Down-to-earth recommendations to newcomers



You may well be right about USB ports. However, after having spent my share in various upgrades over the years, I have learned one lesson. When it comes to music play-back, let your ears, not the advise of others, guide you. And I stand by what my ears told me. I could not tell the difference between the direct connection to my DAC from the MacBook, and a high quality TT connected to the preamp and a good amp.

As for cost, I suggested getting a MacBook used. There are many to be had in the sub $ 200 range that will do well. It is simple, and just works, as opposed to rigging up a NUC and tweaking a Cubox, which is what a SE is, and ensuring that it is up to speed with the latest software and drivers that will communicate with everything else.

One more thing. Granted that a USB port is noisy, how is a local Ethernet network any better? Across rooms one is talking wire and connectors and therefore lots of interference. How exactly is this better? In any case, USB 5 is a good solution to usb noise and a relatively inexpensive device like Schiit’s Eitr offers such a solution.

I therefore stand by my advise: connect first with what you have – an old MacBook or a PC. Hear it first and give it a shot. If you really don’t like what you hear, then, by all means, go for the alternatives. Bottom line: trust the force in you (your ears). And remember – the point of it all is to enjoy the music. Roon, for me, is about the integration with lyrics, and the discovery. Have fun with that.



Not only can I tell the difference between an analog setup using a quality turntable and a quality DAC, I can tell the difference between using the USB port of a MacBook acting as a Roon Core/Endpoint and a separate dedicated Roon Core and a dedicated Roon endpoint like a Sonore ultraRendu. That using a Schiit Yggdrasil DAC with Schiit’s USB Gen 5. If you are unable to tell the difference, you will be spending a lot less on this hobby. In a way I envy that.

There is a rather large difference between what happens on USB and what happens on Ethernet. I am not going to break that down for you but, if you do the research, you will find that to be true.

I agree that people should use what they have when they first try Roon. But, if they find they like Roon’s interface and features, they need to know there are ways to improve the sound quality. Using a separate dedicated server and endpoint is one good way to do that. That is, in fact, what Roon recommends.

(Mark) #75

Perfect example that illustrates while the sentiment of the thread is laudible, it’s an utterly futile exercise in practice.

Neither of you are providing down-to-earth recommendations, FYI. You are having an audiophile bitch-fight.


That is simply false. There is nothing more down to earth than suggesting that people try Roon with the hardware they have. I then suggested there are paths to better sound quality and mentioned one such path. The path I mentioned is certainly not the only one.


Agreed. The question for this thread was: what is the easiest way to get a newcomer into the Roon platform. My advise spoke to that. Then, the debate went on to SQ, and there are so many variables there. For me, the starting point has to be the acoustics of the room.

That said, I’d love some real insight on whether there is a significant difference between an ethernet / endpoint solution vs a direct connection using USB Gen 5.

(Andrew Cox) #78

This is the Roon KB article on SQ. The significance of the difference between USB and Ethernet connections is in the ear of the beholder. People who have optimised their systems in other respects will call it significant. People who just want to listen to music and are not audiophile hobbyists will not.


Thanks for this, Andy. I had read this before – and I appreciate that Roon offers a bunch of alternatives. However, I am not sure why Roon argues that ethernet is better when others, such as Pure Music and Audirvana, advocate a direct connection from a computer to a DAC and then to the pre-amp or amp. In my case, I have indeed done most of the optimizations, barring room acoustics, and that too, I am going to do this weekend, with a friend who knows a thing or two advising me. What I am therefore keen on learning now is the scientific rationale for the claim about ethernet being better than using a DAC that has a Gen 5 USB connector that links with the computer source. I’d be very grateful for the evidence.

(Anders Vinberg) #80

My (oft-stated) view is that it probably depends on both how electrically noisy the computer is and how sensitive the DAC is to electrical noise. But I think Roon’s argument makes more sense than the others: it is certainly easier to make a minimal low-noise computer for the endpoint than making. The question in my mind is not whether it would work, but how necessary it is. In my experience with two quality DACs I have not noticed a difference (with an SSD-Nucleus).

By comparison, I once read a review of a fancy server, the kind with multiple power supplies and internal copper shielding and luxurious casework and a $20,000 price tag, and it had four spinning hard drives and a fan! That is not rational engineering.


Exactly what I think. With a low noise computer, e.g., a SSD MacBook Air and the music in a SSD drive, the noise floor is low to begin with. Add a DAC like the Schiit with what they call a Gen 5 USB, or many alternatives, and the noise is further reduced. And one gets a simple, direct connection which just works, plug and play. What I am trying to understand, then, is the rationale behind Roon’s set up claims involving separation of the core, and the use of endpoints as a result. Assuming there is an SQ difference, is it quantified in any manner? What is the percentage difference between the two options? Is there any scientific basis at all?

The reason this matters is that I know people who get turned off the whole Roon thing because of the complex set up connection. I did – and tried several alternatives before I decided that the UI mattered just as much to me as SQ.

(Andrew Cox) #82

As set out in the KB article Roon has a heavier processing footprint than other players. I have heard that back in the Sooloos days Meridian demonstrated audible effects of computing to the devs. Those things would encourage a well isolated Core.

I don’t know of any scientific investigation of different connections in a Roon system. Controlling for all the variations in gear would seem problematic.

Edit: I am certainly not saying that direct connection is bad. I think as a first step it is the simplest for folks to come to grips with Roon. Those who are interested in optimisation can look into network connection, but many people will find direct connection suits their needs just fine.

