Introducing HiFiBerry

The HiFiBerry DAC, DAC+, Digi, and Digi+ are add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi. Visit the HiFiBerry website to see the various models, and for details of which Pi they will work with. 

The HiFiBerry DACs provide a much better analog output than the output from the basic Pi and so can be used to deliver a one-box source that delivers decent audio at a reasonable price. The HiFiBerry achieves such good price performance by by-passing the usual digital outputs (USB or HDMI) and going direct to the internal i2s bus in the Pi. By integrating the DAC closely with the digital data source, the DAC can use the same clock signal as the source. This results in a virtually jitter-free data stream entering the DAC. That means that your DAC doesn't need to wrestle with the problem of de-jittering the signal, it can just get on with conversion. Significantly less processing means significantly less cost. Wonderful!

So does that mean a €30 I2S DAC can do just as good a job as an €800 USB DAC? Maybe not exactly, because the analog signal that comes out of the DAC also needs some filtering, and expensive DACs usually do a better job than inexpensive DACs. Still, connecting direct to I2S is such a big benefit that you can get better performance than you would normally expect from a tiny and inexpensive DAC.

The HiFiBerry Digi also taps into the i2s bus, but instead of converting the digital stream to analog, the Digi will deliver the digital signal via SPDIF (coaxial or optical) to your own DAC or Surround Processor.

The HiFiBerry DAC or DAC+ is ideal for use as a standalone device to deliver analog to an amp. The HiFiBerry DAC delivers a decent line-level signal that can if necessary drive a power amp directly with the volume controlled via your Squeezebox control app or web interface. However using an integrated amp or pre+power combo will give more fine-grained control over volume, the convenience of multiple switchable inputs, and better impedence matching. Which sounds better? It depends ... if the Pi is your only source in the system, try both and see how it works out with your equipment in your room. 

The Digi or Digi+ is used to build a player that can connect digitally with an existing audio system that contains a DAC or SSP. The HiFiBerry Digi works very well with any DAC or SSP with an SPDIF digital coax or optical input. 

Both sound rather good when used with good playback equipment. Both can handle bit rates/depths up to 24/192 with ease.

The HiFiBerry guides to installation can be found on the HiFiBerry website. These guides are quite comprehensive and contain most of what you need to know, so please read them! The following notes provide some additional information and hints and tips.

Choosing a Case for the Player

The HiFiBerry DAC or DAC+ with the 3.5mm audio jack option is small enough that when mounted on the Pi board the two together can often fit into a standard size Raspberry Pi case. If the case contains pillars so it can be screwed together then you may need to cut away one of those mounting pillars to make room. It's much easier to use a simple case with no pillars that can just be clipped together such as products from RS Components or Adafruit, or a case with no sides as described below.

If you buy a completely enclosed case you will need to cut holes for the additional outlets.

If you buy a case with no sides, such as those available from Kootek, Camac, Samtech and others then you have access to all the ports with no extra drilling required. Open sided cases can also be easily adapted to fit the higher profile of the DAC with RCA outputs or the Digi with SPDIF outputs. All you need to do is to replace the supplied standoffs with suitable longer length standoffs. 

Using a sideless container still provides reasonable protection for the board, and providing you're not using it in a hostile dusty environment, it should be OK.

What you'll need:

  • A Raspberry Pi, B+ or later preferably, loaded with PiCorePlayer as described here.
  • A HiFiBerry DAC (for Pi Rev B) or DAC+ (for Pi Rev B+ and later) or Digi / Digi +. Buy one here
  • An enclosure for your player - make sure you choose the correct version, depending on your Pi model. Also, don't forget that most standard Pi cases aren't tall enough to hold a DAC equipped with RCA outputs or the Digi, so for those you need to find a bigger enclosure, build one, or use a case without walls that can be extended using longer stand-offs.
  • Appropriate analog or digital cables to connect your HiFiBerry device to your music playback system.
  • A stereo system to play the music. (Headphone amp, integrated amp plus speakers, or even just a power amp plus speakers, plus a DAC or SSP if you are using the Digi.)
  • For the Rev B only: a small soldering iron, some 0.3mm cored solder to attach the eight-pin header to the Pi board. (Not required for B+ and later.)
  • If you are using a fully enclosed case then you'll need: a drill, fine saw or sharp knife, or maybe a Dremel plus attachments, to make the hole and/or slot for the new analog/digital outs. Not needed for a case with open sides. Which is why we like a case with open sides! 

Install the Header (Rev B only)

The first thing to note is that with the Rev B products, you have to do some soldering! If you have soldered before, then you should find that installing the 8 pin header on to the Raspberry Pi board is easy, and will only take a couple of minutes. There's a good video from HiFiBerry that you should view before you start.

