Request for system design feedback, what did I miss?

Thanks in advance for your wise feedback and counsel. Much appreciated!

I need to get quality music back into my life and my home, and am finally getting (semi) serious about going digital. What follows is my best first attempt to design a starter system. Plan is to build the backbone and main listening area (living room) and expand from there.


  1. Excellent value for money.

  2. Repurpose existing equipment/buy used/vintage when smart.

  3. Scalable - I would prefer to make follow-on system investments in endpoints/systems for new rooms or in content (vs. upgrading endpoints so they can be properly grouped, DAC switching, and the like.) I think this means -

    a) Building Hi Resolution Capable pipes/backbone (e.g. server, storage, endpoints) once.

    b) Selecting an economical hi-res endpoint for the main listening area that will also work in other areas to accommodate grouping.

  4. Legit Sonic Experience in Main Listening Area

  5. User Friendly AF Control for Guest (and Fam) Happiness

The Plan

*indicates equipment on hand

Optiplex390* > WiFi > RPi3 > USB > Topping D70 DAC > RCA > Onkyo M-5160* > Magnaplanar MG-IIBs

Library ~200G of FLAC
Roon $129/yr
Tidal $19.99/mo
Qubox $14.99/mo
Total $549/year

Dell Optiplex 390* - i5 / 8G RAM / 128 SSD / 1T HDD / 2gb Video Card
OS - WIN10, Debian or Nuck?

Plan to run headless
Optiplex $140

RPi3 running RoPieee
Case/PS/RPi/Card $56

Topping D70 DAC ($425)
Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 ($399)

Onkyo M-5160*

Magneplanar MG-IIBs ($325)
Vandersteen 1C ($225)

Craigslist Tablet ~$50

System Set-Up $800 - $1,000
Media $549/year


  • Is there any reason to NOT run Debian on the Optiplex? I am fluent enough to install easily, abhor WIN10 (pre-installed) for obvious reasons, but would like to retain the ability to run stuff other than roon from time to time, which nuck would preclude.

  • Is there some way to harness the power of the Optiplex’s graphoics card if I am running headless?

  • Assuming line of sight, is WiFi OK for this type of networking? I have cabling issues in the MLA that I would strongly prefer to not tackle.

  • Does the RPi/RoPieee accomodate unadulterated transfer of all types of hi-res audio data - MQA, 24/192, DSD, etc.?

  • Thoughts on the D70 vs the S2? The S2 is “Roon Tested” and MQA ready, but there are sporadic user complaints about build quality. The D70 seems to be rock solid, is universally loved, and has XLR output, but lacks MQA or roon testing. Should I care about any of this?

  • Thoughts on the Maggies vs Vandersteens? Other option to consider in the “non-box” speaker realm?

  • Anyone have experience with Voight tubes? There are several project builds on youtube and they look CAS. Feel free to talk me out of that nonsense…

  • Does spec matter for the tablet used as roon client?

  • What did I miss or forget to ask?

Thank you!

I would not use WIFI.

The best backbone kit I can recommend (assuming Roon) is a NUC ROCK. You will never outgrow it, and it will always do its job. Beyond the initial build and setup, you will rarely have to touch it.

Make sure that your tablet will support OpenGL ES 3.0. It’s a requirement to run the Roon client.

The dell doesn’t meet min requirements. Likely your $50 tablet probably won’t either and make sure the core machine (NUC is highly recommended) is connected via Ethernet not Wifi. Endpoints can be but WiFi will struggle with higher bitrates.

Don’t skimp on the core as it’s going to be the part that makes or breaks your roon experience.

Roon has a Black Friday sale going on slightly used Roon Nucleus if you’re interested. Mine just shipped today. Today is the last day of the sale, assuming they have any left, IDK.

Heard. I’ll figure out a cabling path for the main listening area.

What about wifi streaming to secondary listening areas - kitchen, patio, etc.? Should be good with wifi there, no?

Appreciate the assist.


