Guide to using Raspberry Pis for Audiophile Projects

What Audio project would you like use the Raspberry Pi for? Options are not mutually exclusive

  • DAP with USB output

    Votes: 30 41.1%
  • DAP/DAC with RCA analog out

    Votes: 10 13.7%
  • Battery Powered DAP/DAC with Headphone amp

    Votes: 8 11.0%
  • DAP with RCA SPDIF out

    Votes: 33 45.2%
  • DAP/DAC with Headphone amp

    Votes: 11 15.1%
  • DAP/DAC with XLR analog out

    Votes: 8 11.0%
  • Other

    Votes: 9 12.3%
  • DAP/DAC with Speaker Amp

    Votes: 3 4.1%

  • Total voters
    73
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This thread is to discuss and demonstrate Audiophile Projects that can be built with the Raspberry Pi. I will attempt to model some of this after Jason's engineering guide on designing the Schiit Coaster Amp, thank you for inspiring me to do this thread.

Topics will include:

How to select hardware and software for a build. To include compatibility, tradeoffs, power constraints, etc.

Example builds with pictures.

Step by step guides.

Discussions/Comparisons of RPi audio HATs.

Links to useful sites.

Why this thread? I recently built a MoOde RPi 3B with 7" touchscreen and many friends on the Schiit Happened thread expressed interest in the build.

Please post what you would like to see built.

I'll start with my build and follow with an example of things to consider when selecting a build.
 
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Disclaimer: I don't think the Pi can be used to build a DAC or AMP to the caliber of Schiit quality. If top Schiit quality is your goal stick to Schiit products built by professionals. The RPi is great for learning about hardware and software and can provide flexibility to create your own devices, but as Jason said above any hobby can get expensive. You could build RPi DAP/DAC with the outputs of the Gungnir or Yggy but I seriously doubt it would come even close to the real thing and you might spend enough to buy the real thing in the process (it definitely wouldn't be multi-bit and wouldn't have the SuperComboBurrito, see my profile pic). I'm neither Mike nor Jason, I'm definitely a DIY amateur.
 
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My current Pi is a 3 using a HiFiBerry Digi + Pro HAT, running as a squeezebox using piCorePlayer.

I have a large-ish music library, and have been using Squeezebox Server for a long time, tagging with MP3Tag. Server runs on an Intel Stick Computer with a 4TB drive attached, serving ALAC and FLAC files. I really like the database and indexing that the Squeezebox Server does, so at the moment, kinda married to that. But times change... Interested in learning more!
 
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My first Audio RPi Build

Goal: Use existing RPi and computer parts I had at home to build a Touchscreen DAP that can play upto 192/24 ALAC or FLAC files, and connect to Tidal.

Software: I selected MoOde as it worked with my equipment to include a Touchscreen, played 192/24 ALAC, could be controlled via a and could connect to Tidal and a NAS. MoOde is free, supported a wide variety of audio HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) boards, a dedicated forum, and had frequent and current updates. Note: I haven't gotten the Tidal and NAS features to work yet. But I'll post when/if I get this working.

Hardware:

1. I used a RPi 3B I had at home. You can get a Raspberry Pi 3B+ $35 online (MSRP don't pay more) or for $30 plus tax locally at Microcenter (if you are geographically blessed). http://www.microcenter.com/product/505661/raspberry-pi-3-model-b The 3B+ is slightly faster than the RPi 3B I used.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi

2. Micro SD card: I used 2 Samsung micro SD cards. http://www.microcenter.com/product/...ass-10---uhs-1-flash-memory-card-with-adapter This one is 10.99. Why two? Because at least with moOde you need a second microSD card inside an adapter attached via a USB port to update the software. Why Samsung (or Sandisk which is now owned by Western Digital), because a lot of other brands don't hold up and are much slower. 32Gb should be more than enough for the operating system and software (I'll check my install size tonight and post the minimum size required). Buyer beware there are a lot of counterfeit Samsung microSD cards out there especially in the large capacities. Don't buy a 128Gb microSD card and expect it to work in a RPi microSD card slot; odds are it will not. Only 64Gb and below are supposed to work, I found out the hard way two years ago. Learn from my mistake (and keep this in mind with any other projects because many devices other than RPis have a maximum supported SD card capacity).

