Nucleus Clones - Any experience?

There appear to be Nucleus clones on the market for about half the price of the real thing. They seem to have identical parts (Intel NUC, etc) and a quite acceptable case. The main difference seems to be that the front panel offers additional USB sockets. The one I’ve found is described as “Fanless Roon Rock Music Server - Intel i3 7th Gen or i7 8th Gen”

Does anyone use such a clone and are they effectively identical in terms of sound quality and facilities offered? Roon seems happy to offer the required software for DIY clones, so I presume Roon are happy to see rivals to the Nucleus as it must boost subscriptions. Thanks. Peter

You presume wrong.

Here’s what @danny had to say about the company you seem to be referring to.


Just to answer the specifics of part of the original question, functionally Nucleus, ROCK and Roon on Windows, MAC and Linux will be functionally equivalent ignoring OS specific quirks. However Nucleus does have some enhancements. Firstly it is adapted specifically for the hardware on and in which it resides. Secondly it does have Control4 integrated. This together with its branding means it will retain value much better than equivalent PC hardware.

Thanks for the replies. Perhaps I should look at buying a NUC package as suggested by Roon. However, three extra questions:

Using the NUC, loaded with the required Roon software, can the USB output be used, or is it better to rely on Ethernet to an external streamer? I have a streamer, but also a DAC that accepts USB.

Can the recommended NUCs be fitted with SSDs? I presume they can as the “Nucleus clones” can be so equipped and this is based on the Intel NUC, but what about a simple NUC as per Roon package link to Amazon?

I use an old NUC as my desktop PC and it has an internal 250 GB SSD. It’s an Intel Core i5 4250U CPU @ 1.30GHz 1.90GHz with 8 GB of RAM. Would this make a suitable Nucleus alternative if stripped of all its operating system, software and files and then loaded with Roon’s? This would suit me as I’d then buy a more modern and powerful desktop unit.

Thanks Peter

USB can be used. People normally use Ethernet to get the Core machine out of the listening room

In addition to an M.2 drive, the NUCs that come in a taller case can take an internal SSD. For the shorter cased NUC people use an external USB drive. No performance difference between the two.

Probably too punk of a CPU, but you can try.

If you’re going to install ROCK, that’s the only thing that can go on that drive and in that case most of the drive’s capacity will be wasted.

The 4th generation NUC will run ROCK and be OK as a stopgap/proof of concept. It could do it permanently if you really didn’t want to spend any more but you’d be limited in what you could do. No DSD upsampling or heavy convolution. A modern NUC would be able to do anything you needed and be supported properly because the gen 4 is a generation too old for official Roon support. But it can do a job for you if you really need it to.

As others have said, the OS drive cannot be used for anything else, so I’d get a 128gb drive from a good manufacturer. But, yes, nothing is stopping you from trying it out. It might indeed work for you. With Roon, the hardware needs can vary from user to user, so someone’s “slow as a turtle” is someone else’s “works great”. The best way to tell is just to do it and see if it works for your particular use case.

I really think if you have the extra hardware setting up a server can give you better insight into the process and on what your use case might need; before spending bucks. Over the years on this forum, I have seen people both over purchase and under purchase.

See here Roon Hardware Platform Suggestions for my experiences with a NUC with Gen3 i3 and then Gen5 i3 CPU - what you have here is Gen4 i5.

Before you start spending on a replacement with a new server or the ‘get as much horsepower as possible’ recommendations come in, see here List Your NUC Capabilities Here for benchmarked performance of a ROCK server on a NUC5i3 doing multi zone DSP just as well as a NUC7 and NUC8 unit.