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Music on the Front Porch with HiFi-Berry Amp2

If you’ve been here before you may already know that we enjoy a multi-zone music system based upon the long-abandoned Logitech Media Server and Squeezebox network music players.

Actually, that’s only partly true. We still run LMS, but the Squeezebox hardware has gradually been replaced with a fleet of Raspberry Pi SBCs fitted with HiFi Berry DACs, paired to small, powered audio monitors. The four indoor zones all follow this pattern.

BX5A D2 & Pi3Berry

The transition from Squeezebox to Pi + HifiBerry was triggered by failure of the analog outputs in the aging Squeezeboxes. There are capacitors in the analog output stage that degrade as they age, eventually causing the failure of the analog outputs.

There are the two additional, outdoor zones. Outside, exposed to the weather, we use more traditional, passive Definitive Technology speakers driven by small amplifiers.

Definitive Technology AW5500 & SMSL Q5

The choice of the SMSL Q5 amplifier, for the zone that is the front porch, was driven by the fact that it has both coaxial and optical digital inputs. This meant it could be paired with a Squeezebox suffering a faulty analog output.

This arrangement has worked well enough for several years. However, it was not without issues. It requires a substantial amount of hardware and interconnects located in the hall closet that hosts the core of the household network. Also, after a loss of power, the little Q5 amp needed me to manually reset the input and volume.

When I saw that HifiBerry was offering HiFiBerry Amp2, a relatively potent little power amplifier HAT, I thought that it might be a better solution. One device. Compact. Tidy.

So it was that Amp2 was on my Amazon wish list, and ended up in my hands over the holidays.

HiFiBerry Amp2

The Amp2 is an impressive little HAT that attaches directly to the Pi. The Amp2 has an external power supply (20 VDC 4A) delivering power to both the amplifier and the Pi. The class-D amplifier delivers 30 watts/channel into 8 ohms. That’s a bit more than the existing SMSL Q5, which has proven more than adequate for the kind of listening levels we require when out in the front yard.

Heck, the tiny 2 x 2” Amp2 delivers more power than the Hitachi SR-504 receiver (pictured below) that was the core of my first stereo back in 1981.

hitachi stereo receiver SR504

In truth, I’d like something more powerful. Especially in the back yard. But to be meaningfully more capable would require 120 watts/channel. To seriously annoy the neighbors (he he he) even more.

It won’t be long before the weather improves. That will give us an opportunity to get out into the front yard to tend flowerbeds. This is most typically when we use that zone of the of the music system. I’ll let you know how this plays out once it’s seen some use.

P.S. – I almost forgot, since January we’ve been running PiCorePlayer, which includes Logitech Media Server, on a new Raspberry Pi 400. It boots from a micro-SD card, using a USB 3 attached SSD for storage. Further, it’s powered over the network using a common POE splitter. Very happy with this as a robust, silent solution.

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