3. Power supplies and cables I used microUSB cables and AC/DC transformers I had laying around. The pi 3 board needs 2.5 amps at 5V alone and the display and usb drive need dedicated cables at least 1amp 5V each. I’m still working out some kinks with power with mine, but for now I'm using an iPad AC/DC brick to power the RPi itself, and two 2.4amp USB power ports on a TrippLite power strip. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MCVOMFY/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 You can go Cadillac power supply with the ifi iPower https://www.amazon.com/iPower-Noise...&qid=1533232027&sr=1-1&keywords=ifi+ipower+5v You could just use what you have laying around, but you are likely to get "undervolt" warnings or have your Pi suddenly shut off. If you see a yellow lightning bolt on your Pi screen you're "undervolting." This can destroy/damage the RPi or the SDcard so don't do it long term. A good choice for power supply is the CanaKit powersupply or the Vilros powersupply: https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Rasp...&keywords=5v+power+supply&smid=A30ZYR2W3VAJ0A. A Vilros kit can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BQFX4S...olid=148YFAYI8VM48&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it

NOTE: Vilros, Canakit, and companies offer package kits like the one above with or without a RPi and many other parts. They can be cheaper than buying the parts separately just make sure your are getting things you actually need. Sometimes the power supplies are too cheap for audiophile use (noisey and underpowered) and the SD cards are generic and unreliable. The Vilros linked above has a good power adapter with an on off switch (based on specs, I don't own it), the newest RPi, and heat sinks (can't hurt to use but not absolutely necessary). I haven't found that particular power supply separately at a major retailer yet.

4. USB storage for music, I used a 4Tb Western Digital USB Hard Disk Drive I had. I haven't gotten the NAS ( I have a Synology) to work yet and local storage is easier regardless. I recommend Western Digital drives (its all I use). How much music do you want to store on the device? I recommend using a USB connected traditional portable HDD because they are relatively cheap, fast enough for this purpose (hosting ALAC/FLAC files), and last a long time. Alternately you could use a USB thumb stick type drive, but they can have a shorter life time.

5. Display: I used an official RPi 7" touch screen display I had. It or a like one runs $60 at microcenter (70 or more elsewhere) http://www.microcenter.com/product/454804/7-pi-touchscreen-lcd-display

6. Case for display and pi. I used this which is 27.99 at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Case-Officia...33223001&sr=8-6&keywords=raspberry+pi+display

7. I used a USB splitter for the hard drive to allows the usb drive to draw power externally and push data to pi without drawing power from the pi. A similar on costs $7 at Amazon https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00L1K1OIA/ref=ox_sc_saved_title_2?smid=A1AMUYYA3CT6HJ&psc=1

8. Optional (but really advisable to have): External Keyboard and Mouse. I use this which is 25.99: https://www.amazon.com/Logitech-Wir...rd_wg=iG98A&psc=1&refRID=B22KXXC2DDMJS3VDHVF6 Why, so you can type commands or enter fields in GUI. The alternative is to SSH in from a laptop or phone. SSHing is required to change some settings or to make updates. You can supply your own keyboard and mouse and I'll just use mine to build it if you like. I'll post more later on SSHing.

9. Optional: HATs too many to list here. Will do multiple posts later. For example a DAC HAT with RCA and/or XLR out. I haven't used one, but unless you want to go all out with an ApplePi ($199) i'd recommend picking one of the Hifiberries. at hifiberry.com For $40 you can get this: https://www.hifiberry.com/shop/boards/hifiberry-dac-pro
Other HATs are available to amp speakers or perform just about any audio task you can think of. The only Hifi type hat I have is an old Cirrus Logic audio board that I haven't installed yet, the USB built in to my Mimby is working fine to my ear so far. I plan on building a RPi system similar to what I have here with the hifiberry linked above.

DIY Pros:

Get to learn about how audio and computers actually work.
Many options to pick from can customize to your particular needs.
Unlikely to need to do any soldering.
If a part breaks or is obsolete you can just replace the one part.
Storage is much much much cheaper, expandable, and is a non-limiting factor. No Apple phenomenon of outrageous prices for storage or the typical DAP issue of only having 4-64Gb internal storage, no expanding storage (looking at you Apple iPhone/pad and about half of daps), or only excepting about 64Gb of expanded storage. Since the pi and say MoOde is not storage speed sensitive you can use less expensive spinning disk hard disk drives. 192/24 FLAC or ALAC only needs about 20Mbps of speed.

