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Roon Core - Mac Mini, Intel NUC, or Roon Nucleus ?

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Posted (edited)

Looking to invest into a dedicated Roon Core as my main server + streamer.

 

Intension is to place the core in my HiFi rack and connect to my amp directly via USB-B. As it will be in the rack with my other gear, fan noise and just general noise floor is a consideration.
 

I will mainly be streaming from Tidal and Qobuz via Roon. I don’t have a large library of hi-res files, so large storage capacity is not a major issue. 

 

- what are people running?

- what are the advantages of one over the other? 
 

Looking for people to share their experience with any similar setup.

 

thanks in advance.

 


 

 

Edited by JC.

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I run Roon ROCK installed on a Intel Nuc as my core, in all my listening area’s I have a Raspberry Pi 4 installed with Ropieee as my Roon endpoint with Tidal connected to an external DAC.  This gives me Spotify connect as an added bonus to keep my wife happy.

I would not buy the Nucleus, it’s just an Intel Nuc in a fancy case.

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31 minutes ago, JC. said:

Looking to invest into a dedicated Roon Core as my main server + streamer.

 

Intension is to place the core in my HiFi rack and connect to my amp directly via USB-B. As it will be in the rack with my other gear, fan noise and just general noise floor is a consideration.
 

I will mainly be streaming from Tidal and Qobuz via Roon. I don’t have a large library of hi-res files, so large storage capacity is not a major issue. 

 

- what are people running?

- what are the advantages of one over the other? 
 

Looking for people to share their experience with any similar setup.

 

thanks in advance.

 


 

 

The Roon Nucleus is silent (passive cooling) and even the base model (which I use) can do multiple zones with DSP and PEQ enabled. For the sake of a plug n play solution that just works, looks good and comes with direct support from Roon, its a definite consideration.

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3 minutes ago, Hydrology said:

The Roon Nucleus is silent (passive cooling) and even the base model (which I use) can do multiple zones with DSP and PEQ enabled. For the sake of a plug n play solution that just works, looks good and comes with direct support from Roon, its a definite consideration.

Indeed. When you consider it's about the price of an Ultrarendu which does the same thing but without remotely the power capabilities for advanced DSP and PEQ, it's a perfectly reasonable price to pay and a good way to avoid PC fan noise.

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I run a HP Elitedesk 800 G2 i5 16GB and 512 M.2. 
It's super quiet as I can't hear it, 3500 albums in Roon, Tidal and connected to a DAC.
Some say to get one of Clay's PSU's to add to the sound but I haven't done that yet.

I have no issues with it (and it's connected to a Dell touchscreen too) 

 

Just my 2 cents 

 

 

 

20200629_081326.thumb.jpg.ed7a36b403a0b32d98af536e4db170c9.jpg

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Posted (edited)

I run a Mac Mini, because I had one available.  It doesnt need to be fast or new, just 16GB of RAM i found was required for a big library DB.  Also I run it away from the system in a cupboard with the NAS.  Whilst it doesn't make noise, being physically isolated from hifi area is even better.

 

The Mac Mini connects to the DEQX via ethernet.

 

I think any of the solutions above are good with Roon, and If I didnt have a Mac would have been happy with a NUC or Roon Nucleus.

 

If you are planning to use a USB cable to your DAC?  the Roon Nucleus may edge out the NUC and Mac Mini.

 

Any solution will benefit from an SSD for the Roon DB, the music itself can sit on any HDD

 

 

Edited by Demondes

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1 hour ago, Demondes said:

 

 

Any solution will benefit from an SSD for the Roon DB, the music itself can sit on any HDD

 

 

I have my music on a Synology NAS. No issues. I had it on an external drive to test and no issues. But agreed. 16GB and a SSD (or a M.2) drive for the DB is a must

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Posted (edited)

I've got a little baby Lenovo ThinkCentre M92P for ours. Its silent. I've got an external soundcard for it, SPDIF out into the receiver. Also a Windows wireless keyboard (has a touch pad). Its awesome. That stays on 24/7 and if I need to get online etc I can by just sitting on the sofa - also good if I want to move music around or have downloaded it and not in the music folder etc. But we run Roon off an ipad. Very tidy setup. I've only been using it 3-4 weeks. Very pleased.

