Id Pi - JRiver for Linux on Raspberry Pi

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I recently saw a special offer from Arrow Electronics for the Raspberry Pi 3B board at 30% off, including overnight FedEx shipping, so $25 all in. Wow.

This was too good to pass up, I'm not sure why Arrow would be willing to give away Raspberry Pi 3B boards, but I took them up on it and then planned my next use case.

I decided on JRiver Media Center 22, they now offer a preloaded SanDisk microSD card with a Debian Linux based version of JRMC22 for $39, called Id Pi.

I've built several different RPi3 based music players and servers, in each case using a thin-Linux variant that maximizes the limited available hardware horsepower.

This time I decided to try a more involved program to see how it would run, and while it must be very slimmed down code as compared to the Windows or Mac versions of JRMC, this would still be a stiffer challenge to the ARM Cortex A53 based 1.2GHz CPU and 1GB of available RAM on the RPi3 board.

I chose an all metal case for superior heat dissipation, the duinoCase B+, and applied small heat sinks to the CPU and GPU. The audiophile in me couldn't resist adding a little bit of ERS cloth tape to the Ethernet, USB, HDMI, and DC power input ports:

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Fully assembled and ready for testing:

P6111006.jpg

The bus powered Seagate 2TB portable HDD I attached for library storage proved a bit too power hungry for the official RPi foundation approved 2.4 amp power supply, but the problem went away after I substituted a Motorola Turbo Power 25 which is capable of 2.85 amps at 5 volts:

P6121015.jpg

After connecting an HDMI cable to a display, I was in business and found the Id Pi program to be pretty much identical looking to the JRMC Windows or Mac versions, which made set-up easy as I'm already familiar with this application.

And somewhat to my surprise, it runs perfectly with no discernible lag or fudginess, great work by the developer in refining this application to run on such humble hardware. The GUI is essentially identical to what you'd see running this program on Windows/Mac:

P6121025.jpg

It also proved highly responsive to the stellar JRemote control point app ($9) for Android or iOS, maybe it was all in my mind but I thought the app perhaps had snappier response with the Id Pi than it does with this application running on my Windows or Mac machines. Here is the view on an Android phone:

Screenshot_20170612-125553.png

All in all the Id Pi is a raging success for anyone wanting a music server/player but not wishing to run one on their daily driver computer, or spend mega bucks on various high-end solutions. It offers just a bit more in terms of a real GUI as compared to various other lean-Linux media player applications which are meant to run headless, or only offer a rudimentary at best GUI.

You can also choose to run this headless and not connect any display, in that scenario you can control the program or access it's settings/configuration via a browser based application that JRiver calls Panel, simply by entering the Id Pi's assigned IP address into any web browser running on the same network. That too works well.

In the end I shouldn't be surprised at how smoothly this went, JRiver has always been outstanding software and the developer team is obviously smart and hard working. Id Pi is highly recommended for anyone interested in having a music server/player kept fully separate of their daily driver computer, well worth the low price of admission and my new reference for DLNA/UPnP streaming to various network endpoints.

Id Pi is the real deal JRiver Media Center, just minus the video/movie capability of their now very well known Windows/Mac platform versions.
 

billfort

Administrator
Staff member
Great write-up Mike - thanks for posting!

It's nice to see there is such a refined player (and remote!) app available to do this on these affordable Raspberry Pi devices.
 

Mortsnets

Junior Member
Nice write up, thanks, That's an option I hadn't heard of. What do you use as a DAC? I have a RPi2 which was using Moode but now is running DietPi and Mopidy for streaming Spotify and Internet Radio using AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC. On order is an Allo Boss "master" DAC. The local audio club is having a hands on session later in the month on how to setup an RPi3 as Roon endpoint.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Mortsnets;n57705 said:
Nice write up, thanks, That's an option I hadn't heard of. What do you use as a DAC? I have a RPi2 which was using Moode but now is running DietPi and Mopidy for streaming Spotify and Internet Radio using AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC. On order is an Allo Boss "master" DAC. The local audio club is having a hands on session later in the month on how to setup an RPi3 as Roon endpoint.

