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DAC Hat vs. Other DAC?
#1
Hi,

I have the IQ Audio DAC hat/rpi4 set up. 

I don’t have the deep knowledge in regards to the technical side of this.
I read some posts mention USB is dirty noise wise and affects sound quality.
In what application would this apply? PC to DAC?

For the rpi and DAC hat, communication via I2S. If one plays music from
USB flash drive or USB SSD, does this USB noise still apply?

If you have experienced the DAC hats vs. standard DAC like Topping D10 or
SMSL SU-8, SU-9, is the Sound Quality night and day differences? Or subtle
improvements?

Right now I’m considering the Allo Boss 2 but not sure what I would gain
from it vs. the IQ Audio or trying the SMSL DAC which is 4x price of the DAC hat.

Thanks
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#2
You've not said how you're listening to the music, everything else in the chain including cabling will also affect what you hear.
I listen a lot using IEM's & headphones to sources via USB, with MoOde or other devices like a phone & UAPP & hear no noise at all, if it is there I cannot hear it.
I have no experience of the DACs you mention but I did have a couple of IQAudio DAC Pro hats a couple of years ago, if you're looking for an improvement in sound I think you'd be able to do so.

Apart from DAPs & dongle dacs I tend to listen to A FIIO K9 Pro (AK chip version) headphone DAC Amp or an Oriolus BD20 DAC (ESS based) into a BA300S tube pre-amp into a BA20 amp, both with USB sources (MoOde or UAPP) and they both have their merits depending what I am listing to or what mood (pun not intended) I am in.
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#3
My heaphone setup is Asguard and Monoprice 1070’s. My 2 channel speaker set up changes ever so often.

Yes, it is all subjective. I appreciate yours and other’s replies to get an idea of all these dacs.

I understand ultimately have to try for myself.
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#4
(03-03-2022, 05:15 PM)Taki8888 Wrote: Hi,

I have the IQ Audio DAC hat/rpi4 set up. 

I don’t have the deep knowledge in regards to the technical side of this.
I read some posts mention USB is dirty noise wise and affects sound quality.
In what application would this apply? PC to DAC?...
Thanks

USB has noises which affects music, this applies to RPi as well. Mainly, USB takes both data signal and electricity from the RPi with the same device. If your equipment has sufficient resolution, using better power supply for your RPi will result in better sound quality. This also applies to DAC Hat set up as well. 

The best way is to try it out, if you have a better power supply. Examples of better power supply for RPi:

GaN power converter 
linear power supply for RPi

Let us know if you find any difference.
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#5
(03-03-2022, 05:15 PM)Taki8888 Wrote: Hi,

I have the IQ Audio DAC hat/rpi4 set up. 

I don’t have the deep knowledge in regards to the technical side of this.
I read some posts mention USB is dirty noise wise and affects sound quality.
In what application would this apply? PC to DAC?

For the rpi and DAC hat, communication via I2S. If one plays music from
USB flash drive or USB SSD, does this USB noise still apply?

If you have experienced the DAC hats vs. standard DAC like Topping D10 or
SMSL SU-8, SU-9, is the Sound Quality night and day differences? Or subtle
improvements?

Right now I’m considering the Allo Boss 2 but not sure what I would gain
from it vs. the IQ Audio or trying the SMSL DAC which is 4x price of the DAC hat.

Thanks

Since you seem to be asking specifically about i2S vs USB -

I have used i2S products such as the HifiBerry DAC+ and DAC+ Pro and similar. I have used USB products such as the Khadas Tone 1 Board and the Creative BT-W2 (a USB-> Bluetooth -> headphones adapter).

Are there differences I can discern in their apparent sound qualities? Sure. Are these differences due to "USB noise"? No. They are due to the different design decisions made by the vendor, particularly in the post-DAC audio filters. This is true even between different i2S products or between different USB products. And, no, the differences are not "night and day"; they are subtle and, after a few minutes of listening, even forgettable.

Using just the official Raspberry Pi powerpaks has sufficed for me. I suppose if I had spent thousands of dolllars on the downstream audio equipment I might be able to detect an improvement by substituting a well-designed linear power supply but then again I might not.

Remember that electrical noise is inherent in electronic systems and can affect i2S just as easily as USB interfaces. Some may leak in from the A/C mains; some may be generated in a switching power supply; some may be coupled between power, data, and clock traces on the printed circuit board or in interconnecting cabling; some is generated in the DAC circuitry itself. Good designers work to minimize the effect in their products through their choice of components and layout, through the network of traces on the circuit board, and through proper filtering. 

IMHO the present day products are light years ahead of what we had in the 60s - 70s when I was a first-time HiFi buff....at a fraction of the price. I have become immune to audiophila nervosa (you can look it up).

Regards,
Kent
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#6
(03-03-2022, 09:30 PM)Taki8888 Wrote: My heaphone setup is Asguard and Monoprice 1070’s. My 2 channel speaker set up changes ever so often.

Yes, it is all subjective. I appreciate yours and other’s replies to get an idea of all these dacs.

I understand ultimately have to try for myself.

And indeed you have answered your own question.

I also have a couple of RPi+IQAudio DAC Setups. At a cost of around £100 apiece they sound very, very good indeed.

Do they compare with several thousands quids worth of Allo USBSig/Digi1Sig/Shanti and 15 year old Naim DAC+XPS?   No, and I would not expect them to.

Could you tell them apart in a blind test?….certainly.

But ultimately, could I live the rest of my days with the RPi/IQ?….certainly.

The modern stuff really is very good for a modest cost. I expect that you would have to spend a lot more on your WHOLE system to improve on what you’ve got.
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#7
Thanks for most helpful info.

Since I don’t stream and mainly listen to same music ripped from my CD’s to Flac. Is it pointliness to have higher priced DAC’s? Since it will always be CD quality 44KHz.

I did buy an album off of qobuz at higher rate, honestly did not hear a dramatic difference either.
Maybe aging ears it the issue, then save a ton of money going back to mp3’s and cheap gear. :-)
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#8
(03-18-2022, 02:47 PM)Taki8888 Wrote: Thanks for most helpful info.

Since I don’t stream and mainly listen to same music ripped from my CD’s to Flac. Is it pointliness to have higher priced DAC’s? Since it will always be CD quality 44KHz.

I did buy an album off of qobuz at higher rate, honestly did not hear a dramatic difference either.
Maybe aging ears it the issue, then save a ton of money going back to mp3’s and cheap gear. :-)

No.  A higher priced DAC should in theory sound better, but unless the rest of your system is on par, incuding cabling, the PSU etc, the improvement will be constrained.  
I would suggest visiting a hifi store & take along a MoOde player if that will be your source, powered by a battery & some music you're very familiar with on a USB stick & see if they will show you some combinations of components within your budget.  
I only use individual components on my headphone setups, for my speaker setup I upgraded it recently to a KEF Wireless II system & a couple of KC62 subs, so they did all the hard work in matching components for me and it is night & day better than my previous setup which all went on eBay.

Playing local files or streaming from Tidal etc is irrelevent really.
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