Down-to-earth recommendations to newcomers

I believe we should simplify the recommendations we make to newcomers.
Drastically simplify it, and bring it down to earth.

The most glaring example is this whole issue of networked connection vs. USB. And the related discussion of noise transmission.

(And it isn’t just here: Hans Beekhuyzen has a Youtube video on “What Audio Server Sounds The Best”, and it goes on and on about the problems of direct USB connection.)

I am not saying that this issue isn’t real, or that it doesn’t cause audible degradation. I leave that discussion apart. But I do say, very forcefully, that it isn’t the most important and urgent issue to bring up to a newcomer.

We have seen people coming on to the forum happy with very humble audio systems seeking advice, and we recently had somebody with a very ambitious and high quality system but with little knowledge of Roon asking for advice when building a new house (!), and they often say “I know nothing about Roon except I know using a USB connection is bad and so is WiFi and I should use wired networking.” That is not the first thing people should know! Both because it isn’t the most important, and because it is easily tested and altered later.

“The most important thing for a good handling car is the tires. The tires are the contact of your car with earth, if you don’t have a stable foundation, nothing else matters. This is not just about grip, it is about stability, precision, responsiveness to control inputs. So you should start with a good, high precision, low profile tire. I recommend Pirelli P-Zero. And make sure it is filled with nitrogen, not air, because with nitrogen the pressure is less sensitive to temperature changes. You definitely need to mount them on magnesium rims, but if possible I recommend carbon fiber rims and carbon-ceramic brakes, because those will lower the unsprung weight and allow the tire to keep in contact with the road when it is bumpy. The change will be like night and day, it will give a whole different feel to your Prius.” Ridiculous, right? Even though all the advice is correct, it is not the first consideration for a Prius. And yet, this is what we do.

We talk about the noise transmission issue as if this could render the whole system useless. One of the key points about digital audio, and especially computer-based audio, is that it is less sensitive to physical imperfections than analog systems. And yet, there was one writer here who asked for advice about the harsh, glaring distortion he got when playing Roon, and he described his system is detail including the brands of cables he used, and described his next step in the troubleshooting as getting some even higher quality cables to compare. I’m not saying that digital cables have no effect, again that’s a separate discussion, but they do not cause dramatic, harsh distortion.

First, we should start with the fundamentals, and leave final tweaking to later.

Second, we should stop talking about computer audio and talk about appliances. You don’t need to get a NAS. You don’t need to obsess about the CPU – unless it is underpowered, a more powerful CPU will not improve sound quality. Wired networking does not give better sound quality than WiFi – unless the WiFi connection is unreliable or underpowered.

I would say this:

If you already have a music system, you should think about adding Roon like you do about adding an FM tuner. You get a Roon box like a Nucleus, or there are a few other brands. If you have your own music library, you need to store it, the cleanest is to install an SSD in the Nucleus, your dealer will do it, or you can buy them on Amazon, it takes five minutes with a screwdriver to install it. Or if you prefer, you can get an external drive and plug it into a jack on the Nucleus. One terabyte is enough. And then you plug the Roon box into your hifi. If your hifi doesn’t have a jack that fits, or if it doesn’t have a DAC, you need to add a box, that’s discussed here. The Roon box needs to be on the internet, and it needs to be on WiFi so you can control it with a tablet, you can use a WiFi connection or a wired connection if you have one. Copy your music to the Nucleus from your computer, or connect to Tidal, and enjoy!

One advantage of Roon is that you can play in other rooms. For that, we don’t use short USB cables, we use networking. So you need to connect your music systems in the other rooms with networking, either WiFi or wireless. If your music systems in those rooms don’t have network jacks, there are several devices that can handle that, from the $35 Chromecast to multi-thousand boxes from the likes of PSAudio, those are discussed here.

Of course, you can use networking for the main system too, instead of the USB cable. That allows you to put the Nucleus box somewhere else, if that is more convenient.

And some similar advice for somebody without an existing music system, that is even easier.

The point is, this approach, which removes a lot of the fine-tuning we often drill into, is already complex enough. But I didn’t talk about computers. And I didn’t talk about audio finetuning, or nitrogen in the tires. And nonetheless, the sound will be awesome, much better than anything that has come before. And it is simple, and reliable.

Now, it the person we are talking to wants to do more fine-tuning to get the ultimate sound quality, I would suggest looking at the speakers and the room, and if you don’t wanto to make your room look like a studio with panels on the walls, educate yourself on how to use Roon’s DSP room correction. And after that, look at quality bottlenecks in the system, the DAC isn’t super-critical unless it is sub-par, etc. And after that, worry about what type of connection you use, and cables, and the phase of the moon…

The Computer Audiophile demographic should not be our audience (our only audience).


Personally I find the differences between; digital sources, digital cables, USB vs spdif, stock USB vs more expensive audiophile USB, ethernet vs USB, linear vs stock power supply, all very minimal in my setup.

I have a high quality DAC/amp and speakers. Not the best by any means but well above a Sonos. Messing about with anything on the digital source side rarely produces anything more than marginal if subjectively non existent differences. Others hear differently of course.

