Maximizing sound quality with Roon?

What is the best option provided I like the hardware relatively close to my ND streamer?
Currently I run Roon Core on a Mac book pro that I attach to my switch (EE8) that also my Streamer is connected to. I prefer the sound if connected like this, but it is not a long term solution for me to have the MBP in my listening room, so considering a headless solution.

options:
Roon Nucleus
NUC w. Roon ROCK
Innous Zen/Zenith
Mac mini

Opinions, anyone who compared different options?

Ripping functionality is of less importance having ripped most of my CDs to my Nas already. Don’t see me using a lot of dsp either so cpu power is not a huge concern.

Thanks in advance!

I’ve got a ‘headless’ MacMini (old one- Early 2009 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; with 8GB of memory and a single SSD for the OS/Roon/Media) stuck in another room, connected to the network switch that’s wired to all the points around my house- my Roon end point (Allo DigiOne Signature) is also attached to one of these points.

I can then use a phone/iPad/whatever to connect to the Roon Core.

I’ve been playing with the DSP a bit today but even with that I’m still only using about 10-15% of the CPU with the OS using about 10%. So even this old Mac’s still perfectly capable.

I rarely touch it, if I need to do anything I connect to it with ‘Screen Sharing’; when I rip I use a more modern device and just copy the files across to the Mac Mini.

I keep wondering if I should get a more recent Mac, or a NUC running Roon Rock but it doesn’t really seem to be necessary; who knows, maybe it would sound better if I did…

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Thanks,

My Mac is from 2011 and seem not to be under any stress either…
Have you compared sound quality with your ripped music stored on the same devices as the core vs. on other computer or nas on your network? Any benefit having it locally?

Also have you tried a switch close to you naim system and your core also connected to that switch? Makes a positive difference in my system!

I’ve not compared music stored on different devices to the core so I can’t really answer the question!

I did have the MacMini and the Roon End Point in the same room at one point and did have them connected to a switch in the same room over short (2m cables).

I then moved the MacMini to another room with about 10m of LAN (and patch cables) between the roon end point and the switch (about 2m of patch cable from the MacMini to the switch).

If anything the system sounded marginally better with the MacMini out of the room containing the HiFi; I put this down to the Mac’s switch mode PSU subtly managing to interfere with the HiFi (I know, I know I should run a dedicated supply…)

When I found Roon to be the bees knees for interacting with my local music and streaming sources, I bought a Roon Nucleus. All my local music now sits on an internal SSD. There are cheaper solutions and DIY options available too if that floats your boat. The Nucleus sits away from the Hi-Fi in my office along with other network kit. Just make sure the machine you decide on meets the Roon specs and you’re sorted.

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Ok, I’m sure someone who tested local files in eg a nucleus vs on nas comes along with an answer to that.
Regarding the switch close to my streamer, in my case I clearly prefer it and it also allows me to use chord signature streaming cables that also provide a sonic benefit in my system. I suspect the problem in my system is the router that I suspect is rather noisy (or whatever causes this) phenomenon, unfortunately I believe it’s a must as provided by my internet provider :frowning:

An alternative could be to get a Pi based HAT with Ropieee. There is a list of compatible HATs on the RoPieee website.

Allo, for instance, has the DigiOne Signature which you can get with lineair power supplies, still be within the MacMini price range and have a transporter / Roon end point that has a lower noise floor.

This will improve your sound over a Mac Mini, which are great machines but not engineered for audio reproduction.

The HATs (= a raspberry Pi with one or more dedicated audio boards) are low cost computers engineered for audio. The Allo should be hooked up over a SPDIF to your Naim streamer.

I don’t believe that anything apart from an intel processor (at the moment) will run the Roon Core so some form of computer is needed to run this and serve the content (both local and streamed from Tidal etc.)

I’m running Roon’s core on a Mac with the Allo device acting as the end-point, serving the ‘digital audio stream’ directly to my DAC; I’m not using the Mac’s audio circuitry at all.

Given the original posters ‘spec’ I’d assumed he planned to tuck the computer running RoonCore away somewhere and access it remotely for it to feed his streamer.

You are correct, it is the core/server function I’m after. If I will be able to tuck it away I’m not sure as so far I preferred both my Roon core on MBP and prior to that my nas acting as upper sever connected on the last switch with the streamer.

Roon suggest that you don’t do this, and that rather than use a direct USB connection (not that you would with a Naim streamer) you should use a network connection to put some distance between the Roon Core and Endpoint. That makes sense to me, and I wouldn’t put a server of any sort on my rack with the HiFi. I certainly prefer to keep my non-Roon servers well away from the HiFi, and given the higher power consumption of the Roon Core compared to a UPnP server, I would apply the same logic.
As for which solution would work best, like you I use a MacBook Pro to run the Roon Core, and it works fine, slightly better when using a wired connection if I can be bothered to plug it in. If I go for a headless Core, if my Unitiserve dies I might just replace it with an Innuos. My gut feeling is that all you need is the entry level Zen Mini when using a network connection. Beyond that, I’m no further down the decision making process than you are.

