NAS vs Dedicated Roon Unit and Sound Quality

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.

AJ

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Go NUC.

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.

I assume you have a USB DAC. If your looking for sound quality improvements use a Roon Ready network player attached to your DAC. This will isolate it from the Roon Server and improve the sound.

Andrew, Yours is the dedicated unit I am most considering, but obviously still debating over which way to go overall. I have a combined streamer/DAC, an Auralic VEGA G2, which is Roon ready. Music files will stream over ethernet to it.

If I go with your i7, I’m thinking ethernet from NAS (where the music files are) to STi7 and ethernet from STi7 to the VEGA. Good approach?

Thanks

Anders,
You are right that I approach it mostly from the hardware perspective in my reply.
And with regard to the specific question in this topic it is probably not very constructive to further discuss the pro’s and cons of NAS v.s. Windows/OSX v.s. ROCK.
Although I have to say that I think that your reference to my note in the other discussion is not a relevant one. I’m not discussing a problem there, I’m exploring possibilities of a certain piece of hardware.

From a non-technical user experience perspective there is nothing that can beat a ready to go box like Roon Nucleus or Sonic Transporter. A NUC with ROCK is probably the next in line.

The original question is whether a dedicated Roon box would offer improved sound quality over a sufficiently powered NAS. I don’t have concerns with the relative usability or ease of installation about either option.

Based on the fact that you have a DAC with an integrated network player I would say that there is no noticeable difference between a dedicated Roon box and a NAS. The data will still come in through the ethernet connection where the Switch is probably the most determining piece of hardware when it comes to potential noise (if relevant at all for the sound quality).

In my experience the difference becomes more relevant when you need a piece of hardware to work as network bridge for a USB DAC. Then the lowest noise source (=best power supply, lowest processor load) is giving better audio quality.

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Thanks. If I do go with @agillis Andrew’s SonicTransporter, the connection between it and the Streamer/DAC would be by direct ethernet. The connection to the files would be by ethernet/fiber (ethernet to fiber converters at both ends) to the ST. The NAS would also be connected by ethernet to the router.

If I go with a NAS, it would mean upgrading mine. My current NAS connects to the router and the streamer is connected to the router with the ethernet/fiber connection. I hadn’t thought of it, but I wonder if I can connect the NAS both to the router and directly to the streamer so that the streaming doesn’t go through the router at all.

It remains unknown, I guess, if digital signals over ethernet are affected by router noise at all. Not a big deal to mitigate it “in case”. So that question is really moot.

The sonicTransporter i7 has two Ethernet ports. You want to attach one to the streamer (Auralic) and the other to your router.

We have found that using a really good Ethernet switch as the “center” of your network usually work better then the switch built into most routers.

I really like the TRENDnet Ethernet switch line like the TEG-S82G.

For this setup the sonicTransporter, NAS and your router would be connected to the TRENDnet Ethernet switch and Auralic would be connected to the sonicTransporter.This would give you the best quality.

If you want to bring fiber into the mix for noise isolation you could use that in between the sonicTransporter and the Auralic. Try that and see if it improves the sound.

Another options to cut down on network “hops” would be to get the sonicTransporter with internal storage. I can build one with up to 12TB installed. This can be used as a generic NAS on your network as well. With this setup during Roon playback the music will be going directly to the player with only one “hop”

I do have a switch for most things to plug into, though it’s a basic D-Link.

It’s a good thought about keeping the music in the ST. The NAS still has back-ups, movies, surveillance, etc. And apps for UPnP access (that I hardly use anymore!) like MinimServer. The music is really a smaller part of the disk space. It’s at just over 2TB of music files, so plenty of room to grow. I’d backup the music files to the NAS. Hmmm…

Hi @pstrisik

I’ve had all 3 as Roon Core: Synology DS918+, sonicT i7 and NUC/ROCK i7.

I still have and use all 3 - well I gave my old man (dad) my sonicT i7 because I’ve setup serious DSP (upsampling to DSD512) for him.

Is your NAS currently inside your listening room or outside?

And if you picked up a dedicated Core (like a sonicT or ROCK) would it be inside the listening room or outside?

Obviously Roon recommend having all of the above outside the listening room but sometimes we do have constraints that can get in the way with the ideal - and that’s ok too.

Also what DAC are you using and which input? USB, SPDIF or ethernet input?

Cheers!

The sonicTransporter has a lot of apps you can install on it from the web managment interface like HQPlayer and MinimServer.

The introduction of fibre between the source, (NAS, SonicTransporter, switch or router) will isolate it from the electrical noise induced on the ethernet cable by these sources. And basically make your source choice irrelevant from a sound quality perspective.