 

Music is stored on the NAS

Edited by Peter the Greek

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4 hours ago, Hydrology said:

The Roon Nucleus is silent (passive cooling) and even the base model (which I use) can do multiple zones with DSP and PEQ enabled. For the sake of a plug n play solution that just works, looks good and comes with direct support from Roon, its a definite consideration.

 

Intel sell passive nucs that are totally silent as well, so not seeing that or the DSP/PEQ features of the Nucleus being worth the extra $1500+.  Roon ROCK takes all of 10 minutes to install, I’d call it pretty plug and play to he honest.  If you like it more power to you, I’d rather spend the cash on a good quality DAC.

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Posted (edited)

got into Roon in the last half of 2018 and went the next step early 2019 by  installing a 15m Ethernet run to connect our upstairs modem/router (connected to NBN) to the Roon Nucleus in our downstairs main system. Photo of main setup below. Also photo of Roon controller on computer with Roon running to NAD (for LS50s) and Schiit Jotunheim (for LCD-3 headphones). 

 

Self installed 1TB SSD and loaded about 15,000 FLAC tracks onto the Nucleus. Used dbPoweramp and separate CD drive to rip at computer in office and saved direct to Roon SSD via Ethernet There is a very good White Paper published by Roon on why they didn’t include cdripper with Nucleus and other design choices. 

 

I connect the outputs of the Nucleus as follows:

 

- USB1 output to Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ for MQA decoding to go through Musical Fidelity M6si and Paradigm Reference Studio 100s;

 

- USB2 output to Oppo HA1 Headphone Amp with Oppo PM1 headphones; and 

 

 - HDMI out to Denon AVR 4520 for multi channel. 

 

I had some great help on the StereoNet audio software forum to get the multichannel working (overcoming my own incompetence).  The system and software has performed flawlessly in all formats (incl MQA) in 2ch and multichannel. Love the Roon interface and have discovered heaps of music through Tidal and Roon radio. Have been enjoying the MQA decoding by Roon (in part) and the Brooklyn (balance) but to my ears it is not always clearly better (Schiit Jotunheim and LCD3s or Oppo HA1 and PM1s which are not MQA often just as good). 

 

Using Roon controllers (computer, iPads and iPhones) to control 11 outputs (this includes outputting to our Sonos hardware around our house).  Roon has been stable and delivering great listening results and lots of interesting reading. All in all Roon and Nucleus has been another significant step forward in our Hi-Fi system and the quality, variety, experience and enjoyment of music.

 

To my mind Roon’s not quite as easy as Sonos but the extra quality and features make the relatively small increase in complexity definitely worth it with the bonus that it runs on our Sonos hardware.
 

Have not dipped into DSP at this stage. 

 

Because the Nucleus runs the Roon Core no need for computer to be on. 

B25D257E-CF0B-438B-931C-DDABC861B729.jpeg

48CE470A-A5B0-49C0-8EB0-91F89DA5C452.jpeg

Edited by KRSDarwin

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17 hours ago, Peter the Greek said:

I've got a little baby Lenovo ThinkCentre M92P for ours. Its silent. I've got an external soundcard for it, SPDIF out into the receiver. Also a Windows wireless keyboard (has a touch pad). Its awesome. That stays on 24/7 and if I need to get online etc I can by just sitting on the sofa - also good if I want to move music around or have downloaded it and not in the music folder etc. But we run Roon off an ipad. Very tidy setup. I've only been using it 3-4 weeks. Very pleased.

 

Music is stored on the NAS

What was the reason to go SPDIf over USB ?

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17 hours ago, idiomatically said:

 

Intel sell passive nucs that are totally silent as well, so not seeing that or the DSP/PEQ features of the Nucleus being worth the extra $1500+.  Roon ROCK takes all of 10 minutes to install, I’d call it pretty plug and play to he honest.  If you like it more power to you, I’d rather spend the cash on a good quality DAC.

I like this approach. Cost effective, low noise, and easy to setup.

 

What is DSP/PEQ ? Is that the DSP settings in the bottom right corner of roon where the Zone is ?

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@KRSDarwin thanks for the detailed feedback. That’s a mightily setup you have there. Is the Brooklyn DAC and MQA renderer ? So you get full MQA unfold ??

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11 minutes ago, JC. said:

What was the reason to go SPDIf over USB ?

Most AV Receivers don't have USB audio input.

