Recommendations wanted for best small board computer

Hello, I am looking to replace my Volumio Primo because I’ve added an external Dac (D90 mqa) and don’t use the build in DAC anymore.

Any recommendations for the best sounding small board computer?

Budget: 300 euros

I’m using a Raspberry Pi4/4GB with standard Raspberry Pi power brick to drive a Topping D90 (standard non MQA). No issues, no USB noise detectable. Worthwhile to buy FLIRC case to heatsink excess heat away from the CPU, particularly if you are running BruteFir for room equalisation which loads the CPU a little more. Argon case offers better heatsinking but probably not necessary.
Topping supplied USB lead works fine
Good news - the cost will be a lot less than 300 Euros :slight_smile:

Is there a d90 non mqa?

Yes it uses XMOS XU208 chip for processing the usb data stream rather than the XU216 which has 2X more processing in order to ‘unfold’ MQA. Also doesn’t have to pay royalties to MQA. Otherwise identical in all respects.
So about $100 cheaper If you don’t need MQA

Thanks for thinking along with me. Before I bought the Primo I came from a RPI 3b+, which was a great first experience as a Hifi streamer. I am looking for something more high profile (better PSU, ethernet and USB bus).

Maybe some kind of NUC or some better alternative to a Tinkerboard S, but there are so many choices, as I want the best audio experience I am a little bit lost.

Other option will be to buy a pre-made streamer from a company that uses Volumio (Pro-Ject for instance) but I don’t want anything with an inbuild DAC. Recommendations are very welcome

Thanks in advance

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Some people had issues streaming to the USB port on the RPi3 from the Ethernet port. The sound sometimes ‘stuttered’ momentarily. The use of HAT USB cards, such as the Allo USBBridge got around this problem. The more advanced RPi4 doesn’t have the shortcomings of the RPi3 and no stuttering will happen when streaming Ethernet => USB.

I find that an irritating issue with the RPI4 (and all RPI solutions) is that there is no remote mechanism to take the RPI out of shutdown. You probably remember this from your experiences with the RPI3. If you shut the RPI down via the webpage you have to unplug the supply and re-connect it to boot the computer again. Alternatively don’t shutdown the RPI at all and leave it on permanently.

A more advanced solution would be a complete Roon NUC setup but this will break your 300 Euro budget. Substantially!
But I suspect that a Pro-ject streamer will also be quite expensive.
Websites like Audio Science Review tell us that good DACs, like the D90, do not give better quality audio output when fed from these more expensive solutions though. I can point you to more detailed links if you want to understand this further.

You said about d90 but what about e30 is a good dac, that does not need some USB noise cleaner?

Looking at the E30 DAC, Audio Science Review did a detailed set of measurements.

Following the thread we see that the reviewer admits to using the ‘dirtiest’ usb power supply he could find for the review. So with a slightly better supply a little more performance is available. Could this be heard? Almost certainly not if we believe ASR

ASR is (mostly) not about hearing, but about measuring… Specs and measurements are indicators but nothing more then that

Problem is most reviewers don’t do blind listening tests. So their reviews are biased by what they know they are listening to, so they tend to favour the most expensive solution. This is just human nature.

DAC engineering has advanced significantly in last few years and we now see relatively low cost solutions giving performance levels indistinguishable from much more expensive DACs from 5 or 6 years ago.

I have heard some expensive and well reviewed (by listening only) DACs and on some recordings they sound fine, but on top notch acclaimed recordings not quite so good. Further investigations into these DACs have revealed subpar measurements. So when I searched for a good DAC I had as a starting point a requirement for a reasonably good set of measurements. Then I looked for users and reviewers comments to learn a little more. The ASR thread is often quite good here too as many of the correspondents are professional engineers and studio technicians and soon spot anything untoward.

I can’t share more informations now, but we are in the final phases of pre-manufacturing a new product which ticks all your boxes :wink:
If I were you, I will wait to hear more news from us :wink:

So a streaming device without DAC, but with great USB busses and LAN-connection, below 300?

That would be really interesting :star_struck:

Any previews soon?

Ah sorry, did not see the pricepoint…
It won’t be below 300, but slightly pricier than Primo…

If you want I can give you some details, would you mind sending me an email to michelangelo at volumio dot org?

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If this new streamer offers easy integration of room equalisation software this could be a real winner. The biggest improvement to most people’s hifi is correct speaker placement, a little acoustic damping in the room then finally room equalisation. Letting people choose their own DAC is a wise choice and allows an easy upgrade path.