Allo Boss Player v1.2: My impressions and experiments

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raghupb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2015
Messages
2,816
Points
113
Location
Bengaluru
Preface

This post is a thread starter for my impressions of the Allo Boss Player v1.2
It is not a review, just what I think of this component and where it can play in the audio chain.
The unit I got on loan is an RPi 4B based SBC with the Boss v1.2 DAC HAT.
Stock OS is Volumio and it is powered with stock PS, the wall wart.
This is a fully assembled unit housed in the usual black acrylic casing that Allo does for their products.
Locally, in India, I think it retails for a shade under 9K INR from various resellers.
The HAT alone costs about 3.2K INR, for those who already have a Pi.

What is it?
The Boss player is a factory assembled RPi SBC with a DAC HAT.
So you don't have to get busy with mounting and tinkering with biscuit sized PCBs.
Take it, plug it in, configure some basic network stuff, and start using it.
For them DAC hounds, it uses TI PCM 5122 chip, which I think has Burr-Brown pedigree.
And it is a master DAC, meaning the HAT supplies the clocks. Nice!!
Can handle up to 32 bits resolution and 384 KHz sampling rate.

Where does it fit in the audio chain?
Since it is a player with a DAC, it can be directly connected to an IA or preamp with an RCA cable.
If using SW based volume control, one can connect to active speakers or power amp directly.
I am never comfortable with SW based volume control because I'm clumsy.
On the network side, one can opt for wired ethernet or wireless.
A one time hookup to your router using wired ethernet is convenient to configure wireless and other plugins.
For content, I used a 1TB HDD on one of the USB ports and Spotify streaming service.
NAS based digital audio files can also be used, but I kept is simple.

OS options?
The available options, when ordering, are:
- DietPi
- MoodeAudio
- Volumio
- Max2Play

Others may be work too, if one is well versed with loading the SD card.
Volumio came along with this unit (v2.6xx something)

My experiments
As mentioned earlier, I used wired connection from router since it sits on the AV rack.
This allows for getting into the system with just an IP address.
First time setup was easy. Just ran the wizard and it was done in a couple of mins.
Attached the USB HDD too, rebooted and indexing was done when the player came alive.
Most of my music in HDD is 16/44.1 (Redbook) with a little bit of 24/96 and 24/192

Take 1 (Player mode):
For this I decided to keep it bare bones. No plugins, streaming, etc.
Just the player with default setting. Disabled audio mixer too as I wanted to control volume on preamp.
The chain used was:
Allo Boss --> Parasound NC200 (Pre) + NC275v2 (Pwr) + KEF R300

Ran through a listening session, both active and passive for a couple of hours.
Active listening is when I sit in ideal or main listening position, passive is when I'm doing other stuff.
When it was playing in the background, I could get a sense of it's potential to do things right.
When I sat down and listened attentively here is what I observed:
- it is clean sounding; this is important to my ears
- bass, mids and vocals are good; but vocals sometimes were "edgey" (could be the recording too)
- highs/treble is a bit raw and in your face

First impression - I can work this puppy and make it sing in this rig/room.

Take 2 (Streamer Mode, with some comparisons):
Installed Spotify and Spotify Connect plugins. Everyting else remains the same as in take 1.
Added CCA on one more analog input, Laptop/USB + Modi2 DAC on another analog input.
Digione + Parasound DAC was also in play.
Kept all three analog inputs at same source level in preamp. Same for Coax input.
This allowed me to use Spotify as the content provider for all combos (via various transports).
Can almost immediately compare how a track plays out.

Well ... This player claims 2.1 Vrms and I think it puts it out (or close to it).
Plays loud enough at reasonable volume at preamp.
Again, the basic observations did not change, except with Spotify the rawness is a bit more pronounced.
How did it "compare" with other stuff?

Modi2 - Modi2 is a bit better in rounding off the highs, but it is very "cold" and almost "analytical"
Parasound - Parasound does much better; controlled bass/mids, more body to the vocals and treble is just where it should be
CCA - Boss is better; CCA does its thing, but it can be all over the place and all over you

Decided enough of comparing, let me evaluate the Boss for what it is and what can be done about it.
Played out from Spotify exclusively for a full evening session (about 4-5 hours).
English, Old Hindi, Indian and Western Classical, Vocal centric, Instrumental numbers, the works ....
Felt that when there is less instrumentation and decent mastering, Boss did quite well, actually.
When music got busy, the highs got a bit annoying and tiring ear wise.

