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Review and Measurements of Allo Boss Raspberry Pi DAC

amirm

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#1
This is a review and measurements of the Allo Boss V 1.2 audio DAC for the popular Raspberry Pi single board computer (SBC). It was kindly sent to me by Allo. Retail price as of this writing is $65. The Raspberry Pi retails for $35 so the combination costs about $100. For that, you get a networked DAC in a tiny enclosure.

Allo is one of the few audio companies that performs real measurements of their device and the Boss was no exception. They are also quite active on forums which makes it a plus in my book as far as support and listening to customers. They have been a supporter and long time fan of ASR Forum since inception for which, I am appreciative.

The package as sent to me had both the RPI and Allo BOSS DAC in a cute acrylic enclosure, complete with "DietPi" version of Linux on micro-SD card:


Allo Boss RPI DAC Review and Measurement.jpg

Dietpi is one of a few canned versions of Linux operating system that turns the RPI into a dedicated networked/streamer DAC. It is a turnkey operation, not requiring any configuration or technical knowledge.

Nicely for me, DietPi comes with Roon's remote protocol, RAAT. This immediately exposed it as a networked DAC and after enabling it in Roon audio setup, I was good to go "beaming" files to it (I used hardwired Ethernet though). Previously I had tested Volumio which sadly does not yet support RAAT yet.

Because my Audio Precision analyzer cannot control networked DACs, I have to play static files manually in Roon and then measure using the analyzer. This limits the number of tests I can run but the core data is there. Let's get into that.

Measurements
As usual, we start with the response of 1 kHz 24-bit tone @44.1 kHz sampling rate:
Allo Boss RPI DAC Dashboard Measurement.png


I am showing just one channel. The other is the same.

Output is a nice, 2.1 volt which easily meets the requirement of nominal 2 volt RMS output for unbalanced RCA connections. As such, there should be no problem driving the downstream amplification to full power.

SINAD (signal over power of noise and distortion) is 93 dB. Audio Precision measurement report from Allo shows 88 dB so my unit is easily outperforming that.

Ranking the SINAD among recently reviewed DACs regardless of price we get:

1536722464251.png


The Allo BOSS DAC falls in good company of JDS Labs Element DAC and ifi iDSD Black. Then again, it is not reference quality by any means. For higher performance levels, Allo makes the Katana DAC.

Performance can be improved by lowering the volume some. Here are the results with lower amplitude source file:

Allo Boss RPI DAC Dashboard 1 volt output Measurement.png


So seems like the output stage is saturating some.

Dynamic range follows SINAD numbers more or less:

Allo Boss RPI DAC Dynamic Range Measurement.png


Frequency response was flat from 20 Hz to 20 kHz so I am not going to show it.

Finally, let's look at jitter and noise:
Allo Boss RPI DAC Jitter and Noise Measurement.png


Now we are talking! Jitter measurement is often were we separate the good from OK implementations as any interference into power supply or clock shows up. The high number of FFT points used here (256,000) extracts even the smallest jitter and spurious responses. Despite the very low cost of this DAC, we see a very clean output of just our noise and the main tone in the source at 12 kHz.

Conclusions
The Allo BOSS DAC sets modest performance goals and nails them. For $100 you get a networked streaming DAC without any glaring faults.

Yes, I would have liked to see it reach up to performance of Topping D10 DAC ($90). Perhaps we would get there in BOSS DAC version 2.0. :)

Given the total cost of just $100 for a total networked DAC with no warts or design problems, I am going to put the Allo BOSS on my recommendation list.

If you like to have reference quality version of this DAC, I will repeat my recommendation for Allo Katana.

-------------

As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

If you like this review, please consider donating using Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/audiosciencereview), or upgrading your membership here though PayPal (https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...eview-and-measurements.2164/page-3#post-59054).
 

Veri

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#2
Hey Amir, any chance you could include your RME ADI-2 Pro in the SINAD ranking? I'm sure I've seen its SINAD before in one of the other products' measurements, but can't recall which one that was :) I believe it was like 111dB placing it pretty highly/favourably.
 

helloworld

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#3
Boss Dac is not very impressive......Still waiting for the applepi update with the new components.
 
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#4
As this is my first post, first let me make me a tribute to this community :)

I have been looking around on this site for a couple of months and I am gratefull for the more objective way of aproaching HiFi.
Thank you so much for the work you do Amirm. You make it insightfull that HiFi is much more at reach with a low-budget than wat the big, expensive brands make me to believe, including most HiFi magazines as well.

Now regarding this review.

Might it not be usefull to see what the linearity of this DAC is? So that we could see how much bits of music can be reproduced accurately?
Or is this possible to estimate this on base of the measurements that have been done already?

Best regards,
 
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#6
Also, how did you power the Pi+Boss? Did you power the Boss directly, or did you power the Pi? Powering them seperately is also possible.
On what I've read, the way you power it, may result in different hearing results. Measurements of different ways powering it, haven't been done.

I'm curious if powering it differently, results in different measurements! :)
 

amirm

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#7
Might it not be usefull to see what the linearity of this DAC is? So that we could see how much bits of music can be reproduced accurately?
Or is this possible to estimate this on base of the measurements that have been done already?
Thanks for the kind words. Alas, as I think I mentioned in the review, networked sound devices cannot be controlled with my audio analyzer. The linearity test requires that as it steps through the levels and then measures the levels.

With my older Audio Precision analyzer I had created special test that would mostly accomplish this, albeit in a cumbersome way. Unfortunately those tests are not compatible with the new analyzer and the mechanism I used for it doesn't exist either.

There is a new update of the software that is become available that should allow me to test more things but requires a change to the hardware and they have yet to ship that to me.
 

amirm

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#8
Also, how did you power the Pi+Boss? Did you power the Boss directly, or did you power the Pi? Powering them seperately is also possible.
On what I've read, the way you power it, may result in different hearing results. Measurements of different ways powering it, haven't been done.

I'm curious if powering it differently, results in different measurements! :)
My memory is hazy already :). But I think I used the switching supply. If I have time, I will re-test and verify.
 

helloworld

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#9
It's nearlly identical with the Chromecast Audio Analog Performance. @amirm have you ever tested the Raspberry Pi analog performance? If the analog performance is similar to Chromecast, what's the needs for these low end Pi-dacs?
 
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#11
Hi Amir

thx you very much for the review of Boss v1.2

One comment on the RPI direct analog output. When playing 44Khz sample rate , RPI has a lot of problems because of the way it has the clocks. So , if testing , please test both 44/48Khz
 

amirm

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#12
Hi Amir

thx you very much for the review of Boss v1.2

One comment on the RPI direct analog output. When playing 44Khz sample rate , RPI has a lot of problems because of the way it has the clocks. So , if testing , please test both 44/48Khz
Hi Johan. Good hint and will do.
 
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#13
It's nearlly identical with the Chromecast Audio Analog Performance. @amirm have you ever tested the Raspberry Pi analog performance? If the analog performance is similar to Chromecast, what's the needs for these low end Pi-dacs?
Actually, this may not be worth it... except just for fun! The pi has no (normal) DAC. It uses a rudimentary PWM out with filters, that has the equivalent resolution of 11 bits. It's not intended for quality output, just some basic sound capability.
http://www.crazy-audio.com/2013/11/quality-of-the-raspberry-pi-onboard-sound/
https://hackaday.com/2018/07/13/behind-the-pin-how-the-raspberry-pi-gets-its-audio/
https://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=59823
http://maazl.de/hardware/sound/raspi.html
You can get better output using HDMI, USB or I2S like the ALLO Boss, reviewed here. (Love the reviews, Thanks Amir!)
 
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