I just got a Nucleus and I have a legacy equipment not Roon Ready and I am not sure how to get the best audio from them

Roon Core Machine

Marantz AV7702mkII preamp (1)
Bryston 7B Mono amps (2)
B&W Diamond Nautilus Speakers (2)

Connected Audio Devices

HDMI connection Nucleus > Marantz

Number of Tracks in Library

Less than 100 while I try to learn how everything works

Description of Issue

I am not sure that I am getting the most out of my legacy equipment and am concerned that I may not be getting any benefit of increased fidelity just because I have a Nucleus. A little late to be thinking about this but I have 3 weeks to decide if I will return the Nucleus. Can’t send screenshots of Settings > Audio.

It doesnot look like you are getting the best sound. Start with just playing to your main zone only (living room) and click on yoiir signal path to see what is happening. Currently it’s a dot rather than a star which usually indicates the highest quality.

See this for more details on how ro find the signal path.

If you bought a Nucleus to get better sound, Roon has never advertised the Nucleus as supplying improved SQ.

That isn’t its purpose.

If you have the Max Sample Rate in your HDMI zone set to match what your receiver can handle then you should be good. I looked it up:

plays high-resolution digital music files via USB storage device or a networked computer (PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution; DSD up to 2.8 MHz .dsf files)

That statement doesn’t reference HDMI specifically but it should be the same resolution.

The Nucleus main objective is to be the core of your Roon system and not an endpoint in the Roon lexicon. The Nucleus is basically a souped-up intel NUC computer. By connecting your legacy component to it you are getting the sound from the NUC computer’s soundcard HDMI connection that shares video and audio. While this is a simple connection you are left with the inherent short coming of HDMI audio specs as well as the noise from the NUC. If you don’t want to go with a separate end point and DAC (i.e. using only the Preamp section of the Marantz), I would recommend using the USB connection between the Nucleus and the Marantz with something like the Audioquest jitterbug to cut the noise level from the Nucleus output. The USB output will give you the higher quality sound you are looking for.

I didn’t buy the Nucleus just to get better sound quality, but I do want to maximize SQ with the legacy equipment I have at this time. I appreciate your feedback.

Very interesting. I thought the Nucleus was built to be quiet even with its HDMI connection. What is a good alternative if I want to bypass the Marantz? So, you think that a USB connection is superior to an HDMI one?

I am slightly confused because I am real new to this. When you talk about my HDMI zone do you mean my Marantz and setting up my Max Sample Rate in it? Not sure exactly how to do that but it must be in the Marantz’s setting. Am I right? Thanks for taking the time to look that up and respond to my plea for help.

You will need to go to settings: audio inside Roon , select that HDMI audio zone and click on device setup and you will see a screen similar to this one where you set max sample rate to match your Marantz.

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Thank you! I went to Device Setup and it gives me only 3 options: 1) Convert to PCM; 2) DSD over PCM v 1.0; and 3) Initial dCS method. Is my selection #2?

Sorry, my bad.
You need to click the advanced tab at the bottom of device setup to see the page I posted.

I responded below but not to you. My bad. I do appreciate your input. Thanks

Thanks again. Is PCM better than DSD? I set up PCM because I don’t know how to convert 2.8MHz. Is it 2800?

I am sure you will get good sound using either connection. It will depend on what you are looking for. The HDMI connection will have mutichannel information on it i.e. Dolby Digital, Atmos etc. The USB connection will transmit higher sample rate data to your DAC. So, if you use Qobuz in Roon and want to listen to say Norah Jones sing Come away with me, you have options to listen to three different versions, each with a higher degree of definition. FLAC 192 kHz 24 Bit or FLAC 96kHz 24 Bit or FLAC 44.1kHz 16bit. I think that the USB connection will transmit all of these sample rates but do not think that the HDMI connection will.

It is different. I like PCM for Rock stuff, and DSD for acoustic stuff. But, only your ears can guide you.

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I don’t think the AV7702 has a USB input.

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Roon doesn’t play DSD over HDMI so I use Convert to PCM.

HDMI plays multi-channel and hi-res. I used NUC to Denon receiver with HDMI for several years until a new Multi-Channel Dac came out. The MC Dac is now my primary choice but I still use the HDMI zone when grouping zones for whole house music.

Without a usb input on the AV7702 then I would get a separate end point that would use the rca inputs to your preamp. That way you can put the Nucleus anywhere you want in your house on the network. I think a great sounding option is one of the products from Allo.com. They are light weight, low powered, well reviewed and great price to performance. I would look at their new Boss2 player with a Nirvana SMPS for the complete package. I have used their end points, in my garage, sunroom and for my outdoor speakers with great sucess with Roon.

Or, Coax or Toslink.

There’s a lot to unpack here.

Your Marantz preamp is an AV machine, designed to take digital streams of data over HDMI connections and do good things with them. You can connect a computer like the Nucleus to it in many ways: with an HDMI cable to one of the HDMI digital inputs; over Airplay by connecting the Marantz to the same network the Nucleus is connected to; over the network to a streamer which has S/PDIF (coax or optical) digital outputs which connect to the S/PDIF inputs on the Marantz; via USB to a converter which will take the PCM from the USB connection and convert it to an S/PDIF output which you’d connect to one of the S/PDIF inputs on the Marantz; via USB or network to an external DAC which you’d then connect via analog RCA cables to the back of the preamp.

The first of these is probably the best. It’s what the Marantz is designed for, what it wants to do. Don’t worry about “noise” from the Nucleus; that’s a shibboleth, a myth.

The last one, using some kind of external DAC and piping the analog signal back into the Marantz via RCA cables, is probably the worst, because the analog input will almost certainly be transformed back to digital and then re-transformed to analog inside the Marantz. Each transform will lose something. The Marantz does have a Pure Direct button, but it’s not clear it will suppress that transform.

Connecting the Marantz to the network and using Airplay (the second option) isn’t terrible, though. You’re still streaming digital signal, and the Airplay limits on resolution are what that kind of preamp is designed for, anyway.

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