ROCK or Roon server under Ubuntu

Hello, I have a Minix mini PC, fanless, i5, 16 GB RAM, 1TB SSD. Is there any agreement whether ROCK “sounds better” than a Roon server under Ubuntu ?? I’m not doing any exotic plays, basically a library of 1500 CD ripped by me in the last decade, nothing higher resolution, no MQX, etc…
I remember 3 years ago I tried to install ROCK on whatever I had then as a mini PC (not a NUC) and wasn’t successful. It looks now it might be possible.
Thank you, Alex

Try it yourself - only you can determine if it sounds better in your setup, that said I would always use rock over a Linux install as it’s less to setup and maintain if it works on your hardware.

Coincidentally, I got similar hardware configuration, and software voyage.

Look, I’m using a fanless Intel i5 NUC powered by LPS. In past, I used to use mpd for music files playback on highly trimmed Ubuntu 22.04 with its latest real time kernel. The music files were stored in a local ssd. That’s my headless music server.

Last month, I’ve installed Roon Core side by side with MPD in the same platform to compared their sound. MPD played better sound. Few days later I installed ROCK in the same PC (ie. overwrote that Ubuntu, and those music files). Even ROCK just streamed the files from NAS, the sound is obviously better than I used to listen to. After I added the music files in another local SSD, needless to say the performance is further elevated.

Btw, installing ROCK is very smooth and fast, only a few minutes. I got 13065 tracks mixed with .wav ripped from my CDs, different resolution files, DXD, and various DSD formats. And running convolution dsp for digital room correction. It’s great fun!

There really isn’t but there is never an agreement on these things regardless of how often Roon developers repeat it. ROCK is essentially Roon Server running on a minimal Linux. It’s just a server streaming digital data that’s always the same (assuming no DSP)

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I think the key is in the OS, esp. the kernel. The sound is very different between a real time kernel and ordinary kernel, even the playback software is the same. A tailor made kernel and an ordinary kernel also makes a big difference. From a layman guess, it’s about the latency.

  1. There is absolutely no reason for this. The only effect that an RT kernel has is that audio processes get their data to the consumer in time, without possibly getting preempted by other processes. This is important in some applications because otherwise it would lead to clicks, pops, silence, or simply desynchronization between different data streams.

However, the transmitted data is exactly the same, so if the machine is fast enough for the task and the data arrives before buffers run out, there is no difference in the data

  1. Do you even know if ROCK uses an RT kernel that makes your hypotheses even theoretically possible?
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I’m just an new layman user here and would like to share my experience to Alex for his concern.
Thanks for your constructive sharing. Farewell.

While there is no single topic on which an opinionated group of people will ever agree, you shouldn’t expect the OS of a digital data processor to have any influence on the sound your DAC/Amp will output to your speakers, as long as the hardware/OS/network are fast enough to read the data from the storage device, process it and get it then to the output…

As to ROCK vs Linux server, there clearly seem to be more users running ROCK than those running Roon sever on a mainstream Linux distro. I am in the latter group, having run Roon for the last 3,5 years un Ubuntu server. I do this not for any gain in sound quality, but for the following reasons:

  1. My Roon server runs in a fanless passively cooled case in a rather hot environment, and I wish to monitor the thermal parameters of the processor cores and the SSD. I can’t to that on ROCK.

  2. My Roon core device is connected to an UPS. So I want this device to be able to monitor the UPS and shutdown itself, should the UPS charge fall below a certain threshold. I can’t do this directly on ROCK, and I don’t care for the possible workarounds.

  3. During my time on the forum I have seen too many reports about failing NVMe M.2 SSD drives, and so I wish to be able to use SMART monitoring on my Roon core device. I can’t do this on ROCK.

Apart from this, installing a minimum Linux server is easy enough, and apart from regularly updating the OS there is no other maintenance work to do. It is my opinion that the value of an appliance like ROCK on a NUC is little to someone feeling moderately comfortable with the Linux shell. Others will disagree on that.


Thank you guys, I appreciate all answers…Andreas you bring excellent points, there are/will be maintenance jobs and very important I wish to rep CD’s and I think one cannot do it in ROCK. So, I’ll try to install a ROON server under Ubuntu 2.2
Again, thanks a lot, Alex

Just do add, it’s no problem to rip on a different PC and copy it over the network to ROCK.

As always, Andreas does make good points. Some prefer the control that a Linux machine gives, some value the simplicity and no-maintenance of ROCK. That’s a personal choice. (I was a Linux user for 30 years and know my way around, but personally I still cherish that I installed ROCK 3 years ago and it has just worked without issues and without spending a minute with maintenance)