Mac Mini alternative for Roon

My Mac Mini currently hosts my Roon core. What alternatives would improve sound quality?

My Mac Mini (late 2012, Core i5/2.5GHz/16GB RAM/2x1TB SSDs) operating headless with no monitor or keyboard is running Audirvana v3.5 fully optimised (Direct Mode - Integer Mode 1, sysopt etc, OS stopped at El Capitan 10.11.6 to retain this capability without hacking.) it is functioning as a renderer as well as library, feeding direct to a DAC via a dedicated USB bus output, the DAC having been designed to maximise RF rejection.

Its sound quality in a brief comparison was indistinguishable from a Melco N1A. I haven’t compared sound quality with Roon, as I rejected Roon for other reasons when I trialed.

But perhaps by alternative you meant alternative platform on which to run Roon, rather than alternative to Roon on the Mac Mini?

I’m not sure alternative Roon cores would improve SQ.

If your Roon Core was connected to a USB DAC and doing both Core and endpoint duties then yes quite possibly.

With your NDX2 as the endpoint and the Mac as the Core elsewhere on the Network ?

Unless your Mac is seriously underpowered and you were running simultaneous Roon endpoints and lots of DSP then I can’t see what the Core runs on (as long as it meets Roon specs) making a difference.

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I run Roon on a headless Intel NUC and have no problems - but I have never compared it to anything else to compare SQ etc. The NUC has worked flawlessly for 2-3 years.

If the Mac has a network connection to a streamer rather than a direct USB connection, and is on a different mains circuit, and is physically separated by some distance, I wouldn’t worry about it.

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You can get a Roon Nucleus, which normally should improve over Mac Mini running Roon. However, for that kind of money, better try to get a second hand XPSDR for your Ndx2.

I missed an opportunity to buy an “as new” nucleus for a very good price and since then have mused about getting something to replace the Mac Mini on the grounds that something with no moving parts and dedicated software etc might steal an edge on SQ.

I have bought a power supply for the ndx2 and it is very nice addition (I will update my profile!).

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The Nucleus is an excellent fit and forget option. I like mine and apart from fitting a SSD drive to hold my music library when it first arrived, it’s not needed fiddling with since.

As I’m sure others will mention, you can DIY a Core quite easily if you like doing that sort of stuff. Roon make it very easy whether you DIY or go with the Nucleus.

A lot of people seem to fret over the effect of network cables and switches, with claims that tgey all make a difference, though possibly dependant on the other variables introduced by a network, and on the specific streamer used, and possibly the electromagnetic environment in which the network sits… A direct USB connection, provoded the DAC is sufficiently immune to RF, removes all the network variables and influences…


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It’s expensive but it’s a powerful off-the-shelf Roon server.
If the OP is not using DSP or sampling changes then the Mac should be fine. I run Roon on a Win 10 laptop with a small SSD without issue, I’ve set it to reboot each night just in case there have been Windows updates.

Because it’s more powerful and specially dedicated for that task. In theory, because I don’t have Roon, neither Nucleus or Mac Mini.
As I said, « normally « , or in theory.

It sends a low bandwidth stream over a local network. There is nothing complicated or taxing about this. And the Nucleus is just a NUC.

Mind you, a fanless NUC with Roon Rock is a great way to run a Roon server, it is quick and has been zero maintenance so far. And if one wants minimal hassle, paying the premium for the Nucleus can make sense, vs. another fanless NUC.

I just don’t think it makes any SQ difference vs. a Mac Mini that’s in reasonable shape

I’ve been wondering whether there are any hardware changes that would “sound better” than my Roon Nucleus which sits in my ‘server closet.’ (I have a hi fi switch on the Fraim and a high quality ethernet cable from the switch to the ND555.)

It’s clear to me at all that swapping out the Nucleus for another piece of hardware would make the networked music any better.

The Roon Nucleus never needs rebooting and has been totally reliable. If the Mac Mini is working fine I’d just stick with it. If your Roon is working slow, an upgrade to something more powerful may be desired.

Missing not?

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Whoopa - right

Roon (or Apple) software updates require active intervention as do reboots following (increasingly) occasional power cuts….this means that a monitor, mouse and keyboard need to be available for the Mac: this is annoying rather than a key driver for change. My main issue (as ever) is to improve SQ: a Nucleus, or equivalent host for the Roon software would be worth investigating if it achieved this benefit. I really enjoy my Roon/Qobuz experience and plan to keep these in place.

Tried a Nucleus into DAVE and heard no difference over Mac Mini.

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Moved my Roon Core from a Mac mini (late 2012, with maxed out ram and an ssd) first to my Synology NAS and then to an i3 NUC. Did not notice a sound difference, but all the “appliance” conveniences you mention are real.

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