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

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

  1. lagadu

    lagadu Acquaintance

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    I'm looking at the reference manual and on page 17 there's the pinout for the i2s over hdmi connection. Is that pinout correct for the PS audio spec? I'm asking because the spec PSaudio posted has pins 1, 3 and 7,9 switched around.

    Do I have wrong data or am I missing something? Maybe they're compatible?
     
    Last edited: May 7, 2020
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  2. famish99

    famish99 Friend

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    The pinout and framing are compatible with the PS Audio spec.
     
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  3. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    The Pi2AES arrived on Saturday. It was easy to assemble, and the protective covering didn't give me much hassle. I finally got off my ass to find a power cord this morning and powered it up. I'm not sure if this version has dimmed LEDs or not but it looks good. I haven't seen it in the dark yet and I'll likely put it somewhere less noticeable anyway.

    To back up a bit, I had been using a Digi+ Pro board on a RPI3 running Moode for the last couple of months. We have a Spotify family plan so I've been running Spotify Premium on the 2 channel rig as I work at home in my living room. This was connected via Coax to Yggdrasil. I don't have any NAS or other media connected right now. I was just streaming Spotify and occasionally some of the stations in Moode.

    I had a couple of extra RPI3s laying around after my boys decided they really weren't into coding/robotics projects like I thought, so I left the Digi+ Pro on the existing RPI3 and put the Pi2AES on another RPI3 and am using the BNC connector since I figured that's one input on the Yggdrasil I probably wouldn't use for anything else. I pulled the micro SD out of the old and slapped it into the new and I was up and running.

    The Pi2AES can boogie. Even dead cold, in first 5 minutes I noticed the bass was more solid and everything just sounded a lot cleaner. Like the difference between really shitty USB vs. Unison. The Digi+ Pro just sounded dead and uninvolving. I can even hear increased note decay, and this is only on Spotify Premium.

    I still haven't figured out how to do Qobuz with a Mac Laptop or ipad as a controller running Moode. I'd also like to figure out how to add some of my local radio stations to the Moode station list. But that's a different topic altogether.
     
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  4. Mindbender

    Mindbender Acquaintance

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    Since you have an Yggdrasil, please try the AES from the PI2AES to the Yggdrasil. It actually makes the BNC sound lacking (which the BNC isn't). I came from a Allo Digione and the PI2AES is noticeably better.

    Btw, does anyone have any favorite radio stations that they listen to in Moode? Doesn't matter what type of music - I'm just looking for something other than NPR while I work from home.
     
  5. rsnblmn

    rsnblmn Acquaintance

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    Just wanted to say thanks to @purr1n for the guide! Much, much easier than expected to get everything up and running and I likely would have just kept procrastinating forever rather than figure it out on my own otherwise. (I fit the profile of someone who's sick of troubleshooting tech after I get home from work.)

    I'm actually still waiting on my Bifrost 2 backorder to come in before I will have a chance to try the Pi2AES coax out, but so far I have been quite surprised by how much better the stock RPi4b USB sounds feeding the AK4490 module on my Jotunheim as compared to using my MacBook as the source. I did not expect to hear nearly this much of a difference, if any, but for whatever reason, everything sounds tighter, more natural, and less fatiguing. Dunno if it's MoOde's implementation or just less noisy hardware or OS overhead or what, but I like it so far.

    Could also very well be "sense of accomplishment bias" on my part, but whatever the case even my wife and son were impressed with what they heard. (Although my son still said my music sucks...)
     
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  6. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I probably listen to the "Underground 80's" station the most in Moode. The fidelity is about average. I wish the Zappa station didn't sound like crap. I need to read up on how to edit the list of stations and add my local AM stations that stream. The BBC stations dont seem to work for me, as well as a few others.
     
