NAS vs Dedicated Roon Unit and Sound Quality

Hello All,

I am currently running Core on a Synology DS1513+. Music files on that NAS as well. It is marginally fast enough to run Roon; I don’t use much DSP or transcoding. The sound system is high quality.

Time for an upgrade. I can either go with an upgraded NAS (thinking of the DS3018xs) or a dedicated unit like Nucleus or SonicTransporter. The NAS will be fast enough for my needs even though a dedicated unit would have an i5 or i7. My question is whether the dedicated unit would provide improved sound quality/reduced noise floor over the NAS. Music files will still be stored on the NAS.

Either option would cost about the same as I would initially reuse the drives in my current NAS and selling the old one would bring that upgrade cost under $1000, into the territory of some dedicated units.

If a dedicated unit would improve SQ, what is it about the dedicated unit that gives it the sound quality advantage?

Thanks for any insights.

Apples to apples, no improvement. If the NAS or dedicated machine is in another room out of earshot and is not performing D/A conversion, its ambient and electrical noise floors are irrelevant.



I agree with Andrew,I think there is far more improvement likely to be obtained by acoustic room treatment, it is easy for us to get hung up on equipment but we may just be ignoring the elephant in the room.

Thanks both.

I am more looking for the direct comparison than other ways to spend the money. My room is reasonably well treated already.

Andrew, you suggest that D/A conversion might change your answer. I would not be doing D/A conversion before the DAC (and after the renderer) regardless. Would you change your answer if I were to use Roon DSP functions or volume leveling?

No DSP versus DSP or more limited DSP versus more extensive DSP is not a comparison of NAS versus dedicated machine. It is a comparison of just the effects of DSP.


A NUC with an i7 processor and a 128GB SSD will be much less expensive than what you have in mind. I am running Roon that way with music stored on a Synology 1813+ (which also has many other files on it as well). Performance is very fast. Sound quality to me is great - using Oppo PM1 headphones and Oppo HA-1 headphone DAC/headphone amp. The NUC handles upscaling to DSD 128 with no problems whatsoever. BTW, the NUC runs ROCK so it is dedicated to Roon.

Another way of looking at this is that a NUC with ample internal storage effectively is a NAS. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.


True, but won’t the NUC only accept up to a 2TB internal hard drive? That won’t store a large music collection. Of course a 4TB SSD might fit but that it $$$s.

I take that to mean sound quality shouldn’t change between NAS and dedicated unit because of DSP use.

I guess I’m wondering if it is a different case between 1) Roon acting only as library vs. 2) Roon processing files. If processing, perhaps the quality/electrical noisiness of the processing unit would affect SQ? Or do the files pass through Roon even if just selecting what to play?

True, but I will need that NAS for other things anyway (movies, backups, etc.).

How does any “electrical noisiness” from Roon processing affect D/A conversion well downstream and across a network link? Quantum entanglement of noise with the digital bits?


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How much are you talking? I figure the new NAS would cost me about $900 after selling the old one. That cost not only gives me better Roon performance, but a better NAS for everything I use it for besides. To keep a NUC much cheaper, I expect that I would need to build it. I have built kit amps before, so I’m not shy about that, but not sure I am up for that project right now. The cheapest option I would probably consider would be the $695 i5 SonicTransporter but, if I’m going to get that dedicated unit, I might be compelled for their i7 or equivalent Nucleus, both of which would be more expensive than the NAS option.

I don’t doubt that this works very well, but more relevant would be if you directly compared sound quality of that setup with Core running on the NAS.

Thanks for helping think this through.

A good answer to that is above my pay grade! But it seems that noise in the digital signal is of concern. Seems there is ample consideration by many about noise introduced by the router or other electronics and there are galvanic isolation strategies to reduce noise before it gets to the DAC.

Ask for audio band analog noise floor measurements to show electrical noise propagating over a network link and contaminating downstream D/A conversion. Until then, those making unsubstantiated claims about noise are peddling “concern” over ghosts, gremlins, and networked digital audio FUD.




On Amazon, an i5 NUC plus minimal SSD and RAM is less than $550.
Assembly is trivial.
Don’t have to pay for Windows, ROCK is free.

I argue for simplicity.
A NAS is a storage device. Leave it at that.

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I was not aware of how much you were planning to get for the old NAS. An i7 NUC with SSD and RAM fully built with Windows 10 (which you really don’t need since you can run ROCK for free) is $760 or so from Amazon.

That would be testing worth seeing. Aware of anyone who has performed this? I imagine equipment to try to measure that myself wouldn’t be feasible.

A NAS is a storage device. Leave it at that.

I’ve read that NAS remark a lot on this forum. I have a slightly different view on it: a NAS is a small computer that works well as a storage device but can do a lot of other things.

I have only recently started to test Roon to see if it would be a good upgrade from my LMS/Squeezebox based setup, so bear with me if I’m missing the point with regard to Roon functionality v.s. NAS capabilities.

Since I wanted to upgrade my existing NAS for some time I decided to check what I would need to run Roon properly. Based on my other needs as well I selected the QNAP 473e, configured it with 3 x 4TB for a simple RAID1 + hot spare (I make nightly backups to an off-site NAS), a 512GB SSD for software/databases in the 4th bay and a M2 PCIe SSD for caching.

It works flawless as Roon core, very responsive. The AMD RX processor is faster in many respects that the Intel i3/i5 that were recommended for Roon back in 2016. And it works well as very a fast NAS for my home-office needs, in particular when using the ultra fast PCIe SSD as cache. I’d say: I’ve killed two birds with one stone.

The greatest advantage of a NAS over a NUC is more in the mechanical area: it is easy to install multiple HDs and swap them if needed and they are build to work 24/7 for many years.

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Do keep in mind that one can attach an external drive to a NUC and use that for music storage, as large as you need (and it doesn’t have to be an SSD). NAS is great if you have other purposes for feeding files but over (or under) kill for just Roon. Keep an eye out - I paid $340 for a brand new NUC 7i5 with 8gb RAM and 256gb SSD pre-installed off of eBay. Couldn’t be happier.

First, let me say that if it is working well for you, by no means would I argue against it.

But since I have made the opposite recommendation for people considering the choice, let me comment briefly (I have discussed the issue in more detail here).

What you are discussing is hardware. My argument is entirely based on the software, the operating system and the management software of the device. I argue:

  1. Any multi-purpose device is more of a hassle to manage and less reliable than a single-purpose device. This has obviously always been true (“as reliable as a hammer”), the difference is that computing technology is now so cheap that we can afford many single-purpose devices instead of gaining the economy of a multi-purpose device. Also note that the difference between a single- and a multi-purpose device is in the software stack; the hardware may very well be identical, the software-based single-purpose device is built from general-purpose components.
  2. If you do want a general-purpose device, a Windows, Mac or standard Linux machine is better because the NAS builders are not very good at that. They are great at building a storage server, but not an application server. This is a difficult claim to substantiate, of course, I would just say that (a) Merrill Lynch does not populate their data centers with NAS boxes, they use Linux or Windows Server, and (b) there are more questions and problems discussed in this forum about NAS than about Windows, let alone ROCK or Nucleus (e.g. your own note here).

If you buy a Nucleus, and especially if you store your music files on a NAS (yay!) or an external USB drive, setting it up is as simple as setting up an FM tuner.