Starting from Scratch - What Hardware to Select

I have decided to go with Roon. I will be starting from scratch with the hardware. I would like to make sure I’m getting the hardware I need to do the job.

I plan to have the music come from files that I store in an external hard drive and from Tidal.

Here is what I am thinking to get:

  • A MacBook running Roon. (I know that the Mac Mini is a popular choice. But isn’t it nice to have a screen attached? The MacBook will sit near the stereo system.)

  • An Apple SuperDrive connected to the MacBook by USB (to rip CDs).

  • An external hard drive connected to the MacBook by USB. (I’m thinking to get a 3TB or 4TB model from LaCie or Western Digital.)

  • A DAC connected to the MacBook by USB (which will serve to connect the MacBook to my existing stereo system). (Perhaps a Benchmark DAC2 DX.)

  • An iPad to serve as a remote control for Roon. (Full size or Mini?)

For WiFi internet access I have an Apple Airport Extreme hooked up to a cable modem, which is in a room different from the room with the stereo equipment (and the contemplated MacBook). The MacBook access Tidal via WiFi.

(Currently I mainly play CDs and SACDs. I also have an iMac running iTunes. I occasionally play iTunes on my existing stereo system via WiFi to an Airport Express, which is connected to a Benchmark DAC1.)

Thanks for the help,

Kinda nice having a Mac Mini hidden away in your entertainment center running RoonServer 24/7 using a iPad Mini as a remote. The computer just disapears and the room is filled with music…

This. Can’t see why you’d use a laptop when you can exploit Roon’s unique features.

Hello DavidE,

I’ll just comment on one of your choices: Connecting your Dac and external drive using the same type port connection is not advised, i.e., Dac connected by USB and external hard drive connected by USB. Best is to employ different type ports, i.e, USB for one, firewire for the other, or Thunderbolt or other than the same type port for both.


Richard, would you mind expanding on the reasons for that ? Is it because similar connections are more likely to pass on noise ?

Hello andybob,

It’s similar to the reasons one chooses the High Speed Bus, for example, on a Mac Mini, so that one’s Dac is the only device. This serves the best signal. Now a days, it’s impossible to find a High Speed Bus without another process like IR. The short answer is the one you provided, i.e., noise, processing etc. My competencies are not with the technologies. However, in 2011 when I was researching what I needed to engage in computer audio and visited websites like Pure Music, Amarra Symphony etc., their FAQ pages all reflected the importance of keeping the Dac and source for the music library on different delivery systems. You deserve a better explanation than the one I merely provided with an abstract summarization. But I stand by this advice.


andybob, the following is a reply from Alex Crespi, who is a member at CA, and a principle owner of UpTone Audio of the Regen/JS-2 LPS/MMK reknown. A question was posed by another member. There were many replies basically echoing what I wrote. The following is Alex Crespi’s response:

Having difficulty pasting the response. Will try again on other than my iPad. Sorry


I did know that at one point, but apparently forgot. Thanks for the reminder.


Hello andybob and DavidE,

Couldn’t find Alex Crespi’s post at CA. But there are many sources for the recommendation to use different connection systems for your Dac and your storage device for music library. One reference is from Pure Music below.


Here’s a list of Do’s and Don’ts taken from Channel D, Pure Music’s website Support FAQ:

Mac Computer Settings - “Dos and Don’ts” for Best Audio Performance
Don’t share audio device and storage buses:
Do use USB2, SATA or a NAS for audio storage in conjunction with a FireWire audio device
Do use FireWire, SATA or a NAS for audio storage in conjunction with a USB audio device
Don’t daisy-chain any other FireWire component with a FireWire audio interface
Don’t use a “hub” or port expander with an audio interface

I’m not planning to use the MacBook as the Roon user interface. That’s why I listed an iPad in my proposed equipment list.

For those instances when I am using the MacBook (for example, ripping CDs with the SuperDrive, updating software, etc.), isn’t it convenient to have a screen already attached to the computer?

I assume that the MacBook is just as capable as the MacMini in running the Roon software?

Anytime I need to access my MacMini I just use the built in screen sharing from another Mac.

I’m sure the MacBook will be fine to use. However a Core 2 Duo is under spec for Roon.

After using a MacBook Air for a while to house my music library, I’m now using a headless Mac Mini (w/ external FW800 drive for my music library) and I like that it just exists and you don’t have to worry about anyone borrowing it to check their email or whatever.

I’d just add a copy of dBpoweramp for OSX to your list for AccurateRip (assuming that you have a SuperDrive).

Thanks for those tips.