Roon Rock vs Win 10 Sound Quality on NUC Core

Hi All- this was very surprising to me and when I was 'in it" I did not see too many posts regarding this topic, so thought I might add my results in case it helps. Quick pre summary:

Had always ran Roon Core on an i3 NUC/Win 10 using the excellent Fidelizer software to optimize the PC environment for audio. Audio out was USB to a Schitt Gungnir multibit DAC and got very good SQ out of this setup. Recently, has been some weird Bios-related NUC issues. In the process of fixing this, ended up with some weird deal where the NUC would flat out NOT send USB audio to my DAC. Well, I was frustrated with Windows, NUC and getting very tired of all the PC fiddling every spare minute I had over a couple weeks and still not getting USB audio! (anger!!)

Then I came across the Rock OS. And bought a Pi with Allo Digi One SPDIF out and thought to take a different direction. So, cloned my Win 10 SSD (glad for that later!!) and flashed Rock to the NUC for use as a server only with no local audio out. In both install and use, Rock was magnificent!! And I thought it should be with a purpose built OS exceeding bloated, problematic old windows, where you actually need a program like Fidelizer to make a damn PC be suitable for music playback.

Then came the listening in different zones while I waited for the Allo so I had music in my main system again.

First was the shop stereo, SQ was definitely different in a good we with nice open highs and a relaxed analog presentation.

But then I fired up my office, a 2.1 nearfield studio monitor setup with very “studio/accurate” imaging and soundstaging. To my surprise, changing the server OS quite affected the SQ. It was open, natural and analog sounding. but gone was my tight bass and the pinpoint imaging/huge soundstage I was used to enjoying through the Arcam RPlay streamer. Hmmmm???

Then the Allo Digi One got here and I was stoked to get a player in my main system again. It sounded good, but again I was surprised to the point of questioning the SQ as many of the imaging/soundstage and tight, fast integrated bass I was used to in this reference level 2.1 system were missing??
So, first noticing SQ differences in my office setup and then the main system too had me really questioning things running the trouble free nice Rock as server.

Next step was to get another OS SSD, restore my original Windows OS drive clone to it so now I had a situation where I could just swap HDs between Rock and Windows easily. Well, I only needed to swap it once and that was back to Win 10.

It very much surprised me, but running Roon software on the Win 10 NUC with Fidelizer immediately restored my SQ to the very high source level I am used to. Why?? I don’t know, but that’s how it was with my systems.

Another input, once I got that squared away the Allo DigiOne is a very nice sounding endpoint for Roon-spectacular!!

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Yes it is. I often recommend it. And it is spectacular for older equipment with a coax SPDIF connector.

Doesn’t RPlay only support AirPlay? AirPlay uses RTP streams, which don’t have the timing integrity of Roon’s RAAT, so a different server OS could easily provide different experience. As for the Gungir-based system, there are significant differences between difference digital sources on Schiit DACs, at least older ones (I’ve owned an older Bifrost and I still own Yggdrasil), so it’s not that surprising that USB (what you had before) and S/PDIF sound somewhat different.

Yep, that is a good recommendation you are making Big Dan!

Hi Fernando-

Yep, rplay is just Airplay resolution with Roon, that little player is nice still though, Arcam stuff delivers quality it seems.
On the Gungnir MB, I did expect SDIF to have different characteristics than USB. But it did still surprise me that on Gungnir system, that new SPDIF player sounded MUCH better running on a Win 10 server than ROCK os, just like the Arcam. (SPDIF surpassed my previous Gungnir USB setup) one would just think a stripped, optimized music server like ROCK would beat the pants off of optimized Win 10 OS server. It confused me that with my stuff, that was not the case? Well, we all know the answer from experience: trust your ears, so I am going with it.
Obviously I like the RPlay SQ as I have had it for years now. It is actually what led me to Roon as it’s native Play-Fi app is so HORRIBLE it wont even play a whole album without glitching. Sounds nice despite down sampling HD for airplay. When you can get Pi parts again, I may try replacing it with a Pi/ with a hat DAC, possibly Allo as their Digi One was great, to be Roon Ready in more zones. The Arcam will be tough to beat on the stereo it’s in though, SQ is very satisfying already. Thanks.

