Network controlled multi room amps or network controlled multi channel amp

dheadone

Novice Member
Hi all
I have a Linn Majik DSM integrated streamer/amp. I can connect all my old sources to it (CD, cassette, turntable etc. & run the tv skybox through the HDMI inputs to my Linn wall speakers and stream Spotify which is my main source these days for convenience). I can take a line out to another room where i have an analogue NAD amp and speakers. I can manually switch the Linn to power Monitor Audio ceiling speakers in the kitchen. Linn advocate CAT5 hardwired connection for streaming/control/NAS connection and I’m fine with that and happy to hardwire the speakers, which tend to be built in (ceiling or wall) except for the garden.

I want to add other zones progressively as budget allows, I don’t want to compromise on sound quality and I definitely want the convenience of being able to select the music and control the volume through my iPAD. If only my networked Linn had multiple channels for the other zones preferably with independent volume control on each channel. But it doesn’t.

While Sonos and Denon dominate wi-fi controlled multi-zone I’m looking to more of a ‘separates’ solution. One Linn solution would be to add a Sneaky to each room, which would give me high quality sound per zone and the otherwise elusive networked volume control but at 20w p channel I feel the Sneaky’s are too lightly powered for some/all zones. Certainly would struggle in the garden i think. Additional Majik’s would have the power/network control but are too expensive and have more connectivity features than i need. I’ve been looking at NAD’s Bluesound /Bluos options and can see possibilities there but not sure how the different sound characters of NAD and Linn will fit together. I will be looking at Naim Uniti options but am trying to do this on a reasonable budget. I’ve looked at Denon Heos but not fully convinced.

I would appreciate any recommendations for networked streamers with onboard amplification of 60 to 120w p/c (preferably with 4ohm option) that i could control through one app, or a multichannel amp that could take the Linn line out signal and distribute it to multiple channels, again with app based control of volume and channels from the IPAD or phone, preferably with independent volume control per channel?

Streamers seem to marry the convenience of app based control but separate amplification design doesn’t seem to have adopted that functionality in the same way - yet. It’s frustrating. What am i missing? All comments/insights/experience gratefully appreciated.
 

jamieu

Active Member
Have you thought about Roon?

Linn + Roon

The Linn Majik DSM is 'Roon Tested' (which basically means Roon can stream to it without any additional hardware) so you're good to go there.

But you wanted full Roon RAAT capabilities (mainly to allow synced playback across zones) you could connect a small/cheap Raspberry Pi running Ropieee to it via USB. You basically download and burn Ropieee to a micro SD card, inset it into the RPi and boot up — no monitor or keyboard needed. You can get a nicer aluminium case, although the standard RPi is so small it's easy to hide out of sight at the back of your amp rack.

Stereo Amplifier Endpoints

For the kitchen/patio you could combine a Raspberry Pi with an 100w Amp Hat (and an appropriate 24V/180W PSU) and again run Ropieee on it - in terms of hardware setup you simply plug the Hat onto the RPi and Ropieee will pick it up and make it appear as a Roon endpoint - no soldering, additional components/cables or complex configuration, it's pretty much plug n play.

If you additional wanted support for AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA or Spotify then you could use RopieeeXL or if using one of their hats HiFiBerryOS instead of the standard version of Ropieee. Again it's just a case of download and burning the relevant image to a Micro SD card, inserting it into the RPi and booting up — no complex command line or configuration steps to deal with.

(HiFiBerry also make a smaller 60W amp hat with a matching case if you wanted something more self contained than a bare circuit board that you then had to find your own 3rd party enclosure for.)

The Sonos Amp (or even an older used Connect Amp if your using it with Roon and so don't care about support for the latest Sonos V2 App) could also work here and is supported by Roon, but unless your building your multi room system around Sonos's app/ecosystem, the RPi/AmpHat/Ropieee combination is a cheaper and more sensible route to use with Roon (as you can't have synced playback between Sonos and RAAT devices in Roon).

Another option might be the Arylic-A50 — although Roon will only connect to it via AirPlay (not RAAT) so limited to 16bit/44.1KHz and again no synced playback with full-fat Roon RAAT endpoints.

