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The $250 Complete Roon System, with MQA!

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Posted (edited)

I've just put together what I reckon is a ridiculously cheap way of having a very good sound quality streaming system, with storage, and library management, spending very little indeed.


The system consists of an Intel NUC running Roon ROCK (dedicated Roon Core), a USB HDD for storage, and a USB audio device for headphone playback.


The NUC is an old DN2820FYK, which is a Celeron machine. Roon says that this level of hardware won't run Roon. It does, with no problem at all. To the bare NUC I added 8Gb of RAM,

and a 32Gb SSD. Roon ROCK is very small, so the 32Gb SSD still has 25Gb available for the Roon database. My 500 album library takes up 2% of this. so there's room for over 20,000

albums in the database. The 500Gb HDD has room for about 2,500 albums in FLAC format. Plus you can have all the streaming service albums as well.


The audio device is an Audioquest Dragonfly Black, which has the ability to output full MQA. The ROCK can perform the first MQA unfold, and the Dragonfly does the rendering.


Now, as this is not meant to work, I just gave it a bit of a stress test to see if it would fall over.


With the NUC sitting there running Roon ROCK, I plugged in the Audioquest Dragonfly Black. There were some flickering lights, then the Dragonfly popped up as an output device on the Core. I selected it, and set it up to be an MQA renderer with the Core doing the first MQA unfold.


This worked fine, with the purple light on the Dragonfly coming on when playing MQA material via the Tidal. All sounded fab through the headphones plugged in to the Dragonfly.


I then enabled two DSP functions, Crossfeed, and Parametric EQ, and played with the EQ, with three bands modified.


No stuttering, no problem browsing. No issues at all. At the moment, this low level of hardware seems to run Roon very nicely.


This system cost me about $250 as I used mostly second hand bits, but if you just bought the NUC second hand, and the rest new, it would be:


If I price it out:

$200 2nd hand NUC with RAM and SSD (you can get i3 and occasionally i5 NUCs for this price, which would be even better)

$69 1 Tb USB HDD

$139 Dragonfly Black


Total: $408 for a complete Roon system with storage for 5000 albums, complete with MQA playback. Not bad. A high end audio company would wrap this in a fancy looking box and sell it for $10k plus.


Here's the complete system, just bring your headphones and subscriptions.




And here is the browser running on the PC, and the iPad.







Edited by koputai

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Is there much noise from the nuc fan? I want to do similar in a silent case

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@Bunno77, There's a bit, and from my olde worlde spinning USB HDD. The dodgy phone noise-o-meter on my phone says 34 db.


I guess in the dead of night you'll hear it, but if there's music playing, you won't.





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Love it. Best thing is you have unlimited high quality music that is presented in many different customisable ways. You got all the album artwork and artist notes.

Roon radio will take you on many musical discovery adventures 

You also have internet radio through Roon.

End game music lovers source here -for peanuts.

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Fantastic achievement!


I wouldn't have the confidence to build up a system like that, although I've got lucky with a just-arrived Advance Acoustics WTX-1000. It's a Bluetooth mini-computer amp/DAC. After I ordered it (for a 2-figure sum!) I thought I had shot myself in the foot due to BT bandwidth limitations, however it's streaming Tidal files using the aptX codec from my Huawei Android phone and it sounds fantastic.

Edited by lenticularis

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