I run my Roon Core on my iMac in the background and still works when the iMac goes into user standby . Works a treat… currently demoing the Chord DAVE DAC again driven by my NDX2 playing Roon.
I have tried running on other platforms such as a Mac Book pro and could hear no meaningful difference.
The iMac is lightning fast on Roon, and hardly registers any load when processing Roon, even if playing around with DSD DSP…

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I run Roon on a Mac mini, but have been considering future dedicated hardware to run Roon ROCK. A key driver for me, at the moment, is memory leaks on macOS. I see degradation in responsiveness over a period of time e.g. Roon will start with 25MB and then jump to 425MB on initiation of first stream; it then progressively increases its memory footprint as more interaction and playing occurs. My last restart was when it hit 3GB.

There are other instances of this on the Roon forum, some going back a couple of years, and appears it hasn’t been fully resolved yet.

(And in terms of hardware for ROCK, I’m leaning more toward NUC than Nucleus at the moment. Funny how price can rear its head relative to Naim budgets :slight_smile:, but I might actually enjoy the parts consideration and assembly for NUC.)

No that’s not correct. Plenty are using AMD processors for Core and some people consider they give the best sound. Pink Faun use AMD, for example.

What you cannot use to run Core is any of the ARM boards like Raspberry Pi’s etc

Thanks, I guess I should have said x86 compliant or similar, must admit it’s a few years since I’ve had anything with an AMD processor in.

But that was the point I was trying to make that it won’t run on any of the various Pi devices (which is a shame really).

I’m a newcomer to Roon and currently use it on a 2008 vintage Mac Pro which has two Intel Xeon processors running 8 cores and 32 GB ram. The Roon software runs from the 1 TB SSD boot disk and the music library is on a 3 TB Sata disk in the machine. It seems to perform well and even playing DSD files has plenty of processing power.

I do love the functionality of Roon and my end points are Naim NDS, Muso and Muso QB first gen. Also have a Lindemann Bridge which is Roon ready and also a couple of Bluesound devices which are also Roon ready.

The important bit is that the sound quality from my NDS is extremely good and I’m hearing much more music, space between instruments etc. Higher resolution files and DSD files do seem to stand out a bit more in clarity, but a crap recording is a crap recording and I’ve plenty of those.

I think moving forward when the Mac Pro starts to die I will invest in a Vortexbox as I still have an awful lot of CDs yet to rip, mostly classical box sets.

Tim

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Hi yes DSD itself takes not much processing power, it’s if you apply DSP functions to DSD or transcode it it can then be more resource consuming.
Also worth remembering Naim don’t send DSD to their actual DACs, they convert to PCM first… DSD to PCM is a lossy process, so if you are sending DSD to a Naim DAC/Streamer you will be hearing Naim’s ‘interpretation’ in their inbuilt transcoding software which is pretty good in my opinion.
However it can be worth comparing with Roon’s DSD transcoder built into their Core, albeit with first gen Naim streamers you are limited to 24 bits ample word size from Roon. The later streamers go to Roon 32 bit.

A key consideration with DSD is ultrasonic filtering to reduce audio intermodulation artefacts… unless you enjoy them of course …

I tried several options for the Roon Core.

  • Roon Core on a PC running Windows
  • Roon Rock on an Intel NUC (standard enclosure)
  • Roon Rock on an Intel NUC motherboard placed in a fanless case powered by a fancy linear power supply (Teddy Pardo).

The last option was based on positive forum experiences.

For library management purposes I regularly swap from the Roon Core on my PC to the fancy and expensive Roon Rock on the fanless case.

The three options sound exactly the same, no perceptible change.
Which makes sense… but I like experimenting.

I now have a fancy, and very expensive, Roon Rock server :joy:

My advice for any Roon user would be : don’t spend money on the Roon Server.

Money is better spent on :

  • better streamer or Roon Endpoint (makes a huge difference)
  • sorting out the network (adds a valuable and noticeable difference)

@Joppe
In the context of your system I’d go for Roon Rock an intel NUC.

If you plan to place the Roon server in your listening room, I’d go for a Nucleus or NUC motherboard + fanless case (the standard NUC case can be quite noisy)

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I ended up going for a Roon Rock i5 NUC in a fanless case. I already had 500gb PCIe m.2 drive, 1TB SSD for the NUC so I only needed to add NUC, Ram and the fanless case. If I had to buy it all, it would have still been less than a third of the cost of a Roon Nucleus (cheapest model)

However, I’d point out that I had to make a change as the processor on the QNAP 453 Pro NAS that I was using for the Roon Core was maxing out as the NAS isn’t just for music.

If whatever you are using now is managing ok (CPU wise) and you’re not bothered with having a dedicated silent 24/7 server then stay put. I didn’t notice any sound improvement, just speed improvement of using the app. Which is now very fast in terms of moving around the app and processing DSP features etc.

For me, in addition to the performance improvements, I now have a small box that I can take with me when I go away to self catering properties… just USB connection from the NUC to my M Scaler / TT2 and ethernet to the router and that’s it. Mobile headphone rig.

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I did that, comparing a top QNAP fanless NAS to Nucleus+ which sounded better to my ears with a Seagate USB HDD compared to the better WD Red inside the QNAP. Fitting a pro SDD inside the Nucleus improved things further, with a bigger jump to follow when I powered it using a Sean Jacobs (Custom HiFi Cables) DC3+

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I certainly found that keeping my NAS and then Nucleus+ away from the Naim racks was positive for SQ

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