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A review of Allo Piano 2.1 + Kali Reclocker combination as a DAC / Streamer

Wharfedale Linton Heritage Speakers

amitk777

Active Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2010
Messages
206
Points
28
Location
Hyderabad
Hi All,
This is my first review on hifivision.
From last year, I have been using this dac+reclocker combination and have been pretty happy about it.
Therefore, I felt why not write a review of this very VFM product, but whose usage is little complicated for non-techs.

Components :
--------------
Raspberry PI computer. (3.5K)
Allo Piano 2.1 is the DAC (3.5K), which has a stereo and sub output.
It can also be used in 2.0 mode , which can be set up, when you install any of the streamer software like Moode / Volumio. More on this later.
Allo Kali (3.5K) is the reclocker of the incoming signal.
I also have a power supply from Allo (0.7K) .
Setup :
------------
Install Piano on PI, and then Kali on the Piano.
It is just manual push that does it.
Connect power supply and you are good to go.
If you set it up in Dual Mono (2.0) stereo combination, then the output is from leftmost and rightmost RCA jacs from the DAC.
Dual Mono is the best sounding mode with good dynamics.

Software :
------------
Software needs to be installed on PI.
Popular ones are Moode, Volumio, Squeezebox etc.
To my ear Moode sounded the best.
Squeezebox was a bit bright.
Volumio sounded noisy but has most features.
In the DAC section of the software you install, select "Dual Mono" and also glb_mclk option for using Kali as reclocker.
I also use Roon, on any of the above software. Roon renderer can be installed. You can find the directions on Roon website.
Usage of a server computer is optional based on the above software you choose.

Compatibility
-------------
This is something I am very happy about.
PI is versatile platform, it supports Tidal ( via UPNP or plugins) , Spotify connect, Bluetooth ( requires adapter) , files etc.

Sound :
---------
I have connected PI directly to the power amp. Due to the connectivity options above, not feeling the need for a pre.
Though I have used few VFM pre-amps like Schitt SYS and a chinese tube buffer, No Pre-amp has sounded the best pre :)
Volume can be directly controlled from software.
Sound on my system is detailed , very happy with the dynamics, open and wide.
It is not harsh and I can listen for long hours.
I mostly listen to Bollywood and Indian classical. Jazz and Western classical also sound good.
I must admit my experience is very limited, and I can't compare with other costly DACs.
I however I see DAC technologies changing every year and because of the low cost of this setup , it is easy to upgrade.
I change PI dacs every year or two. I may also upgrade power supply to LPS, Allo Shanti and IPower are the options.

Thanks for reading and all the best. !! :)
 

shibashis

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2012
Messages
1,014
Points
83
Location
Kolkata
Have you compared this budget DAC combination with other mainstream options? If you have then please provide some feedback, very interested to know how it holds up to pricier options.
 

spirovious

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 10, 2008
Messages
12,436
Points
113
Location
Mumbai
Have you compared this budget DAC combination with other mainstream options? If you have then please provide some feedback, very interested to know how it holds up to pricier options.
Yes, same question from me.
 

amitk777

Active Member
Joined
Apr 18, 2010
Messages
206
Points
28
Location
Hyderabad
Have you compared this budget DAC combination with other mainstream options? If you have then please provide some feedback, very interested to know how it holds up to pricier options.
Hi Shibashish,

No, I haven't done a kind of A/B comparison. However , I recently went to the What Hifi show in Hyderabad and listened to many stereo setups, I would say I wasn't disappointed in the system I have.
Also, when I find myself , experimenting more on music side of things, rather than listening to the sound , adjusting speakers and so forth. I believe that the system is just right. Can it be upgraded? Yes, is it required so ? perhaps not.

-Amit
 

shibashis

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 20, 2012
Messages
1,014
Points
83
Location
Kolkata
Hi Shibashish,

No, I haven't done a kind of A/B comparison. However , I recently went to the What Hifi show in Hyderabad and listened to many stereo setups, I would say I wasn't disappointed in the system I have.
Also, when I find myself , experimenting more on music side of things, rather than listening to the sound , adjusting speakers and so forth. I believe that the system is just right. Can it be upgraded? Yes, is it required so ? perhaps not.

-Amit
You have great speakers and amp, so in terms of not being disappointed with the entire experience tells me it must be quite great. That is high praise for this humble DAC indeed.
 

KiranPS

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 13, 2012
Messages
141
Points
63
Location
Chennai
Great write up,

I think the DAC chipsets tech has reached its peak and getting better in terms price perfomance. Most main stream DAC vendors just tweak the PSUs and maybe add a pre, the DAC chips on their own are pretty good for their price points. I have and use allo boss with pi, parasound, Yulong Sabre and Audio Research classic DAC D2. I found allo to be best sounding for contemporary music. For older music audio research sounds a little better but is orders of magnitude more expensive.
 

firearm12

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2014
Messages
864
Points
93
Location
noida
Differences in dacs are very subtle and may not be easily identified on first listen but once you hear and get used to a better dac, its just not possible to go back to lower level. Allo piano is a decent dac with loads of details, given its price is very good. It was better than arcam rlink but not was not better than cambridge audio streammagic for me.
 

mpasanthosh

Active Member
Joined
Oct 23, 2015
Messages
123
Points
28
Location
Salem
A linear power supply makes a huge difference as well. Compared to Allos adapter my lpsu sounds so much better .
 

drkrack

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 29, 2016
Messages
1,257
Points
113
Location
Hyderabad
I have recently upgraded to Piano and Kali set up, my impressions.

I had Sparky and USB bridge setup earlier, which wasn't upto the mark when compared to HP compact PC connected to Gungnir Multibit DAC via USB port. I used it as a roon bridge but it was lacking a lot compared to windows 10 PC set up. Picked up the Kali and Piano setup as a streamer for my 2nd setup.

