the itjerk

my adventures with technology

Tag Archives: HiFiBerry

hifiberry os

Recently, I came to the conclusion that Chromecast and Roon are just not compatible. While I’ve had issues with connecting the various Google Home Mini’s to my Roon Core Server, previously I never had an issue with my old Chromecast Audio device. The original Beep-killer, it was my go-to wifi device for my upstairs system where it was connected to a Schitt DAC.

After I updated to Roon 1.7 across the board, all my Chromecast devices appeared as available audio devices. I thought the problem was solved. But after a couple of days, the Chromecast Audio no longer appeared, and the Mini’s dropped off one by one. That was the last straw – screw it, enough with the “Roon-tested” gear. I plugged in the old HifiBerry and was instantly streaming music.

Being a Raspberry Pi day already, I decided to update my HifiBerry to their latest software, the new “more user friendly” HifiBerryOS. After downloading and installing it to an SD card, I connected the HifiBerry to ethernet and booted it up. Then, I navigated to it’s local IP (the http://hifiberry.local URL didn’t work) and configured Wifi. Once configured, I powered it down via the software (!!!), and moved it to its new home upstairs, where I now have a reliable Wifi streaming device again for Roon. Also, note that HifiBerryOS is small image, far under 1MB, and supports Apple Airplay, Bluetooth, MPD, Roon, Spotify and Squeezelite as a player.

Checkout how elegant this HifiBerryOS UI is:
hifiberry
hifiberry1

And here’s what it displays when playing:
79369530_225666125088882_7592120681622405120_o

Thank you Daniel and everyone at HifiBerry!

On the web:
HifiBerry OS

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hifiberry dac+ pro

Now that I’m committing to Roon as a music server, I’d thought it would be nice to take a look at my streaming hardware. I like the idea of using my preamp’s analog stage, because it has a great analog stage; I can also output directly from my computer (where my music resides) via optical or USB. So rather than spending money on a Bluesound or Auralic device, I think I’ll go DIY.

The old Squeezebox 3 is of course a cherished relic, and in the living room it will sit forever. I also have a Chromecast Audio there, both connected to a Schiit Modi 2 DAC. In the man cave, I have plenty of options. Roon is very good at dealing with heterogeneous outputs; it recognized most every device on my network. But I am looking for a dedicated device, because, well, just because. I had an old Hifiberry DAC running PiCorePlayer – a very worthy software package – from the days when Raspberry Pi’s didn’t have the “+”. Yep, that’s the one to upgrade.
RoonHifiDac
The good thing about Hifiberry is that they are Roon Ready partner, and have their own Roon Bridge image for their hardware devices. I decided on the DAC Pro +, which adds “integrated dual-domain low-jitter clocks and gold-plated RCA connectors.” Coupled with a new Raspberry Pi 3+ board, I was completely surprised at what a musical player it was: crisp, detailed and very easy on the ears, it’s an absolute delight to listen to.

Hacker note: It’s easy enough to ssh into the Hifiberry/Roon Ready image. Touch a file named “ssh” into the bootloader partition, then login with the user “pi” and password “hifiberry”. Oddly enough, if you do an apt-update/distupgrade, the thing shows up a little differently in Roon’s audio settings (see below image). Why do this? I can think of a couple reasons, including doing updates, turning off HDMI output (/opt/vc/bin/tvservice -o) and of course, changing the default password. Is the Hifiberry/Roon image any better than using a standard Raspbian image with Roon’s Bridge installer script? Maybe I’ll ask Hifiberry.
Hifiberry

I went cheap on the acrylic case, which unfortunately snapped when I went to put heatsinks on the rPi, so I’ll be upgrading to the metal case shortly. Also, I’m going to upgrade to a low noise switching power supply, because that’s really the last thing to do get the best sound from the Hifiberry/rPi combo. Or spend $$$ on a linear power supply!

All-in-all, a very impressive digital streaming device for under $100.

On the web:
HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro | HiFiBerry

audio bliss with the piCorePlayer + HiFiBerry

If one thing has changed in the past forty years of my listening to music, it’s not the music; as Lemmy said in his documentary, (to paraphrase) “you always return to the music of your youth because that’s when you figured out what music you like”. What has changed is how I listen to music; as much as I still enjoy flipping a vinyl record over (and that delicious analogue sound), nothing beats the convenience of digital streaming. Basically, I want all my music on a computer so I can access it, with a click, wherever I may be.

Not like any of this is new. Since the iTunes revolution, music has been reduced to ones and zeros, in more ways than one. The album has vanished, and CDs are mere content delivery units. Services such as Spotify, Pandora, Google Music, Amazon Prime, iTunes Airplay, etc… are the new record stores, serving and predicting what music one wants to hear. Their respective apps, and devices such as Sonos, Beep, Amazon Echo, and the newly announced Chromecast Audio are all there to push that music your way.

But I want my music, the music on my computer. Logitech Media Server, aka SlimServer or Squeezebox Server, has been my go-to for music streaming for probably a decade now. Problem is Logitech stopped making Squeezeboxes years ago. Beep seemed like a nice substitute, but honestly it mostly crashes, far too often to be considered usable.

Screenshot from 2015-09-30 04:04:27

The most elegant and inexpensive solution is the Raspberry Pi equipped with a HiFiBerry DAC running piCorePlayer. The latter has made some serious leaps in the past year in terms of usability and stability, and with the addition of the HifiBerry, sonically as well. So all of this is a long winded way of giving the trio another, hopefully louder shout-out for earning the top spot in my hifi rig. It works, it’s simple and it sounds fantastic. Thank you!

On the web:
piCorePlayer

HiFiBerry DAC

hifiberry-kit

HiFiBerry

Arriving today from Switzerland, the €36 (delivered) HiFiBerry is a “high-resolution digital-to-analog converter for the Raspberry Pi …with a Dedicated 192kHz/24bit high-quality Burr-Brown DAC for best sound quality.” The daughter-board plugs directly onto the RPi’s onboard connector P5, but does require you to solder an 8-pin header to the RPi in order to do so. You’ll also need to solder the output(s) you want on the HiFiBerry as well. Easy enough, I had it connected in a few minutes, and did a quick check to see if the RPi recognized it, then went to the piCorePlayer web interface to configure it to send sound through the HiFiBerry.

aplay -l
card 1: sndrpihifiberry [snd_rpi_hifiberry_dac], device 0: HifiBerry DAC HiFi pcm5102a-hifi-0 []

How does it sound? Fantastic, very clean and detailed, in a word, audiophile grade. The key is Inter-IC Sound or I2S. You can read all about it here but it’s a short, isolated path for PCM data, with extremely low jitter. Which is a great thing, because both analog out and USB audio on the RPi weren’t optimal for quality sound. No noticeable noise floor (as I’m running the TA2024 without a volume pot), it’s a dead silent performer (which is a great thing). Cheers to the RPi people for making I2S available on the Pi, and to the HiFiBerry folks for an affordable, high quality product.

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