NUC questions - internal hard drive or NAS?

All,

I am looking to switch my Roon setup over from Windows 10 to a ROCK based setup and have a question please. I intend to purchase a i7 based system (NUCI7BEK) with 16GB of RAM and 250GB of M2 storage for ROCK. I suspect this is overkill in terms or processor power but would rather future proof my setup for the next few years.

Does anyone have strong views please as to whether there is there an advantage in terms of noticeable speed and/or music quality between having an internal SSD to act as music storage as opposed to using my Synology DS916+ NAS? A search showed a couple of threads suggesting it might so any views appreciated before I decide.

Depending on noise levels I might switch over to a fanless system at some point and move the innards to an Akasa case. I want to get the disk decision right as I’m on the cusp between a 2TB and 4TB drive if I purchase a new SSD!

Any other advice or things I need to consider welcome.

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Timely post for me.

I am currently doing some listening comparison tests with my NUC/ROCK:

  1. Tracks on a Synology NAS
  2. Tracks on a 2.5" SSD in the NUC (M.2 SSD has the ROCK OS on it)
  3. Tracks on an external USB drive connected to NUC

I’ll report back since I’m just starting.

I’ve done several tests in the last months where I found out that running Roon on a SSD performs significantly better than running it from a normal harddisk drive. I’ve seen the same behaviour on a NUC (Roon Rock), an Intel i5 laptop (Fedora Linux) and a Synology DS218+ NAS. I’ve not noticed significant performance differences with having the tracks on SSD, normal harddisk both sATA as USB and over the LAN on a NAS with normal harddrives. I ended up using Roon on my Synology DS218+ NAS with 2*256GB SSD mirrored and 8Gb internal memory and all my tracks on another DS218+ (non-SSD) in my LAN. I’ve quit with Rock because of problems installing extensions, I didn’t get that working.

Having been a member for awhile and seeing various posts on what to use and how to use becomes an effort in futility. Sometime it just looks like the same analogy as “you need a white car because it is better than a blue car”.

I have a done a few variations and am happy with what I have and it just works.

First of all, as far as processing power there are two basic questions, is this “system” dedicated to just music and how much processing are you doing. I understand the ROCK is a dedicated system.
I have used a single computer and now I have been using a “two box” setup, Roon Server and the Roon Bridge for several years. I started with an Intel NUC and it was an i3 with 8g of ram and worked just fine. If there was heavy processing, upscaling and either a DSD or high rate PCM it work make the processor work. When there is stuttering it usually the driver buffer. I am now using a new Intel NUC i5 dual core with 8 g of ram and no issues. The “Bridge” is a NUC like. Itis an ASUS i5 quad core with 8 g as well. Again, if there is is stuttering on any “file” it is the buffer/latency of the driver. To clarify my Intel NUC is running Win 10 and the ASUS is currently running Windows Server 2016.
I was running my music from an external IDE USB hard drive connected to the server. I had no issues. I am currently running it from my NAS with no issues. There may be some software tweaks which may help as well. My “server” processor at worst case runs about 30% and the “bridge” runs around 10%. There are also other “pieces” in the mix but I did not want to go into an entire setup discussion because I did not think that is what you were looking to receive as advice.

If you have question just let me know.

Good Luck

Jeff

  1. 16 GB is overkill. You can upgrade it from 8 to 16 later if you find you need the extra ram
  2. 250 GB is overkill as you will not be able to use that drive for anything else, not even music storage. You want the smallest good available drive.

I went from a Synology DS416play to an internal SSD on my NUC8i7BEH. I find the response with the SSD is snappier. I’ve compared them sound-wise and can’t hear a difference.
If you buy a NUC8i7BEH now you have the space available for an internal SSD. You can use your Synology NAS for now, and wait for the price to come down on an 4TB SSD.
If you buy the NUC8i7BEK (the ‘short’ version) you don’t have space for the internal drive. IMO, that would be a mistake unless you are sure you’re going to use another case.

I will take the counter argument to most that have responded already and say “no noticeable difference in performance” when music is stored on a NAS instead of local SSD. (Assuming, of course, properly configured networking between the Roon Core system and the NAS.) FWIW, I have my Roon Core running on a dedicated CentOS 7 system with all the music files stored on my Synology RS3617xs+.

