So I want to take my library on the road with me. I am really happy about 2.0 but I am running my core on a late 2009 I Mac. I am having a very hard time deciding on what to buy. I have been reading about the NUC/ROCK and just when I am about to pull the trigger I start thinking a new Mac mini may be the way to go.
If it helps my system now is a I Mac from late 2009 running Roon Server. The main system is a Micro Rendu feeding an OPPO 105 into a Parasound P7 to McIntosh MC7150 to heavily modified Klipschorns. This is a fully amazing 7.1 system using big commercial Klipsch theater surrounds and Danley DTS 10 Subs. The surround portion of the system is only accessible playing discs through the OPPO. The music is on a Synology NAS. The I Mac also feeds a multibit Schit DAC and a Topping DAC for upstairs listening.
Where I see the system going is a pretty much what I have but an OCTO DAC8 PRO DAC. I have a good number of multichannel discs ripped to my hard drive and eventually would like to play them from ROON.
At this point I am leaning toward the new M1 Mini because of my familiarity with Apple stuff but talk me out of it. Seems like price point is similar.
My library is 2500 Albums and 32000 tracks. A fair number are DSD and hi res PCM. This grows by maybe a dozen CDs a month. safe to say Im done going crazy. I will still snap up things like the new Animals SACD though.
My gut says buy the mini but the devil on the other shoulder says buy a I3 NUC to try it out. The devil on the third shoulder says buy the biggest baddest NUC and be done with it.
Being in the Apple eco-system already is a point in the favor of a Mini.
I run ROCK on an i3 GEN8 NUC. For a hassle free experience, ROCK is the only way to go and will run you about $400.
Below a certain number of tracks, which you are not even close to, horsepower is not a consideration. An i3 or i5 is enough. Horsepower only becomes important if you plan on doing heavy DSP or have a lot of endpoints.
If you go for a ROCK, with your number of tracks 8GB of RAM is sufficient, but since memory is cheap, if you’ll feel more secure get 16GB. Buy multiple sticks, rather than one big stick. A 128GB M.2 drive is enough for the OS.
Know that, as of now, ROCK won’t run on anything above a GEN10 NUC.
Yes I know about the 10 or under limitation of the NUC which is one of the reasons I have not just ordered one. I know memory is cheap for the NUC but crazy expensive for the Mac mini which is settting off my not wanting anyone to take advantage of me alarm. I was just going to buy the NUC but I was going to do the I7 one which is going to cost more than the base Mini. I am using no DSP and really the way I have designed my room any I have tried is a negative but who knows in the future. Best thing I ever did is go the 8 channel preamp with no processing route. Tried many high end Pre/Pros.
I’ve been running my core with ROCK (NUC8i7BH, 16RAM, 2TB SSD) with fanless case (Akasa turing case + ssd heat sink). The case itself is beautiful and running without any noise. I’ve put it in my living room right beside my audio. It runs great 24/7/365. Once in a while I reboot for cleaning up but I usually let it up and running without any booting.
Now with the Roon ARC, it is perfect combination. ROCK is the way to go.
Since you have multi-channel and DSD (and MCH DSD?), you may want to get something more than an i3 if you go with a NUC. I have a lot of MCH DSD and 2x and 4x DSD downloads. If any of your DACs aren’t capable of DSD decoding or processing MCH DSD, Roon will automatically downsample to whatever your DAC is capable of. 5.1 to 2.0 doesn’t require a lot of HP but I found going from 2X or 4X DSD down to 176 or 88 KHz PCM really taxes the CPU. On my Core, the i7 couldn’t even handle it without skips and pauses. I had to go to an i9, which handles it fine. Now if you add room correction, volume control, or other Roon features that involve DSP, that will also tax the CPU. I don’t know when the 10th Gen i9’s are going for but you may want to consider one of those if the price difference with the i7 isn’t too much.
Roon always ran “properly” on an M1 Mac. The M1 Mac mini ran Intel code faster than any Nucleus or NUC. Now that it is native, it can do DSP much faster AND do more DSP than any Nucleus or NUC. Plus, if you ever want or need HQPlayer, it can run that too.
I suggest going on OfferUp and getting a used i5 or i7 Mac Mini for $200-300 and running ROCK on it… super easy, you just need a USB ethernet adapter. Or get a NUC for a little more… it’s an appliance once installed so set it and forget it.
You could also just run it on your iMac (probably) but seems like a waste of space (and display) if you can use the iMac for other stuff.
I’m a Apple diehard. But, decided on a NUC/ROCK for my core. Went completely overboard, but whatever…it was the early days of COVID and I was bored.
NUC8i7 in an Akasa Plato case. 32gb of Ram, 500gb dedicated to ROCK, 2tb of ssd internal storage for digital library and another 2tb of external storage primarily for backups. All that cost me less than $1,000.
Trouble free, runs 24/7 for the past 2.5 years, and never misses a beat.
I would highly recommend the Small Green Computer sonicTransporter i5 (Gen 3). I’m using the Gen 2 version and have found that for running Roon core this is a much better approach than using a Mac or PC based solution. LINUX OS on the SonicTransporter is much more tuned for its intended use and does not have lots of extra processes running that have nothing to do with it’s function, put extra load on unit and ultimately can have a negative impact on sound.