June 2019
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Raspberry Pi 4 promises desktop performance from an SBC

By | June 24th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

A new version of the Raspberry Pi small board computer (SBC), announced today, brings with it some hefty hardware changes whilst holding the asking price to US$35. Version 4 (Model B) of the world’s most well-known and widely adopted SBC kicks the processor specification up the stairs from the RPi 3B+’s quad-core Cortex A53 to Broadcomm’s BCM2711 that features 4 x 1.5GHz A72 cores.

A more substantial hardware upgrade comes in the form of more RAM. The Raspberry Pi Version 4 Model B gives us 1GB of DDR4 RAM as standard with options for 2GB and 4GB that successively add US$10 to the board’s asking price.… Read the full article

Radxa’s Rock Pi S as a $10 network streamer?

By | June 23rd, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

SBC. Small board computer. The most well-known is the Raspberry Pi, deployed in the audiophile world as a network bridge that, with the appropriate operating system loaded onto its microSD card, adds Roon Ready, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Squeezebox and Airplay streaming functionality to any direct-connected DAC: Ethernet/WiFi in, USB out. The RPi’s main appeal is its price: €35.

Now lesser-known SBC-manufacturer Radxa wants to offer us similar functionality but from a smaller, cheaper device. The Chinese company’s Rock Pi S is built around a quad-ARM-core Rockchip RK3308 with 256Mb of RAM.… Read the full article

Prize giveaway #10: Roon for your room

By | June 19th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

I woke from a nightmare. I was sat, alone in a room, a pair of 2m-tall floorstanding loudspeakers bearing down on me with all the force of “Tin Pan Alley”; snaking from the car engine-sized monoblock amplifiers that internally flanked each loudspeaker were 2-inch thick power cords; sitting further back, a double-width rack with power conditioner, pre-amplifier and outboard power supply, phono stage and outboard power supply, tube-loaded D/A converter and a high-mass turntable whose platter would be heavy enough to sink a small boat; bass traps were judiciously placed in each corner; a 2m square diffusion panel adorned the front wall; absorption panels lined the side walls.… Read the full article

A short film about the Volumio Primo

By | June 18th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Holes — dug by little moles. Logitech and AURALiC. The former’s Squeezebox Touch – a frugalphile favourite – was discontinued in 2012. The latter’s Aries Mini – another goto entry-level streamer – quietly slipped away in 2018. Those are big holes to fill.

Stepping forward is Volumio, coders of the SBC OS of the same name. The Italian company’s first piece of hardware, the Primo network streamer (€379), mounts an ESS Sabre DAC board to an Asus Tinkerboard S to convert Ethernet or Wifi inputs to digital S/DPIF (up to 24bit/192kHz) or analogue (up to 24bit/192kHz, DSD128).… Read the full article

OnSight: an afternoon at Berlin’s SENIC

By | June 16th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

The move from CDs to rips, downloads and cloud streaming has robbed us of the button pushes one used to open and close a CD player drawer, to play the CD, to pause it, to skip tracks and, in many cases, the immense satisfaction of using a rotary to adjust the volume. Many of us now control music playback and volume with a smartphone (and little else).

One downside (especially when the phone rings with an incoming call) is that we must pull the smartphone from a pocket, unlock it – with fingerprint, finger-drag or PIN – before launching the control app (Sonos, BluOS, Roon, etc.) that allows us to hit pause or finger-slide the volume downwards.… Read the full article

Schiit introduce Ragnarok the Second

By | June 13th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , |

Let’s cut the Schiit. The Californian company’s second-generation Ragnarok is a 60wpc Class A/B integrated amplifier with a dedicated headphone amplifier on board. Or it’s a powerful 24 Watt balanced – or 6 Watt single-ended, not for IEMs – headphone amplifier armed also with loudspeaker outputs.

The new version ups the ante on its predecessor in numerous ways. Here are five highlights:

1) an all-new modular design for MM phono and multi-bit DAC boards.

2) an IR wand that handles volume control and input selection.… Read the full article

Amazon Echo Link review follow-up

By | June 13th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , |

We’ve already seen how Amazon’s Echo Link (US$199/€199) can add Alexa-powered streaming to a hi-fi system, albeit with mixed results: the unit’s internal DAC implementation is an also-ran and its 3.5mm headphone output has music sounding distant and foggy. An external DAC is all but mandatory for discerning listeners moving our Alexa conversation from one to three boxes.

Furthermore, the Echo Link doesn’t give voice to Alexa responses. They still come from (in my case) a nearby Echo Dot. The Link’s analogue output, fed into an integrated amplifier, sounds a little better than the Dot’s…but this SQ delta casts the Link’s asking price as difficult to swallow.… Read the full article

A short film about the Amazon Echo Link

By | June 11th, 2019|Categories: DAR|Tags: , , , , , |

Formally introduced last year, the Echo Link from Amazon gives us Alexa-powered music streaming for US$199/€199. An Ethernet socket hardwires the Echo Link into a home network; the Amazon Alexa app facilitates a wireless connection. Round back, a pair of digital inputs – coaxial and TOSLINK – and analogue outputs allow this little black box to function as a standalone DAC; the circuit is built around a Cirrus Logic CS42526 chip.

It was in this D/A conversion scenario that I heard the Echo Link come up short on hundred-dollar DACs like the Schiit Modi 3 and the AudioQuest DragonFly Black.… Read the full article

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