ROCK Hardware Primer

There’s obviously a lot of confusion over the hardware requirements and support for ROCK so I hope that this helps some people out. I think what many of us forget is that while computer lingo is general vocabulary for some of us it’s not that way for all of us. Nothing wrong with that as I would much prefer that my heart surgeon be a master of his field and not know a DIMM from a hard drive than the other way around :slight_smile:

So you want to run ROCK and you’re confused as to what hardware to buy. When ROCK is released Roon will release specifics of tested configurations that are known to work well so if you can wait a little bit you’ll have a list to shop from. If you want to buy something now or are confused as to some of the choices you’ll need to make then read on…

First, you need to answer a ONE question: How large is your library in data volume (is it more or less than 2TB)?

You need to make a few decisions in your hardware purchase:

A) Which NUC?

Let’s narrow this down. You can get either a Core i3 CPU (fast) or Core i5 CPU (faster) in a case which will support internal storage or one that wont.

Rather than split hairs here between the i3 and i5 just buy the i5. The cost difference is minimal, but the extra performance may be beneficial now or in the future. The only time you should be considering going into an i7 is if you’re doing major DSP (upsampling and room correction to multiple zones simultaneously) or you have a HUGE library (hundreds of thousands of tracks).

The decision comes down to the case. The taller NUCs (the SYH models) have space for an internal drive with the limitation that this drive can only be 9.5mm tall. The largest spinning (hard) drive that I’ve found that will fit in this space is 2TB. You can also put a solid state drive (SSD) in here, but there is no sonic or performance benefit in doing so.

If you want your entire Roon core to be self-contained AND your music will fit onto a 2TB drive then buy the taller case (the NUC6i5SYH). If you want it to be self-contained and it’s less than 4TB then get out you platinum card and fork over $1400 for the Samsung 4TB SSD as that’s the only option over 2TB that will fit into the case!

To sum up:

Library larger than 2TB OR you don’t care about it being self-contained ==>> Order the NUC6i5SYK (short case)

Library smaller than 2TB AND you want a self contained unit ==>> Order the NUC6i5SYH (tall case)

B) Storage

Regardless of the NUC you choose you will need to provide storage for ROCK itself. The NUCs have a slot on the board that accommodates what’s called an M.2 SATA card. Think of this as a solid state drive on a stick. Both NUC models support this regardless of the case size. You’ll need an M.2 SATA card that is at least 64GB but going larger has little benefit other than a potential performance boost (256GB M.2 cards are usually a bit faster). You will also see options come up in searches that reference NVMe. This is a newer technology that is fully supported by the NUC and it’s quite a bit faster than any normal M.2 SATA card.

Keep in mind that this device CANNOT be used for storage of music files.

To sum up:
Rather than go through iterations here just order an NVMe card. It’s stupid-fast and not that much more expensive than a regular M.2 SATA card. Some options are:

Samsung 950 Pro - I have one of these and it works great in my NUC. These are being replaced by the 960 Pro so availability is getting scarce. The 960s are still pretty pricey.

Samsung 960 Pro - This is new and still a bit expensive.

If these options are too pricey then go for a Samsung 850 M.2 SATA

If you got the tall NUC and want to install an internal drive you have two options.

The easiest is to get a 2.5" laptop hard drive that’s 9.5mm (or less) thick. This will limit you to 2TB. Don’t bother with a 7200RPM drive as the faster platter speed won’t have any benefit in this application and these tend to run noisier and hotter.

If you want to use an SSD then you can, but the only real benefit is going to be in terms of noise. If you still want internal storage and you need more than 2TB then your only option is the 4TB Samsung SSD (which is stupid-expensive)

C) Memory
Let’s make this simple. Get an 8GB kit (two 4GB sticks). There’s no benefit to using more. None. Really. Seriously.

This is what I’m using in my NUCs
Kingston HyperX Impact 8GB RAM kit (2x 4GB SODIMM) - 2133MHz DDR4 - HX421S13IBK2/8

D) Storage - Part 2
A-C get you everything you need to install and run ROCK, but if you aren’t using an internal drive to store your music then you’ll need to find a home for your files.

You have two options:

External USB3 drive connected to NUC: Works great. Pick an external drive that floats your boat and buy it.

NAS: Also works great and has the added benefit of being useful for storing other kinds of files (computer backups, photos, documents, etc). This is my preferred method as most NAS systems provide a convenient and automatic way to backup your music files.


