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Allo Boss2 review: superb budget audio streamer (video)

amirm

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#1
A follow up video to my recent review of Allo Boss2 streamer. I expanded a bit on its applications and what it is in the video since there were questions. Hope it gives a better physical feel for the product:

 

AudioSceptic

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#3
Good stuff, Amir, but I see streamers in a different way. To me, playing music from a computer is not in itself streaming, it is just using the computer as an audio player.

Streaming is all about where the music comes from. A streamer is a network music player, sourcing the content either from a local NAS or from an internet streaming site. This is the model used by Linn, Naim, and the rest. Yes, you can often attach USB storage and play music from that, but this is not actually streaming.

Controlling a streamer is a separate issue. Many can be controlled just like you would control a CD player, others can be controlled over Wi-Fi using an app or web interface. This is not what defines a streamer.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #4
I am not a fan of those architectures. They put a heavy software burden on the device with hardware companies trying to do something that is not their core expertise. There are many poorly implemented versions as result. It is much better to have the device be a simple end-point to drive the DAC. All the rest of the functionality should be in the host device which can play and stream content from many sources and then simply send the bits of the network to the streamer. This is what I call the Push method. Roon endpoint, Airplay, Chromecast, Bluetooth, etc. are all examples of such remoting protocols. UPnP is sort of like this but uses the Pull method.

Using such an architecture, you only implement Tidal, Spotify, etc. once. in the host player and not have to replicate that functionality, licensing, support, etc. in a hundred hardware devices. We don't teach our hard drives to run excel and word. Same here.

Some hardware companies don't like this because they think they can build an entire ecosystem themselves to have a proprietary edge. Change hardware and you have to learn a new UI/software system. Find a bug and you are at the mercy of when they can fix it, if ever.
 

AudioSceptic

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#5
Amir, I like that you use the terms Push and Pull, which I also use. I agree that streamers from hardware companies are not always well implemented, but many allow both Push and Pull streaming. We have a Denon CEOL Piccolo in our upstairs system, which is well implemented and allows both. Our main system is fed by RPI/Volumio > Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital, which also allows Push and Pull. In both cases the Pull streaming is done using UPnP/DLNA, which is an open standard, and Push using Airplay (iPhone and Mac laptops).

In my view the Pull method is superior because it more closely resembles using an "appliance" like a CD/DVD player, but with a huge CD "jukebox" (the NAS).
 
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#6
A pity that you didn't update the video and the ranking based on a properly connected ground.
Obviously the channel imbalance is gone by doing so.

Doing it

a. would reflect the devices real performance
b. would avoid confusion ( the channel differences look odd)
c. would even put the device a group higher on the SINAD DAC chart ranking

I think it'd be a bit unfair to Allo leaving it the way it is, especially since they build in the ground terminals
on Nirvana and the Boss2 on purpose. And you know about it.


2nd.


I'd like to point out , that this device is not a streamer! It's a full fledged computer with a soundcard inside.
You can attach displays, keyboards and hard-discs to it.
You could even run Windows on such a device. Though I doubt that
Windows offers the Boss2 audio driver. ;)

By using it just as a Roon endpoint, it is you who uses it or makes it a "streamer".
People can do whatever they want with it, use whatever RPI operating system
on it that runs a kernel with the Boss2 driver included.

(Allo should offer also RPI 4GB/8GB RAM options btw, for more flexible use cases)

I no way the device should be compared to the commercial "black-box audio streamers" out there.
Most of them lack the flexibility.

And not to forget. Since we talk Raspberry PI OS you'll enjoy software support for the years to come.
There's basically no need for Allo to be in the SW maintenance loop. Which is a good thing.
Typically you shouldn't face any SW related lifetime cost with such a device. There are plenty of
opensource freeware systems/solutions out there, working IMO as good as a IMO pretty pricey Roon.


Bottom line. Congrats to Allo. Price/performance ratio is outstanding.
And we should keep in mind. After all it's actually a $99 DAC - if you really want to compare it to a standalone DAC.

