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Problem: Disappointing sound quality with Moode on Pi 3 B+ and USB DAC/amplifier
#1
Helllo,
I am new in this forum since I have just started trying MoOde on my recently bought Raspberry Pi 3 B+, which should replace a Windows 10 notebook as digital music storage and player. So, this my actual configuration:

- Raspberry Pi 3 B+ alimented by an Akru 5 V 3 A power supplier bought on Amazon
- MoOde 7.2.1. The FLAC audio tracks are saved on a 128 Gb SDCard (SanDisk Extreme Pro)
- USB "direct digital" amplifier nuforce DDA-100 with its own power supply (you may have heard of it some years ago: it is a particular all digital amplifier which accepts USB, coaxial and optical inputs, it manage the signal all in a digital way until the last stage, where the signal becomes analogic - here is a review: http://www.tnt-audio.com/ampli/nuforce_dda100_e.html)
- Homemade cables and 8 Ohm impedence speakers

In spite of what I read on various threads, the audio quality I hear using the Raspberry Pi is inferior to the Windows 10 computer, using an old release of JRiver Media Center. I cannot identify what exactly the problem is, but all the frequencies (both basses, midrange and hihg) are a somewhat "out of control" (too much and dirty bass and midrange frequencies) and the sound becomes tiring, sometimes honestly annoying, in particular at high volumes. I still can hear well the single instruments and the spatial scene is not so compromised; there is not added noise or interference. My feeling is of a little distortion.
If I come back to the Windows 10/JRiver MC setup (using a USB 2.0 port), using the same USB cable, the sound is pleasant as always.

I tried some tweaks as changing bwtween 32/64 bits Moode OS, using SoX, underclock the system as suggested in Archimago's blog, changing USB_max_power setting 0/1 but I don't feel any significant change (except from a minimal improvement using SoX).
I wonder if the problem might be the Raspberry Pi USB ports quality or the management of the data streams between the Pi and the DDA-100 in MoOde. Could the Raspberry power supplier be the guilty (it is 5 V, not 5.1 V as the official data sheet recommends)?
If anyone experienced similar problems in his configuration or has any advices to try I would be grateful.

Thak you.
#2
The RPi 3B+ is certainly capable of great sound with the right DAC. I suspect that it might be showing up the deficiences in your DDA-100, which were previously concealed by the Windows setup. Lower-priced DACs have improved vastly in recent years, so I would recommend having a listen to what the Pi can do with a good budget Topping or SMSL DAC if you can.
#3
What are you using to control volume ? Software/Hardware/Disabled in the audio settings ?

If using Disabled try lowering the maximum Alsa output volume in that setting...reduce by 6db to start and check.
Hardware, if available will be better than Software and if you have downstream volume control then Disabled may be an option. (Note the warnings if you use this.)

Symptoms do sound as though the input is being overdriven/clipped.

#4
(06-05-2021, 04:06 PM)jonners Wrote: The RPi 3B+ is certainly capable of great sound with the right DAC. I suspect that it might be showing up the deficiences in your DDA-100, which were previously concealed by the Windows setup. Lower-priced DACs have improved vastly in recent years, so I would recommend having a listen to what the Pi can do with a good budget Topping or SMSL DAC if you can.

A low quality link of the chain might be an explanation (although I would probably blame the speakers more than the amplifier). But I am sure that the sound quality is noticebly worse with the Moode/Raspberry than with JRiver/Windows 10. I already experienced in the past the bad registrations' defects coming out due to a good quality system and this is not the case: I tested all the good registrations I have and in all of them the sound is more inaccurate with the Raspberry.
Since I don't believe that a digital player might "colour" the source or modify the original equalization, there must be some differences in the jitter or something like that between the Windows computer and the Raspberry. At the moment I am not intentioned in changing my equipment (and I am going to buy new speakers as the next step) so I will make some tests in order to understand which is the point:
1. trying a different power supplier for the Raspberry;
2. Trying a different OS/player for the Raspberry;
3. Look for ways for improving the management of the USB audio output, if any. Some people tell they found sensible improvement in the sound quality using a dedicated USB "clean" port such the one the Allo's stuff, but I am a bit sceptic and would like to verify ther real benefits of spending money for useless components (although I might have an SPDIF and coaxial output in addition to the USB adding a dedicated hat).

As for the DDA-100, I would not consider it as a low-priced DAC: in fact I compared it to many other amplifiers (up to 2000 €) and finally chose it for (in my my opinion) a better overall quality, at the cost of exclusively digital inputs, some limitations in the dynamics, and ad input rate limited to 24 bits/96 KHz for the USB input. The precision and details of this amplifier are really amazing (it suffers a bit with big orchestras of course) and when I will upgrade the amplifier I am going to look again for a direct digital class D solution, if possibile.
#5
(06-05-2021, 08:11 PM)DRONE7 Wrote: What are you using to control volume ? Software/Hardware/Disabled in the audio settings ?

If using Disabled try lowering the maximum Alsa output volume in that setting...reduce by 6db to start and check.
Hardware, if available will be better than Software and if you have downstream volume control then Disabled may be an option. (Note the warnings if you use this.)

Symptoms do sound as though the input is being overdriven/clipped.

