Holes — dug by little moles. Logitech and AURALiC. The former’s Squeezebox Touch – a frugalphile favourite – was discontinued in 2012. The latter’s Aries Mini – another goto entry-level streamer – quietly slipped away in 2018. Those are big holes to fill.
Stepping forward is Volumio, coders of the SBC OS of the same name. The Italian company’s first piece of hardware, the Primo network streamer (€379), mounts an ESS Sabre DAC board to an Asus Tinkerboard S to convert Ethernet or Wifi inputs to digital S/DPIF (up to 24bit/192kHz) or analogue (up to 24bit/192kHz, DSD128). The Primo’s quad of USB sockets will also talk to DACs directly (up to DSD512 or PCM 32bit/768kHz) but I didn’t play that way…
Instead, I used one the USB sockets for connecting a hard drive full of music from which the Volumio OS can stream directly. The Volumio OS will play catch on streams dispatched from network shares, including those sent via third-party UPnP software.
The operating system’s strong suit is its accessibility: any device running a web-browser. iOS, Android, MacOS, Windows but also Amazon smartphones and Linux PCs.
Going further still, Volumio’s plugin page gives us access to Logitech Media Server and Squeezelite. The Primo becomes a Squeezebox server that can stream to itself without collapsing under the weight of larger libraries (as the Squeezebox Touch did).
Note: this does NOT open the door to Roon, which only streams to Squeezebox hardware, not software. Until the Primo is certified Roon Ready we must make do with the 48kHz sample-rate ceiling of Shairport-powered Airplay. Did I mention the Primo also has a plugin for Spotify Connect?
The takeaway: thanks to its flexible operating system, we can take the Primo in numerous directions and trounce the Sonos Connect and Amazon Echo Link on sound quality in the process. That makes it a logical stand-in for both the Squeezebox Touch and/or the Aries Mini:
Further information: Volumio