Meeting the Vana Player from ALLO

An overview of the ALLO solution for music enthusiast

Posted on October 02, 2016 by @lorenzoferrara

WARNING: Please note that this article describes my experience and the results you might get reproducing what I did could be different. Please understand that I am not responsible for the results you might get reproducing what I did. If you choose to follow my notes and something bad happens, don't blame me, you are responsible for what you do. In doubt, my advice is to go and read some news.

The Vana Player is a complete hardware and software solution for music enthusiasts. It's a bundle containing many devices that, together, will result in a setup that will work out of the box, requiring very minimal, if not at all, configuration.

The manufacturer of these devices is ALLO, a Canadian company, established in India, whom is best known for its telecom devices. The company recently got itself in the SBC (Single Board Computer), DAC (Digital Audio Converter) and audio amplifier market, starting what could be the next generation of great audio players.

ALLO contacted me for a review of their products. So, starting with this one, I'll publish some of my thoughts on their devices.

The Vana Player

The Vana Player comes in two configurations: one with a two channels DAC and an headphone AMP, the other with a 2.1 DAC with subwoofer output (it actually has two separate DACs, one for left and right output, one for subwoofer left and subwoofer right).

Since I prefer headphones, I asked for the two channels DAC version.

The package I received contained a lot of devices:

Sparky SBC (Single Board Computer)

The Sparky is a credit card sized computer. It can be compared to the Raspberry Pi for its size, its capabilities, and its communication ports. The Allo.com states this:

Sparky also provides the flexibility to use any of the Raspberry PI add-on boards currently available. we also offer the following add-on boards, like Piano Hi-Fi DAC, Volt AMP, Cheapo DAC, GIGA dual Ethernet, Telecom Analog Shield and GSM Shield.

Link to view the Sparky SBC details on Allo.com

Kali Reclocker

The Kali Reclocker is what many identify as the revolutionary game changer. This device stands between the SBC and the DAC, taking the audio signals from the RPi/Sparky, buffering 0.7 seconds of data, discarding the incoming clocks, and, finally, reclocking the data before outputting it to the DAC.

ALLO states what fallows:

the music will "open up". The stage will sound bigger, more tri-dimensional. You will hear sounds, words, instruments that were drowned before in a sea of digital mud.

Also, they make it clear that, at the end, the answer to the "is it worth it?" question is a very personal one. It all depends on the speakers, the music, and how one likes to listen to his favorite music.

At the end, the quality that the Kali could add to the whole system is interesting, and, for its cost, I wouldn't see why one should now try it.

The Kali requires a 5 volt power source (that was included in the package), but the good news is that it will power itself, the RPi/Sparky, and the DAC. So you will end up having a cleaner setup.

Link to view the Kali Reclocker details on Allo.com

Piano Hi-Fi DAC

The Piano Hi-Fi DAC is the device that converts the digital signal to analog. It uses two chipsets: the PCM5122 (384 kHz/32 bit) for the DAC and the TPA6133A2, on which the headphone amplifier is based on. Both chipsets are from Texas Instruments and are widely used.

The Piano has a built-in 3.5mm audio jack, so you can plug in your headphones directly in the device.

ALLO manufactures another DAC called Piano 2.1 Hi-Fi DAC. It's very different from the two channels version. It has two PCM5142 (384 kHz/32 bit), one for analog audio (left and right), another for the analog subwoofer (left and right).

Volt Amp

The Volt Amp is a class D amplifier that uses the Texas Instruments TPA3118. The devices is not for use as a standalone amplifier, it has no RCA inputs, but it can connect to a Piano or a Piano 2.1 Hi-Fi DAC through a connector located at the bottom.

The Volt requires a 19 volt power source and can deliver up to 50 watts per channel. ALLO also sells a Capacitance Multiplier to help reduce the output ripple/noise of the power supply unit.

There is also another version of the Volt Amp, called Volt+ Amp. It uses the same chip as the Volt, but it has a built in Capacitance Multiplier and has RCA IN, so it's a standalone amplifier.

Conclusions

ALLO has done a very good job with its devices. The build quality seems very good. The heatsink on top of the Sparky gives the SBC a very nice look. Once all the devices are mounted on top of the other, you'll get a nice looking bundle.

While the HAT devices are compatible with the Raspberry Pi, the Sparky has a different layout. This means that you won't be able to use cases designed for the Raspberry Pi (if that's important to you). Here you can see the two SBC:

The bundle also comes with an acrylic case that protects a bit the devices from dust but leaves open space for a good ventilation.

That's all for now. In the next article we'll talk about the software included and how to use it.

Good listening!