Excellent write-up, sir – very knowledgeable and fun to read as added bonus!

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Yeah but can I run it on my G5 iMac? :grin:

Thanks for the write up. I bought the Intel NUC6i5SYH (on sale Amazon, now sold out), Kingston HyperX Impact 2 X 4GB RAM, Samsung 850 M.2 EVO 250GB (open box Amazon), and Seagate Firecuda 2TB SSHD (5 year warranty and newegg discount code made it cheaper than other 2TB drives I had been looking at).

Add one more reason: Multichannel with up/downsampling and room correction.

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Hi Andrew
Very good write up, hitting all the important topics. Two quick points

  1. The Samsung EVO SSD ranges of the 850, 950 and now 960 might also be worth mentioning??..About 30% to 40% cheaper generally than the Pro ranges…with most people not being able to utilize the subtle benefits offered by the Pro range…

  2. Any reason why you haven’t mentioned the Skull Canyon NUC range…extra Cores and Hyper Threading available…plus 2 by M.2 slots…plus built-in HEVC / 4k decoding on the 7th gen / Kaby Lake processor versions

Basically will allow the NUC to perform more DSP and Convolution type tasks …as well being able to do it for more simultaneously-playing Zones…and will also more easily allow the NUC to be repurposed for other duties in the future, e.g. media player…and all that for ~$600 compared to approx $350

Might be worth a brief mention, but your call??

Sure. They’re good drives too. As are some of the options from Crucial, Intel, and others. I’m just more familiar with the Pro series and know that they work exceptionally well. In the case of Roon the nature of the transaction load in and out of the database is such that the Pro model may yield a real benefit.

No real reason aside from the fact that for the vast majority of users the i7 will bring little to no benefit as a Roon server.

The added M.2 slot is nice, but it may or may not be usable for music storage. No technical reason why it can’t but as far as I know this model hasn’t been tested. Furthermore, given the cost of M.2 SSDs this just isn’t a cost-effective way to store music files.

Extra cores and HT are great for the initial library analysis and can potentially bring a benefit to multiple DSP streams, but the former is a minor nuisance and the latter is likely not going to be the typical usage scenario.

On the downside it’s larger, runs hotter and is noisier than the i5.

Ultimately a line needs to be drawn somewhere between the typical user (for whom ROCK is ideal) and the power user who will likely benefit form a more custom solution. If one is in the position where an i7 is a real requirement they may prefer the flexibility that a more traditional Linux or Windows install provides.

The other way to look at it is if someone asks, “Do I need an i7?” the answer is almost universally negative. If you need an i7 you’ll know it!!

May I ask why?

Once you have the system set up it seems like it would be trivial to transfer new music either onto a new partition or just a folder on the existing one…

(Note: I haven’t used ROCK yet, so I’m probably overlooking something endemic to the setup.)

@Danny explained it in one of the other ROCK threads…

The install process takes over the entire drive and partitions it in a specific way. One of the benefits of ROCK is that should the system get hosed you can just re-run the installer and end up with a fresh setup. Assuming you’ve been backing up your Roon database all you need to do is run a restore and you’re back in business.

Same goes for any major revision of the ROCK system.

If the system drive allows for music storage then the user runs the risk of losing that data should a reinstall be needed or an update requires a reformat of the drive. Granted this could be a “use at your own risk” storage device, but it’s easier and safer just to call if off limits.

If you want an all-in-one box then get one of the taller NUCs that can hold an internal drive. If it weren’t for the cost I’d be all over the SYH NUC with the 4TB Samsung SSD.


The OS drive is setup to only be able to boot and run the system. I"m guessing one of the first support suggestions if a ROCK device goes wrong will be to wipe the drive and re-install. So allowing users to put files they care about on the OS drive would just complicate that process.

And let’s remember that support isn’t free to provide, so the more options / permutations that need to be supported, the more complicated and costly it becomes for ROON to support.

I seem to recall reading some time back that ROCK is intended for folks with a degree of comfort providing self support. The more ROON tricks ROCK out with features and options, the more it costs in development and in support, and the less feasible it becomes overall as a freebie for the community.

While I agree with you in principal…let’s not forget that we are paying (in particular those of us who subscribe annually) for future development and support. I would not call ROCK a freebie by any stretch. That being said, I signed on before I knew of ROCK and I would sign up again even if they decided to drop support for it tomorrow.

