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
I have enjoyed a Roon Nucleus Plus server for over a year now and it's been "rock solid", no issues streaming or updating or operating.  I use one of the USB ports for an external hard drive, the other to connect to my DAC and it's dead quiet.

I had previously run the core on a Dell laptop and it ran and operated fine, but the sound quality of the USB port wasn't as good as the Roon server.
I'm also in the DIY Roon ROCK camp. I built a Roon server using a NUCi7 in a fanless Akasa Turing case. I built a higher end configuration because I wanted to be able to support multiple zones simultaneously and experiment with DSP. So my configuration with an i7, 16GB RAM, 512MB M.2, 1TB SSD with a linear power supply was about $1200. 

I initially connected this via ethernet through an EtherRegen to a Bryston BDP2 streamer (with IAD upgrade) and then to my DAC using AES3. 

I bought a Denafrips Gaia DDC and, after some experimentation, ended up selling the Bryston and connecting my Roon server directly to the Gaia using USB and then from the Gaia to the DAC using i2s. I also moved the EtherRegen to the router side of the Roon server. 

After installing the Gaia, I found no benefit in using the streamer. 

@jaytor thank you for sharing this. This is great.

I just have some questions:

Is the main purpose of the Gaia DDC to re-clock or anything else?
Also, I am not familiar with the economics of the Gaia DDC vs the Bryston Streamer. Was your main motivation to sell your Bryston because it was more expensive than the DDC or some other reason? I ask this because in essence (if I understood you correctly), it sounds like by adding the DD converter, it enabled you to remove the external streamer.

Thank you
The Gaia does a few things.

It can convert virtually any input type to virtually any output type, so you can optimize the connections to your devices based on what works best and what cables you have available. 

It isolates the inputs from the outputs and removes a lot of the noise. 

It has extremely high quality oven-controlled femto oscillators (comparable to what you'd find in the best streamers and dacs) so that the signal delivered to the DAC is as clean and jitter free as possible. It can also sync to an external clock if you use a master clock source, or if your DAC can output clocks (like my Denafrips Terminator Plus). 

If purchased new, the Gaia is about $1700 (price adjusts based on exchange rate with Singapore dollars). The current model Bryston streamer (BDP-3) sells for $4100. Mine was the previous model, although used the same output board as the BDP-3. So as a Roon endpoint, it was equivalent. 

My main motivation for purchasing the Gaia was to have a way to use i2s with my DAC (which at the time was the Denafrips Terminator - since upgraded to the Terminator Plus). I had read that i2s worked best with the DAC. I had not intended to sell the Bryston when I bought it, but I found that connecting directly to the Roon server via USB worked at least as good (I think maybe better, but the difference is very subtle). 

Using i2s from the Gaia to the Terminator made a very noticeable difference in sound quality. I haven't had a chance to compare other inputs on the Terminator Plus (I've only had the new DAC for a few weeks).

I'm using fairly nice cables for the USB and i2s connections (Audioquest Diamond USB and Tubulus Argentus HDMI/i2s). But I initially connected the Gaia to the Terminator using a cheap generic HDMI cable ($12 from Amazon) and even with this cable, the difference was significant compared to using other inputs connections.


I think you could be disappointed going from an Aurender N10 with the Conductor app to a Roon-based system.

I have an Innuos Zenith Mk. 3, upon which I was running Roon Core. At the suggestion of another member, I tried Squeezebox using Ipeng as a remote. The sound was significantly better; the music was clearer, the background was quieter and there was greater dimension.

The results were pretty shocking and somewhat disappointing because I really love the Roon UI and the Ipeng UI is nowhere near as easy to use or full featured.

I’d be curious to hear if other folks have had a similar experience.