Is SSD worth it? Network vs. USB? Audiophile cables?

There are several discussions about whether this and that technology improvement has any impact at all, and whether it is worth the money. SSD or HD for music storage. Network connection through an endpoint like a MicroRendu, vs. direct USB connection. Audiophile cables. Upgrading the other parts, like a DAC. A tailored, quiet device like a Nucleus vs. an electrically noisy PC.

I will address the value question: is this or that improvement worth the money. Of course much more difficult to decide, not just because budgets and value judgements are personal, but philosophically: assume I am convinced that widget A does work, and I have the money, is it worth it?

I wrote about my cost displacement theory, in discussing whether Roon is worth it, it applies here too. Briefly, it is easier to compare two alternative investments than to judge the value of one.

Imagine you have a Windows NUC with a spinning drive, directly connected by USB to a five year old DAC. Let’s say you want to spend $2,000 to improve the system. There are several theories for how to improve it:

  1. Replace the HD with a 2 TB SSD, to reduce physical and electrical noise: $700. But the NUC has a fan, and Windows has a lot of activity creating electrical noise, that’s the theory behind the Windows simpkification systems. But instead, let’s consider a Nucleus running ROCK, with that 2 TB SSD: $2,000
  2. Isolate the core by connecting over the network, and remove the fan noise from the room. There are several such boxes at lower prices, but let’s say you are convinced by an UltraRendu with a fancy power supply and audiophile cables, for $2,000.
  3. Replace the old DAC with a modern, respected but not hyper-exotic one, that may be less sensitive to incoming noise, like a Mytek Brooklyn or a Chord Hugo or a Benchmark: $2,000.

Faced with these choices, the analysis is possible. Assume you are over the hurdle of whether you will do anything: you have the money and you are worth it, dammit. And doing it all is out of reach. So now, you can think about which change has the biggest impact.

Interesting question, no?

Given your constraints, the choice (for me) is easy: dump the Windows NUC for a fanless/noiseless Nucleus. Hello: appliance. Goodbye: futzing about with Windows. However, if I’m able to tweak your constraints, I’d go for (2) using a RPi endpoint and save myself some money.

The way I see it is this. When I purchased a new car a couple of years ago there was discussion on the forums about the merits of tinted windows, black packs, LED running lights, aluminium flappy paddles, exhaust trim and so on. I was astounded that some would spend thousands on extras and opt for the basic engine and gearbox.

I put my money into a 180PSI engine and auto gearbox. I derive my pleasure from driving not vanity.

So, I’d go with a new DAC or speakers or amp everytime … indeed that’s what I did earlier this year. It’s all about the music.

The other points may enhance enjoyment but it’s emperor’s new clothes as far as I’m concerned.


I’m with Geoff. Put your NUC in the garage or basement, get an Allo USBridge to connect your DAC and spend $1800 on music.

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It’s not my test, it’s a methodology.
You can define your own parameters.

Imagine you already have a NUC with ROCK, so the Windows vs. appliance difference is not there. And change the budget to $700

  1. 2 TB SSD
  2. MicroRendu
  3. Ropieee plus Uptone Regen
  4. Audeze EL-8

Saving the money to the kids college fund is out of bounds :slight_smile:.

Or at the other end of budget:

  1. Wilson Audio WAMM Chronosonic + D’Agostino Reference stack
  2. Invite Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony over for a concert in the living room

Yes, it’s a methodology, and I applied it to give you (my) answer… :grinning:

I’d snap up Conrad’s 2Qute …

I would spend the money on transducers - in this case your speakers. Or if you have a TT, a nice cartridge.

Best bang for buck.

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My solution was to spend about $700 on a higher end PC (Ryzen 7), put it in the basement, spend $250 on an Aune X1s and $50 on a Raspberry Pi for the living room. Great sound, great isolation and enough processing power to run a half dozen Roon streams and a couple of Plex 1080p streams simultaneously without a hiccup. That leaves $1k for music, beer or what have you. :wink:

For 2k, I wouldn’t touch roon core server unless you have a performance issue. It’s a utility. I would definitely as per roon recommendation install an endpoint like a pi to quiet things down. Or buy a Media server which gives an option to use aes to the DAC which I think sounds more musical/analog like.
Buy a good interconnect from DAC to preamp.

In reply to the title of this thread:

Is SSD worth it?

If you want a silent, fanless ROCK/Roon server then yes but you only need a small sized drive e.g. 96GB.

If you want it to store music and you are not so bothered about noise then a HDD is far better value for money.

Network vs USB?

Either is fine. I’ve trialled both over the years. Never noticed any difference. Ignore all of the rubbish about audiophile ethernet or USB cables. Just go for a decent quality cable and be done with it. There is a LOT of bullshit out there.

Audiophile cables?

The only time I advocate the use of high-quality cables is if your system requires a long analog interconnect (e.g. phono cables). They are categorically noisy and so a cable with good shielding is required. If you go all digital in your set-up then, seriously, just go on Amazon and don’t pay anything more than $5/m. Anything more and you really are wasting your money.


Rik_Carter either doesn’t have a system that will benefit from better cables or his hearing is deteriorating. I used to have the AQ Diamond usb cable because it sounded better than all the cheaper ones I auditioned and $800 was within reason. Same goes for interconnects and speaker cables. Each cable you audition will/should sound different, maybe not better, but different. For me it comes down to $$$ I want to spend. I can hear a difference between a $250, a $2000 cable, and a $8000 cable, but I didn’t think it was worth the gain in SQ to pay the $6000 difference. Also if you can’t hear a difference between an all silver cable vs a copper cable, then my first sentence also applies.

I like these threads, they tell me a little bit about the “social” context i have chosen to be part of! :slight_smile:
The OP’s list of changes is hard to quantify i sound quality terms, but the first option is a no go from me as i have the option to build my own Mikleus (Nucleus by Mike) without paying the premium. And secondly, the media storage choice wont affect SQ anywhere near the effects of the other choices.

I am a firm believer that the second option will be a fundamental necessity to be able to enjoy the fruits of the third option. The only exception from that would be not having any external DAC at allt today and just “enjoying” the analog output of the Roon Server.

We all aspire to be you, Rick.


It always baffles me that anytime that someone comes in the audio forums shutting down all good quality cables basically saying that everything $5 or less from Amazon would work just as good as any audiophile cables, people rush to “like” that comment, as if the Holy Grail was discovered.

Mark-aspire to have a nice system or have decent hearing? I really don’t get it! If you don’t have either then you will be saving money.

I also see quite a few posts about using 5 cent cables over good 1’s. I have friends that claim they can’t hear a difference a good system sounds like over a cheap Bose, but when they listen to my system or they listen to a system at rmaf or ces, they like what they hear.

My recommendation to everyone how has a system that benefits from socalled better cables:
bring it back as soon as possible. Every system that is affected from cable exchanges is not build electrical solid enough and is not worth the money.

Right! You need to move up from the $150 all in one box system from Best Buy before cables will make a difference. Like I said before, if you can’t hear a difference, you will save money by buying cheaper gear

At my age maybe invest in a new hearing aid , wireless of course. :joy:

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