Pi 4, analog out and DAC

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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby row015 » Tue Apr 21 2020 14:02

Hi all,
i would like to use a raspberry pi 4 as a music server with volumio and I'm trying to figure out how to do it all. I'm not a real audiophile, so I don't need extreme audio quality.

My main question is: can I use the standard 3.5 jack analog audio out to connect to my stereo amplifier (RCA in with a cable adapter) or must I use an USB DAC device?
In case I need to use an USB DAC, can you please suggest a goog cheap one?

Thank you for your help
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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby sweeneypaul » Sun May 10 2020 11:58

Hi,

The 3.5mm audio out is garbage, either go for a HAT like the Allo Boss or Hifiberry DAC+ Pro (plus Pi 4 case) or consider the iFi Zen DAC which is a very fine headphone amp/DAC for £129 (32bit/384kHz and MQA).
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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby michel8166 » Sun May 10 2020 13:31

row015 wrote:Hi all,
i would like to use a raspberry pi 4 as a music server with volumio and I'm trying to figure out how to do it all. I'm not a real audiophile, so I don't need extreme audio quality.

My main question is: can I use the standard 3.5 jack analog audio out to connect to my stereo amplifier (RCA in with a cable adapter) or must I use an USB DAC device?
In case I need to use an USB DAC, can you please suggest a goog cheap one?

Thank you for your help

you can just use the raspberry pi 3.5 jack (see screenshot) only the quality will not be good.
for better audio you indeed have a hat, as @sweeneypaul already indicated a hifiberry or allo boss.

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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby pwstereo » Sun May 10 2020 23:18

Find whatever is the best deal between a USB DAC (which is OK with an R Pi 4) or a DAC hat as has been suggested.
The DAC hat is simple, can take power from the I2S header it connects to for mounting and connection to the Pi board.
It's very simple and neat, no fuss.
As mentioned already the Allo Boss V1.2 is an excellent choice, as is the HiFiBerry.
Do some looking around and buy whichever you can get a good price on.
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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby nicola.dinisio » Wed May 13 2020 13:29

If you are not an audiophile, the jack output is plenty.

If in the future however you want to go further, go straight to a USB-DAC.

With respect to an I2C or "HAT" DAC, a USB DAC is more flexible (e.g. might have an integrated good quality headphone output), reusable (extra input for your DVD player, TV, etc), future proof, and it generally does not depend on the power supply of the Pi4 (which is noisy) and it does not face the electronics of the Pi4 board (less chances of interferences).
Last but, not least, a USB-DAC is only a USB cable connection away, no fiddling with pins, larger boxes, screews, etc.

In the future you might even consider a power amp with integrated DAC, they tipically sport a USB input (see the trend?)
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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby syc » Wed May 13 2020 23:11

I brought up a rPi 4 for Volumio a couple of weeks ago, and I tried it with just the headphone jack with a good cable into my 50w amp. The output was really, really weak and soft. You could barely hear anything unless you cranked the volume way, way up which tends to also raise the level of hiss. I would advise that you avoid trying to use that - it isn't petty audiophile snobbery, its just quiet and hard to hear by any standard.

If you want better quality but not much money, USB DACs on the rPi 4 work well (on the older rPis the USB port had to compete with WiFi and other stuff, which made it kind of poor quality). I picked up an "Amazon Warehouse" ASUS Xonar for around $60, and it has a signal to noise ratio better than most of the pi hat DACS, but it is a little fiddly since there is another little gadget with a USB cable connecting out. The ASUS and SoundBlaster usb "sound cards" are pretty easy to pick up used these days and cheap.

A HAT that plugs into the expansion pins is going to be the most compact, tidy setup. The Allo Boss is one one of the better regarded ones you can get for the money - if only anyone had them in stock! The HifiBerry Dac+ Pro measures only a few dB less in terms of noise, costs less and seems to be more available.

The Allo guy who does their DACs has been talking about their new DAC, the Allo Revolution, which sounds like it is really nice - supposedly in the same category as the Allo Katana and PecanPi, but more compact, more affordable and connects over USB. Production is supposed to kick off as soon as India emerges from covid lockdown, which has already started happening. Its probably more money than you want to spend, and probably too long to wait.
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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby Alfred the Butler » Thu May 14 2020 00:45

Lately I've been using the 3.5 jack on a Pi with headphones. A bit of low background hiss but not as bad as I feared. The Pi has a Hifiberry DAC hat with RCA connections but I removed this setup from my receiver and moved it to a bedroom for use as a headphone amp before sleeping. Bottom line - some hiss but lower than my snoring.
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Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby syc » Thu May 14 2020 03:46

Alfred the Butler wrote:Lately I've been using the 3.5 jack on a Pi with headphones. A bit of low background hiss but not as bad as I feared. The Pi has a Hifiberry DAC hat with RCA connections but I removed this setup from my receiver and moved it to a bedroom for use as a headphone amp before sleeping. Bottom line - some hiss but lower than my snoring.


Are you playing music that is stored on the Pi or over web radio/spotify? I find that if I stream over AirPlay to Volumio, I lose a lot of volume over playing directly from the Pi. I'm kind of curious how hard to hear the headphone jack would be if you were to try AirPlay to Volumio and fed that into a stereo.
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Re: Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby nicola.dinisio » Thu May 14 2020 07:09

syc wrote:
Alfred the Butler wrote:Lately I've been using the 3.5 jack on a Pi with headphones. A bit of low background hiss but not as bad as I feared. The Pi has a Hifiberry DAC hat with RCA connections but I removed this setup from my receiver and moved it to a bedroom for use as a headphone amp before sleeping. Bottom line - some hiss but lower than my snoring.


Are you playing music that is stored on the Pi or over web radio/spotify? I find that if I stream over AirPlay to Volumio, I lose a lot of volume over playing directly from the Pi. I'm kind of curious how hard to hear the headphone jack would be if you were to try AirPlay to Volumio and fed that into a stereo.
This, and maybe his headphones are more sensitive. It could explain the different results.
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Re: Pi 4, analog out and DAC

Postby syc » Thu May 14 2020 16:03

nicola.dinisio wrote:
syc wrote: Are you playing music that is stored on the Pi or over web radio/spotify? I find that if I stream over AirPlay to Volumio, I lose a lot of volume over playing directly from the Pi. I'm kind of curious how hard to hear the headphone jack would be if you were to try AirPlay to Volumio and fed that into a stereo.
This, and maybe his headphones are more sensitive. It could explain the different results.


To be clear, playing from the headphone jack is always very quiet, in my experience it would be ridiculously low volume if you also subtracted the volume loss from Airplay.
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