My quest for an easy-to-use, high-quality audio board pretty much came to an end when Adafruit released their Audio FX Sound Board, available in both 8MB and 16MB versions, with and without a built in amp. Interestingly, this board uses the VS1000D codec chip, unlike many similar boards thast use the VS1053 or VS1053B.
This board is really the best of all worlds because it doesn’t require a separate micro-controller to run, and uses a similar file name convention as the MP3 Trigger by Sparkfun. And though Sparkfun’s board was nice, the MP3 quality was the main drawback.
As always, Adafruit’s tutorial was spot on and before long I had the test files working and could create my own sequences. I’ve worked with many boards, and it’s safe to say THIS is the board you are looking for to trigger high quality audio with little hassle.
Only snafu that I ran into was the power connection. I didn’t have any JST connectors that could be soldered onto the board itself. I had some LiPoly Backpacks (originally designed for Trinket), and tried mounting one of these just as Adafruit suggests but I just didn’t like the result. The backpack rides too close to the sound board and leaves too much room for connection issues. So I went with a JST breakout board that I could easily mount wherever I like, away from the soundboard. This also led me into the world of LiPo batteries, so now I’ve got a selection of those for experiments. Next step is to get this onto a permaboard and into more active use.
Update: In February 2015, Adafruit came out with a “mini” version of the same basic board, with a few less trigger pins.