Hi. I’m currently trialing the Roon software and would like to interface it to my existing analog audio system consisting of CD player, preamp, amp and speakers. I have a large collection of CDs but over the past few months have been downloading music instead of purchasing CDs. I’ve digitized most of my CD collection and, along with the downloads, have been listening through my system using an A&norma SR25 DAP with the music installed on its microSD card.
The audio system is installed in a 1st floor listening room. I have Roon installed on a Mac Mini in my basement office and my music is loaded on an attached external hard drive. I would like to be able to listen to my music collection upstairs through my audio system. I want to continue using my amplification (Classe pre- and power amps). I am not currently streaming music but may decide to do that sometime in the future.
What piece of gear do I need to plug into my preamp to listen to my music collection? Do I just need a DAC or do I need a DAC/Streamer device (to be ready for possible future music streaming)? Do I even need a hardware streamer or will Roon software do the streaming and just send the music signal to the DAC via ethernet? I’d like to keep the component under $500, preferably under $300.
I know similar topics as this have been written and answered by this community and I’ve read as many as I could find but I’m still confused by those answers. The hardware solutions I’ve read all seem more complicated than what I’m looking for. Or maybe I’m just not understanding what is truly necessary to accomplish what I want. Don’t I just need something like the Schitt Modius with some way to convert from ethernet to USB input at the Modius? Or can I just plug an ethernet cable directly into the Modius? I do have pretty good wireless in the house but wonder if direct cabling would be a better solution?
Thanks for any help you can give me.
Hi @David_Hampson, welcome to the Roon Community!
Your best choice would be a RoonReady DAC. Here is a list of RoonReady devices. This device would plug into ethernet and Roon would stream to it using its proprietary protocol, RAAT. This is the highest level of Roon integration. The output from the DAC goes to your Preamp and you’re good to go.
To be clear here, Roon streams, the DAC talks to Roon via ethernet, captures the digital signal and sends analog to the preamp. In this case the RoonReady DAC is the ‘endpoint’.
I don’t know if the Schiit Modius is RoonReady, but if it was, it would be all you need.
If you don’t go the “RoonReady” way, you need a DAC that would get signal via some other protocol like AirPlay or Chromecast. But if you are going to do this for Roon, you really should do it right. There are a number of good choices in your price range. If there was a DAC you really loved, there would be other ways to do this. But no need to discuss second and third choices if you can get RoonReady.
In addition to what @grossmsj said, I would argue that what you need is a good (or, right for you) DAC, irrespective of it being Roon-Ready or not. You should be clear about your requirements - Do you plan on playing in the future DSD, apart from your ripped CD? As Roon is foremost a music discovery experience, this is so much better with a suscription to a streaming service as Tidal or Qobuz. So, would you consider or wish to stream high-res in the future? Are you interested in discovering what MQA has to offer? How do you like your system to sound, what types of music do you generally listen to? These questions should guide you in looking for and audition a good DAC that takes into account your requirements. Selecting a DAC with the right feature set and with the right (for you) sound signature is the most important decision.
So, if you finally select a Roon-Ready device, all you need to do is connect it to an Ethernet point and to your preamp. And if the DAC you select is not Roon-Ready, you need in addition to the DAC a bridge device that connects to your network (WiFi or, better, Ethernet) to receive the RAAT stream from Roon, and output it on any of its digital interfaces (USB, S/PDIF, etc.) yo your DAC. This can be so small and easy as a little Raspberry Pi with RoPieee software. I am using one, connected to WiFi, and outputting via USB to my DAC. It is cheap, easy to set up and once set up, you just forget about it. There are others a little more sophisticated… again, that would depend on your requirements or expectations. Think of a Roon-Ready DAC or streamer simply as a DAC with Roon bridge device included…
You already have a Roon Core device, you have your HiFi amplifier chain and speakers, you have a network… So, to make the best out your digital reproduction, take some time and select the right DAC for you.
Thanks, Scott. You’ve clarified it for me a lot. What I’m trying to do does appear to be a simple undertaking as long as I use a RoonReady DAC.
The music I purchase and download is hi-res if the music is available in that format. I usually purchase through qobuz and that will be my streaming choice if I ever go that route. I do appreciate you (and Scott) taking the time to reply. You’ve helped me make some sense of the process. I’ll take a look at the RoonReady DACs and your solution as well. Do you mind telling me what DAC you’re using?
As my music collection is 99% 44.1/16, I decided I would go for the best possible Redbook reproduction. So, after looking around quite a bit and considering several options, I finally decided upon a Japanese Sparkler S512u DAC. This doesn’t do DSD, and is limited to 44.1-48/16 files, but sounds fabulous! It has a I2S interface and comes with three digital-to-digital interface options for coax, optical and USB. This has been the best experience with digital reproduction I have had, but, as I have said, I can’t do DSD, MQA or high-res files. The few high-res files I own must be downsampled by Roon.
I stream from Tidal as Qobuz isn’t available where I live, and I listen mainly to classical music which is mostly 44.1/16, anyway.
It is simple this way. These are also referred to as network streamers or network players.
I don’t know if you’ll find a lot of these in the price range you identified. Given the quality of your amplification chain, a higher quality DAC is probably in order as @Andreas_Philipp1 suggests.
I use an MSB ‘The Analog DAC’ with the network renderer as the input device. It’s now RoonReady.
When you get to about $1000 the higher quality stuff becomes available. But if you strictly need to stay below $600 you could get a Bluesound Node 2i ($549).
BTW, I would not hesitate to buy ‘used’.
I was just looking up your Classé Preamp, and it seems it has an onboard DAC with USB and S/PDIF inputs. So, in order to stream from Roon to your Preamp, all it would take is a Raspberry 4 2 GB in a nice Flirc aluminium case. In addition you need a 16Gb SD card for the operating system and the Roon Bridge software. For this I recommend using RoPieee.
Altogether this should be possible to assemble for well less than a hundred dollars.
No, my Classe CP-40 preamp is ~20 years old and doesn’t have those features. Thanks for the follow-up.
Then, indeed, you are looking for a DAC. I spent the better part of a year reading up, pondering options and listening to opinions and equipment… it’s been fun!
That’s quite the DAC you have! But I do want to stay below $600 and am starting to look at the Bluesound Node 2i. And I have no hesitation about considering used gear. Although it’s been many years now I’ve bought and sold on Audiogon.
Thanks for the suggestion/link. I ordered the Bluesound Node 2i yesterday.
Sorry for the late reply, I missed your post. Yes, I bought it new from Crutchfield.
HI Scott, I think it was released sometime last year.
Thanks Daniel. I hadn’t heard about it, but there is certainly a need for that sort of product in that space. Good to see Bluesound has some competition!