by Maarten van Druten




 

Introduction

Personally I always found that audio devices based on the Raspberry Pi were just created because two reasons:
The Raspberry Pi is cheap, so the profit marge can be big for the manufactures and the other reason is that the Raspberry Pi is very popular, so the companies can also profit of this success.

Therefore I never took audio products created and based on the Raspberry Pi seriously, also because this developer board is not open hardware, it's also underpowered, and there a much better developers boards available like the "Olimex Lime2".

But when I was looking for a ROON certified endpoint for my audio setup, I discovered two interesting developments.

 

RoPieee

One big advantage of the success and popularity of the Raspberry Pi is that also many software projects are available for it.
The first interesting discovery I found recently was a software product called: "RoPieee"  https://www.ropieee.org/
This is a RoonBridge, and ready-to-go software image for Raspberry Pi (and it's also free)
 
This RoPieee project is so interesting because, it turn your power friendly Raspberry Pi in a headless
ROON certified network player.
With this little device there is no need any more for having a powerfull ROON SERVER computer in your living room.
With this RoPieee solution you just can place your computer with ROON SERVER in another room, and stream the music over your Gigabit RJ45 Ethernet network.
 
You can control your music collection with your Ipad and the ROON REMOTE app.
Easy and beautiful.

 

HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro

The second interesting discovery I found was the product called "HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro"
https://www.hifiberry.com/products/dacplus/
This is a dedicated 192kHz/24bit high-quality Burr-Brown DAC.
and it can be placed without soldering very easily on top of the Raspberry Pi because of the
so called: "hardware-attached-on-top" (HAT) specification.
This HiFIBerry DAC comes with all components needed, all the spacers and screws are included.
 
The advantage of this DAC+ Pro version is that it has a Dual-domain clock circuit:
The DAC+ Pro uses its own on-board low-jitter clock generator.
To have the lowest jitter values, there are 2 different clocks on board: one for 44.1/88.2/176.4 kHz sample rates and another for 48/96/192kHz.
Another advantage I found was also very important for me, it's ROON certified endpoint device.
So you can be sure it actually works, even without installing any drivers.

 

So what should I do? should I give I Raspberry Pi a second change? despite my prejudices and earlier disappointing experiences?
I stand always open for new developments and I also think it wise to stand open for self-reflection.
and so I ordered again another new Raspberry Pi 3.
Hoping that this time the Raspberry Pi will not disappoint me...

 

After ordering I received all the parts needed to make a ROON endpoint with RoPieee:

- Rasberry Pi 3 Model B (1GB)                                   37.95 euro                              
- Official Rasberry Pi Power Supply                            9.95 euro
- HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro                                                41.95 euro
- HiFiBerry case for the DAC+ (color: steel silver)     24.95 euro
Total:                                                                     114.80 euro

I ordered all these parts by one of the official HiFiBerry distributors, called:
www.kiwi-electronics.nl


 

Building

Putting the parts together is very easy, even the hex key is included

The HifiBerry DAC+ Pro HAT module can be easily placed on the Raspberry Pi without soldering or any other spacers.
Because the HifiBerry DAC+ Pro module is screwed on the cover of the enclosure, you cannot see the alignment of the pins, so you have be patient and make sure the cover is precisely exactly in the middle
when yo u place the cover on the bottom plate.

 



All the spacers are included.
The "P4" connectors are also very interesting; they can offer I2S out!
So I can stream my music with "I2S" over to my Audio-Gd Master 7 DAC who has an "I2S" input.
but this I'm not going to try in this review, this I will keep for later :-)

Now the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro is finished, now the software can be installed





Installing RoPieee

The image of RoPieee can be downloaded on the website https://www.ropieee.org/
The image of "ropieee-20180521.img" is big, it's 2.097.152 kB in size.
Nathan Wilkes has made a beginners guide how to install the image of RoPieee to your MicroSD card.
https://codexwilkes.com/downloads/ropieee-guide-for-beginners.pdf

If you follow these easy steps it can't go wrong.


With the tool "Etcher" you can easily transfer the RoPieee image to your MicroSD card

 

After installing RoPieee on your MicroSD card, place the MicroSD card into your Rasperry Pi and turn it on.
The image file will now boot, and even without configuring it, with the webbased configuration option, the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro already works, and is reconized by ROON as an audio endpoint & DAC.




How does it sound?

I placed the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro behind my new Yarland tube amplifier and connected it on the CD input connector of the amplifier and connected the RJ45 network cable

 

After turning the Raspberry Pi on, the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro is easily recognized by ROON, and plays back 24 bit 192 kHz FLAC without any problems.
 
And now the most important question how does it sound?
The sounds quality is above expectations very good, of course my Audio-Gd Master 7 DAC sounds better, but this DAC costs many times more.
But if but if you take the price out of consideration, this little DAC sounds very good, it sounds so good, that the difference between the Audio-Gd Master 7 is very small in my opinion.
You must have a very good installation and loudspeakers if you want to be able to hear the difference between these two DACs.
The Audio-Gd Master 7 DAC has more micro details, and sounds also better in low frequency range.
But the sound of the HiFiBerry DAC is very good, so good that I'm going to use this DAC permanently in my other listening rooms.
 
The HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro can also be used as a ROON I2S endpoint, this exciting functionality I will "test" in my later reviews.
 

But what is the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro capable of?
The HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro is a PCM only DAC, you can listen to DSD (DSF) files in ROON, but then ROON converts the DSD files to a PCM format the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro can handle.
So DSD native playback is not possible, but this way you still can listen to DSD files in a very high quality.

Let's test how far we can go with playing DSD files on the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro:



Playing back DSD64 is no problem




DSD128 also no problem




even DSD256 files can be played without any problems


Conclusion

Personally I think to many people are focused on "Native" DSD playback, instead of caring about the final sound quality...
Many native DSD DAC's I have reviewed and owned, I send them back to the manufacturer  because I didn't like their sound quality.
In my ears the sounded unrealistic, synthetic and exhausting.
The chipset in the HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro is a high quality Burr Brown DAC and this chip sounds much better than all those native DSD DAC's I have reviewed earlier.
It's a joy to listen to music with this little DAC, and the fact that this little device is also a ROON certified endpoint makes this DAC an amazing product.
 
I can recommend this ROON endpoint (and DAC) solution to anybody that wants to listen to high quality PCM audio music.
even DSD audio playback is possible, (not native) but considering it's low price, this
device is must have!

1 + 1 = 3

HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro and RoPieee is a winner combination
I found the result of this combination so good, that I decided to give it a seal of recommodation: "Audio Dandy Approved"

this device makes enjoying music so much better, because
now you don't have to worry about technology any more, it just works
and sounds very very good.
Don't believe my word for it, just try it out yourself

 

Audio Dandy - Maarten van Druten




"HifiBerry DAC+ Pro in combination with RoPieee" received the Audio Dandy approved seal for outstanding quality product with also a very high value for money
An official ROON certified endpoint and DAC solution in one small afforable box!




               
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