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Hi JC,

 

Yes, the Brooklyn DAC+ allows a full MQA unfold.  The Brooklyn DAC+ gets great reviews (Stereophile, a recommended component) and has been very good in my system. To my mind the Brooklyn DAC+ also looks great and is very good to operate.  There is also a streaming version I believe (the Manhattan ?)

 

There are other forums here about MQA which are worth looking at but I would say that MQA on really well recorded material has the edge but nothing really saves badly recorded material. 

 

Look forward to reading up on where you go with your system and seeing the final setup. 

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I would also add that Roon ROCK handles numerous simultaneous streams, I’ve had 9 on the go with my NUC setup without any issues.    I have also checked on the DSP/PEQ claims, the both Rock and Nucleus run the exact same DSP engine.   DSP’s not my cup of tea so never bothered to look into it before now.

In fact the only differences I can see is Nucleus has been stripped of un-required drivers, USB audio devices and had some thermal management tuning and includes a couple of 3rd party licenses for Control4 etc, nothing that effects SQ.  In fact Roon themselves make no claims about SQ at all and refuse to be drawn on a SQ debate saying their software makes Zero difference to SQ.

So really you are paying for support, a flashy case and remote shell access to the OS.  That is it, heck of a premium.  Nucleus+ is what $2499 USD or $3600 AUD... a 9th Gen Nuc build is around $1000 AUD,  thats a lot left over for endpoints and very good DACS.

With MQA just keep in mind it is a software compression solution and in no way needs hardware, as per it’s spec and MQA UK themselves once the 1st unfold is done in software all musical information is unlocked, to quote them exactly;  ”
The first unfold recovers all the direct music-related information. Output is 88.2kHz or 96kHz.”

After the first unfold they are “authenticating” that is sounds as per the master...  so it can’t logically get “better” from that point with hardware and stay authenticated. 

@KRSDarwin Nice setup mate btw, seems well thought out for your purposes.   I run the Kef LS50W’s at work for convenience and my team love them.   


In my lounge I go from a Roon ROCK Nuc to a Raspberry Pi4 with a RME ADI2 DAC balanced out to the balanced in on a Schiit Jotunheim and then balanced out to my Elac Navis ARB51’s speakers.  Simple, small and sounds great imo.

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1 hour ago, KRSDarwin said:

  There is also a streaming version I believe (the Manhattan ?)

Brooklyn Bridge

 

The Manhattan is at a much higher price point (~$9k)

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1 hour ago, JC. said:

What was the reason to go SPDIf over USB ?

Old receiver, no USB

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I use an Intel NUC10I7FNH4 10th Gen Core i7 NUC in another room for my Roon server and it acts as the Roon server for 3 media players, runs a kodi server to playback video, runs a minidla server to serve video to TVs on my lan the kodi server can't reach, and runs a Unifi controller as well. The main media stream goes to my hi-fi and is constantly delivering 768 or 705kHz 24 bit data with a 260k tap convolution filter which amounts to a constant 50Mbit data stream  and still has plenty of headroom for lots of other processing. I use a Roon bridge on my main PC that's in my study to connect to my DAC.

 

image.png.0a4cdb671a221adf131da6aa6b43c606.png

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@Ittaku sounds great. 
does that NUC run a fan ?


How do you get 705kHz to your endpoints without a direct USB connection ?

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, JC. said:

@Ittaku sounds great. 
does that NUC run a fan ?


How do you get 705kHz to your endpoints without a direct USB connection ?

Yes it is not a passive NUC. However its base speed is 1.1GHz (and throttles to just 400Mhz) which means when it's idle it uses virtually no fan - I configured it in the bios to the quietest setting, but the fan would still come on and off so it was better to set it to a low fanspeed as the lowest setting instead of off as the on and off was more annoying. However I've since moved it out of my study after configuring it so I don't care about its noise now since my main PC is completely passive.

 

I have USB connections from my main PC to my DACs, and my main PC has roon bridge installed. The "background music" lounge room uses the internal analogue output on the Intel NUC to the surround system since it's mid-fi at best and only ever run low level. Roon downsamples that one if playing the highres files.

Edited by Ittaku

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On 29/06/2020 at 11:01 AM, Hydrology said:

The Roon Nucleus is silent (passive cooling) and even the base model (which I use) can do multiple zones with DSP and PEQ enabled. For the sake of a plug n play solution that just works, looks good and comes with direct support from Roon, its a definite consideration.

