Allo DigiOne Player Review

Every so often, I like to check the market to see if are any new digital transport products. In particular, I’m on the lookout for good SPDIF transports for those of us with relatively tight budgets.

It’s slim pickings in that specific sub-market and an exciting moment when a promising product is released!

You might be thinking of all the transports and sources that utilize USB, even for SPDIF conversion, and find yourself puzzled at my comment about a lack of product options. The truth is, I’d call myself a bit of a purist in that regard.

I’m not a fan of USB in my audio chain.

The Path to the Allo DigiOne Player

First off, some background and basic information on the DigiOne Player.

It is a pre-assembled collection of a Raspberry Pi, DigiOne HAT (Hardware Attached on Top), a case of your choosing, storage and pre-installed OS of your choosing, and basic power supply. You can buy the DigiOne HAT separately if you already own a Raspberry Pi, but you will need to install a compatible Linux OS of your choosing to the Raspberry Pi.

The DigiOne Player is Allo's way of providing this tech in a mostly plug-and-play package. Think of the Raspberry Pi as a the mini PC, and the DigiOne HAT as the sound card, but one that only sends a (really clean, low jitter) SPDIF signal out of an RCA or BNC plug for you to use with all DACs that provide an SPDIF input.

Most operating systems, like Volumio or moOde, will let you playback music from USB storage plugged into the device or via a network share. DietPi offers similar functionality, but its main benefit is it includes the Roon Bridge software installed on that OS right out of the box. Each OS will provide a website for you to access and control the device for music playback, so you'll need to hook it up over ethernet or configure its WiFi adapter to get to the web GUI, configure your music storage location, and start playing music.

I’ve gone through enough USB sources, converters, or reclockers/cleaners to the point where I can’t remember all of them, but what does always stick in my mind is that, to some extent, they always had a bit of an underlying softness, greyness, or lack of dynamics at their core.

Some of these, like the JKSPDIF Mk3, Mutec MC-3+ USB (with custom linear power supply), or even the Schiit Wyrd gravitated towards the sharper end of the spectrum. Others, like the CI Audio Transient Mk2, Gustard U12, or Uptone USB Regen (also with custom LPSU) kept to a softer, more spacious, or more relaxed territory. For any DAC that came through my doors, of which there are too many to list, I’d give their USB input a try as well to find similar, lacking results.

Of course, I didn’t realize what I was missing by using USB at first until I tried out a good, non-USB transport. That transport happened to be the old school Theta Data III CD player, which I purchased at the recommendation of a few friends that owned one themselves. I wasn’t particularly fond of missing out on the convenience of PC audio, but it was impossible to ignore the extra gain in clarity, sharpness, and healthy dynamics I gained by sticking to a purer SPDIF signal.

After my brief experience with the Aurender W20 at the 2015 Big Sound event, I realized there might be transport options that blended the convenience of PC audio while omitting USB. I opted for the Soundaware D100 Pro (at around $1,000 USD, which was more affordable compared to the W20). Even the lauded Mutec MC-3+ USB running a custom LPSU I mentioned earlier was missing that extra something compared to the D100, which was a bit fuller, sharper, more dynamic, and just more “real” sounding. So, I’ve largely settled, content, with the D100 for almost three years now, never unseated from its perch.

A friend of mine introduced me to a basic SPDIF HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) for the Raspberry Pi, and while I was intrigued, I felt there was much more room to grow with the hardware and software. I played the wait-and-see game until I stumbled across the Allo DigiOne and its all-in-one DigiOne Player counterpart. It looked great on paper, so I picked up a fully loaded DigiOne Player, with aluminum case and eMMC storage, for myself.

Nonetheless, I got the inevitable itch to try something, anything, new against the D100 and wanted to see if the DigiOne might be a readily accessible, affordable product I could recommend to almost anyone in the hobby.

While the DigiOne seemed to be well engineered on paper, with specs and measurements to back up their claims, I wasn’t going in expecting it to best the D100 given the price differential. That, and the D100 is purposely built, inside and out, for digital audio. Still, the D100 was all I had on hand, and it served as my reference point.

