Roon and NUCs

I know loads of you use Roon, on various systems.

In case people are thinking about changing/upgrading, I’ve just spent a long time working out what makes a sensible upgrade from my i3 16GB iMac running Roon Server.

Obviously you can max out the spend and get a NUC10i7 with loads of RAM and SSD space, but since it can run on a NUC5i3, then value for money also comes into it…

Long story short - a good level system which should offer decent UI power (for slick browsing) and rapid database access, and yet still be somewhat futureproof, at a decent price: 10i5.

The series 10 generation is not much more than the earlier series. The i3 is adequately powerful but many people report fast GUI responses with an i5 and above - but the i7 is not going to be necessary. Above generation 8 you can modify the bios to turn off the fan so have a quiet PC.

16GB RAM - 8 GB is probably enough but it’s not too much more for 16GB. 256GB Samsung m.2 SSD drive - the 256 is slight faster than the 128 because the chips are laid out slightly differently.

So, I’ve ordered the bits.

Now, I’ve been browsing eBay for similar machines, and pretty much all the 10i5’s (and generation 8’s too) are going for about 20% less than the new price, but there aren’t too many cheap ones around. I went to eBuyer but other vendors are available (Amazon is expensive for the NUC itself).

If you want to spend less, then a generation 5i3 will run it ok. If you want to spend all your money go for a gen 10 i7 - but that processor will spend most of its time idling.

I thing the 10i5 is pretty much the current sweet spot. Of course, YMMV, but if you’re thinking of doing the same, this may save you a lot of time…


get a semi modern dell optiplex from ebay, circa 150-200 quid, they will take four harddrives, install OMV or similar on it, then roon. There you go, a very powerful Nas/Sever at a fraction of the cost of ready made NASes.

Good review…I took a similar journey recently. Ended up with a gen 7 i5 with 8gb ram. I had a 512 m.2 PCIe drive and added a 1tb SSD Sandisk for the storage inside a Akasa fanless case. I’ve found the i5 very capable dedicated server.

I have an 8GB i5 iMac acting as a server and it’s running wirelessly to an Apple Router.
I don’t know what needs improving. It’s working great.

I’m running on an 8th generation i3 NUC with 8gb ram and a 128gb M2 SSD (Intel). Music is on an internal 2tb Crucial SSD.

With a 50000 track library performance wants for nothing. I’ve dabbled with some DSP with our non Naim conservatory system and it doesn’t break out in a sweat. You never hear the fan running beyond it’s normal idling.

One thing I would recommend is running ROCK on the device. It takes 5 minutes to install and thereafter there is no overhead in maintaining it, it just works like an appliance.

My main music store is on a QNAP NAS which has a realtime sync job setup to replicate to the NUC so as soon as the file arrives on the NAS it gets copied across.

Have Roon running on a NUC5i3 with 8GB RAM and 240GB m.SATA SSD running ROCK since it’s launch

Library is 87k tracks in 6.5k Albums from 3k artists, running on a NAS
Rooon Endpoints are SonoreUPnP Bridge to NDS, Sonore UltraRendu with a XMOS USB->S/PDIF convertor into NDS (inferior SQ to UPnP input), Chromecast Audio and a number of Chromecast devices (4 zones)

This NUC runs ROCK perfectly - indexing & analysis of new materials is fast, using ‘focus’ on the Roon database is instant, and using Search is snappy (remember Search in Roon is also across Tidal & Qobuz, so is dependent on 3rd party sources and internet access/speed/latency).

I have also benchmarked this NUC with lashing of DSP to see could I make it stall.
So DSP with a Convolution EQ filter to all 4 zones with simultaneous playback with the following DSP
Upsampling Redbook PCM to DSD256 on 1 zone
Playback of DSD256 down converting to DSD64 on another
Playback of 24/352 down converting to 24/192 on another
Upsampling Redbook PCM to 24/192 on another

All zones supported simultaneous playback with no dropouts.
The Processing speed on each zones compared to the same on a NUC7i7, and also similar NUC6 units, i.e. the later NUC generations do not bring much more to a ROCK installation, given the embedded nature of ROCK.

All benchmarks can be found on the Roon forum, here with extensive discussion as to why there has not been any performance benefits for a headless, Ethernet only usage application, like ROCK, from Gen 6, Gen 7, Gen 8 Intel processors.

The best summary is here

@simon.pepper yes read all that stuff - very interesting and it informed my decisions.

10th generation isn’t much more than earlier ones (literally a few quid, and >8 fanless); i5 is more than the i3 but the UI performance is reportedly better when browsing, and the cost differential isn’t too great. It’s a lot more for the i7 and not worth it for all the reasons put out in that thread.

For sure, a 5i3 will run most libraries well - but if you’re building a new one now, then for not much more you an have a future proofed one with great performance.

@trickydickie it will be running ROCK - one of the reasons for not going the @garyi approach with the Dell is that I don’t want a Windows box to maintain, with its updates and many background processes. I want an appliance that will restart itself if the power trips off, and so on. I spend all day with tech - I don’t want to be managing a music server, I want to be listening to music!

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It’s not running windows it’s running openmediavault an open source nas software it will literally run for years with no intervention

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Xcentric, I came to the same conclusion as you.
Last week I assembled and installed a NUC10i5 and it works very well, completely silent so far (except for the 2s start up). However the Rock installation was not a 5 minute job, the installation guide does not mention that at least my 10th gen needed to be in legacy mode to boot from the usb. Finding that out and how to do that took a lot more than five minutes… but I got there in the end.

You must have missed it, it’s in the guide

You are right this is were I messed up! Looking at it now I missed the “follow these instructions”, or they added it more recently?

That’s a new addition to the installation instructions. It may be as a consequence of a discussion I started after experiencing exactly the same setup issues. The group were unhappy with the fact the instructions hadn’t been updated in ages.

It took me 10 minutes to install ROCK on my NUC 10i7 but 6 hours to figure out that you needed to change the power management to legacy before changing the boot settings and how to do that. Finally found it on Intel Thailand.

The ROCK guide didn’t cover that part at all at that time (2 months ago). Nice to see it does now.

I guess I owe you a large thanks!:slightly_smiling_face: I guess it was in the thread of yours I found the link how to enable the legacy boot setting. I think I only spent an hour and an half etching a new boot disk looking for info etc. But as you say, great that it’s there now!

NUC 7i5 for Roon ROCK, 65,000 plus tracks. I think the i5 series is the best balance between performance and low power use. Looking at test results, the i5 came within 20% of the i7’s speed, but with a lot less power usage, and of course for less $.


The other omission from the instructions is to disable Safe Boot.

Only took me two evenings to resolve…

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