Considering getting a NUC

@dylan I am considering setting up a NUK to address my slowness issues.

  1. is it best to go over the network (cat5/6) or via HDMI. I am assuming the network.
  2. Do I need a special power supply and DAC
  3. will this also increase the quality of the stream?
  4. what other ?'s am I not asking?

Hey @Ben_Katz,

I moved your post to the Roon Software section of the Community site. You’re sure to get lots of great suggestions from the community here!

I definitely recommend that you check out our ROCK documentation for some great information about using ROCK and a NUC.


I have two i7 NUCs and eight RPi based DACs. Best you use Cat6 cabling. I use the standard Intel and RPi power supplies. I’ve looked into lots of other power supply options, including powering the RPi board and HAT board separately in the DACs, but have not moved on any of it. But we have pretty good, clean and stable power on the Australian East Coast. I doubt that in my situation the extra complication and cost would be justified. Plus most of my systems are not used for critical listening.

Follow the Roon guidelines for deciding on the NUC hardware. I use the 7i7BNH units. 250 Gb M.2 SSD drive and 250 Gb SATA SSD drive in each. 16 Gb of RAM in each.

UPDATE: The second SSD dives are a bit of overkill. I only used them to do a second scheduled backup. First scheduled backup is to the drive I store the music files on. I’ve just been told by @mike from Roon that the internal drive is intended for music storage only. So now I’ll be removing mine. Mike recommends the use of a USB3 32GB flash drive for a second backup device.

On the work ROCK music storage is on an external WD USB3 hard drive. On the home one it’s a Synology NAS. But I’m planning to use another external WD USB3 drive for the music files on that ROCK and just use the NAS to backup my music files rather than use it to serve them up to the ROCK. The Roon guidelines recommend this approach.

Welcome to the Roon community.

You really don’t NEED a special power supply or DAC. In fact the power supply powering the Nuc is very unlikely to affect sound, especially if you’re using other network connected endpoints like many here are. Of course you can connect a Nuc directly to a compatible audio system via HDMI and the sound could be perfectly adequate for you.

Instead of thinking of more questions for us I think your time would be best spent describing your audio system(s) as it exists. We can give you better answers if you provide more information about what kind of audio gear you’re using and what style of listening you use it for.

For instance if all you want is to use a home theater in a box system with HDMI input for casual background listening and you want to be able to play music at any time I would recommend a Nuc or other computer powered at all times and connected via HDMI. A special power supply or DAC would be a waste of money in that situation.

As Tim suggests, you could tell us more about your current system(s).

As an example, my NUC (running ROCK) is connected to audio endpoints using both HDMI and network interconnections. I use the HDMI connection to play multichannel material to my home cinema surround sound system, and use ethernet to deliver stereo to my main hifi listening system and other endpoints.

Because I don’t have a long HDMI cable, I transposed my NUC into a fanless enclosure so that I could have it in the living room where my home cinema and hifi systems live.

I currently have an HP computer with 40 TB of data on external Hard drives connected to a marantz 8801 prepro via HDMI which connects to my TV for video output and to my stereo.which I could describe if necessary.

I have tried a NUC with ROCK and while it worked the internal fan bothers me. I have played with computer endpoints and have found that to me on my system there was an edge or something there I did not like. I have used a Mac Mini with mods to get rid of the PWM fan controller, and the power supply. But I really did not like managing a commercial OS in the music server. I have settled on (for Now) a Small Green Computer Sonic Transporter I7 DSP. I am currently running the stock power supply but that will change sometime down the road. Right now I treat the server as an appliance; it is a refrigerator for music! It has a copy of the music on an internal drive and all of the management is done on my main computer systems. Any changes are then synced to the server. That way there is no additional network traffic needed to fetch the music. My NAA and DAC are bridged to the server to “isolate them”.

I run everything critical over Ethernet. I keep the music server away from the listening systems. I do not have any multi-channel music in my library so I do not need HDMI. I have not investigated how well that works. I would assume that if you use HDMI you would need the server close into the listening system.

