Old laptop i5 running ROCK / MOCK

I have an old laptop that is i5 2nd Gen with 8GB RAM and 128GB SSD (connected via LAN cable to my router) which is kinda spare and lying around and has Win 10 now.

I do not own any local library and exclusively stream Tidal HiFi.

Although not Roon recommended as far as HW goes, but since I don’t have any local library… I wanna use it as a ROCK or SERVER depending on which one is faster in rendering/transferring files (@ DSD128 + 10 Band EQ) to another Laptop (end-point) that’s connected via 5GHz Wireless… where I normally listen to my music. (That PC currently has the all in one Roon Windows 10 package… that I wanna replace).

I have the following questions please:

  1. The old laptop is completely useless to me now and I can have it as ROCK (headless) … would it be faster in file conversion and rendering music than having a Roon server with Win 10 setup…again only running Roon server?

  2. I have some settings such as EQs and profiles on my current (All in one) laptop … is there a way I can transfer that profile data (when I deauthorize the current Core) to the new ROCK/SERVER without having to put in all the EQ etc. related information again?

  3. In my setup and over wireless … would I be able to smoothly run DSD128/256? and where will all that processing happen … the ROCK/server or my end point PC?

Many thanks guys

  1. Your best option would probably be something light like Mint Linux or a headless server by Ubuntu. Those will work. ROCK might work and it would be the most convenient option so long as it does. It never hurts to try.
  2. Take a Roon backup of your existing core and when restored on the new build all of your settings should be preserved.
  3. If at all possible, find a way to wire your core to your network. It is your option most likely to work in the way you want. You can certainly try wireless but assuming it actually works it might impact on the user experience. Wiring my house was the best money I spent for stability of all of my streaming devices be they audio or video.

Thanks. I will somehow have to work out the BIOS update mechanism for my 10 year old laptop. So far, with only the server installed on that old laptop running Win 10 Home, I can stream DSD128 with 2.5x speed over the 5Ghz WIFI, no sweat!

I am planning to somehow make that laptop a ROCK now…since I know now that it has sufficient processing power for my DSD+EQ needs.

I use an old I5 laptop too. It works with DSD128 without any extra DSP stuff. It stutters at DSD256 converting to PCM.

Thanks. I am assuming you have the full Roon SW installed and not the ROCK…

Alright I can confirm my failure to setup Roon ROCK on my old laptop. Essentially, the ROCK image got installed correctly and after the prompt confirming the installtion and when the PC restarted…it never went beyond the initial ‘Lenovo’ screen and no BIOS configuration enter buttons like F10/2/12 etc. seemed to work. Any ideas how to bypass this hurdle or is it something wrong with my BIOS (from 2010)?

In order to gain access to the BIOS, I had to remove the SSD and reformat it via another PC to get it ready to have Win 10 again…project failed!

@Bocatech or any other Roon support staff, if you can shed some light … its OK if you let me know that it wont work at all!


You need to ensure the laptop boots in legacy mode. Other than that I can’t think of a reason why it simply doesn’t boot. Normally it boots but can’t assign an IP.

You need to be lucky to get ROCK working on a laptop. I wanted to install it on a Dell Latitude E5540 (Core i5) and got it working after I disabled AHCI mode in the Bios. Without disabling AHCI it was not installing. Working now for more than a year. DAC connected to USB and audio over HDMI both working fine!

I agree with @Henry_McLeod, the “Server” edition of one of the popular Linux distributions is probably your best play. I had good luck installing Arch Linux and Roon Server on a ~10 year old Acer netbook (upgraded with 2GB of RAM and an SSD). It worked better than I expected, although Arch may be ambitious if this is your first Linux install.

Roon Labs say they have tested these:

  • Arch (current)
  • Fedora 23
  • Ubuntu 15.10

I’m sure they have tested later releases, so I would not worry about the versions too much.

While you were not able to get ROCK working on unsupported hardware, running Roon Server on a minimal Linux installation is not going to be much different regarding efficient use of hardware.

OK, will check and report if the laptop isnt able to boot in Legacy mode.

Well, I got ROCK installed alright. It just didnt boot after the necessary restart post installation.

Thanks. I am not too technically astute but am always willing to tinker things. Have never done a Linux install. Are you able to do DSD512 from Tidal FLACs on your old laptop now, if yes at what x speed?

Basically, my goal is to improve my Laptop’s performance converting Tidal FLACs from currently doing a DSD128 at 2.5x using my Laptop which currently runs Roon server only (where it often starts to skip tracks when doing DSD256) to DSD512 at 2.5x or more… all this with a 10 Band EQ for my headphones. Would you say installing ROCK or Linux based platform be able to improve on my Laptop’s performance to achieve that goal? My laptop specs are i5 2nd Gen (460M), 8GB 10600 speed DDR3 RAM, WD Green SSD 128GB and has its LAN port is NOT Gigabit.

Any thoughts are welcome as I know there is no definitive answer to this without trying…

My Gen 6 i5 Intel NUC running ROCK can upsample a Tidal stream to DSD 256 with a 10 band EQ without skipping. Hovers about 2x.

My guess is that your CPU is not powerful enough to do what you want to do. The higher DSD rate you go, the more horsepower you need in terms of CPU. The little difference in freeing up CPU cycles by moving to a ROCK OS is not going to provide you, imho, with enough headroom to make a big difference.

