I am quite surprised by the difference in audio quality after moving Roon from a 2011 Mac Mini to a Nuc8 i7. I made the move to ditch the fan, but with the rest of system unchanged there is quite an audible difference. Better seperation and improved definition in highs.
I am very pleasantly surprised . How does that even happen? I know, many will say it didn’t and a day ago I would have agreed, but it’s better.
The sound quality difference doesn’t surprise me. I run a few physical boxes to test hardware, and they’re all patched through a mixing desk. This is only so I can patch VOIP calls together and listen to anything through a single pair of headphones or desktop speakers. It’s not a home studio setup. I’ve had a Mac Mini of one kind or another as part of this setup for 7 years, to test software I’m developing, and it’s always been the noisiest component. In fact it’s the only source of noise I’ve encountered. I’ve moved houses, changed hardware/cables and reconfigured several times but never fixed the issue. IMO they’re just inherently noisy (usually a low ground style hum) compared to other devices. Given Mac Minis aren’t particularly stellar value for money either, their popularity for audio applications has always baffled me…
I stream from Mac Mini to my endpoints (LS50W) via wireless Ethernet.
Do you guys think I’ll hear an improvement if I go to NUC Rock, or is it just the Mac Mini USB connection that is badly affected by noise?
I’d be surprised if there were problems over ethernet, in the end it’s just a data transfer. My complaints have always been with the aux out and usb. Never streamed from the mini so not an evidence based answer.
I run my Roon Core on a Mac Mini (late 2014). It’s wired by ethernet to the router (with a WiFi hop over to the main endpoint). I’ve also used it with a direct USB connection to the DAC/amp (Peachtree Nova 150). I’ve used it within ~15 feet of my listening position, and I’ve used it a room and hallway away.
I don’t notice any “noise” whatsoever from the Mini. Certainly not any fan noise while music is playing. If there is an electrical hum, I don’t hear it. Not above ambient room noise with my head ~6 inches from the Mini.
I can’t speak to “better separation” or “improved definition”.
I’m not denying the OP hears these differences, and I do appreciate even reports of subjective impressions. But I’d hate to run out and buy new gear before someone can account for the “how” or at least characterize the differences with measurements. If I were to buy new, I’d probably choose a Nucleus over a Nuc. But, I’m not sure I’d choose a Nucleus over a newer Mac Mini. There are too many benefits to having a multi-purpose computer rather than a music-only appliance (and so far, I’m not persuaded the Nucleus – which is basically a Nuc – will deliver better SQ).
Just for me to understand correctly, there should be a difference in audio quality when connected directly to the DAC through USB, but not really if it is connected through ethernet? I use a direct connection from the Mac mini 2011 to the router, and then ethernet to microRendu. I have had this setup for three years and am still very happy with it but always looking for improvements.
Welcome to the Roon forums @Jan_van_Gemert1. I’d say that ethernet connection should be fine. Like most topics discussed here that’s not going to be a unanimous view. Transmission of noise via USB to DACs can be DAC dependent, some deal with it some don’t.
My Mac Mini issue is with the aux (headphone jack) output via the internal sound card. I doubt anyone would recommend using that output to drive a decent quality audio system. I only use it for VOIP calls, e.g. Skype, Slack, etc. where SQ isn’t great anyway a lot of the time regardless. I don’t need extensive testing to notice the issue, an audible background hum that comes and goes, or isolate it, turn off the input from the mini to the mixing desk and it goes away. Bizarrely it usually starts when I use the scroll wheel on the mouse.
Finally if you’re happy with your setup don’t worry and just enjoy it
I don’t think it would make that much difference if you’re using the mini as “core”. Bridging the ethernet may help but that’s a little technical (not sure if thats possible with NUC??). It shouldn’t make much difference whatever core you are using.
You might tweak the switch arrangement, use a funky switch or optical to isolate further which can be rewarding but fairly tweaky…