Help me choose the best Core - Mac, Nucleus or Innuos?

Hi community, I am in an interesting position and would like your opinions/intelligence on this. I’m trying to find the best Core option. I’m looking primarily for best sound quality but I also like simple solutions. For this reason my main endpoint is a Naim Uniti Atom (running into a pair of Harbeth M30.1s).

Currently I’m running my Roon Core on a 2018 3.6 Ghz Mac mini i3 with 8Gb RAM. The library is on an attached portable SSD. I have no issue with the sound of my system but curious about a couple of other available options and whether they’d be an improvement. Both are available at the same price:

  1. Roon Nucleus
  2. Innuos Zen Mini Mk. 3

While I realize the Zen is both a core and an endpoint, I would only be using it as a core.

So should I just keep the Mac as the core or switch to the Nucleus of Innuos?

I look forward to your suggestions.

If your happy why bother, but if you really want to change I would not go for an underpowered core like the Zen. Only my opinion everyone else’s might vary.

Uses a Pentium N4200 chip.

Might be OK for a system with few endpoints and no DSP, but otherwise not enough horsepower, IMO.

I would only make the change if there is an appreciable improvement. Sounds like the Nucleus would be the best alternative but curious to get opinions.

In SQ, probably won’t make a noticeable difference. The difference resides in program responsiveness and ability to handle tasks requiring more horsepower, like DSP and Room Correction. For example, if your current Core could not handle processing the convolution files without slowing down, then, yes, a better processor will be able to generate better sound.

And in those terms, Innuos is not even an option, as your current Mac is more powerful than the Innuos.


I’ve run my Roon core on two imac i5 desktops - first 2014 imac / now using a 2019. imac. Plenty of horsepower. I have multiple endpoints and use DSP functions.

My take on this is that people tend to over-spec their Core hardware, and while there is no harm in this, there are people running it successfully on quite low powered NAS, for example. So if the Zen appeals, and you don’t intend to run multiple players and a lot of DSP, it’ll be fine. It has other functions that may (or may not) be useful to you, including CD ripping, downloading, metadata editing, and access to a number of streaming services that Roon doesn’t support.
On the other hand, if you don’t need these features, I would just keep the Mac. You can always upgrade its RAM or storage if necessary. Some have found them to be a bit electrically noisy, so I would try to locate it in a different room, and on a different mains circuit, to your HiFi if possible.