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Raspberry Pi or small PC

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Henry J, Mar 16, 2021.

  1. Henry J

    Henry J Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Asbury Park, NJ
    Pardon my ignorance!
    Would the pi core player be the alternative to say volumio?
     
  2. Mike70

    Mike70 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Uruguay
    Oh yes, surely it's. The question is ... it's higher than the SNR in your system?

    Many people thinking they have theorically perfect systems / speakers / acoustics. That's (one reason) why many times we can't identify one component of another in a blind test ... in that system, they really are indistinguishable.
     
  3. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    It is possible to hear effects of digital noise and jitter that are below the SNR of your system. Some people refuse to believe that. The digital to digital converters that attempt to clean up the digital signal and get that digital noise well below the noise floor aren't for you. These are products for people who have gear that is actually clean enough and transparent enough to hear things below the noise floor.

    Here's a video of some different digital to digital converters. Right at the beginning he says that if you don't believe noise below the noise floor is audible then this isn't for you.

    The quality of digital to digital conversion matters. It matters with the digital to digital conversion for USB audio. It matters for the digital to digital conversion for SPDIF and I2S.

    The problem with the PI3 was that the USB was bad enough that it is possible to get it to cause actual errors in the USB connected audio. Even the skeptics recognize that actual errors or dropouts are audible. The PI4 has better USB that doesn't have those obvious errors. But is its USB clean enough to compete against the better USB add-on and devices?

     
  4. Henry J

    Henry J Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Asbury Park, NJ
    So I saw your posts in the "best dac under $300", I think I am in the same boat. The more that I am learning of these pi's the more confused and put off i am becoming. At this point I don't see any benefit of a pi "either 3 of 4" without a spdif hat.
     
  5. Cherrycherry

    Cherrycherry Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I don't think the RaspberryPi is useful without the audio hat.

    HiFiBerry Digi bundle Pi 4 | HiFiBerry
     
  6. Henry J

    Henry J Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Asbury Park, NJ
    Cherrycherry likes this.
  7. Rob6899

    Rob6899 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Millom, UK
    Yes, but can manage your stored music through either an inbuilt (on the Pi) LMS or remote LMS.

    And the Pi 4 is very good through USB into a DAC, so you don't need a HAT.
     
    Andrea_Bellucci and jbmcb like this.
  8. Mike70

    Mike70 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Uruguay
    That's my experience and posted before, but i don't know the level of experience or expectations other people have or want.

    For me, it works really good.
     
  9. Rob6899

    Rob6899 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Millom, UK
    The majority of people who realise what is going on with the Pi and the USB stack in a pi 4 agree.
     
  10. vinnn

    vinnn Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    Linux running on a silent SBC like the Raspberry Pi is just better suited for audio.
    No noise, low power, low EMF, plenty fast enough for any audio playback and library management tasks, there's a selection of ready-made distros (Moode, Volumio, PiCore) out there to turn a Pi into an audio appliance in minutes (operating systems designed for desktops like Windows will require resample digital audio without fudging with drivers or requiring specific software)

    Maybe 10-15 years ago PCs where the only platform flexible and powerful enough to fit the bill for audio playback, effects, hi-def video etc., that's no longer the case.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2021
    Ric-Tic, Mindhead1, Gi54 and 2 others like this.
  11. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident


    Huh??? What is there in this video that suggests any of this is audible between digital sources???

    And I believe sometimes signal below the noise floor can be audible and it makes a difference.
     
    Rob6899 likes this.
  12. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    He says the PI2AES sounds better than the Denafrips Hermes. That means he hears an audible difference between digital sources. Two very good digital sources.
     
  13. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    My plan is to get two PI 4 devices. Use one to make a PI2AES streamer. Use the other as a stock PI 4 to experiment with to play with different software and to use with USB DACs. I'm still debating whether to add a 7" Pi touch screen to the stock Pi 4 setup, like what Archimago has done. Having one of the Pi devices have a touch screen to play with might be fun.

