Dummies Guide to Pi2AES! Throw away your PC or laptop.

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Jan 29, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?

    Imagine a small box that fits in your palm that is a WiFi music organizer/player appliance with every digital output available (including the weird ones) to feed your external DAC and is controlled by your smartphone. This is it. The time is now to throw away your PC or laptop (keyboard, mouse, video monitor, USB de-crapifier, etc.). Using computers for music is like using Facebook for social media: it's for old people. Further reasons why: easy to assemble, dirt cheap, and sounds great.

    CONTENTS
    1. INTRO (HERE)
    2. WHAT YOU NEED TO BUY, WHERE TO BUY AND NEED TO HAVE
    3. ASSEMBLY PART I
    4. ASSEMBLY PART II
    5. DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL VOLUMIO "FIRMWARE"
    6. INITIAL STARTUP
    7. DAC SETUP AND WIRELESS CONFIGURATION

    INTRODUCTION

    This is a dummies guide to getting the pi2AES up and running with the Raspberry Pi 4 (RPi) in a simple and straightforward manner with pictures and parts lists. Whenever the topic of the pi2AES comes up, lay people such as myself enter a geeks’ den with discussions on battery power, linear vs switched power supplies vs multiple power supplies, operating systems, software players, LVDS vs RJ45 i2s, SD vs micro SD cards, etc. I knew of the pi2AES / RPi a while ago, but honestly had no idea of what it was because it was so confusing. Had I known conceptually what it was, I would have immediately gotten one up and running. I figured pictures are the best way to explain:

    BEFORE (for old people and losers)
    IMG_20200129_075039.jpg

    AFTER (for kewl people)
    pi2AES.jpg

    Yes, the pi2AES/RPi replaces that pile of crap on top of the rack (yeah, I'm old school): ancient MacMini, Schiit Eitr, keyboard, mouse, video monitor, operating system, and software player. The pi2AES expands on that by offering all imaginable digital outputs from DACs today: LVDS i2S via HDMI, i2s via RJ45, Toslink optical, AES, and SPDIF (coaxial and BNC). Those who own the latest Chinese or PS Audio DACs with i2s input should take note. I selected the RPi for its AES outputs as I have an affinity for pro gear and my best sounding CD transports used AES.

    Before we progress, please note: there are a million different ways to put this thing together. I will only explain one way. A work that works for me and that I feel can be repeated by anyone. The last thing I want to happen is for lay people to be turned off by the numerous options, complexities, and unnecessary geek talk. Anyone should be able assemble the parts and get this up and running in an evening. (Well, I did forget to order the RPi – thank goodness Amazon can deliver the same day by 9pm).

    P.S. Anyone a Blake's 7 fan?
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    WHAT YOU NEED TO BUY, WHERE TO BUY, AND NEED TO HAVE

    IMG_20200128_204225.jpg

    This is the stuff we need to buy:
    1. Pi2AES Pro Audio Shield $149: http://www.pi2design.com/store/p19/PI2AES_-_PRO_AUDIO_SHIELD.html
    2. Pi2AES Acrylic Case $15: http://www.pi2design.com/store/p20/PI2AES_-_ACRYLIC_CASE.htmlPi
    3. Pi2AES External 40W 24V Power Supply: http://www.pi2design.com/store/p21/PI2AES_-_EXTERNAL_40W,_24V_POWER_SUPPLY.html
    4. Raspberry 4 Model B WiFi 2GB: https://www.amazon.com/Raspberry-Mo...r_1_1?keywords=rpi4+2gb&qid=1580316829&sr=8-1
    5. Lexar 32GB 633x Micro SD Card with Adapter: https://www.amazon.com/Lexar-High-P...exar+32GB+micro+SD+card&qid=1580316909&sr=8-3
    6. IEC Power Cable: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Power-Cord-3-Foot-Black/dp/B072BYGKZW
    This is stuff we will need to have:
    1. Tablet or smartphone with a web browser (the pi2AES/RPi runs headless, that is without a keyboard, mouse, or video monitor, but requires a tablet or smartphone).
    2. Wired Ethernet network with DHCP
    3. Fing Android app (or something to tell you the wired IP address that the RPi picked up)
    4. PC running Windows (you MacOS guys can write up an addendum)
    5. Phillips screwdriver
    6. White cloth gloves or microfiber cloth (so you don't get your thumbprints over the acrylic)
    Pro tip for next step, how to remove the adhesive backing from the acrylic: use a light scissoring action on two pieces to scrap away part of the backing. Then peel from there.
    IMG_20200128_214157.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    STARTING ASSEMBLY

    Lay the acrylic pieces out like this exactly. Have the plain sides of the backing without any lettering or graphics face up. Note that the two pieces off to the left are not used. I believe they could be the panels for the 502 DAC kit (not covered here).

