The $30 is for assembly only, as all Tone Boards ship with that USB Type C cable in the box, as well as the headers for turning it into the version you can mount on their VIM at a later date should you choose to, but you have to solder them on.1. the A-tech site lists lT-1000 DAC with Khadas Tone Board” for $199, any benefits going this route? Am I just paying the $30 for assembly and a usb cable?
As you can see from the pictures, it's not a complex/difficult or time consuming assembly process. But for those that just want to take it out and plug it in, there is that $199 option. Still a good deal, others are selling that same board in slightly different enclosures (and maybe not as nice looking in my opinion) for much more.
Recommended because they manufacture and sell their own single board computer or "SBC", called VIM, they would rather you use that than a Raspberry Pi. I don't like to use any other board than an RPi for the simple reason that no other SBC has even remotely close to the army of software developers and support that the Raspberry Pi foundation does, the Raspbian OS is now firmly rooted all over the world and is in continuous development for a variety of uses, not just audio. That means it will be around for a long time, and the RPi boards are downright cheap for how good they are.2. On the linked khadas site the lists has two options, on the dock version is it recommended to buy that along with one of the other listed products for an all in one audiophile/media mini hub?
The VIM, or even other SBCs like Allo's Sparky do not share that same level of development and support, so if you have a problem, there is literally one and only one place to get help, from that manufacturer. With an RPi, you can get help from a multitude of places, including right here at HFH.
I learned this the hard way when I bought an ODROID C2 a few years ago, because it's hardware specs were better than the RPi 3B that was current then. The level of support was atrocious, both from the U.S. importer (ODROID is made by the Korean firm Hard Kernel) and that of the manufacturer themselves was non-existent, dare I say jerky and dismissive of every single question. They rudely told me to roll up my sleeves, learn a programming language, and do my own development. So I'd steer clear of other SBCs unless you know where you are going to get software support with them, and also keep in mind that nice case I linked to does not accommodate anything but the DAC, to use that board on top of a VIM means you are using the shitty plastic case that @rogerfederer said shatters easily. Not my cup of tea, I waited this long to buy a Tone DAC simply because I wanted a better case for it than I saw available, and I was too damn lazy to fashion my own.