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margetti's picture
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My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

 

 

 

 

I've gone on a bit (!) about setting this up below, so for those that just want to know if it is any good - that's a resounding yes! I have been absolutely astounded at the sound quality this little bit of kit produces. In fact, it's right up there with my CDP and turntable considering its cost. Sure, it can sound a little clinical, and the bass is a little bit lacking at times, but overall it punches way way above its weight. And for what its worth (!) it handles everything up to 24/192.

And so on with my ramble...

I've had no real interest in digital music servers/streamers et al - CD and vinyl have served me quite well thank you very much for as long as I can remember. And whilst I don't consider myself a ludite, I just wasn't really bothered with making a change to the way I listened to music. I like the whole tangible thing of picking up a physical format and clicking play or dropping the needle.

That all changed late last year when I had a few demo sessions of some speakers at the local specialist dealer. I think it was a Meridian server that was used as the source (I was more interested in the speakers at the time so didn't take too much notice of the brand). Controlled using an iPad, I very quickly started to enjoy the flexibility and ease of use of the software - chopping and changing tracks at will, as you do.

Perfect for a demo I thought, but I still wasn't interested in going down that path. But the idea nagged at me... I still wasn't prepared to ditch my CD's and records, and certainly wasn't prepared to pay the sort of money I think I'd need to integrate successfully into the rest of my system. Then I remembered reading about the Raspberry Pi being used as a multi-media centre.

So I embarked on a project to build a Raspberry Pi based "hi-fi" music server for the lowest possible cost.

After some research, I stumbled across raspyfi, which has now morphed into Volumio (www.volumio.org). This was definitely the place to start! So Volumio provides the software - linux based and free. A good start.

Then I looked into DACs, but even on the second hand market anything half decent was out of my price range (I have a bad habit of letting low-cost projects turn into not so low-cost projects). There are also known problems with some USB DACs causing pops and clicks, which narrowed the choice down a bit (see http://www.raspyfi.com/the-right-usb-dac-for-your-raspberry-pi/) and was a bit off-putting as I don't have the first clue about DACs!

Then I found HiFiBerry (http://www.hifiberry.com/) which sounded like just the job - easpecially at around 35 euro (incl. shipping)... so the project was a go!

This is the list of parts I needed:

Raspberry Pi with 8Gb MicroSD card bundle (£33)

5V 2A High Quality USB Power Supply (£8 ) - important to get a decent power supply as this seems to be one the of single largest factors in ensuring good sound quality

WiFi Dongle - Dual Band 5GHz (£15) - you could use ethernet instead but my hi-fi is on the opposite side of the room to the router; I have also read some reports that ethernet causes more electrical noise on the Pi than wi-fi does (somewhat surprisingly)

Powered 4 Port USB Hub 5V 2A (£8 ) - needed for the wi-fi dongle mainly as the Pi will not be able to power both that and the USB Hard Drive; if using ethernet and/or a NAS instead of local storage you could forego this cost also

HiFiBerry (£30)

Project Case (£30) - surprised how costly this ended up being; was tempted to buy a faulty bit of hi-fi off ebay for next to nothing, ripping out the insides and using that for a low cost option, but I ran out of patience finding something suitable

USB Hard Disk Drive (320Gb) - free as I ripped it out of an old laptop that had died recently
Interconnects - free, have more than a couple of lying around

(Total cost - £130 incl. vat and shipping)

The first job was to get the HiFiBerry assembled, which requires a bit of soldering. Not a lot of soldering but I'm not very well practiced so I was a bit nervous (it is quite fiddly)... in the end it wasn't that difficult at all. There's an excellent guide (including video) on the HiFiBerry website.

Next was to download and flash the Volumio image to the SD card - again not difficult with easy to follow instructions on the Volumio website.

And then to power it up! For the first time boot you will need a monitor and keyboard, or use ethernet and be familiar with using SSH to access the Pi. Once up and running all I needed to do was configure wi-fi (manual editing of a config file, plenty of information on the Volumio forums on how to do this) and the HiFiBerry (again a manual file edit due to a bug in the current Volumio release, but full instructions on the HiFiBerry website).

From there, unplug ethernet and/or monitor and keyboard, and from there the Pi can be fully controlled using the Volumio web interface. If using direct attached storage (as opposed to a NAS) the USB drive is automatically shared and easily accessible via Windows explorer for copying over your music files.

