Roon Bridge (?) Recommendation

It’s always safe to ask what would Jesus do? :slight_smile:

This is a topic of rekindled interest to me but I’m not really sure if different bridges to the Auralic Aries I have would yield observably significant audio improvements. There are some VERY expensive items out there like the dcs which get rave reviews and the Auralic G1, still expensive, is also praised. However could anyone hear the difference? Reviews suggest otherwise but one tries to interpret cautiously.

Note I feed balanced digital out of the Aries (LAN connected to this PC) -> a modded LKS MH-004 DAC -> Violectric V281 -> Focal Utopia headphones so apart from compromised hearing because of old age, have a nice hi-end setup. I keep saying I’ll no longer chase audio moonbeams but …

You don’t have to dedicate a Mac to just running Roon. Also, you don’t need to buy a new Mac mini. The Mac has much more power than all of your alternatives and most of the newer Mac mini’s can be loaded with 16GB of memory. I have a late 2012 Mac mini with 16GB of ram and I use it for everyday work and it also runs Roon and anything else you need to run like upnp or minimserver. I have about 26 TB of disk drives connected to the Mac mini (the ripped music data is on a RAID set of disks) to make the system more fault tolerant, try that with any other alternative. Roon recommends a large amount of memory and if you have a large amount of ripped music, Roon recommends that you use an internal SSD since Roon creates a database and it’s faster searching the database when it’s on SSD. I have another Mac mini that I ran Roon as a dedicated device and when moving it to a shared Mac mini, no decrease in audio performance.

I have had an Auralic Aries music streamer and used the Mac running minimserver so Auralic’s DS Lightning software can access my ripped music. I have switched to Roon. I also got rid of the Aries and my old dac and went with a ps audio dac with the bridge card so the Mac mini running Roon communicates with the dac thru the network, much better than using USB which sucks! I still use a Auralic mini in my living room setup with Roon, I don’t use the dac in the Aries mini, I use a better dac.
Stay with a newer Mac mini and max it out with memory and maybe a SSD internal disk

I recommend checking out Darko’s video on the Pi he assembled.

So I had a Pi running RoPiee into my Teac 503 -> Hypex -> Harbeth SHL5+ and was very happy. Roon running on a Mini with 12TB of RAID. I do love me some DSD256s. But every now and again I would hear an odd sound. Like tape being pulled off a plastic surface. Not loud and only once or twice a month; but it was there. I convinced myself it was the Pi. So I went on a quest to replace the Pi (and my $50 investment) with something better… and madness ensued:

After reading all the reviews (should not be done whilst drinking wine) I decided on the SOtM sMS-200ultra Neo. But look they also make an outboard word clock that can drive the Neo and the Teac. So I got that too. Of course I had to get the matching BNC cables from SOtM. Whew! Oh wait the SOtM gear is DC, so I need a DC power supply. More looking (and more wine) and I settled on the Mojo Audio Illuminati (Ben is an awesome guy). Done! No, that USB cable is just not up to par. Enter the WyWires Platinum. So now I have spent more on replacing the Pi than on my entire system. Woke up the next day with more than a tad of regret. But most of the gear had already shipped.

What I expected to happen was that I would put all the gear in and then convince myself there was a difference. I am an EE after all and this is just bits into the DAC. And all of the gear has a 45day no questions asked return policy. My first thought was to add the gear piece by piece and see what happened. But everything arrived on my birthday (not planned) so I put it all in at once. Queued up some Dexter Gordon (Swingin’ Affair in 192/24) and…

I can tell you that I nearly wept at the improvement. The Harbeth came alive in a way I did not think possible. Suddenly I was there in the room with Dexter. I mean right there. I put on some Zoot Sims (Quartet in Paris DSD128) and was even more awed. I could hear detail that was just not there previously. Title after title and everything sounded orders of magnitude better. It was amazing.

I kept it all and am now two months in. I can tell you that I can still hear the difference and the smile on my face with every track is totally worth it. None of this gear should have made a difference; but it did. Big time.

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I don’t believe so. I run Roon Server and HQP in a server with 8GB, which is more than enough for a library of ~ 5TB (mainly FLAC). 4GB isn’t enough so 8 is the sweet spot for $/benefit when building a server for Roon. Roon doesn’t benefit from the machine having more RAM than necessary.

With Roon Bridge the memory requirements are far smaller. Roon Bridge will run on ARM devices having < 1GB of memory.

I just picked this up at BestBuy on sale for $119. (Its back at $179 right now) ASUS 116 Laptop Intel Celeron 2GB Memory 32GB eMMC Flash Memory Star Gray. It has built in AC wireless and has been working well as a WiFi Endpoint paired with a Schiit Modi Uber. It took a little bit of time to get it out of Windows 10S and install the Roon Bridge, but not terrible.

I haven’t had time to compare to my Node 2, but that is in my plans. I’ve listened up to the 24/192 limit of the Uber and the PC and network have not dropped out.

My Mac Mini has been running continuously since 2011 as a server for Plex, Roon and other stuff. Only restarted for software updates.
When it dies some day, I would definitely buy a new one. As my 2011 model is running effortlessly, I will just buy the cheapest one.

This is fascinating! Thanks for writing it up. So you’re getting different bits to your TEAC with the Neo – have you investigated what the differences are? I think you’d need one of those LeCroy USB sniffers, which are pretty pricey. Maybe the Roon endpoint code on the two devices is different, though they are both ARM, I think.

I would love to put an analyzer in the mix to see what is really going on. The word clock seems to be giving me the biggest boost. Disconnecting the clock collapses the sound stage. But the Neo is a 1000% better than the Pi. I have not tried swapping cables and the Illuminati is the only DC power supply I have (I highly recommend it).

Friends have come in with other DACs to compare. The SOtM gear makes all of them sound better. But honestly the SOtM -> Teac has yet to be bested in my opinion. I’m sure a dCS or other uber DAC might sound better, but in my price range nothing touches what I have.

Consider the PS Audio DirectStream DAC. With their Bridge II card, it fully supports Roon, and is a fabulous DAC.
It’s on November sale for $4k, down from $6K.

Hmmm, could be hardware, but I’d suspect software. Different drivers. Maybe different versions of RoonBridge, or it may act differently on the two devices. Hard to say without looking at the USB packets. Is your DAC a UD-503?

Well, if you ever get serious about figuring out what the difference is, here are some pointers:

So, finally, I’ve bought an UltraRendu with an LPS1.2 PSU. This has been a substantial step up in sound quality from my Mac Mini, as well as as much more convenient. I was surprised at the improvement in sound - I didn’t think this mattered so much.