Nucleus + Sound Quality

It’s very meaningful, because with the cable disconnected all secondary effects like electrical noise are removed and the only thing remaining is the bits in the buffer. And that means the only way the cable or server could affect the sound is if the disturbances are strong enough to introduce bit errors, which nobody is suggesting. (The network, the way Roon is using it, includes error correction.)

So if there are cable effects through noise or other mysterious effects, this test should show the difference.


Nice rack - I wonder who built that for you?

Dear billt1, the difference you hear is correct. But its based on the difference of Windows 10 against Roon Rock. In W10 there are always ,disturbing, programs playing in the background while RR is dedicated. Thats in de results ive heard, a big difference…

@Marc_Mable, a very talented crew /design team out of Nashua ,NH and I thank you for that

I have used Roon on 3 servers - my Dell touch PC, a dedicated Mac Mini and a Nucleus. The Dell was a bad experience for obvious reason, but as far as I can discern there was no audible difference between the Mac Mini and the Nucleus - either operationally or with sound quality. Now, my system is not as high resolution as Bill T’s, but it is a high-quality rig with Meridian DSP speakers and a Meridian 218 streaming endpoint. My curiosity is piqued by this conversation, so maybe I will go back and re-explore the Nucleus, but I have my doubts…

I don’t understand the stuff in the background theory. On my networked iMac, I can start with Roon only running and start opening a bunch of programs in the background and making the machine work harder and it doesn’t have an impact on the sound.

Noise should be isolated between these cores. I can understand W10 sounding different than ROCK if the actual data stream somehow differed between these two platforms. Is that the case? Can the Roon guys confirm if the networked endpoint receives anything differently depending on what OS the Core is running on? I thought it would be identical as to what the endpoint sees?

@Marc_Mable, I was 100% convinced a Nucleus + would change what I heard vs. a well made dedicated computer made to ROON spec operating on the network at zero chance. It was not expected so I would say that is why it was the biggest surprise. I assumed I may be in for faster navigation or something to that nature but not a change it what I heard. As I stated earlier I was looking for a higher resolving endpoint than the Bryston ( now that seems to be harder than I thought it might be) so trying out the Nucleus + was just because the dealer asked me to give my opinion. There is absolutely no question how the Nucleus+ has improved the sound and that’s why I bought it.

Bill, what DAC are you using? USB or Ethernet? Thanks

Esoteric K-01x BNC SdIF and sometimes USB for DSD . Playing around just now I am getting 192 / 24 bit from coax . Pretty sure that was limed to 96 before? It’s a download from HDTracks

The Bryston DAC is absolutely one of the best deals out there performance>price. I will have to re-visit the Nucleus in my system and report back.

Hi, I am new. Still on my free trial of Roon but loving it. My Core is loaded on a 2012 iMac with i7 processor and 16gb of memory. This iMac is connected to my network wirelessly. I know Roon recommends a wired computer for Roon Core but there is no wired ethernet connection available in the room where this computer resides. It is a strong WiFi connection and so far I have had no issues. Is there a chance that a wired, purpose built device like the Nucleus (basic) would sound better than my current setup? My setup includes Roon Core (wireless to my router) to a Lumin T-1 room ready doc/streamer. I also have another zone streaming to a Bluesound Node2 in a different part of the house. My FLAC files are on a NAS and I subscribe to Tidal. Oh, and one last question. If I got the Nucleus I would consider installing an internal SSD. Any ideas regarding sound quality between streaming from NAS or SSD?

This is one of those subjective questions that will always get conflicting answers. I would go Nucleus but not because I was chasing SQ, but because I was chasing simplicity. That simplicity might yield results where you want them but that couldn’t be accurately predicted.

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And to provide the opposite point of view I would leave well enough alone. Adding a Nucleus into the mix certainly won’t improve SQ IMHO of course. If you can’t wire the iMac how are you going to wire the Nucleus. Also it matters not where your music is stored. For performance reasons Roon recommends using SSD for the Roon database but that isn’t your music files.

Thank you both for your input. I would be able to wire the Nucleus because it will be in my music room where I do have connectivity. I tend to agree that as long as my setup is working ok I should probably just leave it alone. I just wondered if the recommendation to have a wired connection to the Core machine was simply related to unreliable signal strength or was related to some other performance issue. It’s been working fine since I set it up about a week ago so I will probably just leave well enough alone. Thank you again.

Having your Roon core in another room is actually a plus. If your wifi works well stick with it.

It is very interesting to hear that the Nucleus + had such an effect over a network. Since the bits are getting from the Nucleus Core to the BDP2 endpoint using TCP via RAAT (it was UDP up until Build 234 Roon 1.3) I have always assumed that the packets and messages could be carried back and forth by carrier pigeon or smoke signal and not affect the sound. It is hard to imagine what influence the server could have through that interface.

Are you using shielded Ethernet cables by any chance @Billt1 ?


It’s not all left to imagination. Some DAC designers have shared their thoughts on this with me. After going into hardcore technical stuff one of them quoted: “it’s not obvious which is better: bypassing the audio stack of drivers or bypassing the network stack of drivers…” , among other things that went over my head but sounded plausible because I’ve seen multiple experts discuss the same thing.

There are experts out there that understand these possible technical mechanisms… and it’s far beyond the ‘bits are bits’ argument.

I was using my i7 Macbook as a Roon Server for a few months, to an ethernet isolated Allo USBridge. I recently took Roon Core duties off my Macbook and my new NUC7i7DNHE (quad core i7) running Roon OS (via ROCK) sounds noticeably better… I was surprised at the difference with my desktop headphones setup. I can’t hear any difference with my speaker system…

So it doesn’t surprise me to read that people notice a SQ difference with Nucleus, even over the network.

I no longer have my sonicTransporter i7 Roon Core (highly optimized for low latency performance and other custom OS optimizations) since I gave it to my old man, but I’d be semi interested to compare, only for shi!ts and giggles. I can’t say I’m in a rush though.

But a Roon supported NUC running ROCK or a Nucleus is definitely the way to go for best SQ (and other reasons long term perhaps), to my ears, with my experience (not expertise). Whether or not you can hear the difference to care enough (again - I can’t on a speaker system but I can with closed back headphones…) is another thing.

It’s all good fun though :grin:


One possibility is that there may be a difference in how “full” the packets are between different servers running different OSs. That could result in increased or decreased processing at the endpoint.

Agreed. My i7 Macbook was always doing a whole lotta other stuff, non Roon related, when it was my Roon Core.

My NUC running Roon OS has obviously been highly optimized by the Roon Team - they’ve shut down all processes that they can, that they don’t believe is required for Roon to function.

My Macbook is still where it’s always been and still doing a whole lotta other stuff but it’s now just a remote and the Roon OS --> Roon Bridge path/activity is now very optimized for Roon. Maybe this plays a part in perceived SQ improvement? Who knows.

One of the big differences between Roon OS and the others in this space is that Roon OS never “shut down” anything. It just doesn’t include them from the start. Roon OS built from scratch, not built on top of another server or desktop operating system with items that need to be disabled. Every option, every piece of software on this box is there on purpose. I’ve yet to see another Linux based audio device that works this way (ARM or x86/x64).