All right, this one is long overdue..
Allo.com was kind enough to send me their revised “Boss 1.2” RPi HAT DAC so that I could do a comparison to their already “best VFM” Boss DAC (that I had looked at about a year back).
For reference, this is the old Boss:
and this is the new one:
The new DAC features improved clocking (making use of the new “audio grade” “SDA” oscillators from NDK), improved powering scheme (including the addition of a USB type C port for dedicated external power as well as a new layout), and improved filtering capacitors in the output stage.
In order to do a fair comparison, I had to keep all external parameters the same. That meant using two identical Raspberry Pi 3 boards, running the same distribution (Archphile), with same settings, powered from separate but identical power supplies, using the same audio cables, into 2 inputs of my preamp.
Both of the DACs had run for several hours (or even days..) as a “burn-in period”.
Power was delivered through a couple of identical custom-made USB power-only cables and data came in from a file server located several rooms away, through a single ethernet switch.
Control was through Archphile’s ympd web-based MPD client.
I sync’ed the playback of the RPis as best as I could and I set about switching between the two DACs by selecting either one or the other input in my preamp. The volume needed no adjustment – the two DACs output the same signal amplitude (not measured but fairly certain..).
I used a small number of test tracks, representative of both high quality recordings as well as contemporary pop music.
After some considerate going back and forth, I came to a conclusion. The new Boss 1.2 is a definitive improvement on the original Boss. The differences are not night-and-day, but they are there.
The 1.2 manages to have better bass extension, without sacrificing control. It also does a better job of placing the instruments in space, while also managing to sound more realistic – the vocals sound more real, the acoustic guitar sounds more like an actual guitar, and so on.
All of these “symptoms” are classic signs of less jitter being present in the system. So Allo.com’s choice of new audio-grade oscillators and the changes they made to the power supplies have paid off.
Good job keeping the title of “best VFM DAC HAT”. 🙂