Raspberry Pi Bluetooth Speaker

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How To Build a Raspberry Pi Bluetooth Speaker

This articles describes how to build a Bluetooth speaker. This article is being actively written. Currently it is full of bugs but will provide some useful pointers.

Before You Start

You’ll need:

  • A Raspberry Pi
  • A Bluetooth USB dongle (if your Pi doesn’t have Bluetooth on board)
  • Sound card and speaker(s)

Article Completion

  1. Test everything
  2. Turn every background task into a service
  3. More investigation on Bluetooth pairing

Getting the Speaker(s) Working

To get the best results, you'll need an dedicated audio add-on board and matching speakers. Higher end passive speakers need a proper amplifier (e.g. HiFiBerry Amp2 or IQaudIO IQaudIO DigiAMP+).

I've used the whole range of IQaudio audio boards with different speakers and headphones. I'd also recommend a dedicated USB Bluetooth dongle (don't get the cheapest versions of these). It is possible to test by using the on-board Bluetooth and the on-board audio with headphones but because of dropped packets, the audio quality isn't great.

Once the speakers and audio card are connected to the Raspberry Pi, it's time to install a fresh version of Alpine Linux. The armv7 version from the Downloads page works on almost all Pis. This Wiki has several articles about installing Alpine on a Raspberry Pi.

Enable writing to the boot media:

 mount /media/mmcblk0p1 -o rw,remount

Then, either enable the on board sound:

 echo "dtparam=audio=on" >> /media/mmcblk0p1/usercfg.txt

or your sound card (e.g. IQaudIO):

 echo "dtoverlay=iqaudio-dacplus,unmute_amp" >> /media/mmcblk0p1/usercfg.txt

reboot.

Follow these instructions to enable ALSA. In summary

 apk add alsa-utils alsa-utils-doc alsa-lib alsaconf # the required software for sound
 aplay -l # should display a List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices

In my case my list is:

 **** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
 card 0: Headphones [bcm2835 Headphones], device 0: bcm2835 Headphones [bcm2835 Headphones]
   Subdevices: 8/8
   Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
   Subdevice #1: subdevice #1
   Subdevice #2: subdevice #2
   Subdevice #3: subdevice #3
   Subdevice #4: subdevice #4
   Subdevice #5: subdevice #5
   Subdevice #6: subdevice #6

Before you play anything from your speakers, I recommend turnong down the volume.

 amixer

displays a list of "simple controls." For my headphones and the on-board sound, the output looks like this:

 Simple mixer control 'Headphone',0
   Capabilities: pvolume pvolume-joined pswitch pswitch-joined
   Playback channels: Mono
   Limits: Playback -10239 - 400
   Mono: Playback 0 [96%] [0.00dB] [on]

In this case, there is only 1 control, 'Headphone', so I issue this command to lower the maximum volume to a comfortable level. (50%)

 amixer sset Headphone 50%

The IQaudIO DAC that I use has a much larger set of controls. I issued this command to set the volume:

 amixer sset 'Digital' 50 # quotes may be required if there are spaces in the control name

Note: there can be several interlinked controls, some of which are muted by defualt. ALSA (and other audio software on Linux) is notoriously under-documented, try `man amixer` for more information. Sometimes it is easier to use a more visual control to change the configuration:

 alsamixer

Finally, if you issue this command:

 speaker-test -t wav -c 2

Then you should hear "Front Left, Front Right" repeating from your chosen speakers. Now it's time to setup Bluetooth. Don't forget to save your changes (lbu commit).

Bluetooth

I used Raspberry Pi 3 - Setting Up Bluetooth as a reference with some slight modifications as I am using a Pi 4.

Raspberry Pi 4

 apk add bluez
 btattach -B /dev/ttyAMA0 -P bcm -S 3000000 &
 # btattach -B /dev/ttyAMA0 -P bcm -S 115200 -N & # Pi 3 - not tested by me
 rc-service bluetooth start

edit /etc/mdev.conf and enable bluetooth. We're using `sed`, where s/#rpi bluetooth/rpi bluetooth/ means replace #rpi bluetooth with rpi bluetooth.

 sed -i 's/#rpi bluetooth/rpi bluetooth/' /etc/mdev.conf
 sed -i 's/#ttyAMA0         root:tty 660 @btattach -B \/dev\/$MDEV -P bcm -S 115200/ttyAMA0         root:tty 660 @btattach -B \/dev\/$MDEV -P bcm -S 3000000/' /etc/mdev.conf

Note: the last command uncomments the btattach command and changes it to work with the Pi 4.

Changes to /etc/bluetooth/main.conf

 Name = Pi-Bluetooth-Speaker   # This is what you'll see when connecting 
 Class = 0x41C                 # Adding audio playback and recording to this Bluetooth device
 DiscoverableTimeout = 0       # Always discoverable
 AlwaysPairable = true         # Always pairable
 PairableTimeout = 0           # no time limit
 AutoEnable=true               # starts Bluetooth when Linux 'sees' the Bluetooth device at boot

Ensure that Bluetooth is started at boot:

 rc-update add bluetooth

Bluetooth's state, including paired devices, in held in /var/lib/bluetooth so you'll need to add this to `lbu` state:

 lbu include /var/lib/bluetooth
 lbu commit && reboot

Manual device pairing

 bluetoothctl
 [bluetooth]# discoverable on
 [agent] Confirm passkey 627133 (yes/no): yes
 [agent] Authorize service 0000110e-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb (yes/no): yes

Device pairing:

 apk add python3 py3-dbus py3-gobject3

Getting this to work currently involves running the bluez-simple-agent after having edited it to always return sucessful. You'll need to comment out some lines (by adding "#" at the beginning):

 vi /usr/bin/bluez-simple-agent
 #import bluezutils
       def RequestConfirmation(self, device, passkey):
               #print("RequestConfirmation (%s, %06d)" % (device, passkey))
               #confirm = ask("Confirm passkey (yes/no): ")
               #if (confirm == "yes"):
               set_trusted(device)        
               return        
               #raise Rejected("Passkey doesn't match")

And then running the revised agent in the background, and pair your devices:

 bluez-simple-agent &
 lbu include /usr/bin/bluez-simple-agent
 lbu commit

Notes: Pairing Agents in BlueZ stack Since Bluez 5.48, iPhones require pairing when connecting on a BLE GAP peripheral, why? Headless A2DP Audio Streaming on Raspbian Stretch

bluez-alsa

At the time of writing this article, bluez-alsa is only found in the community repositories, so you need to edit your repository list:

 vi /etc/apk/repositories

remove the "#" from the community repository, mine is:

 http://uk.alpinelinux.org/alpine/v3.14/community

This is the final stretch. We've got bluetooth working and now we want to link bluetooth to the speakers

 apk add bluez-alsa
 bluealsa -p a2dp-source -p a2dp-sink &
 bluealsa-aplay &

Bluetooth Audio ALSA Backend bluez-alsa doc man bluealsa man bluealsa-aplay Bluetooth audio in Linux: ALSA and LDAC

See Also

Raspberry Pi's blog on How to play sound and make noise with your Raspberry P

There are lots of speaker and amplifier options: