NanoPi NEO Music Player

No frills here, this is the cheapest Linux music player I have attempted to create, period.

That said, initial results are promising.  I do not have “Golden Ears” by any means, however the sound quality and noise levels are acceptable to me (after I figured some things out), and I am listening through a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-M50x headphones.

Continue reading NanoPi NEO Music Player

NanoPi Neo Impressions

I picked up a few NanoPi Neo boards from FriendlyElec (also known as FriendlyArm, I also have a couple Mini2440’s from the time “Before ARM SBC’s were cool”). At $7.99 USD each, they were hard to pass up. The shipping certainly was though, so I got 3 of them to make it less painful. (Twist my arm, right?).

***Update:  These are available from a US distributor now)***

So, like most Chinese boards jumping on the “Pi” train, this is powered by an Allwinner SoC. In this case it’s the Allwinner H3, a slightly above average, but underwhelming processor manual is available.  It comes packaged with either 256 or 512 MB of RAM, it’s clearly not intended to replace anyone’s high-powered server, but could be fun for hardware experimenting, or as a quick and dirty CUPS print server.

There are reports this board gets very hot, so I got the heat sink, which amusingly came with a seemingly 5mm thick thermal adhesive pad.  In my light testing so far I’ve had no temperature issues, but I haven’t gotten all four cores really humming yet either.  I may look into a more aggressive option if it needs to happen (thermal adhesive with a copper spacer comes to mind, will probably cost as much as the board).

Simple Upgrade of I/O

The board alone has only 1 traditional USB port available, however 2 are broken out via the 0.1″ header, so I took  the liberty of slapping a quick breakout board together that happily fit quite nicely.   Make sure, as always, the D+ and D- wires are the same physical lengths, or else you’ll anger the differential signal gods.

Diagram available from FriendlyArm, not my original work.

I’m not sure what else I’ll add to my little breakout, maybe a small headphone amplifier or a simple line-out to see how the on-board DAC performs, maybe some buttons and sensors.  For now I’m glad I can hook up wifi and a USB drive at the same time.

Operating Systems

So far I have run the image provided on the FriendlyElec Wiki for the NanoPi Neo (Ubuntu Core) and DietPi.  DietPi has more interesting and friendly tools preloaded for beginners, and it is likely to be supported for a while.    ***Update 2/2017*** : I have also run Armbian with great success.



Pi Zero Portable Network Music Player (Part 2)

I decided to split up the posts, since the first was getting pretty long.

Once I had played around with the compressed package and overcome some software issues (The Pi Zero only has 512 MB RAM, Volumio was a bit grumpy in the confined space until the excellent team made a quick patch to enable a swap file), I decided to take it up a notch and downloaded some music to it.  Interestingly, once Volumio is set up to work on your home network, browsing to it with your file manager will expose a network drive you can dump files to:


(Your internal network IP may vary)

The setup work extremely well in this configuration too, which was important, because one of my fears was needing to add a USB hub to this mess.  If I could use internal storage, there was no need for USB storage.  I jumped online and looked at a list of compatible SD cards and found what I was looking for:  a 128 GB card that should work.  When it came in the mail, I installed, setup, and it works perfectly.  (I realize 128 GB might be overkill, however I have a lot of music in FLAC format, so my library is a little chunky).  For anyone interested, I purchased a Samsung EVO+ 128 GB

That over with, I had to contend with the Wifi adapter sticking out of the side like a sore thumb.  My solution to that uses the test pads on the bottom of the Pi Zero.  It’s not clean, it’s not elegant, but I soldered wires right to them, similar to what can be found here.  Frederick Vandenbosch did a great job with pictures and labels, so instead of replicating his effort, I’ll simply link to it and give credit.

To accomplish that, of course, I had to do some surgery.  The plastic cover and shell, thankfully, peeled right off with some encouragement:


Then came the soldering:

Edimax with a tail

I’m not particularly proud of this soldering, but I’m certainly not proud of what I did to the bottom of the Pi.  Just accept that it works, and that I need a better soldering iron.

A quick note:  The wires you run to the USB D+ and D- wires have to be exactly the same length.  USB is a differential signal, so length differences will make all the bits fly out the side instead of going into the Wifi adapter.

The final (for today) result?



I’m guessing I’ll take a performance hit on the Wifi having it tucked like that.  I’ll play around with it and let you know!

On the to-do list:

  • Hardware Buttons
  • A Battery and charger solution
  • An enclosure to make it look cool

Pi Zero Portable Network Music Player (Part 1)

About a year ago I built a Raspberry Pi 2 HiFi player using Volumio and a HiFiBerry DAC+ Pro.  Since then, I’ve greatly enjoyed the sound quality from the sub-$150 player, but wished I could take it on the road with me.  There were two problems:

  1. The thing was just too big
  2. There was no headphone amplifier

That left me looking for different options.  My player was great for the living room attached to my stereo, but not so good for outdoor parties or easy listening when the kids wanted movies on the entertainment center.  Then the Raspberry Pi Zero caught my eye.  And at $5, how can you go wrong?

I did some surfing around and found IQAudio, another maker of I2S DAC’s for Raspberry Pi.  They had one built specifically for the Zero, and theirs had an optional headphone amplifier!  I was obviously impressed, and picked that up right away.  I had suspected, and quickly verified, that I would need to do some modifying to get this package to be as portable as I wanted:

Original Stack

My DAC came with the header attached.  It has come to my attention that is now available without.  I’d have saved a lot of desoldering grief if I’d have had that option.  Needless to say, all the headers cam off, and I “squished” everything to the smallest package possible without shorts:

Squished Pi Zero

Also note I removed the RCA jacks.  For this project I am not going to use them, so I saved the space for something else.  Also notice the Edimax Wifi adapter with the OTG widget adapter.  (I had already popped the vanity cover off the Wifi adapter, that’s why the bright blue and scifi antenna).  Volumio is controlled via a web interface, the newest releases enable a hot spot at boot for on the go control.  I have only gotten this to function with the Edimax adaptor, however even if others work, the Edimax is the correct size for what I’m working toward.