Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer built as a learning platform for software and hardware technologies. This includes DIY audio projects such as music players, sonars, or even digital musical instruments like a theremin.

But you may be wondering, why would I choose to make a music player from scratch if I can just buy the whole thing at the nearest electronics store? First, the Raspberry Pi is a computer. You can use it not only as a basic mp3 player but for additional custom applications as well. For instance, you may want to add a sensor so that it plays a song when you open a door. Be a literal head-turner at your office. Blast Carmina Burana whenever you enter the room. The Raspberry Pi broadens the possibilities for a music player. Second, it is inexpensive compared to other equally powerful audio devices. The cheapest option is the Raspberry Pi 3 A+, which sells for 25 bucks in Adafruit. The third reason is size. It fits right in your pocket, which creates the possibility of making it a portable player as well. Lastly, you can access it remotely and can even set it up so that you can access it even if you’re physically countries away from the device. How cool is that?

In this tutorial, you are not going to learn yet that complex stuff. We’ll start with the rudimentary—playing audio with the Raspberry Pi.

Traditional Speakers

The simplest way to play audio on the Raspberry Pi is by speaker or headphones connected over the onboard headphone jack. Make sure to set the Audio output to Analog by right-clicking the sound icon on the menu bar’s top right portion.

Figure 1: Change the Output Mode

Moreover, you can adjust the volume by pressing with the left mouse button.

Figure 2: Adjust the Volume

Bluetooth Speakers

Alternatively, you can use Bluetooth speakers. Bluetooth chipsets have been present in the Raspberry Pi since the release of Raspberry Pi 3. So if you bought your Pi after February 2016, chances are you can connect via Bluetooth.

To enable Bluetooth, left click the Bluetooth icon and turn it on.

Figure 3: Turn on Bluetooth

Next, make sure your Bluetooth speaker or headphones is in pair mode. Then, click the icon again and select add device.

Figure 4: Add Device

I turned on multiple Bluetooth devices aside from the headphones to illustrate how each device look. The Raspberry Pi doesn’t support smartwatches, so it just appears as a question mark. There’s nothing beneficial from pairing it with the watch anyway, so do not worry. Phones appear with a black phone icon. Lastly, speakers and headphones appear with a green sound chip beside a megaphone icon.

Figure 5: Choose the Appropriate Device

After pairing your sound device, you can already connect to it by left-clicking the sound icon just like traditional speakers.

Figure 6: Change the Output Mode

Playing music with the Raspberry Pi OS

There are various ways to play audio files with the Raspberry Pi. The most obvious method is by installing a desktop media player. Software like VLC, MPV, and Winamp are readily available to install using the terminal or the Preferences Menu. Aside from this method, you can also use a command-line native player or a dedicated Python library. These we will discuss in the next section.

Using the Command Line

Omxplayer is actually a command-line video player specifically made for the Raspberry Pi’s GPU. It uses OpenMAX hardware acceleration API, Broadcom’s VideoCore officially supported API for GPU video/audio processing. In short, it has full-access to Raspberry Pi’s GPU so it basically supports every audio and video codec in existence.

It works by sending the audio signal to the headphones jack by default. The command syntax is as simple as below:

omxplayer /path/to/audio/file.wav

You can read more about Omxplayer on its official GitHub page for advanced applications.

Using Python

For Python, you can use Pygame. Pygame is a widely popular python library for creating games. And the best thing about it is that it comes with the Raspberry Pi OS. You can use the mixer function to play audio in less than 10 lines of code.

import pygame
pygame.mixer.init()
pygame.mixer.music.load("myFile.wav")
pygame.mixer.music.play()
while pygame.mixer.music.get_busy() == True:
    continue

These methods are all very convenient, but the sound quality for most of them are decent at best, and you have to build their interfaces from scratch, which is troublesome, especially if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop. This is where Rune Audio comes in.

Rune Audio

RuneAudio is an open-source software that turns your Raspberry Pi into a Hi-Fi music player. It will make the Pi perform like a high-fidelity digital source. It is built around the idea of having high-quality music playback in single-board computers such as the Raspberry Pi. Furthermore, Rune Audio is a custom-built Linux distribution, which means it is a full-fledged operating system. It stripped away all the clutter from the standard OS to take full advantage of its target board hardware.

Acquiring Rune Audio

To get started with RuneAudio, download the image file for your target device (in our case, the Raspberry Pi). Check the download page here. Once the download is complete, extract the zip files to obtain the image file.

Next, prepare an SD card that will contain the operating system. Format it. Copy the extracted files to the SD card. Make sure it doesn’t have any other files inside.

Setting up the Raspberry Pi

  1. If you have a USB DAC, plug it into a USB port. Otherwise, just plug in the analog jack.
  2. Connect the ethernet cable.
  3. Turn on the Raspberry Pi.

On your first boot, RuneAudio will automatically acquire an IP address via ethernet and create its user interface.

Familiarizing with the Interface

RuneAudio uses a web interface called RuneUI. It has everything a standard music player has but is very intuitive and easy to use, unlike most open-source software. You can easily browse your music library, control the playback and configure the player.

Figure 7: RuneUI (Image Credit: RuneAudio)

Accessing the RuneUI

Another amazing thing about RuneUI is that you can access the player outside the Raspberry Pi. There are several ways you can connect with it using different systems, here are some of the examples:

  • Windows – http://runeaudio or http://runeaudio
  • OS/Linux/Android – http://runeaudio.local
  • Via Local IP Address – Using the Raspberry Pi’s IP address, you can connect to RuneUI from any device (e.g., http://192.168.1.xxx)