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NAS streaming, USB connection, DAC and my old amp. Looking for suggestions.

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#1
Hello scientists,

My first post here! Admittedly, I do not understand any of the scientific parts of the reviews. Just an understanding nodding and "mmh.." when I read about things like low noise and clean sinus curves.
But I know one thing, and that is that I want to play my digital music over my old stereo in a way that is convenient and (important) that sounds good.
Oh, and I do not really want to spend a ton of money. I am thinking about $200 max.
My setup is a Yamaha AX 870 amp with RCA inputs and a pair of lovely T&A speakers. Not high-end by any means but produces clean and punchy sound, and there's no question that directly connecting an iPod or similar sounds miserable.
I've really just stepped into this world about 2 weeks ago and I started understanding a few things but mainly it seems to be a world targeted at engineers and not 'normal' consumers, so I am still puzzled about the best or even possible options.

So what I want is
  • Stream music from my NAS over wifi or wired (not decided yet, depends if I can fit another wire through the wall)
  • Be able to connect a phone via USB. Goal is that guests can easily play music from their phone.
  • Play from a USB drive
  • Adding a touch screen at some point, or be able to use my old iPad 2 to reach the music player interface. The latter one would require the interface to be reachable via browser since the pad does not install a single thing anymore.

What I will not do is
  • Use a laptop or media PC or anything that has a fan or is ugly (R Pi in acrylic case is kind of cute though, and silent)
The options which I seem to have is
  1. All-in-one solutions like the Allo Boss or Allo Kali + Piano.
    The results for the Boss player in this forum are not stellar, but that might be partially because of the power supply, so I'd need to add a good one like iPower for $50. Same might apply to Kali+Piano, but sounds seems better. Also, I'd exceed my budget. So only doing this if convinced that the sound is really better.
    What are other good Pi + DAC board options?
  2. Pi + standalone DAC, like the Topping 10
    So it seems that the topping 10 is pretty good. I could feed it from a R Pi with Volumio or so. I like that it does not need a power supply. But is it really a good idea to feed it with a Pi USB? Would it still be useful to feed the pi with the expensive iPower?
  3. If feeding a standalone DAC with USB from Pi is not good - maybe S/PDIF is
    OK, so that would definitely be a budget killer, but maybe the best way to go (R Pi + Allo DigiOne + Topping D30)
    Worth exploring?
So what do the experts think? Am I getting it right? Are any of my options good? Are there better ones?
Help very much appreciated.

Thank you
 

Krunok

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#2
  1. If feeding a standalone DAC with USB from Pi is not good - maybe S/PDIF is
    OK, so that would definitely be a budget killer, but maybe the best way to go (R Pi + Allo DigiOne + Topping D30)
    Worth exploring?
Yes, that one will work. Or even better, if you are on a tight budget you can buy used fanless PC like this one, install Volumio and connect Topping D10 to it via USB - works excellent!

When playing music from Android I recommend BubbleUPNP. Kinsky works fine when playing from Windows, if you don't want to use Volumio http interface (I use it only for internet radio).
 
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#3
@Krunok So USB is better from PC than R Pi?
Web interface is good. The point is that I do not want to give other people my phone or having to set up their devices to surf my library. That's why I thought that the old tablet would be a good idea.
 

Krunok

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#4
@Krunok So USB is better from PC than R Pi?
Web interface is good. The point is that I do not want to give other people my phone or having to set up their devices to surf my library. That's why I thought that the old tablet would be a good idea.
Yes, USB DACs work perfectly well from PC with Volumio.
 

M00ndancer

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#5
  1. Stream music from my NAS over wifi or wired (not decided yet, depends if I can fit another wire through the wall)
  2. Be able to connect a phone via USB. Goal is that guests can easily play music from their phone.
  3. Play from a USB drive
  4. Adding a touch screen at some point, or be able to use my old iPad 2 to reach the music player interface. The latter one would require the interface to be reachable via browser since the pad does not install a single thing anymore.