If nothing else, I thought it would just be a fun comparison, and sometimes the budget newcomer surprises you. I went in with a clean slate on my mind.

Allo DigiOne Player In Use

The Allo DigiOne Player impressed me right out of the box. The aluminum case felt robust and looked attractive without calling attention to itself, an option I picked due to looks, longevity, and better thermal management. I opted for DietPi with the eMMC storage, and, yes, an adapter was included in case I wanted to try a different OS on the DigiOne Player. One reason I chose DietPi was its out-of-the-box Roon Bridge functionality. I hooked the DigiOne Player up, let it boot, and… it worked. Yep, it just worked. Or, at least, it “just worked” with Roon.

Once I had the IP address of the device on hand, I quickly got into the Allo-customized DietPi web GUI. It took a moment to hunt down the login credentials, but it was no major struggle. The web GUI was simple but offered quick and easy settings for the device and applications, such as O!MPD and the Roon Bridge.

Roon found the DigiOne Player immediately with absolutely zero fuss. Truth be told, this was my first time using Roon. I was quite pleased at how seamless it was getting everything up and running with the Allo DigiOne Player. In just a short few minutes, I had my storage loaded, and my music came to life over Roon and through my rig moments later.

After spending a week to familiarize myself with the DigiOne Player and Roon, I tried my hand at using O!MPD with some locally stored music. O!MPD found the files just fine, but despite my best efforts, I simply ran into error after error with no music playback to show for it.

Next, I tried the moOde audio OS, which required a tiny, but easy, bit of Linux know-how to get the custom OS built and running. With moOde, I had no issues loading and playing my music. I found the interface intuitive and appreciated the depth of system options available. I manually installed the Roon Bridge with that OS, which similarly worked seamlessly as it had with DietPi out of the box.

The DigiOne had some expected tradeoffs with its usability, seeing it is utilizing the Raspberry Pi. That said, I believe these tradeoffs are well worth the effort given the asking price. Even then, one could likely get away with never dealing with the DigiOne Player in a technical administrative sense, since it worked out of the box.

I wanted to touch on these experiences not as a ding to the DigiOne Player, but to emphasize that you are likely to get your hands a bit dirty with any Raspberry Pi device such as this. DietPi has an awesome community and forum full of great information, but if you don’t want a ready-to-go Roon Bridge out of the box, expect to spend more time tinkering with it manually. If you don’t need Roon, or don’t mind a quick couple commands to install it over the command line, consider Volumio as your default option or moOde if you don’t mind a self-install.

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ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
firedog55's picture

Hi-
So this is a little mini PC optimized for audio? It connects via ethernet to a network and then over spdif to your DAC?
I understand for it comes fully assembled and ready to go with Roon, but with some other playback SW you have to do HW and SW setup?

Thanks.

Tyler Schrank's picture

Yes, the Raspberry Pi is essentially a mini PC that runs Linux, but it is not inherently optimized for audio. What it offers is a healthy selection of input/output pins on the board, to which you can attach other boards on top of that for other purposes. These are called HATs (Hardward Attached on Top).

The DigiOne in and of itself is technically an advanced HAT that serves as a sound card of sorts that does nothing but output an SPDIF signal (a good, clean, re-clocked signal at that). You can buy it separately if you already have a Raspberry Pi.

The DigiOne Player is a pre-assembled, ready-to-go collection of all the parts you'd need: Raspberry Pi, DigiOne HAT, case, and PSU. You can pick which OS you'd like installed on it as well, which they handle for you before shipping.

So, yes, it connects via ethernet, and almost all of the audiophile-customized OSes you can install on it offer web GUIs to which you connect. The Raspberry Pi uses a MicroSD card for its main storage, so with the right USB adapter, you can plug it into any PC to write OSes and files to it directly.

OSes like Volumio and moOde are able to play local, ie. USB storage attached to Raspberry Pi, or network music files. You control the setup and playback through their web GUI.

OSes like DietPi are a little more complicated, with the web GUI mostly being just a settings page. But the main upside to DietPi, at least if you have it installed on the DigiOne Player from Allo, is that it comes with the Roon Bridge software pre-installed. That's important to note, because I don't believe the other OS options you can get pre-installed have the Roon Bridge ready to go out of the box.

