The market is crowded with audio streaming options available well under £100, so is there a place for another Raspberry Pi-based DAC (digital to analogue converter)?
Presented in a brutalist black metal box, Orchard Audio’s PecanPi (£325/$399) is built with some of the highest-quality components available, aiming it squarely at the serious music lover. Inside you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3B and the DAC HAT itself. The outputs are analogue, with the two expected phono outputs accompanied by XLR connectors, making this suitable for professional setups.
Great care has been taken over component choice and the design uniquely features two of Texas Instruments’ highest-specification DACs, one for each channel, with some of the industry’s best-performing op-amps. The result is some impressive technical specifications, including total harmonic distortion of 0.0003% and a dynamic range of 125 dB. Even on-board WiFi has been disabled to prevent the radio interfering with the sound processing (an optional WiFi/Ethernet bridge is available if needed).
We tested the Pecan Pi on a high-end amplifier with all its sound processing disabled, playing FLAC-encoded music. The result was crisp, detailed, and rich. We can see how this device would appeal to the enthusiast or professional requiring best-of-class.
A small let-down is the software. Volumio is an open-source playback web app that supports many different DACs. Although it aims to be pretty, we found it unintuitive and buggy, lacking the polish of other similar products like Plex. Luckily, other playback packages are compatible with PecanPi.
Signal to Noise Ratio: 130 dB (A-weighted)
Dynamic Range: 125 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0003%
Sampling Rate: Up to 192kHz
Bit Rates: Up to 24-bit
Pecan Pi is a DAC for true audiophiles. If music is your passion or profession, and you’re OK with the selection of available software, this might well be the best streaming device out there.