I'm using a separate RPi3 as a renderer/endpoint (running Moode 3.7) with the Collybia MamboBerry LS DAC+, which like the Allo Boss is an I²S "HAT".

So this JRiver unit is currently only a file server, streaming over DLNA/UPnP to two other rooms. However it too can be direct connected to a DAC if need be, I know it supports at least some I²S HATs such as HiFiBerry, not sure how many others. JRiver of course supports USB DACs, I've yet to come across one that gave it any trouble.

I prefer Moode as the renderer/endpoint with Raspberry Pi because it offers I²S DAC performance in excess of the Linux bog-standard 24/192 hard limit, with v3.8.4's new advanced audio kernel co-developed by Clive Messer and Martin Sperl. Really outstanding stuff, PCM all the way to 384 KHz allowing the bypass of many DAC chip's inbuilt (mediocre) digital filters. Still no native DSD for now, but the 352.8 KHz PCM down-sample sounds great. More important than any specific higher sample rates, bypassed digital filters, or any other minutia, the advanced audio kernel just plain sounds better.

I understand the Allo Boss is a great I²S DAC HAT performer, and Allo are also working on an isolator HAT, but I've already committed to 2 pcs. of the forthcoming isolator/DoP/DSD decoder from @IanCanada. He is also working on an ESS 9018 based DAC HAT, but that won't be available too soon.

Perking my interest on the Raspberry Pi I²S DAC HAT subject are the R2R based Soekris dam1231 (originally scheduled for early 2017 but now very delayed), and an absolutely over the top looking unit from Germany called the TauDAC, which actually has a separate analog output stage based on Lundahl LL1588 transformers. But so far TauDAC appears to be vaporware, I've received no reply at all to email inquiries, and even if/when available it can't possibly be cheap.

Also interesting is the Terra-BerryDAC2 HAT, however it appears to only be available in Japan at this time.

Complicating matters with many of these advanced DAC HATs is the potential for lack of support with regard to available Linux drivers. According to Tim Curtis @ Moode, DSD/DoP over I²S compatibility is no trivial small task and is not merely a hardware issue at all, someone has to write a properly functioning driver. I'd place my bet on IanCanada, or maybe Allo.

When you get the Boss HAT you might want to revisit Moode with the new advanced audio kernel, unless DietPi already has that too.
 
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MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Mortsnets;n57705 said:
Nice write up, thanks, That's an option I hadn't heard of. What do you use as a DAC? I have a RPi2 which was using Moode but now is running DietPi and Mopidy for streaming Spotify and Internet Radio using AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC. On order is an Allo Boss "master" DAC. The local audio club is having a hands on session later in the month on how to setup an RPi3 as Roon endpoint.

Mortsnets
I'm curious if you've received the Boss DAC yet and how you like it?

I'm considering placing an order with Allo and I see their RPi3 isolator board is now available for $55, if it's anything like the IsolatorPi just released by IanCanada you will want to add it to your set-up as I understand it has an even greater effect when used with DACs operating in Master mode like the Boss.

I am using the new IsolatorPi with the MamboBerry and even though that DAC operates in slave mode, this has made a fantastic difference to the sound quality. That isn't just due to the isolation per se, it's the fact you can then use a much higher quality power supply on the DAC itself, and actually it necessitates it as the full galvanic isolation means you need to power the RPi3 and DAC boards independently.

I am still using the same iFi iPower 5v as previously, but now instead of powering both the RPi3 and the DAC board, it only powers the RPi3 and I've added the fabulous UpTone Audio UltraCap LPS-1 to power the DAC board. In a word: outstanding.

This is in keeping with that isolation ethos, as the LPS-1 uses banks of Maxwell ultracapacitors in a battery-like arrangement that offers full galvanic isolation from the AC power source.

I do concede the $395 price point of the LPS-1 is somewhat atypical for budget set-ups involving the downright cheap RPi3. I didn't buy the LPS-1 specifically for this application, I already owned it for use with the Sonore microRendu at 7 volts, however the LPS-1 does have user switchable output voltage of 3.3/5/7 volts so it is flexible in that regard.

