Linking my amplifier into home network -- high quality R-Pi S/PDIF device or MQA enabled streaming device

Core Machine (Operating system/System info/Roon build number)

Currently the core is on my 2015 MacBook Pro (Dual-core i5 with 8GB memory; OS=Catalina v.10.15.6). This is also currently being used as the output device to my Cambridge Audio CXA80 amplifier through a Toslink connection directly from my MacBook Pro (last model to have this capability). This is the computer that I currently use for all my computing needs. (Not ideal)

I intend to switch my core to a separate dedicated computer on network, hard-wired through CAT-7 ethernet cable. The computer with the Roon core will probably be based on an AMD RYZEN 3 3200G 4-Core 3.6 GHz which combines CPU and GPU.

Network Details (Including networking gear model/manufacturer and if on WiFi/Ethernet)

My current setup (MacBook pro) and future plans (AMD will both involve the core being connected to the network through ethernet cables. The main router is a Bell Home Hub 3000.

Audio Devices (Specify what device you’re using and its connection type - USB/HDMI/etc.)

My main amplifier (Cambridge Audio CXA80) does not have an ethernet port. This is the key focus of my query. While I could use a ChromeCast audio device that I currently own, I prefer to have a direct ethernet connection - e.g. through some streaming device.

Description Of Issue

I am seeking your advice on how “best” to connect my Cambridge Audio CXA80 to the network.

(1) I like the idea of using a Raspberry Pi-based device, as this offers greater control over software revisions and flexibility. One possibility is simply connecting to my amp’s DAC through S/PDIF, using something like the ALLO DigiOne Signature or equivalent from HiFiBerry. Advantages: (a) control over software revisions; (b) relatively inexpensive; © the ALLO DigiOne Signature is getting reviews indicating superior performance over many high-end audio streamers – including the BlueSound Node 2i; (d) There is much greater flexibility down the road with going the Raspberry-Pi route.

(2) Alternatively, I am considering the BlueSound Node 2i. Advantage is that it is also MQA-enabled, so it would be able to do the second-stage rendering of MQA-encoded recordings. Disadvantages: (a) no control over software upgrades or if manufacturer chooses to no longer support the device; (b) relatively more costly.

My questions:

  1. Should MQA even be a consideration? I have seen only a few Tidal recordings with MQA encoding and several of these are “only” at 96 khz, so the Roon rendering is all that I would get. Is there really any audio difference with the second (hardware) rendering?

  2. If MQA does make a difference, are you aware of any Raspberry Pi-based streaming devices (DACs?) that are MQA enabled?

If I were to emphasize audio quality generally for FLAC recordings (most of Tidal’s inventory), my choice would be a high-quality Raspberry-Pi based SPDIF connection. If MQA hardware rendering were to be an important consideration, then I would consider purchasing an MQA-compliant device to connect to my amplifier.

I should add that I do sense a difference in audio quality between the FLAC 44.1khz/16bit and the 96khz/24bit recordings side-by-side. That being said, I am quite happy with the audio quality with my current setup, where my core and output device are both the same computer with a direct Toslink connection with the Cambridge Audio CXA 80. While I am willing to upgrade devices and connections, I am looking for value for the investment.

Thanks for your help with this.

I have owned the digione for years . Sounds great. Roon can do the first MQA unfold. For the render stage you need an MQA DAC, it cannot be done at the streamer level.


I have in the past had an RPi4 , Allo Digione feeding a Cambridge Audio CXN (V1) with no issues

Beware though there was an issue with USB on previous CXN devices where Rpi / RoPieee via USB failed to recognize the USB Class 2 of the CXN. This finally turned out NOT to be RoPieee but the way CA implemented USB Audio. It effectively limited USB to 24/96 (ie Class 1) , hence why I went the Allo Digione SP/DIF route to provide full 24/192

The redesigned CA units may well have overcome this , I have never used one the CXA devices.

Currently my RPi/Allo Digione feeds a standalone DAC as an headphone amp and sounds wonderful (Audiolab M-DAC and Sennheiser HD800)

PS it it matters to you the whole box is tiny and can b hidden !!

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Personally, I wouldn’t worry about MQA.

  1. You get the bulk of MQA having Roon do the first unfold, and the “render” stage is just a filter, and your DAC is doing that anyway (just not necessarily with the same filter curve MQA wants). You won’t hear a material difference.
  2. Outside of TIDAL, there really isn’t much of any MQA out there.

I agree on the MQA stuff, in that I wouldn’t worry about it.

I use Roon with HQPlayer (one system uses a Mac Mini, the other uses a Rasp Pi with RoPieee). I essentially tell Roon to limit Tidal/Qobuz to 44.1k, and I ignore the MQA stuff altogether, and I upsample to 192k with HQPlayer. I think HQPlayer’s filters make things sound better than MQA, which I’m not sure my system is revealing enough to take advantage of anyway.

I’ve been really happy/impressed with the RaspPi with RoPieee, and for the price, it’s tough to beat. I do have a CXA80 but I can’t confirm any USB sample-rate issues. Worked fine at 192k through the mac mini USB though.

Thank you, all, for your quick and very helpful responses. Your messages indicate I should focus on optimizing the quality of the signal to the amp and not worry about the MQA second-level unfolding.


The USB issue was only Linux , hence why Roipeee was impacted, Windows has a CA driver, I believe Apple doesn’t need drivers ?

YES, this.

Listening to it on CD vs SACD/DSD file won’t make much of a difference if the album wasn’t recorded and mastered properly!

There’s no question these hi-res formats have a higher potential for sonic nirvana, but only if you start with a good recording. And after that it’s the law of diminishing returns. I think my stereo is very good, with nice mid-fi components. But it’s not an esoteric six-figure system, and I don’t have the need/time/inclination to split gnat hairs on questionable* comparisons. I’d rather listen to the music.

*When I say “questionable” I don’t mean they don’t exist. I just mean that if I need to A/B them until the cows came home and picked one by flipping a coin, it’s just not worth it to me.

I think you’re on the right track. :slight_smile:

If I take the Raspberry Pi route (ALLO DigiOne Signature), it seems most people use either RoPieee or DietPi. Which would you recommend (and why)? Or is there another OS that you recommend?


I went RoPieee based on recommendations here that it’s Roon-ready out of the box, and can accommodate HQPlayer/NAA integration.

This beginner’s guide i found indispensible!

I didn’t even try DietPi.

Yep Roipeee is a Linux OS with Roon Bridge incorporated its designed especially for Roon . I use the XL version which has DLNA and Airplay support as well its the same install as in the above doc just a different download

The author is an active member of this forum and is exceedingly helpful if you get stuck (@spockfish)

It takes a few minutes to get the Pi up and after that it “Just Works”

I did some investigating into ALLO DigiOne Signature and discovered they also have a USBridge Signature. Since my amplifier (Cambridge Audio CXA80) has both USB and S/PDIF input options, I contacted ALLO to ask which they would recommend, and they provided a general comment back that it depends on the DAC and they can’t advise.

Does anyone in the group have particular thoughts on this?


i know this was a while ago, but just saw the thread…

I have a CXA80, and its USB is limited to 192kHz – so the sample rate would be the same for both USB and S/PDIF inputs.

If it were me, I’d just give the RaspPi a try on its own to start, and go USB out to the CXA80.

Give it some listening time. It might sound great on its own. But then for sure you’ll have a good history of the sound so you can compare with any new HAT.

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