Even if you're not a capable solderer, don't worry, it's really quite easy.

Place the header in position as shown in the video, making sure it is aligned squarely in position. The pins should be parallel to the pins on the main header, and at the same height. You might want to hold it in position with some tape.

Make sure your soldering iron is hot, apply it to the point where the pin enters the circuit board so the tip of the iron is touching both the pin and the pad around the pin. Don't use thick solder, or you'll just flood the area and join the pins together, which is not a good thing. Use very thin solder wire, say 0.3mm, and you'll avoid that problem. If you still apply too much solder you can remelt it and suck it out with a solder sucker or mop it up with some solder wick.

Solder one pin first, then check the header is still sitting square and aligned: if you have to unsolder and re-do it, it's a lot easier to unsolder one pin than eight. When the first is done and the header is square, go ahead and solder the rest.

When you're finished, examine your work very closely to make sure that no stray threads or blobs of solder are bridging a gap between the pins. If you see a problem, fix it now.

Assembling the Pi plus HiFiBerry

When you align the HiFiBerry board to the Pi board, you will see that there is a rather large hole in each one. On the Pi, the hole is just below the Raspberry logo, and the hole in the HiFiberry is in the corresponding position above it. Before you plug them together, install the nylon pillar supplied with the HiFiBerry on the HiFiBerry board using the screw fitting.

If you are using a completely enclosed case, you might need to install the HiFiberry pillar with the male screw upwards to allow sufficient clearance between board and case. 

If you are using a case with open sides, with standoffs at the corners, you can insert the pillar the other way up (male screw down) so you can screw it into the supporting standoff.

Now plug your HiFiBerry board pushing all the pins home gently but firmly. To keep the whole thing secure, screw the provided nylon nut onto the support pillar, or a 6mm standoff (see below).

Adapting the Case 

If you have a fully enclosed case, you now have to work out where you need an extra hole or slot for the output jack. Just measure and mark the center of the jack position and drill a suitable size hole. With some cases you might also need to cut a slot to allow the case to fit together. Tidy the whole thing up with some fine sandpaper.

  • A Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry DAC+ with the 3.5mm audio jack option can fit into a standard Raspberry Pi case, as shown:


If you are using an open-sided case, you won't have to drill any new holes, but you will have to select some replacement M3 thread standoffs, as follows:

  • The 6mm standoffs supplied were good to support the main board at the corners.
  • We installed two extra 6mm standoffs with washers to support the main board - one for the free support hole, and the other was screwed on to the bottom end of the HiFiBerry support pillar.
  • We replaced all four of the supplied 13mm M3 standoffs with 25mm standoffs to support the top cover, to allow extra room for the higher-profile Digi and DAC with RCA. 
  • The illustration shows a Pi plus HiFiBerry Digi in an open-sided housing. The extra long standoffs make room for the HiFiBerry Digi board. The TosLink and SP/DIF coax outputs are at top left.

Power up and Configure

Install the two boards together in the case, insert the pre-loaded SD card (unlocked at this point), plug in a LAN cable, connect your Pi to your audio system. Power up the Pi. (BTW we recommend a regulated 5V/2A supply for this application instead of the more usual 800mA unregulated cellphone charger.) Power up your stereo system.

Use your browser to access the Logitech Media Server web interface in the usual way, and look for your player to appear in the "Choose Player" dropdown. This confirms that the player has fully booted. Select it in the player dropdown. You can then discover the player's IP address by going to Settings/Information/Player Information.

Open another tab in your browser to access the Pi across the LAN using the Pi's IP address. For example it your Pi is on then point your browser to This will take you to the Pi's web interface. Go to the Squeezelite settings tab and select the appropriate HiFiBerry audio output option: I2S-audio DAC, I2S-audio DAC+, I2S-audio Digi, or I2S-audio Digi+. Click "Submit" and wait. Restart Squeeze server from the PiCorePlayer main page.

If you want to use WiFi instead of a wired LAN connection, set that up now, as described in Raspberry Squeezie: Pi + Squeezelite using PiCorePlayer. Remove the LAN cable and reboot. Find the new IP address.

Return to your Logitech Media Server main page and go to Settings / Player. Choose the HiFiBerry player, then select the Audio option in the drop down. If you are using Digi, or using DAC to drive an integrated amp, or a pre-amp (with a volume control) then choose the Volume Control option "Output level is fixed at 100%". Click "Apply" (bottom left of screen) and return to the LMS main page.

If you are going to use the DAC to drive a power amp or amplified speakers directly (without a volume control) then choose "Volume control adjusts output". Click "Apply" (bottom left of screen) and return to the LMS main page.

Play some music!

Play some music!

Page created: 2014-04-23

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