Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

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Bencat57
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Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Bencat57 »

Okay appreciate this is stretching things a bit to say it is a new topic but bear with me . I have used a Raspberry Pi as my stand alone Music server for about nine years now . It all started with a Raspberry Pi B and has been changed each time a new Pi was introduced and the outgoing unit would be converted to a player .

The set up I use is not very exotic or difficut to use Logitech Media Software is used (free) then I use the Material Skin plug (free) which does not alter things but makes the GUI a much nicer experience . Distro I use is Max2play which you have to pay for but I like the way it has so many automatic versions when you add DAC hat,s Digi Hats or even Amp Hat,s you just click it and most of the loading and settings are done for you .

Now from the start I have thought that the sound quality of this tiny box working as just the server has been very good and I admit to being more than a little sceptical that changing the server would improve sound quality . I have tried a Linn Sneaky , Cambridge CNX and Cyrus streamer over the years and honestly used as pure streamers (not DAC,s) I would be hard pushed to tell one from the other.

When the Pi came out within the first week I ordered a 2gb and 4gb unit to use in my systems the 2 gb as a player and the 4 gb as the stand alone Music Streamer . So much so normal and I got exactly what I expected sound quality the same but a much faster and more responsive feeling to the use . When looking for tracks and changing music the Pi 4 was much smoother and more like the much more expensive streamers. This would have continued had I not tried an LPSU which not only did not work but fried itself and the Pi 4 4gb .

LPSU back the mfg and see what they had to say . Now I was going to just order a Pi 4 4gb but decided at the last minute to order an 8 gb what the hell . Now while the Pi 4 4gb was down I had used the SD card and power supply it had been plugged in to in a spare Pi4 2gb unit I had so the music would keep playing . Slightly slower than the 4 gb but the same sound . This was the 2gb Pi 4 I had bought at the same time as the 4 gb when they were first released. Pi 4 8 gb arrives and I put that into the IIRC case I had used the same SD card and Pi standard power supply I had used with the 4 gb . First the good news everything worked as it should including being faster and smoother , then the really good news this 8 gb unit has taken the sound of the system up a whole couple of notches . Everything is more natural and imaging in all my systems is wider . Bass has more seperation and texture , vocals sound more like real people singing , or unreal people singing (Kraftwerk you know who you are) .

I have no real idea as to why this should be the case and I know that using a Pi as a stand alone streamer puts very little stress on it so the extra ram should make no difference . I have since found out from others who know that there have been a number of hardware and firmware revisions to the Pi 4 since it has launched but it hard to find what these are. Any way the important thing is that it is a real improvement in sound quality and it appears to be available with any of the Pi4,s so long as they are the latest hardware . If you use a Pi and have either a Pi 3 or earlier or an very early Pi 4 then I would say get yourself a nice new unit and give this a try it is not subtle and two other people that have tired it have both reported hearing the same improvements so I am not going mad but maybe it is a placebo / induced effect . Not that bothered if it is because the sound improvement is happening in all my systems from the best ones to the simple Amp hat powered kitchen one .
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Fretless (Mon Jul 27, 2020 12:53 pm)

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Fretless »

All my Pi's are model 2B, so far less capable than the new model 4.
And it would be interesting to see a comparison between the Pi4 and Asus Tinkerboard.

Discovering that I can convert old desktop PC's to run Volumio OS as dedicated music streamers has really changed things for me - but it seems, Bencat, that you have really put some serious time and effort into getting the best out of a Pi setup.

Enjoy! :music-listening: :music-listening: :music-listening:
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Bencat57 (Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:44 pm)
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by slinger »

I wonder if that's the reason all of the early adopters rated the Asus Tinker Board (ATB) above the RPi 4. I must admit though, I also prefer the flexibility of using external DACs rather than being tied to available hats. Volumio has recognised every DAC I've thrown at it.

