Innovation

A Raspberry Pi Zero lookalike that promises crystal clear sound

The VoltaStream Zero is the same tiny size as the Raspberry Pi Zero but adds specialized chips for delivering clear audio, has a full-sized USB, Type-A port and is available with double the memory.

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It may look like the tiny Raspberry Pi Zero, but the VoltaStream Zero is focused on delivering high quality streaming audio.

The VoltaStream Zero includes specialized chips for delivering clear sound, has a full-sized USB, Type-A port and is available with double the memory of the Pi Zero.

This upgrade comes at a price, with the VoltaStream costing €49,90 ($58.63) for the 512MB version or €69.90 ($82.15) for the 1GB version, the board sells for considerably more than $5 Pi Zero and lacks the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support of the $10 Pi Zero W.

The VoltaStream's high quality sound comes courtesy of its integrated Texas Instruments Digital-Analog Converter (DAC) and TOSLINK port, which provides a fiber optic digital output for audio transmission at lossless quality.

Like the Pi Zero, the German-built board provides access to an unpopulated 40-pin header, 28 of which can act as GPIOs, although you'll need to solder the pins in place to use this.

The designers of the board say they are targeting the same pin layout as the Pi Zero so the same audio hardware add-ons (HATs) can be used with the VoltaStream board.

The plans for VoltaStream Zero are open source, with all KiCAD schematic and layout files available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 license.

The need to buy a USB Wi-Fi dongle, microUSB cable for the power supply and at least 2GB microSD card for storage will add to the price.

The board's primary OS is PolyBian, derived from the Linux-based OS Debian, and has enough in common with the Raspberry Pi's official OS Raspbian that users should be able to follow guides written for Raspbian. The OS will include drivers for the DAC and the TOSLINK output.

Specs

System-on-a-chip: NXP i.MX6ULL based on ARM Cortex-A7 @ 996 MHz

RAM: DDR3 512MB/1GB

Power supply: 5V via microUSB or GPIO header

Power consumption: 0,10 Watt - Linux suspend, 0,25 Watt - Linux idle, 1,10 Watt - USB WiFi busy

USB: 1x USB-A host, 1x microUSB slave

Digital audio: 1x I2S for integrated DAC, 1x I2S for GPIO access, 1x S/PDIF header / TOSLINK jack

Analog audio: Integrated DAC with H/W volume control powered by ultra low noise LDO - PCM5121 or PCM5142

GPIO header: 5V, 3V3, GND, 2x UART, flexCAN, 2x I2C, SPI, I2S, 3x PWM, S/PDIF INPUT

Dimensions: 65 mm x 30 mm (Same as Raspberry Pi Zero)

Read more about the Raspberry Pi

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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