Cheap/Efficient HTPC/Server Solution w/Optical Out

  • Hi,

    I have a rather specific set of requirements and am just looking for a bit of advice to narrow down my search a bit.

    Essentially, I am looking for a device to install LibreELEC onto, to which I will attach a USB HD with all of my music and video files on it. This device needs to have an optical out so that I can attach it directly to my stereo (with its DAC) and then use a mobile, Kodi-controller application to run it as a headless system there. I would then also intend to use Kodi's server capabilities to serve my video files from this device over my network to the Kodi I have installed on my Fire TV Stick.

    I would like to achieve this as cheaply as possible, but neither do I want to take shortcuts that are just going to frustrate me and/or require an upgrade in a year or so. I've budgeted around $150 for this, but if there is a device that will function well for less than that I'm all ears. Conversely, if that is unrealistically low, please let me know.


  • As your "server" doesn't need video output, it would make sense to install something like Volumio to play your music rather than LE.

    You could also install Emby-server on it which would allow emby-clients on most devices to access you music and videos.

    There are many devices out there that could do the job - but the simplest would be a RPi3 (£35) and a cheap HiFI Digi+ from China (£12).

  • Thanks for the swift response. If a RPi3 would be sufficient, would something like this also do the job then?

    Just trying to understand the minimum specifications I'd need for it to function as a server, as I've got no idea how much CPU, etc... that requires.


  • If you want to go down the Android route - be careful as not all boxes are equal Read Here.

    Unless you're running multiple streams, your bottleneck is going to be wifi especially if you intend to stream highbit rate UHD content.

    If you want a seamless device that will last you for years, you might want to go down the NAS route but that will depend on $$$ and the amount of TB you have

  • Thanks, I'll have a read of that. At most, it'll probably be one video stream (no more than 1080p) and one audio stream at a time.

    We're not talking a huge library or anything like that. Just some recorded films and kids programmes and a few ripped DVDs. I wanted a device to correct direct to the stereo for my digital music collection and thought it might as well act as a video server as well.

    Thanks again

  • I can't answer for other combinations - you can buy a desktop Dell for around £50 with Windows 10 but I think that is an overkill for what you need. Especially if it is on 24/7.

    The Android box you mentioned "might" work with LE but as with everything the DAC is probably not the highest quality (Depends on how much you value quality) nor the speed of the RAM. It is also only 2.4Ghz which may or may not be an issue for you. As this is going to be a server - there is a lot of hardware that is never going to be used. X265 decoding etc.

    Depending on your USB HDD you may need to consider including in your costing a powered USB Hub - £10 - £30. (I would never rely on a SBC power, to supply a consistent power to a HDD - especially if contains valuable date.

    From what you have described many of the "cheap" solutions should work for you. I might be biased but my RPi3 and Hifi Digi have worked for me for years - you could also use something like openmediavalut if you're not comfortable with server settings.

    It's not my money but...

    Maybe you need to wait a bit and see if others might have their opinion.

  • Thanks. The DAC quality isn't really an issue as I will be using Optical Out into my stereo, so it will just be passing the digital signal through for the stereo to process to analogue.

    I agree that it is hard to work out what is required and not in terms of an Android box. It was an attractive option simply because it involves less fiddling around with hardware. How easy is it to set up a Raspberry Pi3 with the HiFi Digi+. Any soldering, etc... Or does stuff just click in? That's my main doubt with going with that option. If it's pretty simple that could be the way to go.

    Thanks again for all your help.

  • No soldering required on RPi3, you just plug in the audio card and screw in the board standoffs. Pretty much like Ikea :-)

    If you want to have all of that in a case it's best to stick to the well known vendors (HifiBerry, Justboom), they also sell cases for RPis with their specific DAC/Digi/... boards. Standard RPi cases are too small (the boards add height) and larger cases for other HATs might have the cutouts for RCA/Toslink/... connectors in the wrong place.

    Of course you can use Lego, wood, ... to build your own case - if you like.

    so long,