Now I just need to figure out some sort of new enclosure, the case I had been using is too small for this new set-up.

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Mortsnets

Junior Member
MikeyFresh;n58263 said:
Mortsnets
I'm curious if you've received the Boss DAC yet and how you like it?

Yes, I received it and it was very easy to install and use with Volumio and DietPi. So far I haven't found it to be better than my ifi idsd nano usb dac. But they say it really needs some burn-in.

Recently I've been experimenting with Windows music players JPlay and BugHead Emporer and software seems to make a bigger difference than dac for me.

John Darko on JPlay: http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2017/06/were-gonna-jplay-in-the-sunshine/

I've had fun experimenting with the RPi2 and RPi3 but I'm not sure it is my final solution.

Have you looked at the Allo USBridge https://www.allo.com/sparky/usbridge.html?

I've noticed that a lot of computer audio recommendations seem to be based on theory rather than listening. I'm new to this and mostly listen to records, cds and fm radio but the best budget computer audio I've heard is JPlay with Fidelizer on a Windows laptop.

 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Mortsnets ;n58275 said:
Have you looked at the Allo USBridge https://www.allo.com/sparky/usbridge.html?

I did see that product and it does look very interesting, although the problem it is addressing is not really what my RPi 3 set-up is facing in terms of the shared bus between USB/Ethernet, and CPU loading.

The whole reason I use the Moode Player thin-Linux software is that it is designed to impose very little CPU load, and there is a monitor which tells you how much the CPU is being taxed. Very often in my set-up it is at 2%, so about as low as it can be and not then generating huge amounts of noise/EMI.

On the hardware side, I purposely don't connect anything USB to the endpoint/player, so there isn't a shared bus issue. The USB DACs I tried all sounded good, even very good, but not what I'd call great. That's why I started down the path of these I²S DAC HATs, they not only skip the entire USB interface, but they also draw less current and put less demand on the CPU of the RPi 3 than do any USB DAC.

So the only thing I've got connected to that shared bus is Ethernet. The music files are streamed from a completely separate RPi 3 acting as a file server only, that's the one I'm running JRiver Id Pi on, and it does have a USB HDD attached as the storage for the library, but it is not then the endpoint/renderer or "player".

So one RPi 3 with JRiver as file server, and another RPi 3 running Moode 3.7 as the endpoint/renderer player with an I²S DAC connected through the 40 pin GPIO as a "HAT" (Hardware Attached on Top).

This to me makes the most sense in terms of eliminating as much multitasking as possible, important when considering the RPi's limited hardware specs and shared data bus architecture.

Getting USB to sound great with these network streamers is no trivial task it seems, for that I've got the Sonore microRendu in my big rig system. That unit is a whole league better with USB DACs than any RPi 3 based solution, but it costs $640 so it should be better.

For the cheap RPi 3 based solution, I²S through the 40 pin GPIO seems to make the most sense. The only limitation is no current native DSD support, but that's coming with a combination of Linux kernel updates and newer DAC HATs that support native DSD through a custom driver. In the meantime, I let Moode down-sample the DSD tracks to 352.8 kHz PCM.
 
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MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Mortsnets ;n58275 said:
I've noticed that a lot of computer audio recommendations seem to be based on theory rather than listening.
Yes and really not limited to computer audio, it's something that seems to be on the rise with the entire audio scene. Lots of skepticism and demands for measurements, much less trusting of one's own ears.

I'm with you (I think) in saying I'd rather just listen, and maybe that's another lure of these RPi 3 set-ups. These DAC, Isolator, re-clocker, FIFO etc "HATs" are typically somewhere in the $50 each range, making it rather easy and low cost/risk to try something just for the sake of hearing/listening to it.

Your Boss HAT would likely take another leap in performance with a very good power supply, and an isolation board such as the Allo version or the one I have from IanCanada. This is because better clocking arrangements are typically held back by mediocre power quality, to get the best of a master clocking arrangement you need really good power, preferably a linear PS, though even a good quality SMPS like the iPower is better than a generic one, and an isolator HAT that provides galvanic isolation between the Pi's noisy ground and that of the DAC board will also help.
 