DIY Cons:
Need knowledge of coding or at least the wiliness/aptitude to learn.
Time spent finding, assembling, installing OS, and configuring. (but hey your learning).

@Jason Stoddard will likely have some more comments on DIY soon. See his recent post on his Thread.

I'll try to post later tonight on the steps of the assembly and installing/configuring Moode.
 
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Small batch (40) avail now (502DAC), just fyi. Honestly think this is the best. A 4 layer board-- Michael knows digital ground layout. DigiOne is serious also, and isolation done more in the digital domain.

--oops preorder, end of aug to ship
I'm going to repost this on the other thread. Also How do you think it compares (at least on specs) to the ApplePi and the Hifiberry DAC + Pro XLR (or RCA)?
 
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My first Audio RPi Build

Goal: Use existing RPi and computer parts I had at home to build a Touchscreen DAP that can play upto 192/24 ALAC or FLAC files, and connect to Tidal.

Software: I selected MoOde as it worked with my equipment to include a Touchscreen, played 192/24 ALAC, could be controlled via a and could connect to Tidal and a NAS. MoOde is free, supported a wide variety of audio HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) boards, a dedicated forum, and had frequent and current updates. Note: I haven't gotten the Tidal and NAS features to work yet. But I'll post when/if I get this working.

BIG SNIP

I'll try to post later tonight on the steps of the assembly and installing/configuring Moode.
I'm going to repost this on the other thread. Also How do you think it compares (at least on specs) to the ApplePi and the Hifiberry DAC + Pro XLR (or RCA)?
I'm a Roon user, so consider most of my inputs in that context!

I have a system with a number of Roon RPi based 'endpoints' running DietPi (mainly) and Rasbpian and Ropiee. I have (again, mainly) HATs (Hardware Attached on Top) from IQaudio (http://iqaudio.co.uk/) they have some excellent DACs (http://iqaudio.co.uk/hats/47-pi-dac-pro.html and variants) and DAC/AMPs (http://iqaudio.co.uk/3-hats). Support via email is excellent and my only gripe (as with HiFIBerry) is that they ship only from Europe and in the case of IQ need a signature which, for me, invariably meant a trip to the PO.

You WILL need command line skills (nothing too daunting and most all HATs have good intructions. I downloaded the IQaudio manuals to start learning long before I played or bought) and need to create the SD Card. Etcher.io is your friend and is freely available. I prefer Terminal in MacOS for most ssh work and you will need to be aware of the trap that ssh is NOT enabled by default nowadays, so you DO need a screen and keyboard. The recommendations above are good ones. Keep spare receivers around, they walk away at night.... :frowning2:

From a security standpoint, run the minimim service(s) necessary, and I like to setup public/private keys and disable ssh. CHANGE THE DEAULT PASSWORD.

The Roon forums - for those of you that go that route - are helpful and have plenty of hacking threads.

Cheers

Graham
 
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audio philestine

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I've done a number of Raspberry Pi buildups, and I'm on my third audio related one.

I've done one each around a hifiberry digi+ pro (to various DAC's including a mimby), and a hifiberry dac+.

My current build is for a car "hifi" FLAC jukebox using an Allo boss dac and a Waveshare 7" touchscreen, plus a usb num pad keyboard for auxiliary controls (track next/prev, vol up/down, power down). Allo makes a nice metal case that can handle the mechanically harsh environment of my car. I've been pleasantly pleased with the sound of this DAC, (not as good as a mimby, but sufficiently good for a car system). I initially had an issue with some mid-range distortion on loud/busy passages, but by knocking the volume on the DAC down a bit, I learned how to not overload the aux in on my car radio. I've had some issues with power distribution to the Pi which I don't think I've totally solved yet, but I've got it working good enough now to stop messing with it :)

I initially used Volumio, but I think there was an issue with the wifi support at the time (probably now fixed), so I switched to RuneAudio. RuneAudio did everything I needed it to, and looked pretty in a minimalistic way, so I stopped looking. I've been curious about moOde, but never tried it.

I'm planning on another Pi build using the allo digi-one RCA/SPDIF out "Real Soon Now" for a home system.

