Roon Nucleus versus Small Green Computer

I currently run Roon Server on a semi-dedicated 13” MacBook Pro with an i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. It works well but needs an ocassinsol reboot plus I have to leave the MacPro unclosed. I want to get a dedicated computer to run Roon Core. I’vd narrowed it down to three choices:

  1. Roon Nucleus
  2. Roon Nucleus+
  3. Small Green Comouter sonicTransporter i7

Fit and finish doesn’t really matter although I think that both Nucleus models and the sonicTransporter i7 look equally elegant in different ways.

I use a Melco N1A as an NAS and have two endpoints, a Blue Sound Node 2 and an Ayre QX-5 Twenty, all connected to a non-Wi Fi home network using AudioQuest Forest, Vodka, and Diamond RJ/E cables.

I don’t currently do a lot of heavy-duty DSP but likely will in the future.

Reliability is most important to me followed closely by sound quality then relative value.

It seems to me that the main difference between the Nucleus+ and the sonicTranspoter i7, apart from cost, is that both Nucleus models use ROCK as an operating system whereas the sonicTransporter i7 runs a less fully optimized version of Linux.

As an aside, the other option I considered is the Antipodes CX, a much more expensive dedicated Roon Server computer that has optimized the hardware itself for best sound but a runs a less fully optimized version of Linux.

Since I think the CX just costs too much and I do want the ability to perform heavy duty DSP, that leaves me—I think—with either the Nucleus+ or the sonicTransporter i7.

Given what I’ve said abou5 my priorities, would you reccomrnd the Nucleus+ or the sonicTransporter i7 as my best first choice?

Thanks very much.

I’ve had both. Moved from the STi5 to the Nucleus+. Fit and finish don’t matter matter to you (I preferred the Nucleus in that regard), so let’s skip that reason. ROCK was another reason of mine. I prefer that minimalist approach over SonicOrbiter OS. And for sure, ROCK is your best bet for optimal integration with Roon. Then again, if you want integration with other services than Roon, then the ST is definitely the way to go. Overall, I’d say both products have their value and you’re gonna be fine either way. I wouldn’t count on any difference in sound, and reliability is on par I’d say.

I think it has to be Nucleus. Whether you opt for the plus or not is up to you and your use case, but your first priority is reliability and I think Roon OS comes with that in spades plus a single point of contact for hardware and software issues should they arise. That is the case for SGC as well but it might still come down to whether the problem requires their fix or a Roon fix. Ultimately the reasons for going SGC revolve around the possibility of dropping Roon in the future or wanting to experiment with HQPlayer but you don’t cite either as a possibility so stick to Nucleus as a focussed and dedicated solution.

Power is cited as a requirement and the sonicT i7 uses the i7-7700…

Right, but the Nucleus+ also uses an i7 and is intended for DSP. It just costs $1000.00 more than the sonicTransporter i7. The points about having Roon as a single point of contact and SGC possibly dropping Roon are valid, I have no real interest in HQPlayer. I may replace the Node 2 with a microRendu or ultraRendu using an external DAC with a Stealth Audio USB cable, I just have to decide on a power supply for either Rendu. The iFi does not get a lot of positive recommendations so I was thinking of the LPS 1.2 with a third-party DC cable. I might instead use the S/PDIF output of the Node 2 with a second-hand Berkeley Series 2 Alpha DAC. I don’t really care about MQA or native support for DSD, I may also try the dCS Bridge with my Ayre QX-5 Twenty using an AES/EBU cable, but I’m very happy with the QX-5 Twenty as is. In any case, all other things being equal, is the Nucleus+ really worth $1000 more than sonicTransporte i7? Thanks very much.

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You might consider a Salk Streamplayer as well (Streamplayer III SE)

Thanks. The StreamPlayer III does look interesting for a number of reasons:

  1. The quad core i7
  2. A full 16GB of RAM
  3. The SSD for, I assume, Linux and Roon Server (formerly Roon Core)
  4. The 64 as opposed to 32-bit architecture

I don’t know if the i7 in the Nucleus+ and sonicTransporter i7 are quad core as well. In my experience, more cores is more important than faster clock speed of the CPU in terms of overall performance.

I also don’t know if the Nucleus+ and sonicTransporer i7 have a 32 or 64-bit architecture.

Also, I’m pretty sure that both the Nucleus+ and sonicTransporter i7 have 8GB of RAM as opposed to 16GB, although I could be mistaken.

I’m also reasonably sure that neither the Nucleus+ nor sonicTransporter i7 use an SSD, which can make a substantial reliability and performance difference as well.

I don’t really need the default 2TB fixed drive that comes with the StreamPlayer III, but I suppose it can’t hurt.

The main thing the Nucleus+ has going for it, in my opinion, is that it runs ROCK, and the folks at Roon certainly know a lot about elegant software design. On the other hand, it seems that, in many ways, the Nucleus+ is a turnkey alternative to installing ROCK on an Intel NUC in a prettier case all at a much higher price point than a NUC (and ROCK is free).

