Hello from a Rocky Mountain:
I am a long time computer audio geek who has been thoroughly immersed in the Apple ecosphere for years. I’ve tweaked my mac mini in main system, used 3rd party software players and tried and implemented all sorts of tweaks to get the best possible sound. I will continue to do so BUT have a great need for a simple great sounding system for my bedroom.
My first thought was to use a simple distro of Linux (Elementary) and a light player (Audacious). Even with my history of dipping my toe in Linux with dual boot Win laptops, it was an utter fail. Biggest problem was an audiogeek with limited Linux knowledge trying to get the application or OS to even see my Airport Extreme connected USB drive with all my music on it. After learned what local folder mounting was and sudo I could see it but never could get the USB dac to produce music even though it uses standard OS USB drivers.
So before I run out to buy an old Apple laptop, I thought I would invest even more time in an alternative. Which brings me to Volumio. While I do not expect it to sound as good as my main mini based system, if it can get me quality above an Apple laptop and bring music to my dac without learning how to code, I am in.
Are my expectations realistic? Can a Volumio based system be figured out by an audio geek and not a Liinux geek? Anyone have any next steps?
In the meantime I will poke around and see if I can learn!
So I’m also a Mac geek, but after acquiring a cubox i4pro recently, running volumio on my “big” system, I’m firmly a volumio guy as well. I’ve tried various third party plugins for iTunes, and have settled on Pure Music for my various macs (so now you know my reference point). The other things to be aware of are:
- I use an optical cable to my dac from both Mac and Cubox
- all my music is on a NAS in a single location, and networking is wired everywhere (I do have a wifi access point connected for iPads and phones and such like)
- the rest of the “big” system consists of a Cyrus Pre Qx dac/preamp into a pair of Linn LK140s that are Aktiv biwired to Linn Ninka speakers.
I’ve run some back to back tests by essentially starting the same track as close to simultaneously as possible and flipping inputs on the Cyrus. Tracks tested were of varying resolution, from 16/44.1 to 24/192, mostly apple lossless, but with a couple of aiff 24/192 files as well.
The difference between Mac-without-pure music and cubox-volumio was instantly apparent. Cubox-volumio (default Kernel profile) sounded vastly better. Cubox-volumio-default kernel sounded almost but not quite as good as Mac-with-pure music, which had a deeper sound stage and slightly cleaner highs.
I then started messing with the volumio’s kernel profiles and after a bit of fiddling discovered that the Orion kernel profile works best for me, and the difference between cubox-volumio (Orion) and Mac-pure music was something you’d really have to strain to detect. They seem almost identical and certainly equally good to my ears.
I also have a “small” system consisting of a beaglebone black with volumio connected to an audioquest dragonfly into a dared integrated amp and rega bookshelf speakers. This sits on my office desk, speakers either side of a monitor. Apart from drop out issues with >96khz material, this setup is as good as my MacBook Pro with pure music, but note that this room is small and without acoustic damping is a lot brighter than my “big” system room. Again, I seem to prefer the Orion kernel profile though there is less in it between the kernel profiles. I can’t tell if this is because the room is brighter, or USB dac vs optical dac or any of the dozens of other differences.
In practice I now run volumio systems by default. The interface is not and will never be apple slick, but it’s more convenient for me in every day use and waaay cheaper than well setup Mac alternatives.
Hope that helps.
Yes, Pure Music is quite good. I first used it about 7 years ago but since have tried a few more. Now have settled on Decibel.
I do not feel I will be going down the Volumio path. Much of what I read about big sound improvements are from folks with modest dacs and those who have not heavily tweaked a system like the mac. That being said I am fairly impressed with a Deadbeef - Lubuntu setup I finally got working. Had big issues with dropouts and getting the NAS mounted. But many hours of reading and persistence paid off.
For now I think I will be exploring low process Linux flavors and my older laptop. I may come back and explore these systems at a later date, but my experience with Linux has shown me how much I do not know.