great USB DAC for OSMC

Hi there,
I want to share a cool discovery I made.
I was looking for a competent DAC to use with OSMC.
This is the only good thing that came of Apple ditching the headphone port on the iPhone: tiny, affordable USB dongle DACs with better performance than what was in phones previously.

So I looked through AudioScienceReview and found the Meizu HiFi DAC CP19 (about 30USD from Aliexpress) and it measures AMAZINGLY (124dB dynamic range):

Its only weakpoint is the headphone amplifier but since we aren’t driving headphones but HiFi Amplifiers and they have a high input impedance that one doesn’t matter.
So I took the chance and want to tell you: for our purposes, it’s amazing!

The sound is 10/10 very detailed and balanced, way beyond what you’ll find built into a TV.
It has that typical “analytical” Cirrus sound.
Since it does 24 bit and OSMC only does software volume control, you still get enough bits for the sound not to fall appart at lower volumes.

But what makes this truly great for our purposes: the hardware volume level is stored inside the dongle!!
The DAC has a huge voltage swing (maximum volume) but you can plug it into a PC (linux in my case), set a low volume in hardware (loosing none of the 24 bit) and it keeps that hardware volume when you take the DAC over to OSMC. Then the rest you can adjust with OSMC software volume gain.

For me it’s a perfect solution!

You will need the DAC, a USB C to A adapter, a cable for the 3.5mm jack and a free USB port on your OSMC device.

One downside I found: any ground loop you have in your entire AV system will bite you.
You will get loud hum, as did I.
For me, it was a network cable that was grounded both at the router and through a PC across the house.
As soon as I insulated the shield of one of the RJ45 connectors my ground loop issue luckily disappeared.
For audio purposes, it’s best to only ground one device in your AV setup: either the TV or the amplifier.
With a symmetric connection of course none of this matters but those devices are quite a bit more expensive.

This is my experience form the Vero4k+ on OSMC 2022-03, on my RPi3 I had to keep an old version of OSMC due to accelerated h265 decoding and there the USB dac had stutters even on flac playback, probably due to an older kernel / too low buffer size.

An improvement would be to make an addon for OSMC to let you set hardware gain (ALSA) but I’m not skilled / experienced in this kind of development.

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I’m sorry if I’m ignorant of this, but why would someone with a Vero 4K+ need something like this? From the product description:

“In addition to 192Khz PCM, Vero 4K + supports 7.1 channel bit-perfect passthrough of major audio formats, including DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS: X, Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Atmos. And with support for optical audio and analogue audio out”

What does a USB dongle give you that isn’t here already?

I guess this is for people who have only analogue amplifiers either because they dropped a few grand on top class devices in the belief they are better than any receivers with HDMI inputs or because they are quite happy with the amps they bought 20-30 years ago.

Well…I get that some folks like old, tube amps for example. Beautiful things for listening to analog music!

If it’s about analog stereo output (which seems to be what you’re implying) what I don’t get is how something that takes digital signals, surround etc, then pipes it through an analog stereo amp is gaining anything over just using the headphone jack to begin with. Does it really sound better? I’m not trying to be an ass. I love little gadgets like this. I just really can’t come up with a practical use case scenario in my head. That’s why I’m asking.

I can’t find a practical use case for spending gigabucks on audio equipment but people do. I also think the amps I built 25 years ago sound better than the HDMI-equipped receiver I bought s/h just so I could help out with OSMC troubleshooting.

So each to their own…

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Yes, I agree.

Like I said I’m not trying to be an ass. I’m restoring an old car that I never plan to sell. Many would think that’s a complete waste of money because it may cost me more money to do it then the car will be worth when I’m done. It’s my hobby and that’s the price I pay to play.

What I’m trying to get at is not to tech shame anyone. The geek in me is trying to understand if there’s a technical reason why this is helpful that I’m just missing.

Again, I mean nothing condescending or negative here.

some older amps really are a lot better than most modern AV receivers, no wonder cheaply made soundbars have overtaken HiFi equipment in living rooms…
cheap DAC + mediocre amp = most receivers believe me they got nothing “mastering grade” about them, just a mass market product.
That cheap chinese dongle though… so clear!!! Even a smidge more detail than my studio converters, though also more tiring.
But that’s not my usecase, I’m (ab)using active studio monitors by Kali Audio as HiFi, not exactly cheap but man are they detailed and transparent! If Kodi had an EQ I’d reduce the subs even further it’s still about 5dB too much down there!

So you are using this for stereo audio only?

My thoughts on this thread is that it was being used for consuming hi-fi movie content including Atmos, surround etc since a Vero is primarily a movie player of course. If your use case is just stereo audio, maybe it’s a good option!

The Meizu device is just stereo but how long before someone tries using two or three for surround sound? They are cheap enough.