Hello all. I’ve been using Roon for a few months, running it on a laptop and sending output over a USB cable. Tired of dangling cables (when my laptop is in my lap, which it usually is) I’ve started to explore delivering audio to my DAC–a Bridge 2-equipped DirectStream (which I expect to soon support Roon)–over the network.
There are however some complexities, the main one being that my listening room is not close to my hardwired Internet access point and there’s no convenient way to get an Ethernet cable from one room to the other.
So here’s what I’m considering as an alternative: Dedicated audio computer–NUC, NAS, or Mac Mini–right at the audio system, controlled via other devices. Remember though that although I can set up an ethernet-wired connection from Mac to DAC this way (do I need some sort of network device as an interface?), the connection to my home network (and to the Internet) would be wireless, and the NUC, NAS, or MacMini would be controlled via Roon on other devices: my laptop, an iPad.
By the way, I stream Tidal (via Roon) routinely–wirelessly–in my listening room via my laptop and it works fine–no drop-outs.
So–any thoughts or comments on the viability of my plan and best approaches–the more specific the better–will be greatly appreciated. NUC, NAS, or Mac Mini? Server or core–what lives where? And so on.
A final question: If I go the NAS route, I assume I’ll use redundant drives, so backup is covered. What do people do otherwise to ensure libraries aren’t lost? How do you set up backup?
I use a Gigabyte BRIX as per my avatar details, and have had zero issues with it. You could take a USB or spdif (depending on the hardware) output directly to your DAC from such an audio computer.
How big is your library ? Mine fits comfortably on a 1Tb SSD in the BRIX. If yours fits onto an SSD then you could mount it in the audio computer (depending on the hardware) and just use Wi-Fi to control rather than transmit audio.
If you need separate storage, however, then you might connect the audio computer and storage to your router by Ethernet and send the audio over Wi-Fi to a network endpoint in your listening room. Currently you could use a RoonReady Auralic Aries (expensive) as such an endpoint. The only disadvantage of the Aries is that it doesn’t support HQP as an NAA, that may not matter if you don’t use HQP.
After release of RoonBridge in Roon 1.2 there will be many inexpensive Wi-Fi network endpoint options, such as Raspberry Pi 3 (inbuilt Wi-Fi) or other ARM based small computers (Raspberry Pi 2, CuBox-i, BeagleBone Black, WandBoard) with a Wi-Fi dongle running Linux.
Andrew, thanks very much for this. My library will fit comfortably on 1 Tb. How/where do you back up your files?
One concern I have–I decided not to mention this in my first message because I wanted to keep it short–is an unsuccessful experiment I did this morning with J River (since it already works with the Bridge 2) sending audio from my laptop to Roon via the network. It’s my first J River experience so maybe it’s a setup issue, but the audio quality was really bad. I live in an NYC prewar apartment–very thick walls–and have lots of wireless interference; I just counted 28 detectable wireless networks. So at this point I’m not sure how effective wireless will be at getting the music from a computer to my DAC. Bit of a risk.
If you mean by redundancy, some form of RAID, then (getting up on my soapbox), RAID is NOT backup, it’s redundancy. Personally, I eschew the complexities of RAID, and just take hard drive backups of my music collection and hold them off-site…
Thanks Geoff. Point taken. I guess I’m thinking of protecting data in the event of a device failure, not, say, fire. But with a NAS you’ve got one power supply, right? So–not very secure after all. Thanks.
I backup the SSD on the BRIX to hard drives on a PC. The backup is probably more risky than the original !
You could hang a USB drive off a NUC or BRIX and backup to that rather than over the network by Wi-Fi.
Haven’t used JRiver so can’t comment there sorry.
I understand that Bridge 2 supports Wi-Fi as well as Ethernet, so when the DirectStream becomes RoonReady, that can be your network endpoint. I don’t know how quickly that is planned, you would need to check with PS Audio.
Roon doesn’t publish dates for releases, but 1.2 is in testing, which is the last stage before release. Testing started about a fortnight ago and it lasted about 4 weeks when 1.1 was released.
I understand that Bridge 2 supports Wi-Fi as well as Ethernet
From the manual:
To use the Bridge the rear panel Ethernet connector must be plugged into your home
router through a CAT5 Ethernet cable. A WIFI Ethernet Bridge can also be used.
Once connected, the Bridge should be visible on the network to a controller that is
also on the home network via WIFI or hard wired through CAT 5.
