Best Server To Run Roon Core


Hi Folks,

I don’t currently run ROON, but would like to begin correctly in order to give it a chance - and I understand that server (hardware) on which Roon core is installed is important for SQ (due to noise reduction and other factors).

What are the best hardware for SQ and usability where ROON core should be installed and why (be it audiophile dedicated servers or modified PCs)? Please comment on the rest of your setup for context if you could.

Thank you in advance.


Ag insider logo xs@2xjmarshak
What is best?
Bang for buck is a RPi 4. You ’ll get better SQ improving the network feed and power supply  than the streaming "server."
If you want easy just get an UltraRendu. I can't recommend it for anything BUT Roon.
if you actually want the best possible server for Roon core, then that would be the Taiko Audio SGM Extreme. it’s a 100 pound beast.

https://taikoaudio.com/taiko-2020/product/sgm-extreme-high-end-music-server/

you will wait 6 weeks for it (there is a line of people waiting for theirs). then when it arrives the Taiko team will Team Viewer into your network and optimize it for you.

once it’s set up likely you will upgrade to their new music management system TAS, a Roon alternative with higher performance than Roon. you will be able to toggle back and forth between Roon and TAS and decide for yourself which way to go.

this is if you actually do want the very best server for Roon.

as far as the rest of my set-up; you can view my system page; my digital path is the SGM Extreme server -> MSB Pro USB -> MSB Select II with dual power supplies. i also have a pair of mirroring NAS's as back up for my files; my files also reside on the Extreme server in PCIe solid state drives.
We have tested many different devices running roon and with a good server you just connect your dac no need to have a seperate core and end point

First we started with pics the became an innous dealer and their servers sounded considerably better

Then we fouund a company out of europe whose servers wrw considered to sound better and were hardware upgradable 
So we contacted them to get samples they didn't have a us distributor so we became one

The 442Evo severs sound amazing

And we're designed from the ground up to be roon cores
This depends.  Servers range in price from a few hundred dollars for a NUC up to $35K for a Taiko.  If you are at the very high end, you want to take into account what is your preferred connection, what clock you are going to use, etc...  Do you have a renderer or roon endpoint?  Which one?  

It is always optimal to have server and renderer on different devices when possible.  This is also where  a bit more processing power is desirable since this is what is interfacing with the internet.  

Taiko is undeniably the best, but $35K.  There are many degrees between  NUC and Taiko.  A few options:

Roon has their own servers, the Nucleus and Nucleus+.  These are lovely, very quiet devices that are obviously designed around running roon core.  They will also serve as a rendered.  The difference in need between a Nucleus and Nucleus+ is driven by size of your library and your DSP.  These are very good options for devices that are under $2K nd $3K respectively.  

Antipodes - they offer multiple server solutions as the S30, S40 and K40 that steadily get better.  The cool thing about Antipodes is that they allow for upgrades.  You can use add an external power supply, clock and ripper.  These range from $3K to $9K.  The K40 is extremely appealing as its goal is to be a brilliant server with the best ethernet connection to your renderer possible.  For a straight server, the K40 is insanely good at $9K.  The K50 is their ultimate device but is streamer, player and clock in one box.  

There are a variety of other options including Innuous, Rockna, Auralic, Aurender, etc....   Rockna is insanely good but best with their DACs.  

I am a Roon, Antipodes and Rockna dealer, I have no association with any other brands mentioned.  


There was an interesting discussion on the design and sound quality if the 432evo servers on what’s best forum the 432Evo master at 16k was found to come quite close to the taiko at half of that servers 35k price.


We are super excited by the aeon which at 7k competes with 14k servers from other companies


Dave and troy
Audio intellect nj
Us importers 432evo music servers
Asking what is the best is always a question that can never truly be answered. FWIW, I use the little green computer I5 server for my Roon core and I am very satisfied with it
These are all excellent replies thank you for the recommendations. Yes, I was looking for something in between RPI and Taiko :)

@verdantaudio - regarding your question:

"Do you have a renderer or roon endpoint? Which one? "

- I am not aware of the distinction incase there is one. Could you please clarify what is the distinction ?