    Once they're set up I can experiment and find out how well a streamer device like that fits in my system and the way I like to do things. How well with the streamer get along with JRiver and Foobar and other software I use? May try HQPlayer and their setup. May even try Roon.

    My current setup is using a Windows 10 laptop with a powered USB 3 hub and plugging in one or more USB DACs in the hub. No special audiophile power supply for the hub. No special USB tweaks or devices. I'm curious if separating the DACs from the laptop will improve things and be convenient.

    The Pi things are inexpensive enough that I can just try them and find out what happens.
     
  14. Rob6899

    Rob6899 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Millom, UK
    Exactly, it does sometimes make me laugh on this site, we have countless threads arguing over cables etc costing thousands of pounds sometimes. Yet people balk at paying out £100 (or dollars) to experiment.

    Typical internet forums, waving fists at inanimate objects.
     
  15. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    Heck yea. And I've done some similar playing around lately as well, and prior to my recent tinkering, had some run-ins with HiFi-Berry Pi's and a Sonore MicroRendu plugged into an Yggy via USB.

    I was never "happy" with a Pi + Hat into a DAC when I was using a Pi3 and just Roon. Even the Sonore MR sounded etched and obviously... "digital" if that's an apt description. I abandoned those a few years back and stuck to discs and physical transports which I found surprisingly good.

    And full disclosure: I run 3 Pi's in my house outside of my audio room, each for a different zone coming off Roon. I love the damn things, and generally run RoPieeeXL for that task.

    But this year I started to play with HQ Player and a Benchmark DAC. Liked it so much I tried a Denafrips DAC so I could really push the sample rates and DSD rates up to see what I liked best. That led me to a few trials:

    Direct out of a dedicated HQPlayer PC. Running W10 or Ubuntu, plugged into a DF Ares II DAC via USB (generic cable) - definitely an improvement on my previous round of Pi3 or Sonore into Yggy - less fatiguing, better instrument separation and imaging felt more precise. But it still sounded a bit flat and it lacked excitement, for lack of a better descriptor.

    Pulled that box out of my audio room and replaced it with a Pi3, no hat - better, but the issues of a Pi3 using both Ethernet at high-ish rates (PCM 768 can really pump some bits) and USB is a non-starter. Actual glitches can be heard within the music. But you could hear the potential in this arrangement.

    Moved to a Pi4, no hat, still generic cable - MUCH better. Imaging turned more 3D and stabilized. Excellent width and depth that truly felt like my room is larger than it is. Decays and low level harmonics avail themselves and the recording "space" is more easily construed. All for $40.

    I've tried several players - Gentoo, PiCorePlayer, RoPieee (and XL), and Jussi's proprietary HQP NAA image. I prefer the latter. It builds on everything from that last paragraph. It's also very lightweight, boots quickly, etc...

    Since then I've tumbled further down the rabbit hole.
    Battery PSU for the Pi and my fiber ethernet converter;
    Battery PSU provides 5V input to my DAC which isn't necessary for powering the transport, but it does trigger it to turn on, otherwise the USB input turns off while other inputs are in use
    Moved my Roon core PC, the switch, the first fiber converter, and my HQP PC off the circuit the audio room uses
    Experimented with different HQP Filters - really enjoying Sinc-L and Sinc-M with either PCM768/NS15 or DSD256 and ASDM7EC, though that latter combo with Sinc-L takes a mother of a computer and GPU to pull off, and I can't even use it on redbook rates, I use Sinc-M in that scenario.

    I am also now using a data-only USB cable from Ghent, since I'm not providing 5V out from the Pi for my USB input

    None of the "rabbit hole" upgrades made a substantial, massive difference in sound but I can say they also did no harm and I feel like in sum, they DO make a palpable impact. In any case, I've had a lot of fun playing around with modern digital transports, streamers, Pis, and power supplies. Even streaming via Qobuz sounds amazing, to me.

