Do I need a Dragonfly as an Endpoint?

What should I do to best use Roon?

Roon Core is on Windows10 PC out to an Audioquest USB audio cable (Jitterbug) into NAD DAC/NAD Integrated Receiver.

Thank You

What’s wrong with what you’ve got?

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What about your current setup would you like to improve? How do you mostly use your system? Background music or listening with undivided attention from the sweet spot, equidistant from the loudspeakers? Are there audio formats that your NAD receiver can’t decode that you’re interested in exploring, like DSD or MQA?

Depending on how sensitive you are to digital grunge, I will say that a Windows 10 PC generally makes a poor sounding digital audio transport. Some folks claim that the jitterbug can help calm down noise on the USB bus, but at best, it’s a bandaid, not a cure.

It sounds like you’re interested in improving the sound quality of your Roon system. I suggest starting with what Roon Labs has to say about optimizing Roon for sound quality. Here’s a link to their recommendations:

In that document, you’ll see that Roon Labs specifically recommends that you “plan for wired ethernet connections between your Core and Output components.” I would follow this and the other advice in this document before purchasing a new DAC. Here’s what I might do if I were in a similar situation:

Separate Control and Core
Install Roon Server and migrate your database:

  1. Take a backup of the Roon database (Settings -> Backups -> Backup Now)
  2. Disconnect the desktop app (Settings -> General -> Disconnect)
  3. Exit the Desktop app
  4. Install Roon Server (, scroll down to “Roon Server”)
  5. Ensure that Roon Server is configured to Launch at startup (right-click on the Roon icon in the Windows system tray)
  6. Start the Roon desktop app and connect to your new Roon Server
  7. Login with your Roon account. Skip most of the setup questions, since you’ll be restoring from backup)
  8. Restore your database (Settings -> Backups -> Find Backups)
  9. Go have a coffee…or perhaps lunch. May take a while.
  10. More details here:

This first step will already improve things a bit since you can now exit the GPU-intensive Roon UI after queuing up some music. Roon Server will be functioning both as Core and Output. While this is not ideal, it’s a significant improvement over using the Desktop UI as an output. Once you make this change, you won’t even need to run the Desktop UI at all to manage playback. Exit the Desktop app and install the free Roon Remote app on your smartphones and tablets. You can mostly forget that you have Roon Server running on your computer since it just hides in the background.

Separate Core and Outputs
Buy or build a network audio transport for your NAD Receiver:

  1. The easiest way to create a “wired ethernet connection between your Core and Output” is to purchase a dedicated device with an Ethernet input and USB output that is already configured to function as a Roon output. Examples of popular commercially available devices include the SOtM sMS-200, Sonore microRendu, Allo USBridge Signature Player.
  2. If those options are a little too spendy ($250 - $450) and you’re even a little bit handy, you can build an endpoint from a Raspberry Pi 4 Model B computer board for around $50 or so. The best sounding O/S I’ve found so far is VitOS. Installation and configuration are also very user-friendly (as these things go) using their free mobile app. Of course, RoPieee is very popular here in this group. You’ll find plenty of folks who are willing to help you if you choose either of these solutions.
  3. Once you have acquired your chosen network audio transport, connect wired Ethernet and power, and then move your AudioQuest USB cable and Jitterbug from your Windows PC to this new device and re-enable the output.

At this point, you will have Roon set up per the manufacturer’s recommendations for best sound quality. This is a good foundation upon which to build. If you had purchased a new DAC before taking these steps, you would only be getting a fraction of the performance that you were paying for. Now, the new DAC is set up for success.

This is a handy tool for researching DACs in terms of objective performance (not the whole story on sound quality, but not a bad place to start).

There are a lot of DACs in the list, but you can fiddle with the filter settings to pair things down a bit. For example:

At this very moment, I’m listening to the S.M.S.L. Sanskrit 10th Mk2 (#2 on the list above) via a THX AAA 789 headphone amp. This combination is delightful, and the DAC is only $110. There’s loads of detail, yet the sound is open and not at all fatiguing. I’m feeding the DAC from a Raspberry Pi 4 running VitOS. Killer setup for very little money (as these things go). It’s a great time to be an audiophile. :slight_smile:

I hope some of this was helpful. Good luck on your next steps to better sound quality from Roon.


