How far can I get with a custom NUC

Hi, I am currently running ROCK on pretty good spec NUC ( NUC8i5BEK + 16GB RAM + 512 GB SSD). I am toying with the idea of reusing the internals in an HDPLEX case and upgrade the machine both on power supply as well as USB output (using a PCIE audiophile card TBD). The idea would then to use this machine as both server and end point.

As I am quite new into this pursuit a better sound quality rat race, I wonder how far would this get me compared to going the route of purchasing a ready made server (Innuos) or streamer (currently using an Allo USbridge Signature and looking for improved SQ).

It would get you as far as any self made server. Caveats are:

  1. No local storage with ROCK. You need the M.2 slot to use a PCIe card with adaptor so you would need to put the OS on an SSD.
  2. You need two power supplies. The NUC and the PCIe card (if it allows it).
  3. Cost. Case, card, adaptor and multiple high quality PSU’s end up costing you as much as the Innuos option. And comes with no guarantees.
  4. ROCK can be a hinderance because it is so tightly bound to supported NUCs. I know some ancillaries work via the PCIe adaptor but you have no guarantees.

I have thought along similar lines to you, and my eventual theoretical solution was a M-ATX board with two PCIe slots for an audiophile or optical network card and an audiophile USB card. That together with PSU(s) and an audio based Linux OS will result in a pretty decent server with USB out. In my case I’d forget USB and use a second Ethernet port to output direct to a streamer. But guess what. That bought me full circle back to a NUC, streamer and network isolation. That is the problem with chasing your tail!

Yes I am feeling exactly like that - chasing my tail when reading hundreds of posts. As much as I want to go into tinkering, it’s an expensive tinkering…

Which streamer did you choose?

A Teac NT-505.

Were you able to compare it to other streamers in this price range? I see very mixed views.

It replaced a pre-amp, streamer, USB DDC and DAC plus associated power supplies with one box. In that respect it was worth every penny before a note was played. But it wasn’t a keeper until I added the network isolation I spoke of in the somewhat controversial form of an Uptone EtherRegen.

This is tempting because I have been looking at upgrades on all items you stated.
My assumption was that in order to get a combo that will really be high end I needed to go upmarket to vendors just as Auralic starting in the 2.5k mark

The solution worked for me. But I wasn’t aiming for the high end label. Just making room and improving usability. But I am also very happy with the results.

IMHO, instead of going through all that to get it to potentially work, you’d be better off starting a new build based on a Mini-ITX motherboard.