Looking for a high-quality audio streamer? Check out our Orchard Audio PecanPi+ Streamer review: a remarkable device for audio enthusiasts.
As an audio purist, finding the perfect device to stream your music can be a daunting task. You want a device that not only delivers high-quality sound but also provides you with the flexibility to stream music from different sources. That’s where the Orchard Audio PecanPi+ DAC/Streamer ($799.95 with preorder pricing at 699.95 until the end of March) comes in.
Orchard Audio is a self-described “boutique audio company” founded by Leonid (Leo) Ayzenshtat, who designs and builds a variety of DACs, streamers, and amplifiers in the United States. He comes from a tradition of small high-end audio manufacturers led by dedicated enthusiast builders who prioritize sound quality over all else when developing a product.
To this end, the PecanPi+ has been designed to cater to audiophiles looking for a streaming solution that delivers uncompromising sound quality. However, as with many purist hi-fi products, you sacrifice some bells and whistles in exchange for an immaculate audio signal. Eventually, you’ll have to decide if the trade-off is worth it.
In this review, we’ll look in-depth at the Orchard Audio PecanPi+ Streamer, exploring its features, performance, and overall user experience. So, if you’re looking for a device that can take your music streaming experience to the next level, keep reading to find out if the PecanPi+ is the device for you.
PecanPi+ Streamer Review: Features and specifications
The PecanPi+ Streamer is a music streaming device that allows for high-quality audio playback without a complicated setup. Users can control music playback using their mobile devices, including phones and tablets.
Additionally, the device can be connected to digital transports via S/PDIF input and used as a DAC only. You can also connect an RCA to 1/4″ adapter to the rear output and use it as a headphone amp, with the knob on the front providing volume control.
Unlike the original Pecan Pi streamer, which leveraged Burr Brown DAC chips, the Orchard Audio PecanPi+ streamer uses the latest AK4499EXEQ digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and AK9141EQ Delta-Sigma modulator chips from Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM). The 4499 operates via the multi-bit switched resistor DAC method, incorporating AKM’s VELVETSOUND technology for immersive sound.
The AKM DAC (which handles PCM up to 32/384) design aims to enhance sound quality and signal-to-noise ratio by separating the digital signal processing and digital-to-analog conversion into two separate devices. The PecanPi+ is designed to use these technological advancements to deliver unaltered and pure audio that faithfully replicates the source material.
Additionally, the AKM chips are paired with low-noise power supplies, an ultra-low jitter clock, and high-performance audio operational amplifiers from Burr-Brown (Texas Instruments). These features enable the PecanPi+ DAC to deliver remarkable performance. You’ll notice there’s no MQA or Native DSD decoding, but many audio purists turn their noses up at these options anyway.
The DAC section works in conjunction with the Raspberry Pi microcomputing platform to run the necessary software for music streaming, and you can select from different software options based on your particular use case. Most people will probably choose Volumio, as it provides the most user-friendly interface, but you can also pick from Roon endpoint software, piCorePlayer (Squeezebox), or moOde Audio for Raspberry Pi.
- DAC chip: Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) flagship AK4499EXEQ combined with AK4191EQ
- Sampling Rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, and 384kHz (S/PDIF limited to 192k)
- Bit Rates: 16, 24 and 32-bits (S/PDIF limited to 24-bits)
- Formats: Supports all formats. DSD is converter to PCM before playback.
- Clocking: Crystek CCHD-575 oscillator — ultra-low clock jitter of 82fSec
- Regular Headphone Output: Power into 32Ω: 425mW peak
- Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): 133dB (A-weighted)
- Residual Noise: 1.174uV (A-weighted)
- Dynamic Range (DNR): 129dB
- Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N) @ 0dBFS: -116dB or 0.00016%
- Output Voltage: 5.22Vrms (+16.6dBu)
- Size: 195 x 120 x 100mm (7.7 x 4.75 x 4.25in)
PecanPi+ Streamer Review: Design and build quality
The PecanPi+ is a high-end DAC/Streamer with exceptional build quality. It has a heavy-duty black metal casing, which looks sleek and modern and provides excellent durability. This product seems built to last, set to occupy a prized position on your audio rack for a long time.
