First time hardware choices

I’m new to digital music. A year or two ago I replaced an old and partially working stereo setup with new equipment. I enjoy music, and wanted to get decent/good sound quality, but wanted to avoid going overboard. Like many people, I have the ability to get gear-crazy and escalate the amount of money that I put into an activity. I have been a long-time computer user, including microcomputers back to the early 1980’s, but my only real use of computers with music was streaming a couple of my favorite stations and listening to archived broadcasts. I am not looking to rely on my home computer setup for listening to music.

After giving it some thought, I ended up with a Marantz 6006 CD player, Elac UF5 speakers with their 10EQ sub, and a Yamaha RN-602 receiver. I may have to move the receiver to another use - if so the likely replacement will be an Outlaw 2160. Overall I am happy with the sound quality.

I was slow to learn about the entire streaming world - it was seeing mention of the Elac discovery server that got me thinking about it.I will be digitizing a few hundred CD’s to FLAC. As it happens, I could simply use the Yamaha receiver to play the CD’s, and recent firmware updates make it possible to use the receiver to access Tidal directly. Still, partly because of the user interface, I think that I will take the plunge into the setup of a music server that does roon and others, and a network player and dac. I would like to be able to explore the world of MQA, so I would prefer that the dac handles MQA.

For the server, the sonicTransporter i5 looks like the best choice for me, and I have been impressed with the involvement of the firm on this community’s boards. The issue is with the player and dac.

If price was not much of an object, I would end up with the Sotm ultra and Mytek Brooklyn+ - but I cannot justify spending $4K+. Two options seem to make the most sense:

  1. the new Cocktail Audio N15(D). This handles both player and DAC tasks, and because it is powered by line power avoids the rabbit holes of increasingly costly audiophile power supplies and USB cable connecting player to dac. Because this is an all-in-one option, it can always be moved to another room and used as an endpoint, and the primary system player/dac upgraded to something else later.

  2. the pro-ject Pre Box S2 dac. I have read the threads about the dac, and I suspect that it will work for me. As player, there is the pro-ject stream box, but that is not yet listed for sale in the US. There is also the Sonore microrendu. I see that SMC offers a bundle of the transporter and microrendu. At this point I am leaning toward the microrendu. Doubtless there are other options - I will appreciate suggestions.

I understand that there is no free lunch, and I am not looking for high-end audiophile performance on a (lower) mid-range budget. My current sound system has decent sound quality, and I would like my additions to at least be consistent with that, preferably a bit higher in case of other system upgrades.

I would appreciate any comments or suggestions, either general or specific about the equipment choices.

Thanks. Tom S

Naim Unity Atom.

I think you still need to have a computer, to run Roon Core on. I started with an old Mac Mini, about $200. You might run that into the Bluesound Node 2i for DAC. I went with a Mytek Liberty (USB from the Mac, or the optical outlet from the Mac will work too, but no MQA in that case).

  1. a PC or Mac or NUC or sonicTransporter i5
  2. you can connect directly to USB port of your chosen machine or -
  3. stream over a network either via WiFi or Ethernet. for that you’ll need an endpoint; look on you don’t need some costume jewelery endpoint like an SoTM, etc. at least not to start.
  4. has combination machines that are both an endpoint and a DAC. good for starters.
  5. a lot of people like the pro-ject Pre Box S2 dac.

have fun!

I have the Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital DAC and I love it. It has a quality look and feel to it, at least enough so for the price. The screen is very informative and nice to have as well, especially since I use it as a preamp feeding my Nuforce STA200 directly. I used to use a Schiit Saga but I felt that the system actually sounds better without it. The remote is a bit dinky but is very useful. Unfortunately the play/pause and track selection buttons don’t work with my streamer.

That streamer is an SOtM SMS-200. I got a one year license of Roon with it for $60. It certainly looks very cool and performs dutifully. It was also extremely easy to setup vs RPi solutions. I don’t know if it sounds any better than an RPi but at least it is well made and didn’t cost an extreme amount.

Yes this kind of setup can goat someone into tinkering with USB cables and power supplies. But isn’t that part of the fun?

Btw you can often find the Pro-Ject DAC as a demo unit for $350 from Audio Advisor.

Hi @Tom_Simonson
You will need

  • a ROCK based Roon Server to hold your library and music files
  • an MQA capable DAC with USB input that you connect to the Roon Server via USB (no need for an extra streamer, if you place your Roon Server next to the DAC)
  • a tablet or smartphone to control Roon Core

If you can do without MQA, you might start with an AVR connected to the Roon Server directly via USB. Something like a Denon AVR-X3500H will do DSD128 through its USB port. Many people like its sound quality.

A ROCK based Roon Server on a budget:

  • asrock Deskmini 310
  • Pentium G5400 (2x3.7GHz)
  • KVR24S17S6/4
  • SSD ASX8200NP-240GT-C
  • 2.5" HD for music files (as large as you would need)
  • Trendnet TU3-ETG or similar AX88179 based USB3 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (ROCK does not (yet) recognize the Deskmini’s Intel i219V Network adapter)

The pro-ject Pre Box S2 DAC

You can build this step by step, starting with the Roon Server connected to the AVR, then add the DAC

Have fun

Or if you want to keep it even simpler (and supported) buy a gen7 i3 nuc to run rock on. You could even consider an Alaska Plato fabless case for the nuc. Looks better and no fan noise.

Let’s try to make this a bit simpler.

First off, you’ll need some kind of x86 system to run the Roon server on, i3 or better. Best if that system is dedicated to the task of running the Roon server. Doesn’t need to have a UI; this is the server, and the UI is better done with a phone or ideally an iPad. But you can use a laptop for the UI, too, or even a desktop. The key is that it doesn’t have to be the same machine you run the Roon server on. You can get a Nucleus box to run the server on, or use an Intel NUC, but an old laptop or desktop or Mac mini will work just fine, too.

Once you have that, you need a way of getting digital output from the Roon server into your Yamaha. You can either run USB from the machine you’re running Roon server on to a DAC, or get a Roon-ready DAC like the Bluesound Node 2i, which has an Ethernet jack and enough smarts about Roon to handle the connection to the Roon server. The cheapest thing to use is a Chromecast Audio, which is actually a network-ready Roon-capable DAC, but doesn’t do MQA, and may not have the best DAC in the world. If you don’t want to get a network capable DAC, and you don’t want to use USB for the connection, you can also get a bridge, just a small computer (like a Raspberry Pi) with Ethernet in, a software stack that’s aware of Roon, and USB out to the DAC. makes some nice units. Or you can do what I did; configure an old Mac mini or whatever to run Roon Bridge and use the USB output from that Mini into the DAC.

Then plug the analog from the DAC into your amp, and you’re done.

With this scenario I don’t see the point of something like the Cocktail Audio N15(D), which has a non-x86 file server built in. You don’t need that part, I’d think. The pro-ject box looks OK, but you’ll need to feed it digital, as described above.

Great post.
If you are interested in the Pi it is ALLO.COM

Keep it even simpler… run Roon on whatever computer you’ve got (Most modern laptops/desktops/MacBooks are good enough), get a cheap portable USB Hard Drive to put your music on, plus another one for a backup… get a Chromecast Audio and feed the Yamaha Optical Digital from the Chromecast.

That front end will be at least up to the quality of the Marantz and equivalent in quality to the rest of your gear.

Get an iPad to control Roon. …Job done.

You can upgrade the core to a dedicated NUC or Mac mini or whatever at a later date if you wish.

Regarding MQA… I doubt you’ll hear the difference on a system of that price… I’ve got Kef LS50W and I struggle to hear a difference between Hi-Res and CD quality. Of course, my ears may be a bit knackered and YMMV, :slightly_smiling_face:

I started out with an old 2009 MacBook Pro as a core and it worked fine. I then bought a 2012 Mac Mini to use as a dedicated media server with Roon.

You probably won’t be able to resist the itch that is Hi-Res, and if you do… Bear in mind that Roon does a first unfold of MQA to 88.4/24 or 96/24 and the Chromecast can go up to 96/24 and use the Yamaha’s optical input.

To go full MQA you’d have to get a compatible DAC and feed the Yamaha analogue. Whether you’d hear a difference between 96/24 and any higher I would seriously doubt, but that’s just my opinion! :slightly_smiling_face:

So… for minimal outlay you can try Roon and Hi-res, including MQA up to 96/24.


Oh… by the way… you really should hard-wire the core to your router, but the end-point (the Chromecast) can be wireless.

I tried wireless core and endpoint and while it was fine for standard resolution, it stuttered a bit when I went to Hi-Res.

That’s one of the reasons I went for a dedicated core because I wanted to free up my MacBook Pro again.

I like your choice of the sonicTransporter i5 for the Roon Core as I have one and love it. I have a 2TB hard drive installed in mine to store all my music and should several thousand CDs with no problem. You don’t need an expensive SSD for music storage.

I would recommend getting a Sonore ultraRendu for the Roon endpoint/streamer to attach via USB to whatever DAC you end up with.

I would avoid WiFi for the Core and the endpoint.

This setup is not expensive and very easy to use and maintain. Simple, really! And great sounding!

Wifi is fine for controlling Roon - ie iPad/tablet/phone/laptop etc but ideally all endpoints should be wired and the core. I run some airplay devices wireless as the bitrates at 48K are OK on wifi for the most part.

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I have absolutely no problems streaming from my router to my end points (KEF LS50W) wirelessly, even at 192/24.

However… my router is fairly close to my end-points and I’ve set it up to work on a channel that’s free of any interference from neighbours.

192/24 is 4.6Mbit/sec and my wi-fi (Wireless-n) theoretically tops out at 450Mbit/sec.

