Upgrade from Mac as Roon Core? Why? and if so, what hardware?

Hello -

For my desktop solution, I have a 2017 IMAC running Roon going into a Cambridge Audio DacMagic-Woff Ear Kitoki tube amp driving Omega CAM speakers.

(this amp/speaker combo is a major upgrade from my previous $300 Emotiva powered monitors)

I’ve never quite gotten why one might need a separate streamer - but reading around here, it seems that the iMac is possibly introducing unwanted noise into the signal path?

SO - my first question is - why should I upgrade my server to a separate server from my work computer? Or - am I okay just keeping things as they are.

What can I expect in terms of SQ and performance if I take the server function of my work computer?

If so - and needing something will run as Roon Core (as well as perhaps a Plex server?) - am I better off with a NUC,a NAS, or are other options

like this: https://www.smallgreencomputer.com/collections/recommended-solutions/products/premier-server-player-combo-sonictransporter-i5-ultrarendu-7v-linear-power-supply?variant=12400215719970 a better option?

Budget - no more than $2000

Many thanks!

Buy a used NUC and see what difference you get running Rock on it. If good keep, or sell on and buy better NUC. If no difference sell on. Doubt you’ll lose much.

That’s what i did. Was running on a 2010 Mac Mini that got to the end of its tether - one of the main Roon updates went beyond its capabilities (power wise). £200 got me a 6th gen (I think) i3 NUC. Not looked back. And Rock sounded better than Mac OS - greater clarity, less smear etc.

I only run one zone by the way. The i3 is fine upsampling to DSD 128, sometimes DSD256. Not a problem, I tend to stick with PCM anyway (for SQ reasons although the processing demands are significantly lower). I don’t do any EQ.

Try not to get sucked into the upgrade cycle!. Looking at the Dac Magic specs it looks slightly dated ie, 24-bit/96kHz and usb 1.0. I have an Audiolab M-Dac mini connected to my iMac 2019 via usb-c, a Pro-Ject cd transport via digital coaxial and the M-Dac connected to an amp via digital coaxial. Optical, Coaxial: 192kHz, USB: 384kHz, DSD64, DSD128, DSD256. Sure it does not have the fancy neon lights to indicate sample rate but Roon would tell you anyway. It cost me £229 a little while ago and for that price is a great performer and the beauty of it is portability for example you can connect your iPhone via usb or bluetooth as it has a rechargeable battery. Just ask yourself if you spent $1000 to $2000 would you hear the difference?. If you want multi room functionality then sure go for the Small Green Computer.

Careful. That’s an opinion, but not necessarily a majority view, or even backed up by any evidence.


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From reading your post it seems as though your DAC is connected directly to the iMac. If so, another option would be to get a cheap Roon endpoint and hook that up to your DAC. That would obviate the problem of the Mac introducing noise into the signal path.

See Rule 1 here.

A would save all my money for a better dac. A dac like a RME adi2 cost as much as a cheap streamer and cheap server together but doesn’t give a damn if it is fed with your Imac or any streamer and will give you a much better upgrade.

I doubt there will be any benefit. If noise is really a problem, you could try an USB isolator like the Wyred4Sound Recovery.

I’m in accord with the replies that recommend you don’t try too hard and pay attention to the DAC.
For my iMac Retina 5K 2019, Apple added a Faraday cage enclosing the noisy processors, so noise is less than that from a noisy laptop (which might really need an isolated endpoint). I don’t know how my iMac compares to your 2017 model.
I recently bought a RPi4 and installed Ropieee. I found no difference when I compared output direct from the iMac to output from the Rpi4. For both, I used USB into a respectable Van Alstine DAC MK 5.

I started out with a MacMini that streamed to a DAC, and later I added a streamer to this setup and I enjoyed the increased SQ quite a bit. There are options in other threads about improvements to a MacMini, so you would not have to discard it.
Recently, I changed my setup from a MacMini (core) + streamer + DAC into a Nucleus + (the same) DAC, because my MacMini failed from time to time (not Roon-related). However, this is an expensive alternative compared to NUC or Roopiee-options (still within your budget, I think) but I was exited about how easy it was to get it all installed, working etc.etc.

Almost like it’s just data…