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Up till now Volumio only offered network player
software for small board computers like the Raspberry Pi. Free software for consumers and OEM versions
for manufacturers. But now Volumio introduced their first network
player hardware, the Primo. I have reviewed the Volumio version 2 software
two years ago, you might want to view this video too. I used a Raspberry Pi with HiFiBerry sound
card then. Now you can buy a complete package from Volumio that you just have to connect to
your network and your stereo. Then you use a browser on your computer, tablet
or smartphone to control the Primo. Most people start networking audio with music
on their computer. This computer is connected to the internet
over a network cable to the router. The Volumio Primo needs to be connected to
the router as well, using a network cable. You could also use a wifi connection in stead
of the network cable but if in your neighbourhood many wifi access points are active, this might
be less reliable. The analog outputs of the Primo are connected
to an Aux or line input on your stereo and you’re set. Alternatively you could connect a USB drive
holding music or use a network attached storage – NAS for short – containing your music. A NAS basically is a hard disk that has a
network connector. If you have active speakers – speakers with
built-in amplifiers – you just connect the Primo directly to the speakers over analog
RCA cables or a digital SPDIF cable. The Primo is housed in a very sturdy metal
housing that measures 171 by 120 by 40 millimetres. The front only contains the Volumio and Primo
logos. The rear contains the gigabit network connector,
four USB2 sockets, a 5 volt DC input for the supplied power brick, an SPDIF output on RCA,
a stereo analogue output on two RCA’s, the wifi antenna and the HDMI output. The latter can be used with a USB connection
for a touch screen but it can also output audio to an AV receiver. The Primo uses an Asus Tinkerboard S small
board computer in stead of the more popular Raspberry Pi. The ethernet connector and the four USB ports
are indeed those of the Tinkerboard. Since Volumio has versions of the software
for a range of small board computers, I suppose they liked the performance of the Tinkerboard
S the most. Let’s see why. The Tinkerboard S runs a quad-core Rockchip
RK3288 ARM processor up to 1.8 GHz which is faster than the processor on the Pi. The advantage of the ARM processor is that
it can easily speed down if speed is not needed which will of course reduce noise. The faster graphics processor will be of no
consequence unless this GPU is used for DSP functions. The 2TB dual channel DDR3 memory is twice
that of the Pi and faster. The d/a-converter is also better than the
Pi, but this is not used in the Primo. The gigabit ethernet port has its own controller
as where the Pi uses the USB 2 controller and thus limiting the speed to 100Mbit. The Wifi B/G/N radio has an i-PEX connector
that facilitates the use of an external antenna. Given the metal housing, this keeps away the
wifi signal from the audio electronics. Very nice is the 16 GB eMMC memory that functions
as the system drive. This is not only faster than the microSD card
in the Pi, it is also more robust. The ‘soundcard’, so to speak, differs
from the usual HAT boards used by Raspberry Pi’s in that it is over twice as big. It uses an isolator, two voltage regulators
and for the DAC chip a low dropout voltage regulator. The latter provides a very stable voltage,
which is important for a high quality digital to analog conversion. The conversion is done by the ESS Sabre 9028QM
DAC that does PCM up to 32 bit 384 kHz and DSD up to DSD256. The clock oscillator is placed very close
by to keep jitter to a minimum. The DoP DSD signal is converted to a DSD stream
by this programmable logic device. The so called GPIO connector is for making
contact with the Tinkerboard that is situated so that it is clear of the audio electronics. When switched on the first time, you use a
browser on your computer, smartphone or tablet to select the options that fit you best. Type volumio.local in the address bar and
the Primo user interface will pop-up. See my review of the Volumio 2 software. After all is set-up, Volumio will start to
build up a catalog of your music and when that is done, you’re set to go. New in the current version of Volumio – version
2.5 – is that two levels of extra options are available: Virtuoso and Superstar. Both offer Tidal and Qobuz functionality – you
still need to subscribe to these streaming services separately – and automatic syncing
of personal items. See the website for details. Apps for Android and iOS are also available
at small money and highly recommendable. The sound quality is remarkably good given
the 400 euros price tag. That’s the same price as the Sonos Connect
that only does sampling rates up to 48 kHz. But even at cd-quality – 44.1 kHz 16 bit sampling
– the Primo by far outperforms the Connect on sound quality. It is in the same league as the Bluesound
Node 2, although slightly different in character, more rounded, milder. I would easily grant it a place in my setup
2, be it on the lower end. Under no conditions the Primo sounds unpleasant
but it doesn’t have the resolution and transients of the Mojo, drive by the Allo USBridge with
sBooster power supply that normally provides the music in my setup 2. And it better, at toe and a half times the
price. Remarkably enough using an sBooster with the
Primo doesn’t bring that much more sound quality. It does clean up the highs a bit but it does
that also when adding an iFi iPower power supply costing clearly less. This must be the result of proper isolation
of power circuits. Sound wise The Primo is a winner in its class. Up till now I reviewed the Volumio software
as being free. And it is the best I know in this class. But it is also basic, far more basic than
the Sonos and Bluesound software while you have to get a subscription for the use of
the Tidal and Qobuz add-ons. Roon endpoint functionality is being worked
on and will be added later on. The software of Sonos and Bluesound offer
far more streaming services to subscribe to and without extra charge. They also support Multiroom. So that makes the Volumio Primo the right
choice for people that play their own music from a share or hard disk and like the simplicity
of the Volumio software. Not everyone is always happy with a lot of
options. And if Volumio does what you need, the Primo
offers very good sound quality and build quality for the money. In the mean time the stack of review samples
is growing fast with all kinds of interesting products. Therefore subscribe to this channel or following
me on the social media so you know when new videos are released. If you liked this video, give it a thumbs
up. Many thanks to all that support this channel
financially, it keeps me independent and thus trustworthy. If you also feel like supporting my work,
the links are in the comments below this video on Youtube. I am Hans Beekhuyzen, thank you for watching
and see you in the next show or on And whatever you do, enjoy the music.

