RPI ( raspberry pi) Alternatives tested

I just wanted to share that I’ve been testing a few raspberry pi alternatives as roon endpoints. My curiosity stemmed from both the idea that something could be a better solution to the problem by offering a less noisy environment and also the escalating costs and diminished availability of raspberry pi units.

The first unit I tested was the Nanopi Neo3 LTS. I liked that it was a very simple unit without wifi, bt, HDMI etc. My thought was that a simpler electrical layout would result in less noise. This unit worked well with Roon Bridge installed over DietPi and underclocked to 400Mhz. I didn’t notice much in the way of reduced noise. It does run warmer than rpi4b and I would suggest using a metal case if this was to be your daily driver to help keep the temps down without introducing active cooling. The plastic case isn’t enough. That said it’s cheap and works well as a rpi4b alternative and was very easy to setup with DietPi.

My next test was with Beatlebone black ( BBB). The power layout on the BBB board is significantly better ( less noise) and offered a noticeable improvement in sound quality. It can be had for about $80 and it has more features than the NEO3 including onboard EMMC so that you can omit the microSD card after install. It’s my opinion that this is what we should all be using. The big drawback to the BBB is that it’s not as user friendly but I think that could be remedied if there were more people using the hardware. There’s not currently any dietPi support and the current version of roon bridge has an issue, but a workaround has been found and a fix appears to be in the works.

Have you tested any RPI alternatives that you found to be a superior solution to the problem? Are you already using BBB? It would be awesome to find a solution as simple as DietPi for folks with less linux experience to be able to leverage.


RPi4 running RoPieeeXL is my choice. I have two and Harry does a great job keeping RoPieee updated and solving any issues customers have.


That’s great and hopefully they eventually figure out their supply chain issues, but until then I don’t suggest anyone spending $100+ on a raspberry pi. That was the main purpose of the post.

1 Like

I’m not that experienced, so need my friend google, are you talking about this: BeagleBoard.org - black ?

Havent tried the BBB you referred to, but i do regularly use a variety of SBC’s:
Asus Tinkerboard (with a native extraction of SPDIF from the GPIO) running DietPi
NanoPi Neo 512Mb (DietPi)
NanoPi Neo 2 2Gb (DietPi)
Raspberry 2B (DietPi)
Raspberry 3/3+ (Ropieee/XL)
Raspberry Pi4 2Gb (Ropieee/VitOS/DietPi)

I generally set power to a fixed rate, an even multiplier of the clocking frequency when using DietPi. I really like them all, and to be honest, they don’t sound all that different, but i prefer the Pi2 before any newer hardware, the abscence of Bluetooth and WLAN seem to make a different presentation, which i prefer.
I also like the NanoPi’s, they sound really nice and cost as a couple of beers at the pub here in Sweden.

Favorite HAT? The chinese original of the Audiophonics ESS Sabre 9038Q2M at around $60-70.

Favorite power supply?
IAN Canada Pure Pi, making any Raspberry sound like a respectable streamer at 20x it’s cost. (Yeah, i’m pushing my luck a bit here! :slight_smile: )


Yes that’s the one.

1 Like

Thanks for sharing your experiences. One of the things I’ve come to enjoy about the BBB is the power management. One of the many things related to power that I prefer in the Beagle Bone is that the USB power isn’t routed though the SBC and isn’t shared with anything else. It’s directly powered by the external power supply. I’ve been using a SGC linear power supply and it’s working quite well.

I’ve always wondered about the Asus. The Neo’s kind of remind me of the pi2. I haven’t tried any of the Ian Canada stuff, but I think my next DAC will be i2s so I may look into it then.

1 Like

I just ordered one of these to experiment with:

ROC-RK3328-CC (Renegade) (libre.computer)

I’ll let you know how it goes.


I’ve been using …

Odroid C4 (with a HiFi-Shield+ DAC HAT) … solid Pi4-ish performance, ethernet only, eMMC storage, great sound from the DAC HAT … but I haven’t found a case that fits the Odroid+HAT combination, and I’m stuck on an old kernel for DAC functionality (I think DietPi devs are among those trying get this working with a more recent kernel)

NanoPi R4S … headless only and (dual) ethernet only, very nice metal case, 4GB memory, USB audio only (no HAT option) … works great with Armbian OS … a little limiting in my setup, as I don’t have wired networking everywhere, but performance is excellent, the case is attractive … currently not in use due to the next item on my list …

NanoPi R5C … recent release, sub $100, already working on DietPi (the device shares a lot with the existing R5S, so DietPi is using same install image for both) … this is my current favorite Pi-alternative, and I think it has the most potential … it also has a nice metal case, it’s got dual gigabit ethernet ports, it’s got a WiFi module (optional) with external antennas for very solid/fast connection … I usually get 300Mbps+ over wifi, and that’s compared to a Pi4 that gets more like 30-40Mbps from the same location (I guess it makes sense that the NanoPi networking is so good, I think they’re generally designed to be routers) … it’s got 4GB memory, 32GB of eMMC storage, HDMI out … USB audio only (again, no HAT), not a limiter for me, but might be for some … really no other complaints other than the limited number of OS options due to its newness, but the DietPi support is great, and I expect it will eventually work with Armbian and others

the Pi4 design is approaching 4 years old (can’t recall the last time I got excited about a 4 year old computer) … it’s still hard to beat the Pi in terms of support, compatibility with HATs etc., but if I had the option of buying a Pi today, I’d still probably go with something like the R5C given what I’ve seen so far.


