Quality Audio for the Raspberry Pi on the Cheap @Raspberry_Pi #PiDay #RaspberryPi
The audio for Raspberry Pi boards is legendarily bad. Michael Kercsmar wanted to find a low-cost solution for high-quality audio on his Raspberry Pi boards. Here’s more, via Raspberry Pi Maker
All of my tests were done using two different headphones. The first set is an over the ear JVC headphone that is no longer available. My second set is a Edifier H840. Both pairs have good music performance (again – these are not what I would call audiophile) and give clear sound across the whole sound spectrum. The Pi I used was a Raspberry Pi 2B. It’s the only Pi I have right now that wasn’t committed to another project. Since all Pis have the same audio out circuitry, using an older model will not affect the tests. I used the latest version of Raspbian Stretch and mpg123 (mpg123 -a plughw:1,0 song.mp3) for music playback. For the music samples I used several different mp3 files from my collection. All samples were local to the Pi and I didn’t stream any files. As with any audio test like this, the result is 90% subjective. I do think that there is a small part of the test that everyone will agree to. I did not test the audio in for any board.
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One factor of the cheap USB adaptors is the quality of their crystal oscillators. I evaluated a few different adaptors a while back for their timing accuracy and temperature stability, and there was a stark difference. It’s actually something you can “fix” yourself by replacing the likely through-hole crystal component.
Additionally, determining the crystal frequency can help you select the best output sample rate to use to match the hardware. If it’s a 12Mhz crystal for example, then 48Khz will likely sound noticably better than 44.1Khz, moreso than just the increase in sample rate alone.