My First Roon Setup -- Need Advice

Hello everyone, I am entirely new to Roon and have learned a lot from reading through this forum! After trying out the software and looooving it, I am now committed to subscribe to Roon and set it up. For this, I need your advice.

Some background: My needs are pretty straightforward. I will listen to music in just one room, using an entirely analogue amplifier and loudspeakers. Now, how do I best setup the three Roon components?

CONTROL: This is simple: I will use my MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone as control units.

CORE: For testing, I installed Roon on my Macbook Pro, but I don’t want to use it as the core, mostly because I simply need the Macbook for other things. I thus need to purchase a dedicated Roon core computer. For this, I am wondering whether an Intel NUC running ROCK or a Mac mini running Roon Server would be the better option. It would be roughly the same in terms of money. I am deep in the Apple ecosystem, so I feel more comfortable using a Mini. However, I assume the NUC would come with less issues? But then again, I am not really a DIY guy. How complicated would it be to set it up? And, if I were to use the Mini headless, does that even work? I mean, when I start a track on, say, my iPhone, will the Mini boot automatically and stream the song??

OUTPUT: As I mentioned, I do not have any digital audio device so far (no DAC, no streamer etc.). So I am buying something which will be entirely dedicated to be used with Roon. Since I will have to buy a computer for the Core (and pay the subscription fee to Roon), I am looking for something not too expensive here. I had an eye on the Bluesound Node 2i at first, but now I wonder if I even need a machine as versatile as this? Could I also use something as simple as a Google Chromecast or a HifiBerry DAC (another DIY option I am not too keen on, but won’t rule out for now).

So the complete setup would look this:

  • Core (MacMini/NUC) connected to Ethernet
  • Output Device (Bluesound/HifiBerry/Chromecast) connected to Ethernet AND Amplifier (RCA)
  • Controlled via iPhone, iPad, Macbook (via WiFi)

Let me know what you recommend and what I might be missing.
Thanks a lot!

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Everyone will have different viewpoints, this is the internet after all.

  1. Can’t help with the Mac mini. The NUC takes half an hour for the software install and five minutes for the hsrdware. If you can watch a YouTube video and own a small screwdriver you can put one together.
  2. The Pi is very simple too. Two key things. Buy a pre-assembled case for the pi and HAT board as the really cheap ones that come as laser cut sides are too fiddly. Secondly use ropieee as the roon OS. I did one last night it took ten minutes or so.
  3. Ideal.
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Welcome Tim. I have a HiFiBerry DAC Pro + as one of my endpoints. Nice little unit. Inexpensive and definitely will do the job. Do you have an ethernet connection in your listening room? No worries, if your core is in a different room, you could use a bridge to connect.

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“Output Device (Bluesound/HifiBerry/Chromecast) connected to Ethernet”

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As Ged says, some will give you very specific recommendations. I’d rather give you something to consider.

The Mac Mini runs a desktop environment so you may be paying for features you won’t need; the NUC may be worth considering, so long as you’re happy to do a little DIY.

Regarding an endpoint, I’d suggest you choose the most versatile option to start as your preferences may change quite quickly when you begin enjoying Roon and digital music. For example, my first purchase was a Raspberry Pi + DAC hat; later when I decided to upgrade the DAC I reused the Pi for transport by adding a quality SPDIF hat.

Alternatively, there’s are some excellent USB DACs you could connect direct to core.


Martin has a good point about the future. This stuff is, after all, hifi so upgraditis is bound to strike at some point or other. Start saving now!


I’ve had that upgrade-itis disease big time. I’ve pretty much had my home system set now for a couple of years. New bug is headphones.

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As for the Endpoint, you could get a Chromecast Audio for now, definitely the cheapest option. Plus you can reuse it for another room once the HiFi Upgrade bug creeps in on you. I believe it is probably best to keep Core and output device seperate. So I would not connect a USB DAC to a NUC.
But since the endpoint with the DAC is where the audio “magic” is actually created, you will probably soon want to get a Pi and either a USB DAC - (Meridian Explorer2 - friend has it and is very happy with it) or a Hifiberry SPDIF Board plus non USB DAC.
As for putting a Pi together, it is really extremely easy. With RoPieee it is a great Roon endpoint.

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To me, the advantage of using a NUC running ROCK is that it is purely and simply a Roon Server appliance, not a general-purpose computer. I originally started out using a NUC running Windows 10 and Roon Server, but once Roon Labs released ROCK, I switched over, because of the convenience of having an appliance.

If you can assemble a Roon Endpoint using a RPi, HAT, case and install the software yourself, then a ROCK-based NUC will be just as simple.

The cheapest endpoint will be to use a Chromecast Audio (get one quick before they’re all sold out), the next step up would be a RPi + HAT combo. HiFiberry is one option, but others are available (I’ve used both HiFiBerry and IQaudIO HATs). For software, I’ve used both DietPi and Ropieee - the latter is closer to the appliance “philosophy” - it is designed for a Roon Endpoint (with or without a simple remote control display), and nothing else.

