Double review: Raspberry Pi based Allo DigiOne Transport and Allo Boss DAC
Always interested in, and listening to music, I started my journey into head-fi with a modest Schiit Stack, comprising of the Magni 2 Uber and the Modi Multibit. (Scott Shipping Services assisted me to get them here safely all the way from Valencia, California in the US, hassle free. Thank you, Scott Kirby!) Over the last year I’ve been listening to many loaner DAC’s, amplifiers and headphones. I am very thankful for these various opportunities I had as it made me realise just how good this Schiit Stack was for the money I paid, and it made me quite proud of my purchase. I also know very well where the limits of my system are.
I use my Schiit Stack mainly at my PC. The Modi Multibit have 3 inputs: USB, Coax and Toslink. The USB is connected to my main PC for general sound, games and some dedicated listening through Foobar2000. Toslink is connected to my Chromecast Audio for listening to Google Play Music and my FLAC Library over PLEX. I use this option when I don’t need my PC to run: when I have to work or read for instance and only want to have music in the background. In this way, I reduce heat and noise generated by the PC. To switch between the two sources is as easy as a button push on the Multibit. I can then use my choice of headphones (for now, I prefer the Audeze EL8 open back headphones) or powered desktop speakers. Of the three inputs on the Modi Multibit, Toslink apparently suffers the worst from jitter. It also sounds the worst, from what I read… but it is obviously better than using analog audio from the Chromecast Audio. Toslink has one advantage though: it electrically isolates the DAC from the source to get rid of ground noise etc.
It took some time before I utilized the Coax input. I read many positive reviews about it: people had better listening experiences with Coax, even when compared to USB inputs. I too have found that sound produced through USB inputs on my Desktop PC would be polluted with all kinds of electronic noise. This motivated me to search and find the best Coax source I could afford. I wanted a source that would be super accurate and noise free, and that could serve as a high-quality dedicated listening front-end for my headphone gear. My research led me to a Raspberry Pi based solution: the Allo DigiOne Player. This is a kit that includes everything you need: a Raspberry Pi 3, an Allo DigiOne add-on board, Power Supply, SD Card, and a very nice laser cut acrylic enclosure. I ordered this from PiShop.co.za.
Through my interactions with Allo and PiShop I ended up obtaining another Allo product: the Allo Boss DAC board for the Raspberry Pi. This unexpected increase of equipment gave me so much to play with and compare that I cannot possibly put this all into one review. I failed at my attempt to strip this review down to the basics for fear of boring you with too much detail. But there is so much to share and show with clear pictures, it would be a waste to keep that info for myself.
I have therefore decided to post two separate reviews, one for the DigiOne and one for the Boss. Please note that some sections are the same in both reviews. I sometimes create references between the reviews to make reading as easy as possible. Each review provides a detailed overview and each has its own conclusion. The conclusions are labelled clearly so that the “just-give-me-the-gist-of-it” reader can jump straight to it. I trust that this approach will be helpful for a variety of shopper-personalities who want to make a good decision for their specific needs.
Review 1/2: Allo DigiOne Transport