I went from RPi2 to RPi3, and didn't bother taking it to the next step, the RPi4, mostly because I was using Archimago's CRAAP Settings and some other bits and pieces to actually underclock and "undervolt" my RPi3 via the config.txt file, as well as shutting down unnecessary (to me) stuff like the HDMI interface. As the major selling point of the RPi4 seemed to be "more power" I figured I'd just have more stuff to throttle back.

I'm extremely pleased with my Volumio /ATB / USB choice, and I'm starting to think it's actually superior to my latest fun-and-games, running Volumio on an MSI Cubi Mini-PC, but it's great to hear that there are still mysteries to explore should I ever get bored. :lol:
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Bencat57 (Mon Jul 27, 2020 5:44 pm)
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Twistedheat02 »

I'd be keen to hear feedback on this point from others.

I'm in the market for a streamer and have often wondered how a pi or an allo compare to something like an innous zen mini
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Bencat57 »

With regard to the Pi as a DAC I have never used one that way . All of the players I have have Digi Hats which give you an optical and a SPDIF output which then feeds that in to the various system DAC,s that I have . I have used a Justboom , HiFiBerry and an Allo One Digi . They are all very good and frankly I think I would be hard pressed to say one was better than the other. The Allo One is in my main system and has an Allo Shanti PSU for both the Allo and my DDRC 22D . because this all started for me with a Squeezebox Touch years ago I have stayed with LMS as I am very used to it . I also like the great support you get from the squeezebox forum . Things like BBC iPlayer , Material Skin and other plug ins make it a really easy experience along with things like Spotify , Deezer , Quboz , Tidal support which are all free .

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Bencat57 »

Twistedheat02 wrote:
Mon Jul 27, 2020 4:31 pm
I'd be keen to hear feedback on this point from others.

I'm in the market for a streamer and have often wondered how a pi or an allo compare to something like an innous zen mini
I have to be honest and say I have not heard an Innous , or the Auralic units and before i heard the difference in the Pi 4 8gb unit I would have said if you are only using them as a streamer then there is no difference at all . However now I would not be so sure but i will say that a ne model Pi 4 set up as a stand alone Music Server will sound very good indeed and even if you push the boat out and get a dedicated LPSU like the Allo Shanti you are going to have great sounding and working unit for around £250 which is a huge saving on the others. Personally if it was me I would just put a full Pi 4 in and use the standard Raspberry Pi wallwart in the first case and see how that goes . You could easily use it as your server and have a Digi Hat with a digital out in to your system for under £150 including a nice metal case which frankly is not that much . There are lots of Distros you can use and you can get the flavour of streaming without any issue . After that you could decide if this is for you or not and then look at PSU improvements or other options (Allo Bridge is one well reviewed option) or move up the price ladder to some of the more exotic streamers on the market.

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Toontrev »

Hi Bencat
Would you consider upgrading from a Pi 3 to 4 using an existing DAC HAT?
Cheers
Trevor

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi 4 as a stand alone streamer

Unread post by Bencat57 »

Hi Trevor

Sorry I am not always on this forum so did not see your question till now . If you are using the Pi as a simple player with a DAC Hat or Digi Hat my own experience is that there is no difference I can hear changing from a Pi 3 to a Pi 4 . It would seem that whatever advantages are gained whenh using the Pi 4 as a stand alone server have no impact on the player . I would really like to be able to identify why the Pi 4 server sounds better as it would help me understand what the changes were and the impact they have and then perhaps explain why there is no advantage in a Pi player . I have to repeat I was not expecting the change in sound quality from one Pi 4 to another so I am as confused as many will be reading this. So far one other person has had the same change in sound quality but there change was from Pi 3 to Pi 4 as server . So if you have the time and are happy to just give it a try then by all means switch over to a Pi 4 2gb , only problem is in some cases the DAC hats will not work from Pi 3 to Pi 4 (some will) and you will need a new case and a new power supply . In my view the best idea is probably to make up a complete new Pi 4 player with case and then you can do back to back listening tests to see if it makes any difference .
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Toontrev (Fri Aug 07, 2020 12:56 pm)

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