A NUC in a fanless Akasa casing, looks great, sounds great…
I do have an i3 Nuc that I put into a Streacom passive case.
I had two issues:
Noise (whining) that varied with CPU load
Thermal runaway at full load - unit would lock up after approximately 1 - 2 hours with the case painful to touch.
Decided to stick with slow and silent (HP T610’s with a 2.5" SSD or Gigabyte Brix N2807’s) - if I need faster, the machines are well away from any speakers that I actually want to listen to, or I just move stuff into vSphere.
I’m assuming I can use Roon like Sooloos, i.e. a backend somewhere (either real or as a VM), one or more storage devices, audio endpoints (existing MS200’s) and silent (slowish) machines (currently HP 610’s, Brix N2807’s and a Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet) to run the interface, and possibly a fast machine somewhere with the interface for bulk changes.
Will Roon support Meridian integration with the MS200’s?
This sounds right to me. Fast machine tucked away in another room, speakers + tablet + streaming endpoint in the listening room.
Maybe a Mac Pro, powerful and silent plus in my opinion stylish, can also run 4x 4k displays.
I wonder how long the wait will be for the i7 nuc. The Intel website just says coming soon…
Does anyone else have experiences of the nuc, good or bad?
Heh, mac pro would definitely do the trick!
It feels like the answer to most “will it work?” questions is going to be “It’ll work, but it won’t be as good as it could be”, because lets be honest, no-one is going to wonder whether a Mac Pro works flawlessly or not.
I want to expand a little bit more to help you guys understand where the tradeoffs are so you can make good hardware decisions. As we’ve said above, Roon will run on just about anything vaguely recent. How much hardware you need to get an impeccable experience depends on how you’re going to be using it.
Most of the time, the software we run isn’t very performance intensive. Web browsers, productivity software, operating systems, communication software, and so forth. No big deal on today’s hardware.
Likewise, there are a few categories where performance really does matter all the time. One is gaming. Another is professional software, like that used for graphic design, video production, and CAD.
Roon has one foot in each camp.
The user interface is driven by a piece of technology that could be best described as a game engine. It supports fluid animations, and we are trying to keep the frame rate at 60 frames per second (fps), just like a game. It renders graphics using OpenGL and hardware acceleration, just like a game, too.
Under the hood, Roon is a professional grade database that manages hundreds of thousands to millions of metadata entities in order to represent a typical music collection. This degree of data management and indexing is almost unprecedented in typical desktop applications. And as a goal, we are trying to fetch and display whatever piece of data you ask for, no matter how complex the requirements, onto your screen in 50ms or less.
At the same time, we’re trying to push high-resolution audio out to your DAC in real time. If you can believe it, this is the “easy” part.
What does a perfect experience look like?
- The application loads in a few seconds
- Screens displaying local content populate instantaneously, regardless of complexity.
- Audio plays without glitches or dropouts
- Animations and graphics are completely fluid
- All of this remains true even when Roon is doing work in the background, like importing new content, loading metadata/artwork, analyzing audio content, etc.
Perfection is something we aspire to and performance is an area where we work really, really hard. But, as much work as we put into making this stuff perform, if the hardware isn’t up to the task, there’s no getting around it. In 2007 we took control of the user experience by dictating exactly what the hardware would be. Now, we’re trusting our users to make good choices instead.
If you’re thinking about buying new PC or Mac hardware, consider the following:
- Is the hardware going to be shared with other resource-intensive applications?
- How much music do you have? Managing 20,000 albums is way more demanding than managing 2,000.
- Are you going to be browsing from this device, or using it headless?
- How long do you intend to keep using this hardware before upgrading?
With a small 1500 album library and a headless use case on a dedicated device, a very modest piece of hardware will run Roon really well.
If you’re in the middle, say 3,000-5,000 albums, something similarly midrange–on par with the current (Apr 2015) mid-range Mac-Mini (Core i5, 2.x Ghz, SSD) will give a great experience.
If you’ve got a 4k monitor and 20,000 albums, look for a big scary Core i7 with plenty of ram, an SSD, and discrete graphics.
Most people will fall somewhere between those extremes. Not everyone cares as much as we do about “perfect” performance either. That makes it really hard to talk about what “suggested hardware” should be to everyone at once, but it should give you some idea of what we consider “extreme” and where you fall.
Some more specific points:
Flash/SSD storage is a big win. The metadata and artwork databases I was talking about are sitting in your home directory on your boot drive. If you have a small amount of music (lets say, less than about 1500 albums), it barely matters, but as your collection creeps up towards 5,000 or 10,000 albums or more, storage performance begins to matter a lot.
As a very rough estimate, plan to set aside about 2gb of disk space on your boot drive per 1000 albums. Expect the app to use somewhat less at first, growing over time as we expand music metadata capabilities and improve artwork quality.
RAM isn’t a huge deal. 8gb is basically par for the course on a new PC sold today: <$400 laptops have that much. That should be fine for just about anyone.