So, while DietPi is more complicated to use, if all you want is a Roon Bridge, you essentially plug everything into the device, power it up, and wait for it to boot so Roon can find it.

But if you know how to enable SSH on the other OSes, you can connect and install the Roon Bridge software to any of these OSes manually. Works the same way.

You won't need to bother with hardware setup, but there is a strong probability you will one day end up in a Linux command prompt to customize or install certain things to your taste.

Thankfully, there are tons of great guides online that make it about as straightforward and easy as you could hope for this sort of device.

That is the one caveat to the DigiOne, is that while it's really inexpensive, you'll probably end up in a command prompt eventually for one reason or another.

I hope that helps!

pete111's picture

Hi have to say I don't get everything as well. Those are lenghty answers, but still maybe I read too fast and missing things. So, To understand, the storage is the SD card, Right? no input, the Ethernet is just for the GUI, right? Do you plug a mouse, a keybord and a screen to this directly? You simply plug the Ethernet to a router? No need for an other computer? To be clear, the only thing on board is the storage and OS, and the command, play pause view your playlist are somewhere at an IP adress on the web? There are no digital audio input (just a player not a streamer, no music goes trough the Ethernet ?)
Thanks

Tyler Schrank's picture

The SD card is essentially the Raspberry Pi's hard drive. That's where the OS is stored. However, you can get as large of a card as you want and store anything you'd like on it as well, just like a normal hard drive in any computer. (Note that I'll refer to Raspberry Pi and DigiOne player interchangeably here.)

Ethernet and WiFi are used for network connectivity, just like any other computer. But since most of these audio-based OSes run an internal web server to host a GUI you can access locally via a web browser on another computer, you would definitely need the Raspberry Pi connected to your home network. Note that if you want to use WiFi to connect the device, you first have to connect it via Ethernet to configure it as such.

Keyboard, mouse, and monitor can be used if you like, but since Raspberry Pi runs your choice of Linux OS, it's easier to enable SSH and then use a program like Putty on another computer to "console in" remotely. Most audio-customized OSes for the device are going to be command line only, so that's all you'd get with a KB/M and monitor hookup to the Raspberry Pi anyway.

However, the DigiOne Player is configured by Allo to try to make it plug-and-play when you receive it.

For example, if you use Roon, you'd buy a DigiOne Player with the DietPi OS. When it arrives, the steps would be:

1. Plug in the device to ethernet
2. Plug in power
3. Wait about 5-10 minutes at most
4. DigiOne should show up as a player option in Roon
If it does not, unplug and plug back in to try again. Since there's no power button on the device, you have to rely on plugging and unplugging it.

If you instead want to use Volumio, for example, and order it configured for that (if you don't have Roon), do the following. Volumio has a GUI you access through a web browser on a different computer:

1. Plug in device to ethernet
2. Plug in power
3. Wait about 5-10 minutes at most
4. In a web browser on another computer on your network, go to the URL http://volumio.local/
(If this does not work, you will need to find the device's IP address and enter that for the URL - IP address should always work)
5. Volumio web GUI will walk you through setup from there. You can play music with a USB device attached to the DigiOne Player or via network storage, which the setup will walk you through.

So, yes, it's just a digial audio streamer that runs on a Raspberry Pi with a custom SPDIF output board on top.

I know the device might not be for everyone. And that's OK! It sounds really great and is relatively inexpensive, but its drawback is relative ease of use.

If you instead want a good sounding SPDIF device that's dead simple, I might recommend the Schiit Eitr. Plugs in via USB to any PC, outputs SPDIF, and sounds really nice. No need to fuss with it beyond that in any way. I probably won't write a review for it, but having recently heard it for myself, I can only say good things about it so far.

zombeewoof's picture

do you have any recommendations for these?

Tyler Schrank's picture

I used a pretty generic LSPU off eBay that shipped internationally. I already had it on hand for a different project, so it seemed like low hanging fruit to give it a shot on the DigiOne Player. It ultimately boiled down to me finding an LPSU capable of 5V/3A at the best price I could find.

