Juxtaposition — how does product A compare to product B? It’s the most commonly asked question by any hi-fi publication’s subscribers. That’s understandable when hundreds – sometimes thousands – of dollars are on the line. And whilst many readers mistake reviewers as having access to all gear all of the time, our kind has at least a partial responsibility to address A vs. B, albeit with the small fraction of the world’s audio gear that we do have to hand (and where appropriate).
Where I pull the handbrake on comparisons is with software that’s free — or ships with a time-limited demo. Want to know how Tidal compares to Qobuz? Sign up for both and listen for yourself. Roon versus Audirvana? Sames. You don’t need mine or any other reviewer’s opinion when you can put the target of your curiosity onto your hard drive – or smartphone – within minutes; and without financial burden. A reviewer’s thoughts aren’t as urgently necessary when readers are able to do their own work without dropping a dime.
I was reminded of this yesterday when setting up a Raspberry Pi 4B (4GB, €60) in a heatsink case (€13) for this week’s video shoot. The 4th Generation single-board computer (SBC) gives USB and Ethernet its own data bus. Previous versions put USB and Ethernet traffic on a single, too narrow bus that often caused audible clicks and pops when deployed as a USB audio streamer. So far, the Pi 4’s USB output has given me no such trouble.
What operating system am I running? My usual goto is Ropieee XL: a self-configuring OS that gives us Roon Bridge, UPnP/DLNA, AirPlay and Spotify Connect from first boot. But this time out I’ve gone with an alternative: the Pi 4-only VitOS from China’s Thunder Data, makers of the Silent Angel N8 switch, Z1 music server and F1 linear power supply.
VitOS is free to download from the Thunder Data website. Write it to a microSD card, insert the card into the Pi 4’s underside and then boot. There is no web interface. Once the Pi 4 is up and running, we add Roon Bridge to VitOS with a single click inside the associated VitOS Manager app — available from the iOS, Google Play and Huawei app stores. The Google Play store’s app screenshots point to a scaled-back version of the Z1’s VitOS. Here’s what I see on an LG V40:
According to Thunder Data, VitOS “is a customized Linux based operating system designed for music servers and players. Optimizations in the kernel and system are done by Silent Angel engineers and make it possible to enhance the performance of network I/O, USB I/O, task manager, …and so on. As a result, running Roon Bridge and other music player applications on VitOS has better sound quality than other OS.”
How does it sound? Per our intro, VitOS users can test these claims for themselves, comparing its sound quality to Ropieee XL, all without soliciting reviewer opinion. Consider this a heads up to do it yourself.
Further information: VitOS