You were not talking about audio quality in your initial post. You were talking about performance. Assuming that you were running Roon I can guess that your computer does not have an SSD or that the Roon database was not on an SSD. I assume that you will keep the music elsewhere than on the server.

My systems design works well for me and it has been performing to my needs. I am very happy with Roon. Yes I want it to do some more things,…

So you already have this HP computer running Roon, but it is running slower then you would like right? I’m not sure what kind of hardware the computer has but according to the Roon Knowledge Base they “strongly recommend 4GB of RAM and an SSD for the Roon databases. Your music files can be on spinning disks, but ideally the Roon database should be on an SSD. This one optimization can provide the single biggest improvement to Roon’s performance and user experience.”

So what I would recommend is either upgrading your HP if it does not meet these criteria or switch to a NUC. There are other options of course but the NUC is affordable and will allow you to use the free Roon ROCK OS if you want. If you went the NUC route you could just plug external hard drives into it like you are doing with the HP. I don’t know how many external hard drives you’re using to get 40 TB of data but you may not be able to plug all of them into the NUC at once. You will have to purchase and install your own RAM and M.2 SSD so you should end up with solid performance. I run ROCK on my NUC and leave it on all the time. I can play music whenever I want, using my laptop, tablet, or phone as controllers, and music always plays with no issues. You can run Windows on the NUC instead if you want to do other things with it but that adds cost and possibly complexity.

I have a NUC7i3BNH with my modest library stored internally on an SSD and it is almost inaudible. I have it setup in a listening room where the hiss of my powered monitors is more noticeable then the NUC. I have only dabbled with sample rate conversion and DSP and have no DSD files. Using those features of Roon heavily might require a NUC with a more powerful processor. Many people here use these more powerful NUCs. Many of them also find their NUCs to be too loud for a listening room. For them it makes more sense to place the NUC in a place where it is not heard or to install it in a passive cooling case (which is silent and looks cool).

I see no reason why you couldn’t put a NUC in the listening room and connect it to your Marantz via HDMI for a very simply setup. If the NUC is too loud you can place it somewhere else and use a network connected streamer to connect to your Marantz. Cheap streamer options include the Cromecast Audio and the Raspberry Pi in various forms. Others will tell you that they get better sound by keeping the Roon core computer separate from the audio chain. In other words using a streamer purpose built for audio connected to an external DAC and connected to the Roon core via the local network. Some people here will also tell you WiFi is no good for audio quality and you must connect this streamer via Ethernet or better yet fiber Ethernet connection. There are those who say the power supply of the NUC affects sound quality even when the NUC is not physically connected to the streamer. I am skeptical of claims like these and I suggest that you focus on fixing your slowness issues first. You should connect your Roon core to the network via Ethernet as Roon suggests and if you can connect any streamers you purchase via Ethernet that will provide the most reliable connection.

BTW Roon recommends a more powerful NUC with more RAM for larger libraries which it sounds like you have.

The NUC is an excellent solution in it is powerful and dedicated to being a music server.

Your questions depend upon your needs and what you are trying to accomplish. For example, I am not using a cat5/6 Ethernet network. My NUC Rock is going directly to my DAC with a USB cable. Therefore wifi is fine as I am just using to give Rock instructions. I have been satisfied with the existing power supply. I will likely experiment with a regulated power supply capable of 60W at a later time. That said, I am in no hurry as it sound pretty good to my ears. You may consider fan or using a fanless case. I wanted to use a fanless case design as my Rock will be hooked directly to my DAC in my listening area. I do some minor DSP for room correction, have a modest collection of 600 CDs, and am only feeding one zone. I then decided on a NUC7i5 vice as the NUC 7i7 as the case I wanted to use, an Akasa Newton S7, supports its cooling requirements and the i5 should meet my requirements. A 2T internal hard drive meets my needs.

Before I could recommend anything, I would need to know what you mean by slowness issues. Depending on what you mean by “slowness”, it might not be the computer at all, but the network. So, can you describe what you mean, in detail, by slowness?

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