If you search something like "Raspberry Pi Linear Power Supply" on eBay, you'll find plenty of reasonable options at a low price. Just make sure it puts out at least 2.5A, if not 3A.

I've read some threads in various forums about people building their own LSPUs for the RPi, and I'd bet you can get even better results that way!

ednaz's picture

You're clearly more up to date on the Pi options and behaviors... I've got a Logitech Touch that's begun periodic malfunctioning, and am thinking about this as a replacement. The Touch has the hacked software that lets it pass 24/96, which it does via coax to a Peachtree Audio amp/dac combo. I'm NOT using wifi directly, but am feeding it from an ethernet cable that runs from one node on my mesh network. Had to do that because the Touch only does the 2.4ghz modes, not enough bandwidth for 24/96 by wifi.

I'd really love to ditch the ethernet cable (it's a baseboard run of probably 30 feet...) I know I can get 5ghz wifi that plugs into an ethernet port. Will this put sufficient additional load on on the Pi to cause problems?

Tyler Schrank's picture

As best as I know, the RPi 3B+ has an onboard WiFi adapter that supports 5GHz modes. I think earlier models only supported 2.4GHz, and for those, you would need to use a compatible USB adapter.

I wouldn't worry about either method causing problems for the Pi, but maybe best to go for the latest model to ease any concerns!

wemist's picture

I'm no know-it-all, but I find the notion that data sent over a USB connection could have a defined aural signature ("softness, greyness, lack of dynamics") to be one the most absurd things I've read on this site. Even assuming your description of the final audio playback is correct (which I'm doubtful of, as well), the USB technology doesn't even begin to have qualitative impact on music dynamics or the tonal register of whatever is being played. Now maybe there is a problem with your DAC hardware, but that has nothing to do with USB itself, and wouldn't give you any reason for being phobic about USB in your audio chain. You might as well claim that Ethernet adds treble- it's ridiculous.

My own view is that if you are going to claim something so broad and sweeping, you should feel some obligation to back it up with real technical information. Absent that, the labels for this kind of bias in decision-making only deserves the strongest, most unsparing labels and makes me wonder about the direction of this site and its editorial controls.

Sedusia Sound's picture

And all amps sound the same; and all cables sound the same; and all digital players sound the same (after all, bits are bits; it's just 0's and 1's); and all tubes sound the same; and all speakers sound the same (yes, THIS was the conclusion by one so-called "reputable" audio reviewer after conducting a speaker shoot-out some years ago)

pwjazz's picture

I think OP's point is that a properly implemented USB interface is not going to audibly impact sound quality. Poor USB connections can suffer from jitter, but it has to be pretty darn severe to become audible. Here's a great article on the subject.

BTW, especially at higher resolutions, modern asynchronous USB tends to be less affected by jitter than TOSLINK connections, so if I had to choose between chaining an optical output to a DAC vs just hooking up a DAC to a Raspberry Pi via USB, all else being equal I'd bet on USB being the better option.

Also, comparing amps (or even cables) to USB interfaces is a false equivalence. USB operates in the digital domain, with error correction no less, and bits are in fact bits. Amplifiers operate in the analog domain, which is a completely different beast and leaves room for noise, distortion, non-linearities and so on.

wemist's picture

Sedusia , that doesn't help here. Just because some whack on the other side of the argument makes ridiculous claims doesn't make a claim opposite in spirit more reasonable. I think we can agree that every component element doesn't sound the same. What some people should realize is that and every component element doesn't necessarily produce sound difference. I'm not sure if you recognize the limits of what I'm claiming: there may be an objective way that USB was involved in a setup that was affecting audio quality. But it has nothing to do with USB itself, rather in what packed or unpacked the data that was transferred over it. But if you test a variety of different rigs and isolate the problem in each of them to the presence of USB, the data corruption is in your cranium.

