How to use a Raspberry Pi to control your hi-fi: wirelessly send music to your home stereo
Thanks to iTunes, Spotify and Beats Music, listening to music, wherever you are is easy. However, for those on a budget, unlocking your home or office hi-fi to newer ways of consuming music is often out of reach.
One of the benefits of the Raspberry Pi, however, is that its affordability, flexibility and diminutive size make it perfect for use as a home audio solution. Meaning you can control your music wirelessly without buying an expensive hi-fi.
Use our step-by-step guide to discover how to control your home stereo system with a Raspberry Pi.
How to use a Raspberry Pi to control your hi-fi – step one: installing the disk image
There are multiple specifically-constructed OS’ that can be used to turn your Pi into a hi-fi controller, but our personal favourite is Volumio, formerly known as RaspyFi. It’s easy to set up, and has a nice, simple cross-platform web interface for controlling your music.
Volumio, like all Raspberry Pi operating systems, is a lightweight Linux distro mounted onto a MicroSD card, and since it has virtually no heavy lifting to do in terms of advanced graphics or functions, installation should be fairly speedy.
Download the Volumio disk image, insert a blank or freshly formatted MicroSD card, and install it as you would for any other Raspberry Pi OS; in Windows, the easiest way is by using Win32DiskImager to write the image file to your MicroSD card.
How to use a Raspberry Pi to control your hi-fi – step two: setting up your Raspberry Pi
Next, you need to get your Pi setup with your stereo system. The software itself is entirely hands-off – there’s no need for a keyboard, mouse or monitor, and all configuration is done through Volumio’s web interface.
All you need is to plug your Raspberry Pi into the mains, and connect it to your speaker system. Most people will choose to do this via the standard 3.5mm jack, but if you feel like going for really top-quality sound, you can also plug in a USB DAC and route your audio through that.
How to use a Raspberry Pi to control your hi-fi – step three: connecting to your Wi-Fi
If you want to use Volumio over a wireless network, you’ll need to connect via Ethernet first to configure your settings.
It’s a fairly straightforward affair. Plug the Pi into your chosen network via hard line, and using a computer or device on the same network, navigate to Volumio’s local web UI by typing ‘http://volumio.local’ into your browser’s address bar.
From there, go to the menu icon in the top right corner and select the ‘network’ option. Once you plug in your Wi-Fi adapter (making sure, of course, that it is supported by the Raspberry Pi), this will allow you to input your network’s SSID and password and connect to your home network.
How to use a Raspberry Pi to control your hi-fi – step four: playing your music
Once you’ve got your Raspberry Pi hooked up to your stereo and running on your network, you’re ready to start cranking out the jams. In the Volumio web player, head over to the browse tab, and you should see a list of various file locations, such as Web Radio, USB and NAS.
While you can configure Volumio to fetch your music from a NAS drive, we find it’s much easier and more convenient to simply load up a cheap thumb drive with our tunes and plug it directly into the Pi. It’ll detect it automatically, and you can browse through your music and create playlists at your leisure.
The web player itself is super simple, with an attractive minimalist design; one dial on the left to track and adjust your place in the song, and another on the right for volume, with player controls at the top. It’s about as intuitive as they come, and it’s hard to fault.