How to best connect my digital music to my audio system?

I have Krell power, B&W speakers, Music Hall turntable, etc for my audio setup in my music room. Upstairs, separately, have an iMac with a 150GB iTunes music library (generally ripped at 320bps or downloaded at variable bit rate). I have a 55 inch TV in the living room with AppleTV, but that’s not where I listen to music. We are an “Apple” house with iPads, iPhones, etc.

I am considering putting Roon on my new Mac laptop. How best to connect it, and my digital music, to my audio system? I want good sound, but understand that LPs will still be the best. I’d like to avoid investing thousands into this.


I love my squeezebox. It’s pretty much plug and play with Roon. I just bought a second one. You can find them on audiogon. A great used audiophile site.

Thanks, if possible I would rather not buy something that is no longer currently sold. I can see how this would work though and might consider it. Ideally I want a high-quality connection and can’t easily use ethernet, so it’ll need a wifi jump at some point. Would like to stay under $1000.

Here you go. Apple Airport Express. Plus an RCA adapter for its 3.5-mm audio minijack, and you are in business. But you’ll not be able to stream DSD, nor any files higher than 16/44.1, which is an Apple AirpPlay limit. If that’s too restrictive you’ll have to directly connect (typically over USB). or spend more than $1,000, or cave and buy a Squeezebox (or Squeezebox type) device. All the other connection methods (beyond those options) - at present - are restricted to the Apple Airplay restrictions.

But the tech info to make audio products “RoonReady” was put into the hands of many vendors a number of weeks ago. So if you want to wait, the number of options should expand greatly over the next few months.

Hey thanks. So Roon will then allow me to control my music from the laptop and then direct it to the Airport Express from my iMac over my home network?

If I go the USB route I can use an Apple TV I guess, but then I need to route the USB into a DAC prior to the audio system, correct?

Yes. However, connecting an Apple Airport Express can be USB out to a USB DAC, or using the audio minijack out with an RCA adapter. Problem with that is that now you are using the DAC in the Airport Express, which isn’t going to be the best DAC. But it’s cheap and easy.

I should qualify that by saying that’s as I understand it. Have never tried it personally.

[quote=“Azabuplace, post:5, topic:6234”]
If I go the USB route I can use an Apple TV I guess, but then I need to route the USB into a DAC prior to the audio system, correct?
[/quote]I think the answer to that is yes also. But I’m not an Apple guy. Maybe someone else can confirm this?.

Happy to help. :slight_smile:

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Unless there has been a change to the most recent Airport Express, I don’t believe that the USB output can be used for audio (this limitation also applies to the Apple TV’s micro USB). The 3.5mm audio jack is also an optical out, so it can be attached to a DAC (with something like this:, or you can plug a regular mini headphone cord straight into a set of powered speakers or into your hifi and “AirPlay” music from Roon running on your iMac over to the Airport.

Install Roon on the iMac with the music on it. This will be your Roon Core. That means it needs to keep running so it can serve your music everywhere else.

Your laptop can also have Roon installed. This will be a Roon remote, which will let you play music from the iMac on your laptop, using the Roon interface on your laptop.

The Apple TV is an AirPlay receiver, so you can set it up as a zone in Roon and also play music on it, whether that’s through the HDMI cable to your TV speakers or through a an existing home theatre set up.

The airport Express is the cheapest way for an “Apple household concerned with buying current hardware” to set up additional zones, paired with a set of powered speakers, or plugged into the main hifi with a mini headphone to Single ended RCA cable.

Your current digital library sounds like it doesn’t require functionality above the audio limitations of the Airport. If you start purchasing hi res digital files you may need to explore other options, but by then the RoonSpeakers/RAAT supported equipment market will probably offer up a few additional options.

Love the info here… thanks.

I was thinking to install the core on the laptop since it’s the machine I’ll have when I sit in the music room. I want the full functionality on my lap. If the remote gives me all the browsing, linkages, info, etc. that I get on the core (server), then I am ok I guess. It is true that very little music is on my laptop.

Are there functional advantages to having the core on my most used interface device in my music room?

It wasn’t a comment about the amount of music, only that if its ripped at 320kbps, you don’t need something capable of playing high res DSD files. :smile:

I haven’t noticed a functional difference between the core and the remote unit. I have the core activated on a MacBook in my listening room connected to an external hard drive with all my music on it. I can sit downstairs with my work laptop running Roon remote with my headphones plugged into my laptop and access all my music, make metadata edits, etc.