This is all very cool to me. I had a RaspberryPi years ago. It seemed neat so I bought one (probably 2010-2014?). Then had no use for it and it languished. I just looked in my equipment rack to see if it was still there, apparently at some point I threw it out.

Looking forward to having a project that can potentially produce something useful to me!


RoPieee will get Odroid C4 support in the near future.
Alpha testing is in the works.


This is very, very good news!!!
Thank you Harry, I’ll be on lookout for it.

I’ve got one of those running Armbian. It’s not as widely supported as the pi, but once you have Armbian installed you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. Keep us posted.

1 Like

First step complete!

1 Like

Thanks @312Elements for mentioning Armbian, that saved me some time and anxiety navigating what image to use.

I had a few misfires including purchasing an incompatible microsd card, but over all the process was not too difficult. I was a bit concerned that I had no compatible monitor and no keyboard… I plugged the Renegade into my tv via HDMI and on first boot it helpfully told me it’s IP address. From there I was able to log in from my Linux VM and do the rest.

Installation of roon bridge was as simple as:

$ wget https://download.roonlabs.net/builds/roonbridge-installer-linuxarmv8.sh
$ chmod +x roonbridge-installer-linuxarmv8.sh
$ sudo ./roonbridge-installer-linuxarmv8.sh

Rebooted and made sure the bridge was still running (it was). Shut everything down, moved my USB from my NUC ROCK to the Renegade. Started everything up and it almost worked. Bridge did not recognize my DAC. Moved the USB connection from one of the stacked ports to the solo (blue) port and everything was recognized.

Played Steely Dan Gaucho 96/24 from Qobuz and it sounds exactly the way I was hoping: the same as the ROCK.

CPU utilization of the Renegade is minimal, I have not seen utilization on any core reach 2%.

The board manufacturer seems to be a partnership between Libre (from where I purchased) and Firefly. Each have documentation, but that seemed pretty sketchy… Maybe now that I have a better understanding of how this works it may be more accessible. Regular Armbian documentation was sufficient to get me going.

Next project is to try to get the image from the SD card onto the eMMC.

Edit: Sorry, it’s confusing when I reference ROC (the ROC-RK3328-CC) and ROCK (my NUC ROCK). I replaced my mentions of ROC with Renegade.


If you’re feeling more adventurous later, you can do more with it, but I usually default to Armbian when there isn’t a dietpi image available.

These little boards are a lot of fun for various projects from something simple like a room endpoint to something more complicated like home assistant. I use one as a network wide adblocker to help with assorted trackers. I have android on a pi with a touchscreen as a Roon controller. I use one to display my security cameras. They’re super useful tools. Glad it all worked out.

So no longer hacking, now listening happy as a clam…

Then some things woke me up. One song there seemed to be a very slight delay, enough to grab my attention, but not enough to make me sure of what I heard. I backed up the song and it played fine through. Some time later I heard some crackles, then a minute or so later I heard more (certain of this). Backed up song and it played through perfectly. Then some time later I had the delay thing again…

So, something is going on between the bridge and the DAC, either not delivering packets in time or corrupting packets… Never heard a hint of issue with NUC. One thing, I did not verify on my DAC I was in USB audio 2 mode. I’m back on the ROCK now, so may revisit tomorrow.

Now the install on the system is nothing light weight, there’s lots installed and enabled that could be interfering somehow… Could be a good argument for a curated minimal image like the RoPieee.


1 Like

Checked logs this morning, a service called hostapd was trying to get WIFI working (which I don’t want) and was slamming the syslog. Disabled that and have been listening for a couple of hours without issue.


When I decided to buy a RPi and a DAC HAT there were no RPi boards available. However apparently no one wanted Raspberry Pi 400s. Those were readily available for much less than the inflated price of the RPi 3/4 boards. The only problem is that you can’t readily attach a DAC HAT (or any HAT for that matter) to a 400. Well, you can use a ribbon cable but that is sloppy.
Recently a few vendors have started selling GPIO adapters for the 400. The PC boards are angled with a connector for the GPIO port on the 400 and rise up above the keyboard but lean back at a modest angle. There are holes for attaching a variety of HATs to the adapter board.
Bought the adapter and a RPi DAC PRO HAT. The resulting configuration is geeky looking but perfectly functional. Photos below. I’m running Ropiee on the 400.
The result sounds good. Used as a satellite system in a office/bedroom. Looking for some better speakers. All this gear, less the RPi stuff, is salvaged from stuff I had around the house. The NAD 1130 was recently repaired by Inner Sound in Clackamas, OR. They do great work and are a pleasure to do business with.
Total cost for the Raspberry Pi 400 and DAC:

  1. Raspberry 400 - $100
  2. Adapter board - $9
  3. RPi DAC PRO - $25

Not too bad for a functional ROON endpoint.


Could this be an alternative to Rpi 4B as an endpoint using USB to Amp/dac ?

I do know nothing about Rpi and Im a newbie with Roon