Here at EasySqueezebox we have a spent a good deal of time trying to make it as easy as possible for people to use Squeezebox™ Server and Squeezebox™ players. We do this from the conviction that Squeezebox Server is an excellent system – a somewhat better performer than most commercial alternatives and really good value for money too.

We have previously reviewed some commercial and hand-crafted products that provide an alternative to second-hand Logitech® players and now we have been given the opportunity to take a look at Allo's Vana Player which seems to meet our triple criteria: sounds OK, not too expensive, not too much hard work.

Allo is a Canadian company with production and design facilities in Bangalore, India. They make a range of audio modules that plug together to create a player that runs Max2Play, which contains Squeezelite, one of our favourite Squeezebox player applications. All the modules are stacked and 'topped and tailed' by acrylic case plates.

Components and Specifications

The permutations are as follows:

  • The Vana Player is a bundle consisting of a Sparky SBC + Piano 2.1 DAC + Kali re-clocker + Capacitance Multiplier + Volt Amp + 5V power supply + Acrylic plates with spacer & screws.
  • The picture below shows the standard Vana Player: a 2x50W stereo amplifier, Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) +headphone amplifier, plus re-clocker. To the left is a power supply ripple reducer called a Capacitance Multiplier. The single-board computer (SBC) is at the bottom. The SBC can be the Raspberry Pi shown above or Allo's own Sparky SBC.
  • Three versions of the DAC board are available: Piano Hi-Fi DAC, Piano 2.1 Hi-Fi DAC (with Sub-Woofer outlet), and the courageously named Cheapo DAC. The version we used in our trial is the Piano 2.1 which is capable of handling up to 384 kHz/32 bit streams which is impressive (although we don't need anyone outside a recording studio who really needs that capability).
  • The re-clocker is called Kali (after the Hindu Goddess of Time, Creation, Destruction and Power). The re-clocker aims to reduce jitter and improve the performance of the DAC.
  • There are two amplifier options; Volt Amp an integrated Class D amplifier delivering 2 * 50W (part of the Vana package) and Volt+ Amp a stand alone version of the Volt Amp with separate RCA inputs.

Currently (February 2016) the Vana Player sells online in Europe for $212 USD, which is around £160 GBP or €170 EUR. ( European prices include VAT. The online price in the USA is $164. (


A detailed description of the Vana Player, including lots of pictures and specifications is available from a product review on the Art Of Sound.

In this review we will concentrate on the Player/DAC part of the playback chain. We will review the Allo Volt amp separately. 

Some Competitors

Sonos Connect:Amp

On paper, comparison with the Sonos Connect:Amp shows the Sonos ahead on specification, but it comes at a price! 

Sonos scores over the Vana Player by having:-

  • Slightly more power (2 * 55W RMS)

  • Volume & play/pause controls on the unit

  • WiFi built in

  • A single-box solution in attractive casing

  • No assembly required

  • Virtually plug-in and play (easily set-up by people without technical knowledge).

Vana Player scores over the Sonos by being:-

  • Less than half the price. The Vana Player in full spec (using the integrated Volt Amp and Sparky SBC) costs around £170 in the UK. This compares favourably to a Sonos Connect:Amp which costs £399. If you already have a Raspberry Pi that can be re-purposed and omit the Sparky, then the cost comparison is even more favourable for the Vana Player;

  • Compatible with Squeezebox™ Server with all the advantages we have expounded elsewhere. That's important to us at 

  • The Vana is able to handle much higher definition streams, up to 384 kHz/32 bit streams compared to the Sonus's 48 kHz and 16 bit depth. This higher definition matters if you have the very high end playback hardware needed to reveal the difference. Most people who have a Sonus seem to be pretty happy with what it does.

We have not reviewed Sonus on simply because it does not work with Squeezebox Server (fine product though it might be otherwise). 


The IQaudIO Pi-DAC/AMP+ Bundle is much closer in scope to the Vana Player than the Sonos. It's aimed at the same kind of users, being a kit device requiring some assembly, and it's Squeezebox oriented too. The IQaudIO DAC + can support up to 192 kHz / 24 bit audio streams.

Comparison with the IQaudIO Pi-DAC/AMP+ Bundle specifications ( shows a pretty even balance between the two. And the IQaudio product price at £132 in the UK is competitive.

  • The IQaudIO Pi-DAC/AMP+ Bundle, like the Vana Player, needs to be assembled from components. As with the Vana, no soldering is required. 

  • IQaudIO Pi-DAC/AMP+ Bundle and Vana Player both have Class D power amps but the IQAudIO is rated at 2x35 Watt RMS compared to the stated 2x50W of the Vana.

  • Both devices perform volume control in the Squeeze player software embedded in the device.

  • IQaudIO Pi-DAC/AMP+ Bundle currently sells online in the UK for £132 including 19v power supply. (US $165, Euro 155 EUR). The Vana Player sells at £170 without a Volt+ Amp power supply but includes the Kali re-clocker.

  • Like the Vana Player, IQAudIO Pi-Amp+ has an ethernet port. Also, like the Vana, it requires a dongle to be connected to the USB port if WiFi is required.

We have not yet auditioned the IQaudIO Pi-DAC/AMP+ Bundle, but hope to do so in the near future. 

Pi & HiFiBerry AMP+

When coupled with a Raspberry Pi the HiFiBerry AMP+ provides a neat one box solution. The AMP+ board contains a DAC too, and couples to a Raspberry Pi which can share the same power supply. Depending on options chosen, this would cost around $140 USD which makes it worth considering. The Amp is rated at 25W per channel, which is a little lighter than the Vana, but definitely OK for most desktop environments. Digital streams top out at 48 kHz (bit depth not specified). That's about the same as the Sonus, and that would be fine for many applications.

The latest separate DAC board from HiFiBerry, the DAC + Pro ($49 USD), handles 96 kHz /24 bit streams and has improved on-board clocking, so it might be strong competition for the Allo Piano + Kali combo, on a single board. We haven't listened to this newer DAC yet, but on paper it looks good.

Logitech Touch

Logitech Squeeze Touch was a very popular player produced by Logitech, but it was discontinued by Logitech in 2012. A measure of its perceived value is that used devices are still being sold on eBay and elsewhere for $800 and more. It is a single box with a built-in DAC but also has a digital output for use with an external DAC, which is the way we mostly use it.

Today, the DAC stage of the Touch might be considered to be a bit dated, considering all the improvements in this product sector since 2010 when the Touch was launched. But it can still support 96 kHz / 24 bit music streams, which is plenty for most people.

Choosing Our Test Comparison Equipment

We wanted to compare the Vana Player (without the Volt amp) against a competitive product similar in design and price. We decided to use a combination of Raspberry Pi plus a HiFiBerry DAC against the Vana Sparky SBC Player plus Piano DAC, both with and without the Kali re-clocker.

We reviewed the Pi + HiFiBerry DAC combo back in 2014, ( when we found that it stood up surprisingly well in comparison with much more expensive DAC equipment, also driven by a Raspberry Pi.

What we did not do in that original review was to compare the Pi + HiFiBerry DAC with the analog output of the Logitech Touch, using the Touch's built in DAC. Well, to prepare for the Allo test, we've now done that, just to confirm our hunch that it would be a worthy challenger.

Test One – Mid-range Hi-Fi Unit – Raspberry Pi vs Logitech Touch

As our reference for the Vana tests we intended to use the Raspberry Pi Model B & HiFiBerry DAC as this is very close to the Vana Player in price and design. But first we decided to compare the Pi combo with a Logitech Touch to establish which would be the more challenging reference.

The Test: A comparative test of a Raspberry Pi Model B & HiFiBerry DAC and Logitech Touch using the Touch's built-in DAC. Music derived from FLAC files sampled at 24bit sample size and 96kHzsample rate into a NAD C370 with B&W CDM1 NTs.

We observed not much difference between the two configurations but overall the Raspberry Pi performed better. Specifically:

  • The Raspberry Pi exhibited a slightly broader sound stage than the Logitech;
  • Instrument separation was cleaner.

As a result of this preliminary test we finalised our choice of the Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry DAC as the comparator for this exercise. Please note that both the Rasperry Pi and HiFiBerry DAC products are not the most current versions. Both have been superseded by improved versions, which we hope to be able to use for a future test.

