Streaming audio files from a computer to a network player, wireless speaker or home cinema receiver is a function rarely implemented by the majority of users. The fact of the matter is that this option offers major advantages in terms of musicality overusing a USB DAC. Here are a few reasons why this playback method is an excellent audio solution and some tips on how to set it up via your local network.
USB audio link, efficient but capricious
Over the past few years, USB connection has become increasingly popular. New models of amplifiers featuring a USB DAC to play music stored on a computer are regularly released. Yet, USB connections are subject to several constraints which can impact the quality of the data stream.
It is important to note that USB audio streaming happens in real time, which implies a lack of error correction (unlike data copying). The computer’s USB controller and the DAC controller must therefore be accurately synced with high-precision clocks. It is therefore not uncommon to experience jitter (transmission irregularities which causes data packets to overlap). The consequence of jitter is a harsh restitution of music and a lack of clarity.
DLNA network transmission, the Holy Grail of audiophile streaming?
With the advent of network audio players, a different method of sound transmission was developed. This method offers far superior performance since it is based on ultra high-quality error correction protocols used for computer networks (the ones used for Internet set-top boxes). While a USB controller cannot send the same audio data packet twice – in case there are any differences between the sent and received data – the Ethernet network will resend the data as many times as necessary. While waiting for the right data packet, data is stored and organized in a memory buffer register before being sent to the DAC. The difference is readily audible and the delivery is much smoother and more detailed.
Any computer, smartphone or tablet (with a DLNA streaming app) can be used as a source. As for the transmitter, it can be a DLNA network player, a DLNA amplifier or even a small Raspberry Pi2 computer using the Volumio OS (DLNA compatible) paired up with any good USB DAC. We will now explain how to configure the Foobar2000 software to play CD or studio-quality FLAC files on a Raspberry Pi2 using Volumio.
How to install Volumio on a Raspberry Pi2 (skip this part is you already have a network player or receiver)
Download the image of the Volumio OS for Raspberry Pi2 from the Volumio.org website and the 7Zip software (free) to decompress the file, then download Win32DiskImager (free) to transfer the copy of Volumio to the Raspberry Pi2’s SD card. A few minutes after turning it on, the Raspberry Pi2 should appear in Window’s network management panel (media center).
Double-click on the Internet Browser in the Volumio setup panel. Connect the DAC of your choice and then choose it as a playback media device, and you’re good to go.
Installing and configuring Foobar
The Foobar2000 installation program is available on the software publisher’s website. This is free software. Note that the installer does not feature any support for DLNA devices (network player, home cinema network receivers, etc.). You must therefore download the UPnP MediaRenderer additional module on the publisher’s website (the latest version was released in March 2016).
Launch the installation process by double-clicking on the module’s icon. Click on the Playback menu while holding down the SHIFT key, then click on the Device sub-menu.
That’s it! All that’s left to do is to add audio files in Foobar 2000’s main window and click on the play button to begin streaming.
The volume control command in the upper right-hand corner is connected to our Raspberry Pi2. The streaming is BitPerfect.
For more information about this topic, feel free to ask us any questions you may have.This post is also available in: French