Best CHEAP DACs to complement Chromecast Audio (or as alternative :-) )

Are there any blindingly good cheap DACs with toslink/optical-in which would make a great partner to the CCA puck? Seems to me there must be some real bargains out there. I’m certainly talking less than 250usd here. Ideally something no-brainer cheap, like everyone jaw drops when you tell them your CCA cost less than 50us.

I am currently using a Chord Mojo a my regular audio workhorse wherever analogue speakers or headphones are in use, but would like to find a good permanent solution for the CCA use cases, so I could consider getting one for each puck.

I’m sure it would interest others too :slight_smile:

I will have to think longer for a USD250 or less solution.

I can very quickly recommend the new iFi xDSD and Pro-Ject S2 Pre Box Digital DAC - each at USD399, if someones budget were to stretch a little more. Both sound superb via optical input.

From personal experience only (not expertise), when you start to go lower in price than the above two, the Chromecast’s built in DAC looks to be a good enough solution. Just get a 3.5mm to RCA cable and hook-up to your amp.

http://www.belkin.com/au/p/P-AV10092/

But I’ll have a longer think of any <USD250 DACs with TOSlink input.

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Good point.

I’m thinking if there’s something out there like the Dragonfly Range or even the ifi Nano (which i also have) as solutions with Tosling input.

Anyhow. could be a fun topic to hear about solutions… I quite like the low cost bargain area of audio where you can take risk taking a flier with the cost of a piece of kits comparable with a few bags of groceries and more often than not you’re more than happy with the result.

At this price point I’d be inclined to ditch the Chromecast and get an Allo Piano 2.1 Player for $185 USD that can run RoonBridge and handle rates higher than 96kHz.

Edit: Also the Allo Katana DAC must be getting very close to release.

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This forum provides good recommendations.
https://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?board=165.0

However, when buying very cheap components I find it especially important to check measurements just to make sure you are not getting a completely flawed product.

See here:

I have a 25$ Fio D03 DAC that has good measures (and sounds quite good) when playing 44k (measurements with 48k is crap). See here:

Not sure there would be any benefit over the chromecast’s internal DAC however.

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Thanks Andybob. Im curious to know how it runs Roonbridge? Is there software it interfaces with via pc or mac?

Definitely the one to beat and right on $249.

We’re now off the ‘to complement Chromecast Audio’ path but a VERY worthy mention for sure at this price.

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It’s built on a Sparky which is a beefier Pi with better Ethernet handling. Runs DietPi.

Sorry that’s complete gobbledygook to me :slight_smile:

It’s like me going to my local garage and him talking about flange scrangers and grubnuts needing to be skimmed and shimmied. I just tend to agree with him so i don’t look stupid, lol.

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This is how the Allo Piano Player runs Roon Bridge.

The Allo Piano 2.1 Player consists of three components in a single case. The base component is an Allo Sparky (see the link under Features). A Sparky is an SBC (single board computer) similar to a Raspberry Pi.

The Sparky has a slot for a microSD card that can be flashed with a DietPi image. DietPi is a minimal Linux based operating system that has a menu driven interface and includes an option to run Roon Bridge.

You configure the Sparky over your network using an SSH (Secure Shell) terminal from a computer. Generally Ethernet, but you can edit your WiFi details directly onto the microSD card.

It’s much less scary than it sounds, lots of guides and videos available and the value proposition is crazy good. The downside is that it won’t have the input options of most dedicated DACs.

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thanks for that. I am a little familiar with SSH, having had my own linux server for about 10 years. Not really used that aspect but I have dabbled a little with it usually when things go wrong :slight_smile:

OT slightly but what does optical out from the Chromecast puck into the Mojo sound like? I normally drive the Mojo from coax from an Allo Digi.

AQ Beetle DAC or Beresford Bushmadter or Caiman DAC.

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I haven’t heard this but it has a small form factor if that’s important to you.

I’m a fan of Topping products and especially like my D10 DAC, but the D30 receives a lot of praise and has optical input.

I own a Fiio Taishan D03K and while it is functional I don’t think it sounds any better than the DAC in the CCA.

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Sounds fine.I will need to run some tests with my “reference” cans, Beyerdynamic T1’s, but through my Adam A5X’s it sounds great, and supports upto 24-96 recordings with the Chromecast. I didn’t realised even that there was an optical out on the Chromecast til recently :slight_smile:

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I’d be really hesitant to spend anywhere near $250 on a DAC to use with the CCA. I don’t have golden ears, but I found the toslink audio output of the CCA to be rather lackluster. (I haven’t tried the CCA with Roon yet; maybe it will be better.) If you’re sure you want to go that route, I’d recommend the OL DAC with optical input ($129 plus shipping):
https://www.jdslabs.com/mobile/products/176/ol-dac/

If you are not absolutely committed to the CCA, I would recommend putting that 250usd (Or much less) toward a pre-assembled network player from @allo.com. Specifically, I would recommend the Boss player with DietPi GUI pre-installed:
https://www.allo.com/sparky/boss-player.htm

Don’t get hung up on unfamiliar terms, DietPi GUI means you can configure it easily through a web browser, and in my experience it is much easier to set up than a CCA.

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Some interesting posts coming up. Thanks for this Andy. Ive changed my title to the thread to include alternatives to chromecast too. Seems like whacking a cheap dac in the chain is not necessarily the right way to go.

These archimago tests, both analogue and digital, were posted on another thread so apologies if they have already been seen.


He did identify significant jitter on the toslink interface (the worse he’s seen) but concludes that within the CC’s 24/48 and 24/96 limitations, subjectively at least, it’s internal DAC is holding it’s own well into Squeezebox Transporter (400 USD S/H) and even TEAC UD-501 (600 USD S/H) territory. Jitter interaction effects in different replay chains, however, may explain why some report excellent results whilst others have been dissapointed. My experience is closer to archimago’s.

The question is at what price point are audible performance/feature differences to the CC internal DAC kicking in. Is it 250 USD? Or is it 600 USD (TEAC UD-501)? I understand that DIY raspberry pi based alternatives will blow much of the competition away but that’s a step too far for many (like myself) attracted to CC in certain listening scenarios.

I don’t have a CC audio, just the CC video, and I don’t have a TEAC UD-501 either but I did try the TV’s optical out to a DAC at many price points beyond the TEAC UD-501. An April Eximus DP1 (3,000 USD when new). It was very enjoyable but clearly didn’t match my normal USB input to this DAC. There are all sorts of possible reasons for that including my USB implementation and the TV’s optical implementation. But it has motivated me to go out and buy a CC audio just to narrow down exactly what the differences are.

I rather suspect that the price point for a DAC exceeding the performance/features of a CC’s internal DAC is significantly below 250 USD for DIY solutions but significantly more for commercial solutions.

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Thanks for pulling these together, Tony – very useful.

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Go checkout https://darko.audio
There are some articles about optimizing Chromecast setup and there are also some good DAC recommendations for different types of budgets.

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