How to have a more reliable Volumio Experience using Raspberry Pi

Hi,
I originally set up a Volumio with the Spotify plug-in a couple of years ago at a restaurant/bistro/event space. Since then, it’s been somewhat prone to shutting down unexpectedly, I suspect from overheating. Also, going through the analog audio jack has been less that reliable.
Investigating more reliable options, it seems I would have to get a proper streaming player (even Volumio’s for-profit offering is over $500), so I’m looking at how can I make Volumio on RPI more reliable. The main thing is that it needs to run Spotify. I originally had this running on a RPI 3B which had a case but no fan, and ran the audio out the analog 3.5mm jack. I’m looking at instead using the HDMI audio through an A/D converter, and perhaps upgrading to a Model 4 board with more memory, and this time, a case with a fan.
What have others done to harden their Volumio setup so that it is more reliable? Even here at home, with a Volumio plugged into LAN, it often needs to be power cycled.
Thanks in advance
-Hugh

Do you need a gui?

My GUI needs are limited to having something like what you get on the Spotify app on an iPad. That’s part of why I used a Volumio box here - I wanted there to be one location from which anyone on premises could play with the music without having to go into the telecom closet. I am playing around with the idea that if a Volumio server could have an XWindows GUI, I might attach a touch screen to it, and mount it by the door.
My issue is that Volumio on the RPI 3B can become non-responsive without warning and for no good reason. The one I have at home does this because it’s going through WiFi and RPI’s are notorious for the WiFi/Bluetooth chip overheating. This one is connected by Ethernet with WiFi turned off.
-Hugh

I’m running Volumio on RPI 3B and it can run for days. It has a cheap plastic case with 3.5" LCD and also no fan. Access is through WIFI only. It is connected to a USB DAC that is powered separately by a linear power supply. Just checked uptime and it’s now on its 15th day. It would actually have been more had I not restarted it for some development testing a while ago. So it has been pretty stable for me.

In your case, I would try with another power supply and also a different memory card.

I used the power supply that came with it - this was through buyapi.ca. It is a 3A power supply. Normally one would think that’s more than sufficient, but I’ve heard complaints about the reliability of Pi power supplies - curious how others determine that the power supply is reliant enough - is it just a matter of having enough amps (capacity) or is there a reliability metric I ought to check?
-Hugh

Hi,
I’ve used Volumio on RPI3 and now RPI4 for close to 5 yrs without any issues other than the actual limitations that exists around such set-up. The usual culprit for music to stop in the middle of its day run is HEAT !!! You need a well ventilated area to prevent board from heating up. Xfo are just like you mentioned: as long as you can deliver 3 A. in continuous you will not have issues. You have to take music type and loudness into account with regards to board heating up.

I actually run my RPI4 close to 20hrs a day as I am forced to stay home due to health reasons and music is my therapy. In order to avoid running the sound output from the 3.5mm connections or even the HDMI, I recommend you install a DAC board directly onto the GPIO connector (simplest way of doing it, it’s pretty much plug and play). You can get a decent DAC board from buyapi.ca for any where between 30 up to a few hundreds. I use the Khadas Tone Board 2 through a USB connection to the RPI4 and it is magical. I use my set-up as a streamer on Tidal. As I said, it plays 20hrs. a-day without any issues or problems.

This is my own little contribution to your question. I hope it helps.
Sincerely,
Robert

Major bottleneck is what you connect to the rPi. I’ve ran test with the rPi 3A and a 10A PSU. What I’ve experienced, is that the USB DAC has a peak current when the system boots.
Even though the PSU kept stable, the voltage on the USB port, dropped below 4.9 mode. The rPi regulates the total power on th USB ports, by lowering the voltage. For some reason the rPi will keep runnig in this “protection” mode. The low voltage caused all kind of side effects.

