2 channel pre-amp for RPi into high end amp and speakers

I have a nice amp, Cinepro 3k6, and nice speakers, Carver ALS-III. I installed Volumio on an RPi and connected it to my Outlaw Audio 990 via mini jack to RCA cables from the headphone jack to the CD analog input. The sound is frankly awful. It doesn’t play very loud and the sound is very unstable with background static. Is it possible to get high fidelity sound of the RPi. I tried to do it with desktop media centers years ago but ultimately gave up and just went with surround sound and DVD sources. I now would like a dedicated 2 channel audio system. Is there a reliable pre-amp or hat that would connect my RPi directly to the amp to power my speakers? XLR connections would be preferred but not required. I would like to avoid using the 990

The headphone out on the rpi is terrible. You need a DAC. You can get a DAC hat for 50 or 60 €/£/$

Hifiberry do some good ones.

Your Outlaw Audio 990 preamp has a built-in DAC and USB input port. You can simply connect the RPi to the 990 with a USB cable (with USB-A to USB-B connectors). This is assuming you have an RPi4 (there are some issues with USB output on RPi3). In Volumio, update a few settings: under General Playback Options > Audio Output > Output Device, select the 990 (it needs to be already powered up and connected), and also set Volume Options > Mixer Type to None.

If you want to connect the RPi to the amp without the 990, you will need to add a DAC. You can use a HiFiBerry DAC2 Pro HAT card which has XLR connectors, and update some settings in Volumio.

Thank you. That probably explains a large part of my issues. I expected better. I tried the minijack with an iPod Nano at it wasn’t bad. When I used the RPi it was terrible. I just ordered the HighfiBerry DAC 2 Pro XLR.

Thank you. I ordered the hat. I really hope to avoid using the 990. It was great when I got it but to get into the menus, I have to use an analog TV. It really makes things a pain since I don’t have any analog tvs sitting around. Hopefully you are still around when I get the mixer to help with settings. I got this response when I asked a similar question.

You asked:

“Can this be connected directly to a power amp or does it need to go through a pre-amp first?”

Thomas H. answered:

“Better be careful. The output can be very hot from this unit. If u know how to set things up in alsamixer u can pull it off, but plugging this directly into a power amp is risky. Before u hook it up, open a terminal and type alsamixer. Lower the analog and digital gains. If your amp has a volume control, turn it all the way down. Other than that, this is a super high quality unit. The Hifiberry folks make a very solid product.”

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Personally I would use a passive volume control between the RPi and the amp, something like this:
Effectively, it would operate as your preamp.

I prefer controlling volume with a physical knob instead of having to do it on a phone or computer. Also, I feel uneasy about directly connecting an RPi to a power amp. A lot things can go wrong during a reboot or powering up (or even a software glitch during normal operation), and the output level from the RPi could end up not where you expected. You would set up Volumio so that it outputs a fixed maximum level, and attenuate it with the outboard volume control

I got everything up and running using XLR cables straight to the amp. The sound is great and really doesn’t play loud on close to full volume. I really like the minimalist setup. I’m very happy at the moment.