Regarding measurements.
Allos own published measurements are in line with Amirs! That's a good sign. A pity that only
basic measurements can be done.

Ah. Not to forget.

For the tweakers out there. It shouldn't be forgotten that the DAC and the RPI can also be powered separately
by e.g. using a 2-rail Allo Shanti.

Now. Some downsides - my view.

* it just supports just 192kHz and DoP64
* it requires to use a USB Wifi dongle ( RPi internal Wifi won't work properly! )
* it'll be tough to apply state-of-the art RPi CPU cooling

Not much. IMO still worth to mention.

And that'll be my 2cts.

Enjoy.
 
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milezone

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#7
Amir, I like that you use the terms Push and Pull, which I also use. I agree that streamers from hardware companies are not always well implemented, but many allow both Push and Pull streaming. We have a Denon CEOL Piccolo in our upstairs system, which is well implemented and allows both. Our main system is fed by RPI/Volumio > Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital, which also allows Push and Pull. In both cases the Pull streaming is done using UPnP/DLNA, which is an open standard, and Push using Airplay (iPhone and Mac laptops).

In my view the Pull method is superior because it more closely resembles using an "appliance" like a CD/DVD player, but with a huge CD "jukebox" (the NAS).
The resultant effect of the Linn / Naim approach is inefficiency, material grandiosity and unnecessary consumer waste, and in turn negative environmental impacts; and inferior bloated products. The world is oversaturated with companies, engineers and industrial designers of this mindset seeking a corporate competitive edge, branding and ownership, at the expense of logic. I believe minimalism yields superior results to maximalism in the realms of hardware and software design and engineering. This is an example of a minimalist product whose quality and appeal exceeds the vast majority of the market at any price point.
 
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Xulonn

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#8
Per the Hans B. theory (more money = higher quality), this unit should sound far superior to the Allo... /snark

Sony DAP.jpg
 

DHT 845

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#9
Wow, the Sony DMP-Z1 would be a nice match with Densen DM10 amp :)
But the price is ridiculous.
 

Phorize

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#10
I am not a fan of those architectures. They put a heavy software burden on the device with hardware companies trying to do something that is not their core expertise. There are many poorly implemented versions as result. It is much better to have the device be a simple end-point to drive the DAC. All the rest of the functionality should be in the host device which can play and stream content from many sources and then simply send the bits of the network to the streamer. This is what I call the Push method. Roon endpoint, Airplay, Chromecast, Bluetooth, etc. are all examples of such remoting protocols. UPnP is sort of like this but uses the Pull method.

Using such an architecture, you only implement Tidal, Spotify, etc. once. in the host player and not have to replicate that functionality, licensing, support, etc. in a hundred hardware devices. We don't teach our hard drives to run excel and word. Same here.

Some hardware companies don't like this because they think they can build an entire ecosystem themselves to have a proprietary edge. Change hardware and you have to learn a new UI/software system. Find a bug and you are at the mercy of when they can fix it, if ever.
IOT unleashed so much internet connected abandon-ware on consumers, I just can’t bring myself so lock-in to expensive hardware that will run an unsupported operating system 3 years after release. These sorts of affordable devices based on generic hardware are far more future proof.
 

Phorize

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#11
Just seen that the boss 2 is available with an acrylic case for even less than the nice aluminium one. Where on earth can affordable hifi go from here?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #12
A pity that you didn't update the video and the ranking based on a properly connected ground.
There is no "pity" involved. The device was given the highest marks I could give it and note was made about grounding and in detail.

I'd like to point out , that this device is not a streamer! It's a full fledged computer with a soundcard inside.
You don't need to point out because I spent considerable amount of time in the video explaining this.
 

AdamG247

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#13
Communication 101.

1.) Tell them what you are going to tell them
2.) Tell them.
3.) Tell them what you just told them.

Did you really tell them 3 times?
 