Take 3 (Player/Streamer + EQ/PEQ):
Installed the Simple Equalizer and Parametric Equalizer.
Tried the Simple EQ first; it worked to tame the edginess but the UI is a pain to use.
Someone at Volumio should work on placing the frequency numbers and the slide bars for easy use.
And on mobile, it is damn near impossible to slide up/down without overall screen movement.

Enabled PEQ for experimentation. The OS better be restarted; had some trouble here.
I'm not very familiar with PEQ, gave it a shot because it was available.
It has 4 bands, with:
- master gain control (left it at 0 dB)
- enable/diasble per band (0/1 setting)
- frequency centering (I think)
- Q setting (don't know exactly what this is)
- level setting

Again, lousy UI; try only on laptop where you can use mouse to slide up down with precision.
I turned off the first two bands, which handle LF, mids/vocals
The other two, I just tweaked the level and damped it by a few dB (max 3 dB down).
Now the DAC started singing and behaving like I wanted it to.
The smooth, clean sound was evident and pleasing to be honest.
For a 9K bundle (or 3.2K DAC HAT) I am impressed at what it can do.

Take 4 (OS update, Player/Streamer + PEQ):
Frustrated with Volumio UI, I decided to update the OS version to v2.8xx
Same one as in my own Digione; the UI/UX is marginally better compared to v2.6xx
Re-installed Spotify and PEQ plugins and tried streaming.
To add to my woes, Spotify connect didn't work. And the player also stopped outputting sound.
After a few factory resets, re-installs, found that Spotify Connect and Volumio PEQ on v2.8xx is buggy.
Or I don't know what I'm doing :D

Decided to ditch Spotify as it was really required to compare against other DACs.
Did a clean reinstall and added PEQ and used the unit as a pure player.

On the PEQ, defined my own bands (octave wise), fiddled around quite a bit to tweak the SQ.
And for kicks and grins, went to the Volumio shell (su mode) and reduced Digital Gain by 3 dB.
All of these configuration calisthenics rewarded me with the sound signature I wanted.
Left it at that, sat and listened to music for about 3-4 hours.
It was very rewarding, I almost felt valiant that I tamed the "dinky little box".

Conclusion
I know the above narration of my experience can be a put off for many folks.
Please do realize this is a Pi based player/streamer, it is computer based audio to start with.

Who is it for? It is for someone who:
- is starting out in the hobby and does not mind getting "into" the player/DAC
- has exceeded their budget and can't immediately buy a DAC
- enjoys tweaking around and mixing and matching components
- wants a small footprint rig
- has active speakers and wants to add a player/streamer solution
- wants to go directly to power amp (please be careful the UI based volume is tricky to handle)

Who it is NOT for?
- if you are a "pure path" listener
- if you are intimidated by computer based audio (but the learning curve is not steep)
- if you want it to sound right just because it is connected in your rig

I had a good time playing around. If you own one please share your experiences

Cheers,
Raghu
 

firearm12

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Joined
Sep 24, 2014
Messages
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113
Location
noida
Allo boss dac is one of the finest place to start with especially if one doesnt have a expensive dac. I have found it better than allo piano (in musicality, piano was little analytical). As its a streamer and dac combination, the sound quality that we get out of it should surpass the entry level usb dacs from schiit etc that are used with laptops. Definetely highly recommended, we can use it in car also. Price to performance ratio is unbelieavable. At that time i har arcam rlink and boss dac was better , both had same chip.
 

raghupb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2015
Messages
2,816
Points
113
Location
Bengaluru
Allo boss dac is one of the finest place to start with especially if one doesnt have a expensive dac. I have found it better than allo piano (in musicality, piano was little analytical). As its a streamer and dac combination, the sound quality that we get out of it should surpass the entry level usb dacs from schiit etc that are used with laptops. Definetely highly recommended, we can use it in car also. Price to performance ratio is unbelieavable. At that time i har arcam rlink and boss dac was better , both had same chip.
Huh ...
I had never thought of the car application. So caught up with room systems.
Good suggestion @firearm12