Vana Comparitive Tests

Test Two – Desktop Unit – Basic Vana Player vs Raspberry Pi

The Test: A comparative test of a Sparky SBC & Piano 2.1 Hi-Fi DAC against a Raspberry Pi Model B & HiFiBerry DAC. The music used for the test consisted of FLAC files at 44.1kHz sample rate and 16bit sample size on Squeezebox server, played through each DAC under test into the same Bose SoundDock Series II system.

Overall the Vana Player out-performed the Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry DAC. Specifically:

  • The Sound-stage was more pronounced with better stereo definition;
  • The mid-range was less muddled;
  • The top-end was brighter;
  • The bass was cleaner.

Test Three – Mid-range Hi-Fi Unit - Vana Player without Kali vs Raspberry Pi

The Test: A comparative test of a Sparky SBC & Piano 2.1 Hi-Fi DAC against a Raspberry Pi Model B & HiFiBerry DAC. Music derived from FLAC files sampled at 24bit sample size and 96kHzsample rate into a NAD C370 with B&W CDM1 NTs. 

Overall the Vana Player out-performed the Raspberry Pi. Specifically:

  • The Vana Player had cleaner top notes ;
  • Slightly more realistic sound stage;
  • Stereo imaging sharper;
  • Mid-range sound fuller.

Test Four – Mid-range Hi-Fi Unit - Vana Player with Kali Re-clocking vs Raspberry Pi


The Test: A comparative test of a Sparky SBC & Piano 2.1 Hi-Fi DAC & Kali against a Raspberry Pi Model B & HiFiBerry DAC. Music derived from FLAC files sampled at 24bit sample size and 96kHzsample rate into a NAD C370 with B&W CDM1 NTs.

Overall the Vana Player clearly out-performed the Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry. Specifically:

  • The Vana Player had crisper top notes giving great clarity to ‘high-hat’ cymbals;
  • Oboe and harp reproduction was cleaner;
  • Stereo imaging clearer;
  • Mid-range sound fuller and punchier.

Note that we were unable to conduct a direct A/B comparison between the Vana Player with Kali and the Vana Player without Kali as each listen would have needed the player to be rebuilt, making an A/B test physically impossible with our limited resources.

However, the results of Tests 3 and 4 were sufficiently marked that we were convinced that the inclusion of the Kali in the configuration made a noticeable and significant improvement to the top-end.

Further Observations, Pros and Cons

  1. The Vana modules are really well made – all the components stand to attention and the soldering is clean and precise.

  2. Some necessary additional components need to be sourced locally – e.g. WiFi dongle and 19v supply. Not everyone has a spare laptop lying around and we feel Allo should offer all the elements to construct a viable system from a single supplier.

  3. The construction guidance is not as precise and clear as we would like. But we want to help, so see our How-To Guide at [Link]

  4. The completed Vana Player looks like a bit of a ‘lash up’ and not something you’d proudly display in your hi-fi rack. (I was told to hide it away when I connected it to our home system.) Allow should offer a more elegant encapsulation - we understand this is already in the development plan.

  5. The branding is a bit confused – The company is ‘Allo’ which seems a bit too close to Google’s Allo smart messaging app for comfort. The product modules don’t appear to have a consistent naming theme. We love the nod toward Sparky and the Magic Piano (older readers will recall this) and the bravely named ‘Cheapo DAC’ The re-clocker draws its name from Hindi and the Amp range is called ‘Volt’. Contrast this with Sonos for example, where the product names have a consistent style and functions are easily discerned from the names.

  6. The products perform well beyond what the prices might suggest and represent excellent value for money.


First, thanks to Allo for giving us the opportunity to take a look at the Vana Player and for having the foresight to provide a Squeezebox Player capability in their product.

The Vana Player is really competitive product offering which in our tests consistently out-performed the old version Raspberry Pi Model B & HiFiBerry DAC, especially when the Kali is in the playback chain. We happily endorse the Vana Player as a good performer for the price. But we now are keen to test it against the latest HiFiBerry product!

The inclusion of the Kali in the stack is moot if your set-up has multiple players in synchronicity because of sync drift (see our ‘How-To’ guide) and that's important to you. On the other hand, deploying the Vana Player in a high-end HiFi unit with Kali will reveal greater musical benefits which might outweigh any sync niggles. And certainly, for sheer value for money, if you're going to buy Vana player, we would always recommend the Vana Player with the Kali option included.

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Page first published: 2017-02-19

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