Adding AirPlay and Spotify Connect to Old Speakers

Last year I showed y’all how to breathe new life into old speakers using a Bluetooth Amplifier.

That post ended with:

The future, dear readers, has come today. I want it all; Better audio quality, Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect.

Shopping List (with costs @ 26/12/2021)

  1. IQaudIO DigiAMP+ – R499.90 + R90 Shipping = R589.90 from PiShop.
  2. Raspberry Pi Zero W – I used an old Zero W for this build. It retails for R259.90 from PiShop. If you are buying, I recommend pre-ordering the Zero 2 W instead for R279.90 and getting 4x the performance for twenty bucks more.
  3. Micro SD Card – I used an old Samsung EVO+ U1 32GB SD.
  4. 12-24v DC Power Supply – The power output of the chip scales with voltage so use the highest voltage DC power supply you can get (up to 24V) with a power output exceeding the max power of the board (70W). I reused an old Huntkey 19V 3.42A 65W Universal Laptop power supply.

Software

  1. moOde™ audio playerv7.6.1 – I tried Volumio first and wasn’t happy that Bluetooth was a paid feature. Switched to moOde and have been happy since.
  2. Etcher – To write the disk image to the micro SD.

Other Requirements

  1. Micro SD Card Reader
  2. Speaker cables
  3. Small Flat Screwdriver to tighten the terminals
  4. Enclosure (Optional)

Hardware and Software Setup

Software first, flash moOde 7.6.1 on the micro SD with Etcher:

Solder the 40 pin header to the Pi Zero W:

Ah, soldering, my old nemesis 😈

Then screw in the standoffs to the amp and smush it together:

Put in the memory card, screw in the speaker cables to the terminals (these are my testing speakers) and add power (centre positive):

Open this link (Setup Guide for moOde audio player). All subsequent steps are taken from there so in case of ambiguity, please refer to the guide.

Wait for the Moode WiFi network to appear and connect to it with password moodeaudio:

Then fire up your web browser, navigate to moode.local, click the m in the top right then Configure:

Click Network, then under the Wireless Settings, click SCAN then choose your network in the SSID dropdown. Add your password then scroll to the top of the page and click SAVE under Network Config:

Ignore the restart for now and jump to the Audio Config Section. Under I2S Audio Device, choose IQaudIO Pi-DigiAMP+ as Named Device and click SET:

Then further down, turn on Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify. Make sure you click SET after turning the service on or changing the name (I called mine Table Speakers Spotify, Table Speakers Airplay and Table Speakers BT):

Now click the m, Power then RESTART.

If everything has worked correctly, the device will restart, connect to your WiFi network and appear to Spotify:

And your Apple Devices:

Well well well…

mrw it shockingly worked perfectly first time 😃 (image credit)

Testing

I tested the setup using iPhone (12 mini, 15.2), iPad (6th gen, 15.2) and MacBook (M1 Air, 12.1) over Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect and it all just works. Note about AirPlay, only v1 of the protocol has been reverse engineered so none of the fun features of AirPlay 2 are here for now.

Since AirPlay 1 streams losslessly at 16-bit/44.1kHz ALAC, I fired up Apple Music and (for fun) streamed Hotel California in Hi-Res Lossless:

Hi Res Audio – You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave 🎸

If you know, you’ll know why it makes no sense to stream at that quality but it it was fun to see my iPad pull 17-20Mbps to play a song:

🔥

Although I mainly use these speakers for listening to music on iPad via AirPlay , I wanted to test how annoying AirPlay’s buffer delay was in a “real world” test:

Quite the annoyance, but at least I can always use Bluetooth.

Conclusion

These thirty-year-old speakers are now even smarter and sound substantially better than anything I’d get for the same money had I gone retail. Having properly sized drivers in enclosures made of real wood while coupled with some new age class D amplification and an actual mini networked computer is my kind of fun.

Sorry Sanwu Audio HW-337, you’ve been replaced by something that blows you away in all respects (except for a 3.5mm input that I don’t use)!

The Future

Well, the pursuit of great sound performance seems to be a slippery slope! For now, I want to explore more of the tuning options available via moOde, and play with more software-based projects like AirConnect. Then an exploration into the use cases, pros and cons of AirPlay vs Spotify Connect vs Bluetooth. I also need to find a use for the old Bluetooth amplifier. Maybe a Bluetooth soundbar for the Apple TV…

If you have any questions/would like to share your experience with DIY Amplification, AirPlay, Bluetooth or Spotify Connect, leave a reply below. To get an email when I write another post, click here to subscribe. Thanks for reading!

 

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