Raspberry Pi audio boards for your hi-fi projects

Back in 2020, we welcomed the IQaudio family of hi-fi audio products into the Raspberry Pi family. This was the first, and so far only, time we’ve acquired electronic products from someone else, rather than developing them ourselves: that we made an exception for IQaudio is a testament to what Gordon, Sharon, and Andrew had built together.

codec zero audio board
Raspberry Pi Codec Zero audio board

The line-up offers you a lot of choice, depending on your preferences and use-case. The $20 DAC+, our lowest-cost audio HAT, and $25 DAC Pro, our highest-fidelity HAT, are both designed for use with an external amp. Then there’s the $30 DigiAMP+ with an integrated amplifier on board, which together with a Raspberry Pi offers a complete hi-fi in an exceptionally compact package. Lastly there’s Codec Zero, a low-cost audio I/O board at $20: sporting LEDs and a tactile button, it supports a range of audio input and output devices, making it a terrific starting point for all kinds of homebrew projects. If you’re not sure which board you need, we’ve got a handy comparison guide for you.

Raspberry Pi DigiAMP+ audio board
Raspberry Pi DigiAMP+ audio board

We’re marking the second anniversary of the acquisition by making all four former IQaudio products a bit more Raspberry Pi-like. Buy a DAC+, DAC Pro, DigiAMP+, or Codec Zero from one of our Approved Resellers today, and you’ll likely end up with a green Raspberry Pi-branded board, replacing the original black colour scheme. And the eagle-eyed among you will notice a few minor layout and connector changes, aimed at making the boards simpler and quicker to manufacture: this sort of continuous design‑for‑manufacturability work is the hallmark of all Raspberry Pi products.

Raspberry Pi DAC Pro audio board
Raspberry Pi DAC Pro audio board

Despite the changes, you’ll get the great hi-fi-quality sound you expect from IQaudio, and the low prices you expect from us. And, of course, the boards are still made here in the UK, with Bedford-based Asteelflash taking over from Ashgill Electronics.

Raspberry Pi DAC+ audio board
Raspberry Pi DAC+ audio board

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered. Toby, our Maker in Residence, has made a toy chatterbox tutorial which you can follow along with: it’ll take you all the way from a standing start to making a box that burps. Of course, if burping’s not your thing, you can make your box emit whatever noises you like.

With that in mind, we made one for the office.

17 comments
Jump to the comment form

Avatar

Always happy to count on these boards for adding quality audio to projects (the Dac Pro is unbeatable in this category). This color suits them very well ;)
Why there is no more phoenix connectors on the DigiAMP+ board ?

Reply to laurent

Liz Upton

As Eben says in the article, we’ve altered some connectors for manufacturability reasons. Quality isn’t impacted.

Reply to Liz Upton

Avatar

Same thought about the dac+, probably the best quality for money one can find.

Reply to Chris Cauwelier

Avatar

I’ve got an iQaudio DAC+ atop one of my Pi 4s for hi-fi audio and it works well. Cheaper, better audio quality and more flexible than a Sonos 😎

Reply to andrum99

Avatar

Good work!
If IQaudio did any ADC-DAC boards when I bought that kind of HAT from another supplier, I would have bought it!
It would be well worth getting the word out amongst the audiophile community, positive reviews and measurements will go a long way!

Reply to Fred

Avatar

I am going to try this for my next project. Thanks for sharing.

Reply to Joy S

Avatar

Great review of Pi audio board options. Wondering if and how any of these would work with my RPI 400 which I assume would require a ribbon connector to GPIO?

Reply to Dale Steele

Avatar

If these had usb pluggable versions I’d buy several. My pi’s are inside flirc passive cooling cases.

Reply to Me

Avatar

This is a very cool development. My usual application seem different than most as I am looking for something to run DSP algorithms on to process audio emanating from another source (e.g. a guitar). So latency and freedom from glitches are really important. It would be useful to know what latency can be achieved and the ALSA/JACK settings to get there. I used a Pi3 with a Behringer UMC404 USB audio interface and I compiled SooperLooper for the Pi. The audio performance was not good in that regard as I could not get glitch free and have acceptable latency. However, I’m aware of issues with using USB in this application, so a hat using I2S would be the logical next step.

Reply to Digital Larry

Avatar

One thing that may be useful for guitar processing is that the ADCs and DACs have a ‘voice’ mode – this intended to provide lower latency than the music modes. IIRC this is available up to 16kHz sampling. However, if you are using higher sample rates, such as 48 kHz, you get nearly the same delay anyway in music mode (because the sample time is shorter). As far as OS latency is concerned, it would be great if pipewire were supported on raspberry pi os, as this is simpler to set up, and apparently more stable than JACK/ALSA, but I asked about support some months back and there are no plans to support it. The DA7212 itself has driver support in the Linux kernel, so you can change controls using the ALSA utilities, and the supplied overlays do set up a basic configuration. But I think you probably need to change the default buffer sizes to get latency down. For any sort of live music application, you want to try to keep round trip latencies to 10ms, but this is difficult to achieve, frankly.

Reply to Rob

Avatar

Good stuff. I’m always on the lookout for bargain ways to record audio-frequency signals at high resolution so I ordered a “Codec Zero” without looking too closely. It’s so cheap I just had to. However I did not see the most important numbers to me like total SNR for analog input signals. The DA7212 datasheet says SNR = 90 dB(A) TYP with no input, and THD+N = -85 dB @ -1 dBFS but that is for the bare chip, and no doubt under ideal conditions. Does anyone know what is achievable from this specific board, while connected to a Pi?

Reply to JBeale

Ashley Whittaker
Avatar

Thanks for the link. That page contains an overview and software setup, but I did not see any specs like SNR or THD+N for the analog input, unless I missed something.

Reply to JBeale

Avatar

Followup: my PI-Codec Zero board arrived today. My SNR measurement was around -88 dB(A) which is only 2 dB worse than the datasheet “TYP” spec for the chip by itself. I’d say that’s pretty good. If there’s a cleaner analog stereo input for the price, I’m unaware of it.

Reply to JBeale

Avatar

The DA7212 is a high-quality part, orihinally designed for use in smartphones (I used to work in the group that designed it). It is easily capable of achieving the data sheet specs, but you are correct that implementation of the board is important. Power supply noise is always the thing to watch out for. The aux input amplifiers are pretty good; but an electret microphone will struggle to get better than 65dB SNR, unless you use a really high quality part, just because cheap electrets are like that. By the way the inbuilt 1W amp is very good. It all depends what you are trying to do, really. For voice and music it should be excellent. For pro audio you would need something with better SNR on the ADC, say 110 dB, but these are a lot more expensive.

Reply to Rob

Avatar

Great to hear from someone involved! That is certainly true about most cheap electrets, although I have a PUI Audio one that is significantly better. I’m not doing conventional audio but other things, including sonar ranging, but I’m trying to do it cheaply. In some situations SNR corresponds directly to range and precision.

Reply to JBeale

Avatar

I’m very late to this particular thread, but can I make a request. The next time you redesign these boards, can you please – please – replace the 2.5mm barrel connector on the DigiAMP+ with a 2.1mm. A 2.5 will only accept 2.5, a 2.1 will accept both, and most 12V power supplies come with a 2.1mm. Reworking these parts is a pain (ask me how I know!)

Reply to Mike B

Leave a Comment