Can someone explain why Roon recommends a separate core and player vs core direct to DAC use?

Hello!
I’ve been using Roon for a few months now and I’m generally happy with it. I am also experimenting with Audirvana trial right now.

I stumbled on the recommendation from Roon NOT to use the machine you have your Roon core on direct to your dac. Maybe I didn’t ready the “how to’s” carefully enough, but can someone explain to me why this is the case?

Currently I run Roon on my Mac Mini M1 USB out to my Schiit Bifrost 2 to my Schiit Asgard 3 headphone amp. Sounds pretty good to me.

I also have an iPad Pro that I have a USB cable I can run directly to my DAC if I want to. Is that a better setup than directly from my Mini? Would that satisfy their recommendation not to run directly from the machine running the core?

Please help me understand the subtleties around this type of setup?

Thank you!!

I’ve been using a USB connection from my ROCK NUC to my main DAC for years.

I am thinking Roon’s recommendations on that front are out dated.

You can setup a DDC between your source (roon core) and your DAC to minimize noise from the source like USB noise. Many people use a streamer like the Bluesound Node 2i or a Raspberry Pi with RopieeeXL. The benefit depends for example on the power supply of the source and the quality the USB inputs on your source and DAC.

I have a late 2014 Mac Mini i5 which I run Roon server on. If I connect the Mac Mini directly to the DAC I get noise if I use very sensitive IEMs. To get rid of that I connected the Mac Mini to a Raspberry Pi running said RopieeeXL and the noise is gone. Another great thing about the RoPieeeXL is that you can stream using UPNP, HQPlayer, Airplay and even Spotify if I recall correctly. I don’t use all it’s functions to be honest.

Hope this helps.
Cheers

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I’ve never noticed any noise from my setup. Maybe it’s because the Bifrost 2 has an excellent USB (Unison) input that deals with it and cleans it up? Maybe there are other sound wrecking issues going direct besides noise

I’ll give it a whirl to hook up my iPad Pro to my Bifrost and I’ll run the Roon iPad software to control things and see what happens

Basic rule of thumb - if it sounds okay, it is okay. If you encounter troubles, either audio (e.g. noise, artefacts) or software functionality (e.g. drop outs, failure to load tracks) then you might need to look at alternatives.

For desktop listening I connect my Core (running Windows 10) to a DAC. It works well almost all of the time. Very occasionally, if I’m listening whilst doing a number of other tasks, I get a track-skip. I’ve always assumed that this is a CPU/RAM thing as it never happens when the Core is otherwise idle.

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Back in the relatively early days of Roon the consensus was a powerful machine to run the core (with the heat and noise that can come with that) and remote device on which to run Roon connected devices. Stick the core out of the way and put your endpoint in your listening area. Arguably that is best practice but things have improved massively on two fronts. Quiet but powerful machines and improvements in USB technology. Back when this was being discussed Schiit USB implementation was no where near as good as now, to the point where Schiit themselves recommended other inputs before USB.

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I’ve long suspected this is partly down to Roon (not without good reason) wanting to avoid the support burden that could have come from officially supporting a myriad of directly attached USB devices :wink:

It also allows Roon to court the audio / streamer manufactures to become ‘Roon Ready’ which it turn opens an avenue for those manufactures to promote Roon the platform on Roon’s behalf. It’s a sensible, symbiotic relationship that makes good business sense.

At the end of the day a ‘streamer’ is still just a computer in a fancy case, or a maybe a non-fancy case in the case of a DIY endpoint like a RPi. The commodity, off the shelf USB port / drivers on almost any modern computing device are now well above what anyone need to transmit a digital signal to a modern, well designed DAC without issue.

For me the key advantages to separating out the two is that you can hide the machine running your Roon Core, which may be bulkier, uglier and contain a physical fan, out of sight or earshot.

Streamer/Endpoints tend to be more smaller or more visually appealing, often support other protocols like Airplay or Spotify Connect which some people may wish to use outside of Roon and may contain analog outputs.

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Thanks everyone. I think that all clears it up. I don’t hear any noise from my Mini to Bifrost at all. I think Schiit has it down with the Unison USB. Keeps things simple. The mini is absolutely silent. I got the Loki so I wouldn’t need to use software eq and I love it. I can eq other software too, on the fly.

Here’s my setup. Pardon the dust and stray dog hairs on my desktop mat!

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Until recently I ran my core on a bog standard desktop tower that sounded marginally quieter than a tractor, an Ethernet cable allowed me to hide the ugly beast.

I moved to a NUC a month or so ago , I need to move it next to the DAC to try it out , it is virtually silent when playing tracks, it makes noise when it loading stuff .

If it sounds Ok it’s not broke …

I just plug my Macbook Pro via Schitt Unison USB straight into Modi 3+, with the DAC being powered from a clean power supply rather than the laptop driving the DAC power. This then allows the USB to just send audio data to the DAC. I use exclusive mode and stream my FLACs from a USB stick. It sounds every bit as good as playing the CD into the same DAC from Audiolab 600CDT to my ears. I’m not convinced that anything more complicated is required. I also ensure that no other apps are running on laptop and i switch the screen off and then use Roon remote to control playback.

I think there is some misunderstanding about noise and usb. The noise coming from your computer will not be audible through your dac. USB by design transmits a 5 volt signal from the host to the receiving end. That 5v can cause jitter. If your dac does not require a 5v handshake, you can do an experiment by taping over the 5v connection and listen w/o. Use google to find out how to do that.
Before Roon and ethernet, I would use specially made usb cables w/o the 5v wire. Always sounded more relaxed and less fatiguing. I prefer ethernet now however.
Have fun

Ah, the specter of jitter raises its head.

From all I’ve read, on modern well designed DACs USB jitter is no longer a problem

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Especially Schiit’s Unison USB implementation, from what I’ve read.

Or if you happen to own a computer which can turn off the 5v in the USB connection, you can do that instead, re DAC-UP ports. BTW, DAC-UP USB ports had their own separate and isolated power source providing cleaner and more stable power than normal USB ports.

But, really, any good well made DAC in the last 4/5 years should not have an issue with USB input.

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That sort of assertion definitely needs to be backed up with a technically sound explanation - I’m all ears!

Not from me. Google. There was plenty of stuff back when. I had a dac that was probably the first ever with a usb input…this was before Asynch, and getting rid of the 5v
and then converting usb to spdif was very beneficial. Now maybe not as much?
I have a usb cable constructed as such if folks want to borrow it and send it around. I have not used usb for quite a while.

@Stephen_Brooks what do you use instead of USB? I too gave up on usb about 5 years ago but am slightly tempted to give it another go. I currently use i2s but In my implementation it limits me to 192k pcm which is one of the reasons I’d like to try it again!

Or you buy an endpoint like the StackAudio Link that provides this functionality out of the box.

I use an Allo digiSignature to convert ethernet to spdif. Allo seem to take more care to reduce noise than other lower cost solutions. I use batteries on the convertor and a lps for the Rpi.

Great! Google it, find the technically sound explanation, then post the link. Otherwise, keep the dubious stuff off the forum, please. Power supplies don’t cause jitter, in any way I know of. Or anyone else knows of, I think.

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