There is only one thing that local storage gets you: immediate auto-updates to the Roon metadata when you change files in the library. File change notifications over SMB are unreliable at best. This is not a Roon problem. This is an SMB/OS problem. You can work around this in two ways: 1) modify the full scan interval in the Roon Settings, or 2) force a manual scan. Personally, I don’t want Roon trying to update its metadata until after I’ve finished with my library changes anyway, so I prefer going in and forcing a manual scan once I am done. (If there was an option, I would disable Roon’s automatic library scans entirely.)

Before people say “SSD has to be faster”… It’s the raw music files stored on the NAS, NOT the Roon metadata. Music files require very little network bandwidth. Typically in the ~1.5-3 Mbit/s range. Even the worst case of DSD512 is only ~50Mbit/s. 100Mbit/s Ethernet won’t even get stressed by that, never mind 1GBit/s Ethernet… (Wi-Fi is a different story, but that goes back to my prior statement that I’m assuming you have proper networking in place. Wi-Fi is not proper networking for “server” systems like your Roon Core and NAS.)

All your searches, artwork displays, etc., come from the Roon metadata, and that is stored locally on your Roon Core system. Aside from initial play start, Roon also starts preparing the next track about 5-10 seconds before the current song ends. So song transitions are seamless. Further, if you skip around within a song, the underlying music file has been cached in the Roon Core systems’ kernel block cache (see next paragraph) so isn’t going back to the NAS to read any data (unless you skip forward a good chunk, and then you are in the same situation as “initial play start”). While initial play start is slightly slower than a locally attached SSD for the music storage, the difference is so small I doubt most people would notice it unless specifically testing for it. In other words – in real world usage, it makes no practical difference.

Keep in mind that all “unused” RAM in the Roon Core system is actually used by the kernel as an I/O block cache (all modern operating systems do this – Linux is just maybe a bit smarter about it than Windows or OSX). Since Roon itself doesn’t directly allocate much memory (unless you have a gargantuan library), the 8GB most people put in NUCs means you have ~6.5GB of RAM available as block cache. That will also cache the Roon metadata as well. Aside from small SSDs being so cheap these days, you don’t even really need an SSD for the metadata. You will experience a bit of slow startup after the Roon Core is rebooted, since the block cache does not persist between reboots. But once Roon has been running awhile and accessed much of its metadata, that metadata gets cached in RAM in the block cache so the type of storage device used at that point becomes moot. About the only thing that would be slower is writes to the database, going on the assumption that the database they use is calling sync() on its writes to force at least the journal to physical storage right away. Otherwise, Linux will just buffer the writes in the block cache and then lazy write them in the background when the page cleaner wakes up every thirty seconds (Windows is even more forgiving with its page cleaner).

There is huge upside to storing the music files on your NAS. Like it’s WAY easier to back them up. Also, you can give the Roon Core’s NAS user account read-only access to the music, so Roon can’t ever modify the music files themselves. Make a “Roon Backups” share and give the Roon user read-write access to that share alone, so that you can have Roon automatically do backups of the Roon metadata to the NAS.

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I completed my comparisons.

I could not tell a difference between files stored on the 2.5" SSD inside ROCK, an external USB drive connected to ROCK and files stored on a Synology NAS.

So, for me, I’m sticking to the NAS option which has served me well and I’ll remove the SSD in ROCK; no need for it since there’s the M.2 SSD for the OS and other ROCK components.

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Many thanks to all, this is much appreciated and hopefully of use to others as well. Some really interesting comments and observations.

On balance, I will start with the NUC taking the music files from my NAS and see how I get on, especially with regards to metadata, scanning and backup as mentioned. I suspect - as always - the quality of the underlying sound (mastering, compression etc.) is substantially more important than whether the 0s and 1s are taken from an internal SSD or a NAS with HDD.

It was commented that 250GB is overkill for the ROCK system. I agree but was looking to purchase a Samsung EVO M.2 drive as generally like Samsung SSDs for quality and they do not appear to do a smaller size. It’s £60 versus around £20-30 for a cheaper M.2 drive so not that big an additional expense overall.

I actually combine a SSD and NAS altogether. I have a SSD installed in my NUC for better performances (there is no SQ improvement noticeable). And weekly my Synology NAS creates a backup of the internal SSD. Works perfectly.