Streaming flac files with a RPi & HiFiBerry - upgrade routes to a better sound ?

themoid

Active Member
Hey all,

Currently running a NAS housing Flac files, which play through my amp using a RPi and a HiFi Berry DAC+ Pro, with Volumio.

It sounds fine, but of course there is always potential for better sound......

Can anyone comment or give thoughts on what would be a worthwhile upgrade ? I'm not up to speed with streaming tech, so not sure if something like a Node would be an upgrade worth the money, or what else i should be thinking about.

Any advice gratefully received,
Thanks
Stu
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
Hey all,

Currently running a NAS housing Flac files, which play through my amp using a RPi and a HiFi Berry DAC+ Pro, with Volumio.

It sounds fine, but of course there is always potential for better sound......

Can anyone comment or give thoughts on what would be a worthwhile upgrade ? I'm not up to speed with streaming tech, so not sure if something like a Node would be an upgrade worth the money, or what else i should be thinking about.

Any advice gratefully received,
Thanks
Stu

Software should make absolutely zero difference to SQ, unless it's badly coded or contains bugs, which is unlikely to be the case when using the standard feature set of Volumio.

You could switch the DAC hat for an external USB DAC, which may or may not improve the D2A processing and SQ offered by your current DAC HAT.

But to be honest I doubt you will notice much difference, different DACs can have slightly different sound characteristics (mainly due to how they implement their reconstitution filters) but we're talking minimal difference and once you have settled on one filter or DAC unless you're switching back and forth your not going to notice a huge difference.

Most DACs nowadays are built around a small number of off the shelf chips along with a reference circuit supplied by the chip manufacturer, so any half decent modern DAC (unless they have messed something up) should sound remarkable similar. Noise floor may differ slightly between DACs, but again (unless they have messed up) we're talking (at worst) about an extremely low level of noise that should be inaudible when playing music at normal levels.

Of course if you have just spent £1k on a top end DAC that is getting rave reviews you're likely to listen to it with new ears, you're likely to sit yourself down equidistant in front of your speakers and notice sounds you have never noticed before. But that's problay more to do with listening with new ears (not to mention justifying that £1K outlay to yourself) than any sonic improvements that new DAC brings.

Personally I'd suggest that your speakers, their placement in your room and your rooms layout/furnishings are likely to have a far bigger effect on overall sound quality than a change in DAC. For starters, if they're not already, make sure your speakers are placed at a height so that the tweeters are inline with your ears.

A subwoofer could improve your bass response, so that could be an option to explore. In turn that could cause you to revise your upstream components in order to accommodate one, but that feels like a separate question ie. 'How to best add a sub to my current setup?'

Of course there is then the whole question of interfaces and apps, which have nothing to do with sound quality. But it may be the case that you prefer the interface and usability of the Node more than you do Volumio, which indirectly could improve how you listen to and enjoy to your music. btw. not suggesting that the Node/BluOS apps/interface is better than Volumio.
 
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gcogger

Active Member
I completely agree with jamieu. I have the same setup, except that I use the Digi Pro for digital output to my amp's DAC, and the source is pretty much the last thing I'd be looking at to improve the sound. I'd say the most effective upgrade path is
  1. Speakers and/or room treatment
  2. The amplifier (a long way behind, unless your amp is rubbish)
  3. A better DAC - maybe use one of the HiFiBerry Digi modules or similar, or USB, to output to an external DAC (but only worth bothering if the amp is very good)
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
Hey all,

Currently running a NAS housing Flac files, which play through my amp using a RPi and a HiFi Berry DAC+ Pro, with Volumio.

It sounds fine, but of course there is always potential for better sound......

Can anyone comment or give thoughts on what would be a worthwhile upgrade ? I'm not up to speed with streaming tech, so not sure if something like a Node would be an upgrade worth the money, or what else i should be thinking about.

