Roon is not telling you buy anything, except that they recommend a specific model which means they have tested and probably model their own from it. You can go and build your own server with similar spec and you will be just fine.
I want to sit here and tell you the differences but ill be here all day.
Please know that the system recommendations have nothing to do with how better it will sound nor quality… Its all about the user experience which boils down to performance… Understanding technology on the systems help understand why one is better than the other.
Most of the generational differences in the NUCs are
Built in WiFi and Bluetooth - not required by ROCK
Support for dual head 4K or even 8K displays - not required by ROCK
Higher RAM support - for ROCK and 99% of music libraries 8GB is enough, there has been one case on this forum of a ROCK user needing more RAM.
Faster SSD support - if a NUC5i3 with 8GB and a M.2 SATA SSD can do the same benchmarked workload as later versions, ROCK doesn’t need it.
Higher CPU Boost speeds - again this is only when the CPU workload triggers the clock boost, which is only meant to be for short periods hence ‘Turbo Boost’, but the trade off is heat, which kicks the active cooling in, which as a fan makes noise - acoustic and electrical.
Either get the most basic NUC Xi3 available, with 8GB RAM and a SSD
or a secondhand NUC5i3/NUC6i3 and save some money.
The most basic NUC? Xi3? I want to see when the system load on a “basic” Xi3 is like for roon. specially Xi3. It is old. Is an i3 1.3GHz.
And if you going to do DSD and or upconvert…
I wouldn’t do it.
1- Has been there since gen1.
4- Faster SSD? What does that mean? You mean NVMe SSD?
5- Wrong. You just dont get higher cpu boost, You get higher cpu frequency’s period. You can set the CPU to clock at full performance. Also you get better FSB, efficiency, etc…
Technical data sheet for a NUC5i3MYBE
2.10GHz i3 CPU 14nm with 3M cache (virtually no difference in no of CPU pipes & clock speed used in a NUC to a 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th Gen CPU. It is only now Intel are releasing 10nm architectures)
Sorry, what I have proved is that a NUC5i3MYHE with 8GB RAM and a M.2 SATA SSD can run ROCK just as well as a NUC6, NUC7, NUC8 machine - it still does multi zone DSP, it does format downsampling and format upsampling.
There is no requirement for the latest and greatest NUC and Intel CPU Architectture to run ROCK in 99% of the cases of users.
Now if anyone wants to spend more on a NUC7i7 quad core machine, sure, but it is going to spend nearly all of its time, after the initial library load, where the file analysis does take processing, doing very little.
If you are trying to penny pinch while dealing with a $100+ annual db program then…
I built an 8th Gen Tall Case NUC (put it into an Akasa Turing Case though to go fanless) this weekend and have everything up and running easy peezy. Running better than the i3 2018 Mac mini I was using for my Roon Core.
I went with Samsung 256gb NVMe SSD, 16GB Ram, and i7 8TH gen NUC just to be a bit future proofed. Future Proof is mostly about headroom and this gives me plenty of it for less than ½ the cost of a Nucleus+ which was my first choice.
I was looking at replacing my NUC5i3 with one, as many on the ROCK thread were, but I then said, “Well what I am getting, what will this do that the my current NUC from 2015 doesn’t”
So I borrowed a multi-node Room EQ file to switch on DSP, found the upconvert button in the DSP setting and ran the benchmarks I shared.
I was surprised, but then I have run ROCK since day 1 as well as using Roon since it was in Beta release, and never had any issues in terms of it struggling to playback any content.
I decided to save my €1,000 of unnecessary spend - given I don’t use DSP, don’t upconvert to DSD128 and only 17 albums my Naim NDS Reference Network player won’t play back natively, I have all the processing and headroom I presently need.
BTW the 17 out of 6,339 are (3,560 of the 6,339 are 24-bit or DSD)
Future proofed for the next 20 years!
The Roon Core database is very small, and only if you are more than 250k tracks has ROCK been seen to need more than 8GB RAM.
To cool an i7 you need a huge fanless case, but it is going to sit there all of the time just idling
So ROCK seems to initially use a separate CPU thread for each endpoint zone, however each CPU thread can support multiple zones.
So a user will need to be undertaking simultaneous playback to over 8 zones, before the quad core architecture is needed.
In real life most ROCK utilisations will be one main zone & a couple of secondaries, so are quad-Core necessary?