Interested in building a Roon streamer, and to retire (or compare with) my Mac Mini Bridge. (It works fine, but curious whether a DIY streamer would sound better.)
Tons of sites out there selling chips and cases; lots of YT vids; plenty of OS downloads; and a million forum posts… just trying to find the best place for a curious novice to start with recommended parts and step-by-steps, with the focus on best sound quality.
This Darko vid was highly entertaining, and got me itching to build something.
For headphones listening late at night I did just that… List of ingredients: (1) Raspberry 4 (2 GB RAM is enough, but the 4 GB version is not much more); (2) 16 GB Micro SD memory card for the operating system; (3) power supply for the RPi (I got a Canakit together with the on-off switch, what you need is 5V/3A); (4) case for the RPi. As the RPi4 can get warm and I didn’t want a fan, I got me a nice Flirc case which does a wonderful job of passive and silent cooling. (5) To stream with Roon I very much recommend using RoPieee as operating system. This is a minimal Linux distro with Roon Bridge built in. It is easily detected as endpoint by Roon and works great. Download the image file and burn it to the MicroSD memory card, e.g. using Etcher or similar software.
Time of assembly and installation - 10-15 minutes max.
Although it is recommended to connect Core and endpoints via Ethernet, my RPi is connected to my Wifi network without problems. I use this with a USB-connected DAC/Headphone amplifier, and love it for low cost, simplicity and very nice sound.
Sweeeeeeet this is great!
Do you have other endpoints with which you can compare the sound quality? Just curious how close one of these can get to a pricey streamer, or if hardly it’s better than a mac mini running bridge. (A mac mini with no special treatment except an SSD.) Is it better than a Chromecast Audio dongle?
On the wifi, that’s cool. I have ethernet running most everywhere, so I’ll probably wire it up, for what it’s worth.
I have my core media PC connected via Toslink to a DDC, and from there to the I2S input of my DAC. This is the setup where my amp and speakers are connected. I have not used any other endpoints, but as Roon sends the data via its RAAT protocol to the Roon Bridge software, I don’t think there is much to be gained using a more costly endpoint, if all you want to do is connecting a DAC via USB. I don’t stream highres nor DSD or MQA. Others may disagree on that, and I won’t get into debates about the merits of particular costly streaming hardware. I like simple setups and would any day prefer to invest in a better DAC, amplifier or headphones. I firmly believe this to give you more return on your investment in sound quality.
I’m a complete noob to Roon and knew nothing about Raspberry Pi or any micro-computer. I have no background in computers, and no desire to learn what makes them tick. I say this because just a month ago, I built my first RoPieee box, and found it extremely easy. Easy enough that last week I built a second one to use in the garage with an old Bose Wave Radio.
Everything needed can be bought on Amazon for around $75 if you use an external DAC. Here was my experience. I highly recommend the beginner’s guide.
I’ve used quite a few different streamers, several in the $1k+ region, but nothing sounded better (and several were worse) than my current Pi 2 Design Pi2AES (with Pi 4B, Pi 2 Design plexiglass case, theie Meanwell 24V SMPS, Ropieee software). IMO the best DIY streamer value by bar if your DAC or integrated takes S/PDIF coax, AES, or I2S HDMI (there’s also an additional board with RJ-45 I2S for Metrum or Sonnett DACs).
I found the kits from CanaKit are complete and at a good price https://www.canakit.com/
For starting out and just tinkering (USB out only) it’s a good way to get a no frills complete package. You can then add a HAT later or buy a complete Rasp Pi based set-up from Allo, HiFiBerry, Pi 2 Design, or others. I still use and tinker with my CanaKit as an easy quick endpoint test for various things. I’ve since purchased an Allo device for my main system to get better sound quality.
At first I thought that was an all-in-one solution but looks like you need the raspberry pi itself… And a power supply. And case.
I look at sites like HiFi Berry and Allo and my eyes glaze over with all of the different boards and dac hats and whatever.
But if you think that Pi2AES would better a Mac Mini roon bridge, I’m all in.
Lay a shopping list on me!
For a Pi2AES-based streamer, you need:
- Pi 4B
- Power supply
- Micro SD card
Ropieee download to microSD card
@Fernando_Pereira Is the I2S connected via a standard short HDMI cable to the DAC or is there soldering from pins on the HAT required
I’ve not used the I2S HDMI output from the Pi2AES but my understanding from the docs and reading discussions elsewhere is that you just need a (short) HDMI cable. But the best is to ask Pi 2 Design.
I’d love to find a nicer case for it… looks like just an acrylic top/bottom, with brass risers and two acrylic sides? (Ends are open?)
So, as I’m piecing this together, I’m curious about the outputs on this Pi2AES hat…
If the preamp/DAC I’m using doesn’t have AES or I2S, that hat doesn’t make much sense. Unless you think the Optical out from that component would better the SQ of the USB. I understand the idea of the hat is to reduce/minimize noise, moving the audio part of the streamer off the main Pi board, but would there be a better hat to get if I’m not going to use AES or I2S?
Pi2AES is designed for DAC/amps that would benefit from high quality I2S, AES, or S/PDIF coax digital input. I don’t know much about optical.
well, the dac/amp does have coax digital inputs, so it might be just fine.
S/PDIF coax and AES are variants of the same protocol, and the Pi2AES uses the same accurate clocks for both. I’ve read informal reports that suggest that both connection methods work comparably well.
as is my nature with these things, I haven’t dipped my toes into the RaspPi water stream yet. Still not really sure which direction to go.
here’s what I know:
Replacing mac mini
will use to stream Roon exclusively (If needing to stream soundcloud or anything else, I have a chromecast audio in the system)
would like to incorporate HQPlayer
don’t care about MQA or hi-res. (HQPlayer takes care of the upsampling)
my Integrated (Parasound HINT6) has a DAC, so I will plan to play to that to start, unless a DAC HAT would be better sound quality (i’m thinking it’s negligible, but what do I know?)
Optical, USB or Coax are all options with the Parasound’s DAC
Now I see this PecanPi thing being discussed, which looks interesting.
I suppose if I never actually buy anything, I keep all my options open!
ok, I went ahead and ordered a Rasp Pi kit (should have this weekend), and ordered the Pi2AES unit, case and power supply (not sure about delivery on that).
Further updates as events warrant. Looking forward to playing around with this stuff.
Congratulations, once you put it together, getting Ropieee onto it is just a matter of getting the system image on a microSD card, plugging everything in, and it should be up and running. Happy to help if you have any trouble.