Even better, use a ChromeCast Audio (wont play audio from USB stick though). Connect the CCA to your AX870. Depending on what phone you have (IOS or Android) use software to play your audio. The CCA will solve 1,2 and 3. Might not be what you want but the CCA cost less than $35.
One big caveat, the CCA is no longer manufactured by Google, but they have said to support it.

Item #2 needs a bit of explanation. Guests can use what ever play service they want.
 

somebodyelse

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#6
@Krunok So USB is better from PC than R Pi?
The PC is more certain to be glitch-free than the RPi with USB DACs. It probably won't be a problem on the RPi unless you want to use BruteFIR for room correction. I've had no problems with piCorePlayer streaming to a Chord 2Qute or Focusrite Forte via USB. The I2S interface doesn't have the glitch issue so using a hat style DAC or SPDIF output is fine. The glitches are occasional pops that get more frequent with higher sample rates. If you want technical details you can find them via the Volumio & BruteFIR thread.

Web interface is good. The point is that I do not want to give other people my phone or having to set up their devices to surf my library. That's why I thought that the old tablet would be a good idea.
Most (all?) of the pi-based audio players have a web interface, as do the similar ones running on PC hardware. Some of them also accept audio connections via Bluetooth, AirPlay, UPnP etc. so check the feature lists and pick one that fits your requirements, or just try a few. The usual suspects are Volumio, moOde, Daphile, RuneAudio, piCorePlayer. Daphile and piCorePlayer are based on logitechmediaserver and squeezelite, while the others (I think) use mpd. They take slightly different approaches which you may or may not be to your taste. I think all the pi-based ones also support the touchscreen if you want to add it later.
 
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#8
Thanks for the answers! Let me go through this
Chromecast …umh… not sure. I mean I love the price tag, but
* Being discontinued is a big one. Even if support still stands, not many more security updates can be expected
* Seems that I’d need to install an app on my phone(s), since (if I understand that right) the Chromecast needs a device to play from. So if I play from my phone and the battery dies or I accidentally quit that app, the music stops playing. Not nice. Also, my old iPad does not install, so I can’t use it as a family friendly remote.
* How would guests be able to play to it? They are on the guest network and the Chromecast would be on my private network. Those are naturally not connected.
* From the review it seems that the output is not the best, So I’d have to get a mini Toslink to Toslink and connect it to a decent DAC like the Topping D30. Basically spending extra money on a setup that won’t last long.

About my statement
“Be able to connect a phone via USB. Goal is that guests can easily play music from their phone.”
Imagine this situation: Everyone sits together having a good time. Guest X says “Hey I have this music here, do you want to hear it?” Everyone says “sure!”. So now the clock is ticking. If it takes us 5 minutes of tinkering, the good time gets spoiled. So I’ll give it 2 minutes to either plop in their charger/USB cable or use something like Airplay to save the evening with their fine fine music - or let it be.
Could be that I’ll just leave a 3.5mm to RCA plugged into my amp. Not great quality, but I guess good enough for ‘guest mode’

But back to Pi plus other parts - for me the most enticing path.
What about Pi + iPurifier USB reclocker + Topping 10 or something similar?
Would that be better?

Anyway funny - whichever combination I choose, it never seems to go below $200
Some possible combinations so far:
Allo Boss + iPower = about $205 with shipping
Allo Kali + Piano + iPower = about $250
Pi + USB Reclocker + Topping D10 = about $260

Too many options out there .. sigh
 

Willem

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#9
It was very disappointing that Google discontinued the Chromecast. I would expect support to last at least a few more years. The protocol is still supported of course.
Streaming is not from your phone but directly from your router to the Chromecast so you can in fact turn off your phone. The phone only acts as a remote.
You can easily give your guests visitor access to stream from their Spotify etc accounts.
Of course it has limitations but so do the alternatives. There is absolutely nothing wrong wih the sound quality, not even from its analogue output. I am using one in a pretty high end system with Quad 2805 electrostatic speakers.
 

somebodyelse

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#10
If you want to stay below $200 get a used thin client from ebay or wherever, and a D10. If the thin client's too ugly you can hide it behind the pretty things or stick it in a cupboard. Depending on the client, and whether you need them, you might need a bluetooth and/or wifi dongle too.

