The Raspberry Pi is an amazing and versatile little credit card-sized computer which runs Linux. It can be a Minecraft Server, can be a desktop PC, can run retro games, and can be a TV box for HD TV, but it can also be a very sophisticated and versatile home music system.
In this article we look at using the Volumio system to turn your Raspberry Pi into a home hi-fi playing music from memory sticks and Internet radio and streaming music from your desktop Mac or PC.
Thank You For The Music
Volumio (formerly known as RaspyFi) is a fantastic multi-platform HiFi music player software, which used on the Raspberry Pi, enables playback from USB sticks and NAS or network drives. The software turns the RasPi into a music player via a Digital Audio Converter or DAC, otherwise known as a sound card.
To get set up for this project you will need a Raspberry Pi (any model will do), but it needs to be connected to the network either by wifi dongle or ethernet cable, if available. You will also need a DAC, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. You will need some speakers or a HiFi, obviously. You will also need an SD card to burn the software to, and you will need something with a web browser on it.
Creating the Player
To download and install the disk image, follow this link.
Follow the instructions for the image burner to put the Volumio image onto the SD card. Put the card into the RasPi.
Off a Bucks DAC
You have two choices of DAC to handle the sound production. Either you go with a USB DAC like this one or this one, but be careful what you buy because they tend to be buzzing with mains hum unless they’re fully compatible or expensive enough. Or you can opt for a piggyback board via the GPIO socket.
I Can’t Hear You
Once you have the software and a suitable DAC installed, all that’s left is to attach speakers to the DAC. Any decent PC speakers will do, but obviously make sure they have a respectable dynamic range or you will waste the money you spent on an expensive DAC. Regular PC speaker systems can be good, but if you have a choice go with something that has a separate sub-woofer or bass box, usually pictured as a big speaker box and two small speakers.
Now you are ready to play some music.
Turn on the Pi. You can attach an HDMI monitor to see the loading progress, but the Volumio setup is designed to work without a monitor, plus connecting a monitor can cause the sound to come out of the monitor or TV speakers instead of the separates.
Once the software has loaded and it is configured correctly, you hear a little musical tune to let you know it’s up and running. Sometimes this doesn’t sound, but the way to be sure you’re up is to look at the control panel.
Provided you haven’t plugged in an HDMI cable (which will route the sound to the HDMI monitor or TV) the system should set itself up for whatever speakers and DAC you have plugged in. Once you configure it, as long as it’s the same next time you turn it on, then it will do what it did last time.
But if something is not working, you will need to configure Volumio. To get into the control panel, you need to use the web UI. Get anything with a web browser, computer, phone or tablet, and type in
This will take you to the web interface for the system. If for some reason this doesn’t take you there, type in the IP address of the Pi (which you might know by now, but if you don’t you can see it if you plug in a screen and watch the Volumio loading sequence).
The three tabs down on the bottom are for Browsing your database sources, Playing the music, and Playlisting your tunes. Browsing shows you available sources of tunes, either USB, Webradio or NAS depending on what you have connected. Playback enables you to see which tune is playing right now. Play, Pause and Stop, jump to the next tune, and change volume and jump through the current track using the two circular controls. Playlist shows you a list of the tunes you currently have queued and allows you to select the one you want played.
Okay, let the Pi see your folder of tunes.
It’s Good to Share
To access the tunes on your desktop computer with the Raspberry Pi, you need to first share it. Go to your desktop computer and select the directory you want to share. Follow the instructions below.
Once your folder of music is shared on the network, you need to go back to your Volumio web UI (perhaps even reboot it), and check to see if the folder is showing as an NAS. If it is showing in the “Browse” tab, click the select button on the right and choose refresh the source. This will then start to populate the list with folders and tunes for you to put into your playlist.
If you don’t want to stream music from your desktop, you can either play web radio or add tracks from a USB thumb drive inserted into one of the RasPi’s USB ports.
Now all that remains is to play some tunes.
Go to the Browse tab and either click on USB or click on NAS (this will take you to your tunes directory on your desktop).
Navigate through the directories and click on the select button on the right of the track or directory you want to add, and click Add or Add and Play from the drop-down menu.
Press Play and enjoy. When you have finished with Volumio, as with all Pi apps, make sure you shut the machine down gracefully using the Turn Off menu item instead of just flipping the switch.
And don’t forget, as well as plugging speakers into the Pi, to enjoy the music you can also plug in headphones.
If you have any questions about setting up the RasPi music machine please let us know in the comments below.
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