SoapBox Sound's picture

Your second statement - "My own view is that if you are going to claim something so broad and sweeping, you should feel some obligation to back it up with real technical information" - would also apply to your very own opening statement.

wemist's picture

Someone has offered that my own claims about the nature of USB deserve to be validated by the same demand I put forward- no broad claims without a technical explanation. I don't consider my claims broad or especially imaginative, nor do I write on these topics, but I'll take a swing at it nonetheless:

USB is "an industry standard that establishes specifications for cables, connectors and protocols for connection, communication and power supply between personal computers and their peripheral devices". (Wikipedia). Note that the standards here are about connecting devices and no mention is made about the data that gets shared using the USB protocol. That's because USB standard has one purpose: to connect and to get out of the way. This isn't the pipes in Flint that shed lead into the water: USB can't impact data integrity or it wouldn't be usable. That makes it just another type of connection in the history of connections (serial bus, SCSI, FIrewire/IEEE 1394, whatever) that simply permit the transport of digital data.

I assume you understand that digital data is numbers and those numbers, however packaged between discreet items of computer hardware, can't be influenced in the trip from one to the other. Data corruption doesn't turn audio into "undynamic" music; it corrupts files and makes them unplayable.

The qualities of audio that get transferred between devices have everything to do with audio source, the hardware/software features, and any A->D or D->A conversions, the setting on the device that sends and the device that receives. None of those have anything to do with USB. It's quite possible hardware makers who use USB have done a rotten job handling the music data, but ascribing that to USB and avoiding USB for that reason is misguided.

I encourage anyone who wants to bat down any of my assertions here to go for it- I enjoy learning. But I challenge anyone to assert that any port standard has any relevance in judging audio quality, except in the sense that it might not be able to send the required quantity of data if you used USB 1.0. USB 2 is more than enough for high-res audio, and that's been around for 18 years.

Solarophile's picture

I believe you're right.

USB data transfer provides better bandwidth and the bidirectional nature allows asynchronous operation over TosLinke or coax. There is plenty of objective information out there (just look at the objective audiophile blogs) that shows the superiority of USB when it comes to jitter suppression and lower overall distortion. Not to mention the ability for USB to transfer DSD64+ easily to compatible DACs.

It's obvious that there is no ability for bit-perfect data transfer to impart any "greyness" or whatever unless the DAC is somehow suboptimal when operating with USB input. In that event, it's best to get a better DAC!

pete111's picture

I'd like to add to that, when you say:" I assume you understand that digital data is numbers and those numbers..." No they are not. They are a succession of Hi voltage levels and low voltage level represented for mathematical purposes by 0 and 1. A lot of things can go wrong, interferences do what they do, they interfere. On the receiving end, the DAC have to measure these voltages. It's a misconception that since it's digital the hardware don't matter, a poorly designed USB port can certainly have a dirty signal and this is for sure audible. What if the amplitude of that wave is not stable, you will have many errors... good dacs have error correction, but not all USB is created equal, altough they use the same protocol. I do agree to a certain point that putting a generalized sonic signature to everything USB is a bit strong, but I want to point out that in the end it's not that different from an analog signal. Since errors are random a lot of error means more noise (by definition, noise is random) Again I don't know if the distortion is audible but it is at least plausible that the nature of the distortion in less than perfect USB design is of a type that create some sonic caracteristics, in any case it is not necessarely even harmonic distortion and even at low level they can to a trained ear sound fatiguing, hard, etc. But, I believe this is possible to have very good sounding USB, I wouldn't buy into generalizing or even comparing, spdif is also prone to these problems, I would need scientific evidence to pick a side here, but I wanted to give my small input on a quite generalized misconception, not against you personally, but digital don't mean perfect, far from it and a lot have to do with implementation and design, not just the protocol.

pete111's picture

I'm not going to debate on what's best between spdif and USB, or if there is an audible benefit to one or the other, but such a claim that " Data corruption corrupt files and makes them unplayable" Shows a lack of understanding of digital audio, no offense, but it lower the credibility of your claim. Just like in the analog domain, noise is a real and measurable concept, Jitter is a real and measurable concept as well. Saying that the USB protocol has no concept of data by citing a wikipedia page is plain wrong as well. A more interesting debate would be is there a real benefit in preserving data integrity at all cost vs relying to heavy data correction algorythm, or how audible are jitter problems really are, I don't have an answer for that, but what is not debatable, is that data transmission errors and jitter problem do translate as measurable distortion, and measurable noise levels.

