Nucleus sound quality Vs. Mac

Hi guys,

All pretty new to Roon but so far very impressed with the platform.

So much so, that I bought in to it very quickly & have decided this is how I will continue to build my system.

The way I use Roon right now is this;
MacBook as Core
CCA as Renderer (via Optical Toslink)
Integrated AMP w/ Upgraded DAC as Player

It sounds great, works great & integrates Qobuz & Tidal in to one application on my Mac that is smooth & intuitive.

I use this as a standalone system & even though I could utilise Roon on other systems in the house (Bose, Sonos etc.), I choose not to as use Spotify Connect for this for simplicity. Hence, Roon is for my standalone ‘Audiophile’ system.

The CCA will very soon be replaced with a Lumin U1 Mini or something similar, to hopefully offer better rendering & improve sound quality.

My question is this though; it is a bit of a pain having to run my MacBook to use Roon, where as using the control app via the iPad Pro would be much nicer. I have loads of CD’s but feel no need to store these via any form of NAS, as I have a high-end CD Transport that I still enjoy using.

I don’t want to run my Mac SSD on full all the time & I carry this about with me to work, like it was designed for.

Even though the Nucleus is £1.5K & would be used for no album storage, I’d be happy to buy in to this, given I’d be supporting what I see as a fantastic company so far. I have no interest in an alternative, unless it is a Mac Mini.

It all boils down to; would I see an improvement in sound or given my situation, would it merely be adding simplicity?

Hi Thomas,
the difference would primarily be in system availability, simplicity. The Nucleus is an “appliance” in the sense that it’s designed to be run 24/7 and manage it’s own updates and such.
Most people seem to claim that they hear improvements in sound quality when migrating from a general purpose computer to a dedicated Core, whatever the type.
Personally i have a few Roon ROCK computers at home, but take my collection with me in the form of a MacBook Pro with a portable 5Tb hard drive and some decent headphones.

I see you’re not tempted by other options than the Nucleus or a MacMini, and that’s fine, but i still would recommend the NUC based solution called ROCK. It will save you a few hundred dollars and be just as stable and simple to maintain as the Nucleus. It fits better more than a few meters away from your sweetspot though (fan).

In a chain <<Roon Core —> Digital Transport, Renderer —> DAC>>, how could there be any difference in what the DAC outputs, just by changing the type of computer or device running the Core processing chores?

No, by changing your MacBook for a Nucleus you’ll gain simplicity and availability, just as @Mikael_Ollars said in his answer. And if you’re in for simplicity, I’d say get that Nucleus and don’t bother with assembling and installing a NUC which would sound the same, but wouldn’t be as elegant and simple as the Nucleus. Good luck!

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There is no reason to expect better SQ with a Nucleus (I have one) unless something is wrong with your MacBook and it is introducing noise. They are all just computers.

Use what you got as long as the specs are fine. You can always gold plate it if you think you need to upgrade…

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I got a Nucleus for the same reason you proposing; it runs 24/7 without a problem so music is accessible any time. I don’t think I noticed a difference in sound quality though.

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Thanks @David_Gibson, it obviously is a few quid, but I guess this helps contribute towards the costs of developing Roon further. Even with no storage purpose, I do believe I will go for it in the next few months.

Thanks everyone else too. So, to summarise;

  • No improvement in sound quality

  • No storage, without adding drives that will never be needed

  • Would just be for convienience, allowing me to use iPad Pro over MacBook & keep Roon in a sort of ‘always on’ state.

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday. ATB.

Just one comment, nothing stopping you from using your iPad as a controller for your MacBook pro today? You MBP can be placed anywhere on the network as long as connectivity is good.

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Morning @Mikael_Ollars ,

Very good point.

100%, & I do occasionally do this. In the house, the Mac is normally left on charge, but for Roon to be active, I need to leave the SSD running, either with the laptop on or in a form of standby. I worry this will frazzle my Mac or shorten the life of it.

After years of being a Mac user, I’ve never had one hardware failure & don’t expect one now, but I do worry with a MacBook that it won’t stand up to the abuse my previous iMacs etc did with battery wear etc. Hence, the decision towards a Nucleus.

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That’s not correct. You add drives that ARE needed to store your local music files. And, it’s more than just convenience. The Roon Nucleus just works flawlessly all of the time.

The real answer is the Nucleus is for convenience and simplicity. No real difference in the SQ. I have had two different Mac minis as my core. Just fine, but subject to more maintenance that the Nucleus. I have never had a problem with Nucleus in 18 months. One the few occasions when it has not performed properly, the problem was always network glitch or operator error.

Both my Mac minis now serve as Roon Bridge appliances.

and reliability.

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“for Roon to be active, I need to leave the SSD running, either with the laptop on or in a form of standby. I worry this will frazzle my Mac or shorten the life of it.”

It won’t. This is nothing over everything your Mac does during it’s life.

Hi @Jim_F ,

Thanks for the response.

I wouldn’t be storing any local files, I just don’t have the need to.

Even being a 90’s kid & growing up with CDJ’s in my bedroom for years - I soon learnt that in the digital age, all the dance music I had that was rare then, now certainly isn’t! With Tidal AND Qobuz integration, I’d struggle to justify my time ripping the 1000’s of discs I still have, when there’s a decent Cyrus CDt in my stack.

I did try a Naim Core & they were a stunningly good piece of equipment. If I was going to rip to store, that’s what I’d do.

With having no network attached files, I’m guessing I wouldn’t need any HDD/SSD’s in the Nucleus?

Best,
Tom

Morning @DarwinOSX,

I guess the other side of this, is that I could possibly set my Mac up to only run full power on charge & then on battery (i.e disconnected when in the car/on the train) to have a little sleep?

@Mike_Rife thanks for the input.

This is what draws me toward it. Yes, it looks expensive but if it works first time every time, I find it justifiable & then I can offset the costs of how it performs across the lifetime of my Roon membership, which brings much pleasure & simplicity to our over complicated world!

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Hello!

A word of caution, should you want to consider it: the Naim Core only works well with Naim products. E.g. you will not able to use it as a storage place for your music that you can access from a Roon core server like the Nucleus.

Regarding sound quality: contrary to popular belief I certainly did enjoy a (small) improvement in sound quality when I switched from a Mac mini to a Nucleus+. This has more likely to do with an improved network connection and cabling, who knows…Certainly don’t do it to increase sound quality, but it might be a (small) unexpected bonus.

All the best,

Rodrigo

Don’t add a drive if you don’t need it. I put in a 1TB SSD but I only have 4 albums. However, you never know. Drives are cheap now days.

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