Don't connect a DAC directly to Core?

Core Machine (Operating system/System info/Roon build number)
MacBook Air with external SSD via Thunderbolt.

Network Details (Including networking gear model/manufacturer and if on WiFi/Ethernet)
High speed WIFI (180 Mbps)

Audio Devices (Specify what device you’re using and its connection type - USB/HDMI/etc.)
Chord Qutest USB DAC to Musical Fidelity Ref 1 pre-amp.
Tidal HiFi via high speed wifi.

Description Of Issue
On Facebook there is a Roon Enthusiast Group. Most of what they are talking about seems to be above my IQ (and I am a civil engineer).

In that group there are several who claim that you should NEVER connect a DAC directly to the Core because it will degrade sound quality. Never use Core as an Output device.

Also, they say that music directly from TIDAL sounds better than via ROON because of this. Unless you use an “endpoint” (whatever THAT might be).

Is this true? I don’t hear any difference.


It’s the internet, it’s opinions.
If you don’t hear it then for you it doesn’t exist, so don’t worry about it.


I don’t hear a difference either. If you have good components (quality core computer, proper noise-rejecting DAC), the noise transmission will not be noticeable.
If one or both of those are noisy, yeah, there might be something there.
If one is really OCD, everything makes a difference and must be purchased.


IMHO there is no issue with core direct to DAC.
I have been using my QNAP NAS as roonserver/rooncore for 2-3 years now.
This is connected to my DAC/Streamer/amp direct via USB and also Ethernet via a TP-Link router.
There is no difference in sound via either output/input.

I also had the same NAS setup with a Devialet based system with the same results.
The only improvements i found was to add a linear dual 12v (2x3a) to power both the NAS and Router, and later i added a high current mains and RFI filter which seamed to offer an improvement too.

That’s an awesome system BTW!! :slight_smile:


Simply depends on the DAC!
Some DACs are best not connected directly via USB - use of a network audio adapter can be beneficial.
However, if your DAC has been well designed etc etc, then I don’t think you would hear any degradation.
At any rate - what you hear is never the same as what other people hear. If you are happy with direct connection, then the convenience of this negates any other proposal.
Given your photograph, I think you’re safe connecting directly to the Mac! You can probably tell if the audio quality is good enough :joy:
For what it’s worth, QOBUZ sounds better through Roon than it’s native application.
Agree with Rajaish - power supply always the key thing. I’ve found most improvements through cleaning up the power supply (and I have to use budget components wherever possible!)

1 Like

Actually, I did try to connect the Chord Qutest to a 100 Wh 5V powerbank instead of the 5V power supply and strangely enough the sound quality DECREASED tremendously.

Powerbanks can be just as much a pain as switching power supplies. I have found linear power supplies (eg Allo Shanti) to improve sound quality.

1 Like

The FaceBook guy says I should use the sort of thing that Roon Labs recommends: a dedicated network audio transport. Popular examples in this group include the SOtM sMS-200, Sonore microRendu, Allo USBridge Signature, etc.

To be honest I wouldn’t even know how to connect it. What does it replace?


Mac - Network Router - USBridge - DAC

If your DAC has a crappy USB implementation (and possibly poor clocks for 44.1Khz and 48 Khz), then sound quality degradation does happen. But you have a pretty solid DAC and the only reason you would ever use an NAA (Network Audio Adapter like the SOtM) is if you wanted to place your DAC in a room away from your Roon core. You don’t…you have a good DAC…enjoy the music :slight_smile:


It doesn’t really replace anything. It just plugs into your network then usually to your DAC. Roon sees it on the network so can stream music to it through the network. The theory is it eliminates the USB interface which is if you listen to the internet gurus, a horrific way to stream music. My Nucleus is direct connected to my DAC via USB and it sounds fantastic. I can’t imagine what it would sound like without the dreadful USB. Angels and unicorns probably.


I have tried it both ways with several different DACs and not noticed a difference.
I use a network connection for other rooms, direct USB near the Nucleus.


My setup is probably a good example of why you might need a network player. My Roon server is a rackmounted server with a powerful CPU and pretty loud fans. It serves Roon and also does a bunch of other utility work in our house. No way I’d want that in my listening room.