It all depends what other ‘environmental factors’ you have in your home, but wi-fi can work perfectly well.

Wired is of course preferable if you want to guarantee a solid connection. I haven’t had any problems yet, so I haven’t gone wired.

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I would like to thank everybody for the useful input. I did do a fair amount of research and thinking before my initial post, not wanting to violate the RTFM requirement. My desire is to come up with a plan for a transition to digital music (other than the net radio that I currently listen to). I do not want to buy additional receivers/amps, with the possible exception that I may have to do without the Yamaha RN-602 receiver - if so I will replace it with an Outlaw 2160.

I do want to keep music playing separate from computer work - thus I would prefer not to use one of my computers as a server. I will also mention that I am not an Apple person, and am an old guy - I prefer wired connections, have used mechanical keyboards since the 1980’s, use a desktop machine with big monitors etc. While in the past I spent time tinkering with hardware, going back to stuff like using breakout boxes to get serial printers to work, I am pretty much past that sort of thing now.

I may be setting up a NAS, and started to consider using it as a place to run Roon core, but meeting the hardware requirements for roon leads to a pretty expensive box. I will probably still get one for archiving and to fool around with hosting virtual machines, but I think that I will not use it for music except as backup.

There are three essential elements involved: server, network adapter, and dac.

For the server, I think that I would prefer the sonic transporter over the slightly cheaper option of a NUC/rock. I would like to connect it directly to my router and use an external USB storage device for music files. My music equipment is in another room. I link the router (Dlink 880L) wirelessly to a Dlink 1650 extender. I use wired connections from music devices into the Dlink 1650 device.

For the adapter, it seems that either the sotm s200 neo (there is now a new and improved version) or either Sonore devices - micro rendu or ultra rendu will work. I will think about this choice. The Sonore devices are a bit more expensive, but do have the advantage as coming from the same vendor as the server.

I had also seen a review of a RPI-based adapter from pro-ject - the Streambox S2 Ultra. I had not seen it listed for sale in the US. FYI, I inquired about the US version and was told that they first produced European voltage versions, currently being sold. The US version will be available early next year. I will probably already have made my purchase before this device becomes available.

I mentioned the Cocktail audio N15(d). That was not because it can be used as a server, but it also can serve as a Roon ready endpoint that includes a dac that does MQA. I will probably not be getting it, but it does simplify some choices.

I will probably use the Pro-ject pre s2 dac. I was a bit concerned by the threads about it, particularly that the designer was not going to continue to support, but it appears that the consensus is positive about the device. Also, when I return to vinyl, if I do not use my extremely vintage turntable, it may be useful to have a device that includes phono pre-amp inputs.

I have learned that I cannot predict where I will go with an activity until I begin doing it. For example, I suspect that I will not be big into MQA, but I would like to be able to experience it first. At this point I am just preparing myself to begin the journey into digital music.

Thanks. Tom

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antipodes audio DX then usb to TT2 course you are up to 20 G but thats my advice

I am also using Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital and waiting for Stream Box S2 Ultra, I have 2 kinds of setup:

  1. Roon Nucleus -> (USB) -> ifi micro iUSB 3.0 -> (USB&5V DC) -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

ifi micro iUSB 3.0 is good for Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital to provide isolated and regened USB signal and 5V DC

  1. Roon Nucleus -> (WiFi) -> iPad with Room Remote -> (USB OTG) -> ifi micro iUSB 3.0 -> (USB&5V DC) -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 Digital

iOS or Android Device with Room Remote APP can act as a network bridge, the SQ is pretty good. My iPad mini 2 can deliver DSD 256 (DoP) , PCM 24/768 , MQA to DAC, if you want to wait Stream Box S2 Ultra, this is a good temporary solution.

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It’s time for an update on what I actually ended up with, after getting all the input. The system that I purchased was a SMC sonic transporter 5 with 1TB internal SSD, a Sonore ultraRendu, the pro-ject pre s2 DAC. I ended up ripping all my music myself using DBpoweramp to flac. I am using a Samsung Galaxy tab S3 to run the Roon interface (9.7" screen).

The transporter is located next to my router. The music is currently stored on a Samsung external SSD drive. I may eventually copy the music from the external drive to the internal one - I just wanted to get everything up and running first.

My audio equipment and the Sonore and DAC are located in another room. I use a Dlink DAP 1650 to connect wirelessly to my router (a Dlink 808), and then run a wired connection to the Sonore. When I first set things up, Roon complained about a bad network connection and I had some skipping. I was concerned about the wireless portion of my connection. Happily a network reset fixed that and I have had no real problems since. So far I am just using the 2.4 band for the wireless connection. I have checked, and there appear to be few other wireless channels that I can “hear”, so I do not have channel conflicts.

I am still in the stages of getting used to using Roon, and the interface, but so far everything is working out very well and I am happy with the results.