Roon Core

For the Roon 'Core' (the central controller/server used in a Roon setup) you could run it on an existing NAS or PC. Although for a more 'turnkey' and self-updating setup I'd recommend a used NUC (series 7 or 8, i3 or i5) running Roon's own ROCK OS. It's basically a DIY Roon Nucleus without the fancy case. Again, no technical skills required other than the ability to follow some instructions and once setup it self-updates and looks after itself. You can also attach an internal or external USB drive for storage of local music files and add a USB CD drive if you want 1-click CD ripping.

Roon Remote on a PC or Mac can be configured to use a local Core, as opposed to connecting a dedicated Core server running elsewhere on your network, which is useful if you just want to try Roon out and get a feel for how it works with your existing kit.

You'd then have an extremely flexible, vendor neutral, multi-room system, with a great user interface, that you could control — including the ability to sync, transfer and play different music across multiple zones — from any phone, tablet or laptop in the house.

(if you dislike the idea of DIY you can install Roon on a standard PC or Mac, or buy a Roon Nucleus and then use something like a Sonos Amp or Bluesound Amp for the powered endpoints, but that obviously works out a lot more expensive. For your kitchen/patio speakers a RPi + Ropieee + HiFIBerry Amp100 Hat is more than up to the job).

(your Linn Majik should appear automatically in the list of Roon audio devices)

Screenshot 2021-06-07 at 10.20.39.png


(although you may need to set the correct subnet in Settings->Setup)

Screenshot 2021-06-07 at 10.19.49.png
 
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dheadone

Novice Member
Wow - thank you Jamieu, thank you so much for opening up a whole series of options. I'd heard of Roon but no proper understanding. Also the Amp Hat option looks v. interesting. Lots to explore there but its very encouraging to have such versatile 'vendor neutral' options. I have a QNAP NAS so am likely to go that route for the Core hardware. You've opened a new door for me and i'm very grateful for the comprehensive reply. Will feedback if i go that route, but don't hold your breath!
 

Cebolla

Member
Bear in mind, Spotify is not supported by Roon (though it does support Qobuz & TIDAL).

Shame that the free OpenHome Player hasn't been updated to run on a later distro than Raspbian Jessie for the Raspberry Pi (and therefore the Amp Hat might not work), otherwise that should on paper be the ideal multiroom RPi partner for your OpenHome supporting Linn streamer. all under control of the Linn Kazoo OpenHome controller app.
 

jamieu

Active Member
Bear in mind, Spotify is not supported by Roon (though it does support Qobuz & TIDAL).

Shame that the free OpenHome Player hasn't been updated to run on a later distro than Raspbian Jessie for the Raspberry Pi (and therefore the Amp Hat might not work), otherwise that should on paper be the ideal multiroom RPi partner for your OpenHome supporting Linn streamer. all under control of the Linn Kazoo OpenHome controller app.

Good call..

It seems HiFiBerryOS can also act as an OpenHome renderer (see following post) and obviously works fine with their Amp hats.

Am I correct in thinking/saying that if @dheadone installed the BubbleUPnP server package on his QNAP it would make the DLNA renderer in HiFiBerryOS appear as a OpenHome renderer? Edit: just tried it and it seems to work fine.

In plain English, you could use the Raspberry Pi + 100w Amp Hat + HiFiBerryOS combination (and an appropriate 24V/180W PSU) as a standard DLNA endpoint to power your kitchen/patio speakers — which the BubbleUPnP server package will then make appear (automagically) as a OpenHome renderer in Linn Kazoo.


If so that might make for an nice halfway-house solution and allow you to keep with the Linn app for the time being. With the added bonus that you could use also use Airplay, Bluetooth and Spotify Connect directly on those RPi endpoints if you wanted. If you wanted to trial out Roon at a later stage, all your kit (including your Linn Majik) would be Roon compatible, so it could just be as simple as installing the Roon Core package on your existing NAS.

btw. HiFiBerry also make a smaller 60W amp hat with a matching case if you wanted something more self contained than a bare circuit board that you then had to find your own 3rd party enclosure for.
 
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jamieu

Active Member
Actually I just noticed that HiFiBerryOS can act as a OpenHome renderer out of the box.