Yes, a 5V supply from charger point will make it a wonderful USB based player.
Good for those long drives when there's no FM reception.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

mathew_phil

New Member
Joined
Sep 16, 2012
Messages
6
Points
1
Location
kerala
which is best boss or kali+piano.. any sound test videos available..

and a need a good tall case for raspberry pi 4 8 gb . with on off switch... like one seen in the following video. where it is available

 

raghupb

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 11, 2015
Messages
2,816
Points
113
Location
Bengaluru
Allo Boss is available as a HAT or a complete player/streamer with RPi.
The complete product also comes in an acrylic case.
For Kali+Piano, you have to explore what cases are available.

Cheers,
Raghu
 

saketgyani

Active Member
Joined
Dec 4, 2018
Messages
136
Points
28
Location
Mumbai
Preface

This post is a thread starter for my impressions of the Allo Boss Player v1.2
It is not a review, just what I think of this component and where it can play in the audio chain.
The unit I got on loan is an RPi 4B based SBC with the Boss v1.2 DAC HAT.
Stock OS is Volumio and it is powered with stock PS, the wall wart.
This is a fully assembled unit housed in the usual black acrylic casing that Allo does for their products.
Locally, in India, I think it retails for a shade under 9K INR from various resellers.
The HAT alone costs about 3.2K INR, for those who already have a Pi.

What is it?
The Boss player is a factory assembled RPi SBC with a DAC HAT.
So you don't have to get busy with mounting and tinkering with biscuit sized PCBs.
Take it, plug it in, configure some basic network stuff, and start using it.
For them DAC hounds, it uses TI PCM 5122 chip, which I think has Burr-Brown pedigree.
And it is a master DAC, meaning the HAT supplies the clocks. Nice!!
Can handle up to 32 bits resolution and 384 KHz sampling rate.

Where does it fit in the audio chain?
Since it is a player with a DAC, it can be directly connected to an IA or preamp with an RCA cable.
If using SW based volume control, one can connect to active speakers or power amp directly.
I am never comfortable with SW based volume control because I'm clumsy.
On the network side, one can opt for wired ethernet or wireless.
A one time hookup to your router using wired ethernet is convenient to configure wireless and other plugins.
For content, I used a 1TB HDD on one of the USB ports and Spotify streaming service.
NAS based digital audio files can also be used, but I kept is simple.

OS options?
The available options, when ordering, are:
- DietPi
- MoodeAudio
- Volumio
- Max2Play

Others may be work too, if one is well versed with loading the SD card.
Volumio came along with this unit (v2.6xx something)

My experiments
As mentioned earlier, I used wired connection from router since it sits on the AV rack.
This allows for getting into the system with just an IP address.
First time setup was easy. Just ran the wizard and it was done in a couple of mins.
Attached the USB HDD too, rebooted and indexing was done when the player came alive.
Most of my music in HDD is 16/44.1 (Redbook) with a little bit of 24/96 and 24/192

Take 1 (Player mode):
For this I decided to keep it bare bones. No plugins, streaming, etc.
Just the player with default setting. Disabled audio mixer too as I wanted to control volume on preamp.
The chain used was:
Allo Boss --> Parasound NC200 (Pre) + NC275v2 (Pwr) + KEF R300

Ran through a listening session, both active and passive for a couple of hours.
Active listening is when I sit in ideal or main listening position, passive is when I'm doing other stuff.
When it was playing in the background, I could get a sense of it's potential to do things right.
When I sat down and listened attentively here is what I observed:
- it is clean sounding; this is important to my ears
- bass, mids and vocals are good; but vocals sometimes were "edgey" (could be the recording too)
- highs/treble is a bit raw and in your face

First impression - I can work this puppy and make it sing in this rig/room.

Take 2 (Streamer Mode, with some comparisons):
Installed Spotify and Spotify Connect plugins. Everyting else remains the same as in take 1.
Added CCA on one more analog input, Laptop/USB + Modi2 DAC on another analog input.
Digione + Parasound DAC was also in play.
Kept all three analog inputs at same source level in preamp. Same for Coax input.
This allowed me to use Spotify as the content provider for all combos (via various transports).
Can almost immediately compare how a track plays out.