You don’t want to ask such an open ended question as that on this forum. :smirk:


Haha…yes. Even the sky is not the limit for “best.”


Which NAD is he talking about? And what does the topic starter want to achieve?

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My apologies to the forum.


I thank you for the detailed and information reply. I will read it several times and go from there. I will also word futures posts much more carefully.

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I was looking to improve current sound quality, other than updating setup, nothing. Thank You~

I know enough by this info, this NAD is an amplifier with a dac. The dragonfly I have one myself is a DAC that needs to be connected to a USB 2.0 output of a streamer. So, you say lets replace the DAC from your NAD, by the audioquest dragonfly and what sounds better?

But back to basics: dragonflys are no roon endpoints, dragonflys are DACS. What you can do to make sound on your NAD amplifier is this: plug a dragonfly in the USB port of your computer and hook it to your NAD amp. What is wrong with this setup? yes it plays. However: The power supply of a computer is not great at all and that does influence the sound. What the normal way is: hook your pc with the Roon core on your router via a network cable, and hook a Roon endpoint (the streaming device), on the router,

Secondly: the dragonfly: I have one myself, it is a good sounding dac, especially for the price, but there are many more, in all different price classes. You cannot expect that the dragonfly sounds as good as a 4k costing DAC.


I am confused. My current setup influences the sound? I should have and endpoint/streaming device?
Replace the NAD DAC?

My guess would be that a Dragonfly would not be a significant improvement over the DAC that’s in your NAD.

That’s a little misleading. Price has little or nothing to do with the quality of a DAC. There are bad DACs that are very expensive, and good ones that aren’t. Take a look at the chart @David_Snyder posted above, and look at the variability in price there.

The thing is, price is the only hard number about a DAC that most consumers have to go on, so they (wrongly) presume it’s a proxy for quality.


That list, I know it Excists is the wrong way to compare, but don’t want to start a discussion on this

Lets talk about TS: I think we should help him answering his question: it does not help if we are argueing about these dac specs

My point is, really to help TS

This is how Roon should work

  1. You need a pc with the roon core installed. This pc is hooked to a router
  2. You need a roon endpoint, so the streamer. This streamer can be either a streamer with a separate dac, or a streamer and dac in once
  3. The analog signal to the amp goes further is amplified and goes to the speakers

What TS is missing is 2, the streamer and that one needs to be roon endpoint and of course, the streamer needs to have a dac either in build, or separate outside. That dac can be a dragonfly of course, but there are so many other choices. So back to the TS title, no a dragonfly is not needed, a roon dedicated endpoint streamer is needed combined with a dac. If that dac is inbuild or separate, and if it better sounds, of course it matters, You can
use a dragonfly for that but there are so many other ones, but please do not start a discussion here about dac comparison numbers, this whole list I don’t agree

TS needs a roon endpoint streamer,
Help him!

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Yeah, I doubt he needs that, either. You have this fixed idea about “how Roon should work”, but really, it’s just your opinion. I still don’t know if that would work any better for the OP.

George, let me ask again, what makes you wonder if you need a Dragonfly as an endpoint? Or any other change? Did someone say that to you? Are you hearing things you don’t like? In what way do you think your current sound quality could improve by making some changes?

In general, the thing that makes the most difference is your speakers and how they interact with your room. Some simple changes to the room itself can produce dramatic improvements in perceived sound. You might want to read this thread for a bit:

Roon also supports DSP processing which can tailor the sound coming through your system to match the room. There’s more on that here:


Do I need a Dragonfly as an Endpoint?



Just to add, “What Hi-Fi” was impressed with the DAC that’s in that NAD, calling it “an excellent DAC module”. So it’s already pretty good.


I have a Dragonfly Cobalt DAC I sometimes use with Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones. It sounds really good to me, but I doubt it would sound any better than the DAC you already have. I do like the fact that it is MQA capable.

I also have a Meridian Prime Headphone Amplifier and Power Supply that does MQA and sounds great. However, I’m not sure if it sounds any better than my Dragonfly or not.

In my opinion, unless something is wrong with the DAC you have or it doesn’t have the capabilities you want/need, I doubt you’re going to get a perceptible improvement by just switching DAC’s within a similiar price range. As has already been said, it’s more about your speakers and room acoustics, etc.

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I feel like I did that rather well. What are you saying that I missed?

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