So it sits in a network closet with all the other network gear (router, core switch, etc., also with pretty noisy fans) and feeds our networked endpoints: Sonos, HomePod, networked DAC in the listening room.

If you have a Nucleus or something similar with quiet disks and no fans, no reason at all it couldn’t sit in your stereo rack and feed a DAC via USB.

But do read the Roon knowledge base article about this setup, combining core and output. They give some tips there.

1 Like

Power banks might be 20,000Wh but usb can still only deliver max ~2.5A and often is limited to much less

Pretty sure it’s ROON’s own recommendation to split the Core, Endpoint and control for optimum performance. As they’ve designed the system around this principle and as I’m not an audio nor software nor any other type of engineer, I follow their advice. It sounds good, I’m happy. If what you have sounds good, be happy too. It’s a hobby, not a (gasp) religion. :upside_down_face:


Agreed. This is a use case where a network end point is probably necessary.

Rather timely from Hans…


Well this is going to stir the pot. I’ll relay my personal experience although your mileage may vary:

I built a fanless computer to replace my MacBook as a music streamer but found that it had plenty of power to run core and do room equalization convolutions from room correction. I put a special USB card in the computer (Matrix Audio USB card) because everyone was saying the motherboard USB ports were crap.

I also built a raspberry pi streamer using DietPi operating system and have a legacy Squeezebox Touch with the software mods to use the USB port as an output to a DAC. Needless to say, I have a few ways to experiment with USB to DAC connections.

After tons of playing around with connecting my Chord Qutest directly to the core computer over ASIO and WASAPI with both Mattix Audio USB and motherboard USB, connecting through the RasPi using ALSA output, using my legacy MacBook, and connecting through SB Touch I can share that I could not detect an audible difference between any of these delivery paths when playing the same track of music.

Rest of my system from the Chord Quest in is McIntosh C47 preamp, McIntosh 402 power amp, Dynaudio Confidence C2 speakers.

My personal opinion is that the architecture decision should be based on what’s most convenient for you. My experience with my system is that connecting directly to the Roon core computer yields the same results as going through a Roon endpoint. I was way over thinking these decisions based on how all of my testing worked out for me.

I’m sure others will have different experiences than me but my experience in my system is that you can confidently connect directly to the core and have the best possible experience just as using a separate endpoint will provides the same and equal best possible experience but with a different architecture.

Enjoy the music.


I think it will vary by DAC. I’ve had plenty of DACs connected directly to the core or the desktop computer I run email, internet, Word, etc., on, and had no issues.

But the other day I was home for a short time and did not want to boot up the endpoint I usually use. I had an Ifi Micro DAC handy and I plugged that into my core. I could hear hard drives clicking, a bunch of noise, not loud, but definitely audible, through my speakers. I just assume that DAC is super sensitive to what was coming through. I had used that same DAC with no problems on an electrically quiet, no moving parts/no fans PC endpoint for years.

So, yes, it is possible that an electrically noisy computer can impact a DAC, but I do not believe it is always or necessarily the case. It does indicate that there is something to be said for a quiet endpoint, at least for greater confidence you’ve done what you can for the quality of the music.

That said, if you have your DAC on the core and have no problems, you don’t, and that’s great, go with it.

The only caveat I will offer is for folks that have their DAC connected to the core and then complain of sound quality issues, the answer is not to come back to Roon and ask them to change the code so that it doesn’t make the core work so hard. It’s to get a darned endpoint. That is how Roon was designed for max quality.

If your luxury car doesn’t run well on regular gas, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions and put in premium. Don’t ask the manufacturer to modify the design to take regular gas (although, darn, it is cheap these days!)


There are things that matter:

  1. USB is a flawed interface
  2. shouldn’t have a computer/streamer in your audio room
  3. use ethernet or i2s to dac. If you can’t use ethernet, then use i2s. Most top quality dacs have these 2 interfaces.
  4. copper to your ISP is noisy. Use fiber with 100Mb or faster. I use 1Gb fiber and I can stream multiple movies and Tidal with no issues

Some rather sweeping suggestions there, how about adding:

  1. Power to the substation is noisy, use solar and batteries. :roll_eyes: