Roon Nucleus

I use a laptop as the core. What is the point of paying for a Nucleus?

It’s designed to be a dedicated serverto run Roon as efficiently as possible by running their own designed operating system reducing unecessary processes, it is more or less plug n play, low maintenance as it self updates, custom milled design and silent in operation.

Does it improve [1] sound quality and/or [2] functionality? My set up is a ‘500’ system

I can’t say they dont claim anything about sq but it’s designed to give the best Roon experience and performance and had a few extra things to do with home automation but essentially same feature set as ROCK the os they provide for DIY cores. Some say they find the Nucleus improves sq over running it on a non dedicated device. I don’t have one but have my a dedicated machine running their operating system and it was a big improvement for performance. It does one thing and one thing only run Roon so it’s more a dedicated hifo component than a computer. Think of it like the Uniti Core.

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If you’re happy using your laptop as a core, there’s no point getting a Nucleus.

The Nucleus was made for people who:
1- Didn’t want to use a computer (usually laptop or mac Mini) in/on their rack to play their music
2- Didn’t want to use a remotely located NAS to run the Core
3- Didn’t want to bother putting together an intel NUC based to run the Core

You could build one yourself pretty quick - full instructions on how to do that on Roon’s Knowledge Base site.

Nucleus is for those who don’t want to bother and would like everything in a nice looking off-the-shelf box that is optimized for the one task. You pay for the privilege and the ease-of-use. Roon was very clear on this when they launched it (at least on their forum site).

I don’t think there’s any improvement in functionality or SQ over any of the other solutions, unless, of course, your laptop is doing multiple things and you suffer from dropouts or other such issues.

There is no real answer to how it compares with “other solutions” because there are so many different solutions available, each with multiple aspects that can affect sound quality. And, as CG says, Roon never muddy the waters by making claims for sound quality. But I can say the Nucleus in my system sounds better than my QNAP silent NAS with M.2 SSD fitted specifically to run Roon. The SSD Roon recommends (Samsung EVO 960) also performs well in this regard.

Exactly - you summarised nicely the reasons why i bought a Nucleus. I’ve done enough messing around with computer audio over the years so this was the route i took when i realised that Roon was the final solution for me. With a suitably sized SSD drive for music storage installed in the Nucleus, it’s a real fit and forget solution. The only time i need to interact with it is to stop the Roon server whilst i copy new music to it. Self build is a lot cheaper and achieves exactly the same results but for something that just works straight out of the box (ok 1/2hr after you’ve fitted an internal drive for music) it’s a no brainer to get the Nucleus.

I have the Core running on a dedicated box because when I want to listen to music I don’t want to have to boot up a computer first. And I often use my laptop while playing music. To me it just seems natural to have it running on its own, requiring zero human intervention.

I ran Roon Core on a Mac Mini. It worked well enough, but I use that Mac for some other things too, Once or twice, some other process running on the Mac would cause some problems and I would get dropouts with Roon. A reboot resolved it, but I decided I’d rather have a dedicated device for Roon.

The Nucleus ($1500) and Nucleus+ ($2500) are really rather expensive (overpriced, IMHO) for what you get. I ended up buying a Intel NUC (NUC8i7BEH), 8 GB RAM and a 250 GB SSD (Samsung 970 M.2 NVMe) and build a Nucleus+ equivalent for about 1/4 the cost of one. In addition I took the 1 TB SSD I was using for audio file storage on my Mac and installed it in the NUC. It literally took me no more than an hour to assemble the NUC and stand it up running ROCK with Roon for playback, following the Roon Knowledge Base instructions. Overnight I copied my 400 GBs of audio files over the network to the internal storage.

Now I have a completely self-contained Roon ROCK appliance that works great, is self updating and is no-hassle, and it runs on a dedicated platform optimized for Roon where it doesn’t have to share processes with anything else. I have also moved it to my music room and put it on the same switch that connects my NDX2.

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