I'm not sure why you want to use a usb reclocker. I'm not aware of them doing anything beneficial.
 
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#11
@Willem So would you say that the review isn't worth much in the real world (referring to https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ents-of-chromecast-audio-digital-output.4544/). Please also note that I will absolutely not dish out the big $$ for Roon. Well, maybe one day. but not for a while.

@somebodyelse I'll think about the fanless PC solution. No way to hide it though. Stereo sits on glass shelves and no cabinet nearby.
USB reclocking - well that where my knowledge does not really go beyond the mentioned "mmh" while reading articles. But I am pretending to understand that the USB signal is usually pretty noisy or distorted from stuff like power supply, CPU and other board components - and a USB reclocker is there to straighten it out. USB on Pi seems especially bad as I understood from my own thread. Allo's Kali and Digione are also reclockers for similar reasons, aren't they? I mean, maybe it's all baloney. I am still in the process of evaluating options that make sense.

Seems like there's not much love for Pi or Sparky with 'sound card' etc. Is there a reason for that?
 

somebodyelse

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#12
USB reclocking - well that where my knowledge does not really go beyond the mentioned "mmh" while reading articles. But I am pretending to understand that the USB signal is usually pretty noisy or distorted from stuff like power supply, CPU and other board components - and a USB reclocker is there to straighten it out. USB on Pi seems especially bad as I understood from my own thread. Allo's Kali and Digione are also reclockers for similar reasons, aren't they? I mean, maybe it's all baloney. I am still in the process of evaluating options that make sense.
The tests I've seen so far suggest it's baloney, at least with modern, well designed DACs. See the reclocker reviews on this site, or Archimago's test results for the Pi USB vs. odroid and pc. When the Pi glitches on USB it seems to be because it's not delivering the data in time. I'm not aware of anyone having tested usb reclockers against this so I don't know if they would be able to fix it. An spdif hat is probably more cost effective in that case though.

Seems like there's not much love for Pi or Sparky with 'sound card' etc. Is there a reason for that?
Too DIY for many people? Not enough of them have been measured? The 'sound card' only works with a Pi (compatible) while you can use SPDIF/USB with anything? The Tone Board, D10 and Apple USB-C dongle are hard to beat for the money? For me it's because I already had a USB interface and it worked fine, at least until I started looking at BruteFIR. If you want BruteFIR and Pi then you'll need a 'sound card' or the SPDIF equivalent though. The ones tested so far have been far from the worst in their price range, but haven't been the best either.
 

Willem

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#13
That Chromecast review does indeed put you on the wrong foot because it opens with measurements using the Chrome browser and that does indeed give terrible results. Configured that way you are streaming from the pc to the Chromecast rather than streaming directly from the router to the Chromecast. In the latter case you only use your smartphone as a remote, and you do get very good results: http://archimago.blogspot.com/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audio_27.html
As Armin already mentioned, you do not need Roon to get these good results. The Spotify or TuneIn apps on an android phone are fine and the same is true of BubbleUPnP for a NAS connection.
 
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#14
Allo boss, raspberry pi, volumio works very well for me. You can play over wifi from a nas, plug in a usb stick. Or even use as a standalone player as it will create its own wifi hotspot. Very stable system. Can recommend.
Regarding sound quality. I think it is doubtful you would hear a difference with a better specd dac.
 
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#15
I think that I'll settle with the Allo Kali reclocker plus Piano combo.
It has good reviews and I like is that it only requires one power supply.
Will most likely get the iPower adapter and the complete package will set me back about $235

My favorite would have been the DigiOne with Topping DAC D30, but that's a bit pricey for me at the moment

Boss is certainly good too, but I don't feel like the extra power supply. Yes, I know it's not required, but I am all infected by the thoughts of dirty currents getting into my music.

