Logitech Squeezebox 3 vs PiCorePlayer on Raspberry Pi 3B+

Long, long ago, in the earliest days of this blog, I described my DIY approach to a whole house audio system. The strategy centers around a collection of Logitech Squeezebox 3 streaming audio players, each mated to a pair of powered audio monitors. All this worked great until the aging SB3s started to fail. Drying electrolytic capacitors cause arthritis in electronics.

Squeezebox_v3

Faced with failing SB3s, and the occasional desire to grow the installation, I resorted to using a most excellent combination of the Raspberry Pi3 B+ single board computer running PiCorePlayer in combination with a HifiBerry DAC. I’ve got HiFiBerry DAC+ where –10 dbm RCA output is suitable and DAC Plus Pro XLR where +4 dbm XLR balanced output is required.

hifiberry dac  in steel case

The RPi, HiFiBerry and PiCorePlayer combination work great! They outperform the original SqueezeBox 3 in every way, save the lack of an IR remote control. Also, they cost less, even with the fancy metal case.

hifiberry pro xlr in case

All the above is preface to help explain something that I discovered this past weekend. There’s a fundamental difference between the behavior of the SB3 and a RPi/HFB combination.

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The MagPi: Build A Raspberry Pi Telephone Exchange

Earlier this week, The MagPi, the official Raspberry Pi magazine, published a how-to article on creating a wee PBX using a Raspberry Pi, RasPBX and a couple of SIP phones. They invite people to “Transform your humble home phone line into a feature-packed PBX with Raspberry Pi and Asterisk!”

The MagPi Cover 79

I’ve been tinkering with Raspberry Pi for some while. It’s fun little platform. I’m actually awaiting the delivery of an Asus Tinker board so that I can explore the use of such an SBC that’s capable of UHD video output.

It amuses me that this MagPi article appears some 13 years(!) after I wrote How-To: Building an Embedded Asterisk Server for Tim Higgins at Small Net Builder.

Back then, there was nothing like the Pi, so I used a Soekris Net 4801. Being Intel-based, it could run a lightweight Linux-based OS and regular Asterisk distro. I used Astlinux, which was brand new at the time.

Everything old is new again. Except me, of course.

Tip of the hat to WhyADuck for pointing out this article.

NDI-to-HDMI on the cheap?

There is no question that Newtek’s NDI is rocking the world of video production. Whether in corporate video, educational video, live streaming or low-end broadcast, it allows a transition to IP transport that’s profoundly attractive in many ways.

NDI delivers high quality video at very low latency, under one frame of video. A 1080p60 NDI stream requires at most around 150 mbps. This is ideal for production applications, which are quite separate from transmission/delivery, where lower bitrates are preferred and some seconds of delay is tolerable.

ClueCon NDI Feed on Monitor

In the early days of NDI, if you needed to view an NDI signal on a monitor that required a Windows PC running NDI Studio Monitor. This is an application that can pick the stream off the network and display it on a monitor. It has some nice features, like the ability to overlay a second stream (picture-in-picture) and show audio metering.

I used this approach at Cluecon 2018, with a very small PC purchased just for the task (pictured above.)

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Asterisk on Raspberry Pi now has FXO, FXS and GSM Interfaces

The combination of Asterisk and Raspberry Pi harkens back to a time when I was seeking to run Asterisk on an small, embedded platform. I was a little ahead of the curve, seeking this before Digium released AsteriskNOW. I tried Michael Iedema’s Askozia PBX and settled upon Astlinux on a Soekris Net4801, which I used for a couple of years.

Of course, all this was before the now ubiquitous Raspberry Pi was released. It makes sense that someone would try that low-cost SBC as a host for Asterisk. However, there hasn’t been much hardware support for that effort until recently.

oak2_1

Today I read that SwitchPi is now offering modular and multi-port FXO/FXS interfaces, as well as a GSM interface.

  • OAK8X base module (4 onboard Asterisk FXO channels) $130
  • OAK8X base module with 8 channels (8 Asterisk channels, 4 FXO plus 4FXS) $180
  • OAK8X base module with 8 channels (8 Asterisk channels, 8 FXO) $180
  • PiGSM single channel GSM interface $99
  • PiTDM base module $89
  • PiTDM 2 channel FXO module $20
  • PiTDM 1 channel FXS module $10

This is exactly the sort of hardware I tinkered with when I was using Asterisk. I used a TDP400P card with FXS and FXO interfaces. I also used a SIP-to-GSM gateway, documenting the project in the early days of this site.

SwitchPi seems have started in January 2018. It’s good to see hardware support for running Asterisk on Raspberry Pi evolving and affordable.

My First Raspberry Pi Project: Using Hifi Berry DAC to Emulate A Squeezebox

RPI-HB-DACRCA-300pxSome time ago I received a Raspberry Pi B+ as a gift. It had been on my amazon wish list, and for good reason. It looked like one practical approach to emulating the venerable Logitech Squeezebox, which to this day serves as the basis for music playback hereabouts.

Since we were not expanding our music playback scheme there was at first little motivation to got ahead with this effort. That is, until the analog outputs of our existing fleet of Squeezeboxes started to fail. Eventually the analog outputs become unusable, the result of failing electrolytic capacitors. Three of our five SB3s now suffer this malady.

So, not long ago I set to the task of emulating a Squeezebox using a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, a HiFiBerry DAC and a 4 GB micro-SD memory card. To this core I added a suitable case, a power-over-Ethernet splitter and piCorePlayer. All in, this rig cost under $100.

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Hunting For Our Next SqueezeBox

When stuff just works all the time it doesn’t often come up in conversation, which just seems wrong. After all, it’s still working! It’s the stuff that doesn’t consistently work that gets the attention.

We’ve used Logitech Squeezeboxes for musical playback around the property for a  very long while. We presently have five of them deployed, including our original Squeezebox 3 that was purchased in 2005! In general they just work, which has been great, especially since they were discontinued years ago.

When we stage our annual Halloween festivities we are required to reposition some equipment. Last time around one Squeezebox powered-up with a fault in the analog output. One channel is delivered with level much reduced compared to the other channel. A quick search of the still lively forums.slimdevices.com turned up similar reports, attributing the problem to faulty capacitors in the analog output stage.

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