These were all based on Rapsberry Pi 3B. The 3B+ has a new power management chip, which is supported in the new Pi linux kernels, but AFAIK is NOT supported in the latest RuneAudio images, although that may change soon.

I spent some time chasing different mechanical mounts for the car, settling on a flexible stalk bolted to a seat rail, and finally found the right 90degree HDMI and usb cabling to tame the wiring.

I'm happy to share pictures/details/tips on the above if anyone is interested.
 
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I've done a number of Raspberry Pi buildups, and I'm on my third audio related one.

I've done one each around a hifiberry digi+ pro (to various DAC's including a mimby), and a hifiberry dac+.

My current build is for a car "hifi" FLAC jukebox using an Allo boss dac and a Waveshare 7" touchscreen, plus a usb num pad keyboard for auxiliary controls (track next/prev, vol up/down, power down). Allo makes a nice metal case that can handle the mechanically harsh environment of my car. I've been pleasantly pleased with the sound of this DAC, (not as good as a mimby, but sufficiently good for a car system). I initially had an issue with some mid-range distortion on loud/busy passages, but by knocking the volume on the DAC down a bit, I learned how to not overload the aux in on my car radio. I've had some issues with power distribution to the Pi which I don't think I've totally solved yet, but I've got it working good enough now to stop messing with it :)

I initially used Volumio, but I think there was an issue with the wifi support at the time (probably now fixed), so I switched to RuneAudio. RuneAudio did everything I needed it to, and looked pretty in a minimalistic way, so I stopped looking. I've been curious about moOde, but never tried it.

I'm planning on another Pi build using the allo digi-one RCA/SPDIF out "Real Soon Now" for a home system.

These were all based on Rapsberry Pi 3B. The 3B+ has a new power management chip, which is supported in the new Pi linux kernels, but AFAIK is NOT supported in the latest RuneAudio images, although that may change soon.

I spent some time chasing different mechanical mounts for the car, settling on a flexible stalk bolted to a seat rail, and finally found the right 90degree HDMI and usb cabling to tame the wiring.

I'm happy to share pictures/details/tips on the above if anyone is interested.

That would be very cool! Looking forward to your experiences and pics.
 
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Do you think it's possible to use a RPi to make a DSP processor with digital in and out. This would be something you can put inline with any source and DAC you want to tweak sound settings. Settings can be tweaked via touchscreen or whatever.
 
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Yes I believe that I have seen a DSP HAT. I'd have to look into it further.
 
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I see a lot of you are interested in rca spdif out.

I have a cheap Cirrus Logic Audio card with RCA spdif out (bought years ago, was one of the first if not first audio HAT, i don't think its audiophile quality). I might install it soon, so far no issues with the usb out to Mimby IMO so we'll see.

If you want a HAT for RCA digital out check out this hifiberry product: https://www.hifiberry.com/shop/boards/hifiberry-digi-pro/

or this 502 DAC mentioned on the Schiit Happened forum. It is pretty full featured.

http://www.pi2design.com/502dac.html Check out the comparison chart at : http://www.pi2design.com/uploads/4/8/5/3/48531975/502_dac_feature_comparison_table.pdf For what its worth. It is from a manufacture so take with a grain of salt.
 
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I see a lot of you are interested in rca spdif out.

I have a cheap Cirrus Logic Audio card with RCA spdif out (bought years ago, was one of the first if not first audio HAT, i don't think its audiophile quality). I might install it soon, so far no issues with the usb out to Mimby IMO so we'll see.

If you want a HAT for RCA digital out check out this hifiberry product: https://www.hifiberry.com/shop/boards/hifiberry-digi-pro/

or this 502 DAC mentioned on the Schiit Happened forum. It is pretty full featured.

http://www.pi2design.com/502dac.html Check out the comparison chart at : http://www.pi2design.com/uploads/4/8/5/3/48531975/502_dac_feature_comparison_table.pdf For what its worth. It is from a manufacture so take with a grain of salt.
I've had great success using the HiFiBerry S/PDIF Boards. Both the original Digi+ and Digi+ Pro have worked flawlessly for me on Raspberry Pi 2B, 3B & 3B+. They've been stable running Rune, Volumio and my current choice MoOde.
 
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