    IMG_20200128_210509.jpg

    Install the small standoffs on the bottom plate. The screws of the standoffs should be pointing up. Note that the bottom plate has two notches near the corners of end of one side and one notch in the middle of the other side.
    IMG_20200128_211559.jpg

    This is the bottom plate flipped over. The silver screws are used to secure the standoffs to the plate bottom from the bottom.
    IMG_20200128_211620.jpg

    Slip Rasberry Pi 4 board onto the standoffs. There is only one way it will go. Then screw on the longer standoffs (with the screws on one side) on top of the RPi board. The pi2AES board will end up resting on top of this set of standoffs.
    IMG_20200128_212619.jpg

    Test fit the back plate like this. The top of the USB and Ethernet jack boxes can be a tight fit through the cutouts of the back plate. It's just something to be aware after placing the Pi2AES board over the RPi board (next step).
    IMG_20200128_213340.jpg

    Don't forgot to screw on the longer standoffs (with the screws on one side) on top of the RPi board before going to the next step.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    WRAPPING UP ASSEMBLY

    Place on the Pi2AES board over the RPi 4. Note that I used a guitar pick to jam the top of and USB fob to lightly push down on the middle box so that the back plate would fit over flush.
    IMG_20200128_214028.jpg

    When pushing down the pi2AES board, note that one side will have a set of pin connectors. They will align automatically, but be aware that a little bit more force will be needed to push the board down on one side.
    IMG_20200128_212734.jpg

    Next step is to screw on the remaining long standoffs (no screws sticking out) and get the rest of the side plates up.
    IMG_20200128_214650.jpg

    Last step is the top plate. The adhesive peel on the top plate is a bit tricky on the spot with pi2AES logo. The adhesive tends to stick inside the letters. I just lightly poked with the edge of the spare acrylic pieces and rubbed off the adhesive with a paper towel. Use the remaining silver screws to secure the top plate.
    IMG_20200128_215244 (1).jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL VOLUMIO

    Download volumio. This will be your operating system and music player. Be sure to download the Raspberry PI version!
    https://volumio.org/get-started/
    volumio.jpg

    Download Etcher and install it. Etcher is the program that flashes the volumio image onto the micro SD card.
    https://www.balena.io/etcher/
    etcher.jpg

    Remove all USB devices just to be absolutely safe!
    Run Etcher. It's pretty easy to use. Click on the + icon at the left and select the volumio image that was downloaded. When the Select target step is highlighted, then insert the SD card (micro SD card in the SD card adapter) into your laptop SD card slot or external reader if you are using a PC. Etcher will automatically recognize the SD card and ask if this is what you wish to use.
    upload_2020-1-29_9-56-13.png

    Then click Flash. This process will take a few minutes. After the flashing is complete, remove the micro SD card and insert it into the Raspberry Pi. The micro SD card slot is on the bottom on the RPi. Do not turn on (plug in the power) to the RPi yet.
    IMG_20200129_100646.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    INITIAL STARTUP
    1. Plug in the RPi into an wired Ethernet network with DHCP.
    2. Fire up the RPi for the first time by plugging in the power. The first boot up may take a while longer so you may want to wait a few minutes.
    3. In the meantime, download Fing from the Google Play (MacOS and iOS folks feel free to write up an addendum). Fing is an app that allows us to identify devices on the local network.
    Look for the IP address of Volumio in Fing. Again, you may have to wait a minute for Volumio to come up.
    fing2.jpg

    Type that IP address http://192.168.86.40 (per this example) into your browser. You should be taken to the startup screen.
    Screenshot_20200129-103016.png
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    DAC SETUP AND WIRELESS CONFIGURATION

    When it comes to the DAC selection screen, use the selections below. This kind of threw me in for a loop because it asks about an i2s DAC which I do not have.

    • Select i2sS DAC
    • Select Allo DigiOne (pi2AES does not have a profile yet, but this selection works).
    Screenshot_20200129-103352.png

    Finally, we can set up wireless. Click on the gear button at the bottom left to go the settings screen. Select Network and scroll down. You should be able to figure it out from here.
    Screenshot_20200129-103428.png

    Note that after you select wireless and reboot (use gears->shutdown->reboot) without the wired network, your IP address may change. Use Fing again to find the device's IP address.