(Anders Vinberg) #83

That’s the reason why I started this whole thread.
The ability to separate the server from the endpoint should be viewed as an opportunity, not a requirement. And it is not the first thing to worry about.

How big is the difference? It depends on so many things, you should listen for yourself. It isn’t just about the SSD, the computer’s operating system matters, mainstream operating systems have a lot going on, that’s why people built tweaking tools to shut down such processes. And ROCK or Nucleus are minimal to begin with, as are the systems in dedicated endpoints.

It isn’t very useful to talk about percent difference, because while you can perhaps measure the noise level, it’s about the audible difference on each particular DAC.

So listen. If you are satisfied, you’re done.
If you are unsatisfied, or curious, get a demo of a network endpont and compare, it takes minutes to set up.


The MacBook Air with an SSD is not a particularly low noise system, especially out the USB ports.

(Geoff Mirelowitz) #85

Would it be inappropriate for me to pose the specific question that this relative newcomer has in order to get some “real world” advice? (If it is not appropriate perhaps someone can tell me where this question should be raised.)

I will describe my system and ask what advice, if any, others have to improve it:

My Roon Core is an iMac running in one room, with a USB external hard drive that holds all my own music files.

My Roon endpoint (in another room – where I do most listening) is a microRendu connected to an Uptone Audio ISO REGEN which is in turn connected to a Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital. Those latter two devices are powered by an Uptone Audio LPS1.2 power supply. (The microRendu is powered by a simple SMPS. I intend to change that when I can.)

All of this connects to a McIntosh MA6500 integrated amp and Sonus faber Concerto speakers (stand mounted) with a REL Brittania sub woofer. All the power connections are to a Shunyata Venom PS8 with a Venom Defender (also from Shunyata).

Any “down-to-earth” suggestions to improve this are welcome. FWIW the music sounds excellent to me.

(Tony Reimann) #86

If it ain’t broke why fix it? Your setup looks eminently reasonable. If I were you I would sit back and enjoy the music.

If you really want to improve the sound I believe a single malt or nice red does the trick :grinning:.

(Geoff Mirelowitz) #87

Tony that’s exactly what I’m doing! (Substitute a gin and tonic.)

I just wondered if anyone had any suggestions that I should consider.

(Anders Vinberg) #88

I’m with Tony, seems very reasonable, enjoy the music.
What I have done when I get the urge to spend money is expand my listening opportunities, with headphones or a system in a small room with a door I can close, for listening at night, the main room is open to the house.
If you do want to tweak the system, the answer is always room correction. The digital stuff is fine.


All of you can’t be wrong, and I am going to swallow my pride and try the recommended approach. But I am puzzled by one thing and need your help please. I browsed the Sonore website, and it appears that any of the -rendu’s output to USB, not coax. So, this will mean a DAC middleman to the Amp. This appears to be what @Geoff has described so well (thanks!). But then, if USB is the source of the problem to begin with, what is going to be achieved by installing a USB device in the chain? Or am I missing something? Please advise.

(Daniel Beyer) #90

Ravi_Rajan Then don’t use USB as it is not the only option. Try a DigiOne Player, Ethernet to SPDIF or BNC out. I use it with Schiit gear (the Coax connection) and it works very well.

(Fernando Pereira) #91

@Geoff_Mirelowitz was not asking for absolutes “no USB,” but rather for relative to his system. I’ve owned a variety of digital sources, including microRendu, with a variety of outputs (USB, S/PDIF, AES) connected to a variety of DACs. Pre-gen 5 Schiit multibit DACs do noticeably better with S/PDIF (even better, AES for those who have it). OTOH, other DACs like the Soekris dac1541 don’t much care. I would not replace the microRendu, which is a very solid low-noise USB source, especially with an ultracap UpTone LPS source, unless I had compared it carefully with a non-USB alternative for my particular DAC. Buying from scratch, yes, I’d go with the DigiOne Player for any DAC that takes S/PDIF, but I know how to do Linux shell command-line tweaks when needed. The microRendu is easier to use, everything is easy to configure and update with its Web interface. Update: I now realize @Rugby was addressing @catman 's follow-up question, not @Geoff_Mirelowitz 's original question.

(Anders Vinberg) #92

No no no no no. This is an example of what I worry about when we throw around these statements.

USB is not a bad connection type. There is a reason most modern digital systems use USB — it is excellent. SPDIF (in any form, coax or optical or other) assign the sender ownership of the clock, which is a really bad idea because it introduces the possibility of jitter. Modern USB is asynchronous, as is network, so there is no jitter by definition. (Wikipedia defines jitter is the deviation from true periodicity of a presumably periodic signal, if there is no presumption of timing there is no jitter.)

The concerns about USB are about noise transmission. The severity of this problem depends on the noisiess of the sending device (a Sonore is less noisy than a PC) and on the sensitivity of the DAC to such noise.

Overall, the choice depends on the sensitivity of the DAC to jitter. Many modern DACs ignore the SPDIF standard and reclock the signal, including Chord and Meridian. So while most people decry Toslink for its excessive jitter, Chord prefers Toslink because they are immune to jitter but like that optical doesn’t transmit electrical noise.

I mention all that just to illustrate that these are complex engineering choices that should not be condensed into simple slogans like USB is bad or Toslink is bad.

In my home and car and travel, I use USB in all my modern systems (Meridian, Chord, LHLabs, Sonore) and SPDIF only in my vintage systems.