  7. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Friend

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    I managed to dig out an old AMX Netlinx 12V/6.5A PSU that I found at university surplus a while back, and hook it up to the Pi2AES. It looks like it might be a decent power supply, still trying to decide if it does better than the Meanwell switcher. Either way, it's damn impressive. I also have yet to compare this thing to my xDuoo portable transport, but I have been enjoying the shit out of my music lately.

    I am still having a hell of a time getting moOde to stream Tidal via BubbleUPnp, though. I get an 'MPD error: failed to decode / CURL failed, couldn't connect to server" error. Googling this leads me to all kinds of posts dealing with all kinds of other issues, but none resembling mine. If anyone has suggestions on where to look, I'm all ears.

    Edits: It looks like the connection error is moode trying to use my phone to access tidal through a proxy; something isn't getting through. Then I ran into issues with music playing back at double speed/pitch, and at that point decided that it was probably time to try another OS besides moOde (but I'm not about to start paying Volumio and Tidal for streaming access). I've also had other issues like not recognizing USB drives, or only recognizing one at a time.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
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  8. Yethal

    Yethal Acquaintance

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    You can install Volumio and still use BubbleUPnP (or mConnect) for Tidal streaming
     
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  9. Dr J

    Dr J Friend

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    I have managed to get the BubbleUPNP and Moode to work reliably over wifi and ethernet for streaming Tidal over the past couple of months. No hiccups during that time. More reliable in my setup than Volumio based on a week or two testing of Volumio.

    Chains:

    Mobile phone Android 8 with BubbleUPNP and Freedome VPN --> wifi --> RP4 + Pi2AES + Moode -> ...

    Mobile phone Android 8 with BubbleUPNP and Freedome VPN --> wifi --> ethernet--> RP3B + Digione + Moode- > ...

    Some hurdles I jumped to get here:
    - configure Moode MPD and BubbleUPNP with your Tidal username and password and set to "Hifi" quality. So that the MPD on Moode talks directly to the Tidal server and BubbleUPNP is only the control point.
    - allow UPNP protocol in the local network in the router/switch (I had disabled it in a fit of security consciousness and forgotten all about it)
    - set Freedome to allow certain apps to bypass VPN and connect directly to devices on the local network
    - configure UPNP. BubbleDS is a bit simpler, but also limited.
    - upgrade to latest BubbleUPNP as it seems there was a recent change that somehow broke for at least some users the Tidal connection

    If you need to use a proxy that might cause issues. I have not set a proxy up.

    Maybe should take this to one of the other threads if need to dig deeply to configuring Moode? I can post my BubbleUPNP settings if it helps.
     
  10. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Friend

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    I haven't set a proxy, so I was pretty confused. I spent a while tweaking the features tonight on both ends and I'm not which of the dozen switches I flipped did the trick, or if it was just the app had recently updated, but I can now play Tidal Hifi via BubbleUPnP app through the Pi2AES. Listening to the new Purity Ring album WOMB and it sounds wonderful. I'm still skeptical of moode thanks to not recognizing some devices, but at least I can stream from Tidal. I'll be sure to go back and make sure that everything is set correctly once I'm done working for the night... one setting at a time, this time.

    As a side bonus, I was also able to get my Oppo 103 to accept a BUPnP stream from my phone, which is great because my phone can't run the official Oppo app anymore for whatever reason, so I was relying on a 10-year old tablet with an unpredictable battery to stream from it. Actually, that worked right away without any effort. That said, this little thing is on a different level, noticably more focused and clear and present.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
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  11. loadexfa

    loadexfa Acquaintance

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    I ended up purchasing Audirvana for using Qobuz with Moode. I had a UPNP server and tried various remotes but all of them would either lose Moode or my connection to Qobuz, or both. Way more hassle that they were worth. Now I use Moode as a UPNP client, Audirvana sees it and all works consistently for a couple months. I sometimes run into download quirks with Qobuz but that shouldn't be related to UPNP.

    Audirvana has a trial so you can decide if the expense is worth it. I like the interface and the time saved/flexibility of choosing from various Pi players (Volumio, Moode, etc) was worth it to me.
     
