I really enjoy music, both digital and analog. I was a relatively early adopter of wireless streaming high quality lossless files (flac) to my stereo system via a Squeezebox Classic. So when my 10 year old Squeezebox died a couple weeks ago I was pretty bummed :-( After a short mourning period I began researching an affordable replacement. I wasn't ready to spend almost $1000 for one of these (though they do get good reviews). I figured there had to be a solution for less than a couple hundred bucks. After a bit of Googling I came upon a solution that made sense from both an audiophile and dollars standpoint. The result was that I replaced my dearly departed Squeezebox with a budget audiophile-quality music streamer that cost me all of $112.71 and 30 minutes of my time. It was easier than I thought and it's something that anyone who can plug in a audio cable or send an email can do themselves.
Time For Some Pi
The solution I ended up implementing is a streaming player based on the popular Raspberry Pi system. Raspberry Pi is a linux-based "all in one" computer that is affordable and very customize-able. This affordability and flexibility has spawned any number of variations/uses for the board, music streaming being one of them.
The Squeezebox I had was based on a custom music server originally called Squeezeserver. The software sits on your computer and serves up your digital music to the Squeezebox. Squeezeserver (now called Logitech Media Server) has a reputation as a high-quality, audiophile focused piece of software that can stream high-quality lossless files such as flac. The software was quickly adopted by music geeks as a sort of "gold standard" in music server software and with the software code being released as open source it has been improved over the years as well as being the source of many player apps, such as the one that was built for the Raspberry Pi, called piCorePlayer. piCorePlayer is free software that is easily installed on the Raspberry Pi, turning it into a streaming device capable of playing the music sent to it by Logitech Media Server. I really enjoyed using the Logitech Media Server setup I had and saw no reason to change. So I decided to build my player to work with the Logitech Media Server system. Here's a listing of the items needed to set up a wired (dirrectly connected to my router with ethernet cable) player:
-HiFiBerry Digi+- Purchased from Cameron Tech for $35.00- The HiFiBerry Digi+ is an "add on" board for the Raspberry Pi that allows you to route your music to an outboard DAC via an optical connection. This was the perfect choice for me since I have a decent DAC (the Beresford Bushmaster Mk II) that accepts digital input. The board literally "clips" onto the Raspberry Pi in about 30 seconds.
- Micro 8Gb SD card - Purchased from Amazon for $5.85
- Power Adapter - Purchased from Amazon for $7.99
- Nifty Acrylic Case - Purchased from Cameron Tech for $17.00
-WiFi Dongle-(optional)-If you want to stream wirelessly you will need to add a WiFi adapter to your Pi. These can be purchased for between $5 and $12. Here's a number of them from Amazon that look pretty good.
- Logitech Media Server-Free- My preferred music streaming software. You install this on your computer and it scans the folder/drive where your music is located. Once that's done you can send your music to any number of players that are connected to your network (both wired and wireless)
- piCorePlayer-Free- This is the software that you need to load on the Raspberry Pi to link up with Logitech Media Server on your computer. The site has fairly comprehensive instructions. Basically you just download the software to your computer, burn it to your Micro SD card using Win32 Disk Image (see below), insert the SD cart into your Raspberry Pi, power it up, configure the software and you are good to go!
- Win32 Disk Image (windows only)- Free software used to write the PiCorePlayer software to the Micro SD card
Total Cost $112.71
Once I got all my pieces/parts it took me about 30 minutes total to assemble the Raspberry Pi, download and burn the piCorePlayer software to the card, install the card, power up the Pi and configure the basic settings so that it would work with my network. Trust me on this, if I can do it, just about anybody can do this. There's no crazy coding or tweaking required.
The end result is I now have my digital streaming setup working again and the quality of the sound is fantastic! Here's a photo of the final product sitting on my Beresford DAC:
If you don't want to use Logitech Media Server as your software, the Pi will work with other music streaming software. Two additional ones I found in my research (there are probably more) are Volumio and Runeaudio. Both of these seem to be basically the same setup as I'm using but with different interfaces, etc. I didn't dig to deep into them as I'm very happy with my current setup but I may try one of them out in the future just to see how they work.
Bottom Line And Resources
The bottom line with all of this is that it doesn't have to cost a fortune to build a true audiophile-quality digital music streaming setup. All you need is a Raspberry Pi, a computer and a bit of time and you too can have something that provides a high-quality steam of music at a budget-friendly price! Here's a couple more resources you might want to check out: