Taking the leap from Sonos to RPi

One of my Sonos Play:5’s died last week. Sonos support said it was defective and had to be replaced. While they did offer a great deal to swap it out for a second gen Play:5, I figure this is a good time to explore DYI options and slowly break out of the Sonos ecosystem. My plan is to build one zone to drive a pair of JBL Century’s with (either RPi 3B or 4B) and a HifiBerry Amp2 module. This will replace a Sonos Connect:AMP. I’m thinking RoPieee as the OS. If all goes well, I’ll sell my other Sonos Connect and Sonos speakers, then use the funds to build the other devices/zones. I’ve been doing a lot of reading here as there are a ton of threads on the topic, but I still had a few questions.

  1. Grouping 3 or 4 Sonos zones usually results in drop outs, especially when manually switching songs. Do grouped zones running RoonBridge perform any better? Or is this just the nature of grouped zones in general? I realize a lot of it has to do with how solid the network is, but I’ve replaced my Linksys router with a Google Wifi mesh. Things are better, but still not ideal. The majority of my zones are Wifi and I turn all DSP off. I live in a rural area so there’s no interference from neighbors. Just wondering if I can expect better performance or about the same?

  2. Do grouped zones running RoonBridge do a pretty good job of staying in sync?

  3. When I start replacing the Sonos speakers, I’m not sure if I’d be better off building RPi devices that have an amp and pair them with passive speakers. Or, building devices without an amp and pairing them with powered speakers? I’d like to get sound quality at least as good as a pair of Play:5’s setup in stereo mode.

Thanks!

It isn’t as much of a leap as you think. If you can build one RPi then you can build five, which is what I did to replace my three item Sonos system 2 years ago. I have a mix of HATs attached to the Pis; two with amplifier HATs and three with just optical/coax/line out HATs to drive existing DACs/amplifiers. In all cases I used IQAudio HATs (and one from Allo) with Diet Pi but Hifiberry and many others make similar products.
Can’t help re grouping zones as this is something I never do. Sound quality will be better than Sonos, which Is why I replaced them, but of course this depends upon what you feed them into.
At the time I built them, RoPieee was not an option due to lack of using a fixed IP address (which I needed) but this is now available, so would seriously consider this if starting again. Of course, I could convert to this if I wished, which is another advantage of using RPi, flexibility in OS and choice of HAT.

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While I don’t have experience with RPI devices (but many here do) I’ve got 15 zones in my house and I can group them all and play in sync without dropouts with a bunch of different points - NAD CI720s, NAD CI580s, Bluesound Node 2s, LUmin U1 and U1 Mini, and Sonore Signature Rendu SEs. I did have to add a small zone delay in Roon to the non Lumin endpoints so they would all be in sync but it was no big deal. You must have a solid network and a properly spec’d box to run Roon core on especially if you want to do any DSP, but Roon is designed to handle this.

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So far, I never had an “out-of-sync” problem with the grouped Raspi-based endpoints (three at max.).

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Same here, very reliable, using three different hats across my zones.

BTW, @Anthony_Bates I used fixed IPs with Ropieee using MAC/ IP binding in my router. Highly recommend Ropieee.

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Hey @Anthony_Bates, I appreciate you chiming in as I was hoping there would be someone who had been there and done that. Your comments sure make me feel a lot better jumping in. I think once I get rolling I’ll wish I had done it long ago.

@Craig_Palmer, @u_gee and @Martin_Webster - Thanks for the info. It sounds like I don’t have any worries when it comes to zones staying in sync after I switch. My core is a 7th gen i5 NUC with 16gb ram (Rock OS) so I think the older Sonos 2.4 wifi chip is probably the bottle neck in my setup right now.

Have any of you found a metal case for the RPi that fits with the HifiBerry Amp2 hat installed? I only see a plastic one on their website. There are metal options for the DAC’s, but I don’t see one for the amp. I’d rather not have plastic since they will be visible in each room.

Thanks again for all the great info.

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No, but I came across this: http://www.raspberry-pi-case.com/.

There’s also the https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/aluminium-boxes-cases-c-6276.html including https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/boitiers-diy-boitiers-divers/rasptouch-rpi4-black-chassis-and-accessories-kit-diy-p-11248.html.