Life of Pi

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Fretless
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Life of Pi

Unread post by Fretless » Thu Apr 09, 2015 9:45 pm

Inspired by other HFS'ers adventures in the world of DIY micro-computers I decided to try it myself. Thinking that it would either be frustratingly impossible or ridiculously easy. One thing is certain - it's cheap.

So what arrives in the post - two IC boards:

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On the left a Raspberry Pi B+ and on the right a Hifiberry Digi+. The Pi is the computer, which can be used for any application you can wish for. The Digi+ is a DAC board featuring a Burr-Brown chip with Toslink or SP/DIF coax output, the latter also having a special output transformer to reduce galvanic effects.

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The 2 boards fit together without any soldering and are fixed with little plastic spacers. This part of the operation takes about 5 minutes or 10 if you're clumsy like me. Then it goes into a plastic case and starts to look like something you would want to compare with a Sonos Connect.

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So then it gets plugged in and mounted in the NVA rig inplace of the dreaded Apple-style white Sonos box. By coincidence the housing I chose for the Pi DAC is the same glossy black perspex as favoured by a certain Mr. R. Dunn (purveyor of fine audio equipment) - 'NVA-chic'.

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The techies here at HFS are currently experimenting with weird and wonderful power supplies for these little wonders. I happened to have a Sony PSP USB adaptor lying about unused (originally intended for an E-reader) this produces a 5V, 2A supply which I thought would be sufficient for now. I also appropriated the heavy-duty micro-USB cable from my Fiio X3 for the new DAC. An ethernet cable for network access and an NVA SSC RCA/XLR cable to the XLR input of my M1DAC. That's the hardware sorted out, now the software.

The Rasperry runs on a Linux OS (operating system) and a variety of these are available for different uses. I chose Volumio as it appears to be simple and relatively idiot-proof. Following the instructions on their website you download the Volumio OS and use a disk imager program to write this to an empty MicroSD card (I grabbed a 32Gb card from an old MP3 player). The Volumio card goes into the slot in the Pi and then attach the power lead.

Through gap in the casing I see a red power light and a green flashing LED to signal a boot process. All controlling is done from a Web UI (user interface). You type in the address of the Pi as if it is a website in your browser - and the control panel pops up (had to wait a minute for the boot to finish). This works on Windows PC's, Apple devices, Android (although I had to find a rather crude app to get it to work with my Windows Phone). Through the simple interface it was actually quite easy to find the Network disk with my music files on and to start something playing. Switched on the M1DAC, found the input signal from the Pi and - let there be music!

And what music. I have enjoyed the Sonos as a source for a couple of years and never found fault with it. But now it sounds so dull and veiled in comparison to what the Pi/Hifiberry is churning out - and it also does 24-bit, ouch! The reproduction from this tiny black box wipes the floor with the Sonos Connect and also leaves my CD transport running for cover. It sounds like the entire DAC has been replaced with something far, far more luxurious.

This is a go-and-try-it-for-yourself sort of thing. The Pi B+/Hifiberry Digi+ combo plus case cost me about 75 euro (a Sonos Connect is 350 euro) and in total about 2 hours before I had everything assembled, up and running. The sound quality is just astonishing.

The Sonos has now been relegated to the kitchen. I'm off to have a serious listening session and try a few tweaks. More later.
NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube3
Digits: RPi 2B / Allo DigiOne / Volumio / Tomanek ULPS / AQ Jitterbug
CD Transport: Cambridge CXC DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette
Cans: AudioQuest NightHawk Digital i/c: Oxypure OCC coax & optical

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terrybooth
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by terrybooth » Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:19 pm

Interesting, isn't it?
Pioneer PL71/DL103/ Phono2/HiFiPi/P90SA/TIS/CubixPro two-up

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Fretless
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by Fretless » Thu Apr 09, 2015 10:45 pm

Too bizarre for words.
NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube3
Digits: RPi 2B / Allo DigiOne / Volumio / Tomanek ULPS / AQ Jitterbug
CD Transport: Cambridge CXC DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette
Cans: AudioQuest NightHawk Digital i/c: Oxypure OCC coax & optical

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Thu Apr 09, 2015 11:15 pm

Will we all be eating Raspberry Pie in a while :think:

I want cream on mine though.

