Roon core: mac mini 2012 (i7 quad core), 16GB RAM, 120GB SSD (system, Roon db), 3TB FW HDD, mini and HDD on linear power supply
DAC: dCS Rossini DAC + dCS Rossini master clock
Connection: DAC network port to mini directly, then mini to router via Thunderbolt-Ethernet adapter (mini ethernet ports bridged together).
Question: Is there any sound quality difference from replacing the mini with a better server?
I’m going to have to say, no. But it certainly can improve browsing and the overall experience if you give it a little more power and a smoking fast m2 SSD.
Mini is i7 quad. Faster SSD is an interesting proposition.
The impact of, say, an 8th gen NUC with ROCK vs a Mac mini is speed mainly:
- modern day i7’s are way faster than the Ivy Bridge variants in the 2012 mini
- M.2 NVME SSD’s are much faster than the mini’s SATA interface that is limited to 6.0GB/s
- DDR4 RAM in the NUC is a bit faster than DDR3 in the mini
- RoonServer/ROCK runs more efficiently than macOS
That said, I would not expect it to sound differently. I have run Roon Cores on everything but the kitchen sink (Macs, NUCs, NASes) and never detected a speck of difference using networked endpoints.
Many reasons I use the mini:
- Airplay receiver using Airfoil Speakers
- Simple bridged ethernet config - don’t need a switch for computer + network DAC (dCS Rossini)
I do notice that browsing Roon can get a tad slow once in a while.
Currently Roon db is on the system drive, an OWC 6G 120GB SSD (minimal install so only ~ 30GB are in use). I am wondering if replacing that with a Samsung Evo 860 might help.
If performance intrigues you and macos is important, go for a new mac mini.
If you swap a Mac Mini for a small form factor PC like a NUC or Nucleus, you are essentially changing like for like. Newer will be faster with better thermal properties but your limitations remain the same. The new Uptone product will help. A new server built around an ‘audiophile’ network card would work in your case as it did me. But the only way to prove this for yourself is to find a way to test these options.