Is that what you meant? In that case, in Roon-speak ,which is the “endpoint”, the Bridge 2 or the Ethernet Bridge? I’m still learning the lingo.
I’m not familiar with PS gear so when I checked their website I assumed Bridge 2 and Wi-Fi Ethernet Bridge were the same thing. I think you may need to check with PS Audio as to precisely what gear is required for Wi-Fi to their RoonReady DirectStream.
Hi Jim, I have a 2012 low end MacMini directly connected to my DAC. The music files are on a external USB hard drive (not SSD). I backup by using another external HDD connected to the Mini. Control by iPad. Works great. Having a SSD for the applications and operating system is very worthwhile.
I always prefer an ethernet connection, particular in NYC with 100s of interfering wifi networks and only so many channesl. If you can’t run ethernet cable to the location you need, consider the use of something like ethernet over power. For example:
This may or may not work in your apartment. All depends on the wiring. I use a pair of older versions of this (the netgear 500 nano) in one location and I’m able to stream HD movies, hires files, etc. via the ethernet connection created by the powerline adapters.
garym–when wi-fi interference is causing data-transmission errors (which you can detect with a variety of apps), a wired connection is clearly superior. But please do keep in mind that ethernet over powerlines can inject high-frequency hash into your (and other people’s) components via the power supply, which can also degrade the sound. Digital components definitely sound better with clean power. (I currently use an AC regenerator, so it’s not a problem for me.)
Thanks for this; specific info about people’s setups is really helpful. Have you managed to set it up so that backups are automatic, or do you do backups manually? The reason I keep asking about this is that I use drop-box–slow and expensive–and my renewal date is coming up soon.
true, depending on equipment, power supplies, and other things. But life is full of tradeoffs. My main home is all ethernet wired and I always prefer ethernet connections over any other option available today.
I’ve been using SuperDuper! for a number of years to do backups at both the office and home, and it’s quite easy to use, IMO, and 100% reliable so far (knock on wood). CCC is also quite popular among Mac users.
You can also use Time Machine, which is included with OS X, but I don’t think it’s a good choice for a music playback system, because it likes to back up whenever it sees a need and an opportunity, as opposed to when you’re not likely to be listening to music.
Just noting that Time Machine and similar programs won’t create usable backups of the Roon database because of the behaviour David describes. Roon Core needs to be shutdown in order to make a good backup. I backup the database and music files separately to ensure that.
Jim, I use OSX Timemachine, but I do not have it connected all the time. Once a week, I quit Roon plug in the backup USB and manually initiate a Time Machine backup. As @andybob points out, Roon needs to be inactive to be able to backup it’s database file on the home directory.
Another thing Jim, I have read that it is desirable to not share a USB bus used for a DAC with other devices. I have a FireWire DAC using a FireWire port and my music files are on a USB port. If you you use a USB DAC, you could either use an external Thunderbolt storage or a big internal drive. With Roon, it is very desirable to have apps and Roon database on a SSD. 256 Gb should be enough. SSD for music files seems expensive overkill to me and I certainly can not hear the spinning drive. Perhaps some Windows NUCs allow two storage drives. The new MacMinis do not.
6th-gen i5 NUC; the “H” version (NUC6I5NYH) has room for an M.2 SSD AND a 2.5" HDD (or SSD), as you suggest. I’m thinking that to save money now I’ll get a 512GB M.2 SSD–enough for my current small library with a bit to spare–and leave the 2.5" slot open; let prices come down and buy (probably a WD Blue) when I need it in a few months. That keeps the app + database on SSD. I’m thinking of the larger drive to accommodate a larger library, not for backup. (I’m thinking–is it still true in the SSD era?–that you don’t want the backup drive supported by the same power supply as the primary.)
I envision this NUC pushing audio to the PS Audio Bridge 2 (in my DS DAC) via Ethernet, although USB would be the short-term choice until Roon and PS Audio provide full Bridge 2 support. Longer term, with the NUC, I don’t see how I can avoid sharing the USB bus, since I’ll need an external drive for backup. But I can minimize the use of USB by other devices, since, as you and others have pointed out, it’s best to do backups when Roon is not running. So this seems to be working out quite well.
A question for you and the crowd about USB ports: All 4 ports on the NUC I’m looking at are 3.0. That’s not good, since it’s best to keep things slow. I’m thinking, though, that this shouldn’t matter because I’ll only be using (one of) them at USB 2.0 speeds, connecting to 2.0 devices. Does that make sense?