    After a reboot, I plugged in a USB hard drive with my music collection. The RPi will automatically detect external USB drives and read the contents of them. We can get a status via [gears->source].
    Screenshot_20200129-104237.png

    There's a ton of other options like Qubuz, DNLA, and networked shared folders integration, but this is all I am going to cover for now.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  8. RobS

    RobS treboR (Psalmanazar Groupie)

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    I haven't seen that show in a loooooong time, since my teens. I would love to see a reboot get a bit of the Battlestar Gallactica treatment. It would blow any Star Trek stuff out of the water. Of course, the newer BSG was working off of a pretty shit old show, and the original Blake's 7 is great.

    So what's the verdict between this and Unison, your old ass Theta and heavy Marantz, and maybe even AOIP stuff like RedNet?
     
  9. hifiandrun

    hifiandrun Almost "Made"

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    Thanks purr1n, please do tell us how does it sound compared to your Theta CD transport and the Unison USB.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Will do and plan for more thorough analysis.

    It's my bedroom rig (replaced that pile of ancient crap). I will say that it far exceeded my expectations. Granted that I most recently had the Eitr in place, but I also know the bedroom system's capabilities with the Theta and the Marantz CDPs which have been my AES/SPDIF references for years now. I will immediately state that I feel this is superior to the Marantz. In regards to the Theta Data III, I will need a more controlled test. However, let's say that I wont miss the Theta Data III when it dies (it's pretty much already dead with difficulty reading certain disks and requiring pounding on the chassis).

    In regards to Unison, I prefer the pi2AES to the Unison. While I am not as offended by Unison as @Hands, he does have a point about it being too "tubey" of sorts. I still felt the Theta Data III >> Unison, and the Marantz >= Unison. The pi2AES reminds me of the Lynx card solutions, but way more resolving and a bit more incisive, but without the hurt, and without going tubey.

    I'm wigged out because I stayed up until 1:30am. There is the novelty factor, but crappy sound doesn't keep me up at night like that. And only something really impressive keeps me up that late these days.

    P.S. AES > SPDIF coax. AES is just clearer sounding.
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  11. Ksaurav402

    Ksaurav402 Friend

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    Thanks a lot for the guide. It will definitely encourage new crowd to try pi based streaming solution and get out of USB nervosa.
    On a side note, I have been using Pi2AES for long time and never realized that I set up the acrylic case in completely wrong way. I feel so stupid:(
     
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  12. RobS

    RobS treboR (Psalmanazar Groupie)

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    Thanks for the guide purr1n. Folks should skip the Unison upgrade and get one of these. It's only a little bit more and cooler.
     
  13. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    @purr1n Can we have an intervention and talk about the condition of your mouse?
     
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  14. jnak00

    jnak00 Acquaintance

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    Is the Fing app only necessary to view the IP address? Google WIFI shows the IP address of everything on my network, so I would guess that Fing would not be needed?
     
  15. LetMeBeFrank

    LetMeBeFrank Won't tell anyone my name is actually Francis

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    Lol! My dad bought 10 of these Microsoft laser mouse when they went on clearance at microcenter 10 years ago. He is still on the 1st one.
     
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  16. msommers

    msommers High on Epipens

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    Glad to see the PI2AES is getting further recognition it deserves, from the notorious Dick's Construction nonetheless.

    Clear guide with good photos, nice job.
     
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  17. RobS

    RobS treboR (Psalmanazar Groupie)

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    I don't know how purr1n can stand typing on that slim Mac keyboard. I hated that POS when Apple replaced my old one:

    [​IMG]

    The vintage Dell LCD monitor is cool though.
     
  18. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    No, it's not necessary. But I wanted to write a guide that lay people can use. Not everyone runs Google WiFi nor do they immediately know how to get into their router's admin UI, and I wasn't going to suggest Nmap or advanced command line script with netstat.
     
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  19. Riotvan

    Riotvan Got lost for three weeks at Delft City Hall

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    Maybe this Volumio will be better behaved than the one in the minidsp studio(network playback). Yes i am salty and don’t mean to shit on your guide thread which is awesome btw. Looks like an interesting solution, how are the other outputs compared to the aes?
     
  20. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    You can also install MoOde and it sounds better than Volumio and has the 64-bit kernel option, which even sounds better IMO. You should give it a try Marv.
     
  21. shabta

    shabta Almost "Made"

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    I just helped my brother get up and running. He has an insane amount of music on disc, a few Tb. Anyway, volumio kept crapping out, and reading up on the volumio forums it is a known bug. MoOde worked out great and sounds good.

    Nice guide! Would have been great to have this when I started out, would have saved me many hours of frustration.
     
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