Architectural issues

Hi Andy

I need help. I occupy the middle ground between having an interest in hi-fi and enough interest in computers to want the best sound quality and ROON experience I can but am somewhat overawed by the high end system ownership and knowledge of the users on here. And even though I come back night after night, I still have that missing insight into exactly what it is I need - I just can’t get the final bit of the jigsaw put together on the technical side.

I have a humble enough hi-fi set up. I’ve recently bought a pair of Tannoy DCT6E floor standers (since ROON), currently paired with Cambridge Audio AZUR Blu-Ray and a Denon AVR1910 amp (more on that later). I have a Yamaha AV677, Mission M74 floor standers and an Apple TV in another room.

Computer wise, I do have 4 Macbook Pro’s - 3 of them new - and an older one stable enough to act as a remote. Last week I bought an iPad Pro to run ROON. The Core is my working MBP15 and currently sits astride the hi-fi when at home. I have a Dragonfly USB DAC connected to the Denon. And a spare OPPO HA-2 to use as a DAC instead of the Daly. I do have a couple of Apple TV’s but prefer to wire the Core into the amp. I have it running on cable ethernet - and I have a decent enough 50MB connection. All of the music is now streaming from TIDAL. The router is near the hi-fi.

Now I understand the huge positive implications of Roonspeakers - I can free the CORE - and replace it with another endpoint, possibly the older Macbook. But from what I have learned on here - that’s probably not where I want to go. I want to get computers away from the hi-fi.

My real ambition is to invest in sound quality. In short, I want a new amp - but do I need a DAC/AMP combination? A bridge. A streamer? Do I need to run an ethernet cable running the 15 feet from a CORE or remote computers on my desk into a DAC that goes to the amp? Do I wait on a ROONReady amp? - (but bearing in mind that I don’t run a high-end stereo - I require an AV amp that needs to run 7.1 speakers when it’s not in ROON Stereo mode playing just music).
I’ve looked at the 1500-2000 AV offerings from Pioneer, Marantz, Denon - will they ever adopt RAAT or this not who ROON is for?

I am just looking for an experience ROON user to look at what I’ve got - the potential investment I can make - and make some suggestions for an architecture that would work well…principally a recommendation on the big black or two that is going to take ROON and pipe it through my speakers. And how I get it there in the purest form…

I hope you can make sense of my dilemma - ROON has renewed my interest in music. It’s a phenomenal piece of kit and I have signed for life and keen to make the most of it. Yesterday.

Thanks in advance.



Jonny - this is a thread about overall Roon architecture, not individual needs for help. So replying to your questions would be to go off topic. However I admire your passion and encourage you to start a new thread about your very specific questions. There are many good people here that will be happy to help, I’m sure.

That said, being one of the many people here that might be able to help, I’ll send you a personal message over the next 24 hours or so with my attempt to answer you questions. But it’ll be just one guy’s opinions, which kind of underscores the value of starting a thread asking your questions, so you can get many opinions to weigh in.

Please look for a PM from me soon. Hoping I can help.

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Hi Jonny and welcome to life !

I thought we’d bring this into a new thread. I’m working on a response for you and will get it up pretty shortly.

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Hi Jonny,

Firstly, a disclaimer. Until July 2015 I listened to CDs, vinyl and tape. For digital I used an ancient Cambridge DacMagic 2 (iia) with many modifications and a Zapfilter output. Then, on the recommendation of another enthusiast, I got the Auralic Vega. Suddenly I had a genuine soundstage and I was hooked.

However, I have only been looking at digital audio for about five minutes, compared to the experience of others on the forums (and, of course, the devs). I’ve learned a lot since June, forgotten most of it and continue to get things wrong all the time (probably will until they put me in a pine box). So please take anything I say with a huge grain of salt. I’ll set out for you the factors I am taking into account myself looking forward, and then try to relate that back to your gear.

As you say getting noisy general purpose computers away from the hifi is at the heart of architectural considerations. Commonly this is done by having a “noisy side” and a “clean side” and having no electrical (or galvanic as people say for some reason) connection between the two. My preference for that connection would be Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Toslink (in that order). Others would leave out Wi-Fi (I’ll come back to that later). Toslink won’t do DSD (more later) so that leaves Ethernet. Ethernet is a wire but it is transformer coupled at each end meaning the signal crosses a magnetic gap. I understand, however, that there is a common earth connection, which can still carry noise (hence my preference for Wi-Fi). Ethernet is, however, a much better connection than USB or coaxial when it comes to separating the noisy side from the clean side. Also a 15 foot run of Ethernet is very likely to be indistinguishable from a 3 feet. The same can’t be said for USB.

There are also three things I want to be able to do looking forward that will affect my architecture choices:

Firstly, I want to use HQPlayer with Roon. I bought a licence recently after trying it out earlier in the year and am enjoying it immensely. The way HQP integration will work with Roon, however, means that I will have to either connect the Core to my DAC by USB or use a Network Audio Adapter (NAA) which is a lightweight program recognised as a network connection by HQP.

Secondly, I want to explore real time room EQ. Again, HQPlayer will let me do that with it’s convolution engine.

Thirdly, I want to explore MQA. Tidal are going to start streaming it in 2016 and both Tidal and Roon have indicated they will develop software decoders. I have not seen anything about how MQA will interact with HQP. It may be that I will be able to decode MQA in Roon and feed HQP a native 192 kHz signal. It may be that will interfere with the <10ms timing resolution that MQA promises. That all remains to be seen.

Taking all the above into account I have three options:

  1. Use a preconfigured WiFi/Ethernet bridge to connect to my DAC;
  2. Build my own lightweight streamer to connect to my DAC;
  3. Connect the Core to the DAC.

So far as 1 goes I have an Auralic Aries and had been hanging out for it to become RoonReady. Now, however, I need it to be an NAA if I want to use Roon/HQP and have a WiFi connection to the Aries. That would be a really great solution for me and I think something that could be relatively easily implemented in the Aries. Unfortunately, however, after making enquiry of Auralic it appears they don’t plan to include an NAA in Lightning DS any time soon. That means finding another hardware solution. The Sonore uRendu looks most interesting. Ethernet, RoonReady and NAA. I think we will see more devices in this space.

As regards 2, I would be interested in a linux capable small thermal profile computing device that could operate off a 5v battery supply and run RoonSpeakers and the NAA daemon, receive Ethernet or Wi-Fi DSD 128 and output it to the DAC. A Raspberry Pi box might be interesting here. From experience, however, I know it would take a heap of mistakes on my part before I got something like that working.

Number 3 is what I am currently doing and it doesn’t comply with the clean/dirty architecture I described at the start. However, it is currently sounding great ! I just experimented with a battery powering the BRIX instead of it’s switching power supply. I didn’t hear a difference, so it’s unlikely I will put myself to the inconvenience of changing the battery every 2 hours or so. What I will do, however, is put the BRIX closer to the DAC and use a Mapleshade 1m USB cable. That will mean putting a switching power supply closer to the hi-fi, but there will be various power conditioners between it and the DAC or amp power supplies.

Now in your case, I would ordinarily have been a big rap for the Aries, and I think the Aries Mini will also be interesting (@scolley will be checking out the Mini for us all when it becomes RoonReady). But if you were to tryout HQPlayer (and I would recommend it) and find you like it, then the Aries is not currently viable as a streaming connection from HQP and you will be in the same boat I find myself.

I’m a tube guy, so I don’t go in for DAC/amp combinations. I’m loving the Vega and it’s going to take a lot to pry it from my cold dead hands. You may, however, find a combined DAC/Amp that ticks your 7.1 boxes. I would definitely suggest checking that the manufacturer releases firmware upgrades and has a plan to be RoonReady.

Roon is, I think, for anyone who wants to explore music, particularly with a Tidal subscription. In a years time I suspect it will be hard to find a new device that isn’t RoonReady.

I hope the above is of some assistance. Personally I won’t be making any further gear decisions until I find out more about how MQA is going to fit in with Tidal, Roon and HQP.

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My real ambition is to invest in sound quality. In short, I want a new amp - but do I need a DAC/AMP combination? A bridge. A streamer?

I don’t see any inherent value to using a bridge unless you need one.

If you choose a non-RoonReady DAC, you’ll want a bridge of some sort. This could be something like an Auralic Aries/Aries LE/Mini, or it could be as simple as a Raspberry Pi with a digital output daughterboard (and an hour of DIY putting the pieces together).

In any architecture involving RAAT, a streamer should be unnecessary.

Do I need to run an ethernet cable running the 15 feet from a CORE or remote computers on my desk into a DAC that goes to the amp?

Ethernet from the core to the RAAT receiver (be it a DAC or a bridge) will provide a better experience than WiFi in many situations, but we’ve designed RAAT to work well over both.

Do I wait on a ROONReady amp?

I think, no. RAAT is very new. The choice of products available is going to expand over the coming year, and you care about video and 7.1 too. The constraints are going to pile up pretty high if you look for a DAC/AMP that is RoonReady, meets your video needs, and sounds right to you in the near term. I think you’d be better off using an AV receiver that makes sense to you for video/multichannel, and then choosing a high quality stereo DAC for music.

From a practical standpoint, I would consider 192k PCM and DSD64 support a must for a DAC bought today. You need both if your goal is to be able to listen to the best version of a given piece of content. For the sake of future proofing, I would look for something that supports 384k/32bit PCM and DSD256.

I’ve looked at the 1500-2000 AV offerings from Pioneer, Marantz, Denon - will they ever adopt RAAT or this not who ROON is for?

Ever? I certainly hope so, but I wouldn’t wait around for it. Those companies work on long timescales and RAAT is very new.


Hi Johnny

I wont answer all your questions but only one , the one regarding " sound quality " . For this you have to part with your present set-up and introduce a stereo amplifier in our rig ( rather simple - pre out from your AVR to power in your stereo amplifier ) that pumps the front , now stereo , speakers . Thatll do magic .


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Hi Andy

Many thanks for your considered and valuable advice.

As a few others have done - you’ve given me food for thought, fresh direction and deeper insight into what to look at. Since I currently have the Core connected to DAC via USB for now, I am certainly going to play with the HQ Player you’ve recommended. Funnily enough, I’d already downloaded it and its on my desktop so will give it a try.

@scolley had put my mind at rest over the effect of having the computer near the hi-fi will have (negligible for the components I am playing with) and Brian has suggested picking an amp that works for me - and looking at a future proof stereo DAC. Immediately I am seduced by the Vega you mentioned! But probably overkill without seriously investing in all the other parts. There must be a pre and power amp combination that I can add a DAC to that give me the separation between stereo and multi in my system. @andrei has suggested introducing a front stereo but the AV I currently run doesn’t have pre-out.

I think when all is said and done - I’ll keep making plans but holding off until MQA and other developments.

Very best


I am currently running a similar amp to your Denon. I have an AVR-3301. There are pluses and some niggling minuses. First, if you have Toslink digital input on the Denon, all you need is a cable to run from your Mac to the Toslink (if one of your Macs is new enough to have the combined headphone/Toslink jack). This will get you going without the need to buy any hardware and have a decent DAC set up. The Denon also should have room correction software which will get you fairly far along the road to high fidelity and Roon through Toslink will take advantage of this setup as well.

I am currently running a similar setup with wonderful results. My next step is to move to a RoonSpeaker on Raspberry Pi to get the Mac away from the Denon. Once that is in place and happy, I plan on getting a mid-range Schiit DAC. The Schiit DACs have a good reputation and are on the warmer side (a little tube-like) which I like. I also have pre-amp out on my Denon (not sure about yours). This will allow me to move to a nicer power amp. That leaves me in the position to then replace the Denon with a better pre-amp.

Having said this, I am not certain that I will replace the Denon. I find that the room correction is worth its weight in gold. I can have my system set up in a living space and not have to resort to all sorts of room treatments to get decent sound. That makes my wife happy! :wink:

@Jonny_Birrell I’ll differ from some of the advice here. There is a lot of talk in computer audio circles about tweaking: streaming vs. USB, wired vs. wireless, fancy cables, physical distance to the computer, PCM vs. DSD, on and on. I wouldn’t recommend going there.

Not saying they don’t matter, but it’s about relative impact and value for money.

You have a system that works, on the computer and Roon side. I think that switching between those tweaks will have less impact than addressing the basics of the sound system. @Brian makes some similar comments above.

I would look at the speakers and the amp. I have always found, over fifty years, that this meters the most. Think about it: when comparing the tweaks, and even DACs and amps, people listen carefully and then get into discussions about whether they can hear the difference on this or that kind of music, and they compare A and B over and over. But plug in a new speaker, and the complete tone changes! It’s not even similar. If two things are completely different, choosing one of those is more important than arguing about subtleties.

A speaker has to convert between electrical signals and sound, and couple that to the characteristics of the room, and do it at high power levels, much harder than manipulating electrical signals. (It’s a transducer.)