And there is the issue, that ROCK is specifically designed for Intel NUC hardware and only contains the drivers needed for that environment. If you want to continue with the laptop, you should heed other’s suggestions and try a Linux Distro, I’d go with Ubuntu.


…yes, so my post might not be relevant to your problem. Btw, Amazon has some surprisingly low prized Win10 licenses…

Haha…my 10-year old netbook uses an Intel Atom® Processor N450 processor…just core at 1.66 GHz. LOL. Not sure if you remember Netbooks, but they were the precursor to Chromebooks…tiny, very underpowered and a keyboard that is almost too small to use.

I am actually impressed that it can run Roon Server and play to one zone with just volume leveling and MQA Core Decoding enabled. Here it is, chugging along at 2.2x. Now, to be fair, I do have a (throttled) library update (11 tracks) running in the background…that should finish by this evening. :slight_smile:

I have not attempted DSD upsampling via this Core…I’d be surprised if it can play DSD64 files period, much less upsample from PCM to DSD. Good luck!

Edit: Verified. I can only play DSD files from this Netbook core if I disable volume leveling and all DSP. Fortunately, with this particular DAC, DSD sounds fine this way.

Yeah I think you are right! I dont think the old PC is capable of DSD512 but it does DSD256 with 10 Band EQ at around 1.5x which is sometimes a problem with higher bit rates from Tidal I guess. Anyways, I am able to stream DSD256 (most often) and DSD128 (always) hassle free over my 5G N Wifi network which shows a download rate from the Roon server (Old) laptop at around 22.5Mbps. The funny thing is the above is using only 34% of the CPU at the server end.

Thanks but would getting another license help…I think you meant to say NUCs coz my bottleneck is the old HW…or am i missing something?

Haha…yeah i remember those…have one of those ASUS TA100s lying around somewhere rotting like it deserves to (just too many hours wasted in reviving it…). Anyways, you using the new NEO DAC from IFI…cant wait to learn how that sounds. My SMSL M500 sounds phenomenal with Roon and its DSD upsampling and EQs…Tidal’s own app doesnt compare!

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Btw, I am facing a few network issues. At DSD128 and at 2.4x speed, my network speed utilization is 11.5Mbps…but very often I can see in my windows task manager that the network speeds reduce to 2-3Mbps and soon after the DSD stream from my Roon server stops and skips to the next track…which again stops playing due to lower bandwidth. Could this be a router issue or something to do with RAAT? I know I am supposed to be on Gigabit LAN all across, but currently my Roon server laptop is connected via LAN cable to my router and my end point is connected to the router via Wireless N 5Ghz network and everything else seems to work fine. Thanks

… just tried to say, that a Win10 installation might run smoother and gives you access to more drivers

Alright. Well I have a Win 10 license and its already installed with Roon Server running (rather inconsistently) on it…Thanks

I should have asked…but which DAC are you using? It sounds like you may be using a DAC that sounds best with DSD256 given your interest in upsampling to that rate.

I have a Khadas Tone Board DAC that works best at DSD64. Some of my other DACs sound slightly better with PCM upsampling, while upsampling does not benefit still others significantly or at all. Results seem to depend on how reconstruction filters are implemented in each DAC.

Although your 2nd gen Intel NUC is probably past-due for an upgrade, you may also wish to consider a newer DAC so that you don’t have to upsample to DSD256 to get the best sound.

I have a SOTA (per measurements) SMSL M500 V2 DAC with ESS9038PRO chip. This means that the reconstruction filters are great (I like Apodizing). I also keep the DPLL to minimum and use a IFI USB Reclocker to ensure that there are no or minimal jitter/USB impedence mismatches and use a AQ Forest USB cable with ferrite cores at both ends (I know, kinda overkill!). My Amp is another super clean model…the THX AAA 789 and am listening to Hifiman Aryas, HD800Ss and Focal Elegias other than the trustee HD650s - All Balanced.

The thing is my M500 sounds the best at DSD512 upsampling (its max capability, only possible if I rund my Core on my listening PC which is a newer model i5 8th Gen). I also have an IFI Hip DAC and a AQ Dragonfly Red…and my observations around SQ are similar for all DACs. At that rate, the old PC cant work as it goes down to 0.7x or something and skips tracks so I have to live with DSD256 which plays at 1.5x. regular PCM to me say from Tidal app even in exclusive mode seem 2 dimentional and kinda glary! Plus I like to EQ and the Peace EQ doesnt cut it for SQ. I found Roon’s DSP to be its best feature and went lifetime due to the improvements in SQ alone as the Tidal app does everything else perhaps better including maybe the Radio bit.

Hmmm, IIRC, upsampling to DSD effectively bypasses the reconstruction filter in ESS9038PRO DACs. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

As I type this, I’m listening to a THX AAA 789 amp driving a pair of Sennheiser HD650 headphones via the balanced output. Best sound from headphones that I’ve experienced to date. Congrats on that amp! I’ve used mine with a number of different DACs, but this NEO iDSD from iFi Audio (which I referenced earlier) is the best sounding so far. I’ll do some measurements later this weekend, but the iFi does not seem to benefit significantly (or at all?) with upsampling. Could be because PCM is processed using the GTO filter.

While I’m enjoying the NEO iDSD as a fixed-output DAC, there’s quite a bit of daylight between the iFi’s internal headphone amp and the THX AAA 789, as you might imagine. :slight_smile: