This is true. The version that runs on Nucleus is customized for Nucleus, just like the version of RoonOS that runs on Merging’s NADAC PLAYER is customized for that hardware and ROCK is customized for suitability with a range of available NUC platforms. Those are the three RoonOS builds out in the world right now.
Some of the stuff that is different–the Nucleus Roon OS build has some thermal management stuff to account for it being fanless. It removes some audio devices in Settings->Audio so that ports not exposed on the hardware (like the analog outputs on the NUC inside) aren’t listed. It also identifies itself as a Nucleus, shows Nucleus branding on the configuration screens, etc.
The above is pretty basic stuff, mostly focused on branding, hardware differences that must be accounted for, and delivering a polished product. The implication above is that there is some extra secret sauce for sound quality in the Nucleus’s RoonOS build, but not in the other builds…and that’s not true. If things sound different, it’s probably because of some other difference.
The thermal management stuff on the Nucleuses (what I assume you are referring to) was designed to allow it to operate without a fan, so as to avoid putting mechanical noise into its environment.
Whether or not that stuff has some indirect effect on sound quality via another mechanism is not an area in which we are making any claims.
I’m sure there are other companies that would spin wild stories about sound quality secret sauce if making a product like this, but we’ve never really been in the snake oil business, and we know better than to argue with audiophiles about what makes a difference.
I’m thinking about replacing my aging MacMini with a Roon Nucleus. It appears that most people find the SQ better than from day the NUC i3 or i5, correct? And is Roon any closer to an upgraded model as Danny mentioned above?
And, perhaps another question for Danny please. If making a full copper case for the Nucleus is too expensive, do you think that my using 3M conductive copper on the inside of the casing would help with keeping out RFI/EMI if not cooling?
And finally are the differences between the Nucleus and the more expensive Nucleus+ only relating to the additional processing capabilities and not to SQ? I will have no use for the foreseeable future for DSP and my library is about 4000 CDs burned to a Firewire/MiniUSB drive.
I’ll try to help as best as I can. I’ve put together a couple of NUC-based Roon servers, but I’ve never tried Nucleus. On the software side, ROCK is a prepackaged Linux-Roon distribution that is easy to manage for people unfamiliar with Linux, and leaves out the Linux stuff that is not needed for a Roon server. Personally, I run Ubuntu Server on my NUC(s) and then install Roon Server, but that’s because I’ve been messing around with Unix and Linux since whenever and when things go wrong I’m happy to use the shell command line to fix them. Where there may be differences is in hardware. Nucleus is engineered to be quiet and to provide a good USB audio output. USB audio is a bit of a mess in that DACs vary in how sensitive they are to stray electrical noise from the USB source. I believe Roon tried to minimize this in Nucleus.
On the other hand, if your NUC or Nucleus is used as a RAAT server over a wired Ethernet network, which is how I use my NUC, the NUC or Nucleus USB out does not matter. What does are your Ethernet Roon endpoints and how well they interface with your chosen DACs. Some DACs are a bit too sensitive to the electrical USB noise from a basic Raspberry Pi endpoint, for instance. My current Ethernet endpoints are very good, but then one uses a definitely-not-cheap Metrum Ambre, and the other a cheaper Allo USBridge but with under-test DAC hardware that is not yet commercially available.
Over time, I have used a Windows desktop, a Windows NUC, a ROCK NUC and now a Nucleus. Each required progressively less management and troubleshooting. With the Nucleus, I have logged on and futzed with it exactly as much as I did with my FM tuner: not at all. No troubleshooting and configuration of the platform. It’s an appliance.
Do you happen to remember your sources for that ? AFAIK, Nuclei are bog-standard Nuc7 boards in really nice cases (that’s expensive to make), sold by people who’ll either set them up and troubleshoot them for you in case of trouble, or help you set them up and help you troubleshoot in case of trouble (something that’s expensive as well).