Unpopular among computer audio and enthusiasts, I know.

I have done some of the tweaks things, because I can and its fun and why not. But I don’t do those first. Fundamentals first.

It’s one of the miracles of modern digital audio that you can get quite good electronics for peanuts. Take advantage of that.

Hear, hear. I guess that was what I was getting at. Your current setup is more than fine. Enjoy and invest in music, there is so much to explore there.

To rid your system from a computer you need the upcoming Roonspeakers functionality. Two options - amongst very many:

1- For Airplay you can use an Airport Express. It will have both analog and optical digital out. This is limited in quality but all you can do until Roonspeakers is out and implemented.

2- Auralic Aries mini: Predicated on the hopefully upcoming roonspeakers functionality in Roon and implemented by Auralic. This device has both USB out to a high quality DAC and an internal DAC so you can start with the latter and add a better DAC later.

I do wish that Roon was a little clearer on the timelines for Roonspeakers.

If they gave a timeline and missed it by ten seconds the cries of foul would be heard on Mars so I am not surprised they don’t give one.

Good points Anders and Peter.

Like any passionate enthusiast - I’ve been driven by greed and obsession. And overlooked the massive impact ROON has made: it’s been a massive shot in the arm to my love of music. Coupled with TIDAL, I’m avidly collecting and hearing digital music again in much better quality, and through a quite brilliant ROON front end that is only going to get better.

ROON has enabled me to throw two half decent systems together, using technology I’ve already got: computers and Airplay devices, cables and the framework of two systems: amps and speakers. Anders (and others) have put it in a hi-fi perspective: ROON is a source that I can, in time, as the company develops its route to hi-fi, tweak, with DACS and cabling etc. An Auralic Mini may prove an inexpensive piece to add when ROON Speakers is released.

Anders post, and yours, are helpful instructives on what matters to ROON users like me when I’ve been thrown by the computer audio tweaks. What brought me here was doing what Anders highlighted: buying and plugging in a new set of speakers that I am really happy with. Great soundstage and detail from a £1000 pair of Tannoys with tweeters in the throat of the subs. I have a fantastic large listening room and the set-up is sounding good. Like yours, my Denon does a good job of room correction - but it doesn’t have any pre-amp out and it is starting to look like the weakest link to getting that next leap forward in sound quality. I’m going to do as Anders suggested - and find the best sounding amp or two that powers the front speakers in stereo mode, and still do the other 5.1 justice when I go to movies. I just don’t what that is!

Then, I can turn my attention back to what’s happening in ROON and what I can implement there - whether its an Auralic Mini or any other Roonspeaker solution. Comments on that welcome. But it sounds like a plan.

Buit in the meantime, I am going to do as you say - and enjoy the enormous benefits I’m already enjoying from the team at ROON. It really has been and continues to be a revelation what they’re doing.



You could do a lot worse than Arcam for great stereo sound from a multichannel receiver/amplifier. I’ve just made the change to Arcam AVR550 from a Meridian G61 processor and I’m very pleased. I still use a Meridian endpoint into the Arcam. Whether Arcam might ever implement RAAT I don’t know.

That Arcam AVR550 could be a tremendous shout Paul. And just the sort of recommendation I was looking for.

I wonder whether pairing with the Auralic Mini would get me to where I want to be.

What speakers are you running the ARCAM to.

At the moment I’m using PMC Wafers as its a small room. The Arcam stuff comes at a price of course, with the 850 and its Class G amps at the top of the tree. Having said that, if you don’t need Dolby Atmos going forward and can do without the built-in DIRAC room correction of the 550/850, some of the previous generation still have great two channel performance. I guess your Auralic Mini puts you pretty much in the same kind of ball park as me for the Roon connection.

Have you seen the Arcam SR250

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I’ll looking at the ARCAM line-up and I’m looking to get the quality of the Class G amps. I have a big listening/viewing room - with 7.1 already set-up - so the DIRAC would be good. I doubt I’ll be embracing Atmos anytime soon - since ROON I am listening 80-90% of the time. But good to have flexibility of using pre-outs for Power amps down the line.

And you’re happy with the musical performance of the ARCAM?

I will check against speakers I have - and wait on Roon Ready for Auralic.

The musical performance was my prime consideration. Of course, we all have different rooms and ears :grinning:

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I would take a look at the Anthem AV receivers, great room correction and very musical amps. High on the list for my Denon replacement if I ever pull that trigger.

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