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Fretless
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by Fretless » Thu Apr 09, 2015 11:33 pm

This certainly fits in with the spirit of things here: low cost, high sound quality and room for a bit of individual curiosity.

I have just swapped the input leads over so the Pi/Hifiberry is now on an SSP RCA input into the M1DAC. This changes the character of the sound quite dramatically to more rounded and elegant.

In Volumio there is an option for switching between modes of Kernel Processing. Don't ask me what that does but it gives a subtle variation in presentation allowing you to select the setting you prefer. Supposedly without any reduction in signal quality.

I'll have my Raspberry Pie with a double helping of cream please, and some chocolate mousse on the side.
NVA: P50sa - SSP - A40 - LS6 - Cube3
Digits: RPi 2B / Allo DigiOne / Volumio / Tomanek ULPS / AQ Jitterbug
CD Transport: Cambridge CXC DAC: Metrum Acoustics Musette
Cans: AudioQuest NightHawk Digital i/c: Oxypure OCC coax & optical

alfer
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by alfer » Fri Apr 10, 2015 11:02 am

Loads to be explored. It's the thing to do.

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guydarryl
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by guydarryl » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:15 pm

being very stupid/out of date/IT illiterate:

could you explain; your network disc with music files. Also could you use this set up to access internet radio?

cheers. Guy.
LP12,Ittok,DV10X5,Phono2(twin supply),P50/A40's,LS5,SSC,Rega Ela mk1.
Sony cdp xb930,Alessandro ms1

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Dr Bunsen Honeydew
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by Dr Bunsen Honeydew » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:30 pm

This is the problem it is still a digital techy play thing, which seems to be most of the fun for them. What we need is a Pie where we don't have to add ingredients or flavour that we can just get it out of the fridge when we want it, heat it up in the microwave if needed, put lashings of cream on it and scoff it i.e. plug and play. In other words a CD player without the need for CDs.

I really do not understand these microscopically small things they are making, it should be in a nice decent size and weight box with proper power supply and proper connections on it. How can anyone think that USB is a good connector.

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Macca
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Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by Macca » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:45 pm

Dr Bunsen Honeydew wrote:This is the problem it is still a digital techy play thing, which seems to be most of the fun for them. What we need is a Pie where we don't have to add ingredients or flavour that we can just get it out of the fridge when we want it, heat it up in the microwave if needed, put lashings of cream on it and scoff it i.e. plug and play. In other words a CD player without the need for CDs.

I really do not understand these microscopically small things they are making, it should be in a nice decent size and weight box with proper power supply and proper connections on it. How can anyone think that USB is a good connector.
Agreed. Computers are both boring and frustrating in equal measure and 'just plug and play' never is in reality.

jammy395

Re: Life of Pi

Unread post by jammy395 » Fri Apr 10, 2015 12:53 pm

Macca wrote:
Dr Bunsen Honeydew wrote:This is the problem it is still a digital techy play thing, which seems to be most of the fun for them. What we need is a Pie where we don't have to add ingredients or flavour that we can just get it out of the fridge when we want it, heat it up in the microwave if needed, put lashings of cream on it and scoff it i.e. plug and play. In other words a CD player without the need for CDs.

I really do not understand these microscopically small things they are making, it should be in a nice decent size and weight box with proper power supply and proper connections on it. How can anyone think that USB is a good connector.
Agreed. Computers are both boring and frustrating in equal measure and 'just plug and play' never is in reality.
Double agreed, its far to complicated, we need a Luddite Dinosaur version............. :epop:
I will wait till its simples before checking it all out.

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