Any advice gratefully received,
Thanks
Stu

I've gone through the pain of DAC's when streaming to relatively high end equipment (AMP and speakers) I believe (many here don't) that the DAC does make a huge difference. The actual streamer shouldn't really make a difference so maybe get some DAC's on loan from a friendly dealer for home testing?
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
I've gone through the pain of DAC's when streaming to relatively high end equipment (AMP and speakers) I believe (many here don't) that the DAC does make a huge difference. The actual streamer shouldn't really make a difference so maybe get some DAC's on loan from a friendly dealer for home testing?

As I said above there can be audible difference between DACs, not necessarily better or worse just different, what I have never experienced is a huge difference.

Maybe I have just been lucky or my hearing is rubbish (a distinct possibility). But whenever I read statements like huge or 'night and day' I always wonder if a) there is a vested interest at work or b) there was some other component or setting that got changed if the difference was that significant — not saying that either is the case with you, just that I have never experienced anything myself that I would describe as a huge change.

Screenshot 2021-10-19 at 17.46.04.png
 

Going Grey Now

Active Member
So far, I’ve gone through quite a journey.
RPi4 with Volumio then Moode. impossible to say if one better/worse than the other but Moode was the later instal and I’ve stayed with it.
DACs - well I’ve gone from a Fiio D03k, through two Dragonflies, an ALLO BOSS DAC Hat, then a Schiit Modi 3 and finally (some hope) a Schiit Modius.
Cables - well nothing I can say about digital cables but I will say that I’m happy I upgraded the RCAs to Van den Hul.
HATs -well apart from the ALLO BOSS DAC, I’ve installed an ALLO Digione Signature and connected it via Co-ax to the Modius. To that point, I was sure that this change achieved the biggest single improvement in SQ.
Then I thought about power supplies - having read some many different opinions about switched mode v linear. What a rabbit hole this is!!!! Settled on a 2nd hand NIRVANA to power both my Pi and the DAC. Glad I did. Noticed an improvement in SQ?? Yes, but by how much - difficult to quantify.
And to my latest ‘project’ - speakers. Will upgrade-itis never end??
Very certain I can report a significant difference to overall SQ with ‘new’ (correction - 50 year old) Celestion speakers.
And finally - room treatment. Well, not room treatment because I don’t have any but what I do have is DSP (or a Parametric Equaliser) inside of Moode.
So what am I trying to say?
Well, as per the reply from @gcogger above, my experience seems to suggests that I’ve achieved the biggest change to perceived SQ when changing my speakers and implementing some version of DSP/PEQ.
Next in line, I would say it was the Allo Digione Signature, closely followed by the Nirvana PSU and the Van den Hul RCAs.
I’m not sure exactly how any of this helps the OP but there may just be a couple of snippets which prove useful.
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
As I said above there can be audible difference between DACs, not necessarily better or worse just different, what I have never experienced is a huge difference.

Maybe I have just been lucky or my hearing is rubbish (a distinct possibility). But whenever I read statements like huge or 'night and day' I always wonder if a) there is a vested interest at work or b) there was some other component or setting that got changed if the difference was that significant — not saying that either is the case with you, just that I have never experienced anything myself that I would describe as a huge change.

.
Each to their own, some people can quantify a huge difference - thank you for providing the dictionary definition of huge, a little unnecessary?

A great example would be a cocktail audio x14 vs x-sabre pro. Night. And. Day. I thought my speakers were actually broken such was the difference.

I’m sure the OP can audition and decide for themselves.
 

themoid

Active Member
Thank you for all your thoughts, all useful.

I upgraded the speakers and amp last year and are pleased with how they sound, and think they are dialled in on as much as I can arrange the placement of the speakers and the room.

I may see if I can get a loan of some DACs to try from a dealer to see if there is a noticeable sound difference (huge or not, marginal gains most of the time).

Will probably also have a look at Roon to see ehat it's like. Although Volumio is fine really, I only want an easy way to play my music.

Cheers
 

FaxFan2002

Well-known Member
I use Roon with Volumio, it is a lovely thing to use and does do some DSD enhancements on non MQA music. But it's a significant investment.
 

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