Best low budget Ethernet-USB endpoint?

I’m looking to add a Roon endpoint that connects a USB DAC to Roon via wired Ethernet, something that works/sounds better than a Raspberry Pi but costs less than the Allo USBridge (and much less than a microrendu). Odroid? Beaglebone Black? Sparky? What’s the best value right now?

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Hey Andy, with which USB DAC?

And are you going to be doing any up-sampling? PCM and DSD? And playing any DSD files? If so, what rates?

PS: I’ve used a Pi3, Odroid C2, Allo USBridge, micro and ultraRendu’s in difference systems. The above questions can help though.

For example, there aren’t many popular USB output endpoints priced in between the Pi3 and Allo USBridge that could handle DSD256 (or higher) reliably (if that were a requirement, for example).

The Odroid C2 may but it doesn’t have the general OS support that the USBridge has.


Thanks, Sean! I’m primarily using a Dragonfly Red, so nothing over 96/24. No DSD or upsampling. Mostly Tidal HiFi with some Tidal MQA tracks being passed through in their un-unfolded 48/24 FLAC state and some redbook ALAC files from my local library.

I’ve had good luck with DietPi in the past, so anything that uses it would make for any easy transition.

No worries Andy. That makes it easier.

I THINK Sparky may work alone with DietPi but I don’t know if it will have any advantage of the Pi3 for up to PCM96kHz/24bit.

And to be honest, I can’t see Odroid or Beaglebone having any advantage over the Pi3 - again for up to PCM96kHz/24bit.

For higher sample rates, this is where the Pi3 can be unreliable.

The first noticeable step up in SQ from the Pi3 (from my experience only, not any expertise) would be with the USBridge (which runs DietPi and is really well supported).

It’s designed for a low noise output and since your USB DAC is fully USB powered, you should notice the benefits of this low noise output.

My advice would be to enjoy the music with the Pi3 until you wanted to maybe get a little fancy and try the USBridge later.

Plus between now and then, don’t be surprised if there is another option that comes to the market.

But let’s see what others think - maybe there are other experiences. I’m only one data point.

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Andy, can you define your budget? Open to used?

I have a DragonFly 1.2 and a Chord 2Qute and for your listening needs I don’t think you’re going to see a significant gain by adding a low-cost hat to the RPi. With my 2Qute the difference between the RPi USB and Allo DigiOne is a barely discernible improvement (plus the positive elimination of occasional pops and ticks on higher sample rates.) Although your DragonFly is an improvement over mine you may find any changes to “sound quality” less noticeable than I did with the 2Qute.

Using max. DSP (power of 2) upsampling on my DragonFly had a more pronounced improvement to the listening experience, so you may want to give that a go.

Another option that is considered an improvement on the RPi is the Cubox-i … but you could get an Allo board for less. So, I’d agree with Sean and stick with the RPi for now.

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I’d like to keep it under $100, including case and power supply (if it needs something other than the standard 5v USB).

I’d be open to something used. In fact, I find myself wishing I could trade some of the pile of devices I have here (Airport Express, Squeezebox 3, Fire TV, etc) in on RAAT-compatible SBCs!

I am using a RaspberryPi with DietPi, Roon/RAAT, and a DragonFly Red connected directly to the pi USB, and headphones out from there. It sounds great! Clean, clear, full. I know things can get messy if we starting getting into what “sounds great” means…but I just wanted to chime in that this simple setup, arguably one of the simplest/cheapest ways to get Roon to a pair of headphones, works great for me (I am primarily listening to rock music). The pi is even connecting to my Roon server via WIFI, I know, insanity! :joy:

I started with this simple setup, figuring I would upgrade via a digital hat or something else, but I was surprised when this setup worked so well that I could just stop right there.

It really does work great and sound “great”. YMMV

I should clarify that I do need to purchase an additional endpoint of some kind, even if it’s another RPi 3.

Are you adverse to using a bluetooth receiver to your DAC. You could Roon via ipad to a Bluetooth receiver, as long as your DAC was SPDIF capable and you had power to the bluetooth receiver. It’s probably airplay quality, but a very cheap solution. Options are pretty limited at below $100.

Might be something available for USB as well. The one I have is SPDIF coaxial.

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In that case, I’d go for an RPi3 ($38) plus a decent case–I like the Flirc ($16)–, low noise psu ($11 from Allo) and an SD card ($10.) As @Kenneth_Price says, you can upgrade with a hat later if you feel inclined.

There is no HAT optimised for USB for the Pi.

I’d save up a little and spring for the Sparky + USBridge. A complete, pre-assembled package goes for $149 with the plastic case. There’s no comparison with a Pi (or any other standard SBC).

Ha! This is almost exactly the setup I’ve been using for the last year. (I just added a Vali 2 tube amp between the DFR and headphones.) Roon recommends a wired Ethernet connection, and some people say the RPi shouldn’t be used with USB because it shares a bus with Ethernet, but if you use WiFi, the bus isn’t shared with USB. It’s like a secret hack where two wrongs make a right! :joy: (Of course, it does take very good WiFi for this to work reliably.)

Part of me just wants to see if doing things the “right” way would sound any better.

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I decided to go with an plain Allo Sparky for now.
$35 for the board
$10 for an acrylic case
$16 shipping

Not much more than a Pi3, but has USB and Ethernet on separate busses.

For some reason, doesn’t list the plain, no-HAT acrylic case on their website under Sparky cases, but I found it by googling:

hi Andy, honestly, we havent had much interest for a sparky only case, this is what that product page was eliminated form the main site.
but you can still order it

After missing the micro SD slot and having to disassemble the case to get the card out, I can understand why no one is interested in this case.