Horsepower: i3, i5, i7, i9, Nucleus or Nucleus+ — less is more!

I cannot see why my middle of the road approach is irrelevant. I believe it to be the most cost effective.
You always pays a high premium for top spec.

I agree to a certain extent with less is more. My music collection shouldn’t be treated as a mission critical asset of a media provider. My 5i5 does what I need it to do and will continue to do so even as my music collection grows when I rip the last third of my CD’s. It can do DSD128 which is all I need, my DAC doesn’t go higher. And when it does reach its limit I will hopefully have gotten the 3-5 years out of it that I think is a reasonable gap between upgrades. Then I will look again. And the 5i5 has gotten me from 1.2 to 1.5 so it has taken everything introduced in that time in its stride with scope for more. I am already very happy with that.

I think this discussion is an important one and should include consideration of our own psychology and past behavior.

I have “saved” a lot of money over the years on technology only to have to upgrade because somehow I have managed to acquire more music or become attracted to something better. I have also “saved” a lot of money by buying better (not “the best”) and being able to skip some upgrade cycles through my own foresight.

All-in-all, I have probably “broke even.” It is a bit like a study that came out a few years ago about stock market investment strategies – over a ten year period (on a grouped level of analysis), there is not much difference in net returns between riskier and risk-avoidant strategies. However, one of the biggest variables is the level of personal engagement the investor has in following the market, i.e., the match of investor “risk profile” with their practice and engagement in the market seems to produce the best outcomes.

In hindsight, I wished I’d known that I would eventually accumulate a far larger number of tracks, albums, and genres of audio (including an expansion beyond music into comedy, technical recordings, recordings of family members, and other unforeseen sources). I also wish I’d known that I would eventually have a large number of zones in my house and would even put Roon into my office at work. Had I only know myself better …

As much as I continually think that my personal “audio nirvana” is right around the corner (or, at times, recently acquired), there always seems to be something better. By the way, I have proven to be a terrible prognosticator in terms of what “new shiny thing” I would want or never want. I have bought things I could have lived without and have done fine despite not buying things “I cannot live without.”

I do think that it is best to use what we want until it doesn’t do it for us anymore and to upgrade with wisdom (about ourselves) and knowledge (about technology). However, if we don’t have a very good idea of where we might be heading, the path into the future is fraught with fogginess (at best).

It would be helpful for there to be some recommendations (that are updated as new products become available) for newcomers or experienced Roon fans who are seeking something a better than what they have. Maybe 3-4 “types” – beginner (or casual user), intermediate (capable of almost all Roon features, with clear identification of what might not be possible), high end (excellent system and full Roon functionality), and fanatic (wanting the best of all worlds). Perhaps we could add a category for “tweakers” (people who want to fine-tune and are continuously adjusting/improving their experience) or are pushing the limits of what is currently available (in terms of technology and/or price).

It would also be helpful to provide some personal stories of how we got to the point we are in the audio world. Some of us have a strong technology background; some have audio backgrounds; some have both. How we got to where we are now might help newcomers identify which path they may be more likely on.


I can second that. I looked at the official system requirements from Roon and knew my Synology NAS didn’t meet the CPU requirements, but on deciding to give it a go I didn’t experience a single hiccup performance-wise.

Naturally, when Roon makes official statements about hardware they need to recommend a system that doesn’t shoot below the mark - so there’s always a good margin.

Having worked several years with software development for hardware and IO-intensive server applications, I know that you can run on less powerful hardware than the official figures (as we sometimes do in our staging systems) but your experience may suffer in ways you cannot foresee. And having a bad user experience when testing Roon will naturally throw off potential buyers.

At precisely which point the hardware will prove inferior for the task is down to a number of factors so great there’s no software developer in the world that would even try to elaborate on them.
Roon users, too, are a mixed bunch. Some have local music collections measuring hundreds of thousands of tracks, while others mainly stream from Tidal but like the convenience of the app and being able to stream wirelessly around the house…

So in the end it comes down to the amount of data you have to churn, your network topology and capacity, endpoint capabilities, the number of simultaneous streams and a bunch of other factors.
I recently got a NUC7 with an i3 cpu that is happily playing highres streams simultaneously in my flat - so why would I spend lots of extra quid on an i5 or i7 when the i3 is just fine?


What does everyone suggest for a:

  • Library under 10,000 tracks (95% being CD quality and the remainder 24/96) on a NAS

  • Using Qobuz

  • 2, or 3 at most, simultaneous end-points running PEQ and maybe upsampling to 24/96.

The box will either run Ubuntu or ROCK.

I’m not going to move to DSD, MQA or double my library size in the next decade. Heck, 10 years from now I won’t be able to hear anything above 12khz.

If I had an old machine laying around I would use that but I don’t. Anyone have a similar use case?

1 Like

An i3 NUC would work.

1 Like

I love this thread. First, many of you are missing a key piece of Anders conversation, simplicity. I am very technical and I spent weeks trying to figure out how to make something work for my situation. We do not want to restrict roon to customers with that level of tenacity.