So no need to mess around with the BubbleUPnP server package. If you enable OpenHome in HiFiBerryOS you should be able to stream to it from Linn Kazoo. Which make the RPi+AmpHat+HiFiBerryOS combination an easy way to extend your existing Linn setup. They can also act directly as a Spotify Connect endpoint if you'd rather use them that way. HiFiBerry auto-switches the source depending on what is being used.

Edit: just tried it and it seems to work fine, my endpoints running HiFiBerryOS all appear in Linn Kazoo when I enable the OpenHome source in the HiFiBerryOS interface.

btw. I have to say compared to Roon using Linn Kazoo feels slow and a bit clunky, not sure if that's just because I'm not using with Linn kit of if that is just the way it is normally. Maybe I have just got too used to using Roon.

(the following screenshot is from the HiFiBerryOS configuration interface)


Screenshot 2021-06-07 at 09.31.08.png


(Linn Kazoo streaming to one of my RPi endpoints running HiFiBerryOS)

Screenshot 2021-06-07 at 09.53.45.png
 
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Cebolla

Member
Ah yes - the reason why I specifically mentioned the OpenHome Player is because it supports Songcast (the synchronised multiroom audio streaming mechanism used by Linn devices) out of the box. Not all OpenHome renderers support Songcast, because the Sender and Receiver OpenHome Services needed for its support are optional.

Last time I checked, OpenHome renderers created by the BubbleUPnP Server don't have the Sender & Receiver OpenHome services, so don't support Songcast.

Interestingly, upmpdcli's OpenHome renderer (as provided by the HifiBerryOS) is supposed to support Songcast, but it requires the associated optional sc2mpd application to be installed and configured.

Do you know if the HifiBerryOS's upmdcli OpenHome renderer supports (or can be configured to support) Songcast?


Edit:
Forgot I've got a microSD with an older version HifiBerryOS. Just updated it to the latest version & checked its upmpdcli OpenHome renderer with UPnP Tools - Device Spy. I've included OpenHome Player's OpenHome renderer (named SoftPlayer), installed on my Windows laptop, in the pic for comparison:
1623085760518.png


Unfortunately, no Sender & Receiver OpenHome services with the upmpdcli OpenHome renderer and no obvious setting on the HifiBerryOS config pages to get its OpenHome renderer to support SongCast. The upmpdcli version, 1.5.8, also appears to be out of date - the current version is 1.5.12.
 
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jamieu

Active Member
Interestingly, upmpdcli's OpenHome renderer (as provided by the HifiBerryOS) is supposed to support Songcast, but it requires the associated optional c application to be installed and configured.

Do you know if the HifiBerryOS's upmdcli OpenHome renderer supports (or can be configured to support) Songcast?

Interesting....didn't know that.

(probably a bit off-topic/technical for the OP, but...)

I expect you've researched this yourself already, but it doesn't look like sc2mpd is installed or configured out of the box, although HFB's upmpdcli.conf has a line to add it's path. But as with any Buildroot based OS it's always a bit tricky to add new packages (that survive a reboot) or even low level config changes, unless you're prepared to build a completely new image yourself.

Always worth asking on the HFB forums as they are often receptive to simple requests/features and this looks fairly 'doable'. I might even have been inclined to try and build a fork myself if I had a house full of Linn kit — unfortunately I don't. But probably not something to embark on unless you're prepared to get your hands dirty with code and compilers.

So probably just support the basic (upmpdcli) OpenHome renderer unless someone can persuade HFB to enable Songcast (sc2mpd) support — which may not be out of the question, always worth an ask.
 

Cebolla

Member
Yes, sorry just edited my last post to mention my own check and missed your post.

The multiple upmpdcli OpenHome renderers can still be controlled by the Linn Kazoo app, they just won't have the ability to be grouped for synchronised audio.
 
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dheadone

Novice Member
Thank you both. I've got a lot of work to do in order to understand the intricacies and do appreciate your detailed responses. The devil is definitely in the detail so your pointers & observations are very helpful and I will be re-reading and exploring the links to inform myself further. And Jamieu - yes i agree, Kazoo is pretty basic. Its robust but unexciting and feels limited which was a surprise.
 

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