    And so compelling it has been... I'm currently populating a discogs store with all sorts of really awesome vinyl because, for a very large part of my vinyl collection now, it's frankly obsolete.
     
  16. john greenwood

    john greenwood Senior Member

    Location:
    NYC
    I also went for a small form factor ASUS Windows 10 PC for less that $200. It's only slightly larger than the big iPad, and it was intended to double as a travel computer. Alas, I haven't been doing much travelling. On board storage was miniscule (SSD), so I had to buy a 128 Gig memory card.
     
  17. telemike

    telemike Forum Resident

    Location:
    Greensboro, NC
    Upgrading to a Pi4 and going to use USB input on my dac
     
  18. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    I did forget to add - it does depend very highly on the quality of one's USB input on their DAC. I am super impressed by the USB inputs on both DF DACs I've owned.

    And @Ham Sandwich reminded me to pull out my Pi4/Pi2AES combo again and try some different PCM settings with it I've come to enjoy on HQP so I spent part of the morning getting all that together. Will take a listen tonight via AES/EBU into my DAC.

    Gotta love options.
     
    Henry J and Rob6899 like this.
  19. Ham Sandwich

    Ham Sandwich Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sherwood, OR, USA
    At this point I just need to stop thinking about it and do it. I'll learn more by getting a couple of Pi devices to play with than I will by reading any more about it. You and I have kinda opposite approaches to audio experimentation. You'll have gone through five generations of gear and exploration while I'm still thinking about where to get started. :laugh:

    I'm also interested in exploring HQPlayer as a DSD to PCM conversion so I can play my SACD rips better using the Schiit multibits. The HQPlayer the NAA on a Pi is something I also want to try.

    Audio Bacon just posted a comparison of HQPlayer vs the $5000 Chord Hugo M Scaler: HQPlayer - Better Than a $5,000 Upscaler? - Audio Bacon
    Interesting reading. I've heard the M Scaler with Chord DACs and I like what it does. A lot. HQPlayer just getting reasonably close to that style of upsampling would be neat.

    Audio Bacon used a computer with an AMD Threadripper and GeForce RTX 3090 GPU. Which is overkill. How much CPU and GPU is actually needed to do the upsampling using HQPlayer? I'm looking for a new desktop computer. So might as well get one with just enough GPU to play with HQPlayer. But I don't know how much GPU is actually needed.
     
  20. domesticmachine

    domesticmachine Resident forum

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I’ve been running a Pi 3 with a HiFi Berry DAC for about 5 years now. I use Rune Audio interface. Thing is bullet proof, sounds great. plugs right into my Aux input on my reviewer. Run the whole thing off my phone using the web browser interface. Loads up in seconds.

    Ive tried other interfaces but there are things I like about Rune that Volumio and others don’t do even though Rune software hasn’t been updated in a couple years.

    I have an old 1TB usb hard drive plugged into it with all sorts of file types. Never had an issue. While the HD is the noisiest part of the system I put a small towel under it and buried it in a cabinet to reduce the noise. I also use a 80 TB thumb drive in another USB just to quick load new albums that aren’t on the 1TB archive. It said not to plug in USB drives to a Pi that aren’t powered but it’s not caused an issue in 3-4 years.

    While most of my digital files are tagged the interface reads the directories set up so I just make it work for me.

    I know nothing about Linux but set this thing up after trial and error following a few web tutorials and message boards on a weekend.

    All in all $100, a weekend and an old LaCie USB hard drive and I’ve been fine with this for 5 years.

    Following this thread to see if there are new and better setups as I’ve kind of just set it up and forgotten about it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2021
    iainoco and Rob6899 like this.
  21. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    First off...
    [​IMG]

    :D

    Honestly this paragraph could and probably should be its own thread. But I'll try to keep it concise:

    There are three elements to HQPlayer: filters, noise shaping (PCM)/modulator (DSD), and Convolution.