While the product is built extremely well, there’s very much a DIY feel to the presentation. There’s no fancy box or packaging, and instructions are sparse. The power supply is quality but looks to be an off-the-shelf option from an electronics catalog.
That said, this isn’t unusual for a high-end audio product from an enthusiast brand like Orchard Audio, as most of the money is usually put into the product itself, with internal components carefully selected by a designer who pours over every detail. This is intended to give you the best sound quality for the price. This is why you often get the most for your money from a smaller hi-fi manufacturer, as opposed to a mass-market concern.
When it comes to design, simplicity is the name of the game, meaning you’ll find no ornate buttons, lights, switches, or screens on the PecanPi+ streamer. On the front of the unit, there’s nothing but a non-descript volume knob. On the back, the standard setup has a set of Balanced XLR outputs, a S/PDIF input (coax), 4 USB connectors, and an ethernet jack for wired networking.
From there, you can add an RCA line output or a 1/4″ headphone jack. Then you can add a USB to S/PDIF Converter to use the PecanPi as a USB DAC for your laptop. The review unit I received came with the RCA output instead of the headphone jack.
What you won’t see on the rear panel is a Wi-Fi antenna because this DAC only does wired networking out of the box. Without one of the Wi-Fi extenders recommended by Orchard Audio or elsewhere on the internet, your placement options are curtailed, meaning you may have to install the PecanPi+ near your router, which may or may not be near your audio setup.
Additionally, you may be expecting to see Bluetooth as an option, but it’s another bell and whistle you won’t see here, which fits with the high-end audio ethos of the product.
User interface and software of the PecanPi+
Regarding software, I opted for the version with Volumio as it seemed to be the most familiar and flexible option. I’m not a huge fan of the software, as I find the app to be a bit buggy and not the most intuitive, but it has many features and does most of the stuff you want it to do. For example, right out of the box, I could access the music on my DLNA-compatible network drive, along with some tracks on a USB drive plugged into the back of the streamer.
Conversely, Volumio charges a subscription fee to access streaming services like Tidal or Qobuz through the app, which I don’t like. That said, if you enjoy the software, the subscription doesn’t cost that much, basically about $70 US dollars a year. In hindsight, I wish I got the version with the Roon software so I could see how the PecanPi+ would tie in with the huge library on my Roon core system.
That said, Volumio supports the PecanPi+ streamer as part of a simple and quick setup. I got up and running in about five minutes once I connected it to my router, as the app found the streamer on my network right away.
PecanPi+ Streamer Review: Sound quality
As advertised, sound quality is where the PecanPi+ streamer truly excels. The PecanPi+ streamer boasts exceptional sound quality that rivals high-end audio equipment costing several times more. This is due to its use of high-quality components, such as the AKM flagship AK4499EXEQ DAC chip combined with the AK4191EQ delta-sigma modulator chip. The PecanPi+ also utilizes advanced clocking technology to minimize jitter and ensure accurate timing.
The result is a clean, detailed, and dynamic sound that should impress even the most discerning audiophiles. I haven’t heard a streamer (or DAC) under $1000 that sounds as organic as the PecanPi+. It isn’t the end all be all of depth and separation, but it still has plenty of both. Listening to Marta Gomez’s “Maria Mulata,” the richness of the details and the naturalness of the tonality entranced me. Gomez’s vocals sounded amazingly realistic, and the presentation was nicely laid back with no hint of glare.
Even through headphones (Hifiman Edition XS) connected to the back of the unit with a 1/4″ to RCA adapter, the PecanPi+ was a revelation soundwise. The transparency and richness of the various textures in the music I was listening to were off the charts.
Conclusion – Is the PecanPi+ worth buying?
In conclusion, the PecanPi+ DAC/Streamer from Orchard Audio should be highly praised for its exceptional sound quality and value for money. It uses cutting-edge DAC technology to produce pure, unaltered audio, making it an excellent choice for audiophiles looking for a high-end audio streamer that sounds like devices costing several times more.
Despite some design compromises made in connectivity, versatility, and ease of use, the PecanPi+ Streamer Ultra is an excellent choice for audio enthusiasts who are willing to sacrifice some bells and whistles for high-fidelity sound not usually heard at this price point. If this sounds like you, the PecanPi+ DAC/Streamer is definitely worth considering.
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My hunger for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.