Taiko is undeniably the best, but $35K
YIKES! It can't be 20X better than my SGC sonictransporter! Seriously, the Law of Diminishing Returns must kick in hard here, as in so many things in the high-end.
music reproduction performance never is a price/value/performance linear proposition. in any format.

neither is wine, scotch, or sailboats.....race cars or airplanes.

and the Taiko Extreme is not $35k either. in the universe of $50k--$150k dacs, $100k speakers, $150k+ turntables, it’s just another top level product. not for everyone, but for those who do want the best. and it does deliver that and world class support. a completely tech clueless person (myself) can buy the Taiko Extreme and not worry about it at all. the support is phenominal.
@jmarshak,

Roon Nucleus is a very capable server and renderer. But don’t expect it to sound nearly as good as your existing streamer :-) You need atleast two components (three if you add LPS to Nucleus) if you follow Roon recommended path plus ipad or a tablet for Roon app,

1. Nucleus or laptop or NAS
2. Audio Device (roon endpoint or renderer) ...like SimAudio MiND or EMM Labs NS1

Or you can buy a Innuos Zenith MKIII or Statement that has the both server / rendering functionality. One box, two in case of Statement.

Then there is everything in-between for you to explore.

Also check out Wolf Audio. Another well respected member @david_ten is well versed with Roon. He was a beacon of light for me to navigate through the often confusing Roon lingo. You asked for very best Roon experience and sound......read about Taiko Extreme or Pink Faun 2.16 Ultra.

Enjoy the ride!
@mikelavigne  - Thanks.  Agreed with your point - except in case of good Scotch - where there simply is no diminishing returns. At least not after you are done with it :)

@lalitk - thanks for your pointers.  

Basically, If possible, I am trying to see a viable way by which to TEST out roon, get an accurate representation of sound quality and functionality, and not have to drop a fortune in the evaluation process.
@jmarshak  - If you are only looking for a Roon Core, probably the most simple and cost effective solution is an Intel NUC server. Last week John Darko released a YouTube video of the complete purchase spec and detailed build. Check it out via the link below. It's a great video that shows how you can simply and cost effectively build a dedicated Roon Core. 

If you really want a Roon Core, and you don't want a major investment, the NUC build, as outlined by John, should get you where you need to go.

Good Luck and Enjoy the process........

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVm_tCoxqyg
A Roon server is just that, it is only a Server and its job is solely to handle your music library and communicate with either Qobuz or Tidal.  

A Roon player/renderer processes either the track served to it by server off of your local drive or from Tidal/Qobuz.  That track is then sent by the player to your DAC for decoding.  

If you have a DAC that is a Roon Endpoint and is "Roon Ready" then you only require a server potentially.  

The best case scenario is to have these two things separate and running off of separate "computers".  This is where you will get best performance and generally, the computer for the Server needs to be a bit more powerful than the player/renderer as it is dealing with a volatile internet.  

And then of course there is the outside issue of clocking to ensure minimal jitter.  This is a separate issue and requires understanding what DAC you are using and how you intend to connect.  

Regarding good scotch...I can't recall the last time I had a scotch that wasn't old enough to drink itself.  I am a little spoiled.... 
@jmarshak -- you didn’t mention how many endpoints you plan to run simultaneously, and whether you are going to use DSP (e.g. Roon’s Convolution engine or parametric EQ). If your DAC is going to upsample to high-res formats like DSD, then that matters too.

If you are just starting out, or only have one streamer, and don’t plan to use DSP or DSD conversions, then IMO you can simply use a general purpose desktop or laptop as the Roon core.

But if any of the above applies, then a dedicated Roon core makes sense. You can build your own using Intel NUC, or you can buy from a vendor. In my case, I contemplated building my own NUC in a fanless configuration. But eventually went with Small Green Computer’s sonicTransporter i5, since it came out to be almost the same cost. It is fanless, acts as a heat sink and has been rock solid so far. You can order it with an SSD hard drive pre-installed or add one yourself very easily, no tools required.

Finally, as for getting a one-box solution vs. multiple boxes, I prefer the ultimate flexibility of a multi-box solution simply due to the fact that this space is still evolving quite rapidly. It gives me the flexibility to make incremental changes, for example try a new streamer without changing the core, or swap my DAC without changing the streamer. Of course, this is purely a personal preference and might not appeal to everyone.
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+1 on the SGC ST.  I run one without any storage.  Tidy maintenance free little package.
You could start out like many do and  run a Roon trial on a PC/Mac.  Then  Its easy to move the core to another machine.
+2 on the SGC STi5. I run one without any internal storage, keep my library on a Synology NAS, both outside the listening room. I use a Sonore opticalRendu as the renderer/network player taking the signal via ethernet and feeding my DAC. 
At $1K the Sonictransporter is basically a plug 'n play Roon core priced between an Intel NUC DIY build and the costlier Roon Nucleus(+). 
Since you asked, the rest of the system details are here: https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/133. Cheers,
Spencer
Everyone, thanks.  This is is all really good info.  For now, I would just try to run to one end point and expand in the future if I was to adopt roon.

I read today that in some cases Roon Core can be installed on Synology Nas as well. I assume this is NAS model specific and there are processing requirements that need to be met.
I believe you will find the NAS may be difficult to adequately spec to run Roon well. It will also depend on the size of your current digital library as to the level of server you will need to meet basic quality requirements for Roon.  Highly second a previous recommendation to look at Wolf Audio servers.  US company and they provide excellent information as well as after the sale support.  Reach out to Wolf Audio and speak with the designer/builder Joe Parvey about the different levels of servers available that could be custom built for you. 
I watched John Darko’s recent video on how to build an Intel NUC 

https://youtu.be/ZVm_tCoxqyg and thought that would be a nice quarantine project. So for $762.40 I ordered an i7 NUC, 32GB (16GB x2) RAM and a 250 GB SSD. It was simple to assemble. Updating the Bios wasn’t bad and loading Roon ROCK was a breeze. The kind of NUC I ordered has an external SMPS brick. Plus you can adjust how and when the fan operates in the Bios. But in my testing it doesn’t run much. So I tested it against my Innuos Zenith Mk3. The NUCs background is black. Roon Remote runs snappy and doesn’t crash. All my streaming runs great. I have a number of Roon endpoints on my network. Everything runs great. Soon I will attach my Innuos Phoenix after one of my UltraRendus and see. But I have been thrilled with the NUCs performance so far. I sold my Innuos server. I replaced a $5000 retail unit (2TB version) with an overbuilt $762.40 NUC! Now I have some $ to go out and get a good tube Integrated! Highly recommended. 

The new Mac Mini (new M1 chipset) is dead silent, inexpensive, and if you configure it properly, it is a fantastic option.  I’m running it on treated power with an Oyaide C7 for the mains.  Get a quality network cable, shut off Bluetooth and WiFi, and you’re fine running USB directly from the core.  I use an Intona USB 3.0 isolator, but found that I was almost as satisfied with the sound without using it.  I have built multiple Roon cores, built endpoints with custom LPS and DC cables, and this works as well if not better.  You can also optically isolate the server with a pair of media converters.  I’ve been using a certain type of stone for mechanical isolation, perhaps that helps as well.  Even if the core is running in Rosetta for now, I like what I hear.
Another customer very happy with wolf audio system red wolf 2 sx streamer plus Roon core. Had lumin in my system, listened to innuos statement and the wolf is a major upgrade . Started with the wolf 3sx and upgraded to red wolf 2 with separate linear power supply . Main components in the rest of my system is magico m3, ayre Mx-r and kx-r twenty and the awesome t+a sd 3100 hv reference dac.
call joe Parvey with wolf audio system and he will help you with the right server to meet all your needs. A happy wolf customer

I assembled a fanless i5 NUC and run ROCK which is Roons OS optimized for payback within their architecture. I have no idea if it sounds better than other options but ROCK is free, runs headless, updates in the background and has never crashed since I've been using it over 1 year now. It's also one of the cheaper options unless you have an old PC you can use.
@newtoncr -- I’ve heard a lot about Wolf Audio but never had the opportunity to audition their equipment. I would appreciate it if you can describe the improvements over Lumin and Innuos especially in terms of sonic abilities. Lumin is a well known and established company that has been building outstanding products. If Wolf Audio is a major upgrade, that is quite an achievement considering that it’s a family owned business. Looking forward to your comparison.
I doubt you'd notice a difference in SQ among the major choices**.
It comes down more to price, ease of integration and use, along with what else (if anything) you might want to do with the machine besides run Roon.

