Connected my high school speakers to the Internet

I have always loved music and I fondly remember the first Marantz amplifier that I bought from the priest. I thought that he likely had never pushed the volume to eleven. The next big purchase was the cassette player so i could record my brother’s albums from his amazing turntable.

In high school I saved up enough cash to to buy a Harmon Kardon amp and receiver and lastly my beloved Rega speakers. That combo was not a high-end audio system but, for me, it was awesome and it got me through high school, university, and well into our early married years.

Of course, along came the Internet. I bought some Bose speaker systems for the PC and the TV, never really got into home theater systems besides my Bose 3-2-1 system. So, the Rega speakers sat in the bowels of our basement under a bunch of Rubbermaid boxes for at least 17 years until last week.

I was on vacation last week and finally spent time doing something I had been thinking about for a while. I wondered how I could stream music to those old speakers. There must be some wireless amplifiers for streaming Spotify etc. so I went to Best Buy but all they have are home theater receivers that cost between $300 and $900 or products like the SONOS CONNECT:AMP that cost $600.

There had to be a cheaper way to get reasonably good quality sound wirelessly in a small amp without having to spend that much money. I then remembered a product I had seen during research for my Interactive IoT Map called HiFiBerry. It’s an add-on (aka “hat”) for a Raspberry Pi that adds high quality digital-to-analog (DAC) conversion and has a built in amplifier!  The amp is only 25W but that’s enough for me. I did some additional Web searching and although there are other products out there, I decided on the HiFiBerry

The HiFiBerry Amp+ cost me $99.29 CAD at Elmwood Electronics in Toronto. I got the 18V Power Supply for $24.95 and HighPi Raspberry Pi Case for $12.95 from BuyAPi in Ottawa. I already had a couple of spare Pis which cost about $45. So, total cost was $183

Next, I needed the software. I did some searching and found several packages out there. A number of these allow you to burn an image onto a SD card which is then inserted into the Raspberry Pi and bingo, you have an Internet-connected amplifier!

I ended up choosing Volumio to start, but will likely try Max2Play. The Volumio client on Android initially looks pretty but it hasn’t been that great. There’s quite a lag inbetween when I change the volume level on the Android app and when the device actually responds. At one point the volume kept going up and down on it’s own. Once I got used to the UI I can at least stream my MP3s, YouTube music, and Spotify.

So, my $183 solution sounds incredible, better than the Sonos or Bose wireless speakers. My beloved Rega speakers have a new life, have been promoted from the basement to the main floor. It was a fun little project.

https://volumio.org

Volumio is a free and Open Source Linux Distribution, runs on a variety of devices “By flashing (installing) Volumio on any of this platforms, it will then become an headless Audiophile Music Player. Headless means that the only way to control it will be with another Mobile phone, computer or tablet. This is made possible by Volumio’s UI: a web application that runs on any device with a browser, and that allows an easy and intuitive control of your playback sessions. All communications between the webapp and Volumio will happen through your home network.”

  • “has a Spotify plugin” [4]
  • focused on audio “DAP” (Digital Audio Player): MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, ALAC, DSD, UPNP\DLNA, Airplay, Spotify and Web-Radios all in one place
  • USB, Network Storage support
  • use it with a Web browser on PC, Mac, Android, iOS
  • github: https://github.com/volumio (1,719 contributions in the last year)
  • “can cast YouTube audio to volumio from my phone [using] Bubble Upnp on Android. Find a YouTube video and tap the share button and choose Bubble Upnp. The first time you do that it’ll ask you to get VidLinks, you need to do that only once [4]

https://www.max2play.com

“Max2Play allows for simple and comfortable control and configuration of single board computers like the Raspberry Pi directly via any local internet browser (using laptop, PC or smartphone). This makes the connection of a mouse, keyboard or screen obsolete. Please note, some advanced functions need a software license key which can be bought through the Max2Play website.”