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MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I recently upgraded my JRiver server running on Raspberry Pi hardware ("Id Pi") to Media Center 24, which is compatible with the latest RPi 3B+ board.

Using some sort of benchmarking process, JRiver says MC24 will run about 17% faster on the new 3B+ hardware compared to the 3B.

During the initial set-up I noticed a small difference during graphics intensive set-up/configuration tasks, however that was nothing compared to the big difference in just scanning/indexing the library of tracks on an external HDD and building the thumbnails for the album covers.

Nearly 14,000 tracks took 10 minutes to scan/index/thumbnail, a vast improvement over the older 3B board, though I have no way of knowing how much of that speed increase is the actual 3B+ board itself, or how much of that might be attributable to improved/more efficient code in the new MC24 version of the JRiver Id Pi software.

18708
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
Past due update on my Id Pi server, about one year ago I updated this platform with the (then) brand new 4GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4B.

I put it in the KKSB machined aluminum heat sink case, and added an M.2-based 2TB SSD as the library storage component. It's now smaller than ever before, also faster and more responsive when adding/indexing new albums, thumb nailing the artwork, or scrolling through the library.

Id Pi 4B.jpg

I chose a different "skin" (dark themed) for the on-screen display, which I have connected via HDMI to my living room HDTV:

P1011311.jpg
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Past due update on my Id Pi server, about one year ago I updated this platform with the (then) brand new 4GB version of the Raspberry Pi 4B.

I put it in the KKSB machined aluminum heat sink case, and added an M.2-based 2TB SSD as the library storage component. It's now smaller than ever before, also faster and more responsive when adding/indexing new albums, thumb nailing the artwork, or scrolling through the library.

View attachment 26617

I chose a different "skin" (dark themed) for the on-screen display, which I have connected via HDMI to my living room HDTV.

View attachment 26618
I was thinking of a setup just like this while walking by a SSD in small portable form. Any recommendations on a long lasting unit that won’t break the bank? I’ll pull the trigger on the latest rpi4 today. Great looking/matching case on yours btw.
 

MikeyFresh

Moderator
Staff member
I was thinking of a setup just like this while walking by a SSD in small portable form. Any recommendations on a long lasting unit that won’t break the bank? I’ll pull the trigger on the latest rpi4 today. Great looking/matching case on yours btw.

My previous incarnation of the Id Pi (in red in the previous post) used an enclosure that housed two 1TB mSATA cards. I like that enclosure, but as time marched on, the mSATA form factor fell out of favor with the computer manufacturers in favor of the slightly newer/slimmer/faster M.2 form factor, which is what you see in the latest setup. I bought the Western Digital Blue based on cost (much cheaper than Samsung) and the fact they bought SanDisk to acquire SSD technology/patents and marketshare. SanDisk is very reliable stuff.

So my only experience with that storage is what you see pictured there, it has run 24/7 with no issues for a year now, but that's the only data point I have in terms of reliability. It does run cool to the touch in that particular enclosure, and yes it was difficult picking one as most of what's available are weird Chinese brands with unpronounceable names, and identical rebranded versions from names you might recognize, that are merely attaching a markup to the same exact thing.

In the end, I chose one labeled "generic" on Amazon, figuring they are all of similar (though not identical) quality. The main difference seems to be the controller chipset used, and the firmware. Some run hot as hell and burn up either the controller chip, or worse yet the SSD card itself, very quickly. You have to read the reviews to know which ones to avoid. This generic version seemed to have very good reviews, listed the exact chipset in use, mentioned heat transfer as a design feature, and as you said, it matched the finish on that KKSB machined aluminum RPi 4B case.

Looking back in my Amazon purchase history and clicking that exact product link now shows that enclosure made by "DGZPMYTEK" rather than "generic", but everything else about the listing is the same. I can vouch for it based on 1 year of trouble free use, cool to the touch performance, and it's flat-out cheap. Note you do have to be careful to match the exact type of M.2 SSD with the correct enclosure, there is more than one version of this M.2 form factor and they are not all interchangeable.
 
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