Chromecast - still can't warm up to the thought of a discontinued google device. Then the two devices and again two power supplies.

Anyway I feel a bit more relaxed about the whole thing now.
Thanks everyone!
 

GioF71

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#16
@Krunok So USB is better from PC than R Pi?
Web interface is good. The point is that I do not want to give other people my phone or having to set up their devices to surf my library. That's why I thought that the old tablet would be a good idea.
Maybe if your "old" tablet is not too old, you can install BubbleUpnp on it too.
The licensed version does not cost a lot (IIRC less than 5€) and it's totally worth it.
About the concerns on a USB dac on a RPI, you might consider an Asus Tinkerboard as an alternative to an intel based thin client.
Notably different from the RPI, the tinkerboard has a separated bus for the USB, and has a gigabit ethernet. I use two of them with volumio, and one with dietpi+mpd+upmpcli. All sound excellent and are perfectly usable with BubbleUpnp with streaming services.

No hate for the RPI, I have quite a few of them. Only I prefer the tinkerboard for audio.

Consider also that the team behind Volumio has released a device named Volumio Primo, based on a Tinkerboard.
Since then and maybe some time before, the Tinkerboard build has always been keep updated with the RPI/X86 versions. So the "main" supported platform currently seem to include the TInkerboard, the RPI (of course) and the Intel x86.
The Tinkerboard build used to lag behind some time ago.

Currently, the Odroid and Sparky builds are lagging behing.
That's the reason why the Tinkerboard is preferable at the current time over Odroid C1/C2 and the Sparky (those SBC also have separated usb bus) if you want to use Volumio.

If you are confortable setting up yourself mpd and upmpdcli, you can stick with diet-pi and use the SBC you prefer.
Keep in mind, if you want to hear radio, that there are at least these options:
1) Android apps like HiFi Cast and "Raydio" can stream shoutcast radios to a upnp renderer. They work just fine with mpd/umpdcli
2) On a Linux/Window desktop, you can use Cantata to instruct mpd to play lots of radios.

Hope this helps.

Edit: typos, updates
 
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#17
Thanks for the input @GioF71
I have finally decided to go for the Allo Boss + Isolator
After looking around for a bit more, it seemed obvious that no SBC/PC is delivering a clean USB signal.
An option to fix this would have been the Allo USBridge + External DAC, like the Schiit Modi or Topping - but that was a too pricey package for me.

The reason why I ditched the Kali/Piano combination is the power demand. I love that it only requires one power source, but with the iFi PSU delivering 2.5 amps the setup might run into shortages when let's say adding a USB device and connecting to the projector.

Radio isn't really my thing, but I'll probably check out the options anyway - when I have time to play with the new toy.
 

sonci

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#18
An usb dac connected to the usb port of a Synology Nas, is all you need, and a phone to control the stream..
 
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#19
Interesting thought. For now though, my humming & ugly Synology is staying as far away as possible from my stereo.
Maybe one day, when they make a good looking, small, noiseless case without fan and when a 4gb SSD costs $100.
Actually wondering, how can the stream be controlled by the phone, would it be required to log into the admin interface?
 

GioF71

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#20
Thanks for the input @GioF71
I have finally decided to go for the Allo Boss + Isolator
After looking around for a bit more, it seemed obvious that no SBC/PC is delivering a clean USB signal.
An option to fix this would have been the Allo USBridge + External DAC, like the Schiit Modi or Topping - but that was a too pricey package for me.

The reason why I ditched the Kali/Piano combination is the power demand. I love that it only requires one power source, but with the iFi PSU delivering 2.5 amps the setup might run into shortages when let's say adding a USB device and connecting to the projector.

Radio isn't really my thing, but I'll probably check out the options anyway - when I have time to play with the new toy.
You're very welcome, I am curious to know what will be your setup.
BTW I am very happy with the USB output of the tinkerboard. To my ears, it seems there is no difference from a x86 based mainboard. Plus, it runs @5v so it's not that expensive to buy a dedicated linear psu if you are into this kind of things (I assume you are).
 
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