  • active support forums and live support
  • primary player is Squeezebox, also Shairport (Airplay), gmediarender (DLNA)
  • mount filesystems using SAMBA or NFS, external USB drives
  • controlled via a Web interface on PC, Mac, Tablet or Smartphone
  • installs and sets up Kodi
  • supports plugins, about 40 to date on their site
  • premium license costs €3.57 for 1 month or €29.99 5 years
  • premium license gets you Wi-Fi, VNC server, Jivelite, SD-Card-Protection on power loss, beta program access, additional plugins
  • github: https://github.com/max2play
  • “Use our image instead; its has MPD, like Volumio, but also supports other Audioplayers for AirPlay, DLNA and Squeezebox multiroom. The images are free downloads and all run from first boot natively on the Zero. you can access the web interface from any device in your local network with a browser by just typing “max2play/” in the URL bar” [4]

REFERENCES

1. HiFiBerry’s “Software Selection”
https://www.hifiberry.com/build/software-selection

2. Raspberry Pi Disk Images – Definitive List, marshalleq, Jan 17, 2017
https://www.tech-knowhow.com/2017/01/raspberry-pi-disk-images-definitive-list

3. https://karusisemus.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/runeaudio-volumio-and-moode, karusisemus, Oct 23, 2016
“do omit Volumio and especially Runeaudio and do start straight with Mo0de”

4. pi musicbox vs volumio vs rune, harumphfrog  https://www.reddit.com/r/raspberry_pi/comments/57xwaz/pi_musicbox_vs_volumio_vs_rune/?st=j4vxyxuq&sh=588daae7

RULED OUT

http://openelec.tv
why? more of an overall media player (photos, video, music, TV show …)
Open Embedded Linux Entertainment Center (OpenELEC) is a small Linux based Just Enough Operating System (JeOS) built from scratch as a platform to turn your computer into a Kodi media center.
– github: https://github.com/OpenELEC/OpenELEC.tv
– 450,000 regular users, 65 Current Developers and People contributed over the last 12 months to OpenELEC
– “openelec and kodi for my headless music player because it was super easy and already had remote functioality throught 3rd party apps like yaste” [4]

https://osmc.tv
why? full media center, I only need audio
OSMC (Open Source Media Center) is a free and open source media player based on Linux. Founded in 2014, OSMC lets you play back media from your local network, attached storage and the Internet. OSMC is the leading media center in terms of feature set and community and is based on the Kodi project.

http://www.pimusicbox.com
why? not listed on HiFiBerry site, last updated Apr 2015
– streaming radio and services like Spotify

https://libreelec.tv
why? there are too many and I needed to drop 1 🙂
LibreELEC is ‘Just enough OS’ for Kodi, a Linux distribution built to run Kodi on current and popular mediacentre hardware. We are an evolution of the popular OpenELEC project. LibreELEC software will be familiar to OpenELEC users, but the project follows its own path.

https://roonlabs.com
why? $119/yr or $499/lifetime
ROON LABS The music player for music lovers. Forget everything you know about music players. Music is an experience, and Roon reconnects you with it. Please note, to use this software a Roon Core needs to be installed and a Roon subscription is needed. Please find their price model on their webpage. To use the Raspberry Pi with our audio boards as a Roon player, please install our Roon image.

http://moodeaudio.org
why? didn’t like their Web site
Moode Audio is an audio player which shares some roots with Volumio and RuneAudio, but due to its fast ongoing development it supports very quickly new hardware and adds new features all the time.

http://www.runeaudio.com
why? “Rune Audio works well, and has been updated for the Pi 3, but there hasn’t been much activity other than that” [4]
RuneAudio is a free and open source software with one specific objective: to transform an embedded platform (a cheap, silent and low-consumption mini-PC) into an Hi-Fi digital music player. It offers a lot of features and aims to be easy to use, flexible and future-proof.
github: https://github.com/RuneAudio (last updated Sep 25, 2015)

https://sites.google.com/site/picoreplayer/home
why? need a running Logitech Media Server (LMS)
piCorePlayer is a very small system (piCore Linux) which is running in RAM and not writing to the SD card. It is very robust and will not corrupt your SD card, therefore you can simply cut the power without any risk of corruption of the system. piCorePlayer can be used in three ways:

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