I read of a similar problem with "too high" volume in another post. I use the option "fixed (0 dB)" in the volume control, since the volume is controlled by the DDA-100. I wanted to try the option "hardware" but did not fully understand this option: I figured out that it allows the volume control by the hardware of the Raspberry.
I will definitely try your suggestion of lowering the Alsa output, althoug it is specified that overblown errors (like the ones with the HDMI output) should be automatically corrected.
#6
Hi, I've used to run moOde on Rpi/3B+ with USB DAC with excellent results before switching to an PCM5122 based discrete DAC HAT, to be more specific with an Emotiva PT-100 Preamp/DAC, though I personally set moOde to 0dB fixed output and the rest also on flat as possible, then let my audio rig do the rest regardless if using USB or discrete DAC.

Also discarding the possible input clipping as previously denoted above, audio quality may also be compromised with USB devices with poor USB driver support, i.e. generic/open source vs proprietary drivers etc., so I would test with another USB DAC just to be sure before jump in to deep troubleshooting.

P.S. Looks like the NuForce DDA-100 is based on the Infineon SAB2403EN1 v2.x chip, but I don't see it under the Audiophile Linux hardware list, sorry did overlooked, it is indeed supported, some specs here.


Regards
#7
(06-05-2021, 08:11 PM)DRONE7 Wrote: What are you using to control volume ? Software/Hardware/Disabled in the audio settings ?

If using Disabled try lowering the maximum Alsa output volume in that setting...reduce by 6db to start and check.
Hardware, if available will be better than Software and if you have downstream volume control then Disabled may be an option. (Note the warnings if you use this.)

Symptoms do sound as though the input is being overdriven/clipped.

I tried to lower the ALSA maximum volume: at lower volume the saturation/distortion effect lowers, but in the same way it does by reducing the volume from the amplifier. Moreover the volume level is almost the same between the moode/raspberry and the JRiver/Windos laptop (in which volume level is also set to fixed value). So I dont't think this is the main issue. Morover there is not clipping.

I tried to supply the Raspberry with an other power supplier (a universal power supplier for notebooks, which also has a 5 V USB power output): maybe the sound is a little better, but it does not drastically improve.

So, I will now try to install on another SD card a different software, such as Volumio, and ear if there is any difference...
#8
Quote:I tried to supply the Raspberry with an other power supplier (a universal power supplier for notebooks, which also has a 5 V USB power output): maybe the sound is a little better, but it does not drastically improve.

I see no reason why that should affect the sound when feeding an external, self-powered DAC/amp.  Either the supply will be adequate to power the Pi or it will not.  

Have you verified that:

Camilla DSP is off
Graphic EQ is set to flat (all zeros)
Parametric EQ has all bands set to disabled
ReplayGain is off
Volume normalization is set to "No"
Mixer type is set to "Fixed (0dB output)"

The goal should be to get a bit-perfect transfer to the DAC.  Same thing with the Windows box.  You need to make sure that the bits are going out unmodified.  You don't want anything mucking around with levels or frequency linearity.

Quote:I cannot identify what exactly the problem is, but all the frequencies (both basses, midrange and hihg) are a somewhat "out of control" (too much and dirty bass and midrange frequencies) and the sound becomes tiring, sometimes honestly annoying, in particular at high volumes. I still can hear well the single instruments and the spatial scene is not so compromised; there is not added noise or interference. My feeling is of a little distortion.

Then how do you know that you are not imagining it?  I'm not being insulting, but human hearing (including mine) is terribly unreliable.  We are all prone to hearing differences where none exist.  If I play the exact same track through the exact same system twice, telling the listener that I am using a different DAC each time, most listeners will believe and report that "one" sounds better than the "other."  

I've recommended this article in the past as I think that it is very insightful:

http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2012/04/what-we-hear.html
Cheers,
  Miss Sissy Princess
#9
The mysterious NwAvGuy, creator of the legendary ES9023 based ODAC. His articles were pretty interesting and insightful :-)
#10
(06-06-2021, 09:05 PM)H-Award.32 Wrote:
(06-05-2021, 08:11 PM)DRONE7 Wrote: What are you using to control volume ? Software/Hardware/Disabled in the audio settings ?

If using Disabled try lowering the maximum Alsa output volume in that setting...reduce by 6db to start and check.
Hardware, if available will be better than Software and if you have downstream volume control then Disabled may be an option. (Note the warnings if you use this.)

Symptoms do sound as though the input is being overdriven/clipped.

I tried to lower the ALSA maximum volume: at lower volume the saturation/distortion effect lowers, but in the same way it does by reducing the volume from the amplifier. Moreover the volume level is almost the same between the moode/raspberry and the JRiver/Windos laptop (in which volume level is also set to fixed value). So I dont't think this is the main issue. Morover there is not clipping.

I tried to supply the Raspberry with an other power supplier (a universal power supplier for notebooks, which also has a 5 V USB power output): maybe the sound is a little better, but it does not drastically improve.

So, I will now try to install on another SD card a different software, such as Volumio, and ear if there is any difference...

I'm not really interested in hosting Threads comparing Player softwares because there is no benefit to our project in terms of being able to find or fix bugs in moOde software, gain insights, etc as a result of such comparisons.

This Sound Quality thread is mainly for a lively but respectful discussion of SQ related to moOde software, Raspberry Pi hardware, audio boards, objective vs subjective, perceptions, etc. Sometimes we uncover bugs as a result of the discussion but mainly it's an interesting and enlightening flow of peoples experiences and opinions with this wonderful Linux audio space.

If you want to compare Player softwares do it in Forums like diyAudio or similar. There are already ginormous threads for moOde vs Rune vs Volumio vs PiCorePlayer vs Roon vs JRiver vs etc etc etc.


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