Roon Nucleus

I have now read 2 reviews of this hardware, in Stereophile (John Atkinson) and in Hi Fi News.
Both reviews fail to address two central questions.
1) what is the need for this?  Since Roon cores can be placed on virtually every playback device around ( PCs, mobile devices, kitchen toasters, etc), why does some need to shell out $1.5 to 2.5K for another piece of Hardware?
2) There was no sonic comparison.  Namely, do files played back on from a device with Roon loaded on it sound different than the same files played from a Roon Nucleus, if all other variables are minimized.
Think of it as an OS, an operating system, much like MAC OS, Linux. and Windows. Roon wants to be the audiophile OS and control everything, and as as business model this makes sense. Will it be "audiophile" grade and successful, well who knows, I suspect you will get multiple opinions. I have been using Auralic Aries Lightning DS connected to my NAS (via Minim Server) and steaming to my DAC for years, so what do I know. I listen to analog almost exclusively anyway (tape and vinyl).
I ditched analog completely but that’s another discussion...I have been using Bluesound for the past 2 years, Node and Vault, but have found it almost as buggy as iTunes on a PC, and the Blue OS App is nothing special, essentially mimicking iTunes.  With all the Bluesound crashes I began to realize that storing my CDs in a proprietary HD was a problem.  Much better to have them on a NAS and then I could pick the playback mechanism, etc.
  So Bought a Synology NAS and was able to transfer the Vault contents to that and have resumed ripping CDs.  Since Roon is the flavor of the month I tried the free download.  It took forever for Roon to scan the 800 CDs on the NAS., almost 24 hours.  The Mac Air overheated and kept freezing up until I removed the Roon software.  I was also unimpressed sonically, with a distinct flattening of the soundstage.
  I know bubkes about IT, but it appeared that the Roon software, which must be extensive, overwhelmed the Computer.  I am guessing that I am not the only person that has had this issue and that Roon has realized that their product may perform better on a dedicated Linux Computer optimized to run their product.  I am also guessing that they just don’t want to come out and say this, because they don’t want to discourage people from buying the software.
  I do find it annoying that the Audio Reviewers, including J.A., choose not to even pose the ?why? question in their reviews.  When it comes to collusion, the Audiophile mags and the manufacturers could show Trump and the Russians a thing or two...
 At any  rate, I am wondering if the sonic issues that I and others have noted with Roon are improved with the Nucleus
I have Roon as well. The end point is a Sonic Transporter and I access the library from an iPad mini. I can say that Roon does not catalog my library to my liking and doesn't seem to recognize my compilation CDs. Not sure if it's a set up issue or something else but I got tired of figuring it out. All the extra content, tags, and feature are kind of useless to me, but i can see why others might like the. I don't think Lightning DS is the be all end all, but it catalogs my library the way I like, is easy to use, and they seem to have gotten past quality and support issues.

In comparison, I can't say one sounds better than the other, and I'm not even going to get into that discussion since digital is not that important to me. As for Roon, I can say it does take a bit to create the library, but I haven't experienced what you have. Then again my library is about 25% the size of yours. I've been pretty happy with Synology, Minim Server, and Lightning DS so I guess I'll leave well enough alone.
 I know bubkes about IT, but it appeared that the Roon software, which must be extensive, overwhelmed the Computer.  I am guessing that I am not the only person that has had this issue and that Roon has realized that their product may perform better on a dedicated Linux Computer optimized to run their product.  I am also guessing that they just don’t want to come out and say this, because they don’t want to discourage people from buying the software.
I know nothing about the Nuclues.  But Roon's hardware requirements are modest and are listed on the website.  

With over 100,000 tracks, I am a very satisfied Roon user.  I originally installed the Roon core on a 2012 Mac Mini loaded with Windows Bootcamp.  I'm now using Windows 10 PC that I built as the Roon Core for audio and also using other software for moves -- i.e. a HTPC.  

With +100k tacks, no track loading delays or problems have been experienced.  I'm a big fan of Roon's interface and have no problems with how my music was originally organized.   

I entered the PC Audio world in 2006.  Since then, I have had several DAC's and tried several different Apple and Windows based music (software) players.  Roon is the latest and for my purposes is a winner. 

I use Roon with a Windows Surface and Laptop acting as remotes and it drives a microRendu connected to a Lampizator DAC.  I'm obviously very satisfied with Roon's sonics and I'm especially happy, because I intend to use Roon as the front-end of a whole house music system.  For that purpose, it just works -- no problems finding end points etc.

