High Resolution Squeezebox Replacement

Having bought a Chord Mojo recently at a bargain price and then realising it’s actually the best sounding digital source I own, I wanted to be able to drop it in and out of the main system easily and take full advantage of its capabilities.

Most of my listening is streamed using Slim Devices / Logitech Squeezebox type devices as a front end to Logitech Media Server, or Qobuz. It’s a system I’ve been running for many years now and it works perfectly. Unfortunately, many of these Squeezeboxes are showing their age, in terms of resolution limitations or just hardware ageing.

The best sounding device is the SB+ a two-box modified SB2 with external PSU, better PSU regulation and upgraded audio circuitry, but it’s limited to 24/48kHz as per the SB2 / SB3 it’s based on.

I also have a Slim Devices transporter, but even that is limited to 24/96, which is fine 99% of the time and works great with the Mojo via optical out, but I don’t like the idea of resampling 192k material to 96k if I can avoid it and since Qobuz has a fair bit of 192k material it would be nice to listen to it at it’s best.

The obvious choice was to use a Raspberry Pi, as I’ve done before and whilst I could use USB to connect to the Mojo, for a really inexpensive solution, the risk of induced noise from the non-galvanically isolated USB, made it sensible to look at a Digital out HAT for the Pi, with optical capability, to achieve the electrical isolation I wanted.

I also wanted it to be touch screen device, like the well-regarded Squeezebox Touch, that many use as it can be made to play 24/192 with an app.

The official Raspberry Pi 7″ touchscreen seemed like a good choice, as the newer versions of these support backlight dimming another feature I wanted. Looking around for suitable enclosure that everything would just drop into and that didn’t look too ugly lead me to the SmartiPi Touch case. In my case the Touch 1, as I’m using a Pi3 B+ I had lurking in a dusty drawer. This case has a couple of different depth rear covers you can buy, to give a more professional finish to the completed project, I bought the deeper one, not knowing if the shallow one was sufficiently deep.

The other feature I wanted was full IR remote control, as I have on the Squeezeboxes. Looking at Digi HAT’s lead me to the Justboom Digi which is supplied with an IR sensor and has the necessary electrical connections on the Digi HAT for it to be fitted.

piCorePlayer was the final piece of the puzzle, offering a lightweight Pi distro, with Squeezelite (a software Squeezebox) and Jivelite (a touchscreen interface with different skins). piCorePlayer even supports IR remote control when enabled from within it’s web interface. Even more impressive was that when enabled, it just worked with any of the existing squeezebox remotes (or the Logitech Harmony I mostly use), without any configuration or fiddling!

The result is great, I wanted the IR sensor out of sight so made a small window in the touchscreen’s black surround (using a bit of abrasive glued to a screwhead, in a pillar drill!), behind which I’ve fitted the IR sensor.

The final result is domestically acceptable and for the most part the amount of work was minimal, just assembling parts like a Lego kit!

All current versions of the official Raspberry Pi touchscreen support backlight controls for dimming the screen, which is something else I wanted on the final design, I often listen to music with the lights dimmed and it’s very annoying if a screen across the room is excessively bright. piCorePlayer and Jivelite make that available through the touch interface, a future project is to automate screen dimming, using a suitable light sensor.

The only real work was the screen mod above for the IR window and a cutout in the rear cover for the SPDIF connections. 

At some point a nicer base for the SmartiPi case will be on the list, it’s the only part I don’t really like, maybe something with a defined location for the Mojo to sit in. 

Even when the Mojo isn’t connected, I can sync it with the transporter and it acts as a remote touch screen controller, that displays album artwork whilst playing.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to High Resolution Squeezebox Replacement

  1. Gareth says:

    Hey, just wondering about the IR receiver, is that the official one in the DigiHat pack or did you modify it? When I look at what’s in the DigiHat box it looks like a raw component and not something on a cable.
    Soldering isn’t my thing so I need idiot proof!
    Looks great btw

  2. Andrew says:

    Thanks Gareth,

    The IR receiver was the device supplied with the Justboom Digi HAT, I just attached some wires so I can mount it remotely behind the screen, you just need to take care to wire the right lead to the correct pin on the board, which is made easier for you as Justboom thoughtfully identify the device orientation in the silk screen legend of their HAT.

    I just used some heatshring tubing over each leg of the device to prevent shorts and offer some support.


  3. Charly says:

    This is awesome. I love the LMS software and only recently I was able to grab a NOS SB Classic for little money. As usual I want to improve, and options are getting some spdif DAC to connect to my analog input only Rotel amp or.. well I have several FiiO USB DACs I could use so the USB output you mention is cool! Also have several RPi around, and DAC and Amp boards too.. I hope to make something of this with your ideas!

