I'm going to subscribe to Roon. But have a few questions

My trial is up Monday and I’ll be paying my first yearly payment. I really love Roon and wonder how I’ve been living without it for so long.

But a few questions. At the moment, I am using my desktop as my core. Primariy, I stream Qobuz through Roon, and when necessary, Tidal. Then I’ve attached the desktop to an Insignia receiver that has two tweeters and a subwoofer. The computer is a pretty standard, off the shelf HP tower that ran me $600. So there’s no special soundcard within.

Would I improve the sound if instead of using an HDMI cable, I used a DAC? Or would installing a good sound card be even better?

At the same time, I am willing to spend up to $500 on a new receiver. I noticed many of the new receivers can connect to certain streaming services. But is there such a thing as a receiver in this price range that will serve as a Roon core? Or, would my desktop still have to function as a core but then connect to one of these new receivers through my wifi? And if there isn’t anything around $500, what is the cheapest I’d have to spend?

For what it’s worth, I do notice that some modern recievers/amps do have ethernet in them. That way I could connect my desktop to an amp via ethernet. I did see this Denon one:


It really depends on how good the dac is in your receiver and how good the amp itself is. Personally your likely to get better sound by having the noisey computer somewhere else and spending money on a Roon Ready endpoint to connect to your receiver over the network. Something like a Bluesound Node 2i has a DAC so you can use analogue out or it has digital outs using coax or optical if your amp supports it and use the DAC in the receiver. There are others to that might suit, a raspberry pi and an output hat, is a good even cheaper option. Having a network ready receiver does not mean Roon will see it , it can use airplay but it’s limited to CD quality only, which is how the Denon would work.

Your hdmi connection is probably as good as you will get with that setup. If it sounds good to you no need to change anything.

There are no receivers that are roon ready, meaning none that talk the roon network protocol (called RAAT). There would be no extra benefit except maybe better built-in dacs/amps in the new receiver. You would still use your pc to run roon, and outputting via hdmi should give good results.

At this point, an external dac would not likely provide any sonic benefit. In fact, using it with a receiver can introduce new problems with unnecessary double digital to analog to digital to analog conversions.

What kind of speakers do you have? That would guide what upgrades would be best for you. Your pc is fine. If you get a new receiver it might be wasted on your speakers. You might benefit from new speakers, but then you might need a better receiver to get the full benefit.

The speakers came with the Insignia amp. Small tweeters as part of a 5.1 surround sound setup. Thinking of replacing them with a Polk Signature S15 ($173) or a Sony Core SSCS5 ($119)

You might want to take a step back and re-evaluate how you are listening to music or other content now.
There are some pretty nice ‘all in one’ systems now. The Bluesound Pulse 2i is a DAC/Amp/Speaker combination that sounds really nice (we have the original Pulse). It plays nicely with Roon. In fact, we never use Bluesound’s app unless we need an update.
The configuration here would be your current PC as the core connected to your network by ethernet, and you can put the Pulse anywhere you want. You control Roon and the volume on the Pulse with a laptop, tablet, phone, whatever.

Be aware that some receiver’s ethernet connection is only there to receive firmware updates and such, not music signal.

Bill, I use HDMI and it sounds great. However, I reboot my PC every day so it remains “clean” and sometimes in between days. Hence, a quick start-up time might be important so reboots are fast. And just try not to do anything else on that PC while listening. You can connect a handheld device like IPhone/pad to the PC’s Roon core and actually control it from there which might be “cleaner”.

I use a laptop as my core and have a NAD C338 amplifier. It isn’t Roon Ready, but does have Google Chromecast built-in. I connect to it without a problem via wi-fi/Roon, up to 24/96, I believe. My speakers are not the most resolving, vintage B&O, but it all sounds pretty good to my ears. It sells for $699 USD, but I got a refurb with the manufacturer’s warranty for right around $500. Lots of options out there, but if what you’re doing sounds go to you, leave well enough alone and enjoy the music! Cheers!