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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
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    19

    Building my SqueezeNext...

    I have a bit of free time on my hands - guess I need to mess with the sound system...

    Where I am today:
    The living room system is a Squeezebox Touch connected via SPDIF/RCA to an external (1st generation Berkeley Audio Alpha) DAC. DAC is connected via balanced cables to ACA mono amps and DIY speakers. The rest of the house is a mix of Touch, Radio, Squeezebox3 and Raspberry Pi with Allo and HiFiBerry HATs - every Raspberry Pi, including the one acting as the LMS is running piCorePlayer.
    To make things as easy as possible for my wife and I, the Touch is doing volume control (with the DAC volume control set to 100%) so that we only have to deal with a single remote, and we can manage everything through the Material skin and our home automation system.

    While I've never verified this, it was my understanding that the Touch did volume manipulation with the least significant 8 bits - this was fine when all my music was 16-bit since SPDIF can pass 24-bits, but I now have a larger library of Hi-res music.

    What I'm looking to do:
    * Assemble a very high quality single box digital audio player and integrated DAC with volume control, including both RCA and balanced analog outputs. (My strong preference is for DIY to round out my system and for the performance/cost ratio.)
    * Support for 192/24 files and, headroom for higher resolutions.
    * It's got to have a high WAF factor - she won't let me stick a stack of boards in the living room.
    * Squeezebox client for integration with existing whole-house LMS/Squeezebox system.
    * DSP functionality - mostly to get loudness contour (ISO 226) control since a lot of this is lower volume listening.
    * It's desirable but not required to include support for HDCD (haven't seen much of that) and MQA decoding.
    * It's desirable but not required to include a nice color touchscreen since I think that's a nice touch.

    Questions
    * As I'm starting this investigation, appreciate any feedback or suggestions, additional requirements that I haven't considered, specific hardware and software suggestions, etc.
    * Based on my research, I've been focusing on the Audiophonics Balanced DAC 2xES9038Q2M kit running Moode. Any feedback from those that have built this kit? Are their other high quality integrated player/DAC DIY kits that I should be considering? Has anyone used the DAC board and built this into a box with a high-quality color touchscreen while running Moode?
    * Am I correct in assuming that 32-bit DACs with volume control such as the Audiophonics Balanced DAC 2xES9038Q2M will not strip data from 24-bit data files? My assumption is that the Raspberry Pi will pass unaltered 24-bit files to the DAC, and then the software on the Raspberry Pi will directly manipulate the DAC hardware to adjust the digital volume - is that correct? Or are the source files manipulated for volume before being sent out via I2S? I'm assuming that digital volume on the newest hardware will be an improvement compared to what is being done on the Touch.
    * I was initially leaning towards an I2S connection, but is it better for me to consider USB between player and DAC, since that could also be 32-bit? I know that this opens up a whole new area of questions but have to ask.
    * Any feedback on Moode in general? While all my other systems are running PCP, I'm looking at Moode due to the dsp integration, which includes a loudness contour.
    * Does anyone know about DIY kits that integrate MQA decoding, such as the ES9068AS?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    398
    I recently retired my venerable transporter and replaced it with https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/netwo...4-p-14639.html

    I really like the DAC and this kit it actually very nice - very tidy, easy to put together with no real problems. Even came with all of the right number of screws!

    By default, their setup wants to run moode or dietpi on the pi, but like you I'm a PCP die hard. So a load of work later, I've rebuilt their python scripts and lirc setups to have the whole thing running with PCP now with the second OLED screen all running properly.

    If you look at the alsa bitrate with

    cat /proc/asound/card0/pcm0p/sub0/hw_params

    it always shows 32 bit. So, it seems to be zero padding everything upto 32bit, which the dac then strips away again I believe.

    If you run Squeezelite with -V Digital, the volume control thought material etc. then adjusts the volume on the DAC - -V is the instruction to Squeezelite to use hardware volume control. It seems to work fine. However, I found it all rather confusing with too many volumes, so I've set mine to 100% fixed volume on squeezelite, set the dac to a reasonable volume, and then actually control the volume on my pre-amp.

    Since this is using the built in Pi, it's using I2S, which does limit me to 384kHz / DOP128, but I can live with that for now :-)

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Posts
    19
    Quote Originally Posted by psketch View Post
    ...replaced it with https://www.audiophonics.fr/en/netwo...4-p-14639.html

    I really like the DAC and this kit it actually very nice - very tidy, easy to put together with no real problems.

    By default, their setup wants to run moode or dietpi on the pi...

    However, I found it all rather confusing with too many volumes...

    Since this is using the built in Pi, it's using I2S, which does limit me to 384kHz / DOP128, but I can live with that for now :-)
    Glad to hear that you like the kit compared to the transporter - that's high praise!

    Out of curiosity, did you have problems running moode? Or you just wanted to run pCP? I don't think pCP has any DSP functionality, so am curious to try moode to get the loudness contour in this room.

    When you stated that it was rather confusing with too many volumes, can you add more detail? Was it that someone was adjusting volume on the DAC and Squeezebox and it was difficult to know which one was set to which? Is Material/the Squeezebox not able to provide feedback of the current HW level? Since I'm only planning to control HW volume, I don't expect this to be a problem, but appreciate any more info you can provide.

    I don't anticipate I'll miss lack of touchscreen, but really wish it had a color screen to display the artwork. Anything else you miss after moving from the Transporter to this kit?

    Thanks again!

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Posts
    398
    Quote Originally Posted by jp14 View Post
    Glad to hear that you like the kit compared to the transporter - that's high praise!

    Out of curiosity, did you have problems running moode? Or you just wanted to run pCP? I don't think pCP has any DSP functionality, so am curious to try moode to get the loudness contour in this room.

    When you stated that it was rather confusing with too many volumes, can you add more detail? Was it that someone was adjusting volume on the DAC and Squeezebox and it was difficult to know which one was set to which? Is Material/the Squeezebox not able to provide feedback of the current HW level? Since I'm only planning to control HW volume, I don't expect this to be a problem, but appreciate any more info you can provide.

    I don't anticipate I'll miss lack of touchscreen, but really wish it had a color screen to display the artwork. Anything else you miss after moving from the Transporter to this kit?

    Thanks again!
    Hi

    No, I never tried it with Moode. All of my other players (and my LMS) run on PCP, so wanted to be consistent with everything else. You're right, there's no DSP, just the alsa 10 frequency equaliser. TBH, I only use this on small ceiling speakers - I try to avoid too much eq otherwise.

    On volume, when you set -V Digital on squeezelite, it does adjust the hardware volume on the DAC fine when you adjust the squeezelite volume. However, it also adjusts the display volume in squeezelite and on LMS. I don't think it's actually using the s/w volume control at this point, but I guess squezelite wants to report something for volume since you might not see the dac volume if you were using Material etc.. But, the number it reports isn't the same as the number on the dac. A bit messy. I changed the script for the oled to actually not display the volume at all. I've set the 100% fixed volume, leave the DAC alone and just use the volume on my pre-amp.

    Yes, I'd have liked colour OLED as well, but I do quite like being able to mess around with the display because it's controlled by a python script. I've rewritten quite a few bits of the script to make it a bit more resilient and efficient, added the ability to read file format etc. details from LMS (rather than from alsa).

    pete S

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