Graphics performance is very important to Roon unless you’re in a headless configuration. We run very well on Intel’s integrated graphics chips starting with the Ivy Bridge architecture, which goes back to mid 2012. It will run OK on the couple of generations before that, too, with minor compromises. Generally, anything with a discrete graphics card is going to be even better. We require OpenGL 3.0 as a bare minimum, so anything too old to support that is a no-go.
CPU cache is also really important to an app like Roon. Some CPU series (Celeron, Atom) are severely cache constrained. Once you get into Core i5 territory, there’s enough cache to go around, and as usual, a top-end CPU will confer an incremental performance benefit above that.
Another thing to keep in mind: Roon is not static. It will receive software updates over time, and as always, we’re going to continue pushing the functionality forward as hardware improves. Buying something that’s just barely sufficient today is a recipe for a sub-par experience in a year. Likewise, the hardware we’ll be recommending six months from now (April 10, 2015) will be six months better than what we’re recommending today.
Also, in case you didn’t notice, I didn’t say anything about audio. That’s because audio is the “easy” part. Anything that meets the rest of the application’s other needs is going to play music just fine.
I hope this helps.
Nice write up and, even nicer, seems I am all set with two nuc’s that fit the bill .
Thanks for the informative post, I love the engagement that Roon is having with its potential customers (and fanbase!) . It would be useful to have a similar article at some point on what the hardware recommendation are for tablets.
From an eco and cost point of view, do you know whether a PC supporting Roon would have a Wake on LAN type function?
Another thought crossed my mind which is would a dedicated Roon machine built with a Linux image have lower spec requirements?
What do you want here? Wake-On-Lan is trivial to add, but I don’t understand how it’d work. I’ve used it in the past, using this piece of software: http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/wake_on_lan.html – but now I just leave my machines on.
A Linux image with a “headless” install would require less hardware than one with a user interface. It wouldn’t require any GPU, or any memory for graphics work. However, all the basics of databases and background processes would still be there.
The mobile app is the exact same user interface, same game engine graphics, and so forth that you’d be running on the PC/Mac, not some watered down “mobile solution”.
Tablets are a couple of years behind Macs/PCs, and really just started to become fast enough for this kind of user experience a year or two ago. There are still areas where we’re riding the edge and pushing the bounds of the performance envelope. This makes my advice very simple: Buy the best, and upgrade often
We aren’t doing anything with Wake on LAN at the moment. My gut says it’s not a great idea for Roon, but what are you looking for here?
Roon will perform better on a dedicated machine than it will on a machine where it has to compete with other apps for resources. It will also require less resources if run headless. Linux does not make a substantial difference.
The truth is I don’t know how wasteful or expensive it is to run a computer 24x7x52 but I would imagine that it would be a more than 3x5x52 (assuming I don’t listen to music everyday) - I know I could turn it off if I cared enough, but was interested if there was a better option.
Ok, got it. We’ll give it some thought. Thanks!
did you check out that tool by nirsoft for doing wake on lan? would that just solve your problem?
I’ve just had a quick look at it. The WakeOnLan option looks like a possibility. There is also an Android app which will act as a trigger too. Ideally an option in the Roon control software would automatically trigger the software or code to wake up the Roon server. This option only supports wired servers, which is to be expected.
Fing has a WOL facility for iOS users, and on my Android phone I use an App called…Wake On Lan.
Both do the job, and I’m sure there are others.
That said, one of my Squeezebox apps (forget which now) had a tick box to enable WOL which I think just sent a magic packet before starting the main app. Something like this functionality would be incredibly useful in my environment as my main PC is also my media server. When I’m at the PC and using it obviously there are no issues, but I don’t like to leave it on full power 24/7. But for convenience, I don’t power down, I just leave it to go to Sleep.
If I’m in the living room with my tablet/phone and want to listen to music it used to be easy to fire up the app, wait a few seconds for the PC to boot from Sleep (SSD made this fast) and then listen away.
I’d sign up to Roon without it, but it would be nice to have something similar (and it’s got green cred!)
Hi, first post here.
How crazy would this be? Any chance of cooling it well passively?
SuperMicro X10SDV-TLN4F a 45TDP Xeon-D mini-itx motherboard with 10Gbase-T. Ok I’ll admit it, it was the 10Gbase-T and 8 core that seemed fun, snappy enough? Not too bad pricewise, could a passive cooler tame 45TDP Watts in a small case? I’m almost thinking about the MC200 case…
That CPU is awesome, but my past Sooloos experience tells me that you can’t passively cool that thing in a reasonable manner. However, my past experience was to make a reliable shippable product, not a contraption for my home
I’m sure you can do something with water… this is not my forte!
Ok, there are several quiet passive cases out there. Just beginning to look at this again. Last time was when I was building HTPC’s
preliminary speaking HD-PLEX seems up to the task… Will dig some more…
HDPLEX is nice stuff, have a lineair power supply from them, there were scratches on its case due to shipping, got a replacement cover shipped right away. Good service.
One can also run the core in a place where noisy is ok and use an endpoint that is silent of course.