Audio Streaming on the Cheap With an RPi Zero

The minuscule size of the Raspberry Pi Zero makes it perfect for hacks where size is a factor. For example, a small, standalone device for getting streaming audio into your speakers. The RPi Zero doesn’t have an audio output on board, so PolyVection paired it up with their PlainDAC to build a minimal audio streaming device.

Their build uses a few lines from the GPIO header to drive an I2S digital to analog converter. The DAC is a PCM5142 from Texas Instruments that provides high quality sound output, and contains a built in programmable DSP.

The hardware fits into a 3D printed case, coming in at 68 mm by 48 mm. There’s no WiFi inside, but this can be added with an external USB device for wireless streaming. The DAC used is supported by the Linux kernel, so a simple configuration is all that’s needed to pipe audio out.

Once you have a device like this assembled, you can install a server like Music Player Daemon to remotely control the device and cue up internet radio channels.

29 thoughts on “Audio Streaming on the Cheap With an RPi Zero

  1. I’m looking to do the reverse. I need a high quality ADC so I can encode to mp3 live and spit that stream out at a shoutcast server Yes that means using a full pi with network. But the choices for a decent quality ADC are incredibly slim.

    1. external usb (and while not relevant here, old school firewire) sound boxes are your solution.

      old favorites for audio testing: m-audio firewire (audiophile, I think is the model name) and the creative emu-0404usb are well regarded in their a/d performance. have not checked if linux supports the 0404 – but I think it does.

      external usb ‘sound cards’ that are pro audio quality would be what you should look for.

    2. Is something like the VS1053 good enough for you? As well as being a MP3 player it can also encode from a line in.
      All you’d have to do is read in the MP3 data via SPI and pass it onto shoutcast/icecast

      1. that’s a cheap sound chip, iirc. nothing ‘high quality’ about something that does mp3 playback in hardware.

        what the poster wants is pro audio quality a/d. and for that, you need what I pointed him to.

        1. Those who actually care about high quality audio won’t be encoding to MP3. As for a good audio digitizer, the PCM2902 (used in some older Behringer boxes) is enough for just about anything audio short of HD music recording. If you want true HD, there are considerably fewer choices available.

  2. Or pay $10 more and get an Orange Pi PC with integrated Audio codec, 1.6GHz quad core, double the RAM, 100Mbit Ethernet, 3 USB A sockets, IR receiver, a real power switch, etc.
    And it isn’t bigger than the Raspi Zero solution, give the fact that the Zero needs additional USB adapters or a hub to connect a WiFi dongle.

      1. I did a brief check to see if anyone was using the Orange Pi PC in the real world last week. Didn’t find much but reports of trouble finding a Linux build for it that was stable and supports all available functions, in particular the Ethernet. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but I think it’s safe to expect you’ll invest more time and frustration in getting an OPiPC working than a RPi. Depending on how you prioritize such things, it may not be the bargain it seems.

  3. I’d love to see a development kit for bluetooth (non-BLE) audio application.. something that uses bluetooth classic 2.1 EDR, to transmit (FTP profile) real-time audio that can be captured from a receiver. At the moment all, bt wireless profiles (ex. A2DP) must sink the audio data directly to the headphones !

  4. This has no network device (no wifi, no ethernet). So, how fair is it to call it a “streaming device”. It could be done with a usb wifi dongle, but most those on the market are full size, whereas the usb port here is micro. So you’d either need a converter and the noraml usb wifi or a special micro usb wifi dongle (I don’t know if these exist).

    1. I have this setup working fine in my car. Even with the DAC and USB wifi adapter, it’s a fraction of the size of a normal RPi and case. Volumio provides the music player and a wifi hotspot, so easily controlled from my mobile.

        1. RPi0 + DAC +wifi dongle + Volumio. Output from DAC to aux input on car. I use a Xiomi 10000mAh power bank connected to a cigarette lighter charger for uninterupted power supply (and I can use it portably too). If you’re buying the RPi, then go for a RPi0 W for an even more compact solution.

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