Pi 4, analog out and DAC

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


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).

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.

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.

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?)

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.

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.

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.

I am playing files from a homemade NAS (another Raspberry pi plus a 2T HDD). The headphones are Sony MDR7506 which are 106db/mW. That’s probably more sensitive than average. I can’t opine on AirPlay.

Listening volume is set at 20-30 on the Volumio scale. At 50 it’s uncomfortable to listen. Note that I’m just experimenting and not recommending. For what it’s worth, I used the same headphones in a Chromecast Audio with BubbleUpnp as the controler. Even the lowest volume setting was fatigueingly loud.


Has actually someone tried an ALLO BOSS DAC 1.2 with a Pi4?
Their specs say it is compatible only with Pi2 and Pi3

thanks for your answer



audiophonics.fr/en/cases-fo … 14496.html

Looks like it works, maybe Allo are a bit slow updating their website.

I have inquired Allo via email and they confirmed its working with RPi4…