  4. charly says:

    Well today I was able to quickly set up a RPI 3 with a HifiBerry DAC, with piCorePlayer, Wifi (that took a while), all connected to my stereo amp. Brilliant. Makes a great addition for another room or as an eventual replacement for the SB3. For now it’s headless, manage the music with my computer/squeezelite-x. The DAC is fine at this moment (need to make better tests though) and my stereo amp doesn’t have an optical input anyway. But I’d really love the touch screen/case extra. The official 7″ RPI screen is quite expensive here, but I’ve found some alternatives, I got to check if they’ll be compatible with Jivelite though..

  5. Christophe Mallard says:

    This is great, thank you so much for publishing your experience. I am also in the process of migrating my two legacy Transporters to RPi-based hardware. I have a question about volume adjustment and the potential for sound quality deterioration. I want a headless system (ethernet wired) with the ability to control everything (including volume) from a web interface (or iPeng). That implies the volume is not done the way it is in most high end systems, i.e. with a pre-amp; instead, the volume adjustment will have to be done in the RPi itself I believe. I see that as a risk for a degraded digital source (sound-wise), no matter how good the DAC (and amp etc.). Is this a problem in your opinion?

    • webmaster says:

      Hi there,

      You are right to raise the issue, by controlling the volume using the Logitech Media Server interface, you are making those adjustments digitally. A poorly implemented digital volume control, with insufficient internal maths resolution will bring a reduction in sound quality and signal to noise ratio.

      In fact this was an issue identified many years ago where an error in the volume control code did indeed lead to a significant loss in sound quality. This error was fixed, but my understanding is that the internal maths resolution of the volume code in LMS works at 24 bits, so with a 16 bit source you certainly have the opportunity for some of the available volume control range to work losslessly, ideally 32 bit (or more) resolution would improve this situation, especially with higher resolution sources.

      There’s a good explanation of this here: http://www.esstech.com/files/3014/4095/4308/digital-vs-analog-volume-control.pdf

      There is another factor at work here though; if your DAC hardware supports a lossless high-resolution internal volume control, it is possible to connect squeezelite to that, so that instead of the volume being managed in software by LMS, it’s handled in hardware, by your DAC (see here: https://www.max2play.com/en/wiki/optimizing-squeezelites-volume-control/), BUT I’m not sure this makes any difference if you are using the LMS interface to control a headless player, since it doesn’t know about the hardware control at the endpoint.

      In order to use the hardware volume control in any DAC, probably relies on the volume control being enabled and controlled by the player endpoint, not LMS, so that would tend to imply something like Volumio or max2play – I’m pretty sure the latter has a volume control in it’s web interface, and that can be linked to hardware volume control, as above. It’s just a little annoying that they moved to a subscription model for their software.

      I’m not sure what Jivelite uses, if you enable hardware volume control within the player.

      I think this is something you’ll have to listen for yourself and decide – my main hi-res player has a fixed volume control and even hardware also mixer controls are disabled, as I have a remote control preamp to adjust volume, but on a headless bedside player I use, volume control is enabled and I use LMS to make that adjustment and it is perfectly fine for bedtime listening.

  6. Steve Russell says:

    Posted this before but it seems to have disappeared.

    I’m wondering if you could have used the shallower back cover for the case as you weren’t sure so went for the deeper version

    • Andrew says:

      I suspect it may be ok, but haven’t verified it. As it was a while ago I built it and it’s just been sat there doing its job, I’ve not given it any further thought, in all honesty!

      • Steve Russell says:

        Thanks. I’m in the process of putting something similar into service. Basically same idea as yours (thanks) but using Touch 2 case so the IR receiver can use the camera hole.

  7. Steve Russell says:

    Thanks. I’m in the process of putting something similar into service. Basically same idea as yours (thanks) but using Touch 2 case so the IR receiver can use the camera hole.

  8. Steve Russell says:

    Ugh… my internet connection is playing up, hence double post. Sorry – please delete

  9. Gareth says:

    I’ve been busy since I first read this and now have 3 Picoreplayer machines.
    I recently built a new one and thought I would share it here as it answers a few of the questions asked here.


  10. Steve Russell says:

    Just for info for anyone else going down this route. I completed my project with the Touch 2 case. The low profile (15mm) back is just 1-2mm too shallow to fit the JustBoom Digi Hat. The larger back (35mm) is obviously overkill but the only available solution for purchase. Fortunately, the Touch 2 vendor makes the CAD files for the two backs available. I obtained the 15mm back model and modified it by making it 5mm deeper and added access holes for the coax and TOSlink cables. A quick (11 hr!) 3D print later and I now have a 20mm back that works a treat!

    Thanks again for the idea.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.