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Morrolinux's Pirate radio (PiFmRDS / PiFmAdv implementation with Bluetooth and mp3 support) - Stream music to your car's FM radio or use it as a Bluetooth speaker via headphone jack

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May 3, 2017


Morrolinux's Pirate radio (PiFmRDS implementation with Bluetooth and mp3 support) for all Raspberry Pi models. Exclusively tested on Minimal Raspbian (ARM).


mpradio has been redesigned and wrote from scratch in python. We moved here


  • Resume track from its playback status hh:mm:ss across reboots (CD-like expirience)
  • Shuffle on/off
  • Customizable scrolling RDS to overcome 8-chars limitation
  • Skip to the next song by pressing a push-button (GPIO-connected on pin 18)
  • Safely shutdown by holding the push-button (GPIO-connected on pin 18)
  • Stream audio over FM or 3.5mm Jack (Bluetooth speaker via jack audio output)
  • Send mp3 files or zip/rar albums to the Pi via Bluetooth
  • Bluetooth OTA file management on the Pi with applications such as "Bluetooth Explorer Lite"
  • Read metadata from the mp3 files
  • Multiple file format support [mp3/wav/flac]
  • Read Only mode for saving sdcard from corruption when unplugging AC
  • PiFmAdv (optional)(experimental) implementation for better signal purity
  • Control pipe commands during playback (explained below)
  • Update just mpradio by sending via Bluetooth (Update via App will be soon available)
  • Bluetooth companion app for android (Work in progress...)
  • Display Android notifications over RDS?
  • Automatically partition the sdcard for a dedicated mp3 storage space (instead of using a USB drive)

Known issues

  • Due to a design flaw in BCM43438 WIFI/BT chipset, you might need to disable WiFi if you experience BT audio stuttering on Pi Zero W and Pi 3:
  • Boot can take as long as 1m30s on the Pi 1 and 2 due to BT UART interface missing on the board. Reducing systemd timeout with echo "DefaultTimeoutStartSec=40s" >> /etc/systemd/system.conf should help


First make sure your Raspbian is up to date:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get -y full-upgrade && sudo apt-get -y install git

git clone mpradio-master

cd mpradio-master/install && sudo ./


You can just download and flash a full raspbian-mpradio.img image from here. Be aware even the "latest" image could be "not so latest", but certainly will work. Just wait for it to reboot twice on first use.


By default, mpradio will always be running automatically after boot once installed. No additional configuration is needed. However, you can change the FM streaming frequency (which is otherwise defaulted to 107.0) by placing a file named pirateradio.config in the root of a USB key (which of course, will need to stay plugged for the settings to be permanent)

pirateradio.config example:

btGain=1.7            		;gain setting for bluetooth streaming
storageGain=1         		;gain setting for stored files streaming
output=fm			;[fm/analog] for FM output or 3.5 mm jack output
btBoost=false		        ;Enhance Bluetooth audio. This might add a little latency
implementation=pi_fm_rds	;[pi_fm_rds/pi_fm_adv] - pi_fm_adv has a much cleaner sound

persistentPlaylist=true		;do not play tracks twice unless all of them have already been played
resumePlayback=true   		;(resume track from where it was upon reboot) require persistentPlaylist to be enabled
fileFormat=all          	;which file formats to search for. [mp3/flac/wav/all]

updateInterval=3      				;seconds between RDS refresh. lower values could result in RDS being ignored by your radio receiver
charsJump=6           				;how many characters should shift between updates [1-8]
rdsPattern=$ARTIST_NAME - $SONG_NAME		;Pattern which is passed to eval() to produce title EG: $SONG_YEAR - $ALBUM_NAME

Optional: Protect your SD card from corruption by setting Read-Only mode.

use utility/ as follows:

sudo bash ro to enable read-ony (effective from next boot)

sudo bash rw to disable read-only (effective immediately)


It (should) work out of the box. You need your mp3 files to be on a FAT32 USB stick (along with the pirateradio.config file if you want to override the default settings). You can safely shut down the Pi by holding the push button or via App, and waiting for about 5 seconds until the status LED stops blinking. If you enabled "persistentPlaylist" option, your Pi will never play the same song twice before consuming the full playlist. This means if you add new songs on the USB stick, with "persistentPlaylist" enabled they won't be played until the current playlist is consumed. You can "rebuild" the playlist (looking for new recently added files) if needed:

  • Via App


  • Boot your Pi with USB stick unplugged. (The current playlist will be erased.)
  • Safely shutdown your Pi
  • Power on your Pi once again, with the USB stick in it.
  • You're done! (mpradio will rebuild the playlist, indexing the new files as well)

Also, please remember that (though it would be probably illegal) you can test FM broadcasting by plugging a 20cm wire on the GPIO 4 of your Pi.

Control pipe

You can perform certain operations while mpradio.service is running by simply writing to /home/pi/mpradio_ctl


  • Play a song on demand: echo "PLAY /absolute/path/to/song.mp3" > mpradio_ctl
  • Skip the current song: echo "SKIP" > mpradio_ctl
  • Seek the track forward or backwards: echo "SEEK +10" > mpradio_ctl or echo "SEEK -10" > mpradio_ctl
  • Play all songs within a folder (via media scan): echo "SCAN /absolute/path/to/folder/" > mpradio_ctl

Bluetooth companion app

I'll post the source code once it's mature enough, but you can test an alpha (0.2) version here

NB: I haven't handled all corner conditions yet, so crashes may occour. (Make sure your Bluetooth is on and your Pi is paired, before even starting the app)




cd mpradio-master/install && sudo ./ update

Or, if you prefer to be explicit:

cd mpradio-master && git fetch origin && git reset --hard origin/master && cd install && sudo ./

Uninstallation / Removal

In order to remove mpradio along with the packages that come with it:

cd mpradio-master/install && sudo ./ remove

This has the effect of removing dependency packages whether or not you still want them. If you would like to keep the packages that mpradio depends on, run the following instead:

cd mpradio-master/install && sudo ./ uninstall

Debugging / Troubleshooting


mpradio is launched as a service (via systemd) upon each boot.

To check whether the service is running or not:

$ sudo systemctl status mpradio

To start or stop the service:

$ sudo systemctl [start/stop] mpradio


Bluetooth connection logs are found at /var/log/bluetooth_dev.

If the Raspberry Pi is not showing up as a Bluetooth device, check whether the interface is UP, and that the bt-setup script is running:

$ hciconfig

$ sudo systemctl status bt-setup

If you are having issues with pairing Bluetooth for audio, please also check if simple-agent service is running:

$ sudo systemctl status simple-agent

If you are having issues with Bluetooth not connecting once it's paired, please check whether bluealsa is running or not:

$ sudo systemctl status bluealsa

A simple schematic of how things work together:

MPRadio schematic

Warning and Disclaimer

mpradio relies on PiFmRds for FM-Streaming feature. Please note that in most states, transmitting radio waves without a state-issued licence specific to the transmission modalities (frequency, power, bandwidth, etc.) is illegal. Always use a shield between your radio receiver and the Raspberry. Never use an antenna. See PiFmRds Waring and Disclamer for more information.


Morrolinux's Pirate radio (PiFmRDS / PiFmAdv implementation with Bluetooth and mp3 support) - Stream music to your car's FM radio or use it as a Bluetooth speaker via headphone jack




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