Implementing a Roon Core Server--Success & Comments


I installed a Roon Optimized Core Kit or "ROCK" on a new Intel NUC.  Here are my thoughts.

1.  ~$450.  This is substantially cheaper than a Roon Nucleus (~$1300). 

2.  4 Hours Work.  After I got supplies, this took me all of four hours.  Why?  Well, There were all sorts of glitchy things with--interestingly, NOT ROON--the Intel NUC.  All sorts of dumb stuff happened that I had to spend some time on forums researching.  For example, I couldn't get the NUC to recognize a USB fed keyboard or mouse.  I'm not using the ROON ROCK with a monitor or keyboard, but you need one for the initial install.  What a pain!  That was one of 3-4 aggravating things, which once I cleaned up all was good. 

3.  Getting up To Speed.  The Roon ROCK integrated well.  During the initial 2-3 boots it was slow to get up to speed--likely reading everything for the first time. Up and running, it just stays on, 24/7.  Impressive that it's so stable.  Very impressive in today's world. 

4.  Worked OK with Bluesound.  The Roon ROCK did ok with Bluesound. Overall, things worked and sounded fine.  One issue was getting the Roon end to stop seeing players in the house individually; they were stuck in a group pairing from a party we had awhile ago.  No the end of the world, but it means I still have to use the Bluesound app to turn switches off here and there.  

5. Worked Wonders with my DAC.  My tube DAC, while it does do DSD, is not a Roon partner.  Nonetheless, I was able to find it networked through the software and send the Roon signal natively to it with no processing.  This was sonically amazing for me.  Everything got bigger, clearer and punchier.  My DAC has always been fed by my Bluesound Node or Node 2i.  This was a meaningful improvement. 

I love the Bluesound product line.  Yet, I have to agree with those who say Tidal sounds better directly into their DAC via USB or another compatible feed.  Running Tidal into the Bluesound then to my DAC is good, but not as great as this. 

6.  Roon Community.  The Roon Community made this much less a pain in the ass than it could have been or would have been in, say, 2005.  There are great resources at their website:  articles, forums, FAQs, and so on.  Very informative.  While I wish that I didn't need any of this to begin with, when I needed it, it was fairly clear and thoughtfully written with few exceptions.


jbhiller
@arafiq,  are you close to a Micro Center store?  Or you can buy online at Micro Center and have your parts list shipped to you.  I went that route as Amazon and other e-retailers didn't have exactly the model I wanted.  I went with the I3 version that Roon recommends in the link djones52 sent you.  

I'm about a week in and the ROCK has not crashed or slowed once!
Also, @arafiq , I forgot to answer your other question-- I3 v. I5 and sound quality.  If you aren't using DSP I3 is fine.  And, I bet I3 could handle DSP on one endpoint (just not through multiple streams). 

One thing to know-- you have to connect the Roon ROCK NUC to your wifi via ethernet as it doesn't do wifi or at least mine doesn't.  

I just put an extra xfinity pod (mesh router system extender) behind my system and plugged the Roon ROCK NUC right into it.  
I bought my components from newegg. I went with an i5 to do some DSP. I got a fanless case haven’t had any problems so far, been running it 24/7 for a few months. Something like this would work for a basic config it might do some DSP, you just need to add memory and M.2 drive. 

https://www.newegg.com/intel-boxnuc8i3bek1/p/N82E16856102212
Thanks for the DSP tip. Since I also use headphones (Hifiman Arya, Focal Clear, and Sennheiser HD6XX), I do have several DSP filters (parametric EQs) setup for each headphone. There is a Micro Center not too far from my house, so I will check it out this weekend. From what I've been reading so far, this is what I need ...
1. Intel NUC i5 (i5 mainly for DSP)
2. 16 GB of RAM
3. 512 GB SSD (NVMe)
4. Roon ROCK OS (free download from the Roon website)
5. Keyboard and mouse for the initial setup
6. USB stick (I'm assuming this is how I can copy the ROCK download onto the NUC)

Is this all, or am I missing something? Your advice is much appreciated.
You got it!  Right down to the USB stick--you have it all.  

I had a devil of a time getting the NUC to boot from the USB drive on which I put the ROCK OS.  I ended up having to go into the bios on startup and play around with the various settings concerning what drives the NUC would boot from.  I can't recall the exact process but I remember I had to putz around to make it boot from USB.  Also, even before that hiccup I had to hold down the delete key on the first bootup to get the NUC to recognize the keyboard.  After those two issues, the ROCK booted seamlessly and I've been stable since.