  12. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Friend

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    In case anyone else has the issues I described above, hopefully this will help: the difference was in BubbleUPnP > Settings > Local and Cloud > Cloud Content > Use proxy needed to be checked. I am not using a proxy, so I'm not entirely sure why this is necessary, but it did make the difference.

    I can now access Tidal and local streaming from my tablet and phone. I've always wanted a tablet that sits on my desk and is dedicated to browsing music in landscape mode with a nice landscape album/track/progress view and such... it's a small but pleasant convenience, and I don't have many other uses for a tablet anyway.
     
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  13. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    Thanks to @purr1n for the clear setup instructions. I got it running easily despite a couple of user errors :rolleyes:.
    • I received the Pi2AES kit last week, then discovered that my order for the Pi4 board was still sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. Doh!
    • I have a Google OnHub router and used the Google Wifi app to get the Pi2AES IP address. So I tried to connect to it from a browser on my laptop. Wouldn't connect and no response pinging the address. Restarted the box and still wouldn't connect. Feeling frustration that I might have a bad unit or the SD card didn't flash properly. Then I remembered that my laptop was connected to my work VPN. Doh!
    This is my first experience with a music streamer (not counting Chromecast Audio). My listening is 90% streaming music services (Qobuz/Spotify/Tidal), with the remainder being CDs and internet radio. Until now I've been using an old Lenovo ThinkPad laptop to run Qobuz/Spotify/Tidal apps on Windows, connected by USB to a Soekris dac1451. This has mostly worked well, except for an occasional glitch from the buggy Qobuz app. I was interested in trying the Pi2AES for a few reasons — to untether from a USB cable, the potential for better sound, and become acquainted with this area that is gaining momentum.

    Once I got Volumio started up, I initially noticed some features that should be useful to me.
    • Spotify integration. Volumio has many plugins ready to install including one for Spotify Connect, and a Spotify player. Spotify Connect worked right away and I could select the Pi2AES from the Spotify app. The volume seemed low and later I found that the plugin has a volume setting (normally you'd want to set this to max and use the volume control on your audio system). I also got Volumio's Spotify player working after I found where I needed to enter my Spotify account. However, I'd prefer to use the Spotify app with Connect rather than the Volumio player.
    • AirPlay support. Volumio supports AirPlay by default and I can send audio to it from my Mac
      Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 12.26.22 AM.png
    • Web Radio. There are a few FM stations that I sometimes listen to on TuneIn Radio — a couple of local NPR stations, and classical music stations KUSC and BBC3. My stations are available on Volumio's Web Radio and I'm impressed with the wide selection of stations. Volumio's Web Radio works well but it wouldn't completely replace TuneIn for me. A great feature of the TuneIn app is that I can pause playing (e.g. if I'm interrupted by a phone call), and it will continue to buffer the live stream up to 30 minutes, and I can resume later from the same point.
    Besides Spotify, I still needed a way to play Qobuz and Tidal on the Pi2AES. I'm able to run Qobuz and Tidal apps on a Mac and play them on the Pi2AES through AirPlay. However, I was only able to make it work by setting Pi2AES AirPlay as the systemwide audio output, so the music stream isn't bit perfect (it is mixed with other system sounds and may become resampled for AirPlay transmission).

    While looking around Volumio, I noticed a feature called MyVolumio that offers bit perfect Qobuz and Tidal playback.
    MyVolumio.png
    QobuzTidal.png
    It has a 15 day free trial, and €29 (US$32) for 1 year is low enough that I'm willing to try it. You have to provide a payment source, which won't be charged until after 15 days (you can cancel before then). So I signed up, and all of my music sources are now available through the Pi2AES (except CDs; my CD transport is connected directly to the DAC).
    VolumioHome.png
    I know that there are other ways (possibly free) to connect to Qobuz and Tidal such as DLNA, and I may explore them in the future, but this is a simple plug-and-play solution that works out of the box.

    Qobuz streaming works great with MyVolumio — much better than the Qobuz Windows app. No long waits for buffering and no issues streaming at higher rates (24/192) which had always been problematic for me in the Qobuz app (I've had to set 24/96 as max resolution in the app). Gapless playback is also unreliable for me in the Qobuz app — sometimes works and sometimes not, even playing the same album. Qobuz gapless is working perfectly for me through Pi2AES/Volumio. For Tidal, I haven't had streaming/playback issues in the Tidal app and no problems either on Pi2AES.

    The problem with the Qobuz/Spotify/Tidal players on Volumio is that they only have basic functions. You can access all of the music, but not other features on the streaming services. They work fine when you know what you want to play, but searching and exploring music is awkward, and information details about the artist and album are unavailable. Spotify is perfect with its Connect function where I can just use the regular Spotify app and select Pi2AES for output. If only Qobuz and Tidal had a similar function. I believe that DLNA wouldn't be a solution for me because I don't have perfect streaming/playback even running the native Qobuz app.

    The Volumio interface needs a makeover by a good web designer. There are many things that could look better and be more ergonomic. However, the core functionality of streaming and playback are working very well for me.

    BTW, Chrome is my main browser which I run with privacy plugins (AdBlock, Ghostery, Privacy Badger). One of them was blocking album art on Volumio and I had to whitelist my pi2aes address.

    Finally, a note about sound quality. I hear a small but noticeable improvement through the Pi2AES. This is comparing between USB from a Lenovo X220 Thinkpad, and AES from Pi2AES, both connected to my Soekris dac1541. The background is quieter and the sound is smoother, like a bit of hash and grain has been removed. Speaking in vague audiophile terms, I would describe it as "sounds more analog". The difference is small but it adds up to less listening fatigue.

    As I've said, I'm a newbie in this area. I'd like to learn more about different options and directions to take with the Pi2AES.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
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  14. YMO

    YMO it's not drinking alone if you're on Zoom

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    @Metro I thought PI2AES was leagues better than using USB from a X260 itself (not using USB from the docking station). Great you are showing screenshots so those who are heavy into Airplay can see it in action.
     
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  15. ohshitgorillas

    ohshitgorillas Friend

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    I gotta say, my last couple posts, I was pretty frustrated with several aspects of the moOde experience... but since getting BubbleUPnP to work and getting it set up attractively, I've been able to ditch the moOde interface altogether, I've really just enjoyed it without issue.

    I've also finally got some BNC-RCA cables together and am very pleased with the results, music is noticably more focused and clear with tighter bass. I have been thinking of how cool it would be to have the option to swap out Unison USB for an I2S input. Unison is so good it almost seems a shame to let it fall to irregular use. Would be great for a few people but probably sell like shit so I'm not holding my breath.
     
  16. SPAZ

    SPAZ Rando

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    I know this is a bit off-topic but is there a way to cast youtube to any of these Rapsberry PI software solutions using the PI2AES module? Thanks
     
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  17. rtaylor76

    rtaylor76 Can't wipe his tag

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    I think the only way is to use Bluetooth on a phone or tablet and then over to the Pi.
     
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  18. Metro

    Metro Friend

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    From an Apple device (Mac/iPhone/iPad), you can cast to AirPlay. I just tried it (PI2AES running Volumio) and works great; I don't even see any audio lag.

    I simply tap the cast icon in the YouTube app and this appears:
    Cast AirPlay.jpeg
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
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  19. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Works with RopieeeXL as well, although sometimes it takes two tries to get it connected. Good for those of us who use Pi2AES with Roon but also want to cast to it via AirPlay.
     
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  20. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    AFAIK there's no I2S inside Schiit multibit DACs. I use Pi2AES>AES>Yggdrasil A2 and it improves on Unison from Allo USBridge+Sbooster LPS. It could be that an USB source upgrade would move Unison up, but I'm done with that arms race ;)
     

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