ApplePi DAC - Highest Performance Raspberry Pi DAC

Btw, thought I’d throw this out there. Of all the tests I saw of this dac on audio science review, what clinched it for me was the nature of the harmonic distortion.

Yes, it is super low and really should not even be detectible. But what there is of it, the low even order harmonics dominate; balanced out is even better. The nature of the harmonics is very “single ended tube -like”. If there is going to be any distortion (however minuscule) that’s the kind you want it to be! :wink:

Do you have a UK distributor for the dac Leo?

Everything ships from USA.

Man, what a detail moster this DAC is! I highly recommend it.

I received this Monday. But wanting to get a feel for this DAC first using balanced, I held off hooking it up right away. I recieved the mini to full size xlr cables today. So I went ahead and swapped out the Boss dac I was using on a RoPieee plus screen for this. Swapped in some taller standoffs, did some more trimming of the 7" case to accommodate this dac’s connectors, and I was ready to go.

A few minutes into listening, the snow squall that accompanied the onset of the polar vortex knocked out power to me and 902 of my closest neighbors… lol Was worried the linemen couldn’t go up in their buckets in the cold and wind. Just when I was sure I’d need to go out to buy gasoline to run my generator to power my furnace and circulators to prevent freeze of the pipes at the periphery of my house, I got the power back (note to self: buy gasoline). Feed the dogs. Feed myself. Then let the auditioning [re-]commence.

The signal path is Roon playing my playlist of favorite songs I know extremely well (a mix of ripped Redbook and purchases from HDTracks all in FLAC) > RoPieee + screen with this ApplePi HAT > Balanced out > Mjolnir balanced in > 4-pin XLR out > HiFiMan HE-1000 (gen 1). A fully balanced signal path from source to output. Love it!

As far as balanced headphone amp is concerned, I only have a Mjolnir gen 1 here. My Woo WA-22 and McIntosh MHA-100 (the latter has balanced in, but is a single ended amp) is at another address. And ideally what I’d mate to this very competent DAC.

The Mjolnir is no slouch tho. With this dac’s balanced level out, the volume dial only needs to go to 12 o’clock instead of 4 or 5 o’clock (when I use unbalanced in, so that I can use an analog tone control) for very very loud musical reproduction. But I’ll be totally honest. Its dry analytic, almost ‘bass-lite’ nature isnt the best match for this detail monster of a dac. So after a few hours tweaking the DSP in Roon, I settled on this extremely subtle tonal rebalance you see below. I highly recommend this simple form of single band tonal shaping either cutting highs or lows as necessary for your dac-amp-transducer pairing; play with the center frequency and Q, but keeping Q (well?) under 0.25 is recommended. If gain level goes much over 1 you may find the transients and attack getting cut by an excessive degree.

Edit: I stand by the above. But wanting more presence ‘bite’, and to account for a range where the frequency response of the he1k dips more than I prefer, I’ve since adopted using this, still simple and subtle, parametric curve…

In any case, dont take this as a criticism of the Mjolnir or the ApplePi. This 1db reduction of the highs is a subjective preference. And I doubt I’d want this with the other two premium amps I own that I named. Tbd at a later time when I move all my Roon & Bridge devices to where those amps live.

I will say this… with the Mjolnir’s accuracy, precision, and well damped nature that is free of all embellishments and colorations, fed by the ApplePi doing an exceptional job recreating the analog signal of the original recording free from any auditory masking with it’s super low noise floor and low low distortion dominated by even harmonics many orders out (what little there is of it, balanced out) , jitter immunity, and excellent transient response, this is perhaps the most revealing yet still musical combo I have. The things so often lost/masked, subtle modulations of instruments, the subtle backing tone of a synth in a mix, is as discernible as the primary melodies & percussion of the music. It gives my NAD M51 driving either my MHA-100 or WA-22 a run for its money at a mere fraction of the cost. Nirvana on a budget.

It’s been three hours since I settled on this dsp curve (Edit: I actually powered down at 4am unable to pull myself away, spending about 7 hours evaluating this combo) … I’ve listened to downtempo, pop, pop-dance, various jazz styles, electronica, you name it. And I haven’t had a single complaint of what was coming out of the HE-1000s. Haven’t had the slightest desire to alter the level of the treble, mid, or bass. For me, a habitual tone control tweeker (Perreaux TC2 is my favorite), that’s huge! This happens only when so many things line up perfectly so that something close to (subjective) perfection is coming thru the transducer.

I highly recommend the ApplePi! On sale, it’s a no-brainer!

1 Like

Hi Leo,

Other than the HifiBerry Universal Case you noted, any other recommendations of cases one can buy on Amazon to fit the ApplePi ? (Not worried about the cutouts, i can cut or drill those. )

I’m about to buy another RPi from Amazon and want to include a tall case in the order.


Sorry. I am not aware of any other cases.

Thanx. No prob. I bought the recommended case. I may experiment with some modular cases (and 3.5" display). I’ll report back if/when I do with success.

Actually, let me pose a use case to you, and ask your opinion. There are 3.5" touch screen dislays that connect to the 40-pin connector that I want to use as a Roon Zone Display. With the header extender, those pins extend high above the ApplePi board. I want to mount the 3.5" display above the ApplePi. (I’ll add another extender if found I need a little more height)

The question I have for you is, does that pose any concern for you in regard to data input ‘cleanliness’ to the ApplePi (as the screen would be connected to the same bus as the applepi)? Or any type of data interference? I’m most concerned about increase in jitter / noise but any interference means this idea is a no-go.

Thanx for your time.

There is no concern as long as the screen does not use the I2S pins for anything. You can find pin out on my website in the instruction PDF.

Thank you very much Leo!

This pairing is the boss…

No parameteic equalization needed with this pairing as noted above needed w/the Mjolnir.


If you have one of our DACs, this is the perfect companion!

Sign up to get updates and receive special early bird pricing on the amazing BOSC™ monoblock amp:

BOSC™ uses the latest in Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology to achieve high performance in a small form factor.

The low on resistance and low capacitance of the GaN FET enables high efficiency and lowers loop impedance for low Transient Intermodulation Distortion (T-IMD). The fast switching capability and zero reverse recovery charge enable higher output linearity and low cross over distortion for lower Total Harmonic Distortion (THD).

Preliminary Specifications:

  • Gain: 16.8dB or 6.92
  • Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR): ~120dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.0006% (-105dB) @ 5W
  • Frequency Response: DC - 40kHz
  • Sensitivity: 2.5Vin for 37.5W into 8Ω
  • Input Impedance: 5kΩ fully balanced
  • Output Power: 100W into 8Ω w/ 48V Power Supply
  • Output Power: 150W into 8Ω w/ 56V Power Supply
  • Size: 5.5" (14cm) x 4.8" (12.2cm) x 1.9" (4.8cm)
1 Like

I just had the great opportunity to spend the last two weeks with Leo’s BOSC mono amps and posted my take here:

An early peak - 2 Weeks with Orchard Audio BOSC Monoblock Class D GaN Amps!

I do think these are something special. If you like your music open, honest, highly engaging with life-like detail readily conveyed, I think these are absolutely worth a listen.


The latest incarnation:

Now there is a UK distributor…

Are there any ApplePi DAC HATs still available for sale?

No. Ran out of those a long time ago.

Save 15% during our holiday sale, through December 10th.

Use code “holiday15%” at checkout.

1 Like