Improved sound quality using an external USB soundcard on Raspberry Pi
So after setting up MPD on my Raspberry Pi, I managed to get transmission daemon and NFS running. You can use about any good tutorial for this, since there are no special tricks involved – everything works just like on a normal GNU/Linux box.
However, you can’t expect a 35€ device to ship with a great DAC. I’m not really what you would call an audiophile, discussing how the new USB cable totally changed the sound characteristics, and how everything now sounds fresher, warmer, crisper whatsoever. Nevertheless, since I just didn’t like the Pi’s analog output, I ended up buying an external soundcard, an ESI Dr. Dac, which got good reviews on the net. It is a dead-simple device which features a single 3,5mm jack which is used for both the analog and optical digital out. The best part however is that it just works out of the box without any hassle. And of course, the sound is notably better than before (fresher, warmer, crisper).
All I had to do is to connect it to the Pi and remove line containing ‘snd_bcm2835‘ from /etc/modules, since I won’t need the analog output anymore. This way, the Dr. Dac automatically gets the default pulseaudio device, and MPD will use it for sound output. Yeah, that’s all, we’re done.
Unfortunately it does not seem to be that easy to convince XBMC to use the Dr. Dac for sound output. There is some kind of support for this, but it is far away from stable and made my XBMC crash. Maybe I’ll dig into this someday, but until then I’m happy with this setup. Most of the time I’m using the Raspberry Pi to listen to music, and once every two weeks or so I have to connect my amplifier directly with the Pi instead of the Dr. Dac. No, I don’t mind the sound quality when watching series.