Streamer/DDC Showdown: Pi2AES vs Sotm SMS200 Ultra Neo

So I’ve been listening to the pi2aes with the shanti linear power supply from Allo for a few days now. I just disconnected the power from the pi and pi2aes and connected the mean well supply to the pi2aes and the shanti linear to the pi. I could have just powered it with the mean well supply but I didn’t want to reconnect the jumper so I figured that leaving the pi powered by the shanti and just changing how the pi2aes HAT is powered would be fine. So to clarify this is a comparison between the pi2aes powered by the mean well supply and the pi2aes powered by the 5v 1a output of the shanti supply. In both cases the pi is powered separately by the 5v 3a output of the shanti and the jumper on the pi2aes is removed.

For this test I used the Ether CX as they isolate well and are pretty flat sounding. The main song I used to test this is California Soil by London Grammar as I am familiar with it and it has a good variety of things going on like vocals, cymbal hits, and bass but isn’t too busy sounding. For my test the volume was matched as I left the amp volume position in the same position while swapping the power connection to the pi2aes.

I do think that powering the pi2aes with the linear power supply as opposed to the mean well supply sounds better overall. When I first connected the mean well supply it just seemed wrong. It sounded thinner with less dynamics and the details were more “squished” together. I do think that improving the psu improves the imaging and separation and I think in this case the overall tonality was just more pleasing too. I have no science to back this up as these are just my listening impressions so do take this with a grain of salt.

If you have a pi2aes and willing to invest in a linear psu or just a higher quality power supply I do think that the upgrade is worthwhile.

Here’s a picture of my setup with a new dark acrylic case on the pi2aes so I don’t have a rpi light show in my room when I go to bed.

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It’s such a good little product. I wish someone would be a more audiophile case for it so I could display it proudly in my main 2 channel system. (vanity, I know)

Currently I use mine in my desktop so I can bypass the PC when I’m going to critically listen or just want the max from my gear.

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Thanks for this mod/tweak!

I was just about to grab a LPS 24vdc supply (Currently using the meanwell)
I found a nice one on Aliexpress with 1uv noise.

Now I can continue to use my ifi power x for both the PI and Pi2aes hat.
Off to my local electronics store tomorrow to pick up the pin adapters and DC terminal.

Many thanks.

Mod done…

Just a tip!, if you are installing a 2.1/2.5mm DC socket into the pi2aes case, make sure you take your time when drilling. Start with a small drill bit size, and increase your hole size slowly. This should prevent the case from cracking, as I did on the HDMI/DC side plastic rushing the process.


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When reading through this thread it seems as if the SPS500 is a big winner here. When doing some research I regularly find indication that people have gotten significant improvements by replacing this SPS500 with a decent LPS like the Farad Super 3 or similar.

Is it also the consensus here that the Sotm Ultra Neo can be improved beyond the SQ with the SPS500 combo and is it worth it? I’ve heard the ultra neo+sps500 combo and its difficult to imagine a significant improvement by using a better LPS. I’m trying to balance the possible extra SQ of a higher quality LPS versus the matching styling of the ultra neo+sps500.

Anybody any experience comparing the Sotm Ultra Neo with SPS500 vs another LPS?

IMO there’s more to be gained by introducing a good reclocker than a better LPS. A better LPS will improve it but it’s not the weakest link, the SMS Ultra Neo will scale more with improved clocking.

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Much appreciate the feedback, I think I hear my wallet crying…

When you talk about improved clocking, do you mean the USB reclocker or the external master clock?

LOL the external master clock will make your wallet succumb, not just cry.

A good reclocker will take the USB out from the SOtM and make it better, there are a number of them out there, probably the best bang for the buck at the moment is the Singxer SU2. You do need a good power supply for the SOtM but there was a lot of improvement when using a DDC reclocker. If you want to keep the “look” ofd the chassis you can probably get the SOtM TX but i think for the price there’s more gain with the Sinxer SU2

In my case there’s also the matter that using the BNC input is better in the DAC I’m using (Lampizator Amber 3) than using USB as the input source. So the SOtM having only USB out was limiting.

Indeed, my wallet was already gasping when I typed ‘external master clock’

The SU2 is an interesting device but I’m partly looking at Sotm for its USB output. That being said, I’m suffering from DAC upgraditis at the moment and I’m mainly eyeballing Holo Audio for that. There USB is not the best feed so a SU2 would be ideal to put in between but then I wonder if it will add benefit with PLL enabled. The neverending audio adventure… Again, thanks for the comments, food for thought.

With devices like the Pi2AES available (and VERY affordable), why even bother with USB? Since I got a couple of those, USB and all the associated nervosa is out the window.

Agreed, the Pi2aes is a noticeable improvement over a USB PC or RPI output into my RME ADI2 fs. Noticeably in decay tails, and top end.