I’d support the other comments here. I started using Roon about six months ago initially using an iMac as my core driving my purely analogue system. I’ve now build a NUC (an i7 model based on the recommended parts including a 1TB internal hard drive) and bought a ProJect Pre-Box S2 DAC which takes the USB output from the NUC to drive my amplifier. As everyone else has said, putting a NUC together is straightforward (although I have done this kind of thing before - although not for a long, long time). Just follow the step-by-step instructions and look at some of the video around. You do need to update the BIOS and so on so it is not totally trivial. Building an RPI + DAC HAT will require similar skills.

I also thought about using a MacMini (as I’m basically an Apple household, and I used to use one for a music server in the past) but the new ones are quite pricy just to run a Roon Core. One is getting into Nucleus territory!

One more tip for a NUC. I bought a second hand slightly older one off eBay. As it was second hand it was already assembled with memory and disk. Cheating but saves money and time.

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Thanks very much indeed everyone, this is very helpful!!
I’m glad that what I have in mind is not entirely stupid. Some questions of course remain:

CORE: To clarify, to save costs, the Mac Mini would be a used one, late 2012 model. Only then it costs roughly the same as the NUC. Can someone say if the Mini would boot (or: awake from sleep) automatically when I start a song via the control? Or do I always have to start the machine manually when I want to listen to music (and then how do I open Roon without a monitor attached?)
In any case, the NUC option sounds feasible as well. My understanding would be to use an internal SSD for the OS and then another SSD (possibly external) for the music files. Is that correct?

OUTPUT: This too sounds feasible (the Raspberry option), although there are some things I don’t quite understand. Could someone elaborate a bit on RoPieee? What do I need it for? I thought it would suffice to install Roon Bridge (directly from Roon) on the machine? What am I missing?
Also, I had my eye on the HiFiberry DAC+ so far – any reasons why others might be better?

Thanks again!!

Regarding boot/wake on play, no, don’t think you can do that. Best to leave the core running all the time, which is probably what most people do. NUC might have an advantage there because the newer ones are very low power.

This is correct.

You will need a separate disc for music files. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a SSD - could be a spinning HDD too.

A note regarding the Mac Mini alternative: older models may run out of OS support - maybe Mojave is the last macos version the late 2012 supports, who knows. So you could run into problems there. With ROCK provided directly by Roon you may have much less to worry about.

Ropieee is a linux build that also includes the roon client.
It is very easy to use and includes the ability to configure in an easy to use screen HATs such as the HiFiBerry - which is a good choice.

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As others had mentioned, for the Roon Core, assembling a NUC with ROCK is the best solution, for the money. If you don’t feel you can buy the parts and assemble them yourself, once in a while you can find a NUC with ROCK pre-installed, used, as people like to upgrade, and sell the previous stuff. Obviously, Nucleus is a turn-key solution, out of the box, but pricey.

My suggestion is not to skimp on the DAC / Streamer. I don’t know what your Analog chain is, but, if it is good, and you buy a cheap DAC & Streamer, you will be disappointed when comparing with your Analog rig.

Bluesound Node 2i is definitely a solution, as it has a DAC plus Roon Ready streamer built in. Obviously for more money, you can certainly find better DACs and Streamers (either all-in-one, or separate).

Thank you! I had expected it would not boot on trigger through the app, but wake from sleep I thought it could do. How about the NUC? To explain, what I really want to do is not think about the core at all when I listen to music. Just sit on the couch, hit play on whatever control I have, and that’s it. I don’t want to worry about whether the computer is ready etc.

Thanks!! So a separate disc is a strict requirement, not a nice-to-have for better sound quality or speed, correct? And then, would an internal HDD be better for the files or an external SSD (which I happen to have lying around).

Thanks to you, too! :slight_smile: This looks really quite convenient, although I did think that the RoonBridge itself would do the exact same thing. Or would I have otherwise needed a linux build AND then the RoonBridge, whereas with RoPieee they both come in one package. Is that it?

Thanks a lot! I guess I can find a NUC used or else assemble one myself, it does not seem to be rocket science after all. :slight_smile: Nucleus is too expensive for me (and I think, too expensive, period).
As for the Bluesound, I guess when it comes to value for money it is a pretty good solution. And unlike the HiFiBerry-option, it would provide Bluetooth compatibility and AirPlay out of the box (for those times the desired audio would come from outside Roon). My HiFi system is not a total beginner’s set, but also not high end at all, with something like 2500 $ original costs for Speakers, Amp, CD-Player and Turntable together.
So the Bluesound at 549 $ or the like would fit in there quite well, but I wonder, would the Bluesound as Roon endpoint provide better sound quality than the Hifiberry?