19-7-2017



Audio Dandy streamer v2
Powered by "Daphile"   

by Maarten van Druten


If you are looking for a High Resolution audio streamer there a two solutions:
You can buy a very expensive audio-streamer or your can make one yourself,
and save a lot of money



Introduction

My first Audio Dandy streamer was based on the ATX PC standard, therefore this the Audio and Video streamer was very big.
This had some advantages: you could easily replace parts when they were broken,
it was also powerful (i7 CPU) and it was very quiet because of the copper 100% passive CPU cooler.
But not everybody want to have a big HTPC standing next to his television, so I tried to find an alternative computer that is small, powerful, and has a good quality.
 
Were many other High-End companies are releasing streamer products based on "ARM" processors,
I avoid these "ARM" based products.
Why? because "ARM" based mini computers like the Raspberry Pi are not designed for high resolution audio playback.
These ARM computers are designed for IT developers and children to learn Python programming language on school, or for IoT and other computer related experiments.
 
These ARM computers are underpowered and much to weak to playback high resolution audio bitprefectly.
 
Therefore I searched for an Intel x64 compatible based solution.
After experimenting with many different computers, I found one that is perfect for High Resolution Audio streaming
These computers are called: "Next Unit of Computing" or just: "NUC"


Intel NUC

The Intel NUC is a professional small form standard personal x64 compatible mini PC from Intel that is very powerful.
It's so fast that it could easily replace your big standard ATX form computer without that you notice any performance loss.
At the company I work for, I have worked with an Intel NUC (with an Intel I5 CPU) for a long time, and it was a very reliable, quiet and fast workstation.
It's also Linux friendly, so installing Linux on these little power PCs is not a problem.
Everything (all internal components) are working straight after the installation.
Now I have found the right hardware, I had to find the right software to create the Audio Dandy audio streamer.


Which streaming software?

There are many different streaming software solutions on the market today that can playback High Resolution audio.
I have good experiences with "JRiver" software that playback DSD and also has a nice app for the Apple Ipad so you can control your streamer.
But there are many others like: "Audirvana", "AudioPhile Linux" and recently there is new kid in town called: "Daphile"

"Audiophile Linux" and "Daphile" are the only two that can be used 100% free, for the others you have to pay.
I have tried them all for a long time, and this is my conclusion:

"JRiver" is very good program, but it costs money, and for also for all future updates you have to pay extra.
These extra costs after you just bought something, is something I don't like so much about this program.
But "JRiver" sounds very good, and I can recommend it if the extra costs are not a problem for you, but personally I prefer a open source solution, were fixes and updates are free.

"Audirvana" didn't work for me, it sounded good but also a little bit cloudy, soft to my ears,
like there was a filter between the music and the listener. so I didn't experimented futher with this program.

"AudioPhile Linux" is the first open source solution from this group, but it takes a very long time to download.
It took me 5 days to download the installation ISO file! just because the owner decided to limit the download speed to only 4 kBs...
After downloading the installation ISO,  I noticed that the installation is a bit different that usual, I think that a lot of people will find the installation way too difficult.
After installing the software I experienced a rather Spartan mixed bag of audio programs that were not stable enough to experience high resolution audio playback.
I think this software is for die hard Linux fan's only, that don't mind to reconfigure their Linux computer with the command line interface...

and then i tried "Daphile"

 

Daphile

What is "Daphile"?
"Daphile" is audio streamer software that supports DSD (DSF) and PCM high resolution bit-perfect and gapeless playback.
The music is transported straight from your NAS to your DAC, just the way it should be.
Because "Daphile" uses the asynchronous USB signal transmission, your DAC is in control.
Your precise TXCO of your DAC (or Amanero interface) will keep track of the time, not your operating system of your computer.

For more information: https://www.daphile.com/


First some facts:
99% of all music recordings in the world are recorded in PCM (or DXD which is also PCM) not in DSD.
USB is not designed to transport DSD, therefore we have to use a technique called "DoP" (DSD over PCM)
to overcome this issue, so that we still can listen to DSD (DSF) files.
luckily my Audio-Gd Master 7 DAC support "DoP"


Daphile works with the Combo384 Amanero!