There's a Volumio app for Android - don't know what it's like as I haven't used it. For iPhone/iPad I would highly recommend MPoD which is free and works very well indeed (it even pulls down album cover automaically over the internet).

Thanks for reading if you've got this far! If you're embarking on something similar and need any help at any stage just let me know.

Cheers :cheers:

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

Thanks for sharing, I'm going to set up a Pi to serve my Squeezebox Touch streaming Qobuz but have no idea what I'm doing so those links could be of use.

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

Thanks for sharing that Margetti.

 

I bought a Rasperry PI last year (with case, PSU, 32GB Sd card and wireless keyboard) and was able to get it up and running and play with it for a bit but then put it away and forgot about it. I've got a spare 320Gb external HD so having already got most of what I need I might well investigate using it as a streamer and resurrect it.

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

thanks for sharing, looks awesome.  Am particularly impressed with that little dac and the fact it's got a burr brown on it Smile

Currently looking to get on myself Smile 

 

also worth having a look a the rune audio http://www.runeaudio.com software to lob on it Smile

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

cheeseboy wrote:

thanks for sharing, looks awesome.  Am particularly impressed with that little dac and the fact it's got a burr brown on it Smile

Currently looking to get on myself Smile 

 

also worth having a look a the rune audio http://www.runeaudio.com software to lob on it Smile

I should add - if you are getting one make sure you include the nylon spacer in your order - not at all sure why its not included by default as its pretty essential to maintain physical stability of the board when plugged in to the Pi. Luckily I managed to find something out of an old remote controlled car that I'd pulled apart that did the trick.

Thanks for the runeadudio link - hadn't come across that before, looks like it has been borne out of the same enthusiasm for diy hq audio as Volumio. Would be very interesting to compare them - the runeaduio website sure looks a lot slicker!

 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

margetti wrote:

Thanks for the runeadudio link - hadn't come across that before, looks like it has been borne out of the same enthusiasm for diy hq audio as Volumio. Would be very interesting to compare them - the runeaduio website sure looks a lot slicker!

 

They're just forks of (the now defunct) Raspyfi.

Though Volumio is built on Debian (Rasbian) and designed to be user friendly, and work out the box. Rune is built on Arch...

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

Well a kit like that certainly shows you what is possible with even a very simple design. I wouldn't be too impressed by the precence of a Burr Brown, its not like theres a huge number of  easily sourced alternative brands and they have just as good a reputatation. The chip in question is  ~£2, the capacitors and resistors supporting it are essentially worthless and you get to do the most time consuming part of the assembly, I'd suggest anything less respectable than the DAC chip in would be a little rude. 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

Margetti

 

A nice post, and a good set-up.  I have done a very similar same thing in the last few days & have now got the HiFiBerry up and running, having experimented with the RPi playing to my Audiolab 8200CDQ via USB (over ethernet).  The old set-up (without the HiFiBerry) sounds great when it's not popping and clicking, but I couldn't live with the hip-pop(!) that occurs every 10 secs or so.  With the HiFiBerry, the sound is very good, expecially considering the price, but I have found (unsurprisingly!) that the simple DAC in the HiFiBerry can't really compete with the (~30 x more expensive!) 8200CDQ...  As a brief aside, I downloaded the HDTracks sample CD and loaded a couple of songs into Ramplay on the RPi - they sound AWESOME! 

 

I'm now considering buying a Cubox-i2Ultra, as I have been so impressed with the quality of the sound via USB - I currently stream to the 8200CDQ via an Apple Airport Express connected via optical Toslink, and the sound via USB is WAY better, even from just the RPi.  With a better processor and the lack of pops that are caused by the ethernet and USB connections being on the same bus, I reckon it could be a perfect set-up for me.  Now I just need someone to produce a way of streaming hi-res files from my iMac using iTunes and I will be in (streaming) audio heaven...

 

Thanks for sharing!

 

Oh, to the previous poster (p00dl3) re assembling the HiFiBerry, the HiFiBerry is fully assesmbled, the soldering is to connect some additional 'jumper' connections to the RPi.  There are eight small solder joints, all close together, which makes it fiddly, but relatively easy to do.  Honestly, I defy anyone to find a better way to sepnd £30 on audio streaming kit than the HiFiBerry   Smile

 

 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

Cheers BMFDrums :cheers:

It certainy is a revelation for the money isn't it! And all good fun in the process too - learnt (a very small amount) of linux too in the process which I enjoyed. Took me back to my early IT days before Windows came along and things were more command line driven.

