Can someone explain Roon's "flow" in my system?

Hi, All.

The digital side of my system is pretty simple:

  • My NAD M50.2 digital player/vault contains two HDDs in a RAID array and they’re loaded with FLACs of my music library. I can access them as mapped network drives via my home network, I can manage and play the music directly using the M50.2’s BluOS operating system, or I can use external software such as Roon.

  • The M50.2 is connected to my Okto Research dac8 Stereo external DAC via S/PDIF cable.

  • The M50.2 is also connected to an eero mesh router via ethernet cable.

  • I have Roon ROCK on an Intel NUC. The NUC is also connected to the eero router via ethernet cable. The NUC has an SSD with ROCK, but no music drives.

  • I use a small (wireless) dedicated Android tablet with Roon’s app as the “remote control” to select, play, and apply any sound “tweaks” I want.

So… how (and where) does Roon actually run things?

I assume that when I open the app on my tablet and tell it to find Elvis Presley Blues by Becca Stevens and Elan Mehler, and play it back with a 2dB drop centered on 400Hz, the Android tablet communicates via WiFi with the Eero router, which passes the command via an ethernet cable to the NUC running ROCK.

But does the NUC somehow “get” the FLAC file of the song from my M50.2 (via ethernet cable) and process it, then pass it back (via the same ethernet cable) to the M50.2 to send (via S/PDIF) to my DAC?

I’m sure my understanding is faulty, so if you can explain to me how it actually flows I’d be very grateful.

Thanks!

Yes.

Roon is different from other music playback software that pushes files to endpoints or selects files already stored there. With Roon, everything runs through the server. And putting music file storage at the endpoint is less than ideal in a Roon system.

AJ

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It’s not ideal for sure, but with gigabit Ethernet, it’s not an issue either, and it has the advantage of being able to access your music when internet is down or if something happens to the NUC.

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But not with Roon 2.0.

Right, because if internet is down or if something happens to the NUC, you won’t be able to use Roon.

Got it. Now, to further complicate matters…
I heard a demonstration (twice) of M101’s Nova LAN cable at Capital Audiofest a couple of weeks ago, and was consistently impressed (but suspicious) of the wonderful difference it made in imaging and tonality when compared with a generic cable. Frankly, I just didn’t understand how an ethernet cable could make a difference, and I had even greater doubts about whether it would make a difference in my system, in which my NAD M50.2 digital player/vault is connected directly by AES/EBU cable and S/PDIF cable to my DAC.
I asked Lubomir Dostal, the inventor and owner of M101, to send me the cable to try in my home system between my NAD M50.2 and one ethernet port on my eero router (the other port on the eero is connected to my Intel NUC, running Roon ROCK).
Well, the difference was again huge. And it’s not just me who thinks so. I absolutely did not want to hear an improvement because I didn’t want to buy the cable, but it was undeniable, so I did.
Now I’m considering an additional change.
Dr. Dostal also suggested implementing a different switch, specifically an inexpensive Cisco Catalyst 2960. He makes nothing from my doing that.
But I still have to utilize my eero mesh router because I cannot run ethernet cabling to the room where my system is, and it’s the only way Roon can connect to the internet. So, if I connect the Cisco 2960 to one port of the eero and BOTH the Roon Rock NUC’s ethernet cable AND the M50.2’s ethernet cable to the Cisco switch, will the NUC and the M50.2 talk to each other directly through the Cisco without traveling through the eero as well? That’s the only way I can understand the value of adding another component to the chain.
Thanks!

It can’t. Neither can a switch.

If the comparison is not blind, it doesn’t matter what you or anybody else expects or thinks - at least for me. But if you want to spend your money, spend your money.

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I agree with Marian.

Ethernet is passing data packets, not music. As such, the data packets either arrive or they don’t. If the cable is bad (unlikely unless it’s damaged), you’d know immediately. Not from sound quality, but from complete audio cutouts and disconnections.

Your Eero is the same. It’s just moving data around.

You would be best off to remember that digital data transfer is not like analog audio. Any measurable difference between two functioning Ethernet cables are irrelevant. If such things actually mattered, you’d bet your ass that NASA would be using those audiophile cables - even the tiniest improvement would be worth it on many of their projects.

You will get real, meaningful differences if you instead save that money and spend it on better speakers, etc.

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If an ethernet cable had an influence on sound quality then what is it doing to my XLS or DOC files, I depend on the network passing an accurate copy of any file I transfer assuming it does how can that sound better on decoding ?

Imagine your magic ethernet cable adding a few zero’s to an Electronic Funds Transfer that would sound WONDERFUL :smiling_imp:

The whole WORLD depends on the fact that a network /ethernet setup does NOT alter files

Alas

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Yes. With the configuration you outline data will travel between the NUC and M50.2 via the switch.

Thank you, DaveN. That was exactly what I wanted to know.

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Just to point out: this switch came out in 2005. Cisco stopped selling it in 2014, and ended support for it in 2019.

Any simple unmanaged switch will do what you want here. Buy one that’s actually current, would be my advice.

That switch is a mythical unicorn that gets recommended in audiophile forums. As the switch is managed and only available used, many people get them in a non-factory state and then nothing works in their network. As the people buying such things are not tech-savvy, they must then be guided through connecting to the switch by telnet and issuing commands to reset it. After the whole ordeal they spent so much time and are so exhausted that they are convinced that it must be something very special.

It would make for an interesting study on magical thinking in the computer age.

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A large contingent of old male audiophiles would make for an interesting study on “magical thinking” in the computer age.

AJ

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Ah, thanks, I hadn’t realized. More magic.

I often wonder about these Ethernet cable scams. After all, changing the cable doesn’t change the Ethernet receivers at either end of the cable, which expect only a spec-compliant connection. How is a different cable going to change how they operate? I suppose if you’ve never worked with this equipment, you probably don’t think about what’s behind the Ethernet jack.

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