Do I need Nucleus, please?

For just over a year I’ve been using the Roon software (now v 1.8) on my iMac Pro 2017 (now macOS 12.1), which I understand is now my ‘core’ in Roon parlance. I’m delighted with it in every way. It’s exactly what I want; am particularly pleased with recent improvements with classical music.

I feed Roon’s output via direct USB to my ParaSound Halo P6 pre-amp. That too works flawlessly :slight_smile:

I am unlikely to want to add further audio zones… one room listening!

But I am likely to want to add further (classical) FLAC files to my Library of the nearly 150 albums occupying 150GB on my iMac.

Would I gain anything by buying (and moving(?) to) a Nucleus, please?

I have read the product literature but am still not sure whether I understand the purpose and advantages of Nucleus - for configurations like mine.

Does a Nucleus essentially replace the software side of things (because it has its own cut-down Linux-based OS)?

Would I still control it from my iMac?

Would there be advantages for sound quality and speed… I am actually happy with both at the moment?

The one advantage I can see is that I’d be able to free up 150 GB of HD space on my computer. But that would have the disadvantage that I’d somehow have to back up what (I think) is stored on the Nucleus separately. I am fanatical about cloning and backing up.

So could I arrange for (multiple) external drives to back my Nucleus’ internal storage (I’d buy it with the SSD installed) in the same way as I now run Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner etc to back up my Mac data?

Thanks in advance for any guidance!

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I use a Mac mini. Works just fine. No need to spend money you don’t need to.


In IT, the rule is: never change a running system

Only if the manufacturer forces you (failure, expansion not possible…)

Here it is still enough for many thousands of albums, which also fit on a small mobile USB disk.


Yes in a way; it’s just a dedicated computer-appliance to provide for the Roon Core…

Yes. You’d use your Roon on the Mac to connect to the Core on the Nucleus and control it.

I’d think there would be rather no noticeable difference in sound quality nor speed. You manage a still small collection… 150 albums translate to aprox. 3000 files… there’s no need to worry about speed.

You can always copy your music files to an external USB-connected drive and connect it to your iMac. That way you can free up the 150 GB and provide disk space for further additions.

I’d say if you are happy with the system how it works now, just enjoy it as it is! No need to change anything.


Thanks, @garye; it works for you in terms of speed and library size? Nothing slowed down?

Thanks, Uwe!

Although 150GB is 150 GB. Wouldn’t my iMac benefit from being free of them?!

Thanks, @Andreas_Philipp1 !

I understand and appreciate everything you kindly write.

So what is the purpose of the Nucleus? When do people use them?

They’re for lazy/‘IT illiterate’ people like myself, who just want a ‘turnkey’ solution to running/using Roon.

The Nucleus is also silent, and comes in a nice case :grinning:


As your collection grows or you come up with new requirements—e.g., stream to several endpoints, do DSP processing, upsample, whatever—it’ll be at some point better to run Roon Core on a dedicated piece of hardware instead of running it on a multipurpose PC/Mac. For this there are several options… some dedicate a Mac Mini to this task, others set up dedicated Windows or Linux machines, and there are some who prefer not having to admin the Roon Core hardware and rather have an ‘appliance’ which provides the full package of the required hardware, operating system and Roon Core software in a self-contained and administration-free package. Roon markets their Nucleus as just such an appliance.


under 50 € / $ there are 1000 GB as an external hard drive and certainly a nice box to hide. This hard drive can be further used on any PC.

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Something not being mentioned so far, and being the exclusive Nucleus feature, is Home Automation drivers for Control4 and Crestron systems.


I started with Roon by running the Roon core on my Dell XPS 15 laptop. After a while, I got tired of accidently shutting down Roon while I was using the laptop for other purposes and switched to a Roon Nucleus. I plug a 1TB USB HDD into the Nucleus for doing nightly and monthly backups.

For Roon control devices, I use the Dell, an iPhone 11 Pro Max, and two iPads, but mostly I use the Dell. When traveling, I activate the Roon core on my Dell and use that away from home.


You don’t need a Nucleus. If you are comfortable with your current system, I’d say wait until you outgrow it and then consider it.


Thanks, Martin!

So really no technical/system/audio advantage… ?

That’s clear, Andreas. Thanks.

Out of curiosity, what would they do when they:


Would that small(er) dedicated CPU - as @garye does - supplant what I’m doing now with my iMac?

If I then backed it all up and used a Nucleus, I’d have a completely separate system?

No, I don’t think I want that.

Thanks, @Rugby - makes sense :slight_smile:

This is incorrect. The iMac would no longer be needed in the listening room, provided that Mark’s Parasound is connected directly to the Nucleus via USB. The Nucleus is a dedicated Roon Core and runs Roon Server. Phone or tablet apps can be used to control Roon in the listening room.

If Mark is using his iMac for other things besides Roon, he can put it in another room and run Roon on the iMac creating another another zone.

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Nowhere does the OP mention that he uses a phone or tablet as Roon Remote. I use my iMac in my listening room as Remote, and I use it to do other work, too. So you offer valid alternatives which don’t invalidate my statement as ‘incorrect’. Besides, the phone and tablet apps don’t offer the full Remote functionality offered by the Mac/Windows Roon apps.

The OP stated explicitly that he doesn’t want/need to set up another zone. He speaks of one-room listening. So again, you offer alternatives that at this point seem not to be relevant to the OP.


That is not incorrect. He can control a Roon Nucleus core using a computer or laptop running Roon or a phone or tablet running the Roon app or all of the above.


Hi Mark, based on your description I don’t think there is any advantage to you getting a Nucleus at this point. With a small library your current setup is just fine - you could get an external drive to keep your music files on rather than your Mac’s drive if you want to free up space (and another for backups of Roon and your music files).