The Raspberry Pi is not the first thought for audiophiles, the composite jack is rather noisy, and the HDMI output is good but not perfect for serious audio enthusiasts. To address this shortcoming third party business IQaudio has for many years sold their range of HAT boards targeted to serious audio enthusiasts. Now IQaudio is part of Raspberry Pi and their boards and being added to the range of Raspberry Pi products.
In a blog post on the Raspberry Pi website, Roger Thornton, Principal Hardware Engineer explains about Raspberry Pi audio. "One market we’ve never explored is hi-fi audio; this is a world unto itself, with a very demanding customer base, and we’ve never felt we had the capabilities needed to offer something distinctive. Over time, third parties have stepped in with a variety of audio I/O devices, amplifiers, and other accessories."
IQaudio have been part of the Raspberry Pi community since 2015 and their range of boards, IQaudio DAC+, IQaudio DAC Pro, IQaudio DigiAmp+ and IQaudio Codec Zero are now official Raspberry Pi accessories.
At $20 IQaudio DAC+ is the lowest priced audio hat. It supports upto 24-bit 192KHz digital audio and provides outputs via stereo phono and a headphone jack. The IQaudio DAC Pro is $5 more and provides the same outputs but with a higher quality DAC. If you need a dedicated audio amplifier board, a hi-fi in a HAT, then the IQaudio DigiAMP+ offers up to 35W per channel for passive speakers. The final board is the IQaudio Codec Zero and as the name suggest this is a board designed for the Raspberry Pi Zero. This audio I/O hat is a Swiss Army knife of inputs and outputs. It has a built in MEMs microphone, useful for building your own home assistant such as Alexa, Google or Mycroft. It also support external microphones, and up to a 1.2W 8 ohm mono speaker.
The IQaudio boards are available from Raspberry Pi approved sellers. The IQaudio Codec Zero will be available in 2021.