So I’ve fed the DAC via an external PSU, added a FAN to avoid temperature rising above 52 degC. The rPi runs very stable without any problems since. I fed the rPi with a PSU @5.15VDC

Thanks for posting this. I think heat is a big problem. The closet in which all the gear is installed gets pretty warm, and I’ve had very little luck convincing the management to do any ventilation there. I am considering attaching a touch screen display in a case with a fan to the unit. I hadn’t considered an external DAC but now that you mention it, I’ll look into it. I was running through the 3.5 mm jack, and was planning on an HDMI DAC that I picked up - it has an independent power supply so at least it won’t be taxing the RPi’s power supply. But an independent DAC via the GPIO sounds like something I ought to look into.
Cheers
-Hugh

Thanks for the advice. I was originally running the RPi with just the basic 3A supply you get from BuyAPi.ca. I’ll experiment with a bigger supply.
Another issue I ran into was that the staff at the event space typically were not technical, but somewhat Apple savvy. In the final set up, they ran the Spotify app on an iPad then fed the RPI via AirPlay. I pointed out that this means blue-tooth which gets worse the further away the iPad is from the RPI, plus that was probably heating up the RPI more than necessary because of all the RF traffic via bluetooth.
-Hugh

I have my rpi4 installed in a car without any ventilation and have had zero proplems so far, if it does not show overheating issues in there doubt it would anywhere else either, if not in direct sunlight.

I’ve got some aluminium case/heatsink on it without fans and use tablet hotspot for the connection.

So in my experience there are two power supply metrics you can worry about with a Pi 3B+.
First, Pi 3B+ generally require 5.1V or a bit more so that they don’t complain about low voltage and then auto throttle the processor. A power supply that is nominally 5V may deliver 4.9V without technically being out of spec, but it will throttle a Pi3B+ to half speed. Also a supply that droops below 5V when you load it with an amp or so of current will cause throttling. This is pretty well known and was largely fixed in Pi4 with better on board voltage regulation.

So for 3B+ with a nominally 5V supply or even an excessively long power cable, or one consisting of very thin wires (hence higher resistance causing a voltage drop across the cable) will cause throttling but not shutdown, and not overheating (because the processor is limiting its own power consumption).

To eliminate any danger of power supply problems you can use something like a buck convertor to take, say, 12V 2A down to 5.2V assuming it can handle a couple of amps. But the gold standard for non nerds is an official Pi 3B+ power supply which is not horribly expensive and a well ventilated case. It may not solve your problem if it lies elsewhere.

For Pi 4B there is more reasonable leeway on voltage but more current demand and more heating because the processor runs fairly hot and fast. Again the official power supply is a good option but it will work with most supplies that are within the current spec (3A ish), even cheapo ones. Pi4s can run reliably with a good passive case, but cooling a system with a sound hat sitting 1cm from the processor and occluding airflow may be problematic. I have solved this by moving the sound hat to an external 3d printed case connected by a short ribbon cable and leaving the Pi in its passive case. .

But in either case, throttling due to heat or under voltage should not cause shutdown unless the ventilation is truly dire. It should only cause a slowdown. My advice, buy an official power supply for your Pi model, even if it doesn’t solve the problem it will eliminate one possible cause cheaply. Try to improve ventilation.

you could even think about a hat outside of the pi so you could cool your pi without problems.
( perhaps a khadas tone board great sound btw. on usb )

I did have a RPI official power supply on it before, which means my issue was probably either the lack of ventilation and cooling, or that going through the 3.5mm jack, the streamed audio was driving up the processor load.
I have had the same unit running at home with an attached display, running the output to an HDMI DAC, and powering the display (and on-board fan), the DAC and the RPI with a 10A supply that I picked up on Amazon.
Mind you, my home is relatively well air conditioned, and at the business venue where I had previously deployed it, their machine room is VERY hot and humid (they haven’t responded to my frequent suggestions to at least dehumidify and blow some cool air in).
-Hugh

If it’s in a cupboard there’s no noise penalty to using a fan for active cooling, and as long as some air is moving over the processor and a couple of other chips you will at least be ameliorating the hot spots.

I doubt the ambient air will get as hot as the hot Pi components, so forced or active cooling with a fan will have some effect. It’s also common to put 3 heatsinks on a RPi board at the hotspots. These regularly come with cases and will principally cover the CPU/SoC and the bus manager (USB etc), sometimes also the RAM chip. Metal cases will also help to absorb peak heating and offer a larger heat dissipation surface

If your problem is heating, the Pi4 is likely to make matters worse in exchange for processor performance you won’t need with the current version of Volumio.

If standard active cooling schemes don’t work (cheap little heatsinks and a fan) I would personally be inclined to tell your client that the location is not suitable for the installation and it won’t work unless they provide ventilation or an alternate location that won’t cook the board until it shuts down. That is nothing but the truth which you or they will have to face at some point.

PS: The mains supply in that spot is known to be reliable?

I use a FLIRC case that acts as a heatsink, and the processor temperature is always bellow 50ºC.
The downside is that it’s not possible to attach any HAT. You can always use a USB dac.