I did a direct comparison of Roon to Linn Kinsky using a Raspberry Pi and Digione board.  The board can do both Roon RAAT and DLNA. Linn Kinsky was superior IME.

I think the main reason to use Roon is the tight integration with Tidal.  You can still do this with Linn Kazoo and other players using DLNA renderers.

I use a DLNA UPnP renderer and the SQ is the best I have ever heard, using Linn Kinsky, Minimserver and BubbleUPnP for playback.  12psec of jitter at the end of the coax cable at all sample-rates, measured.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I am glad that there are a lot of happy Roon users out there.  All I’m saying is that I seem to suspect that there also people like me, where it doesn’t so’s a big mother of a program, after all.  And I still haven’t seen an explanation as to why Roon is now selling hardware.  I seem to recall their CEO in their early days stating that their goal was partner with as many hardware companies as possible, but not to compete with them
@audioengr - I have had my eye on the DigiOne player. Do you have any experience with wireless operation? I am interested more so in connectivity and whether there was any issue with dropouts, as a hardwired ethernet connection would be logistically difficult. My Aurilac Aries has always worked fine in wireless mode. I am also curious about set up. The instructions posted on the website seem a bit daunting but not impossible to deal with.

@clio09 - I only used the RPi and Digione wired Ethernet. I did have problems with reliable 192 and 176.4 playback. Even after modding the boards, still has problems. My DAC is picky about errors. Maybe yours isn’t. I have read about flakey WIFI behavior of the RPi, but have not tried this myself.

The thing to do is download DietPi and put this OS on the SD card using your laptop. Then, just plug it into the RPi and power it on and use the laptop to talk to the RPi using PuTTY on the laptop. Free download. Configure the RPi to accept the Digione using the menus that come up on power-up in the PuTTY window.

It’s a $150 way to get S/PDIF coax output for DLNA players and Roon.

BTW, I don’t get 10psec of jitter from the Digione, more like 70psec. I use my own DLNA renderer, the Interchange. The Interchange delivers 10psec of jitter:

$3K with fast LPS supply.

I can also use my own WIFI adapter with special LPS with the Interchange. This has no problems with dropouts, assuming strong WIFI location, and supports 192 error-free. It sounds identical to the wired Ethernet. Cost is $1K for the WI-FI add-on.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Personally I don't get this product at all. It is not that we don't love Roon we love Roon, the issue is the high price for what seems to be very ordindary hardware.

A high quality server absolutely sounds better, we have been doing digital transport comparisons for years.

The first time we compared an Aurender to a modified Mac mini there was no doubt that a dedicated server outperforms even a modded computer, let alone a stock computer,  but that is the rub with the Roon Nuclues products they don't seem to be particularly well built or designed to maximize the sound quality of the data stream. 

We sell many different servers, we sell the Baetis, the Naim Core, the Aurender products, the Lumin products, the NAD servers, and lastly the Innous servers.

The Innous offers a custom motherboard, custom OS, a specialy designed digital output board, and massive power supply upgrades especially the Zennith model which weights about 25lbs!

When you compare that to the Roon Nucleus it doesn't appear that Roon is really engineering a solution to how best to run there software other than perhaps a Linux core designed to maximize the playback of the Roon software.

So my question is why would anyone buy this thing?

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ  
It is reviewed in the current issue of Stereophile which went live recently. Mentioning in case those interested want to know more.

Since this server only has USB output, the question is how well is that implemented.  Is there isolation?  Separate regulation?  LPS rather than SMPS?  And if it's only Roon player and not HQplayer too, what is the SQ like?

Seems like a step-up from a Sonos Connect, with support for higher sample-rates and I assume DSD. Nothing in the documents about this.

Just saw the May 2018 issue of hi fi + featuring a review of the Nucleus by Chris Matthews.
”I had been running the Roon software...for over a year now and one of the issues has been that running it requires a decent amount of processing power.  A tablet won’t do it, so I have been using a MacBook.  It works well enough but that essentially means that the computer is out of bounds while the music is playing.  What has been needed is a separate and dedicated computer for running the Roon Core, linked to the network to assemble and collate the metadata as well as providing an extensive view of the library through your tablet.  Utilizing the Mac also led to some occasionally clunky and irritating reboot moments...”

Pretty much confirms what I thought.  Roon almost fried my computer and ran quite poorly.  Matthews then goes on to extol the virtues of the Nucleus +.  Regrettably, he doesn’t compare the sound of Roon from his Mac vs the Nucleus +
I never tried running Roon on my MacBook Air. I have a Sonic Transporter connected to my network that runs Roon Core. I just use the Roon App on an iPad Mini to access music on my NAS running Minim Server and stream through the Auralic Aries to my Lessloss DAC. Once I abandoned Roon I went back to using the Lightning DS app to access music on my NAS (still running Minim Server).