So I don’t know. All three server computers (Nucleus+, sonicTransporter i7, and StreamPlayer III) fall at or under $2500.00. I’m honestly not sure how to decide without trying all three of them.

Any additional comments or suggestions?

Thanks again very much.

paging @agillis

There is a misconception here…sonicTransporter is minimalist Linux. You the customer can also choose what to install or not install in the way of apps. So you can have just Roon installed and running. There is no basis for the optimal integration with Roon comment because it insinuates that other Roon servers, including your own home builds, are inferior some how.

Where is the basis for one system being more reliable than the next…in spades no less. As far as I can tell both require support from time to time and as expected. Your comment about hardware support is likely incorrect because with Roon you buy the hardware through a dealer who represents Roon, but they are not Roon and good luck getting support from them on Roon. On the software side there is this forum which is a unified place for all support. Andrew at SGC is also very knowledgeable so I see that as a plus.

My understanding is that the SGC’s Kady Lake processor has performance enhancements over a laptop processor. So not all i7’s are created equally. Feel free to email Andrew with any questions on this.

The single point of contact comment is nonsense. Where is the basis for this comment that suggests SGC might drop Roon. This pure is conjecture. I speak with Andrew on a daily basis and this conversation has never come up. The fact is that Andrew is very committed to having Roon on sonicTransporter.

If you need recommendations on power supplies for the Rendu series please contact me via email because it’s off topic in this thread.

The i7 sonicTransporter is a quad core processor with 8GB. Contact Andrew about more RAM, but I’m not sure why you would need it. The hard drive size is up to you and selectable when you purchase the unit.

OK, so one thing at a time. First, most purpose-built audio-related computers, including the Aurender OS, are stripped-down versions of Linux to avoid, among other things, unnecessary processes from running that can eat up both the CPU and RAM and create conflicts with Roon Server, so going to a dedicated Roon Server of any kind that has been purpose-built for music will likely be more reliable than a multipurpose computer even if you only run Roon Server on it. Second, no matter how you look at it, there are better and worse versions of software just like hardware. So, while it may be the case that most purpose-built computers intended to run Roon (and perhaps other things) use a stripped down version of Linux, my own observation as a professional software developer is that the team at Roon knows far more about how to build quality software than almost anyone else in the audio industry right now. Lastly, an OS designed by Roon to run Roon Server is almost certainly going to offer the highest degree of software-based optimization (integration) than anything else to the extent that it matters. What I don’t know is to what extent that (i.e., ROCK) matters in comparison to CPU clock speed, number of cores, bus speed, avaiable RAM, and an SSD versus an HD, all in daily practice. SGC has a very good reputation and they offer the least expensive options relative to their apparent overall quality; but only the Nucleus[+] and a DIY Intel NUC server currently run ROCK. So I’m just trying to get an idea of the most optimal purpose-built server to get for under $2500.00 that runs Roon Server as the only application by choice if not by design based on practical experience of others in the field (i.e., other audiophiles running Roon). Thanks very much.

My experience has been that you can never have too much RAM, but maybe 8GB is sufficient. I’m not worried about hard drive size, I want to choose the type, SSD over a conventional fixed drive. Thanks agsin.

OK, the entry-level option for the sonicTransporter i7 is a 1TB SSD. SMG is starting to look good.

It’s a noble argument, but SonicTransporter can run several applications including some that are more cpu intensive at the same time without such conflicts. I understand how people might want to here that, but it’s not valid point.

Like I said above you can run SonicTransporter with just Roon loaded and running if needed so again where is the issue.

Yes, the Roon team is very good at software, but they are not writing the Linux Kernel available to all developers. In addition Roon’s excellent software is also available to the developers. Same goes for the hardware as these are off the shelf motherboards.

Again there is no basis for your software-based optimization (integration) comment.

They run Rock and sonicTransporter’s runs sonicOrbiter…both Linux running Roon for Linux.

Im being as practical as I can:)

I know enough about computer science and hardware design to know that some of what you said is just not true. Running more simultaneous processes always creates conflicts. It’s one of the hardest problems in computer science to solve. Just because a given sonicTransporter can run multiple applications without crashing doesn’t mean that will work in all cases and is an example of inductive rather than deductive reasoning and has nothing to do with OS optimization (called “integration” in this thread) for a given application, Room Server or something else. All that being said, the sonicTransporter i7 does look like a very fine choice. However, what you said is not practical at all because it relies on assumptions that, true or not, don’t involve actually using a Nucleus+ and sonicTransporter i7 both for long times to evaluate relative stabilibity and sound quality.

Right but note I mentioned i7-7700. The actual CPU (model) is quicker in the sonicT i7…

I have both a sonicT i7 and ROCK NUCi7 (same inside guts as the Nucleus+).

Both incredibly stable, never had any issue with either.

You may find a thread of mine that starts off assuming an issue with the sonicT but ends up being an issue with something else.

That I know, as a long time computer scientist, is an overly broad statement that is clearly incorrect.