    The tricky part is that middle one for DSD - modulators. They really make a big difference, but DSD really needs at least 128 or 256 to shine. DSD64 is just... ok. I prefer PCM at that point. But DSD256 and the really good modulators? They sound sublime in terms of imaging and spatial rendering. Tonality is great IMO as well. Attack, dynamics, it's all there. But it takes horsepower.

    I run a stripped down W10 machine with a Core i9 9900KF and an nVidia 1650 GPU.

    Modulators are dependent solely on two-threaded performance of your CPU. GPU does not help, and having a Threadripper also doesn't help. My i9900 fares better than my 3950X in my gaming PC at doing the biggest, baddest ASMD7EC modulator @ DSD256.

    But it's all a combination of settings, really. If you combine a heavy filter like Sinc L with a low bitrate like 44.1 and then try to do it at the above settings, you're going to wait 5 minutes for a song to start. It plays without skips, but it's not worth it. So I back off the filter a bit for those edge cases. But... having a better GPU helps on the filter processing side of things so I COULD do it if I could buy a GPU for anything reasonable right now. I can't, so I don't bother.

    I use Convolution as well, which a better GPU also helps.

    It's hard to put together a formula for success but I think if you can have at least some CUDA processing via GPU - even an older 980Ti or a 1060 or something could do wonders there, and combine that with as much i9 as you can buy? You can run the hardest stuff. But if you're not opposed to running Linux, he's started building Linux distros that maximize Ryzen performance. They help Intel CPUs but not like Ryzen.

    So yea... didn't keep that short at all. But I will say that I found I still wanted to run a 2nd PC to do just HQPlayer processing. Latency, minimizing noise from the CPU doing other stuff, it all kinda adds up. Thankfully I had spare parts so it wasn't a super costly endeavor, but YMMV on that front.

    And yea, that Audio Bacon review is completely on point. I've never heard an M-Scaler but I can imagine HQPlayer gets you in the conversation. But I'd never expect it to fully topple the actual MS hardware.
     
    kvad, Henry J and Ham Sandwich like this.
  22. fish

    fish Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I have always found that the Apple Mac mini is just impossible to beat for audio quality. I’ve tried dozens upon dozens of consumer brand windows computers and Apple products (besides the mini) as well as building both Windows and Clover based Hackintosh machines.
    The little mini always sounds better. And the quality is superb, lasting many years without service.
    Just Say’in
     
    jesterthejedi and reapers like this.
  23. toddrhodes

    toddrhodes Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Bend, IN
    Not to continue the HQP theme here but you raise a good point - the new M1 Mac Mini can do really awesome settings with HQP if it's only doing that as a task. They are really powerful and I don't think they're over the top expensive, either. I forgot to mention that in my previous post so yours reminded me.

    The recommended setup there would be Roon core on a NAS or PC/Mac --> HQPlayer on a Mac Mini M1 --> Pi4 or other small form factor "PC" running an HQP-enabled NAA image.

    And without HQP in the mix, it would still make sense IMO to use a Mac Mini of some sort as a Roon core, with a Pi4 or similar as a Roon Bridge.
     
  24. Ears of tin

    Ears of tin Member

    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Rune remains my favorite. I aso use Volumio and have tried Moode. I just wanted to point that "RuneAudio" now goes by the name "rAudio" and can be found on github at rern/rAudio-1 . It gets updated regularly. In my opinion it has the best combination of features (Bluetooth, tag editing, lyrics) and UI ergonomics.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2021
  25. domesticmachine

    domesticmachine Resident forum

    Location:
    Portland, OR
    I will check that out! Just recently picked up a second Pi and Hifi Berry DAC to build a second streamer for a friend. If there’s a new build I’d love to update my Rune with a current version.

    I’ve been pretty impressed with the Rigelian app on my IPhone. It has a lot of new features like Siri integration and the album shuffle that I missed from the old MPod app.
     

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