Roon without a Nucleus?

I am sure that this is an old question, but I am a newbie and my searches have not answered my question.

I have tried Roon in the free version, and I liked the potential it offers. At the time I was using an old MacBook Pro as a nucleus, and this was not particularly successful. Rather cumbersome. It also seemed an unnecessary duplication.

My system includes a Devialet Expert 120 amp and Cambridge Audio CXN (v2) streamer/DAC. The CXN streams Tidal and also holds a 2Tb SSD with FLAC files. All this is happily controlled on either an iPhone or iPad.

Now the issue is that I do not have a computer or similar to act as a nucleus. I really do not wish to invest in another machine to this end, not simply because of the cost, but because my wife would kill me in my sleep! My question is “why cannot the CXN plus SSD become a nucleus?”. Surely there must be another way to bring Roon into the equation?

Regards from Perth, Australia


Hi Derek, welcome!

I think you mean Roon “Core”, not Roon “Nucleus”. Nucleus is just a machine dedicated to running Core for people who do not want to install it themselves. You can use any other machine with any other OS that is supported by Core. If getting a Nucleus was a requirement to use Roon, I would have looked somewhere else in a heartbeat.

Yes indeed, anything XXX + SSD can do the same as Nucleaus functionally.

Hi Derek

First a bit of nomenclature , the nucleus you are referring to in Roon Parlance is the “The Core”. A Nucleus is a custom built Roon (rather expensive) appliance acting as a server (ie a small form computer with or without an included drive.)

The simple answer to your question is no – Roon passes information from its Core to the CXN but alas not the other way, I don’t know of any streamer that can do this .

The CXN is a great streamer , but using it with a USB attached drive is not the best way to achieve its full potential. When you attach a USB drive you are dependent upon the Drive File Structure for your navigation Eg


Hence you must put time and effort into maintaining an orderly file structure or navigation will be a nightmare. I did this for a number of years before “I saw the Light”. It is doable with a small library but can get slow and painful. There is no search for example , you must know your drive layout to navigate. If you go that way there are few tricks to improve visibility.

Enter a “Server” in the CXN case either UPnP or Roon and there is a level of abstraction above the drive file structure that renders the drive structure irrelevant.

Maybe read the Roon Architecture knowledge base and it will become clearer

The other BIG difference is the way that Roon integrates Tidal and Qobuz. You will be using the StreamMagic app to navigate the CXN (No doubt) so to move from Local to Tidal (and vice versa) is quite a few “taps” , Roon shows Tidal intermixed with your local content.

My advise is extend your sub by a month at a time rather than a year and you will rapidly see that Roon compared with USB on the CXN is a completely different animal.

I keep a USB drive attached to my CXN for “emergencies” when I use it its like going back to the dark ages. I also use a UPnP sever occasionally which is fine but loses that Tidal integration.

The best option for a small form computer is a Intel NUC which is literally 11cm square !! and can hold up to 8Tb of SSD . If you go that way there is tons of advice here. Again what size etc depends on library size. I went i7 10th gen with 4Tb SSD and 32 gb RAM but my library is quite large , hence why the CXN USB route was so painful

Good Luck


Thanks to all.

I should have used the term “Roon Core”, clearly. Also, clearly, a core is necessary for Roon.

The question is now whether I can find a decent NUC for a reasonable cost, since I cannot use my MacBook Pro laptop for this. Does it make a difference whether it is a Windows machine when all in our household is Apple? I think that I should look for a Mac Mini.

Regards from Perth


Personally, I wouldn’t choose either, but go the “appliance” route and use an Intel NUC with ROCK.

Of course, this would mean that you are comfortable about a DIY build, but honestly, it’s really not that scary, and the Community will help you if you get stuck.


Running a Roon Core here on my 2017 MacBook Air in the living room. It happily plays all day and provides access to my M1 MacBook Pro and my Android smartphone. I’m using local music files and Qobuz.

As a test I had also installed a Roon Core on the Lenovo Windows 11 laptop that my M1 replaced.

Both systems worked perfectly fine here. There is no difference between a Windows or a macOS based computer when it comes to running a Roon Core on it.

Plus side for me when it comes to running the Core on a Mac, is that I can use Screen Sharing on my M1. So I can remotely login on my Air to perform maintenance on it.

The Air has a 2 tb USB hard drive attached to it. With about 300 gb total of music. My library isn’t very large compared to some others here. Only about 30k files.

If you already have Mac’s in the house, a Mac Mini is a solid choice to run headless. You can use another Mac, like I do, to perform maintenance on it.

As a Mac user, I echo @Geoff_Coupe’s comments. Don’t get a Mini, and use an Intel NUC (an i3 model is almost certainly all you need) with Roon ROCK—a dedicated OS by Roon that essentially turns the NUC into a Nucleus. It’s an appliance, not a computer, and can be located out if sight and mostly forgotten.

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Thanks all. I shall explore a Rock. No doubt more questions later.

Regards from Perth



You can call it anything you like, it’s still a computer with internet access running Linux. It needs to be secured and maintained like any other Linux computer with internet access.

In the shorter term, your MacBook Pro will emulate your new core more than adequately if it is hard wired to your network and left to act simply as a server. Assuming it isn’t needed elsewhere it can be set up and tucked out of sight.

In that case, just about every appliance including dishwasher and TV are computers running Linux.

You don’t need to secure and maintain NUC. You secure your network and ROCK looks after itself. I haven’t seen or touched my NUC in months.

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TBH, I think both @Marian and yourself have a point. In the world of the IoT, appliances connected to the internet do need to be secured and maintained. There have been enough cases where this hasn’t been attended to properly.

However, I personally believe that @danny and Roon Labs are well aware of this, and Roon OS has been designed appropriately.


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