A Raspberry Pi DAC for the Audiophiles

Raspberry Pi (RBPi) users have several choices for using Digital to Analog Converters (DACs) when listening to music. Two of the latest DACs available in the market are discussed here. One of them is the DragonFly series from AudioQuest and the other is i-Sabre from Audiophonics. Both offer stronger and more meaningful connections between music enthusiasts and the albums, songs, videos, and artists they adore.

DragonFly USB DAC, Preamp, and Headphone Amplifier

The multi-award-winning DragonFly USB DAC, preamp, and headphone amplifier from AudioQuest is a popular product that effectively bridges the gap between extreme audiophiles and mainstream music lovers.

Plugging into the USB port of a computer, including single board computers such as the RBPi, the DragonFly bypasses the compromised audio circuitry of the computer to deliver clearer, cleaner, more natural sounding music and sound to headphones, powered speakers, and complete audio systems.

Two versions of the DragonFly are available—the Black, and a higher-performing Red version. Both versions offer 32-bit digital performance using the Microchip PIC32MX micro-controller, which draws 77% less current from what the previous micro-controllers did that AudioQuest was using. Both versions offer naturally detailed, more authentic sound thanks to the improved ESS Sabre DAC chips working at 32-bits, and using minimum-phase filtering. The DragonFly Red has the latest ESS headphone amplifier and a bit-perfect digital volume control incorporated on the 9016 DAC chip. This ensures maximum fidelity, improved signal-to-noise ratio, and high dynamic contrast.

Both versions of the DragonFly generate enough power to drive all preamplifier input circuits successfully, and they are compatible with a wide range of efficient headphones. While the Black outputs 1.2 Volts, the Red has a 2.1 Volt output and is further compatible with a wider range of power-hungry, low-efficiency models.

The iSabre ES9023

This product from Audiophonics is an I2S DAC, suitable for RBPi model 2, and it has a high precision clock onboard. It produces better quality sound as compared to the DragonFly USB DAC. The clarity is very good and the iSabre gives offers good stereo placement along with detailed high frequency reproduction. This makes the sound very transparent and optimally realistic.

The iSabre ES9023 ideally transforms the RBPi A+, B+, or 2.0 into a high-definition music file player. The converter offers a high value for money and has direct analog outputs on high-quality headers.

The converter has ultra-low noise regulators, OS-CON capacitors, which gives the DAC its musical sound and rich mono details. The HAT format allows direct access to the RBPi GPIO pins, but users have the additional choice to use I2S inputs or the USB interface.

To use the DAC, you may need to install the Hifiberry or the Hifiberry+ driver on the RBPi. The appropriate I2S card will show up on the list of audio devices in the Playback menu.

The cornerstone of a top-quality audio system depends on the accurate conversion of music and sound from the digital to the analog world. The two DACs described above do this conversion admirably. An oversampling process eliminates all the clocking inconsistencies or jitter commonly found in typical digital-to-analog conversions.