Have some beginner questions around Roon and optimizing quality
I have my Roon Core on my Macbook laptop which I use to control and play music on my Roon-Ready Dutch & Dutch 8c speakers (which have a DSP built in).
My speakers are connected via ethernet to a network switch. This switch then connects to my home’s modem/router via an ethernet.
On Roon, I only play via streaming services. I periodically just transfer my Spotify playlists to Tidal, using a separate tool, which then allows me to play in high quality via Roon. I don’t use any Roon functionality whatsoever, no multi-room, no DSP (as my speakers have that), nothing. I only use Roon to get my streaming music in to the speakers. Note: I also have a fast internet connection (1 gigabit), if relevant.
My questions are:
Some Roon articles recommend to connect the Roon Core via ethernet to the Output (speakers), for maximum audio quality, why is this the case especially if you have a high bandwidth home network?
Is there a noticeable (to the human ear) audio quality difference when using a Macbook laptop as the Roon Core vs. a NUC+ROCK solution, especially if I am only using Roon in the above way (no local files)? If so, why is this?
Let’s take a 16bit/44khz song on Roon and compare audio quality between the below options - is there a difference in audio quality and if so, why?
(Option 1) plays from a Tidal streaming service via Roon, like my current setup (no ethernet connection from the laptop Core to Speakers); vs:
(Option 2) coming from a Roon Server that’s connected to the Roon Core, using ethernet from the Core to the Speaker network switch.
EDIT: removed my misunderstanding of how Roon works (I thought my speakers would play songs from streaming service providers DIRECT from the streaming service, instead of from my Roon core). Still have the same questions but, removed it to keep the post short
Using Ethernet is purely a recommendation to get the best experience all the time. Wireless is never consistent in anything it does from one minute to the next. Roon is a server application and needs to pull data and push data at the same time. Wi-Fi cannot provide this as it’s not duplex it can either receive or send at anyone time but not both. This can and does result in latency that combined with latency inherent in Wi-Fi due to other competing nearby wireless systems and other interference can cause audio streams to dropout especially via Roon RAAT streaming as it has low tolerance of latency to maintain high level of multiroom syncing.
If it’s works then fine but there is no guarantee it will continue to work as any Wi-Fi environment can change on a hat and from nothing you have done it’s usually a neighbouring system occupying the same channels as yours and your in an airtime showdown.
@Beanoir - Cheers for the input. Are you using a lot of filters, or do you have a lot of slowdown on your network, or perhaps can you think of any reason why this is? In the end, if Roon is just “sending” a digital track, via WIFI data, I’m not sure why the signal should change. Interesting.
Many of us start with Roon on a spare PC or laptop that we are using for other things. Many stay that way for a long time or even forever and are very happy with that solution.
But many also go down the route of a NUC or Mac Mini as a dedicated 24/7 Roon server.
Personally I prefer a NUC running Rock as my server and it plays music 8-12 hours a day when I am home and also available for ARC when I am out of the house.
There are not really any wrong choices as long as it works reliably for you and your happy with it
@Beanoir cheers. I understand the notion about a “stable” connection - which I take to mean: as long as your music is playing via the player without cutting out, there’s no difference between ethernet or WIFI. I have not experienced a WIFI dropout at my house in over a year, it’s quite rare, and so I think WIFI won’t lead to any decrease SQ or UI.
As for the dedicated ROCK server having an actual higher SQ than my laptop - do we have any articles or sources for this? Would love to read up on it to better understand this, if so.
Technically speaking, if the Core is just taking the digital streaming file (say from TIDAL), and if there are NO filters/multi-room stuff being applied, and if I am simply using Roon to send a digital Tidal track, from Tidal, to Roon, to my speakers - I’m unsure as to why and how there would be any SQ differences between laptop, roon Core/Rock, regardless of if they’re on Wifi or Ethernet.
@Julian_Gage do you believe that nothing can affect the order, timing and frequency of the ones and zeros that make up an audio file in between leaving your MacBook’s CPU and arriving at the DAC in your speakers?
@Beanoir yes, this is what I believe. Totally open to being wrong of course :), just looking to understand this.
My logic: the audio signal / audio track is getting processed by Roon’s software. This software should be the same, regardless of if it’s hosted on a laptop or ROCK. If the hardware is worse or different, maybe it takes the software a bit longer, but I would imagine that the Roon software is still going to output the same result. Once the Roon finishes processing/it’s instructions (order/timing/frequency) of the song, which is all done in the application, I indeed would imagine the “final product” is sent out (digitally) to the Output all the same, regardless if you use a decent WIFI vs. Ethernet, or ROCK, or Laptop.
Again, I’m new to Roon and Hifi in general, and just trying to learn
At the end of the day, this is HIFI and you can’t prove or disprove one person’s perception of sound quality using maths and engineering. We already know that, because 44.1khz isn’t the perfect sample rate, it’s just the perfect average sample rate, because around 15% of human beings are capable of hearing beyond 22,050hz - thats just one scientific theory proven wrong in the practical world. Some people still argue to the contrary until they’re blue in the face, but they are wrong.
Anyway, point being. Your audio file isn’t just a thing that travels from point A to B in one shot, it takes a convoluted path through lots of components and software, different digital interfaces and is subject to heat, electrical interference and all manner of other things. Some of that may affect the way in which the file is received at the DAC, or it may not. Science and maths can prove some of what happens in these processes and how it might affect the digital audio signal, but thats largely irrelevant in a practical world.
The question really is, can you hear the difference. The perception of sound quality, as we all know, is something which differs from person to person, some are more sensitive to changes in perceived sound quality than others are. If a change in a piece of equipment, audio cable or listening environment makes a change to the way you hear the music, then it makes a difference. If you can’t hear it, then arguably it doesn’t, because the final pieces of equipment of any audio signal are the receptors in your brain.
Like I said earlier, I used to use Roon on my MacBook which was also my daily computer running a plethora of other pieces of software and stuff, fed to an endpoint via WIFI, which I thought was fine. Curiosity and probably the need to spend some money led me to building a ROCK NUC, running ethernet cables and having a separate endpoint at my DAC and HIFI. The result was that I noticed a very definite improvement in the sound quality (I won’t use all the cliche descriptives) and certainly more than you would from say changing to a different speaker cable, or using a different filter on your DAC, it was a noticeable improvement.
Unless you’re willing to try it, then you won’t know the real answer. Simple as that.
Roon themselves claim no SQ difference. I won’t discount anyone else’s personal hearing experience. But, it has made no difference in my SQ between any of the OSes I’ve run RoonServer on. (And that is pretty much everyone, including 10 variations of Linux).
To be transparent, my Roon Cores have never been attached via USB to a DAC, they are run as servers in the basement. All endpoints are handled by Roon Ready gear, diet Pi, squeezeboxes, or chromecast. In this environment, the OS running RoonServer has not made a single SQ difference.
Now, if you plug a DAC via USB into a PC, then that alone (not even the OS), could account for SQ differences between machines.