1. It's a pretty good DAC and Streamer under 20k as far as my experience goes. The Reclocker Kali board looks like the dark horse in the combo and it does change the SQ performance to a higher level. It has 2 subwoofer out which is a bonus, for a bookshelf setup it'll be a boon to integrate the subwoofer at source level. I have used it in dual mono config where each DAC chip takes care of each channel, whereas in dual stereo both DAC chips take care of both channels. I found dual mono to be more resolving and refined. I didn't do over sampling or I couldn't figure out how to enable glb_mclk option in volumio, l assume it's turned on by default, because Kali sits on top of Sparky in my setup and Piano sits on top of Kali board. So there's no way piano communicates with Sparky without the signal going through Kali, Correct me if wrong.

2. The Sound signature of all instruments appear quite natural With piano DAC, which is its strongest attribute. No coloration and easily likeable. The details are pretty good and sound signature is more towards brighter side of neutral in my experience YMMV. It's pretty neutral , sounds a bit thin in my setup, when compared to Cxn v2 Streamer. Though the details are better with Piano, Cxn is far better in terms of overall musicality and full bodied Warmer SQ. It's unfair to compare it with a Streamer which is 8 times costlier. Adding a linear PSU to Piano +Sparky setup might change the SQ performance to a more refined level.

3. My another DAC is Smsl Sanskrit 8th edition which is pretty harsh compared to Piano Setup. In fact if my serves me better, piano is better than my previous cheaper DACs like Smsl M8 and SU8. You can safely assume that its better than most of the cheaper DACs under 15k. In my journey with cheaper DACs I've learned that it's not about details but more about tonality, separation & overall presentation because, most of the cheaper DACs nowadays are able to extract the details easily.

4. The setup is bit tricky if you don't have Linux knowledge but not too cumbersome anyway. I had dietpi emmc pre-installed so I wanted to change to volumio setup, without emmc reader it was bit difficult. Luckily my familiarity with CLI helped me to get the volumio working on emmc.

5. The Spotify plug-in needs to be installed, I did face bit hurdles because 2 plug-in need to be installed for it to work properly with premium account. Tidal can be enabled if you go for my Volumio subscription which costs 2.1k per annum apart from Tidal subscription charges. It's recognized as airplay device and Dlna device so streaming with a mobile device is easy. Volumio iOS /android remote costs 700rs which is a good investment.


Overall it's quite a no brainer to recommend for under 20k streamer cum DAC and if possible add a linear PSU. The other options at bit higher budget include blunode and Paradigm link ; I haven't heard both of them so can't comment.
 

newlash09

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2014
Messages
986
Points
93
Location
hyderabad
Hi All,
This is my first review on hifivision.
From last year, I have been using this dac+reclocker combination and have been pretty happy about it.
Therefore, I felt why not write a review of this very VFM product, but whose usage is little complicated for non-techs.

Components :
--------------
Raspberry PI computer. (3.5K)
Allo Piano 2.1 is the DAC (3.5K), which has a stereo and sub output.
It can also be used in 2.0 mode , which can be set up, when you install any of the streamer software like Moode / Volumio. More on this later.
Allo Kali (3.5K) is the reclocker of the incoming signal.
I also have a power supply from Allo (0.7K) .
Setup :
------------
Install Piano on PI, and then Kali on the Piano.
It is just manual push that does it.
Connect power supply and you are good to go.
If you set it up in Dual Mono (2.0) stereo combination, then the output is from leftmost and rightmost RCA jacs from the DAC.
Dual Mono is the best sounding mode with good dynamics.

Software :
------------
Software needs to be installed on PI.
Popular ones are Moode, Volumio, Squeezebox etc.
To my ear Moode sounded the best.
Squeezebox was a bit bright.
Volumio sounded noisy but has most features.
In the DAC section of the software you install, select "Dual Mono" and also glb_mclk option for using Kali as reclocker.
I also use Roon, on any of the above software. Roon renderer can be installed. You can find the directions on Roon website.
Usage of a server computer is optional based on the above software you choose.

Compatibility
-------------
This is something I am very happy about.
PI is versatile platform, it supports Tidal ( via UPNP or plugins) , Spotify connect, Bluetooth ( requires adapter) , files etc.

Sound :
---------
I have connected PI directly to the power amp. Due to the connectivity options above, not feeling the need for a pre.
Though I have used few VFM pre-amps like Schitt SYS and a chinese tube buffer, No Pre-amp has sounded the best pre :)
Volume can be directly controlled from software.
Sound on my system is detailed , very happy with the dynamics, open and wide.
It is not harsh and I can listen for long hours.
I mostly listen to Bollywood and Indian classical. Jazz and Western classical also sound good.
I must admit my experience is very limited, and I can't compare with other costly DACs.
I however I see DAC technologies changing every year and because of the low cost of this setup , it is easy to upgrade.
I change PI dacs every year or two. I may also upgrade power supply to LPS, Allo Shanti and IPower are the options.

Thanks for reading and all the best. !! :)
Hi AmitK777 :)

Thanks a ton for the very nicely put, and phrased down review. I should say you nailed it with the nicely separated paragraphs as well. Glad to know you are enjoying your music via the new chain. A splendidly well done job for a first review :)

Cheers and all the best :)
 

adarsh

Member
Joined
May 3, 2011
Messages
61
Points
8
Location
Wayanad
Recently acquired KALI board from a gentleman on the forum and added Piano 2.1 DAC, since then hooked to this combo. A pleasant surprise to the ears which were tuned to Laptop-FiiO E10-ArcamAirDac-Amp route.
 
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