How is the performance of the base model ? is an i3 + 4GB ram adequate ?

At what stage would you really need the plus model with an i7 + 8gb ram ??

Im assuming when you have more than 5 zones and a large library. 

On 29/06/2020 at 1:14 PM, Demondes said:

 

If you are planning to use a USB cable to your DAC?  the Roon Nucleus may edge out the NUC and Mac Mini.

 

Yes running a Curious USB cable to my DAC. 

For this use case, why would the Nucleus edge the others out  ?

On 29/06/2020 at 3:15 PM, idiomatically said:

 

Intel sell passive nucs that are totally silent as well.

I havnt been able to find any 'off-the-shelf' silent/fanless/passive intel NUCs.

Any options ive seen is buy a NUC, and a 3rd party passive case (such as Akasa).

 

Which intel model was you referring to ?

 

On 30/06/2020 at 10:14 AM, idiomatically said:


In fact the only differences I can see is Nucleus has been stripped of un-required drivers, USB audio devices and had some thermal management tuning and includes a couple of 3rd party licenses for Control4 etc, nothing that effects SQ.  In fact Roon themselves make no claims about SQ at all and refuse to be drawn on a SQ debate saying their software makes Zero difference to SQ.
 

I was doing some reading on the roon forum. There is mention that using a nucleus adds "zero signature to the reply chain compared the a mac mini or nuc". 

 

What this means im not exactly sure. I thought maybe they are referring to the Roon Advanced Audio Transport (RAAT) that appears in the signal path information. Surely this is still present with a Nucleus . Perhaps @Hydrology can confirm ?

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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, JC. said:

How is the performance of the base model ? is an i3 + 4GB ram adequate ?

At what stage would you really need the plus model with an i7 + 8gb ram ??

Im assuming when you have more than 5 zones and a large library. 

 

The base model is MORE than adequate. From time to time we are without the PLUS model on the floor (site evaluation, loaner etc) and the stock Nucleus still has no issues with 25+ zones, PEQ and DSP enabled on some zones. My unit at home never skips a beat.

And while I never talk up sound quality advantages, almost all of our clients who eventually stepped up to a Nucleus from a NUC, laptop, Mac Mini etc have sung the praises of the sound improvements.

 

Yes my day job means the Roon Nucleus is part of the portfolio of products I sell. Do we push the product hard? Not at all. We push the concept of the Roon experience first, the hardware comes later. Nucleus dealers make a ridiculously tiny amount of profit on the Nucleus, so you wouldnt get rich selling them!

NOTE: I was a Nucleus owner before we offered them as a product to sell. It was my experience with the product that pushed me to want to sell the product. Too much messing around with custom PC builds etc = less time listening to music.

 

Edited by Hydrology

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6 minutes ago, Hydrology said:

The base model is MORE than adequate. From time to time we are without the PLUS model on the floor (site evaluation, loaner etc) and the stock Nucleus still has no issues with 25+ zones, PEQ and DSP enabled on some zones. My unit at home never skips a beat.

And while I never talk up sound quality advantages, almost all of our clients who eventually stepped up to a Nucleus from a NUC, laptop, Mac Mini etc have sung the praises of the sound improvements.

 

Yes my day job means the Roon Nucleus is part of the portfolio of products I sell. Do we push the product hard? Not at all. We push the concept of the Roon experience first, the hardware comes later. Nucleus dealers make a ridiculously tiny amount of profit on the Nucleus, so you wouldnt get rich selling them!

NOTE: I was a Nucleus owner before we offered them as a product to sell. It was my experience with the product that pushed me to want to sell the product. Too much messing around with custom PC builds etc = less time listening to music.

 

Hey mate, thanks for that. Ive ready similar over at the roon forums that most people that migrate form MM/NUC to Nucleus absolutely love it.

So your shop does loaners for purpose of audition ?? 

Perhaps I'll shoot you a PM to discuss.

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On 29/06/2020 at 1:44 PM, Demondes said:

 

If you are planning to use a USB cable to your DAC?  the Roon Nucleus may edge out the NUC and Mac Mini.

 

Yes running a Curious USB cable to my DAC. 

For this use case, why would the Nucleus edge the others out  ?

 

 

The combination of optimised OS/Driver/Hardware combo i suspect would provide the best output from the USB.  Likewise for more expensive options such as Antipodes

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