Well ... This player claims 2.1 Vrms and I think it puts it out (or close to it).
Plays loud enough at reasonable volume at preamp.
Again, the basic observations did not change, except with Spotify the rawness is a bit more pronounced.
How did it "compare" with other stuff?

Modi2 - Modi2 is a bit better in rounding off the highs, but it is very "cold" and almost "analytical"
Parasound - Parasound does much better; controlled bass/mids, more body to the vocals and treble is just where it should be
CCA - Boss is better; CCA does its thing, but it can be all over the place and all over you

Decided enough of comparing, let me evaluate the Boss for what it is and what can be done about it.
Played out from Spotify exclusively for a full evening session (about 4-5 hours).
English, Old Hindi, Indian and Western Classical, Vocal centric, Instrumental numbers, the works ....
Felt that when there is less instrumentation and decent mastering, Boss did quite well, actually.
When music got busy, the highs got a bit annoying and tiring ear wise.

Take 3 (Player/Streamer + EQ/PEQ):
Installed the Simple Equalizer and Parametric Equalizer.
Tried the Simple EQ first; it worked to tame the edginess but the UI is a pain to use.
Someone at Volumio should work on placing the frequency numbers and the slide bars for easy use.
And on mobile, it is damn near impossible to slide up/down without overall screen movement.

Enabled PEQ for experimentation. The OS better be restarted; had some trouble here.
I'm not very familiar with PEQ, gave it a shot because it was available.
It has 4 bands, with:
- master gain control (left it at 0 dB)
- enable/diasble per band (0/1 setting)
- frequency centering (I think)
- Q setting (don't know exactly what this is)
- level setting

Again, lousy UI; try only on laptop where you can use mouse to slide up down with precision.
I turned off the first two bands, which handle LF, mids/vocals
The other two, I just tweaked the level and damped it by a few dB (max 3 dB down).
Now the DAC started singing and behaving like I wanted it to.
The smooth, clean sound was evident and pleasing to be honest.
For a 9K bundle (or 3.2K DAC HAT) I am impressed at what it can do.

Take 4 (OS update, Player/Streamer + PEQ):
Frustrated with Volumio UI, I decided to update the OS version to v2.8xx
Same one as in my own Digione; the UI/UX is marginally better compared to v2.6xx
Re-installed Spotify and PEQ plugins and tried streaming.
To add to my woes, Spotify connect didn't work. And the player also stopped outputting sound.
After a few factory resets, re-installs, found that Spotify Connect and Volumio PEQ on v2.8xx is buggy.
Or I don't know what I'm doing :D

Decided to ditch Spotify as it was really required to compare against other DACs.
Did a clean reinstall and added PEQ and used the unit as a pure player.

On the PEQ, defined my own bands (octave wise), fiddled around quite a bit to tweak the SQ.
And for kicks and grins, went to the Volumio shell (su mode) and reduced Digital Gain by 3 dB.
All of these configuration calisthenics rewarded me with the sound signature I wanted.
Left it at that, sat and listened to music for about 3-4 hours.
It was very rewarding, I almost felt valiant that I tamed the "dinky little box".

Conclusion
I know the above narration of my experience can be a put off for many folks.
Please do realize this is a Pi based player/streamer, it is computer based audio to start with.

Who is it for? It is for someone who:
- is starting out in the hobby and does not mind getting "into" the player/DAC
- has exceeded their budget and can't immediately buy a DAC
- enjoys tweaking around and mixing and matching components
- wants a small footprint rig
- has active speakers and wants to add a player/streamer solution
- wants to go directly to power amp (please be careful the UI based volume is tricky to handle)

Who it is NOT for?
- if you are a "pure path" listener
- if you are intimidated by computer based audio (but the learning curve is not steep)
- if you want it to sound right just because it is connected in your rig

I had a good time playing around. If you own one please share your experiences

Cheers,
Raghu
Thanks for the write up, @raghupb
I was thinking of getting an Allo Boss player for a long time.
Looks like I’m buying USBridge Signature Player.
 
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