Retired moocher new to Roon musing on objective Roon configuration

Hi, all. I’m a retired modeling and simulation developer who’s been messing around with audio for 50 or so years. Recently, I built a FreeNAS server and stood it up as my iTunes library and added Plex in a FreeBSD jail as my media server. Plex works well with a Google Audio Cast puck using the optical output to a Parasound P5 preamp’s built in DAC. The sound with the Chromecast is particularly nice as the P5 can really image driving a GAS Ampzilla and DQ-10s. Yep, I’m a fossil.

I’ve used an Apple TV to deliver audio since the new TV arrived in 2012 or so. I added a Cambridge DACmagic to catch the TV audio stream via TOSlink. Having a second port, I cabled up another Apple TV for audio only content. The ChromeCast audio puck stuck its nose under the tent when Clarkson, Hammond, and May jumped to Amazon Video and a Roku box was added to see The Grand Tour. Two years ago, a Parasound P5 took the place of a Conrad Johnson PV-1 whose power supply gave up the ghost when it came out of storage after a kitchen remodel. With the addition of the Chrome Cast, I started playing music through it as Plex was happy talking to both the Google Cast and AirPlay devices. The Google Cast stream seems a bit more open and spacious.

After some reading around, I found Roon and discovered that it had traction with the music reproduction community. I was especially pleased to see that it had considered the client-server architecture and was built around a server centric architecture rather than being rather monolithic like iTunes and other things that started life in PC land in the days of OS 9 and Win 3. Thanks for thinking things out and separating playback, library management, and control.

So I decided to have a go and scored a copy of Core to trial on the iMac. Current plans are to run this for a week or so. If I like what I hear, I’ll subscribe and put together a HiFiBerry Digi+ box to take over the music delivery chores in the lounge. Eventually, I’d like to move the core to the FreeNAS host as a service. Macs are happy sitting around logged in for server chores but I’d prefer not to do that.

I also picked up a copy of the IOS remote control component for my iPad. This came up without fuss but needed an output device configured. I’ll spend more time with it later today.

For audio, Plex is functional but pedestrian. I dearly missed playlist management and Genius streaming. As I’m writing this, Roon is playing a nice jazz stream locally using those parts of the local library that it has indexed. As long as I was happy to play albums, it was fine but I was really missing the ability to stream from my library in a smart way. I kicked off the stream by picking a Brad Mehldau track and letting Roon have its head. It’s putting together a nice mix for me.

It looks a bit premature to move Core to the FreeNAS beast as Ix Systems is still working on the virtual environment and i’m not an experienced VM tinkerer. Supposedly, a FreeNAS 11 update coming in August will flesh out containers. It would be really great to deliver Roon server as a Linux container. I’d also like to see Roon Server (say the ROCK kit) added to Debian upstream. This should make life a lot easier for the DIY crowd as apt-get install would pull the ROCK and all of its dependencies.

Does the community have a Forum corner for collecting HowTo’s?

Have we had any luck persuading engineering to follow Linux conventions for distributing the Linux versions of Roon? Change is afoot in Linux package management. It is looking like there is an emerging practice for distributing software as container packages that is replacing the compile it on the DISTRO as a package model that has held sway since RPM days. The FreeBSD/TrueOS community is playing some catch-up there. I’m thinking that the core will stay on the iMac while things settle.

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Stuff like that eventually finds its way to the KB.

Thank you for that interesting write up David.

An alternative to the HiFiBerry Digi+ is the new Allo DigiOne board which has received quite a favourable reception amongst Roon users.

My pleasure. Community is good. Since I posted my intentions, I’ve managed to migrate the Roon Server from my iMac to my FreeNAS Server using the Peter Wright method. I did a few of things differently. First, I used the current Debian release. Second, I used DHCP networking configuration. Debian configures an MDNS responder so the server VM answers to “rocky” taken from “ROCK”. I used CIFS rather than NFS as music media is shared with iTunes via CIFS. I believed Apple when they said CIFS was preferred. Personally, I like NFS and “Yellow Pages” making the maps with make. I’m dating myself badly.

Today, I ordered the HiFiBerry bits and will write that up when I get that far.

I’ll also make a write-up at

I came across the Allo boards but not that particular one. The HiFiBerry board is interesting to me in that it has a TOSlink output. TOSlink does a great job breaking ground loops. The TV audio comes over via TOSlink.

When folks consider this stuff, remember that the DAC is going to retime the sample stream into the conversion process. It is the frequency and stability of converter’s clock that determines the final sound.When something goes wrong, it usually presents as a drop out (click).

Jitter in sample delivery presents as additional Gaussian noise. The jitter would have to be hideously bad to be noticeable so don’t go chasing low clock jitter as an end in itself.

I’ve seen several YouTube presenters commenting on tweaks for the electrical interface between a digital receiver’s SPDIF interface and the DAC’s SPDIF input. I’d guess most were having problems with reflections, etc resulting form incorrect impedance cables. It’s really important to adhere to the impedance standard for SPDIF interconnects using the correct coax and connectors. Exotic cable and connectors offer little value over correct cable and connectors.

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In my intro, i neglected to mention that I’m an EE by training but have not worked in this (audio) area of practice. My experience is in power plant instrumentation and controls, reactor plant monitoring software, and operator training simulators. Pleasantly, I discovered that I could still read an application note and block diagrams.

I did some more readying after Andy’s message. I spent a lot of time looking at Burr Brown application notes to see what was where. The Parasound P5 uses several Burr Brown chips, but only the DAC is mentioned. The digital interface receiver and input stuff are just as important. Products using the Burr Brown 1709x DACS typically use a recommended Crystal CS interface part to receive and retime the bit stream. These are pretty much the same part that is on the Allo and HiFiBerry boards. They handle reception, protocol ID, and protocol transcoding. To do this they are also performing jitter buffering and retiming.

USB is a different animal. Preamps and DACS having a USB input use a separate USB interface processor from Burr Brown or Crystal to handle the USB protocol These perform message protocol processing, buffering, and retiming.

In looking at the manual and remote, I found that the P5 has USB, SPDIF RCA, and SPDIF TOSlink interfaces. When the Digi+ is built, I’m moving the TV TOSlink directly to the P5 and using the Coax SPDIF input for the HiFiBerry Digi+. I’ll retire the Apple TV and the Chromecast puck that are in that rack. This will let me retire the annoying Chinese TOSlink switch with its useless remote and too small controls.