One of the best things of "Daphile" is that it works perfectly with the "Combo384 Amanero"
USB class 2 to I2S 32bit and DSD output Adapter.



On the image above you can see my settings.
I used the Audio-Gd Master 7 DAC for this review, which has an Amanero Combo384 USB interface.

"Daphile" plays DSD128 "DSF" audio files very well over "DoP"

 

Does "Daphile" sounds better than "JRiver" ?

I was very surprised by this software because it's simple to install, easy to use and it sounds very good out-of-the-box.
Did it sound better then "JRiver" ?
To tell you the truth, No, it didn't...

"Daphile" sounded very good, but something was wrong.
On my PureAudioProject Voxativ High-End loudspeakers I noticed that the music had a harsh sound character
making listening for a long time to this exhausting...
I also noticed that the level of details was not to the standards of "JRiver"
What to do?
One big of advantage of open source projects is that it's very easy to contribute to make the software better.
Personally I wanted to know why "Daphile" was not sounding so good like "JRiver"
The software should only transport the music data from the NAS to the DAC, right?
I already disabled "HD-audio" in the settings menu of "Daphile" to force the software to use the "Amanero" interface.
So what went wrong? I decided to analyse this problem and to find a solution.
 

 

"The shortest audio path is the best"

But there is one thing you really should take care about, and that is: "the shortest audio path is the best"
Why I write this?
Because still many High-End audio manufactures are using in my opinion the wrong approach.
They still offer solutions (products) that are using unnecessary complex solutions to transport music from the storage device to the dac.

For example did you know that Linux had a very bad and complex sound architecture?
No? read on:
The sound architecture of Linux consists out of many different parts, like "ALSA"and "Pulseaudio"
"Pulseaudio" is designed by a Linux developer called "Lennart Poettering"
This Linux developer is well know of his complex, chaotic and controversial way of programming, because of this, he's also not so popular in the open source community...
(he is also responsible for "system-d" big-brother spyware in almost all Linux distributions, but that's another story...)

He once has called Linux audio: "it's a mess" and he even tried to make it better, but in my opinion he made it much worse...
So beware if your current streaming solution make use of these modules, like: "ALSA", "Pulseaudio" and also the newer audio standard: "HD-Audio"
All of these are very bad for real Audiophile audio playback.

So how to overcome all this? was it because of this that "Daphile" sounded not good?
I'm affraid it was...it was indeed Pulseaudio, ALSA, etc that made sound "Daphile" not good.

I figured out a very simple and effective solution to make sure that your music not has to travel all the way through "Poetterings" chaotic and complex signal path...

"Daphile" overcomes all of this problems by using a technique called: UAC2



"Daphile" has native support (without third party drivers) for USB Audio Class 2.0 - UAC2
so the kernel can communicate directly with your UAC2 compatible DAC

 

The solution to make "Daphile sound much better

The solution is: disable your internal audio device in the bios of your computer!



In my situation were I used a Intel "NUC" I had to disable "HD-audio" in the bios.
Make sure that the mark by "Audio" is "unchecked"

And this works very well, you will immediately notice the difference
They music will be sound more detailed, more clear, and also will have more resolution.
So consider this a must do, disable your internal audio device in the bios of your "Daphile" streamer!

This way you force the software to only use your USB DAC. and you will bypass the crappy Linux ALSA, Pulseaudio sound architecture.


Listening

After I was satisfied with the configuration of the NUC, I have tried the
"Audio Dandy audiostreamer V2 powered by Daphile" on different amplifiers.
For testing I used my PureAudioProjectsTrio 15 Voxativ open baffle loudspeakers.
On the Audio-Gd Master 10 amplifier and Master 7 DAC the sound was natural,
with lots of details. the quality was impressive, I could hear no differences with the JRiver Mediacenter solution.
I was very impressed! this little NUC played music so easily and so well, that now I listen much more to music then before.
after listening for many weeks, I found the sound of "Daphile" even more relaxed, more appealing then JRiver.
 