Tyler Schrank's picture

I definitely get that point of view and can relate as someone that used to be in the same thought camp. I felt similar when some friends of mine started making claims about how high quality, old school CD players made a noticeable difference in SQ over even the best, most modern USB implementations at that time (whether external devices, like USB->SPDIF converters or built-in implementations). I mean, how could there be a difference if all known measurements ended up looking similar for any good implementation, or at least below what we'd assume to be hearing threshold?

But, you know, I didn't think it fair to say anything without testing on my own. These guys had years more experience than me, and I stuck with them because they were bullshitters and saved me tons of money by usually being very conservative in their audio approach. And so I got a few different products, did some A/B testing, and, sure enough, heard these differences for myself. Yes, I'm generalizing, but I quickly fell out of favor with pretty much all USB implementations after finding good, pure SPDIF sources to usually sound more engaging and captivating.

Is it possible we're crazy and imagining things? Could be! I'd love to get together with folks like you and really crush out some good blind tests, but I can only manage with what limited methods I have at home for now.

I think it's all a lot of guess work at this point as to how best to handle every aspect of digital audio. Lots of theories and guesses floating around, and I agree not enough empirical evidence, but still fun to try and carve out what we can, little by little, through objective and subjective testing. I think there's a place for both, if both kept in check.

LarryMagooi's picture

Want a great LPS that is not expensive and has adjustable outputs? It's rock steady with zero noise DC!

https://www.hdplex.com/hdplex-fanless-200w-linear-power-supply-for-pc-au...

jherbert's picture

All current PIs have wifi on board. Problem is that an aluminum case effectivly shield the onboard antenna from doing something useful. So you might be better off using the acrylic case which is much cheaper and gives you wireless bliss.

davide256's picture

I own the USBridge, Digione and have owned a microRendu. The Digione is relatively free of digital artifacts but nowhere near as resolving of low level signal information as the USB devices.. that information often disappears in Digione playback. Here is hoping the new Signature version of the Digione is a "Remedy" to the original Digiones's resolution deficits... I'd kick USB to the curb for a source that resolved without digital irritants

Tyler Schrank's picture

So, you'd say if I tested out the USBridge, that would be an adequate device for what you mentioned? Any particular tracks and samples you'd recommend so I can listen for the exact same thing you are? I want to make sure I'm listening for and hearing (or not) the same low level information you mention.

I know these are relatively new products compared to some USB stuff I've tested, so I'm always open minded to give that realm another shot!

davide256's picture

What I experienced with the USBridge is that I had to spend about $325 on upgraded power supply (LPS 1.2)and $325 on a reclocker (ISO Regen) before it surpassed the Digione (using same power supply. Without a reclocker the digital irritants made USBridge unpleasant compared to Digione. I find Reference Recordings/ Night at the Opera, Track 2 Salome's Dance to be a nuanced recording, low volume percussion and bass details that are muddy/lost with Digione vs clear with USBridge. Other Reference Recordings (Bolero, Mephisto & Co,Belkis &Queen of Sheba) should be as revealing.
If you just want to dabble the Sonore microRendu remains the cheapest bulletproof streamer Ive owned, no irritants, excellent resolution even with a basic power supply.

taipan254's picture

Instead of connecting this via wi-fi or a router via LAN, connect this directly to your music server via a "bridged" LAN connection (a la ComputerAudiophile.com fame). You'll be happy you did. Big improvement at a small cost.

Brown Sound's picture

Loved the write-up but this should have been over on AudioStream, IMHO. Anyhoo, it got me interested in Allo for their USBridge transport to replace my WIN10 mini-PC that is currently in my rack. Thank you, Tyler.

Tyler Schrank's picture

I'm going to write more headphone-specific articles in the near future! :)

I know there are a lot of headphone-focused individuals that don't branch out to other sites, and they're just as interested in their source devices as anyone else.

Glad you found it helpful nonetheless!

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