Thank you! I did indeed miss the recent OpenGL requirement update wrt Android/ioS/Fire devices. Any other thoughts on a minimum spec for a tablet?

Appreciate the input.


Thanks for the input.

Heard wrt hard wiring vs. WiFi.

I agree with not skimping on Core. Could you elaborate on how the Optiplex does not meet minimum spec?

My understanding from both the FAQ and Luczkiewicz’s write-up in the forum is that the Core requires i3 (Ivy Bridge or later)/4G RAM/SSD Boot Drive/~2G of SSD per 1,000 albums/OpenGL 3.0 support. The OptiPlex is i5 (Sandy Bridge)/8G RAM/128G SSD. Current library is <1,000 albums, so plenty of headroom. What am I missing?



That might be OK. That depends on signal strength I suppose. Some people end up installing a mesh system.

You are quite entitled to use what ever you want…everyone has a budget. The specs I saw on the Dell 390 were a 2nd gen CPU…Ivy bridge is a 3rd gen CPU. Good luck with your build.

Keep in mind that the server doing the heavy lifting (the roon core) doesn’t have to be in the listening area at all. It can be in a back cabinet wired to your router. In the listening area, you’ll simply need a roon capable endpoint. These can be on wifi.

edit: There is also good advice given around there that one can simply try to use what they have. Sometimes it works well (older computer, wifi, etc.). Every environment is a bit different. And the core server doesn’t need to be a super powerhouse if one is not doing lots of upsampling/DSP work with the core. My advice is try what you have. If you run into problems, then you can always upgrade later.


Got it. The plan is to pop the OptiPlex into the office server and connect via ethernet. The “wifi dongle” spec was a brain fart.

I am going to test WiFi for endpoint in the main listening area and if it is problematic, then I will run the cable.

Do you know if the RPi3 endpoints can deliver on the full hi-res potential of Tidal/qobuz/etc, or if an upgraded solution is necessary?



Yes, rPi3B+ endpoint running Ropiee can play hi-res files as endpoints. (They don’t do a full decoding of an MQA file, but that’s another issue, and not important at this point, or ever potentially)

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Got it. Thanks.

Why is the MQA decoding capability unimportant? The ability to decode MQA is a key differentiator between the two DACs I am considering.

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If the DAC can do the final MQA decoding, that’s all you need then for the MQA part.
(I personally have no interest in MQA, then again, I don’t use TIDAL either so it doesn’t matter on my end)


Can the NUC be hardwired to an Orbi mesh satellite? My router is near my stereo and I’d like to keep the NUC out of there if possible.

MQA is very important if you stream from Tidal. Many of us here love MQA but some here would rather not bother.

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On a LAN connection yes…Even DSD is possible, but on wifi I have seldom got better than 24/96 YMMV.

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  1. Excuse my ignorance, but aren’t the Maggies 4Ω speakers, whilst the Onkyo M-5160 is only rated for 8Ω loads? If so, the Vandersteens might be a better bet to be driven by your existing amplifier.
  2. Given your careful budgeting, do you really want to subscribe to both Tidal and Qobuz? If you ditch Tidal, you’ll save $240/year and (more importantly), you’ll no longer need MQA decoding.
  3. In that case, I strongly suggest that you look into an i2s hat DAC, like the HifiBerry DAC+ Pro (or similar boards from IQAudio or Allo). You’ll get a phenomenal DAC for 1/10 of what you’d pay for a standalone unit.
  4. You didn’t actually say where your music library will reside. On the Optiplex (in which case you’ll need a 2nd – probably spinning – drive to hold it)? Or on another machine on your LAN?
  5. Personally, I would prefer a generic Ubuntu (x86) or Raspbian (RPi) distro over the specialized Rock/Ropiee distros. Installing RoonServer/RoonBridge over one of those is pretty trivial. But you retain the ability to ssh into the box and install other potentially-useful packages (like shareport-sync on the endpoints).
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