Streamer transport price range - upgrade from Allo Digione Signature

Hi all,

I am trying to plan my next upgrade of my set up, which is in a higher-end category. I am using speakers and amps from a local custom hi-fi maker, so I’m not going to bother listing all components, since nobody here would know them anyway. But to give you an idea, the sound quality coming from the speakers is similar to the level of ~20K USD speaker price level from regular hi-fi brands and the amps/DAC are adequate to that level.

The setup is very transparent, and except having strong energy and dynamics, it does not have any specific sound characteristic. It’s just realistic and sounds as the source that is connected to the DAC/pre-amp.

So naturally I am looking to upgrade my source as a next step. Today I am using Rpi4 with Allo Digione Signature, powered by Allo Shanti LPS.

My big question is what kind of price range I should be looking at if I want an upgrade that’s worth it, not just something cosmetic that only changes sound signature, but something that really brings it to next level? Recently I have purchased Denon DCD 1600 NE CD/SACD player, and it sounds better vs. streaming through my Rpi setup with Allo (regardless if I use analog or digital out from the CD player, so it’s not a DAC question). Although the differences are not significant, I like the sound from CD player more as it’s more plastic, with more detailed bass and a bit more holographic soundstage. Also, I think I’m a bit tired tinkering with Rpi and all the stuff around, so would like to look into non-Rpi one box streamer transport with coax SPDIF or preferably AES/EBU output also for that reason.

I’m just struggling to define my budget, there seems to be very little resources on the internet comparing RPi+Allo with other boxed regular streamer transports. I was always thinking that my setup should be on par with something like $2K regular streamers on the market (e.g. from Lumin), but then I’ve found some comparison with Limetree network bridge, which is like ~1K USD device and some people were saying Limetree sounded better (although no details given on how Rpi+Allo were powered, etc.)

I would appreciate any advice from someone who went the same path, I know I can’t be alone who had to deal with this. I don’t need recommendations for specific models or brands, I can do the research myself afterwards, just not sure if I should be looking at 1K, 2K or even more expensive streamer transports. Thanks!

How long have you had the new speakers in place? And, have you rethought room correction and amplification in concert with your new speakers?

That would be $0 to $0. I’m not joking, and I’m not going to engage in arguments; I’ll just say that digital transports have zero effect on sound quality when used with a good DAC. The only areas of improvement are the digital source (good mastering, not hi-res) and the analog chain, starting with the DAC, and it seems you’ve already covered the latter, so just rip you physical media and enjoy.

I have the speakers since October last year, several hundreds of hours played since then. The amps are from the same maker as the speakers and he is constructing the speakers with those amps. I don’t think there is a better match.

I’m also not using room correction at all. I’ve tried it in the past, but always sounded worse to me. I have invested about $10K in room acoustics measurement and elements, so I think my acoustics should be pretty good.

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Thanks, I respect your opinion, but I don’t think I can agree with that. If all digital transports are the same, then why is it that the digital output from my CD player sounds better than the digital output from Rpi+Allo, both going through the same DAC? FYI when doing these comparisons I’ve always compared CD in a CD player vs. bit perfect rip of that very same CD (made on my own with EAC secure mode ripping) via Roon and Rpi+Allo. But maybe the difference is Roon?

If you are comparing the output of your CD player vs the output of Roon, then you are probably not comparing apples to apples. You have to be sure that either one or the other are not “doing” things.
For example, your Denon applies AL32 Advanced Processing Plus; what is that doing to the base file?

I would compare DSD files instead of FLAC. Native DSD playback requires the stream to be untouched.

What DAC are you using?

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Well, I would say the difference should not be in DAC processing, because as I mentioned above, I don’t hear any difference when I use analog out (and thus using CD player’s DAC) or digital out (and using DAC in my pre-amp). But I do hear difference when comparing analog or digital out from CD player, vs. Roon + Rpi/Allo streamer (with digital output obviously). No DSP or anything setup in Roon, the signal path is clean, so unless Roon is doing something in the background, there should not be anything weird in the signal path. I have Roon running on Intel NUC with ROCK installed and streaming via ethernet to the Rpi/Allo streamer as an endpoint.

The DAC I have is a module inside my passive pre-amp. Uses Texas Instruments PCM1794A chip. It’s from a local custom hi-fi components maker, so I don’t think you will be familiar with that. But you can read something about the DAC / pre-amp in a review here. It’s in Czech language, so need to use a translator if you don’t want to just look at the photos.