You are paying for Roon, not ROCK. We could have charged for ROCK on top of Roon, and that would be within our right. We are choosing to give it away at no price to end users because we feel it’ll help reduce our support burden in helping users get to a great quality server.


I know exactly what I signed on for and I don’t have any regrets. Like I said, I signed on before I knew of ROCK and I would sign up again even if you decide to drop support for it tomorrow. That being said…

I do find your response slightly combative. Perhaps it wasn’t meant that way. Or maybe you misunderstood my point. I understand that buyer and seller often see things very differently especially when it comes to subject like services rendered vs services due…and I’m cool with that. I believe I’m paying for a “service.” You call it Roon. Under that service umbrella, I expect stable software, updates, tech support and to benefit from future enhancements. If you told me (or any other paying customer) at your current pricing model today that you plan on dropping any one of those components of said service, or decided to charge additional fees for certain installer, you would almost certainly lose many of your annual subs and alienate new customers…those who paid for a lifetime sub would revolt. That is a fact. You would be within your right, but it would be a poor business decision. All I’m suggesting is that I, in my humble paying customer opinion, feel it disingenuous to somehow suggest ROCK is a “freeby,” as though your paying customers are somehow not entitled to an expanded list of installers and especially if it is being developed to reduce overhead (support burden), which obviously requires you having to pay folks to do. As you said, you are well within your right to charge customers for a new software installer, or each and every major update, for DSP funtionality, or for each support ticket. But you don’t…at least for now it seems. That’s why I, without reservation, will continue to pay you each year and precisely why I’m skeptical about going the lifetime membership route. Lifetime memberships, at least based on my experience, don’t keep developers honest or on their toes. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll probably get a heck of a lot more money out of me in the long run :wink:

All that being said, I am loving Roon and anxiously awaiting ROCK :slight_smile:

What you felt as a combative tone, was actually me being defensive… let me explain…

To call ROCK an “installer” for Roon is to grossly mischaracterize both what it is and the amount of effort that went into creating it. ROCK is a turnkey hardware platform minus the hardware part :innocent: Most hardware vendors don’t put as much energy into their operating systems as we did with ROCK. This, coupled with the fact that there was an inherent expectation that ROCK would be free, offends me.

You are spot on when you said:

I agree with all of those points, but ROCK is not an enhancement or update to Roon. People pay for products like “AudiophileOptimizer” to get a trimmed down Windows system for their audio experience, and that is just an installer/uninstaller for Windows. ROCK is a full operating system built for audio, from scratch, optimized for Roon, streaming audio, digital audio, and to be an appliance in the home.

So why am I arguing all this when we have no plan to charge for ROCK? I want to accurately set expectations. I’d like to make it clear that what members pay for is Roon at the time of purchase + what you said above (stability,updates,support,enhancements). It is does not automatically include every piece of software/hardware/service that Roon Labs creates in the future. It is exactly our plan to provide more products/services for sale, some related to Roon, and some not.

Re-reading your first post, I think I misread what you were saying. You were saying you were paying for support and not that ROCK should be a freebie. I apologize for my defensive posture – it’s been a long day.


What they propose will in the minds of many add value to a service they already are prepared to pay for. The payoff for Roon is fewer people needing support because a lot will be on ROCK which means hardware that will behave predictably when updates arise due to extensive testing. There isn’t any more to it than that surely? There is a benefit to them, there is also a benefit to users who adopt ROCK. Is it free? Perhaps not, but is it going to cost me any more than I have already paid? No.

Great primer on ROCK requirements. I guessed my current NUC is already ready for it.

So… let’s ROCK!

@danny @guerph I regret my use of the term “freebie” which probably set this all in the wrong context.

I imagine ROCK’s origins being an alpha test platform for Roon code development, but whatever the origins, I think it’s awesome for a company take something like this and choose to forgo the option to monetize it in some way, whether directly or through 3rd party licensing. To me, that demonstrates an uncommon level of goodwill to the customer base.

I’m as excited as anyone about getting to use it, and appreciate the value it will add to the Roon ecosystem.

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@danny @HTTP_404

Very excited myself!

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OK. I am getting the NUC i purchased online today. Bundled with RAM and SSD. The only thing “missing” is the HDD to store the music, but I may skip that, as my music is already in a NAS.

Question becomes: how close are we to the ROCK launch? Do I wait (and seat on the new NUC) or go ahead an install some operating system to put the Roon Core in?