Introduction: This article is a review and comparison of the following inexpensive digital transports: 1) Raspberry Pi 2 with HifiBerry Digi+ transformer version (~$100 from Amazon) 2) NanoPi Neo ($12) 3) Google Chromecast Audio ($30) This comparison of three inexpensive digital transports was created after I purchased a Moby and Vali 2 and moved my audio equipment to the basement out of the office where my tower computer resides. I explored the many options for purchasing and creating endpoints which to send audio over Ethernet down to the basement. I considered purchasing an off-the-shelf setup such as the Sonore Sonicorbiter SE and the MicroRendu. At $300 and $640, respectively, I decided that there are much cheaper alternatives, if I am willing to put my mediocre computer skills to use. The real questions are which of the inexpensive endpoints is right for my musical preferences and would my exploration offer a benefit to the SBAF community. This comparo went through several different variations with my changing my system from Vali 2 to Jotunheim and the late addition of the IFi Audio SPDIF iPurifier which drastically changed my initial impressions of the Chromecast Audio. Please note the idea of using NanoPi Neo and the Google Chromecast Audio as cheap endpoints was learned directly from postings by Chris Connaker at Computer Audiophile. The idea of improving the Chromecast Audio with the IFi Audio SPDIF iPurifier was learned from a post by John Darko at Digital Audio Review. Materials and Methods: The audio chain for this review is some combination of the following: Roon V1.2 Volumio V2.2 Moode 2.7 J River Media Center (JRMC) V22 Schiit Modi Multibit (Moby) iFi Audio SPDIF iPurifier Schiit Jotunheim Sennheiser HD650 (stock and then dynamat modded) Cables: Schiit Pyst USB, Blue Jeans Audio Coaxial Digital cable, Monoprice SPDIF cable, generic ethernet cables, generic micro usb cable, Venus Audio HD650 XLR cable. Raspberry Pi 2 with HifiBerry Digi+ transformer version (Coaxial digital and SPDIF) Friendly ARM NanoPi Neo (USB) Google Chromecast Audio (SPDIF) Loading Roon and Volumio/Moode: In order to save space, I will leave out the specifics on how to load the software onto the Raspberry Pi and NanoPi Neo. I plan on creating a walkthrough if the SBAF community requests it, but I feel most people here have a higher level of computer skills than me and a detailed explanation would not be needed. If people have specific questions, please feel free to PM me. Results & Impressions: In my specific setup, which is focused on getting good detail, dynamics, and soundstage realism for a small amount of money, I can easily say that the best sound was obtained from either using: Raspberry Pi 2 with Digi+ transformer version Coax out to iFi OR Chromecast Audio (streaming Tidal) out to iFi àMoby à JotunheimàXLR out HD650. I always love listening to live jazz recordings to give a sense of musicians in an actual space. I will focus on the Medeski, Martin and Wood album Tonic to put all of the results into context. As an audiophile that was previously (15 years ago) interested in 2-channel audio I used to read about hearing the “space around instruments” but never owned a system capable of resolving this phenomenon. I got into headphones because it seemed putting together a system capable of a high level of extraction of music (whether digital or analog) is easily achievable even on a modest budget. With the above system, I could easily hear the “space” around instruments and also finally heard the layering of sounds in a space. I could hear the plankton or micro details in all of the systems, however, the Raspberry Pi Digi+/iFi or Chromecast/iFi were the only ones capable of resolving the space around instruments and depth/layering of the soundstage. The Roon-based Digi+ (even with iFi) and NanoPi Neo had a strange loudness in the sound that initially was appealing. But once volume was decreased I realized I was hearing a collapse of the soundstage and loss of the instruments in space. There was little perceived soundstage with the drums, bass and organ closed in around my head. It was hard to listen to. On acoustic folk recordings, especially Bob Dylan in mono, the Roon-based systems can sound very good, but I think that is because it is only one voice and one guitar. The JRMC/Chromecast Audio (without iFi) system had the same crap soundstage and had even less plankton than the Roon-based systems. Roon, RAAT and NanoPi Neo: From my listening and from a purely sound perspective, it is hard for me to understand the allure of Roon. I can easily understand the value of Roon’s user interface and data. Roon markets itself as having biographies, artist information, album reviews, tour dates and tons of metadata to connect all of the dots in even the hugest of music collections. However, all of the data is pulled from Allmusic/Rovi. You could look up all the same info for free on your computer or iPad while listening to music. After all of the hype, I had high hopes for the RAAT protocol and sound quality but I am disappointed. I sought help on the Roon forums and from Roon technical support, but no one could offer any constructive suggestions. I think the hardest part is trying to understand why the mainstream audiophile media loves it so much. It is hard to not be cynical. During the course of the listening for this review, I researched and read threads about Roon’s sound quality and how I could improve it. I really tried hard to like Roon because their UI and ease of use are way ahead of any other program. It was recommended that I try HQPlayer with Roon. I Downloaded HQPlayer and then realized it basically works as a separate endpoint itself which in order to utilize on a Raspberry Pi, one must pay for a license which in my mind is yet another expense for Roon. If one is already invested in Roon and you like how it sounds with your particular system, I think the best bang-for-the-buck has to be the Nanopi Neo at $12. If you desire a cheap Roon endpoint, it is ridiculously good for the money and given that RAAT has a distinct sound to me, I honestly wonder how much better something like a MicroRendu can really be. One caveat is I did not test this Nanopi Neo with a USB demuckifier which could improve the sound. Ranting on a soapbox: I find the rave reviews over both of the MicroRendu and Sonicorbiter SE in the mainstream audiophile press (Computer Audiophile, Audiostream, Digital Audio Review) as evidence of another disturbing trend. One that assumes audiophiles are either too stupid or lazy to program inexpensive devices that can do the same job or better as high-priced off-the-shelf versions. At least, Computer Audiophile seems to struggle with this by posting about the NanoPi Neo as a Roon endpoint. I will even go as far to wager that for Roon-use-only it is the same as a Sonicorbiter SE since it uses RAAT. The Sonicorbiter SE is just an off-the-shelf CuBox-I, just add Roonbridge software and it is the same when used with Roon. I know the CuBox-i can do SPDIF too, but when used with RAAT, the difference in USB and Coax sound was too small for me to hear. I can’t imagine SPDIF sounding that much better than Coax, but then again I have very limited experience with all of this. Conclusion: For a small amount of money and a small amount of time, any person reading this has the ability to create a great sounding endpoint. Again, if you are having technical trouble please PM me and I will be happy to help. My recommendation for the best sound from your own tracks is to try a Raspberry Pi2 with Hifiberry Digi+ (transformer version) with an iFi SPDIF purifier. I preferred Volumio and JRMC v22 (with JRemote iOS App). There are plenty of other great sounding programs like Moode or Rune that are just as easy to install on the Raspberry Pi. For streaming Tidal, I think the cheapest and best bang for the buck has to be Chromecast Audio + iFi SPDIF iPurifier. For a total of $180 one has a Wifi-based streamer that you use the Tidal app to control. The sound is excellent and for the past week or so this is all I needed to listen to music and finally be happy!