Currently have ROCK running on a half decent (8th Gen i5) dedicated, Dell PC. I’m wondering if there’s much / anything to be gained from upgrading to an NUC or whether there are any elements on the existing PC which would make more sense to change instead.
I’m happy enough poking around inside a PC, so swapping out cards, drives, etc. doesn’t put me off (famous last words!).
Current performance is fine, however I’m about to introduce two new DACs as endpoints, so may need a bit more oomph…
The NUC will probably use less power. It might look better. You could install ROCK. You could select a better CPU in the process, though I’m not sure how much it would add to an 8th gen i5.
This is all dependent on how you are using that PC. Firstly an 8th gen i5 is just fine for Roon. It’ll do anything you need it to do. Secondly, if you are feeding to networked endpoints there is little you can do to enhance your experience. If you are going USB to these DACs then consider using an audiophile USB card to feed those DACs.
NUC plus points.
Quiet (potentially silent)
NUC minus points.
No peripheral cards
Limited storage internally
Others feel free to add to this.
I will be connecting one of the DACs via USB either to the dedicated ROCK PC or another desktop - @Henry_McLeod you mentioned an audiophile USB card, would this be for the ROCK machine or in fact any PC I’m connecting to a DAC via USB?
I appreciate the help!
I suspect your setup is optimal for most use cases. Depending on what Dell it is, you’re most likely running a way more powerful Core than any NUC can deliver. As tou might be aware, the NUCs use U-series CPUs that are intended for mobile computing. Your Dell is probably sporting a desktop CPU (unless it’s a micro-PC) with more than enough grunt to drive many endpoints and upsampling to those at the same time.
A direct USB connection might not be optimal though, for several reasons. There a lot’s of USB “de-crapifiers” out there in various forms and prices. Since you re running ROCK i’d call it a hit-or-miss if you could install an “audiophile USB card” and be successful… These usually needs drivers… Externa USB de-crpifiers will work though.
It would be for whatever PC you are connecting the DACs to. However you might need confirmation from the manufacturer that they work with a ROCK powered PC. They should be OK.
When I started I was using a Windows 10 clone PC based on a Intel Core™ i5-7400 4 core 4 thread for both the core and the bridge for my USB based DAC Bryston BDA-3. Used an Antec 280x case with led fans and water cooled cpu cooler.
I had an old clone desktop i7 3770k 4 core 8 thread based motherboard that has only two fast Sata ports. So installed an old 120gb ssd and 4tb datacenter drive in a smaller case (all parts I had around). Loaded Rock as soon as I did I lost a bit of sound quality maybe 5-7%. Suspected power right away (this tower is in a room away from main stereo don’t want vibrations affecting HDD) so started researching. Using reviews at Toms Hardware found computer power supplies where being tested for ripple (noise). Decided to purchase Corsair RM650x (550 sold out) which tests much lower than most computer power supplies for ripple (still nothing like an LNPS but costs much less too). Corsair had also built capacitors into power cables to prevent noise from feeding back from hard-drives, video cards, CPU, fans, cpu cooler, etc. The sound returned back to normal. I then purchased another RM650x for my Bridge and sound improved but this time much less as it replaced a newer power supply. I also added a 10 outlet power bar (no surge protection) to my Panamax Max5100 (purchased for triggering devices on and off) which helped sound quality at stereo system too (stopped using USB decrapifier). Ground removed from my Rega Turntable solving it’s ground hum as well. So that is not snake oil but the power bar had allowed everything at stereo to be plugged into power conditioner which is best practice.
So the take away I already had a Bryston BDA-3 DAC and a Bryston 3B SST2 connected to Paradigm Studio 100 v3 so could hear minor improvements. I would focus on those components first.
The i7 mobo has smart fan setup and massive after market cpu cooler. (was a gaming computer) even while indexing my 2900 album library the fan never spun up. When I turn on sample rate conversion to DSD 256 I hear fan spin just a little faster.
If you do go power supply route make absolutely sure that Dell is using a stock power supply that can be replaced with an after market one. 550w is plenty of power for what we do.
A power conditioner might be better first. As you can plug all components into it helping everything. Now I have crap power in my older neighborhood lights blink twice a day switching from one grid to another, everything I have electronic is plugged into at least a surge protector except my amp (has 15 years of warranty left Bryston does recommend plugging directly into mains).
Hope my experience helps.
Stay safe and enjoy the music.