, 12:45 PM)hifimarco Wrote:
(05-22-2020, 11:07 AM)jonners Wrote: Hi Marco,

What speakers are you using, and which NAD amp?

I've got KEF IQ9s on a NAD C 326 BEE

OK, so your system looks good enough to benefit from a better DAC, but I don't think that $100 will buy anything significantly better than you have already. I think your best bet might be a USB DAC rather than a HAT one, and the chart that Kent linked to shows some possibilities, like the Topping  E30 for example. The trouble is that the ASR site reviews on the basis of measurements only, and doesn't mention sound quality. The forthcoming Revolution DAC from allo.com looks interesting, but probably a bit over your budget. IFi also have some DACs that might be worth looking at.
There are a lot of very good budget DACs appearing at the moment and it might be good to wait a while, keep your eyes open,.....and be nice to your wife Cool
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#6
(05-22-2020, 01:58 PM)jonners Wrote:
(05-22-2020, 12:45 PM)hifimarco Wrote:
(05-22-2020, 11:07 AM)jonners Wrote: Hi Marco,

What speakers are you using, and which NAD amp?

I've got KEF IQ9s on a NAD C 326 BEE

OK, so your system looks good enough to benefit from a better DAC, but I don't think that $100 will buy anything significantly better than you have already. I think your best bet might be a USB DAC rather than a HAT one, and the chart that Kent linked to shows some possibilities, like the Topping  E30 for example. The trouble is that the ASR site reviews on the basis of measurements only, and doesn't mention sound quality. The forthcoming Revolution DAC from allo.com looks interesting, but probably a bit over your budget. IFi also have some DACs that might be worth looking at.
There are a lot of very good budget DACs appearing at the moment and it might be good to wait a while, keep your eyes open,.....and be nice to your wife Cool

Thanks for your thoughts! Yes it’s hard to pick one because there’s like hundreds now and as you said they don’t really tell you much about if you’ll like the sound. Usually I listen to vinyls so a DAC that sounds more analog/warm would suit my preferences more. I hope one day to be satisfied with the sound of digital enough to move on from vinyl. So far for whatever reason I never get the same relaxation and emotional response as from vinyl.

I was also thinking about investing more and getting a Bluesound Node 2i as it could directly stream Amazon Music HD in full quality. And I guess Amazon will never open their API. But that’s a whopping 550€ without knowing how long this thing will get updates and keep on working :/

Yes the Revolution DAC looks interesting! But that Topping E30 you pointed out seems like a real good deal in terms of price/performance. It looks like surely worth a shot and that there's little more to gain spending 300 EUR more. And I could just connect the E30 via USB to the Raspberry as an external DAC and from there via RCA to my amp if I got it right. Tempting!
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#7
Even cheaper than the Topping, also high in the ASR chart and using the same AKM chip, is the SMSL Sanskrit 10th Mk.2. Both are available from Audiophonics - which is probably a better bet than eBay from China.
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#8
(05-22-2020, 09:49 PM)jonners Wrote: Even cheaper than the Topping, also high in the ASR chart and using the same AKM chip, is the SMSL Sanskrit 10th Mk.2. Both are available from Audiophonics - which is probably a better bet than eBay from China.

Great, that one looks amazing too for the price! You know I could spend weeks now doing nothing but research to find the absolutely perfect one but having a newborn I just don't have the time! Think I'll just stick with the Toppings, thought about ordering it from https://topping-audio.com/ which is a bit more expensive but they seem to be based in Poland (close to Berlin, Germany where I live) and if there's any trouble likely to help.

I read that it's important for that DAC to have a linear power adapter like the "iFi iPower 5v". Any thoughts on this? And should I also have one for the Raspberry or just the DAC?
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#9
(05-22-2020, 10:15 AM)hifimarco Wrote: Hi there!

I've plugged my Raspberry Pi 3b+ to my NAD amp using a HifiBerry DAC+ that I bought years ago when the whole things started and this was one of the simple ways to get started.

It works fine but looking around the internet it seems like there's been a lot of development in the DAC world and I'm wondering if it's worth for me to upgrade to a better DAC.

I'm mostly streaming Amazon Music HD via AirPlay to the Pi and don't want to spend more than $200, my wife would prefer no more than $100.

First of all, is there a notable difference with better DACs, and if you'd have to put it in percentage terms (I know it's also subjective), how much better? Like do I have 90% of what's possible with my setup?

Happy for any suggestions!

Marco
perhaps this one ?
https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/dac-and-i..._search=fs
musical regards

y.
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#10
The IFi is not linear, it's a switcher. The forthcoming Allo Nirvana PSU would have enough power for both the RPi and the DAC. That too is a switcher, but very low noise is claimed. I'll probably buy one myself.
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