On a scale, any changes I’ve ever seen with these kind of ‘tweaks’ or ‘issues’ is in the <10% range. Maybe nearer a couple percent. Room issues (room Correction etc, or physical adjustments for those that can accommodate it) are far more important. But then I also have a tricky room in a domestic environment rather than a listening room.

So completely agree with you… but I doubt your suggestion will stop it, the myth and lure of night and day transformations from a simple upgrade is too strong.


I agree there is a tendency to go overboard and we can get carried away with things thst really don’t mater that much. It’s not as bad as some forums I am a member of though where the slightest notion of using a taboo product or network connection your thrown to the lions with everyone telling you to change your intire infrastructure as its just not good enough.

I’m sure that’s right.
But I am less concerned with extremism among the experienced, and more with misleading newcomers because if we fail them they may never grow into the experienced.


Well maybe it’s also true that many new Roon users never visit this forum. And when they do they probably have more complex questions.

Nevertheless your plea has certainly merit for us all. Keep it simple!

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@AndersVinberg your certainly on a role for this simplicity malarky.

Wow. I don’t really like the idea of one person trying to tell a zillion other people what they should or should not be doing in regards to communicating with “newcomers”. Your vision certainly is not mine…


The forum is full of opinionated people. I don’t apologize for that.

Want to state yours?

No. Why? Because I wouldn’t presume to tell the community how it should interact with “newcomers”. If the folks at Roon want to post guidelines, great. Otherwise, if I respond to “newcomer” posts, I will do so as I see fit. Not as some self-appointed hall monitor sees fit…


@AndersVinberg - pretty much agree with what you have posted. I’ve cried out in a similar manner, most recently in a post where someone wanted the best Roon experience and he got so much specialized and over engineered advice that I felt compelled to make a post. As for the over engineered advice, I guess he asked for it. I deleted my post because it won’t do any good, as I suspect you are realizing, and who needs the hassle.

What makes me laugh is that in all these posts that deal with the digital portion of things, probably the least important, there is little mention of a poster’s audio system.

It was either Hegel or Woody Allen who advised, “Simplify, simplfy”. :smile:


Giving people best advice about connectivity is reasonable. All we are trying to do is advise ways of getting a good user experience from Roon. What they use to listen is largely outside of our remit, surely!

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Henry, well said.

@AndersVinberg, you didn’t talk about getting those P Zeroes heated up first to ensure optimal adhesion :slight_smile: (although now that I’ve said that, I do have an older Marantz amp with a temperature gauge on it …)

More seriously – great idea. The Roonlabs team already have this – Roon - How Roon works; would it make sense to do a (simple) complimentary graphic or table, to the intent of what you have done in words? (happy to do a draft sketch).

I agree with the simplify bit.

I am sitting here with my gym headphones listening to MP3 Liszt on my iPad and loving it

Johannesburg power outages allow for simplification on a grand scale

Isn’t it all about music anyway :cowboy_hat_face:


Lol. Lived in India for a couple of years. Had a big diesel generator out the back of the house. It got a lot of use.

It’s got better with a new president LOL

Sorry, I must disagree. Suggestions, comparisons, an/or recommendations about audio equipment is a valuable forum contribution, if not more so, than bragging about ways one’s system has been exorbitantly tweaked. That’s done with DACs, isn’t it? The difference is that this forum is definitely geared toward the digital rather than the analog.

For me, the best part of this forum is ‘what are you listening to’ and ‘showing off your system’, but I expected a disagreement about what’s important.

This is a Roon forum. That is what we all have in common and that is what we can all talk about with some degree of common understanding. The rest is interesting and it certainly nice to see how others listen. But most have sorted systems so are rarely in need of advice in that department. Perhaps the reason we advise on what we do is because those are the questions asked, that is where the demand is.


Since you have chosen to focus on one aspect of my original post, I want to ask if you agree or not with the OP’s post.

I do. And if you look at some examples of the advice I try to offer you’ll see I try to keep matters simple.

Interesting thread. I’m 8 days into the trial period, and still thinking about it. Simplicity has its virtues, and the Roon Web site is actually pretty good at saying this – Roon re-connects you with your music. All this business about how Roon works is kind of like noise. I think my take on it for a beginner, which I am, would be more like:

Take your Mac or Windows laptop with some music on it. Download Roon. Start up Roon, and let it look at your music for a bit and figure out what it is, and what you’d like to see/know about it. Then plug some headphones or computer speakers into the laptop and start listening!

If you want to listen in another room of your house, plug in a $50 Google Home mini in that room. Roon will see it and let you stream music to it. Or if you want to spend more money, a JBL Link 300 or Sonos One will work, too.

Want to listen to music with your stereo or A/V receiver? Get a “Roon ready” or “Chromecast inside” system, or plug a Chromecast Audio into your existing receiver.

Your music isn’t on your laptop? That’s OK; just tell Roon where it is, and it will handle it.

(Well, sort of. I see Dropbox integration of some sort.)

What, no music at all? Just use Spotify or Pandora? No problem; sign up for Tidal instead, and Roon will handle it.

And, clearly the Roon web site should now include a Google Home Mini in that “Plays with your gear” section :rofl:.