With the resurgence of good Hi-Fi, where more and more people buy good headphones and listen to a lot of music thanks to streaming, it’s sad to see the things the mastering engineers (and in the end the artist) do to music. The recordings are getting worse. Even old records that get the “Remastered” or “Expanded” treatment doesn’t sound as good as the original. Why?
John Meyer may be making really expensive loudspeakers, but when it comes to high-end audio, the audio engineering pioneer prefers free. FLAC, the open source audio format developed by Grateful Dead fans to trade bootleg recordings, is “the perfect format” for music aficionados looking for higher-resolution audio, Meyer told me during a recent interview. And to him, any company pushing trying to make a buck with selling upsampled music is just out to sell snake oil. “It’s tricking people who don’t know enough about technology,” he said.
I couldn’t agree more. We don’t need more formats. FLAC handless lossless compressed music without an hitch. Been using it for years and have my entire record collection in FLAC. I’m working on having my FLAC-encoded music in my car as well! Whohoo!
I’m working on a Raspberry Pi as a music player in my car. I’m putting all my music on a SSD disk in lossless FLAC. I’ve already got hold of a 2×16 character LCD with six button from Adafruit that only uses two pins for communication with I2C. It’s easy to program and it has four different background colors.
I love my music playback setup that consists of a couple of Squeezebox V3 players in different rooms so I can listen to music in lossless format wherever I am in the apartment. With the iPeng HD app on my iPad, I have a nice interface for controlling the players with album art and other nice features. But the best part is that I can playback high resolution audio directly on my iPad using the Camera Kit USB adapter and an HRT HeadStreamer DAC portable USB headphone amplifier. But I wanted a small, cheap and eco-friendly server for hosting my music files and wondered if I could use the Raspberry Pi. And here’s my findings.
A lot has happened since I wrote this…
Since I wrote this blog post, a lot has happened when it comes to audio on the Raspberry Pi. There are now cheap I2C audio DAC HATs that connects directly to the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi, and thus eliminates the need to go trough USB. This lowers the jitter that USB introduces and there are several cards to choose from.
I’ve tried two different cards, the HifiBerry DAC+ that uses the Texas Instruments PCM5122 DAC (PDF) and handles music all the way up to 24-bit 192kHz. I also tried the ESS Sabre based DAC DACBerry3+ from eBay. My personal favourite is the HifiBerry. To me it sounds better, but there are some quirks when it comes to set it up. You need to set the volume with alsamixer to 96% output otherwise you get distortion. There’s none of that problem with the DACBerry3+ because it doesn’t have software controllable volume settings.
The Raspberry Pi is a really small computer with an ARM 700Mhz processor in it. It has dual USB ports, Ethernet, HDMI and analog video out and sound. But the sound output is terrible. The audio is PWM driven to about 11-bits per sample, witch makes it practically useless as an audio playback unit. And all my plans for projects with the Rasp involves audio.