Hi Quality audio output from Pi

I want to build a server for audio (line level output to a hifi system) at audiophile or near audiophile quality based on a Pi. My main concern is audio quality. My basic questions are:

  1. The best audio card to use
  2. The best OS variant to use
  3. Is there a suitable case (which may or may not need modification)
  4. Should I be looking at an extra stable power supply to aid audio quality
    I only need line level output - preferably via RCA jacks.
    I only need 2 channels max.
    I don’t need access to on line sources of music as it would only be playing material I own and can digitise.
    FLAC support would be desirable.
    Audio quality (basically the quality of the DAC process) is number 1 priority.
    New to the Pi (so please pardon my ignorance) but fairly experienced Linux programmer. Aim would be to eventually embed capability in my own application.
    Any help appreciated.

Hi Doug,

As far a high quality audio from a Pi goes, I would start by looking into the JustBoom line of products. There are a lot of options so I’ll just link this list:

Cases will depend on what setup you choose, but you will likely need to modify one of the larger cases that has room for HATs.

You should definitely be look into an extra clean power supply. Standard power supplies can create a hum in the analog audio sometimes, and there isn’t an easy solution. The best way would be a batter:

You may find there is no need in your setup though. The hum is typically only present when no audio is being output.

  1. I’m using a Behringer UCA202 DAC. It’s USB powered and has RCA connectors for the audio side. It’s actually also an ADC so can be used for recording audio as well although I haven’t used that function. However it probably wouldn’t be considered “audiophile” quality so it’s not the “best” device. It just suits my usage pattern. Costs about $35 depending where you buy it.
    If you’re considering spending big money on a top audiphile DAC first of all try the Behringer. You may be hard pressed to pick the difference in audio quality.
  2. I’m running Logitech Squeezeboxserver on a Raspi 2 under Dietpi. The Dietpi OS is a slimmed down Debian variant which comes with lots of scripts to manage the system including installing lots of extra software including the Logitech Media server. Makes installing extra software trivial. For the player side I’m using Squeezelite. It’s running on the same Pi as the server and I’m also running it on a separate Pi in a different room.
    You could also install LMS (and Squeezelite) under Raspbian but it requires a little bit more fiddling.
    LMS and Squeezelite support all the usual file formats including FLAC.
    I use the web interface from my laptop to control the server but there are also Android and iDevice apps available.
  3. I’m using a standard Pi case. The DAC has its own case.
  4. The standard 2.5A Raspi power supply is plenty good enough to run the Pi and DAC.
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I’d echo that about the Behringer UCA202 DAC as it also connects via the USB. I had one lying around so I’m using that with a Raspberry PI as a low-cost airport station- running Shairport code - https://github.com/mikebrady/shairport-sync

Very pleased with the sound quality,

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