Questions on setup

(Joost Alberts) #1

Hi all,

I am new to this board and considering getting a Roon setup.

Current setup:

  • Bluesound Node 2
  • Beolab 5 (connected digital with SPDIF)
    I use this setup exclusively to stream from TIdal (i.e. I have no stored files on a server).

I am considering upgrading to a more high end streaming transport (AuralicAries G1, Lumin D2, Bricasti M5), while at the same time switching to using the Roon software.
At this point I am not looking at storing files locally.

My question is:
Other than a streaming transport, do I NEED to have a Roon Core/server (this means the same, right)? My current guess is the answer is yes.

If the answer is yes, three follow-up questions:

  • Does the type of server/core affect sound quality (I would assume not, it only forwards files to the transport, the way I understand it); and
  • What would be the minimum spec/make+model server I need to get going? For instance would there be benefit of using a Roon Nucleus over something homemade or lower specced?
  • What is your opinion on the value add of moving to Roon, given I only stream Tidal? Especially adding ~1500 EUR in kit for a server that I dont need in my current setup, is something I cant quite justify at this point.

Looking forward to your thoughts and opinions.

(Ged) #2

yes you need a server an i3 based PC is the recommended minimum. The rest is really up to you.
This will give you an idea why others like it

(Joost Alberts) #3

Thanks for that. As for the impact on audio quality of the server one uses, any thoughts?
Am I correct in assuming all the server does is forward the right files at the right time to the right transport (but no file rendering, which is done in the transport)?


This seems to be a contentious area with views in different camps but, provided the endpoint is connected over Ethernet and the server meets the recommended specs then, for a machine running ROCK I think Roon staff have said there is no difference to audio quality. A server needn’t be expensive (no connection with seller).

Edit: FWIW I use the same spec server as linked and it is more than capable of doing all the DSP/upsampling I need. I also use the Lumin D2 you mentioned and have been very happy with it.

(Ged) #5

Everyone has an opinion. Roon say there is very little difference but improvements can be made by using a single use device with a cut down OS - hence Nucleus. But others disagree so you can spend £500 or £5000+.

(JohnV) #6

And apparently, no one views his or her expenditure has been a waste! All kit result in an expanded soundstage, tighter bass, more realism, less fake-ism, and just plain ol’ good listenin’.

(Joost Alberts) #7

Thanks erverybody for the valuable insights, much appreciated.

So what would be a safe bet, a Roon Nucleus as a core?
Maybe to understand this better: I’ve read that the Nucleus can ‘stream’ to the newer Beolab 50.
In my setup, where there would be a streaming transport in between (the Beolab 5 accepts only SPDIF, not USB), what would the Nucleus do? Other than forward the relevant files to the transport?
Does having a Nucleus diminish the value (added) of a more high-end transport, in my case?
And in case of the Beolab 50 (perhaps a future upgrade), would having a high-end streaming transport in between the speakers and say the Nucleus even make a difference? WOuld the Nucleus provide files/streaming in a different ‘way’?


For your use case the Nucleus (or Nucleus+) doesn’t provide any additional functionality over and above an appropriate NUC+ROCK or, say, SonicTransporter, however it’s certainly a safe bet as should be dealer supported and underwritten by Roon. It’s also fanless and therefore silent, which can’t be said for the NUC unless you get your hands dirty or someone else does on your behalf.

(Joost Alberts) #9

If one is to compare the following hypothetical setups:
Roon Nucleus -->ethernet–> high end streaming transport -->spdif–> Beolab 5
Roon Nucleus -->usb–> Beolab 50

In these cases, are the files the Nucleus deliveres, delivered in a ‘different way’?
To me it seems in the second case the Beolab 50 readily plays them, while in the first case, the streaming transport gets fed the raw files and then turns that into playable data ( ‘rendering’)?

Is this understanding correct? If Yes, how does the Nucleus ‘know’ how to the deliver files, i.e. just the raw files to a streaming transport or ‘rendered’ files to a roon-ready speaker?


As I understand bit, and I’m sure more knowledgeable others will step in, the first case streams via RAAT to the endpoint/transport, the second relies on the OS audio drivers, so you’d need to ensure the Beolab 50 was fully compatible (sometimes there’s limitations on the nature of the USB support).

(Joost Alberts) #11


So the way Roon moves file to the transport or speakers would actually differ, depending on what it is sending files to (i.e Roon-ready speakers of RAAT endpoint)?

In these two more illustrative hypothetical setups, would there be any difference in SQ:
Roon Nucleus -->ethernet–> high end streaming transport -->spdif or USB–> Beolab 50
Roon Nucleus -->usb–> Beolab 50

Note this assumes the same speakers, just there’s either a streaming transport in between or there’s not.

My current Beolab 5s dont support this, though still I’d like to understand this better (as perhaps not spending the € on a transport but rather on a Beolab 5 to Beolab 50 upgrade could also be a way to go (though more expensive altogether)


Looks like both USB and Coax support the same resolution on those speakers, as to which sounds better the most reliable way to answer that is going to be testing (either yours or someone else’s).

Note that ‘files’ are not sent - RAAT sends streamed data to the endpoints - somewhere around there is a KB article describing the RAAT architecture in depth. I think it’s all the same by the time it leaves the endpoint to connect to the speakers, assuming correct support.

Assuming a fanless design, the theoretical SQ advantage of Ethernet is separation from the Core which generates more RF/electrical noise as it does a lot more than the endpoints need to. Plenty of anecdotal reports on the forum though of folk happy with a direct USB connection.

(Joost Alberts) #13

Thanks for that elaboration.

I’m honestly still a bit puzzled as to the extent to which a Core would send something ‘different’ to a high-end streamer (which I presume would then do the rendering/timing?) or to a Roon-ready set of speakers (such as the Beolab 50 of kef ls50 for that matter).

Reason for me wanting to fully understand this is that, in case the Core actually puts out the same ‘rendering’ and a high-end streaming would just pass that along without adding anything to it, I might benefit more from just buying a Core and over time upgrade to Beolab 50, without even putting a high-end streamer in between at all.

I fail to comprehend why people would even consider putting a high-end streamer in between a core and roon-ready setp of speakers (for instance such as the kef ls50) - surely there must be some value add for people to do this?

So, is putting a high-end streamer in between a core and endpoint

  • changing anything to the way that the core sends out data; and if not
  • other than segregating rf/electrical noise, is there no SQ improvement in doing so?

If this is true, I don’t understand why there are roon-ready streamers north of €5k if ultimatelt the core determines sound quality?

The only explanation I have is that I am not yet fully understanding the architecture correctly. I would grealt like any reference to a detailed explanation around this topic.

Your input is again much appreciated.

(Joost Alberts) #14

Actually this video helped me understand it a bit better:

When using a network connection to the Core, RAAT is used and the clock of the network device (streamer) is leading.
If connected through USB, the clock of the Core appears to be/is leading.

So, using a high-end streamer with a Core appears to imply the Core just supplies the file (including metadata) and the streamer renders and clocks.



There’s probably better placed people to comment here, and I know nothing of the Beolab 50s, so can’t comment on their Roon readiness or its implementation. Note that the KEF implementation (LS50w) is idiosyncratic rather than strictly Roon Ready. One reason for adding a streamer to them would be to implement RAAT and thus allow for grouped playback with other devices.

Lots of folks may not want their core co-located with their HiFi (for USB), or may have multiple systems, so would be looking at a streamer (or Roon Ready endpoint of some description).

As for explanations, I’ll try to find the KB articles.

Edit: See in particular the links to RAAT and Roon Readiness from here.