Asus Tinker Board

A DIY digital music streamer with exceptional performance

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Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-09 17:24

Following on from the clips posted to the Hakai Playground I thought it might be worthwhile creating a topic for the Tinker Board. Certainly, the initial impressions of the sound quality when running it with Volumio and the ESI Gigaport have been impressive.
Two clips from months ago (Volumio days). One of the two players is a Hakai. Both used the ESI Gigaport DAC. Preference?

Clip A: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1yUjWQ ... 7AXgZ-aAGj

Clip B: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1PFUsY ... GMqjpMQEDQ

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by matthias » 2019-04-09 19:08

Brian,
can not open the files, the URL seems wrong.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-09 20:36

Matt,

The quote function seems to have truncated the addresses which are as follows:

Clip A
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1yUjWQ ... 7AXgZ-aAGj

Clip B:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1PFUsY ... GMqjpMQEDQ

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by lejonklou » 2019-04-09 21:27

The main challenges with these single board computers that are powered by a single voltage is (1) the quality of the power supply feeding it and (2) the board's internal DC-DC conversion.

We tested 8 different ones in my streamer project, but Tinkerboard was not one of them as it hadn't yet been released. They all sounded wildly different when driven by the same power supply, which I had worked on for months and was quite happy with. I later found that to make these single board computers perform optimally, they all require a power supply that is individually tuned for the specific board model. That is; each model requires its own set of filters, specific output voltage and current capability. One can even push it a step further and fine tune the power supply for each individual board of the same model, as there are tiny variations in what each board "wants", but this is very time consuming and frankly something everyone in the audio industry would label as "frickin madness".

Then after the power supply has been optimized for the single board computer, it can still perform anywhere between terrible and great. One of the main reasons why is the board's internal DC-DC conversion, which turns the single voltage from the power supply into multiple voltages that feed all the circuits on the board. If the DC-DC conversion chip is bad, or its implementation not well executed, the board doesn't perform any good. If the DC-DC conversion is done really well (which is rare), the board has a chance of sounding good and other things will determine its final performance.

When I first read up on the Tinkerboard, it seemed like a really well designed board for an audio streamer. I still haven't played with it, but I'm hoping to soon spend some time tuning a power supply to make it happy. And then see what can be done.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-09 21:47

<r>Very interesting Fredrik! My main concern about the board was the power supply.<br/>
<br/>
For those new to the Tinker Board there are two models, the Tinker Board and the Tinker Board S. The S model has on board SSD. I wonder if the board without the SSD would sound better with the OS on an Intel 320. I suspect it might do. With the Tinker Board S you simply flash the OS to the on board SSD, no need to add RAM or anything else.<br/>
<br/>
Volumio made a product called the The Primo using a Tinker Board S. <br/>
<br/>
<URL url="https://volumio.org/product/volumio-pri ... /</URL></r>

Off the back of this work Volumio created an image file for the Tinker Board.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by markiteight » 2019-04-10 01:25

FairPlayMotty wrote:
2019-04-09 20:36
Matt,

The quote function seems to have truncated the addresses which are as follows:

Clip A
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1yUjWQ ... 7AXgZ-aAGj

Clip B:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1PFUsY ... GMqjpMQEDQ

Brian
I prefer B. The interaction between Sax and piano is much easier to understand. Initially this was a fairly subtle difference but then I realized A is much louder than B. Compensating for volume made the differences even bigger.

Edit:
After posting the above I went back to the playground thread and read others' responses.

Hmmmm...swing and a miss.

I don't understand the appeal of A, especially after compensating for volume.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by matthias » 2019-04-10 04:03

lejonklou wrote:
2019-04-09 21:27
When I first read up on the Tinkerboard, it seemed like a really well designed board for an audio streamer. I still haven't played with it, but I'm hoping to soon spend some time tuning a power supply to make it happy. And then see what can be done.
Very nice,
looking forward to your findings.

Matt
Last edited by matthias on 2019-04-10 04:18, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by matthias » 2019-04-10 04:12

FairPlayMotty wrote:
2019-04-09 21:47
Volumio made a product called the The Primo using a Tinker Board S
https://www.lejonklou.com/forum/viewtop ... f=2&t=4459

AFAIK, Pink Faun use it for the new streamer as well.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-10 07:31

AFAIK, Pink Faun use it for the new streamer as well.
Very interesting Matt, thanks!

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by matthias » 2019-04-10 12:06

lejonklou wrote:
2019-04-09 21:27
One of the main reasons why is the board's internal DC-DC conversion, which turns the single voltage from the power supply into multiple voltages that feed all the circuits on the board. If the DC-DC conversion chip is bad, or its implementation not well executed, the board doesn't perform any good.
Fredrik,
would it make sense to bypass the DC-DC converter and to supply the different voltages directly to the circuits with a multi-rail PS?

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by lejonklou » 2019-04-10 12:44

matthias wrote:
2019-04-10 12:06
lejonklou wrote:
2019-04-09 21:27
One of the main reasons why is the board's internal DC-DC conversion, which turns the single voltage from the power supply into multiple voltages that feed all the circuits on the board. If the DC-DC conversion chip is bad, or its implementation not well executed, the board doesn't perform any good.
Fredrik,
would it make sense to bypass the DC-DC converter and to supply the different voltages directly to the circuits with a multi-rail PS?

Matt
Absolutely not.

It's probably easier to redesign the entire board from scratch than to remove and replace components, find and cut buried tracks, and then add new supplies to all circuits that must start in a certain order.

I have exchanged a few components on these miniature boards, that's probably as far as one can take it.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by tokenbrit » 2019-04-10 15:14

markiteight wrote:
2019-04-10 01:25
I prefer B. The interaction between Sax and piano is much easier to understand. Initially this was a fairly subtle difference but then I realized A is much louder than B. Compensating for volume made the differences even bigger.

Edit:
After posting the above I went back to the playground thread and read others' responses.

Hmmmm...swing and a miss.

I don't understand the appeal of A, especially after compensating for volume.
I too preferred B ... initially. Listening to the clips a few times, A always sounded like a honking kazoo with little to no interaction with the piano. In contrast, B allowed the interaction between sax & piano to be heard, so I can relate to your comments. However, and this is where it gets tricky, I have had this before where a large majority (in number; not size ;) chose the opposite clip to the one that I preferred. In each case, my (minority) preference was formed based on listening to the clips on my laptop - listening again on my phone produced a somewhat different result - I could at least hear the appeal of A now.
For some reason, these SBC v Hakai clips seem quite susceptible to sounding noticeably different depending on what they're replayed on in my house. I have 3 ways to review clips: laptop; phone, & desktop - they can (& have) each give(n) different results with clips, presumably since they each have their own balance that may work with or against certain elements of a recording. (just my hypothesis)
In the case of these clips, I tried listening through the sound differences, to concentrate on musical cues, but was with you in preferring B when listening on the laptop. Listening on the phone instead, the sax player not only put away the kazoo but also developed into a noticeably better musician.
If you haven't tried it already, try listening on other devices and see what results you get. I'd be interested to know if it's me, or if others experience the same variation to the point of changing preference between clips based on the device(s) on which they're replayed.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-10 20:11

If you haven't tried it already, try listening on other devices and see what results you get. I'd be interested to know if it's me, or if others experience the same variation to the point of changing preference between clips based on the device(s) on which they're replayed.
What struck me in the room at the time was how close they were in quality. And I loved the sound of the Hakai and secretly wanted the Tinker Board S to sound bad. But I was blown away by the quality of something the size of a credit card with known issues that ought to have compromised it in my view.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by markiteight » 2019-04-11 00:40

tokenbrit wrote:
2019-04-10 15:14
In the case of these clips, I tried listening through the sound differences, to concentrate on musical cues, but was with you in preferring B when listening on the laptop. Listening on the phone instead, the sax player not only put away the kazoo but also developed into a noticeably better musician.
If you haven't tried it already, try listening on other devices and see what results you get. I'd be interested to know if it's me, or if others experience the same variation to the point of changing preference between clips based on the device(s) on which they're replayed.
Fascinating. Heeding your suggestion I tried listening to the clips on my phone and indeed found them to be different than on my computer. However in my case the difference served to further reinforce my initial findings. B is better than A, and the difference is easier to hear. I tried with two different headphones (Jibs and some cheap Panasonics I've been considering as a replacement for the Jibs now they're discontinued) and my preferences remained, although it was easier to hear the differences with the Jibs. The Pannys aren't as good.

I have always found my computer (late 2011 MBP) sounds better than my phone (iPhone6) but the phone is much more musical.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by beck » 2019-04-11 07:52

Clues to why some of us prefer clip A: If you listen to the saxophone it has a denser more expressive sound in A (nearer). In B it has a less expressive more “see through” sound (see Tendaberry’s answer).

When I listen for the sum of all the sounds A simply come out more natural and together (not trying to “impress”).

Clip B to me has a “broken glass” kind of sound to it not glued together the right way.

All difficult to explain but now I have tried.
Humans need passion in their life and music....

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-11 10:42

I've owned a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 and trialled a number of Japanese streamers prior to finding out about the Hakai. The Tinker Board S beat every streamer I've listened to aside from the Hakai. And was close to the Hakai for musicality and detail.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by matthias » 2019-04-11 12:36

FairPlayMotty wrote:
2019-04-11 10:42
The Tinker Board S beat every streamer I've listened to aside from the Hakai. And was close to the Hakai for musicality and detail.
What is your verdict on Tinkerboard S vs. Hakai so far if you give both the environment where they can perform best?
Thanks

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-11 13:07

What is your verdict on Tinkerboard S vs. Hakai so far if you give both the environment where they can perform best?
The Hakai sounds better but it's close. The Tinker Board S has no right to sound as good particularly with the micro USB power supply. Also think it might sound better with the OS on an Intel 320 SSD - onboard SSDs get pretty poor reviews in the computer audio world.

Have more ethernet cables arriving soon, after which I'll post more clips with the Hakai server feeding the Hakai player and the Tinker Board S.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by beck » 2019-04-11 20:14

Great FairPlayMotty that you will post more clips.

Why does it not bother me that we disagree about clips and are unsure that we hear the same?

Because the most important goal is to make people start to take responsibility for their own system and how it performs. Disagreement is a good thing. Learn how to judge a systems ability to play music and you have done yourself a great favour that will serve you the rest of your life.
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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by matthias » 2019-04-12 00:06

The Tinker Board S has no right to sound as good particularly with the micro USB power supply.
Brian,
AFAIK, the Tinker Board S is not sold with a PS, so what did you use for it, a SMPS or a LPS?
Did you try different PSs, maybe the gap to Hakai can be closed with a special PS?
Thanks

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-12 11:58

AFAIK, the Tinker Board S is not sold with a PS, so what did you use for it, a SMPS or a LPS?
Did you try different PSs, maybe the gap to Hakai can be closed with a special PS?
Matt,

I simply used a standard micro USB charger that I already had here, I'm certain some of the gap could be closed by the use of a power supply of the type Fredrik has been working on.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by tokenbrit » 2019-04-12 14:38

Anyone have any experience with the Tinker Board vs the Tinker Board S?
The specs look similar, but there appears to be more going on than Asus just adding the 16Gb eMMC based on this comparison chart... I'm not about to buy both to compare but was wondering if anyone had thoughts on whether the Tinker Board would sound any different to the latest S version if using an Intel 320 SSD.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by FairPlayMotty » 2019-04-12 17:41

I'm not about to buy both to compare but was wondering if anyone had thoughts on whether the Tinker Board would sound any different to the latest S version if using an Intel 320 SSD.
Wish I had side by side comparisons but I don't. As your chart shows, there are a few differences between the boards. I'd like to think that the Volumio guys did a side by side comparison in developing the Primo but if I was a betting man I'd wager they were attracted by the onboard memory.

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New Raspberry Pi 4

Post by matthias » 2019-06-29 17:16

The new Raspberry PI 4 has been launched:

https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/ra ... 4-model-b/

Maybe worth to try vs. Tinker Board and Hakai.

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Re: Asus Tinker Board

Post by teatime » 2019-07-13 02:34

I've been curious about HAKAI for quite a while now. Not because I'm unsatisfied with my KDSM, but mostly curious about how good a DYI project like this could actually be. Also, since I spend quite a bit of time in my home office, I would like something better than my computer for music.

But HAKAI being made up of a big bunch of outdated and hard-to-source component has held me off.

Then the other night I noticed two clips here, comparing a Tinker Board box with HAKAI, and I found I preferred the former. (And apparently, so did several others here.. I'm surprised not more has been said about this.)

Tinker Board is easy enough to get hold of and costs much less than HAKAI, so I figured I'd just go ahead and order one.

So earlier tonight I put the Tinker Board together, installed the latest VolumIO and connected it to my Gigaport HD+ (which I already had).

It's now 3.30 in the morning, I've been sitting on this office chair for 5-6 hours, and I still don't want to stop listening to music. I don't think I've ever listened to headphones for this long before. Amazing. This thing is GREAT!

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