DSD Files w/ iFi Micro iDSD Black Label + RPi 3

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DSD Files w/ iFi Micro iDSD Black Label + RPi 3

Postby JohnC » 24 Jan 2017, 20:17

I did a little research before getting the new iFi Micro iDSD Black Label, but could not confirm online if the DAC would work with RPi 3 as an external DAC via USB. I took the plunge anyway ... after a couple of weeks of mixing and matching, I am happy to report that it works very well. Below is the setup that works for me:

    - Raspberry Pi 3 with RuneAudio v0.3-beta (with onboard WiFi and Bluetooth disabled);
    - DAC: iFi Micro iDSD Black Label with DSD Support enabled in MPD via RuneAudio interface (iFi DAC shows up as an option automatically in the DAC selection drop down within MPD, with no additional configurations necessary);
    - Interconnect: A DIY USB cable that separate the 5V power from RPi via USB and connect it to a linear PSU to power the iFi Micro iDSD BL + a pair of KnuKonceptz Krux RCA cable;
    - Storage for DSD files: USB flash drive*;
    - DSD file type: tested up to DSD256 files with no issues (I don't have any DSD files above 256);
    - Amplifier: DIY kit tube amp; and
    - Headphone: Sony MDR-7506 monitor & Sennheiser Momentum 2.

    *I tried to stream from my NAS (HDD) via a 5GHz WiFi network but I got a few dropping off (skips) while playing a 10 mins DSD64 files, and a lot of dropping off for DSD128 files regardless how large the buffer I set. I suspect that it is limited by either the WiFi speed or access time of the hard drive in my NAS. So I turned to a 128GB USB 2.0 flash drive.

While it is unclear to me whether RuneAudio passes on direct DSD data stream or DSD over PCM (DoP) via USB to the DAC, iFi iDSD BL shows the correct file types and quality/rates that RuneAudio is supposed to transmit.

I did a comparison by streaming the same tune (Limehouse Blues from Jazz at the Pawnshop ("JATPS")) from the following sources:

    - Spotify (Extreme Quality - 320kbps, I believe)
    - PCM 24bit/96kHz
    - DSD64
    - DSD256^

    ^My copy of the JATPS was digitized at analog to DSD128. I got the DSD256 version just for testing the playback capability of my setup.

Going down this list gives an ascending order of quality in terms of clarity, openness and analog-like sound, except 24bit/96kHz vs. DSD64 that are about to same to my ears. I may try to upgrade my interconnects to pure silver cables to see if the sound would open up further. But at the moment, I am pretty happy with the result already.

Note: Unlike HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro, the above set up however does NOT work with AirPlay from my iPhone/iPad. But, the DAC+ Pro does not play DSD files. BTW, HiFiBerry does not play DSD files using Volumio with DoP enabled neither, although someone in the HiFiBerry forum suggested otherwise. At least, I couldn't get it to work. I prefer RuneAudio over Volumio anyway as Rune is a lot more stable with my setup.

Just wanted to share the above and hopefully some of you find it helpful.

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Joined: 08 Nov 2016, 18:51

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