Roon had been running badly on the SuperMicro servers. Time to see if we could figure out why and what to do about it. A little tinkering around found that our POP_OS VM was paging out over night and when we resumed play, it would page fault back in. Not the best UX. So, time to come up with a fix.
Featured image courtesy of Darko.Audio 
I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb here and recommend a piece of kit that I don’t actually own or use but that is a close cousin to kit in use here at Dismal Manor.
When Jason Stoddard, co-founder of Schiit Audio, has one of his periodic ask me anything interviews, a viewer invariably asks if Schiit will make an inexpensive streamer. Jason invariably answers, “no, that’s not our thing”. Jason has wisely chosen to avoid all the pain of what works with what in Linux Land.
But the question comes up sufficiently often that folks might like an answer. Back when I was looking for a streamer to replace AirPort Express and ChromeCast bits, I happened to discover John Darko’s Darko Audio YouTube channel. One evening, John reviewed the Allo Digital DigiOne Signature streamer and gave it marks that placed it firmly in high end sonic company with the Bluesound Node. After a bit, I ordered the boards and enclosure and put one together that I use in my lounge as my main stream receiver. I have a secondary HiFiBerry stream receiver that I use with the TV and video players.
In this article, I’ll tell you about a newer Allo Digital product that takes a bit different tack that will work nicely with today’s kit. That product is Allo Digital’s USBRIDGE Signature . We’ll also look at what the more commercial products offer that is not part of the DIY streamers.
A Little Raspberry Pi
I’ve been watching to Mandolin.Com live stream shows during the live music quarantine. My old practice was to AirPlay from an iPad to the lounge AppleTV. I got tired of this (WiFi stalls next to the airport) and decided to eliminate the stuff in the middle. Raspberry Pi Foundation came to the rescue.
Those of you who saw the John Darko interview of Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat filmed at the 2018 RMAF know that both have a passion for Schitty puns. During this interview, Mike teased a “Schiit Pi” concept. Mike’s idea was to embed an ARM processor in products to pick up additional digital signal processing tasks beyond the abilities of the Burr-Brown parts he had been using.
Jason is adamant that Schiit will not become a “software company”, that is offer IOS and Android apps or make devices having a significant user interface say like Roon Controller or Volumio remote. The ongoing maintenance of these products is simply too costly for the Schiit minimalist value first design esthetic.
A Minimalist Streaming Player
So can we make a minimalist streamer using a hatless Raspberry Pi? If we did, how would it sound? This product is as basic as a Roon Player can get. It turns out to be a very good one. Will Jason put it in the catalog? Probably not. Volumio got there first with more software integrated.
Those not wanting to tinker with hardware and software will find Volumio Primo a good alternative that provides a SBC and DAC supporting AirPlay, Rune, Roon, Spotify, and others but excludes the headphone amplifier. John Darko’s review is excellent and he likes the sound of Primo and the value offered. Primo is comparable, maybe not quite as sweet as the Allo Digi+ Signature. However, the ALLO devices requires you to bring your own DAC.
More Schiit — Modi and Magni
The Moocher had been mixing church service recordings using the DAC and amplifier built into his 2017 5k Retina display iMac. This sound is not bad but not the best. After a year of fatiguing sound and an inflating checking account, it was time to purchase something better for the desk. Having Gumby aboard for 9 months, what better choice than Schiit’s Modi and Magni. These two $99 products account for 1/2 the company’s revenue.
So, $200 gets you a complete personal audio system less speakers or headphones. How does Jason perform this magical feat? (The Moocher is pretty sure Jason has been to the Highway 51 Crossroads.) First, the design is minimalist, just the bits needed for brilliant musical reproduction are present, no less and no more in this music first design. Point of sale graphics, fancy cases, auto input selection logic, etc are all left out in favor of a sophisticated circuit topology, carefully selected components, and quality construction and testing. Second, they sell direct. No distributors or retailers adding vigorish. Third, they have low failure rates resulting from careful design, design testing, quality builds, and build testing. Everything runs for a day on the burn in rack to catch weak parts or assembly flaws.
Music Discovery in the 21st Century
Are streaming services evil? For some. For others, they are the gateway to new artists, concerts, and record purchases. Audiophiles that have made the leap are in this latter camp. There’s more to life than the next Beatles reissue. Read on to learn how Roon, Qobuz, and Tidal combine synergisticly to promote artists and music. Roon 1.6 Radio is the secret.
I’ve not written on audio and networking in a while but over the holiday I read Jason Stoddard’s Schiit Happens about his return to the high fidelity equipment industry as co-founder of Schiit, a maker of personal audio and value oriented high end audio. I found the book after I had ordered my Schiit Gungnir Multi-bit DAC. Over the break I had also watched a video in which Mike and Jason (the founders) talked about how Schiit came to be and this, that, and the other thing. They are toying with the notion of offering a new product which Mike kept calling Schiit Pi. This got me thinking I should write about my streaming environment again as I had improved it significantly in 2018.
Roon and Tidal
About a year ago I installed Roon Audio and began using it without Tidal. In my original configuration, Roon Audio ran in a VM hosted by my FreeNAS storage server. It delivered audio to either an Apple TV or a Google Chromecast Audio. Both were connected to a Cambridge DACmagic converter by TOSlink. For the first year I passed on the Tidal subscription, assuming that it, like Apple and Amazon streaming, sounded horrid. Then I got curious.
The Moocher is a music collector with a growing CD and record collection. In this article, the moocher describes how he transfers CD to FLAC to play using Roon Labs Roon Player. We’ll look at the motivation behind FLAC, the tools used to turn a CD into FLAC encoded tracks, and how to get the tools.
It’s been a busy winter music wise. After watching Arron Embry, Ryan Keen, and some others, You Tube pitched Shaun Kirk and Kim Churchill who popped up in My Playing for Change subscription. I found Arron Embry at work listening to the clip linked above. Ryan Keen is courtesy of the London iTunes festival app. Apple produces this gig each summer and offers each set for streaming. Often, the opening acts are rising stars getting their first big event exposure. iTunes Festival is the UK equivalent of the Newport Folk Festival but it is not restricted to folk. Every genre of small ensemble music, jazz, classical, pop, singer songwriter, is there is some measure.
And over on the Jazz side, another serendipitous You Tube find, young Beka Gochiashvili, a Georgian teenager who has attracted the attention of the likes of Chick Corea, Bryan Blade, Lenny White and others. Beka is a force of nature. At 16 he picks up a lick by ear and makes it his own, playing in paragraphs. He’s quick but, more important, he can think on his feet taking a musical idea and making it his own. He’s studying at Juliard to get his theory, composition, and business skills. If you poke around on the Tube, you can find his recital videos from his trio lab. He’s one of those rare people who have the technique, something to say, and the arranging and leader skills to pull it together an make music that is more than the sum of its parts.
One of the miracles of the digital age is that folk’s formative years are being recorded and published. All of these guys are great and they’re all self produced. Well Lenny White produced Beka’s record (iTunes). Wonderful things are happening, none of them at a major label. Beka’s Trio Recital is something else. Here are these three teenagers playing their hearts out trying to keep a properly professional face for their professors. Don’t let ’em steal your groove face, Beka.