If you rather like the look of the well regarded Volumio Primo, but don't need the DAC as you have your own solution, then why not build an identical streamer without the DAC? This is my thinking as I've been evaluating the Mutec MC-3+ USB reclocker, which is a superb product.
Headless streamer with USB output for USB reclocker or USB DAC
Running Volumio or MyVolumio (for Qobuz/Tidal streaming)
Well shielded, small, running from 5V power
Similar or better sound quality than the Volumio Primo (depending on external DAC)
Asus Tinker Board S (not the cheaper non-S version)
Akasa A-RA03-M1B aluminium case (or alternative Pi/Tinker Board case)
Linear or supercap 5V 3A PSU (I use my Coherent QP-1 PSU)
Footers (I use Black Ravioli Pads x 2)
High quality USB cable (I use a JuiceBitz USB power cable and AudioQuest Carbon USB signal cable)
The total cost of the board and case is about £115.
The Asus Tinker Board S has a couple of real technical advantages over the Raspberry Pi. Firstly, it features a proper 1 Gbps ethernet adapter not shared with the USB subsystem. The USB 2.0 outputs are therefore capable of full bandwidth - important if you intend streaming 24/192 or higher bitrate hi-res music. Secondly, it is very fast (reportedly faster than many small PC solutions) meaning that the GUI, streaming and indexing will all be a lot quicker. Thirdly, if you must use wi-fi then there is provision for an external aerial.
I'm glad you're doing this, Martin, because I was contemplating having a tinker (see what I did there) with the Tinkerboard. Now I can watch your progress before I bugger anything up myself.
One thing I'd be interested to hear is the audio quality from the standard on-board audio out, which is advertised as 192K/24 bit. I'm now glad that I thought to opt for the xmos usb module when I bought my new DAC.
I think we tend to get a bit caught up in our "hobby" at times, Jules. We imagine that everybody should realise that the inherent flexibility of a transport plus an outboard DAC if far superior to an all-in-one system. It's another facet of the "separates" versus "systems" argument. Not everyone is prepared, or able, to fork out thousands of pounds, and many man-hours constantly tinkering (No pun intended this time) with their systems, swapping cables, messing with the way mains electricity is actually fed into a system, trying to match components to achieve the maximum synergy within one's system etc. They just want to spend a few hundred pounds, and spend it just the once, to play their CDs or MP3s.
Like it or not we (and I'm probably on the far-flung fringes of hi-fi obsessiveness) are niche. Sanyo, Yamaha, and the rest, are never going to shift enough units to make it worth their while, and even if they did produce one most hi-fi nuts would just sneer at the "jap crap" unless it was absolutely brilliant, and then they'd still probably take a whole lot of convincing.
You’re talking about a totally different market Paul. Those who want all-in-one systems at different price-points are already very well catered for. I’m thinking of those who spend time on forums like ours and have the money and interest to spend on separates, on differing budgets of course.
In terms of manufacturers, the likes of Matrix, what you might call a ‘niche’ manufacturer (and their products are not cheap) produce a wide range of streamers, but all with integrated DACs. I don’t see why a transport only streamers can’t do well aimed at the right audience. Surely ALLO have done ok?
After doing a bit of a search I found that Cyrus actually make a transport but seems a bit optimistically priced at over £1500. Maybe it’s mind-blowing of course …
ASUS Tinker Board S - Oehlbach XXL MasterClock - Topping D70 DAC - Chinese RVC - Audio Synthesis Desire Decade - Sonus Faber Venere 2.5
Yep, the standard CPU heatsink and underclocking should cope.
It doesn't use the standard config.txt file so more learning to do.
Yes, I was thinking about that. Obviously, from the start I'll be using it completely unmodified. From the USB point of view I'm wondering if there is actually any gain from throttling the Tinker Board back, thereby losing out on of its main advantages, speed.
Worth noting that ifi have a couple of other products for cleaning up a USB signal. There's the iPurifier3, and the - more serious - micro iUSB3. I've tried the former and found that, in my set up (where the USB stream is already pretty clean), it makes a subtle but pleasant difference. I'd be interested to try the micro iUSB3.
Also, does the Mutec draw any power via the USB cable? If so, a simple thing to try would be a 5v injector cable (like this) which would enable you to feed it clean power from a battery, or other supply, rather than drawing power from the streamer.
Even so, it may still be that it's drawing power via the USB cable - at least, with numerous USB DACs that have their own supplies, their USB interfaces are still powered by the USB 5v. If you have a spare USB cable that you're happy to mutilate, you could test by breaking off the power pin in the connector and then checking whether it still works with the Mutec's USB input.