iFi Zen Streamer vs. NUC as Library drive host?

My setup is as follows:

In computer room (West end of house): NUC with ROCK + external USB HDD with Roon library
Ethernet wire from West to East end of house
In listening room (East end of house): iFi Zen Streamer with USB output to rest of music system

Question: Both the NUC and the iFi Zen Streamer are equipped with USB ports for external drives. If I plug the USB Library HDD into the NUC, it is more proximate to the Roon ROCK core (and music must travel over the Ethernet to the listening room end point).

But if I plug the USB Library HDD into the iFi Zen endpoint, the drive is more proximate to the DAC (where, maybe, the Ethernet connection is for control only and the actual music digits may stream from the drive directly to the endpoint).

Of course, it is entirely possible that I don’t understand how this works…

Which option is preferable? And why?

Thanks - Glenn

Is Roon going to be able to see the library if it is plugged into the Zen? How?

I’m assuming so - the drive (like the endpoint) are on the same network. In fact, were it NOT possible for a music program to see a drive plugged into the iFi Zen, then why would the Zen have a USB HDD input jack (and it definitely DOES - specifically dedicated to an external USB HDD).

I don’t think so. You’ll need some address of the drive to add to Settings==>Storage.

The USB on the Zen is for the Zen to see the drive to stream from. Roon won’t be able to see the drive. You’ll need to enter it into Settings==>Storage. How were you planning to do that?

One can specify ANY network address as storage in Roon. I’m 99.99% certain that Roon WILL be able to see the drive plugged into the iFi Zen streamer. The question is “How does ROCK route actual music data? Must it stream from the HDD through ROCK and then to the endpoint? Or can ROCK route music data directly from a network HDD to an endpoint?”

Of course, but does the Zen expose an address for the USB connected drive? That’s the question.

It wouldn’t have an external HDD port if it wasn’t network visible. Otherwise, what would be the point of having a USB HDD input at all?

Not necessarily true. See this comment.

That’s okay. Again, what address are you intending to put in Settings==>Storage? The answer to that will solve this disagreement.

Can you try both and monitor the network?
I was suspecting that the core needs the files so having the files on ZS it is going to double the distance data travels.

I can only tell that I had a switch with both, core and ZS and second I did connect the core with a dongle to the switch then the core to the ZS with a 25 cm ethernet. Works faster the second setup.

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My iFi Zen is on order - not yet arrived. I can’t answer that question. But unless the iFi Zen comes with its own music player, it would do no good at all for the Zen to see a drive that the music player (in my case, Roon) couldn’t see. iFi does claim that the Zen Streamer is “Roon Compatible.” But I’m not sure what that means in this context.

I’m not sure but I have read that people were trying to do Roon backup on a usb stick mounted on ZS… I might be wrong and confuse devices

It means absolutely nothing. It doesn’t even mean ‘Roon Tested’, much less ‘Roon Ready’.

you can use it’s own music player, like a volumio… Never tried as my ZS is on mode 2, Roon mode all the time.

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Hi @Traian_Boldea -

What, exactly, is the difference between “Roon Compatible,” “Roon Tested,” and “Roon Ready?”

I’m fuzzy on what these terms mean and how they differ. Even if there are specific definitions, do third party manufacturers understand and use the terms correctly?

Not at home right now, but remembered I did some screen shots, it appears as Roon ready

Screenshot 2022-11-30 at 06.10.08

You asked @Traian_Boldea, but you replied to me, so……

If the Zen can be in Roon ‘mode’, then it is Roon Ready.

Roon Tested means that a Roon endpoint can use it. Roon Compatible is just some made up term.

None of these terms mean Roon can see an attached USB drive.

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As I said - I don’t have my iFi Zen streamer yet - it’s on order.

The answers to my questions may be in the owner’s manual. I’ll download one and read it. Then comment back again. Thanks for your input - it is very helpful!



not 100% sure, but I as understand
Roon tested are the dacs
Roon Ready are the devices that have Roon Bridge on them

Roon compatible I do not Know

There is a page explaining we can search for that


My Cassandra syndrome is on fire right now.

Good luck.


I think the same…