Options include:
* raspberry pi (probably the cheapest option; many users seem to be quite satisfied with them; involves a little DIY setup)
* Nucleus (a little pricey, but probably the easiest turn-key solution for running Roon Core)
* Nucleus alternatives such as the sonicTransporter, which tend to be a little cheaper than the Nucleus, possibly with faster processors, plus support for a few music-related applications besides Roon Core (such as HQ Player)
* Mac Mini (possibly a good choice if you might want a full-featured computer for tasks unrelated to Roon; compared to a Roon Nucleus, you'll probably pay less to get more, including faster processing, but this choice goes against some recommendations to dedicate a computer only to Roon processing)

** BACCH-SP not only can be configured to run as a Roon Core or endpoint, but also applies sophisticated "audiophile 3D" processes that do affect the SQ (soundstage/imaging) significantly. Very expensive, though.  
Te yes these devices do sound different one day we did a test in our 150k reference system 

We compared a 15k baetis reference an innous statement a memory player

Each server sounded different and had a unique sonic favor


Lalik the 432 evo was compared to the Pink faun and found to outperform it

And in one of our sound rooms we have 4 different servers

We have a roon nucleus
A lumin u1 mini
a 432evo standard and a 432Evo aeon

Again the top server the aeon sounded the Bestand produced a more musical sound out of the dac

If you look at the design and build of the aeon it has been enginerred to provide a pure data stream to the connected dac

Very few servers use two completely seperate power supplies isolating the cpu and the sound card and clock

If you want to hear rhe Best sounding reference grade server
You have to hear an aeon

Dave and troy
Audio intellect nj
Us importer 432evo music servers

Check out mini Computers from Azulle if not going for a crazy server .  Very similar to the NUC that Roon builds .  Without multi processors will do the trick for a fraction of what all are speaking about here.  Roon is absolutley ripping off people selling an Intel NUc for stupid prices.  The Nucleus is an I3 4GB and the Plus is I7 8Gb .  All they are are mini computers from Intel/  .  I beleive Azulle discoed the I7s but the i5 should do just fine.  $400 add a drive all set. Could just go buy INtel Nuc also for 25% of Roons cost
More excellent Ideas. Thank you.

BACCH-SP appears to have preamp and dac capability as well. It is intriguing but I would be interested in how well it does all the things that it is designed to do.

Wolf Audio will definitely be a consideration.

Some of the recommendation above already have inbuilt server / rendered capability. For this, a Nucleolus was originally my frame of reference.

Consensus from above however, seems to be to keep the server and renderer separate, so thinking for server -to set up a NUC, powered by an external LPS (I might actually have a matching Paul Hynes for this) - total cost for the server with LPS is about $1500. - A separate NUC / PH LPS for rendering would run another $1500 -> for a total of $3500 with cables.

So assuming music storage cost aside, and this setup will be done correctly, thinking if there is a better way to go (SQ wise) for SAME Money with Roon? Or can one get the SAME SQ, but less expensively with Roon?

You don’t need 2 NUCs all you need is an endpoint which could be anything from a raspberry pi4 to any Roon ready streamer. The NUC runs the core and could be attached to a DAC if wanted but most use some sort of endpoint or roon bridge.
How much is the LPS? You can do a decent NUC for about $500-600.
I'm tempted to buy a NUC and set up Roon with my server. The subscription fee turns me off with all of the others I am currently paying for. Maybe it's time to save for the "Life" option if it is still available.
@jmarshak : what is your DAC? 

Consensus from above however, seems to be to keep the server and renderer separate, so thinking for server -to set up a NUC, powered by an external LPS (I might actually have a matching Paul Hynes for this) - total cost for the server with LPS is about $1500. - A separate NUC / PH LPS for rendering would run another $1500 -> for a total of $3500 with cables.
You don’t need 2 NUCs all you need is an endpoint which could be anything from a raspberry pi4 to any Roon ready streamer. The NUC runs the core and could be attached to a DAC if wanted but most use some sort of endpoint or roon bridge.
I agree with Dow Jones here. You don't need another computer to be used as a renderer (or endpoint, what Roon calls it). Depending on what your DAC is, you could use any Roon Ready endpoint. Good value for the money are the Sonore various endpoints (microRendu, ultraRendu, etc.)
FWiW, here's what I've done so far.  

Roon is running on a very low-powered old pre-existing computer (Intel Q9450 - way below an Intel i7 NUC, for example) running Windows 10 and located on our home (wired) network. Despite having up to three zones running at the same time, we have not experienced any dropouts in sound, and appears capable of supporting additional zones. This computer does not do anything but act as a Roon server. We've got our own library of about 700GB of flac files on the server, and additionally I have a Tidal subscription that we access via Roon. Once I understood the advantages of Roon, I purchased a lifetime license. No regrets so far. I will probably upgrade to a NUC (specifically a NUC8i7BEH) at some point in the near future for lower power consumption. 