I found similar results. Have a Win 10 Roon core using fidelizer I7-8700 processor and upsample to 256 DSD most of the time. I also use a custom fanless Win 10/fidelizer PC as a Roon endpoint on my main music system with a I3 processor. I built up a Roon Rock NUC8I7BEH and transferred the Roon library to a external Drive connected to the Rock Core via USB3. The Rock Core did sound good but the soundstage width was much smaller and the rich full sound with my Win 10 server was diminished. I played with this Rock setup for several days not believing it possible. Inserted a PI 3+ with Ropieee endpoint to my Pontus 2 DAC and again lost soundstage width and full sound with both the Win 10 core and the Rock core. Also tried a UltraRendu as an endpoint and my Wind 10 PC endpoint out performed either the PI or Ultrarendu with Small Green Computer power supply on the Ultrarendu. When I try to upsample to DSD256 on the Roon Rock NUC 8 the fan does ramp up quite a bit but it is in another room (my office) so it isn’t a huge issue. The Passmark processor rating on the NUC8 processor is 8200 and the I7-8700 in the Win 10 core is 13200 and it seems to be able to handle the up sampling much better with no fan ramp up. The End point PC has a I3-4360 at about a 3500 passmark rating. I also run Jriver 26 on the endpoint sometimes direct to DAC and it actually sounds superior to the Roon setup with either the Win 10 core or the NUC Core…still playing with the NUC may add a Akasa Turing case to negate the fan noise issue change to a internal 4TB SSD to see where that goes.

Do you have Windows stripped of all the included junk? I have found that 10 Pro is much easier to configure for control.


Hi Mike-

Yes, I do have it stripped of the junk + have fidelizer configured to shut down all non essential services. Have not tried Win 10 Pro yet, thank for that rec, I may try down the road.

My main whine was issues that showed up later on my NUC, on every power outage the BIOS would corrupt and require a thankless amount of techie work to restore operations. And I did not want to buy another. Plus I was having an issue with USB audio out not working on the NUC for direct play and never did determine if that was a DAC issue or the NUC.

In other words, had a bunch of issues kind of hit me at a bad time when I didn’t have any patience left! That was good in a way though and was solved by a UPS for the NUC, moved it out to the garage to work as a headless Roon core with no local audio output and then have been converting to Raspi 4 with a variety of Allo audio hats for Roon endpoints and have ended up with a nice, reliable good sounding system again.

Hi Russ-

Yes, to me it was non-intuitive that running a Win machine as Roon Core would offer so much nicer SQ that the stripped and lean Rock Core? But the difference was quite noticeable.
I too used to run JRiver 26 for local playback via USB/Aiso/Gungnir DAC and that was the best imaging/SQ for digital playback I enjoyed. Had a rash of tech problems with my networked audio setup at a time when I was super busy working out of state. One of the issues was totally lost the ability for USB playback on my J River machine and I simply ran out of patience and never did solve that.

Ended up converting the main NUC to just work as a Roon Core with no local playback from USB, that is when I noticed the (not small) SQ difference between Rock Core and Win 10/Fidelizer Core in this system, which is… non-intuitive? I had a little better luck here with RasPi endpoints, which I am pretty convinced might have to do with choosing the Allo brand of audio hats, they perform nicely. In the main system that was J River/USB ended up with a RasPi4/Allo DigiOne over BNC coax as replacement. It does have different characteristics than the J River/USB but is at least 90% there and solidly reliable as well. That is just with the Allo Digi One and standard Pi power supply too, also nothing too special for the BNC cable. My next move will be to upgrade to a DigiOne Signature Hat, try a nice BNC cable and also the Allo linear power supply. I expect that might up the SQ/staging to where I am fully satisfied in comparison to the previous J River/Aiso/Fidelizer/USB/Gungnir setup. Of course I am still running Fidelizer on my Roon Core. Thanks for sharing ideas!

Hello David,
One other thing I neglected to mention in my earlier post…I also bought a Small Green Computers I5 server and installed it as a Roon Core. I tried the UltraRendu, PI 3 Ropieee, Pi 4 Ropieee and finally my home built PC Win 10 with roon Bridge installed. The PC out performed the others and the Roon Core on the PC also outperformed any other setup I tried. I just sounded better (less lean) and the soundstage width in particular was the best. I also tried installing a Linux Ubuntu and Linux Roon core and again I thought the Win 10 setup was superior…not but a massive margin but a noticeable one…enough to reinstall the Win 10 Drive Core and remove the one I installed the Linux system and core on. I know this goes against the posted norm all around the web but that is what I found on my setups. I returned the SGC I5 and sold off the UltraRendu with linear power supply and reverted to my org. setup.
Sincerely Russ

Yes, had differences in equipment but my experience mirrors yours. And I was surprised it was so with what I had read on the web. Running a Rock core on Win 10, I did get nice natural sound, but it reminded me of 70’s albums playing back on a Sony cassette deck or something and was missing scale, imaging and possibly even dynamic range.
I did have nice results I will be pursuing further with Ropieee/ RasPi endpoints, but I was always using 3rd party digital and/or DAC hats and never even wanted to try pulling USB from the Pi itself.
The main report I was trying to make in the post is my surprise at how much improvement running the Roon Core on Windows vs the much less resource intensive Rock OS made to SQ across all of my endpoints, regardless of model. I expected the opposite results.
Well, gotta use annoying old Windows for business PCs and the fam’s PCs too. Guess I’ll just need to continue to bite the bullet and keep that one more audio Windows machine running and maintained still too! I really wanted to go non-Windows on this…