Haven't tried the RAM play too much yet but will have a go this weekend for sure! Smile

 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

I didn't make clear that the benefit (for me) of the ramplay was that is bypasses the ethernet issues with the USB connection.  I still get very occasional (and very minor) dropouts with the USV connection, but playing HD tracks via USB to my 8200CDQ is brilliant.  My wife summed it up perfectly.  Unprovoked (!), she said, "It just sounds so clean, so...  real".  Can't ask for more than that.

 

Getting into the Linux was good - I tried to use an old version of the RaspyFi code before I tried Volumio.  Volumio is one of a very few freeware products that I have donated to - I think it's awesome Smile  Editing the code for the HiFiBerry was easy once I'd realised that I had to -  a note in the delivery pointing me towards the right Volumio page or their own video would hev been useful, rather tha just receiving some bits in a jiffy bag!  You're right about the nylon washer, too - it seems to be a no-brainer once you've seen the product, but €2 is a bit steep...!  I didn't mind too much, as the 'Berry is great value for what it does.  In a way, it's a shame that I have heard the benefit of the USB connection my main set-up, as I am likely to sell the Pi+Berry and get another USB-compatible DAC for my kitchen system, too.  Did I mention that the sound via USB is AWESOME???!

 

Anyway, glad that I experimented with the HiFiBerry - it's an excellent piece of kit, and it gave me a lot of satisfaction in getting it to work and sounding great.

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

I have had this running for a few weeks myself. It is great indeed although i am having to run the 1.0Beta release as i can't get the i2s to work on a more recent release. I think the site is down tonight after a high volume of people have been looking it up after reading this forum.The app on android is okay. i would prefer if one didn't have to add to a playlist to hear the track(s) but once you get used to it, it is fine.

 

I like the housing in the OP's pics. nice and tidy. I haven't got a home for mine yet. For me the sound is good but i intend to get a better DAC.  I use a NAS and stream mine over wifi. The other great thing is this can be used in various rooms and each room can be controlled from your phone/tablet. i might get rid of the speaker cables running into the kitchen/dining room now.

 

 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

MoJoe wrote:

 i am having to run the 1.0Beta release as i can't get the i2s to work on a more recent release.

 

I had the same problem and used the 1.0 beta as well, but I found it became unstable (although that may be as much to do with my tinkering as anything - as they say "a little [linux] knowledge can be a dangerous thing!)

The HiFiBerry website has been updated to fix this in 1.1 - see http://www.hifiberry.com/products/dac/first-steps/ 

Specifically the "configure the software" and "test it" sections. If you find that doesn't work, click on "enable I2S" in the web gui, reboot, and edit /etc/modules again (as clicking on "enable I2S"  will delete the changes you just made)

Although not reported by anyone else that I've seen, after doing the above I could play files but got no sound. Using the iPhone app worked fine, and thereafter so did the web gui, so a bit of a strange one that but it threw me for a while.

 

Or, you could just wait for the next release which I read will fix this Smile

 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

Can it access music files on a networked Mac?

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

After having trouble initally, I did as suggested above (i.e. click on enable I2S in the web GUI, reboot, edit the /etc/modules file, reboot) and all has been fine since then.  I'm using the Beta1.1 version, and have rebooted a couple of times to check that the settings are being stored, and it all works for me...

Hope that helps.

 

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

I use mine to stream music from iTunes on my iMac to my kitchen stereo.  The iMac is connected to the rest of a house-wide ethernet LAN that I installed when we re-developed the house.  I believe that some people have had better results with wi-fi than wired ethernet connections, but I can't comment on that.  So yes, it can play files on a Mac.  Whether it can 'access' files on a networked Mac, i.e. use the Volumio player to 'take' the files from the Mac and play them, I don't know - I haven't tried that.

 

If you think the RPi + HifiBerry + Volumio being a replacement for a an Airport Express, you're about there (but it sounds much better)

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RE: My Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Music Server

BMFDrums wrote:

Whether it can 'access' files on a networked Mac, i.e. use the Volumio player to 'take' the files from the Mac and play them, I don't know - I haven't tried that.

If you think the RPi + HifiBerry + Volumio being a replacement for a an Airport Express, you're about there (but it sounds much better)

Thanks for your reply. It really is 'taking' the files from the iMac that I am interested in.

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