The last puzzle piece: an Android mini pc as Spotify Server

Tronsmart MK808II Mini-pc
Tronsmart MK808II Mini-pc

Earlier I wrote that you can upgrade the soundcard of your tablet of smartphone with an external USB-DAC. I also wrote that not all android devices support those USB-DAC’s. Fortunately, the solution is amazingly easy.

These days there are a lot of cheap Android mini pc’s, which are meant to make a Smart-TV of your old digital TV. It is in fact a small pc, with Android running on it. You can connect it via HDMI to you TV and watch YouTube etc. But we don’t want that, we want Spotify on our Hifi-set! It turns out that some of these Android mini pc’s support USB-DAC’s out of the box! No ROM-hacking or rooting, just the basic firmware (Android 4.2.2) I bought the MK808B or MK808ii for about 40 euro’s. It’s fast enough to show 1080p video, so it’s definitely fast enough to play a Spotify stream. When I connected my USB DAC it immediately recognized it. You can choose to which soundcard you want to play the sound in the audio-setting of Android.

The good thing is, this device is really small, uses little energy, you can leave it on always, and it doesn’t go into lockscreen, which most smartphones and tablets do. With Spotify Connect, you have to unlock the screen before Spotify can see the other Android device (strange behavior I think…). The mk808 doesn’t have that problem, so it’s always available!

For example, you can just install Spotify on the mini pc, and nothing more. It’s a good thing though to install an auto-start-app, to make sure Spotify is started when the mini pc boots. Connect the USB DAC and you have a real Dedicated (to) Spotify Server with audiophile sound, which you can connect to your Hifi-set.

In the next article I will tell more about a great audiophile sounding but cheap amplifier, which is ideal for a setup like this.

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20 thoughts on “The last puzzle piece: an Android mini pc as Spotify Server

    1. Hi Ekonttan,

      HDMI is a digital signal without compression, so than your av-receiver’s dac will do the converting to analog. I think that dac will be high quality, so than you don’t need an external dac. I don’t have a HDMI port on my amplifier, so that’s why I use the external dac.

      Greetings,
      Michel

  1. Hi Michel, great weblog which describes exactly what I need. But installing the Tronsmart is more difficult then I expected. A video or more detailed explanation would be great. My main question is: if I dont use the Hdmi-cable for the sound, then I need to use the USB to connect that to the DAC?

    1. Hi Guus (your Dutch I think?),

      Sorry to hear that you have have trouble with installing the system. If you don’t have a HDMI input on you AV system, than you will have to use a USB DAC, because there is no audio-out at the Tronsmart. There are really cheap USB DAC’s, but if you want the best sound you should look to some high quality USB DAC. I use the (still cheap) one from Hifimediy. If you have the USB DAC, you just connect it to the Tronsmart device. Now, when you play any sound (from Spotify or another app) on the Tronsmart, it will automatically choose the USB DAC as audio-out, or you can select it in the Android audio settings. After that you can connect the USB DAC via mini-jack with your AV system. If you have Spotify installed on the Tronsmart, and connected the Tronsmart via wifi, you can see the Tronsmart in your Spotify Connect list from any other device with Spotify (PC, Android or Iphone smartphone or tablet). Once you select the Tronsmart there, it will play the sound via the Tronsmart, and to your AV system.

      Make sure Spotify is on the foreground on the Tronsmart, or else it won’t show up in the Spotify Connect list. This is where Autostart and Stay comes in, this app makes sure Spotify is started on boot, is always running and is always on the foreground.

      I hope this information is helpful to you. If not, please let me know. We can also email in dutch if that’s easier 🙂

      1. If optical or coaxial digital input is also possibility with your amp, you can also use some cheap ebay hdmi to hdmi w/ optical or coaxial adapter.

