5 Best Open-Source music players for the Raspberry Pi

Auudiophiles: welcome.

by Pete
Published: Updated: 15 minutes read

In this blog, we’ll be diving into the best open-source media players available today and the many benefits of using them. If you’re an audiophile or just someone who appreciates high-quality audio and video playback, then you’re in the right place.

Gone are the days of relying on expensive and proprietary media players. With open-source media players, you have the freedom to customize and tweak the player to your liking, without any limitations. Plus, they’re often more efficient and lightweight than their proprietary counterparts.

So whether you’re looking for a media player for your home theater setup or just want a better way to organize and play your media files, this blog has got you covered. Join us as we explore the world of open-source audiophile grade media players for the Raspberry Pi and discover the many benefits they have to offer.

Over the years, there’s been a few offerings. Some were FOSS, some have partially paid options, and some are stagnant. We’ve tried to list the ones that are the most current, and with full functionality without paying for unlocks or subscriptions. We’ve also tried to exclude players that are “rebranded” from PIHATs or other 3rd party products. These are generic players only.

What hardware is involved?

To get all of this going, you’ll need some equipment. While the Raspberry Pi can play audio on it’s own, it doesn’t have a quality audio output. Also, you might need a digital or optical (TOSLINK) output to your amplifier, OR you might want to power some speakers directly off the Pi – if that’s the case, you’ll need a HAT to go with your Pi.

  • A Raspberry Pi – Preferably a 3B+ or 4. Personally speaking, a 3B+ works great, but a 4 will give you a smoother web UI experience, especially if you have a large library to manage.
  • A USB stick – Please don’t boot off an SD-CARD – it will degrade over time – use a descent quality USB stick to install the software onto.
  • An audio board for your Pi (a HAT) – A Raspberry Pi HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) is where the magic happens. This is where you’ll get your hi-resolution playback from and also optional audio outputs depending on what you’ll plug into it. We’ll cover off what HATs are available in another post.

What is a Headless Media Player?

A headless media player is a specialized software that allows you to play audio and video files on your Raspberry Pi without a monitor or keyboard attached. It runs on the command line and can be controlled remotely via web interface or mobile apps. This makes it perfect for use as a media server or for use in a home theater setup.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on a headless media player, rather than a touchscreen as a headless solution is easier to get up and running without the need for a touch screen.

When it comes to headless media players on Raspberry Pi, the best option is open-source media players. These media players are built and maintained by a community of developers and users, and the source code is freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. This means they’re often more customizable, efficient, and lightweight than proprietary media players.

What is “audiophile” quality?

“Audiophile quality” refers to the overall sound quality of a music playback system or device, and it is often used to describe high-quality audio equipment and recordings that are designed to provide a superior listening experience. Audiophile quality audio is characterized by a wide dynamic range, accurate frequency response, low distortion, and a high signal-to-noise ratio.

High-resolution audio (HRA) refers to audio that has a higher bit depth and sample rate than standard audio. In practical terms, high-resolution audio files have a higher bitrate and a higher sample rate than standard audio files. This results in a clearer and more detailed sound. Some examples of high-resolution audio formats include FLAC, DSD, and WAV.

The technical definition of high-resolution audio can vary depending on the source, but generally, it is considered to be audio that has a sample rate and bit depth higher than that of standard audio. The sample rate is the number of samples of audio per second, measured in Hz or kHz. High-resolution audio typically has a sample rate of at least 96kHz or higher. Standard audio has a sample rate of 44.1kHz.

The bit depth is the number of bits used to represent each sample of audio, and it is directly related to the dynamic range of the audio. High-resolution audio typically has a bit depth of at least 24-bit, while standard audio has a bit depth of 16-bit.

Audio with a sample rate of 96kHz or higher, and a bit depth of 24-bit or higher, is generally considered high-resolution audio.

Let’s get into it the software

There’s a lot of cover here. Grab your favorite beverage and absorb.

Finally! Now the software that binds it all together. To be clear, these are open-source options only (IE: free). These are considered complete solutions: install, configure and you’re done.

moode audio - Screenshot_20230814_114151

Moode Audio is built on a Linux operating system and utilizes the MPD (Music Player Daemon) server, which provides a stable and reliable foundation for music playback. The player supports a wide range of audio formats, including lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, and WAV, as well as compressed formats like MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis.

In addition to supporting gapless playback, Moode Audio also offers advanced features like crossfade and replay gain, which help to ensure a seamless and consistent listening experience. The player’s advanced equalizer offers a range of filters and settings, including parametric, graphic, and preamp controls, allowing users to fine-tune the sound output to their preferences.

Moode Audio supports high-quality audio output through USB DACs and S/PDIF interfaces, and includes a range of settings for configuring bit depth, sample rate, and buffer size to optimize the sound quality. The player also supports DSD playback, which is a high-resolution audio format used by some audiophiles.

For those who are interested in streaming music, Moode Audio supports a range of streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz, as well as internet radio stations. The player also supports playback from network-attached storage (NAS) devices and USB drives.

picoreplayer - Screenshot_20230814_113824

PiCorePlayer is an open-source, lightweight, and highly customizable audio player software designed for use on the Raspberry Pi. It is built on a Linux operating system and utilizes the Squeezelite player, which is a highly optimized and low-latency player for streaming audio.

PiCorePlayer supports a wide range of audio formats, including lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, and WAV, as well as compressed formats like MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis. The player offers gapless playback, which ensures that there are no interruptions between tracks, and also supports advanced features like crossfade and replay gain.

The player’s advanced equalizer offers a range of filters and settings, including parametric, graphic, and preamp controls, allowing users to fine-tune the sound output to their preferences. PiCorePlayer also supports high-quality audio output through USB DACs and S/PDIF interfaces, and includes a range of settings for configuring bit depth, sample rate, and buffer size to optimize the sound quality.

osmc - Screenshot_20230814_114003

OMSC (Open Music Streaming Controller) is an open-source audio player software designed for use on Linux-based operating systems. It utilizes a range of open-source software packages, including the MPD (Music Player Daemon) server and the Mopidy music server, to provide a flexible and powerful audio playback solution.

OMSC supports a wide range of audio formats, including lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, and WAV, as well as compressed formats like MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis. The player offers gapless playback, which ensures that there are no interruptions between tracks, and also supports advanced features like crossfade and replay gain.

The player’s advanced equalizer offers a range of filters and settings, including parametric, graphic, and preamp controls, allowing users to fine-tune the sound output to their preferences. OMSC also supports high-quality audio output through USB DACs and S/PDIF interfaces, and includes a range of settings for configuring bit depth, sample rate, and buffer size to optimize the sound quality.

One of the key features of OMSC is its ability to integrate with a range of third-party applications and services, including Home Assistant, Sonos, and Logitech Media Server. This allows users to create a highly customized and integrated audio playback solution that can be tailored to their specific needs.

libreelec - Screenshot_20230814_113925

LibreELEC is a Linux-based operating system designed specifically for media playback. It is lightweight and highly optimized for running on low-power devices like the Raspberry Pi and other single-board computers. LibreELEC is built on top of the Kodi media center software and includes a range of features designed to enhance the media playback experience.

One of the key features of LibreELEC is its support for a wide range of audio and video formats. It supports both lossless and compressed audio formats, including FLAC, ALAC, MP3, and AAC, as well as a range of video formats like H.264, MPEG-4, and VP9. The player offers advanced playback options like gapless playback, crossfade, and replay gain, which ensures that there are no interruptions between tracks and that the audio output is optimized for the best listening experience.

The player’s advanced equalizer offers a range of filters and settings, including parametric, graphic, and preamp controls, allowing users to fine-tune the sound output to their preferences. LibreELEC also supports high-quality audio output through USB DACs and S/PDIF interfaces, and includes a range of settings for configuring bit depth, sample rate, and buffer size to optimize the sound quality.

balenasound - Screenshot_20230814_114026

BalenaSound is an open-source audio player software designed for use on IoT devices like the Raspberry Pi. It is built on top of the Mopidy music server and the Snapcast audio streaming protocol, which allows multiple devices to synchronize audio playback across a network.

BalenaSound supports a wide range of audio formats, including lossless formats like FLAC, ALAC, and WAV, as well as compressed formats like MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis. The player offers gapless playback, which ensures that there are no interruptions between tracks, and also supports advanced features like crossfade and replay gain.

The player’s advanced equalizer offers a range of filters and settings, including parametric, graphic, and preamp controls, allowing users to fine-tune the sound output to their preferences. BalenaSound also supports high-quality audio output through USB DACs and S/PDIF interfaces, and includes a range of settings for configuring bit depth, sample rate, and buffer size to optimize the sound quality.

BalenaSound’s customizable web interface provides a range of options for managing and organizing music, including playlist creation, album art display, and search functionality. The player also supports various control options, including infrared remotes, mobile apps, and web interfaces.

Feature Comparison

Feature ComparisonMoode Audio PlayerPicorePlayerOSMCLibreELECBalenaSound
Distribution TypeFull OS image with pre-installed audio player softwareAudio player software package designed to run on a minimal OSFull OS image with pre-installed media center softwareFull OS image with pre-installed media center softwareAudio player software package designed to run on a container platform
Streaming ServicesSupports various services like Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz, and internet radio stationsLimited streaming supportSupports various streaming services, including Netflix and Amazon Prime VideoLimited streaming supportSupports various services like Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz, and internet radio stations
Customization OptionsAdvanced equalizer with parametric, graphic, and preamp controlsOffers a range of customization options, including different audio outputs and audio filtersOffers a range of customization options, including different audio outputs and audio filtersOffers a range of customization options, including different audio outputs and audio filtersLimited customization options
User InterfaceWeb-based interface with support for mobile devicesWeb-based interface with support for mobile devicesTV-friendly interface with remote control supportTV-friendly interface with remote control supportWeb-based interface with support for mobile devices
Community SupportActive community with forum support and regular software updatesActive community with forum support and regular software updatesActive community with forum support and regular software updatesActive community with forum support and regular software updatesActive community with forum support and regular software updates
Hardware CompatibilityRaspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi 4, and other single-board computersRaspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi 4, and other single-board computersRaspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi 4, and some other hardware platformsRaspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi 4, and some other hardware platformsRaspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi 4, and some other hardware platforms

In Summary

There are many open-source media player options available for those looking to build their own audiophile grade media system. Each option offers its own unique set of benefits and features, making it important to consider your specific needs before making a choice.

When choosing a media player, it’s important to consider factors such as user interface, compatibility with your hardware, customization options, and audio quality. Each option has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s ultimately up to the individual to determine which solution best fits their needs.

For the record, I run three Moode Audio Players on Rpi3B+ Hardware running various HATs and they’re amazing!