Mac Roon core provides bright, thin sound. Airplay superior. WHY?

Core Machine

Mac mini M1 dedicated as Roon core.

Network Details

Whole house is Ethernet wired. No wifi whatsoever. Fibre optic coming into the house with Cat 5e. In music room, have a trend net not-smart switch box with cat 8 going to Roon core and Hegel H390.

Audio Devices

Hegel H390 with cat 8 connection to network.

Library Size

0 Gb. All streaming.

Description of Issue

When I play music from Tidal directly (or even Spotify through the TV), the sound is rich with solid bass and details throughout. When I play through Roon - either through network or directly from USB connection from Roon core (thus MQA), the sound quality is thin and bright. When connected directly to the Roon core, I am using a Moon audio purpose built silver cable USB c to USB b on the Hegel.

Clearly, I anticipated superior sound through Roon and really like the ecosystem. But will quit if the sound quality is not there.
Thanks in advance.

I have found a direct USB connection from Roon core ( actually Rock on a nuc) to give exactly the same effect you describe.
Tried it direct into the USB input of my ml585.
Likely the USB card is inferior for the task at hand.
Silver cables have a propensity for sounding more detailed and thinner, if one buys into the whole cable business that is.
I have a Lumin T2 connected to same network as my nuc by Ethernet cable and directly out to my ml585 by analog RCA cables.
This arrangement sounds spectacular.

Pretty sure Roon do not recommend a direct USB out connection only from a Roon core host.


I also noticed this, a fuller and more lovely sound when using native Naim and Blusound streamer apps the sound is fuller and more pleasing.

The only difference is the software used. But someone described that was the roon sound that I could have been listening. And yes Airplay also sounds good in roon.

So roon sound is a little less involving almost analytical sometimes, but I live with it.

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You might try a regular USB cable and see what that sounds like. There have been reports of “audiophile” USB cables not being properly built or certified for the data rates, though I know nothing about the cable you mention.

I don’t think there’s a “USB sound” card, is there? USB is a data connection. So you’re using the DAC in your ml585 to do the D/A conversion in this case.

Whereas in this case you’re using the DAC in your Lumin T2 to do the conversion.

Not sure the Ethernet has anything to do with the difference you hear. Two different DACs.

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There are USB outputs and there are USB outputs.
But I am not about to get into any debate over it’s " just all 1,s and 0,s".

Good luck!

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Sure. Does the NUC have a USB output designated for “sound” purposes? I’ve never used a NUC.

Hi @Atanarjuat99,

Can you share a screenshot of Roon Signal Path screen when you are playing these tracks.

Carl hi,
I included the signal path for both network (via airplay) and direct from USB to H390. I don’t think I was clear enough in my message. It just sounds fuller coming directly from Tidal via Airplay. Both of the Roon implementations are thinner and brighter. Just less bass.
Thanks, Nadine

Honestly have been thinking about the T2 as well but wanted to minimize expense. Might be where I end up…

I agree it is not cheap but I cannot imagine myself even thinking of needing anything better from a streamer/DAC.

Definitely not sounding thin tonight !

There are a lot of very satisfied T2 owners in these forums.
Plus @wklie is always ever helpful with all things Lumin in these forums.

Best of luck and I hope you find a solution that lets you keep Roon.

It’s a nice box. Dual 9028PRO chips. But kind of expensive, to my way of thinking. And I want VUE meters on my next box…

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Please download some files to the Mac, and play from local:

Compare them to corresponding releases on (1) Tidal via Roon USB, (2) Tidal via Roon AirPlay (physically disconnect USB), and (3) via Tidal app AirPlay. See if you hear a significant difference.

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Carl (and everyone on this thread who tried to help me), hi
I solved my problem. I am a little sheepish to tell you that I had plugged the H390 into a medium cost surge protector bought on Amazon. Even though I have a $400 power cable from Audio Sensibility (thanks @rockhound), everything was plugged into this surge protector :see_no_evil:.
Still very keen on the T2 but they are $6500 in Canada so waiting for the dollar to rise against USD.
Thanks for your patience. N


Those beefy Hegel amps (I used to own an H360) are picky about power source. That’s when I started to use Furman power conditioners and, for the H360, a separate Emotiva CMX-2 DC offset suppressor.

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It’s about as good now as it’s likely to get, and much better than a year ago when I bought mine - I’m not sure the exchange rate would impact the price of the T2 TBH.

I’ll second this experience with the H360 - on a bad day mine sounded like an angry wasp until I added something to address DC offset. I’ve just swapped out an Isotek Syncro Uni for a Puritan Audio PSM136 - whether cognitive bias or otherwise I’m convinced the latter has brought more consistency between listening sessions.

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