For my main system, I purchased an Allo USBridge and Shanti LPS to stream to ($400 in total.)  The USBridge output goes to a Schiit Modius ($200), and from there into my preamp.  I'm a former musician, and my preference seems to be for a very transparent sound. The sound quality is very satisfying thus far. Having been bitten by the audiophile bug I am now slowly upgrading other parts of my system - for example, I purchased a Benchmark DAC3 and am going to run some blind tests of that against the Modius. The other relevant factor is the Tidal subscription - I have access to so much additional music (not that everything is on Tidal - it's not), and I'm discovering new things to listen to every day. I've heard $100K+ systems, and they're amazing - no argument there - but the bottom line is that this system makes me very happy on a daily basis. YMMV :)
Hi ggoggin
Thank you for sharing your experience. Interesting!

djones
As you probably know, LPSs can range anywhere from 60 bucks to a few thousand. For the NUC, I would use a Paul Hynes which runs about $750+cables . They are almost impossible to find used.

thyname
Right now I use an Esoteric K01 Dac. Not Roon ready. My current streamer is Aurender N10. It is not compatible with Roon, but I’ll use to compare SQ


@jmarshak
I had the lumin u1 , comparing the lumin with the wolf streamer, using the t+a sd3100 hv dac , the lumin lacked in every aspect . The sound stage was smaller , the bass was not clean and defined , the high was harsher with less detail . The wolf sounded more organic , the highs were not echy, the vocals were whole and the bass very defined and clean.
Comparing the wolf with the statement, the bass was very similar , the mid was slightly less focused through the statement and the high lacked a tiny detail through the statement.
I have played diff formats in comparing the statement and wolf including dsd 512 and the results have been consistent. Hope this helps .
you can contact joe Parvey he is always looking forward to talking to you .


@newtoncr, 

You have a beautiful system. Thanks for your feedback. 
Enjoy! 
@jmarshak  --- your Esoteric K-01 is a SACD/CD player but it is also a USB & S/PDIF DAC. You can get a Roon Ready streamer that has USB out to your K-01. That streamer can be anything (depending on how much money you want to spend), including something like what I mentioned earlier, Sonore microRendu or ultraRendu. Then you Server (Roon Core on roon's lingo) will stay in a different machine, such as NUC, Nucleus.

That's the two-piece solution Roon often recommends. But only because people tend to use noisy general purpose computers as both Core and Endpoint, which degrades the sound. If you do use a great one-piece solution, optimized for audio, such as the Wolf or Innuos mentioned above, you certainly can, it's definitely a (good) option.
@newtoncr - thank you for sharing your experience and findings. Very helpful. I actually wonder how the Lumin X1 would compare with Wolf and Statement.

@thyname - I understand what you are saying. Splitting server and renderer is recommended mainly to isolate both sides from cross process noises and I well built single chassis machine should be able to handle isolation better internally.

This is an option of course.
I don't think you ever specified a budget.
If the rest of your system isn't $35k or above, you'd be hard pressed to do better on sound quality that the Innuous Zenith Mark III,  It's stunningly good and you can rip your entire CD collection with it.  It also handles USB audio output to your DAC, which IMO, is the best.
I use a fanless SD linux unit supplied in the UK by Inside Tech for £638. which has worked perfectly for a year with Qobuz (30,000 albums). 

Fanless Roon Rock Music Server - Intel i3 7th Gen 7100U

RAM4GB DDR4 (1x4GB) Storage128GB 

best input by far is ethernet.

you can see my system on Audiogon.
@newtoncr -- it was actually I who asked about the differences between Lumin U1 and Wolf Audio. Thank you for the detailed comparison. Very helpful, and sounds like you’re thrilled with the server. I was seriously considering Lumin U1 at one point but will definitely do some due diligence on Wolf Audio before making the final decision. Another product that I’ve great things about is Aurender N10/20, but I’m too committed to Roon at this point.
You can run a music server on any computer you want to start and sample the waters. 
You might find that to be just fine.

I never recommend going for “the best” right out of the gate.  The best may just appear to be best based on cost.   
Walk before you run. 
Also for cd res  streaming I’d recommend a wireless connection from server to streamer to help keep the gear that makes music isolated from what is typically a noisy wired computer network.  Others swear by using a wired network connection for the streamer.  Both done right will likely be just fine.