Good point about trying out DSD to dismiss any processing whatsoever. However it’s quite difficult to do - I have some SACD’s, but ripping those SACD’s to play them through the Roon/streaming path is rather difficult and I don’t have equipment for it. Not to mention Allo Digione does not do DSD and hence it gets converted to PCM by Roon anyway.

Are you sure it doesn’t do DSD64 DoP? I’m pretty sure mine does, although, I’m at work an cannot check it out at the moment.

Looks like it’s an upsampling algorithm, which as you point out would account for the difference if applied to both the analog and digital outputs .

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Which means that there is also a filter of some type being applied.

Sorry, what I meant is my DAC does not support DSD. Allo maybe does, but I always had it connected to a DAC with no DSD support, so not really sure and dont really care :slight_smile:

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Alright, that might be the case, which would also explain why analog and digital sound the same to me, but different to the streamer path. I always thought this processing is applied only on analog, as it’s somehow part of the internal DAC and since analog and digital sound the same, I thought this does not really make any impact or difference.

But what does that mean? That if I go for some $4-5K streamer transport, which was the maximum I was thinking to pay for such a component instead of my Allo setup, that there shouldn’t be any significant difference in sound quality?

Correct. It will give you bragging rights though, directly proportional to the price.

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This Burr Brown (<$10) makes a good DAC that supports PCM up to 24bit 192kHz, when implemented well, but it is certainly no more accomplished than your transport, which should have no impact on audio given its specification. Indeed, USB from the RPi shouldn’t either. Like @Marian, I’m not going to be drawn into a debate.

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I’m open for all opinions, so thanks for your feedback. The Rpi/Allo solution is not very common in the region where I live, or perhaps people that have it just don’t share their experience. Maybe I’m really looking at wrong things. I don’t think I’m going to replace my DAC now and I’m no expert to judge which DAC chip is the best. According to the maker of my electronics, the TI chip measured best for him and there was no intention to implement USB, which I can happily live with.

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It is a well regarded DAC chip and does have good measurements. My point is that the Allo is equally well-designed, so spending thousands on another transport will not result in much, if any, improvement.

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It’s a curveball suggestion, that doesn’t really answer your original post and certainly doesn’t save you money.

But if you are on good terms with the engineer who made your pre-amp, would he be open to incorporating a RPi inside the preamp’s enclosure to act as a digital transport and nicely mounting an ethernet port and/or an external antenna on the back of the enclosure?

Depending on his expertise, which it sounds like he has plenty of, he might be able to use the I2S output from the Pi directly without the need for a Digi HAT. It may even be a project he hasn’t thought of taking on up till now, but that could be a nice add-on for his other customers,

I can’t see it improving sound quality, but it would be one single unit rather than two and knowing that the same engineer who custom built your preamp also custom built a RPi endpoint / source into it and tested/measured everything to ensure it’s working as well as it should, has some cool bragging rights :wink:

It’s spending money for the sake of it and I don’t know your circumstances, but like watches and designer furniture, sometimes it’s just nice to have nice things for no other reason than they are well made/designed — not that they are necessarily ‘better’.

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I think your streamer, while modestly priced, is already pretty close to the state of the art, particularly when most modern DACs reclock anyway.

I’m a big fan of RME’s kit. Perhaps take a look at the ADI2 dac and use it with your existing Pi/Allo.

You are not going to know how a streamer or bridge is going to sound like unless you can listen to it in your system. If I were you, I would find a $1000 bridge like the Limetree that I could buy, try, and return and test it with your system. Then I would do the same thing with a different device that maybe costs more and determine if any of these devices sound better or different than your Allo DigiOne. Last year, I auditioned three streamers before I found a fourth device that I liked enough to keep.

I think that the Raspberry Pi devices are clunky, and although they are inexpensive and sound good, I prefer products that are more polished. If you want to find some other streamers or network bridges that you want to consider, you should check out the Hans Beekhuyzen Channel YouTube. Hans has done a bunch of reviews on streamers and bridges and those reviews will provide you with some comparisons on product features and his perceived views on sound quality.

Thanks for the feedback. I don’t think my DAC is any worse than the one in RME. I’ve done some listening tests on both and actually preferred my DAC. On top of that RME also functions as a pre-amp, which I don’t need. But I like all the DSP / EQ options RME offers, although also not really need it since I can do all I need in Roon DSP section.