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Re: About RuneAudio and Volumio

PostPosted: 12 Jul 2017, 03:18
by SeaofThought
Maybe not the ideal place, but I'd like to share my experience on both RuneAudio and Volumio and I found no better place. So here it goes:

I started to use RuneAudio simply because I could not find any easy solution to get a bitperfect output using ALSA on linux distros. I had a somewhat spare Raspberry Pi 2 lying around and when I tried RuneAudio I didn't thought I would use it. I was just trying different things. But it worked so well, the sound quality was great, the interface perfect, that I just stuck with it and even bought a DiGi+ board to connect the RPI2 to my Edifier S1000 speakers.

What I liked most: the interface / user experience, and the sound quality. Not only the bit perfect output but also the ability to render those awful mp3 files in 24 bits. An added bonus was that I could control the sound from my computer and from all of my phones at the same time, including an old Alcatel Pop C1 that was obsolete but that is now working exclusively for RuneAudio.

I only didn't like two things:

    1. The inability to downsample material above what my speakers could receive. (Unfortunately the Edifier speakers only accept 48kHz and bellow.)
    2. Whenever I have cue files inside a folder they are ignored unless I specifically select them and add them to the queue. So, most of the time what I get in the queue is a single large audio file encompassing the whole album and then I have to get back to the folder to select the cue file and then get back to the queue to delete the large audio file and to begin to listen the album from the beginning again.

Because of these two frustrating points I went searching for alternatives and I found Volumio which I immediately tried. The version of Volumio that I tried is more recent (summer 2017 I think) than RuneAudio (Spring 2016), and it has a lot of new interesting features, I will list what I liked:

    1. Ability to enable resample and target rate and bit depth directly in the UI
    2. Ability to see what kind of file / codec we're listening to (mp3, flac, etc)
    3. Ability to enable the DiGI board through the UI
    4. Ability to configure the background images, so the UI would look more personalized!

All of these new features seemed great additions and the plug-in architecture seemed to promise even more goodies in the future, so the choice seemed a no-brainer and I stuck with volumio for a couple of days, only to return to RuneAudio. Why? The problem was the UI, I simply could not get used to it, I sketch the bad points bellow:

What RuneAudio allowed me to do (and Volumio doesn't)

    1. Add any folder in the library as a bookmark, which I use all the time.
    2. Use page up / page down to scroll through the library and queue.
    3. When I go back to the library it usually remembers where I was.
    4. I can easily choose to repeat the whole queue or a single song.
    5. The intuitive positions of the buttons don't change. (In Volumio they are sometimes at the top others at the bottom.)
    6. Update only specific folders in the library. In Volumio I have to update the whole library even if I just added a new album, which takes a long time on a remote server. And, boy, I want to listen to that new album, which I cannot as long as the library is not updated!

Now these may seem details, but it turned my experience with Volumio very frustrating. For instance, each time I went back to the library I had to select five or 6 options until I was back where I'd left just a bit before. After a few times of these frustrating experiences I began to look at working with Volumio as a chore. Also, there is also a very protuberant volume indicator, which would be great if I used it, but I had disabled volume control altogether because I am using a digital output. It's the speakers that have the pre-amplifier. Even in RuneAudio I would be happy if the huge volume knob would disappear in case I disabled volume control. But in Volumio it is just too weird to always have a protruding button in my face, which does nothing. Maybe that's where the name of the OS comes from!

However, I might have stuck with Volumio if it had allowed me to solve either the resampling or the cue files problem. But, as it turns out, Volumio also ignores cue files, and the resample doesn't work well for three reasons:

    1. When resample is on it both downsamples and upsamples. Now my goal is only to downsample to a rate my speakers can understand. Why would I want to upsample from 44.1 to 48 kHz? In any case that's what Volumio does.
    2. So, I thought, maybe I can turn on resample only when I'm hearing something above what my speakers can understand, and then turn it off again? Not very practical but it would work. Well, it turns out that enabling or disabling this option will restart the mpd process, which then takes more than 15 seconds to become responsive. Not practical at all.
    3. Finally, even in the medium resampling quality setting, the music would occasionally stop for a moment. This would only happen with some complicated parts of some songs, but it destroyed the listening experience. I don't want to be thinking when the next glitch is going to occur. And, even then, the sound quality at the medium setting doesn't seem as good as what is coming from my Raspbian setup.

So, when I need to downsample, I found it's more practical to just use my Raspbian OS (using Audacity) running on a RPI3 and sending the digital output through an HDMI splitter.

A thing that I learned with Volumio was that they don't use the `force_turbo=1` in ''/boot/config.txt''. So I decided to comment out that option on RuneAudio to see what happens. My main goal is to extend the lifetime of my RPI2 and also reduce energy consumption. It works perfectly, and temperatures are now around 43 degrees (ambient temperature is 30 degrees celsius!). (I checked the temps using cat /sys/class/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp through ssh)

The main feeling I got was that Volumio is better on backend while RuneAudio is better at frontend. However the features that Volumio has to offer don't seem to compensate (for me) the more frustrating user experience.

I'm perfectly happy with RuneAudio now although I would be even happier if it recognized the cue files, enabled downsampling and showed me what kind of file I am listening at (and take out the volume knob if volume is disabled). All else, for me at least, is just perfect!

Thanks for all your work!!