Thunderbolt Dock as Roon Endpoint

I feel certain this is a really dumb question, but can’t stop myself:

As a Roon endpoint, what is the functional (and qualitative) difference between a NUC of one kind or another and a Thunderbolt dock.

(I ask because I have recently been using a Thunderbolt dock to connect the laptop running my Core (by a long Thunderbolt 2 cable) to the internet (by Ethernet) as well as to my DAC (by USB). Works great, with all computing far from the DAC.)

There must be a reason everyone doesn’t do this. Is it because Ethernet is preferred to Thunderbolt for audio transmission?


One is a functional computer running Roonbridge and the other is just providing a bunch of port connections.

But, to your point. In your example the thunderbolt dock is not an endpoint it is just an extension cable for your Roon Core. In essence, the DAC is connected directly to your Core.

All true. But I thought the point of separating DAC from Core was to minimize noise and distortion generated by computing processes. Why add yet another computer if you don’t have to?

You don’t have to! You go with what works best for you. What might make a difference is being able to support the way you have done it.

Thank you, Henry (and Daniel). I do understand that I don’t have to do anything, and I’m happy to concede in advance I may be completely wrong. I’m just trying to understand why Roon’s recommendations are so widely implemented the way they are.

Roon recommends that core and output be on separate devices connected by ethernet. The reason, as I understand it, is that Roon’s database and dsp functions require computer processing that you don’t want taking place in proximity to your dac, or even, given the possibility of fan noise, in your listening room. In addition, there is the whole constellatoin of concerns around noise and distortion arising from connecting a computer to a dac via usb. This all sounds reasonable to me.

What I don’t understand is that the preferred way to implement this recommendation is to add another computer, however small and quiet, that is connected to the core by ethernet and to the dac by usb.

What I’ve done, instead, is to substitute a thunderbolt cable for ethernet, and a thunderbolt dock for the nuc. This gets the laptop running my core far enough (10 feet) from the dac that interference is unlikely; fan noise has never been a problem because Roon is pretty much the only process running and it doesn’t activate the fan. And whatever cpu/gpu/powerline noise is transmitted by usb is also attenuated because usb is used only between a dock in which virtually no processing is taking place and the dac.

What’s the advantage of this approach? First, that you don’t have to buy or build a nuc; a good thunderbolt dock is around $200. Second, that there is no additional processing required, however benign it might be.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. But my system is evolving - I’ve got a Mytek Brooklyn Bridge on order, for example - and if I’m making a mistake, I’d like to avoid making it in the future.

Thanks again.

I don’t see the point here. You use a tb cable and the room endpoint is still your Mac (the server) with the attached device (usb DAC). Nothing special here i guess?

People are recommending a dedicated streamer, because you can build these devices for special immunity regarding all that AC and CPU stuff. See an Allo Digi One Signature. Adding a special PSU makes it gorgeous.

So Yes! It’s adding another CPU, but a very silent one ;). You can achieve that with special isolators or silencers at your USB port too, there are a lot of devices you can use to canel that electrical noise.

Room let you choose. Use a streamer or plug your DAC directly to a system. Which fits better? It depends.

Wifi or Ethernet. BNC or optical. Streamer or not. Just do it ;).