If anyone wants to see some testing of the Pi2AES and some other DDCs I’ve posted results on my website.
Also I’ve posted a comparison of the stock psu vs 5v direct mod with an ifi iPower PSU

Audio-GD DI-20HE (Got a brand new unit arriving today so will re-test at somepoint):

ifi Zen Stream:

pi2design Pi2AES:

Singxer SU-6:

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You wouldn’t happen to have a ifi Zen Stream video review coming anytime soon? I feel like there’s an absolute lack of good information on this unit. Given your foray into the DDC / Streamer segment, it would be very nice to hear what you have to say about it.

So far it’s pretty much just ifi themselves with info out there on it, plus the odd reviewer that did some quick comparisons to the Bluesound Node. A comparison that was mostly glanced over due to their price being similar.

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I will have a video coming yes.
It’s a fantastic little unit. Absolutely exceptionally low noise on the digital outs, so both SPDIF and USB get an incredibly clean signal and power (on USB).
Jitter is VERY low too, not upto the same level as a DI20HE or SU6, but still exceptional and there would be no reason to upgrade from it for most dacs.

The software has been easy to use, it seems its volumio based. My only gripe is that it’s limited to DSD256/PCM384khz, so for those of us who use HQPlayer or have DSD512 content, that’s a no-go.

Also, not entirely sure why, but I’ve had two USB cables that don’t work with it (including a Curious Evolved USB Cable), whilst others are fine. No idea why.

All in all stellar performance for the price, avoids the DIY setup of some other options, a great product.
BUT, will have to wait and see what the pi2design mercury streamer is like, cause that could end up being really good

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Fantastic, I’ll look forward to it.

I might dive on it myself soon anyway, so I’ll have something neat to test during my upcoming vacation. I don’t really have the gear or knowledge to test its performance against anything else though so I’ll be looking forward to your review.

One thing I’d be very interested in, how would these units work if you have several of them in a home setup? Can you customize the end-point name for it in the settings? It would be neat for multi-room systems or desktop and separate stereo setups.

This is absolutely a plus in my book, which is also one of the negative points put forward in the few reviews and comments I’ve seen about it. Lots of people in comments on youtube saying it’s overpriced, you can get other alternatives for much cheaper etc. Which is true depending on your reference. But it also involves a lot of setting things up yourself with software, hardware and soldering, at least for the pi2aes. This is more or less a one click setup in comparison. Plus it comes with a nice PSU, which puts it apart from most other units.

I’d love to see your thoughts on the douk u2 pro over i2s if possible. It comes in a $55, $~$100, and $200 version with the most expensive having 2 crystek femtosecond clocks. I plugged my $55 one into my gustard x16 through i2s (channels were swapped but whatever) and the difference is massive. So much that it makes me want to try the $200 one. Sub bass control skyrocketed and so did separation. I genuinely didn’t think there was that much more detail to be had out of the same dac which was already to my ears extremely good and way better than the smsl m400 i previously had.

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Had any chance to also test a Pro-ject S2 Stream Box Ultra? Its making similar claims as the Ifi Zen Stream and has been (co-)designed by John Westlake…

Just an update, I ended up 2x my ground and power feeds because I was experiencing inadequate power to the Pi with the power mod (Flashing lighting symbol).

For this I used pins 1 and 2 for 5dv, and 3 and 7 for gnd. Doubling effective cable core size.
Fixed the issue. Power supply was the ifi power x.



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Hi GoldenOne, first time posting here!! First of all a big thanks to you for posting your measurements and sharing your thoughts about the pi2aes which really helped me in my decision to get one!!!
Received my pi2aes recently and are extremely happy with the sound!!! I have a silly question that probably has been asked before (my apology) with regards to whether I can use my own linear power supply @ 24V1A? Will it be sufficient to drive both the pi2aes and the rpi4? Or would you suggest I should remove the jumper and use the 24v1 lps to power the Pi2aes and use separate power supply to power the rpi4?

Thanks

Deric

Have any of you run into negative effects as a result of long-term use of the 5v mod?
I know Michael Kelly said it would “bypass the protection circuitry at the 24V input.” And consequently “any voltage spikes, ESD, etc will pass into the device and the Pi.”
Seeing if you folks have encountered any of these issues (or heard of someone affected by this).
Not that I’m doubting that these malfunctions could actually happen-- quite the opposite, honestly. I just would like to know how prevalent these conditions have led to hardware damage.
If you did this mod, is your Pi2AES still going strong? Even through power outages and storms, etc?
I have the Meanwell PSU recommended with the stock config and think it’s ok… but I do have access to jumper wires to perform the mod if necessary.
I also wonder if one of the cheaper [<$150] 24v linear PSU would give me any significant sonic improvements over the iFi iPower 5v, while being the “safer” option…
:thinking:
BTW, I absolutely love this thing! I have it running MoOde and outputting FLAC from Foobar [BNC > Gumby; IIS > D70S].
Lastly, I have a Burson Soloist 3X otw [and am selling my beloved SA-1. Interested? Shoot me a PM]. The Burson is also coming with the new Super Charger 3A upgrade PSU. I will most certainly use this one the intended way [with the Soloist 3X], but was curious if anyone knew whether the Super Charger would be compatible with the Pi2AES?
Thanks and God Bless!!!