I don’t think there are any functional differences between the Roon interface regardless of whether you have selected remote or core. The two types are used from a licensing perspective: you need something running core on the network in order for the system to work, to ensure you aren’t running Roon with one license in multiple locations/homes.

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Another option, given you are thinking of using the laptop as the remote to select and play music in your music room, would be something like this hooked up to the Krell, instead of the Airport Express.

You could plug the laptop directly into it via USB. Now we are starting to creep up into the $1000 territory. If you have balanced inputs available you could run some long cables and have the DAC sitting on a coffee table close by.

This project is starting to experience scope-creep now. :smiling_imp:

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Current wi-fi connectivity options with Roon are:
Core to Remote (MacMini, NUC or BRIX in Audio room)
Meridian (expensive)
AirPlay (limited resolution)
Squeezebox (not currently manufactured)
HQ Player Network Audio Adaptor (enthusiast, DIY, not RAAT)

RoonReady devices will start appearing in early 2016. The Auralic Aries Mini is likely to be one of the first and has a built in DAC; Steve has a blog post where he is reviewing it. There will be other RoonReady devices, but a list hasn’t been released.

(Edit: Auralic are showing RoonReady Aries at the CES show, but have said the Mini will come later. Might be best to wait until it is done before buying one.)

One of the decisions that will determine your architecture is choice of DAC.

There will be RoonReady DACs (such as the Aries Mini) that receive wi-fi or you can choose to stream to a device and then connect to any DAC. The Sonore uRendu is (will be) an example of such a device (Edit: Actually this looks to be Ehernet only, not wifi).

With RoonSpeakers you will be able to use a Rapberry Pi, Android device or a similar low spec computer as a streaming device to connect to a DAC.


Based on what I have read so far I am going to get started with the Airport Express with the intent to move to a “Roon supported Wifi enabled DAC” after a few hit the market, I read reviews, etc. At that time I will also start to rerip CDs at a higher resolution than my 320 bps files and consider higher-res when I purchase digital music. Hope that makes sense?

Thanks for all the info everyone. Keep it coming… It’s all useful…

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The scope will creep here in my home, for sure :slight_smile: . Just want to start with acceptable connectivity and then progress. It seems a lot is happening in this space, so the next year or two should be exciting. Thanks for the info…


You should get it with this. Appears to have just come out. For an explanation, look here. And yes. a Cubox-i sounds GOOD.

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Thanks for the pointer. Does not have wifi and ethernet isn’t possible where my systems are located. Talks about “Roon ready” version still to come, so I’ll watch for that too.

For those of you who were so helpful answering my questions here, here is an update:

I have a Tidal Hifi subscription, which I love, and I’m slowly re-ripping my CDs as lossless. I am streaming to an Auralic Aries Mini (1 yr. Tidal Hifi subscription free with purchase!) connected to the system above. I am very satisfied with my current AirPlay setup. I’m looking forward to the Mini having RoonReady firmware as my next improvement. Anyone know when that might be coming?

I’ve got a Mini myself, and have paid very close attention to any announcements/statements made by Auralic that are available on-line. And while I’m sorry that I don’t have links to back it up, I can say that from what I’ve observed, whether they will even make the Mini RoonReady appears to be up for interpretation. Sure, they’ve said things that imply that they would make that change for the Aries line, from what I can see they’ve never committed to doing it for the entire Aries line.

They have commented on the effort to make the standard Aries and the LE RoonReady was different from a development process to make the Mini RoonReady. One could read that as implying that the Mini was coming later. But that is by implication. I’ve seen no explicit commitment to do so.

I know this is mincing word, but from what I’ve seen to date, it’s possible that we are just “Waiting for Gadot.”

Here is what I found:

And I found these comments ( ): “A soon to be released firmware update to all three Aries streamer models will bring AURALiC’s Lightning platform to v3.0, from which the Aries, the Aries LE and Aries Mini will all get MQA compatibility but that RoonReadiness (initially) only applies to the two big fellas. Roon support for the Aries Mini in still “in progress”.”


That’s one of the statements. And - I know I’m splitting hairs - but it implies that all 3 will get RoonReady ability. Why else would you work on it? But I’ve still not seen an explicit commitment to deliver it, much less a time that they intended to deliver it by, as they did for the other two Aries products. “In progress” could really mean, “we’re evaluating how much work it will be, before we make any commitments.

Though it looks like they intend to deliver it. Unfortunately that could be exactly what they want while they decide IF they are going to deliver it.

Thanks for the quote.

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