Is that all there is to do? I had done some cursory research on Volumio online, after the Primo was suggested to me for review. I had learned that the Volumio player software is available for multiple hardware platforms including Windows, Mac, and Raspberry Pi, but I hadn’t tried it yet. I discovered Volumio’s reputation as an efficient Linux-based music player, installable with an SD card on minimal hardware and expected to support virtually all music formats and resolutions, including DSD and multichannel. . But I hadn’t experienced any of this on my own.
When I unpacked the Primo, I was surprised to find such a small black box. Could such a small and light device do all of this and do it with adequate sound?
There is a precedent, but it’s 10 years old ?? old in terms of digital audio. My experience with streamers began a decade ago with the incredible Logitech Squeezebox Touch, which wasn’t much larger than the Primo, weighed around a pound, and (at the time) only played PCM and MP3. On the other hand, it supported internet radio and had a user-friendly touchscreen. I wrote an enthusiastic review.
Over the past 10 years, however, audiophiles – including me – have come to expect (indeed, demand) Following audio streamers: more formats, higher resolutions, internet streaming and, for some of us, the thrills of multichannel and DSP. Our expectations were met with full-sized, proprietary and often expensive audiophile-grade multipotent streamers and ever more complex PC cases such as my Baetis Prodigy-X and the awesome Pink Faun 2.16x that I reviewed in our article. of December. number 2020.
A refreshing counterpoint to this size and expense trend has emerged from the hands-on DIY culture: the proliferation of project-based streamers that use small single-board computers (SBCs), generic computers adapted as coin-operated machines. single use operating with reduced capacities. operating systems and relying on external devices for control, display and storage.
The Primo (?? 619, equivalent to $ 735 at the time of writing) is the best of this breed. It comes with an operating system and software loaded and ready to go. It is based on a minimalist computing platform, the ASUS Tinker Board S SBC, to which Volumio has added an audio processing board. The Tinker Board, which you can think of as an alternative to the more well-known Raspberry Pi, runs a Rockchip Quad-Core RK3288 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage. The Volumio audio card features multiple low noise voltage regulators, high precision clock and high-end SABER ES9038Q2M reference DAC. Other than “Volumio” and “Primo” discreetly printed on the front, there are no indicators or controls anywhere on the box.
There are, of course, entrances and exits at the rear. These include a Gigabit LAN connector (RJ45) and four USB 2.0 type A connectors. There is an HDMI output above an RCA S / PDIF digital output and a Wi-Fi antenna above a pair of stereo analog outputs (RCA). A coaxial barrel plug connects to the 5V DC power supply provided in the box.
My Primo’s 5V power supply, which first shipped to the US for the EISA Awards competition, won the award for its category. Fortunately, the power supply works at European and American voltages, and I found an adapter in my coin bin.
What makes Primo work is Volumio, a server / player application that is also available on its own, intended to work with a variety of SBCs as well as X86 / X64 processors on PCs and Macs. In that regard, you could say he looks like Roon.
Volumio, which is billed as “a free and open source audiophile music player”, is controlled through a web interface or by apps that run on Android and iOS devices. The apps support Tidal and Qobuz streaming as well as, for example, the TuneIn internet radio service. Autonomous Volumio service is available at levels ranging from “Free Volumio” to “Superstar”. Purchasing the Primo Hi-Fi Edition makes you a Lifetime Superstar; separately, a lifetime “Superstar” subscription costs ?? 199 ($ 236).
Volumio is indeed an open source platform, with plug-ins contributed by technical users of Volumio. These plugins, available on the Volumio website, have significantly expanded the player’s capabilities and continue to do so. I tried a plug-in that allows the Volumio device to act as a Roon bridge; it worked well. Another plug-in, for the BruteFIR convolution engine, disappeared from the list when I tried to install it. User-designed plugins are likely to be a mixed bag, buggy to excellent, and often both. It’s a great system for those who like to tinker, but don’t expect polish.
The instructions in the Quick Start Guide are simple: Connect the Ethernet cable from your local network. Connect an output device via USB, S / PDIF, or analog jacks. Turn it on, back up and wait 5 minutes.
The next configuration step is to access it from your phone, tablet or computer, to make sure the Primo muffler has established its own mobile “hotspot”. (There are no flashing lights or other indicators.) You can now customize the Primo to suit your environment and preferences, through settings.