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#14
They put a heavy software burden on the device with hardware companies trying to do something that is not their core expertise. There are many poorly implemented versions as result. It is much better to have the device be a simple end-point to drive the DAC. All the rest of the functionality should be in the host device which can play and stream content from many sources and then simply send the bits of the network to the streamer. This is what I call the Push method.
I think this generally gets the point of this product wrong. Most people buying this don't want to spend the funds (or expend the energy) to have a dedicated Roon server or other network computer set up, along with paying the Roon software fee which in total adds up to a couple thousand to properly implement.

Moreover, the Pi verse is an analog to the Microsoft server world in that the Pi runs open software to the same degree your expensive server does, and is not tied to the hardware company. I see this product more like my Bluesound node since it runs the software, can access all of the music services I subscribe to, and play from my network storage, except that the Pi does not require any hardware manufacturer to dabble in the software.

I think it is a mistake (and a disservice) to just look at the Allo Boss2 as just another Roon endpoint.
 

AudioSceptic

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#15
I think this generally gets the point of this product wrong. Most people buying this don't want to spend the funds (or expend the energy) to have a dedicated Roon server or other network computer set up, along with paying the Roon software fee which in total adds up to a couple thousand to properly implement.

Moreover, the Pi verse is an analog to the Microsoft server world in that the Pi runs open software to the same degree your expensive server does, and is not tied to the hardware company. I see this product more like my Bluesound node since it runs the software, can access all of the music services I subscribe to, and play from my network storage, except that the Pi does not require any hardware manufacturer to dabble in the software.

I think it is a mistake (and a disservice) to just look at the Allo Boss2 as just another Roon endpoint.
I don't "get" Roon at all. When I first heard about it, I looked it up and thought $10/month or $700/lifetime is not too bad: you get all the music, in hi-res when available, and great software (allegedly), then realised it's just for the software! That's batshit crazy when you can get whole OSes for free.

Does it at least get all the metadata spot-on for all music, jazz and classical included?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #17
I think this generally gets the point of this product wrong. Most people buying this don't want to spend the funds (or expend the energy) to have a dedicated Roon server or other network computer set up, along with paying the Roon software fee which in total adds up to a couple thousand to properly implement.
You can use an existing computer to run Roon. While I have a Roon server, if all I wanted to do was stream external streams, you don't need that. With Airplay support, you also don't need to use Roon. Any device that can push using that method works with no other expense or software.

You can opt to do otherwise but best get used to getting criticism of why the UI on such devices doesn't hold a candle to the richness of host software.
 

ahofer

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#18
I don't "get" Roon at all. When I first heard about it, I looked it up and thought $10/month or $700/lifetime is not too bad: you get all the music, in hi-res when available, and great software (allegedly), then realised it's just for the software! That's batshit crazy when you can get whole OSes for free.

Does it at least get all the metadata spot-on for all music, jazz and classical included?
I have a carefully curated and tagged classical library (from pre-Roon), but haven’t needed it since I started with Roon. There’s a bit of genre proliferation, but you can always find what you are looking for. More importantly, the headache of different spellings, different ways of demarking movements, etc. is gone, and you can search across your server and streaming libraries with one search Request. You can spell Dvorak with and without the accent in the search and get everything. Endpoint management is waaaaay more stable and responsive than DLNA/UPnP. I used BubbleUPnP/MinimServer before, and before that Logitech Media Server, with a brief time on Plex. It bests them all, as far as I’m concerned. And it also has DSP (and MQA, but MQA is stupid).
 
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#19
Agreed that having a "Cadillac" system is great, but my point is that this product is for a different customer. My guess is that most buyers are looking for a way to get into streaming and would be attaching it to more basic systems and network. Not sure what the carbon footprint of an additional server is, but it strikes me as wasteful. I hope some of the hardware manufactures will fund development of the Linux software to improve the experience on Pi based devices.

Although I tend to agree with AudioSceptic above that Roon is overpriced, my intent was not to dis Roon since I think it is probably worthwhile for those that want it.
 

DHT 845

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#20
doesn't hold a candle to the richness of host software.
Yes, that is my dream, to use native software with tidal, qobuz, in future hifi spotify etc., have great sound quality and iPad navigation. But how to do it? What gear to buy? Could you share some idea, please?
 

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