Linux and Hifiberry DAC+ Zero audio tuning

Greetings audio geeks. I have recently developed an interest in high samples / bits rates audio. This comes from discussions with my old man, an avid music and hifi enthusiast for the best part of the last 55 years. We where really wondering if pushing more bits in his existing sound system would make a real difference.

Our baseline:

  • TEAC ESOTERIC SA-10 source with standard CDs
  • DCS Delius DAC
  • AIR TIGHT AM-201 amp
  • Kithara speakers

This setups rocks and provide me a solid 8.5 on the Zen Subjective Enjoyment Scale ™

The taught process:

  • I have no source that can feed dual AES or 1394 to the Delius and the gear that would work is quite expansive. Spending a few grands to experiment is out of the question.
  • Cheaper DAC supporting high bit rates exist but I feel that the cheap stuff might be prosumer components for more than what I wana pay.
  • DACs for the raspberry pi exist and they are too cheap to pass.

So 2 weeks ago I go myself a zero + the hifiberry DAC+.

Testing this on my crappy amp yield solid results (Harmon Kardon AVR 75 + B&W DM1) . This is better than anything I own! I could not wait for this weekend’s trip at my Dad’s!

We first tested multiple formats (the samples from www.2l.no & the Goldberg variations interpreted by Kimiko Ishizaka) with the Pie connected to the AM-201 (mplayer outputting directly to the alsa hw device) to get a feel of the device. Here is our observation: We noticed a differences between the 16 and 24 bits file. It was more transparent and sweeter. We could not ear any differences between 96 and 192khz do. We also found that the overall texture of the diverse files was a tad metallic, piercing for the high of violins and that the low where bloated and blowing. Not something I had observed at my place.

Unfortunately, I did not had a CD and high quality files coming from a unique master to make a direct comparison so I went with the next best thing I had: a bit perfect CD rip (Beethoven interpreted by Vengerov and recorded in the early 2000’s) from the pie and compared to the TEAC+DCS combo. The observations where the same as for the high bit rate sample files but more flagrant: Metallic texture, aggressive highs and woofing lows bit way more flagrant as we where able to make a more direct comparison.

Now the question: Anyone as experience tuning the sound of a hifiberry DAC+ Zero? I am really curious to see how much I can squeeze out out this little thing but I am not sure whats the best road. So far, I am reading up on LADSPA and alsaeq but pointers would be appreciated. I am taking anything, from audio engineering principles to Linux audio internals considerations ;)


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