Then I listened to the Yarland FV34A (which I will review later on my website)
Now the sound-scape different, the music became more real, it has more depth, and sounded
"thicker" compared with the Audio-Gd Master 10 amplifier.
But the micro details were much less, but this not because of the quality streamer, but because of the
Yarland tube amplifier.
Both amplifiers were a good match for the "Daphile" streamer, and both amps had their unique sound


The "Audio Dandy streamer v2" (Daphile + NUC based)
is so small that you can place it easily beside your High End equipment.

 

What about controlling Daphile?

You can also control your "Daphile" headless audio streamer on multiple ways:
by using your web browser.
Or by many other "Squeezebox" compatible Ipad or Iphone/Android smartphone apps like:
"iPeng" from http://penguinlovesmusic.de/

The "iPeng" IOS App for the Ipad looks very nice, and works very easily.

 

Make sure that your musicplayer software uses the right output streaming device, in this case
the "Combo384 Amanero"



Conclusion

I found "Daphile" a very easy to use software program that transform your old pc in a nice headless music server.
It's free, and it sounds also very good, after disabling "audio" in my NUC bios, "Daphile" sounded just as good, often even better then JRiver Mediacenter.
And that's a compliment because JRiver is a very good program.
I use "Daphile" now almost all day, and i'm very happy with it, it works reliable and the sound is detailed, full of detail and depth.
"Daphile" has a lot more nice features that I didn't mentioned in this review, for more info please visit their website.

But remember "Daphile" is a open source hobby project made by one person only, what he has accomplished is realy remarkable, so please don't e-mail him with all your questions.
He's just doesn't has the time to answer them all... so instead read the FAQ first, and if you still cannot find the answer, use a forum like http://www.diyaudio.com

On the forum go to the section "source & line" - "pc based" to post your questions, you will see that you get an answer soon, because "Daphile"  has become very populair already.
Give it try, you will be not be disapointed, "Daphile" has become my standard High Resolution streaming solution.

Maarten van Druten (Audio Dandy)




So here it is, the recipe to make your own:
"Audio Dandy audiostreamer V2 powered by Daphile"
 

Ingredients:

1 X Intel NUC 5CPYH

Intel Celeron 3205U
Crucial ValueRAM 8 GB DDR3L
120GB Kingston A400 SSD (for OS only)
Intel HD Graphics
Onboard WLAN en BT

Total price only 261 euro's ! (approx. 300 dollars)

Don't forget to disable "audio" in the bios!

Download the "Daphine" software here:
https://www.daphile.com/firmware/stable/daphile-17.05-x86_64.iso

Installation instructions:
https://www.daphile.com/download/DaphileInstallation.pdf

Connect your music collection on USB external harddisk to the streamer, and you are ready!

Congratulations!
You just have saved yourself a lot of money compaired to the other commercial streaming sollutions out there
Enjoy!



Pros

- This streamer has a very good quality(*) with good realism and natural sound
- Bit-perfect and gapeless streaming
- Can stream High Resolution PCM and DSD (DSF) music files (on "DoP" compatible DAC's)
- Easy to use, very user friendly streaming sollution
- Many control apps avaialable for Ipad and Iphone/Android phones (Squeezebox compatible)
- NUC is very well build, and very small.
- The streamer is also very quiet and uses little energy.
- Daphile software is free!


Cons

- Nothing really important, but..
  There is no SACD.ISO suport like JRiver has (only DSD-DSF support)
- No professional support, because this is open source community product.
- You need an UAC2 compatible DAC (Don't ask Daphile about this, but your DAC manufacturer)


(*) When "audio" is disabled in the bios of your NUC.

Note for Dutch readers only:
Mocht u het niet aan durven om zelf deze streamer te bouwen en te installeren, dan kunnen wij u helpen
stuur een mail naar: audiodandy@gmail.com voor de voorwaarden.
 

 

Special thanks to Mikko from Daphile for making
this excellent product!
 




 


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