Roon Core-Control-Output separation beneficial for local files only?

Does the strict separation of core and control matter when only playing local files (zero streaming)? I am a bit skeptical about the strict separation of roon core and control and sound quality. So far I have an iMac running the Roon core, and I connect that iMac to my DAC (Holoaudio May DAC L2) via USB [galvanically isolated in DAC]. iMac network connection is via Eero mesh. The computer noise claim seems far-fetched, as effect of jitter is a myth (see Audiosciencereview experiments), and timing is controlled by DAC, not computer. The metadata recalculation is minimal; when I check on processes, it barely registers anything going on.

If I read Roon recommendations correctly, then I should run the core hardwired to ethernet hub hard connected to house router, then run hard ethernet from ethernet hub to listening room and somehow get the ethernet into my DAC. Yet another desktop computer with hardwire ethernet in and USB out to DAC?

It seems better to me to send FLAC files from roon core computer SSD straight via USB to DAC, rather than taking detour of FLAC - ethernet - Ethernet hub - ethernet - computer - USB - DAC. I see no point of having optimal ethernet connection to roon core when only playing local files. Am I missing something?

I can still control what is playing from either my phone or from a laptop.

I ask, as the IMac has just died, so have to replace it, most likely with a Mac mini (thinking 8 GB RAM and 2 TB SSD). Thanks for any insights.

From what I see in the Roon KB page about sound quality (Rule 1 and 2), I understand that the Roon team:

  • considers that the sound quality is better through the network than through USB;
  • considers that audiophile-grade power supplies are beneficial in digital audio.

This tells me that Roon team is not in the “bits are bits” camp.

Regarding your question, I used various combinations between Core-Control-Output (including USB and network) and I did not notice any differences in sound quality.
I currently use Roon Control separately, but not for reasons related to sound quality.

Also, I don’t think the answer to your question is affected by using local files or streaming.

I don’t think you will get a firm and unified answer in this forum.
I think it would be best to try different options in the system and choose the one that seems best to you.

I’m having my core on a m1 mini, 16 ram and 1 tb ssd (only for roon). My dac is a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic 200M USB connected to core. I plan on upgrading, Holo is on my short list, but for the moment I have to stick to 200M. As I wanted a somehow cleaner connection I did research and found 2 options: streamer or usb device to clean it. So next week I’ll get my iFi zen stream and next month Intona USB Isolator.

I think a streamer more than another computer.

That is what I find logic, m1 mini is dead silent and it is only 20cm away from dac. I do have all the ethernet cables prepared for the streamer but there are 2x13 meters to the switch. Sometimes I do upsample to DSD256 DoP (as direct DSD does not work out of Mac, I do not know to explain why), so I’m curios how will that go over network. I know that there is another way, to use an USB ethernet dongle to connect Mac to network, then use ethernet out from Mac to get to the streamer, but there are some network settings for me to understand but I’ll try that.

If you are not in a hurry I’ll respond again when I’ll try the zen stream by the end of the next week. I will carefully listen but:

Or according to what I have read, it is possible that on my system I’ll hear no difference, as I do not have a “high end” one (200M>LA4>C298>Triton5+Subs).

I’ll let you know.

  • There’s no appreciable difference between local and streaming sources.
  • When using lesser spec computers, splitting between a Roon Server Core (without GUI), Roon Remote (for interaction via GUI) and Roon Bridge or Roon Ready Device (for delivery) may well improve user experience.

Separating duties and going over hardwired Ethernet is the best possible way to avoid collateral problems which may even audibly affect the final outcome - don’t think audiophile vocabulary soundstage, air, PRAT, etc, but rather hum, buzz and dropouts.

  • Roon’s RAAT protocol sends uncompressed data only, so FLAC gets unpacked before transfer.
  • It’s analog signal transfer thinking, that a shorter signal path is better.
    But we’re talking (audio) data transfer, and the implementation via Ethernet is the most robust solution there is today.

That said, if your future MAC Mini is powerful enough to not choke on it’s duties handling a possibly massive library with lots of DSP and zones, Holo’s galvanic isolation (if truly so) takes care of the one possible audible deterioration possible in your chain.

Roon’s recommendations are worded in a manner to neither insult subjectivists nor objectivists, and foremost to reduce support requests.


Use what ever works best for you, no hard or fast rules. I use a DAC attached to my core for one zone and don’t notice any difference to when it had a network end point on it. Just less gadgets and cables so it makes sense. They say to separate to eliminate the possibilities your pc might be electrically noisey or even audibly noisey such as fans etc and interfere with your music.


Thanks for the various pieces of info. I have never had any hiss/hum/drops or similar by going from iMac via USB to DAC. OTOH, I understand that most problems with roon stem from network issues, so avoiding network audio connections is possibly the safest bet.

Re unpacking FLAC, it does not even register on Activity Monitor. The only thing where I see activity is when analyzing 100’s of files at the same time. But for normal playback, unpacking one file at. a time is negligible. Library is not that big, about 250 GB.

I will also re-install Audirvana. Some claim better audio quality than roon, and I have a lifetime subscription on both. I dropped Audirvana a couple of years ago due to some sorting issue, but now with roon’s 2.0 mandatory internet-on condition plus Audirvana has evolved, I will reconsider.
Re audibility and gear quality, I would call it decent but not stratospheric. From Holoaudio DAC to a Primaluna EVO300 tube preamp, to PassLabs XA25 pure class A power amp and PearlAcoustics Sibelius speakers (plus VPI vinyl rig). 18x18 ft room, diagonal set-up with room treatment.

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Your skepticism is justified. I don’t think it makes any difference. I’ve tried both configurations and didn’t hear any differences.