Researching an "affordable Roon server/streamer, and my choice...


I learned a lot while researching (ie, torturing myself) for this project, researching an "affordable" Roon server/streamer. I DO NOT want to run the Roon Core on a computer. Obviously there are many other choices like Auralic, Lumin etc and I’ve read reviews until my eyes bled. Oh, to have more money!

Items 1-6 are what I considered and eliminated. Obviously if you have $3000-10,000 to spend, there are other choices. Your mileage may vary. I really wanted something made in the USA or EU, not China (though I would bend that rule for a Denafrips DAC, maybe). If I had super big bucks, some of the DAC/preamps/streamers that have Roon server capability built in look amazing, like SimAudio Moon, but they are *really* expensive, and still require a Roon server. I decided I want to spend more money on an amp upgrade by spending less on the Roon server/streamer, so I set a budget of around $1500. Don’t need/want anything with an onboard DAC.

  1. Bluesound Node 2i: Many owners are reporting hardware and software problems and frustrations. I wanted both a Roon core and endpoint, and it isn’t.
  2. I originally thought I’d get an Aurender N100 until I decided I want Roon, which it doesn’t do. Then I read about problems with Aurenders after power losses and other issues. Nope. Nice units, especially the one for $6k with ripper.
  3. Then I settled on the Innuos Zen III, but it’s made in Portugal and they don’t have a US service facility. In addition, in reading the fine print they don’t guarantee that with the Zen you can run it well as both a core and streamer, and it only has an i3 processor, which some claim isn’t powerful enough. They don’t offer an SSD drive until the Zenith, which is $4k+. It’s out.
  4. Roon Nucleus -- Meh. i3 processor, expensive for what it is, just a server box.
  5. Salk Streamplayer -- Looks nice, has an i5 processor, and the maker is very nice on the phone. Only available in the mid-level with an HDD drive, and I wanted SSD. No internal ripper drive either. So no.

  6. >> The one I would likely buy if I had >2x the money to spend: Wyred4Sound’s MS music server (well reviewed by Darko https://darko.audio/2018/10/a-short-film-about-the-wyred-4-sound-music-server/ ). One box solution, runs as core/streamer, has great connection options incl SPDIF, USB, and I2S and my preamp/DAC has I2S. Built-in ripper. Runs Squeezebox and UPnP apps. REALLY nice unit, but $3k with 2tb SSD. Could but don’t want to spend $3500k to $4500! Darn it. EJ Sarmento, the designer, was super helpful discussing it, and I regret not giving him the order. Next time. https://wyred4sound.com/products/music-servers/ms

  7. THE ONE: Small Green Computer Sonictransporter with 2tb onboard SSD and a Microrendu streamer (the UltraRendu is more and maybe I should have done that?). About $1500, a great value I think. No, not a one box solution but that’s okay, and not really a compromise except for that. Has an i5 processor, comparable to the Roon Nucleus+ which is 2x the price. Should work great with Roon using DSP if I want to. No onboard ripper drive, but just plug a CD reader in and works the same. MOST bang for the buck that I have found, so I hope I am happy with it. The proprietor Andrew Gillis was very helpful and patient with me as I decided. www.smallgreencomputer.com
I will update after testing it.



5e5e82ec 7b2d 4afa 8da1 360c051d7d23patrickdowns
sebrof

Hi - Which Innuos, and are you running it as a combined Roon Core server + streamer? That was my goal, rather than having a separate Core and streamer/endpoint (and def don't want Core on a computer).

I compromised, because while I could run the SGC box as core/streamer (like a Nucleus) I will combine it with the Rendu as the streamer for better signal.

Thanks
@patrickdowns 
I have a Zen Mk3.
Roon core is on the Innuos and Roon client on a laptop. I play local files (ripped CDs and downloaded files) and I stream Tidal and Qobuz (although Tidal will likely go away at the end of the trial).
Tidal and Qobuz are integrated in Roon, so I fire up Roon on the laptop and all 3 libraries (local, Tidal, Qobuz) are there for me to choose from. This is probably something everyone here knows but I'm just getting started in this whole streaming thing so I'm still pretty amazed by all of it.
Innuos Zen 3 works fine as both Roon server and Roon endpoint as long as you don’t want to do a lot of digital processing or upsampling.  I’m listening to mine right now, and it sounds great.  One limitation is that its only outputs are USB and Ethernet, so if you want any kind of SPDIF out you need a converter and an extra cable.  I use the Matrix converter and I2S into a PS Audio Directstream DAC and am very happy with the result.  
I was worried about the spinning Hard drive, too, but I really think you would be hard pressed to hear a difference unless your listening position is right next to your server (like a foot or so).
BTW I was ready to spring for the Zenith, but the nice fellow at Tweek Geek convinced me that the Zen was too close in sound quality to make the extra $$ worth it.
tcatch 

Glad it's working for you! I trust that Innuos machines sound good. My DAC/preamp has I2S and that was a reason why I almost got the Wyred4Sound. I'm about $15k short of the dough I "need" for my ideal system. First world problems. 
@patrickdowns ..
I compromised, because while I could run the SGC box as core/streamer (like a Nucleus) I will combine it with the Rendu as the streamer for better signal.

Why do you think an SGC core and Rendu streamer is a compromise? I listened to the Innuous Zen III, although admittedly not in my system, before buying the rendu, and I don't think the Sonore stuff is lacking in any way, at least when compared to Zen III.