  2. Thanks for the answer Michel, me = a dutch indeed but I’ll get meself through in English no problem – as far as writing this in English is concerned. I managed to install Spotify on the Tronsmart (a 908II actually), also installed Spotify Connect and the Google All-in-1-tool, as you wrote. I connect it with a Audioquets Dragonfly DAC. But… I only get a very soft and shaky disturbed sound. I tested and tried the Dragonfly with headphones and a media player from PC to stereo: it works, the Spotify Connect on my Ipad recognizes the Tronsmart Device so that’s working too; I don’t know what’s the problem. Maybe the combination of the Dragonfly & Tronsmart isn’t working – would you have any idea?

    1. Hi Guus,

      That’s strange indeed. Do you have the latest firmware update on the MK908II? What version of Android is it? And have you tried the Dragonfly on a different Android device? (you probably need a OTG cable for that…) Or, maybe you can try with a powered USB hub between in, but I doubt if that would make a difference. Does it recognice the device good if you look at the audio settings of Android? You should see the dragonfly (or the chipset) there.

      Really strange, because it does something, but it gives bad sound…
      Please let me know about the questions above.
      Greetings, Michel

      1. Hi Michel,
        I asked the people from Audioquest and they mailed me that the Dragonfly needs more power, it is designed for laptops and pc. The Tronsmart 809mkII has Android 4.2, it recognised the Audioquest as external sound device without problem – to the power is the problem it seems. Some more reading about using the Dragonfly on Samsung or Android-phones also mentioned this power-problem. I’m lucky to be ableto return the Dragonfly to Bax-shop. Then I’ll get myself the Sabre as well. A powered USB-hub doesn’t look very good, not sure if it’ll work, more stekkers..

      2. Hi Guus,

        Good to hear that the problem is clear now. I didn’t know that some of these dac’s use more power than other, but it makes sense I think. The Sabre should work, if the USB power of the MK908II is the same as that of the MK808b, but it would be strange if it was different.

        More “stekkers” is not good indeed, it’s a mess behind my tv right now 😉

    2. Hi Guus,

      I’ve searched a bit, and found out that some people had trouble with the MK908II and USB audio adapters. But, mostly those people where on android 4.1 or so. Since Android 4.2.2, Android has good support for USB Audio. I also read that with some people, the USB Audio was fixed when the used a ROM, other that the stock one. You can find some of those ROM’s here: http://www.freaktab.com/forumdisplay.php?136-Beelink-Tronsmart-T428-MK908-etc

      The guy who makes these ROM”s has made a lot of ROM’s for Android Mini PC’s, so I think they are quite good. I think you will need ROOT to install a ROM, but I read the MK908II is already rooted…

      There where also some threads at the fora which says the USB port is too weak to power a high performance DAC, so you could try to connect the DAC via a powered USB HUB. My DAC worked fine directly connected to the MK808II, but at the moment I’m also using a powered USB HUB to connect the DAC, a mouse and a USB to LAN adapter. So it’s pretty useful. But, it would be great if you could test this first.

      I’m curious if some of these options will work, so please let me know.

  3. Hi Michel, thanks again!
    I thought about it, but the Dragonfly was 150 euros and I can return it, get my money back. anders besteed ik er zoveel geld aan dat ik evengoed een 2ehands versterker met Hdmi en interne dac zou kunnen kopen. I also can get a Sabre u2 DAC though Marktplaats voor minder dan 30 euri.. dat sluit ik aan en dan ben ik er wel klaar mee..al dat geklooi met die k-apparaatjes is wat te tijdrovend, heb ook een gezin, baan en band (Los Hollanditos check it uit)

    1. Hi Michel, a last update from a happy dedicated-spotify-server-user! Just a received the Sabre U2 dac and it’s all working fine now. Thanks again for your very useful blog about this topic. Maybe it’s an idea to write about this in the part about the DAC, for other followers? Others may also buy the Audio Dragonfly, because it gets a lot of good reviews and there is no information about the problems with power when using on a Mini-pc.

      1. Hi Guus, great to hear the Sabre works for you! And a very good idea to add a “warning” about the Audio Dragonfly, I will add it soon.

    1. Hi Kristian,

      I think it should work with it, but you should check the fora of the devices to find out. It supports USB DAC’s, so I think any USB DAC will work, but don’t know for sure. Please let me know if you find it out.

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