Ben Oliver

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Volumio Turns Your Raspberry Pi Into A High Quality Stereo

A cheap and easy way to get great sounding music around the house
13 December 2014

UPDATE 2017-01-21: I have now switched to RuneAudio1 because an update to volumio made the web front-end no longer an MPD client. So if you do something on the web gui, it doesn’t synchronise with other apps anymore. This was a really nice feature, and I’m sad to see it gone.

RuneAudio is almost the same, and reproduces the same functionality described in this article. Latest versions of Volumio do not.

I like streaming services but have far too many network issues to rely on them full time. However, I am fond of digital music because I’m too low on space for CD or Vinyl. That’s why I’m happy to remain a dinosaur and maintain a music collection on my home server.

The main issue with this (and with streaming) is that there’s few ways to actually play the music on a decent system. Sure, you can buy a Sonos2, plug your laptop into an amp or just use headphones, but if you’re strapped for cash (the Sonos is cool but pricey) then your options are limited.

That’s where Volumio3 comes in. It’s a whole OS you intall on a cheap Raspberry Pi4, and it pulls music from wherever you have it. For me that’s an NFS share on my server, but it can be Spotify (with a premium account)… web radio… samba shares…

You then access the server through a slick web interface. A recent update just made this part of it nice and stable, so if you’ve been put off in the past, try it again.

At its core Volumio uses the Linux based MPD5 software. This takes a library and pushes it out to various programs and apps. The Volumio web interface is one of those. This way of doing things allows you to control the stereo with any MPD compatible app.

For example, on my PC, I use Ncmpcpp6 - a nerdy terminal based program.

However, on my phone I use MPDroid7, a much more accessible option. It’s whatever floats your boat.

Just look for stuff that works with MPD, and it’ll work with Volumio.

Even Better Sound

I pimped out my Rasberry Pi with a Digital to Analog converter called Hifiberry8. It’s a little chip that plugs straight into the Pi, and does just what it days - converts digital signals to analog ones. This allows you to use Volumio with ‘regular’ speakers (or an amplifier, in my case).

Another tip I’ll throw in is to make sure your music is lossless. I like to use the FLAC9 format for this. There are a number of reasons you might want to use FLAC instead of MP3, but that’s a different article. If you aren’t sure what format to store your music in, and you have hard drive space, go with FLAC. You’ll be able to change later on without any loss in quality.

This isn’t a setup for everyone. A lot of people these days seem content with listening to YouTube on a iPad speaker. If you have a quality set of speakers and lots of digital music however, Volumio may be the solution for you too. It helps bring your collection into the 21st century without having to compromise on quality or hoarding vinyl.

Installation instructions are on the site.