Pi-DAC+ — An Audiophile’s HAT for the Raspberry Pi

Earlier, you may have faced problems with sound cards for your single board computer, the Raspberry Pi (RBPi). It is time to look for a DAC or Digital to Analog Converter that is simple to use and easy to set up to work with your RBPi. The IOAudio HAT fits the bill very well and you can use it to learn your way around the audio capabilities of the RBPi.

The earlier cards for the RBPi had a long series of compiling issues that left their users yearning for a simpler card. The Pi-DAC+ HAT from IOAudio is compatible to RBPi models A+, B+ and RBPi 2. It brings to the RBPi the ability of playing back full-HD audio up to 24-bits/192KHz. Additionally, the HAT is compatible with RuneAudio, Volumio, Moode and many others.

The Pi-DAC+ HAT from IOAudio is fully HAT compliant. It meets all the requirements for the Hardware Added on Top board specifications including the auto-detection by the RBPi. The Pi-DAC+ takes the digital audio signals from the RBPi and passes them through the onboard PCM5122 DAC from Texas Instruments. The output from the DAC is an analog audio signal that can be picked up from the phono connectors onboard the Pi-DAC+. The DAC also consists of a built-in electronic volume control. This eliminates the need for a physical potentiometer based volume control, which is likely to introduce noise in the audio path.

You do not need any soldering to use the Pi-DAC+ HAT with your RBPi. Simply plug it on and you are ready to go. When used for the first time, the Pi-DAC+ requires setting some configuration with the existing setup of the RBPi. If you mess up or are unable to get through, a visit to the manufacturer’s website will give you different pre-configured operating systems for your RBPi. Use them and you will find excellent sound quality from the HAT. The resulting audio output is certainly louder than and clearer than the default audio from the RBPI.

The Pi-DAC+ offers leading audio with a signal to noise ratio of 112dB and a total harmonic distortion of -93dB. The PCM5122 is a 32-bit/384KHz DAC from Texas Instruments. The board has advanced ESD protection to prevent it from handling damages. It requires no external power supply, taking all it wants from the RBPi.

If you do not have an amplifier at present, you can listen to the audio output using a headphone through the 3.5mm audio jack on the board. The board has a built-in high quality audio headphone amplifier, the TPA6133A, also from Texas Instruments. For volume control, RBPi can use ALSA, which gives a full range of control.

If you are an audiophile and an RBPi enthusiast too, the Pi-DAC+ will certainly combine both the worlds for you. You can use raw Linux, RuneAudio, Volumio, SqueezePlug, MDP, AirplaySync or similar on your RBPi and Pi-DAC+ combination for listening to internet radio, streaming music services such as Spotify or your own digital music library, in magnificent audio quality.