20 thoughts on “Volumio Primo network player

  1. I never really understood the need for a network streamer. Why not just use a computer to connect to your DAC? Much cheaper than €400.

  2. Small correction: Paid subscription is NOT required to play Qobuz or TIdal on the Primo. It is required for native integration of those services (using Volumio's own interface). Both of those services can be used without subscription using UPnP compatible control app (such as BubbleUPnP)

  3. Hi Hans. You are really doing an excellent job. Peouple like you must be helped in order to avoid merkants who just make the job for the brands. I just sent you a little something from paypal as N. Cobreros. Keep going !

  4. Hi Hans, thanks for this review. Nice equipment for its analog outputs. If I understood well its S/PDIF output is lesser quality and wouldn't (far ?) reach the level e.g. of an Allo DigiOne Signature S/PDIF card associated with a Raspberry Pi for a comparable total budget (when associated to audiophile power supplies). Indeed personally I prefer S/PDIF transport streamers as they let the freedom to choose – and upgrade later on – the applied external DAC (that by the way may also be used with other available audio gears).

  5. Excellent explanation esp. you include MANY separate graphic illustrations. Use this approach please in your future reviews where necessary. Primo an affordable option.

  6. Great review! Are you planning a deep dive on new volumio subscription software? It should support Qobuz integration in hi-res and Tidal with mqa. Great news, also considering Qobuz has now a reasonably priced hi-res monthly plan. Would be great to have Volumio compared to a upnp controller app like Mconnect (also supported by Volumio itself) before paying extra money.

  7. To much beter option is HTPC for much much less money and usb dac !!! nosie? ok use old laptop. Hp 840 g2 is overkill but you can find it for 200euros and less …. Or any laptop for 100 euros …plus HTPC video and other posabilitis like play games and much much others !!!

  8. A nice review and summary Hans. As are numerous others that I have been working through. Some great stuff in there. With regards the Volumio Primo. Will the Voumio Primo read from a hard disk drive (connected to one of the USB connectors on the rear) and allow me to play from the hard disk, controlling from a tablet. I have a 3Tb hard disk that I would like use.

    I have a Sonos connect which I use as a transport, which outputs via its coax into my Cyrus 8DAC. I would like to upgrade the Sonos Connect and try higher bitrate music files. All of my files are in FLAC 16 bit 48KHz on a Vortexbox based server based upstairs away from my main system.

    Many thanks.

  9. Hans if I'm not mistaken, you didn't go over the quality of the Premo as purely a network streamer specifically out of the USB port to an external DAC. I saw your response below when someone asked about SOTM.. would your feeling be the same if you compared this with a Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra you've already reviewed? I'm wondering if its worth the price as just a streamer?

  10. I was wondering if any plans to review any transports and DAC's that use I2s seems to be a good way to go for the future

  11. This is not a cheap product and thus the concern I would have is to the quality and further development and support of the software on the device. This is however something that only time will tell. It is something that even very established companies struggle with, bringing out software on their devices, which only years down the road get right and some times not at all.

  12. Seems to be the thing i look for.. Great Review!!!…. 1 Question: Can it play WAV 5.1 & DSF 5.1 Surroundaudio by connecting by HDMI to AV Receiver… Thx

  13. Forgive me if this is a silly question, but what is the difference between this device, and just a normal Tinker Box S with Volumio installed? Assuming there is a difference, is it something that justifies the price difference between the two?

  14. For someone just entering the streamers’ world like me, what would you suggest from a sound quality perspective: (1) Volumio Primo, or (2) Katana player, or (3) Digione Signature feeding my old Micromega T-DAC, or (5) other products in the 500€ price range? Unlike other hi-fi hear these things cannot be easily listened to in hifi shops so to compare and take a decision based on personal taste. Thanks

  15. Hello Hans.. Any chance you’d review the Volumio Mini86 streamer? This Intel based model has no dac built in and is less expensive than the Primo.

  16. Dear Hans, I really appreciate your Reviews. The Volumio Primo seems to be an interesting Device.I actually use an allo digione in a Pi 3B. Power supply is a SBooster fine tuned to 5.15 V. Without that it doesn't run stable. I generally look for an upgrade.This ist why the Primo ist interesting for me. Have you ever heard oft Abacus Electronics? It's a German High End Hifi brand. They have the Aroio LT in thier program. It is a very similar device to the Primo, but they have some very special features included. Room Calibration is available, Audio Vero Cleaner is included as well as a solid build in power supply. Wouldn't it be interesting for you to review that one in comparison to the Primo? Best regards Andreas.

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