Sonocotta's Raspberry Pi Media Center Is a Sleek Compact Streaming Box for Your Hi-Fi Setup

Following on from earlier projects using Espressif ESP32 microcontrollers and full-size Raspberry Pi boards is this more compact design.

Gareth Halfacree
22 days agoMusic / HW101

Andriy Malyshenko, of Polish open hardware specialist Sonocotta, has designed a slick Raspberry Pi Media Center that hides the hardware inside a compact metal box — and has made the design available as open hardware.

"I did few audio projects in the past, some using [the Espressif] ESP32, some using larger Orange Pi and Raspberry Pi devices," Malyshenko writes of the new Raspberry Pi Media Center project. "Each has its pros and cons, and each iteration I'm trying to focus on the details that were working best for me, while actually using them."

"What is special about the Raspberry ecosystem is of course its community support," Malyshenko continues. "Being a not-so-strong software developer, I often have to rely on the work that other people did and baked into the base [Raspberry Pi OS] image. Attaching a DAC [Digital to Analog Converter], Ethernet and IR [Infrared] reader is as simple as adding three lines into [the] config.txt file. Sure, compared to the ESP32 platform it is not as lightweight. It requires more power, it takes some time to boot. But when it comes to rapid development, there is nothing like the Raspberry Pi."

To keep the size down, the new Raspberry Pi Media Center is built around a Raspberry Pi Zero single-board computer and a custom "HiFi" carrier board which connects over the general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header and adds a Texas Instruments PCM5100A 32-bit stereo DAC and a Wiznet W5500 SPI Ethernet adapter — providing wired Ethernet capabilities missing from the Raspberry Pi Zero board itself.

The two boards are packed into a surprisingly small metal chassis, the rear of which provides access to the Ethernet adapter, analog audio on a 3.5mm jack, and connectors for an optional external relay and optional WS2812 addressable RGB LED lighting. The front includes a power LED and an infrared receiver for remote control. There's also room for a Wi-Fi antenna in the front panel, providing an alternative to wired Ethernet.

Malyshenko has published board files for the Raspberry Pi Media Center on GitHub under the reciprocal GNU General Public License 3, and has launched assembled versions on the Sonocotta Tindie store starting at $20 for the base PCB with no Raspberry Pi Zero or Ethernet module. A second variant is also on the drawing board, the Louder Raspberry Pi Media Center; "Spoiler alert," Malyshenko writes, "it uses [the] TI TAS5805M DAC with dual amped output."

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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