Per Steve Nugent's recommendation I just set up Kinsky with BubbleUPnP as a proxy to Minim Server. I can't say I notice anything different sound wise. Although the Kinsky interface is nice, Bubble UPnP does not run on my NAS like Minim Server does. I had to set it up on my Mac Mini which means I have to leave it on all the time so Bubble UPnP doesn't shut down. If I decide to stick with Kinsky, and I might as I'm contemplating replacing the Aries, I may drop Bubble UPnP from the equation.
I answered this for myself by buying a Roon Nucleus recently. The simple fact is that no one "needs" this device but it absolutely simplifies your onboarding and integration of Roon.

Though I have the technical chops to build and setup NUC based server, I am short of a key resource these days - time. A $1400 appliance that took me all of 5 minutes to install, setup and use, is highly valuable to me, especially knowing that updates are automated and require nothing from me and customer service is embedded.  I spent probably 10x the effort simply researching the Nucleus than I actually did buying and installing it. 

If I had attempted a build of a similar fanless NUC, I'd probably have a few hours involved in setting this up min, plus trouble shooting. Maybe I'd have saved $500-800? To some that is worth going a DIY route. With the Nucleus, my time saved is being better spent on things that bring value to my life. (For example, I spent 3 hours after hooking the Roon up on a project that will bring me significant revenue, vs 3 hours spent setting up and trouble shooting a Roon server. Which is more valuable to you? Easy answer for me, having already wasted enough hours on getting my Mac Mini based system to play nice with my music system).

The Nucleus does do a few things a standard PC won't do out of the box - it has been optimized to just being dedicated to Roon,is fanless and quiet, and pretty much set and forget. I don't have to think any more about this product, just plug it in and enjoy. Well - I did add an SSD and am in the process of migrating my ITunes library to the Roon SSD, to avoid needing yet another device to access my owned music. 

I also own a Sony HAPZ1ES, a one box music server I initially bought to get away from a PC in my music system. It sounds terrific and is built really well, and clocks in at $2k MSRP. It also won't stream Tidal, and getting music into the Sony from my Mac Mini was not intuitive (although the process is now much more improved). 

Is there a sonic benefit to a Roon Nucleus vs. a standard PC or DIY NUC based server? Who knows?  I think John Atkinson was being kind to at least indulge in the question, but absent some earth shattering differences, his response is about what I expected to read. Would rather that he compared using a directly connected USB DAC vs. using a dedicated endpoint, since most buyers interested in a Nucleus will wonder whether they can use it with just a connected DAC or have to invest in a separate Roon endpoint between the Nucleus and their DAC of choice.

I sure as hell won't waste my time comparing one server's sound to another (though I appreciate hearing of the experiences of those who have done this).I certainly don't think the Nucleus will sound worse than a DIY server, and would guess there are sonic advantages having to do with eliminating various things within a standard PC that contribute to noise. Realistically, however, I don't expect the Nucleus to sound better and that's not why I bought one.

(To be clear - I am more than happy wasting time comparing a new DAC or endpoint to my current setup, in areas where I expect there to be sonic differences). 

So I look at Roon Nucleus as taking the DIY aspects out of the hassle of using Roon. Having embraced the value of Roon as a music OS, the Nucleus is an easy purchase for someone in my shoes who wants to enter the world of Roon with the least amount of hassle.  
@davehg  Excellent post and perspective!
I second that.
I have spent a significant amount of time these Holidays dealing with yet another Bluesound snafu..  I have wasted more time with this product and am looking to move on...plug and play sounds good to me.
Pretty sure this was the inspiration for the Nucleus:

every time I look at the Nucleus I can’t help but imagine action Jack Barker whining to Richard: “No Richard. We don’t need to launch a new build of Roon. What we need is to focus on putting Roon into a box we can sell consumers. We need to think INSIDE the box.”
If someone could please tell me if I am missing something with Roon search or history.  I have multiple artist with names a tad different, we all do.  If I search Michael Kiwanuka for example, every letter of his last name needs to be perfect and completely spelled.  Every time.  Roon can't remember this?  Please advise.  Great albums by the way.
Roon is not Google-like in this regard. Unfortunately, the spelling needs to be correct; not in all cases but certainly with many. When I am having trouble, I Google the artist or album and get the correct spelling. Almost always works and is much quicker than ploughing through Roon search.