I have 1350 disks and 8250 tracks playing in 4 rooms that must be sync’d due to proximity and 1 must be wifi. I hope to expand to 7 more rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, and the garage none of these will need syncing and they will be a mix of wifi and cat5. One unique aspect is I have a TT hooked up to the 4 rooms using 2 sources into a single input. Lots of people say this is a bad idea but it works albeit at a lower volume level but that is fine for me. Today I am running roon core on my wife’s desktop, its fine but not great as it slows her down and sometimes she impacts music quality causing cut outs. So I am looking at getting a NUC. I think I can just get a NUC8i3BEH1 and use external USB hard drives, thoughts? I am also thinking about isolating my audio network through an additional wifi router. Anyone doing this and is it worth it? It would allow me to have all of my core equipment wired and my initial wifi points on a dedicated channel. Its been difficult to figure out if network capacity is an issue given all of the gaming, music, TV, and browsing that goes on in my house.

@AndersVinberg you are spot on with your simplicity comments. WTS, I think you will find the Roon topology chart to have a shorter head and longer tail that is common making edge cases more important. I would love to see on the main roon web site a set of equipment generic setups, think starting with Roon, initial multi-room roon, and other common scenarios so that people do not have to think so hard to get started and not accidentally back themselves into a corner.

Looking forward to people’s thoughts on the NUC with USB for my scenario and the isolated network. Thanks folks!

USB drives are fine, better with Roon than a NAS. I’d be looking for a good deal on a previous generation i5, possibly second hand. It’s got a good balance of computing power for electricity consumption and thermal profile imo.


I’m using a test setup just to see if an i7 2012 macmini server 16gb and ssd raid can cope with a 275k track library on a nas via gigabit…so far it’s taken 9 days to import and scan and analyze and still has some to go.

If you had used USB drives instead of the NAS it would probably only take 2-3 days.

1 Like

I’m running a 7th gen core i3 nuc/ROCK for a library of 10k local tracks plus some additional tidal content and it’s fantastic. 8gb memory as per roon’s specs and I’ve never had a glitch.

The separate network for sound may be a good idea if you’re experiencing frequent dropouts (ref kids playing online games etc and eating bandwidth) but I would hold off the network upgrade until you’ve had a chance to gauge the impact of upgrading your core first. Unless you’re getting dropouts/hiccups there should be little or no sound improvement to be gained by hardwiring a separate network. So long as the bitstream is uninterrupted it’s happy days.

I won’t even mention the possibility of gettting a separate power circuit for your audio gear for isolation purpose (oops!) :smile:

Oh, and I use a nas for my files. An ssd would be better for instant content updates and killing noise, I know. But a rescan of my lib only takes a few seconds anyway (10k tracks). And the nas is a convenience in other ways as well. If it makes noise, I turn up the volume :smile:

Here’s my humble opinion on “horsepower” for Roon. “More” isn’t always “more” (-> no real benefit if the extra hp is unnecessary), but “less” isn’t really “more”, either (-> “too much hp” usually has no real disadvantage other than the costs).


These days, when virtually all the world’s music is available from streaming services, how many people need (or even want) a library of 200,000 tracks? My ideal is to have just enough to (a) seed “learning” services like Roon Radio (or Pandora) and (b) keep on my iPhone for the road. About 2000 tracks seems to work for these purposes. ~20 playlists to represent my musical tastes, ~100 tracks to represent each genre. Click on a track in the one that fits my mood, hit Roon Radio, and away we go for hours.

Completists do… they can’t help it though. I think it can be good to restrict what you have sometimes and really dig into it. Just a couple of CDs (remember them) in the car is enough.

I hardly ever listen to music in my car. When I listen to music, I “only” listen to music…

Quite a few Roon users (myself included) only use streaming services to discover new music. If there’s something we really like, we usually buy it…


Mostly I enjoy Audio books in my van…

80,000 tracks is roughly equal to 8,000 albums. According to Roon the Nucleus+ is capable of handling over 10,000 albums. Either Roon is optimistic on how many albums the Nucleus+ can handle, or perhaps your math is off. I’m not sure which since I don’t have a Nucleus+ to comment. Can anyone with a Nucleus+ and a huge library confirm this performance issue?

I’m running Nucleus+ w/ 121k tracks without any issue. You will find people running up to a million tracks with Nucleus+ (with upgraded RAM).

Sounds right.

That’s the NUC revision we used to use in the Nucleus+ rev A in 2018.

It can, and it does. There are thousands of Nucleus/Nucleus+ installs in the wild with large libraries (70k+ tracks), some being 10x that or more.

I’m sure something was wrong with @G997’s system. This is not at all common.

I agree. My Synology DS1618+ is below the specs Roon recommends but works mostly fine. There are a few hiccups now and then and occasionally it is slow to load or play. I debate if it is worth the roughly $400USD for a NUC to improve that and if it would be much of a difference. I don’t think the sound quality would change. I will get some performance improvement in the functionality of the app.

I also hope that Synology will someday come out with a NAS that meets the specs. That would be the smarter purchase as I would have a good Roon core that does so much more. With this in mind, I probably won’t do a NUC for a while and see what happens.

A 2014 MacMini 2.6 GHz i5 with just 8GB of RAM is my Roon Core and endpoint. I don’t use more than one zone at a time. This setup is way more than adequate, even with room correction DSP. It hardly breaks a sweat.