What kind of chip best runs Roon Core? More cache, cores, speed...?

My 6 year old i3 PC died last night but i see this as an opportunity! I will move to an AS ROCK MINIDESK 110H - love the size and don’t need too much PC for home use. Mainly running Roon, browsing, streaming video via Chromecast, etc.

I have a choice of chips and wonder which might perform better with ROON? For example: a quad core / 6MB cache running at 3.2.ghz (think i5 7600) or a dual core / 4MB cache running at 4.2ghz (think i3 7350K)?

I understand that high Cache MB is advantageous for ROON. But i am perceiving that dual core is probably sufficient…

I do one DSP parametric adjustment in one zone. I also have two zones, one of which have 3 players.

Any views?! :no_mouth::thinking:

Just a few general observations.

RAM and CPU cache are not the same thing.
RAM is measured in GB these days. It is important because it is about 100,000 faster than disk.
Cache is a small amount of super fast memory that is built right into the CPU, the processor. It is important because even RAM is not as fast as the CPU, so the CPU can stall, waiting for what seems like an eternity on information from RAM (actually nanoseconds). If the CPU is lucky, I.e. if it wants some information it recently had, it will be in the cache. But the cache is measured in MB.

In my experience the advantage of cache is difficult to evaluate, and depends a lot on the workload.

The benefit of many cores also depends on the software. Because many cores is fairly recent, most PC software can’t take advantage of it. I don’t know about Roon, but I’m pessimistic.

But you also have SSD which is instead of disk, and is hundreds of times faster (although this is complex, there are different measures, so again it depends on the workload).

Which do you need for Roon? The storage for the music is not speed sensitive, but it is nice not to have a spinning drive. The storage for the database is speed sensitive but is very small.

Given a budget, I would make sure the cpu meets a minimum bar, but many cores probably is not relevant. Then I would spend on RAM, then a small SSD for the OS and Roon, then on large SSD for the music.

But the team and others have written up guidelines…

Quite right! I am only looking at the chip and meant to indicate chip cache in MB. RAM is another (important) matter. Intel i3s are fast but have two cores (probably fine) and 4MB cache. Intel i5s are Quad core (probably overkill) but have 6MB cache (perhaps an advantage for Roon) and can be not quite as fast and more expensive.

(I will not skimp on RAM but wondering if 16 is practically better that 8 for Roon. )

quad core is my vote

Have you looked at the load on the cores while running Roon?
I have not. Would be interesting to see what it does with them.

I did that test, looking at CPU load while playing Roon. Did it through a remote connection because the NUC doesn’t have a monitor connected. It’s an i5, four cores.

(To my surprise, all four cores were running at 50% even when Roon was doing nothing.
Turns out, I had installed Spotify a long time ago, and it was still running. Don’t know what it was doing, I haven’t played anything in months, I even closed my account a while ago so it couldn’t play anything. Maybe it was churning the CPU out of spite. I didn’t investigate, just killed it and the CPU went back to a few percent.)

But Roon is using all four cores, it seems.
Just a little, a few percent load, but it is spread across cores.
I did some stuff, sorts and browsing and search (from the other machine) and the load was always tiny but it did hit all four cores. What I found was this:

  1. Playing a local CD quality file, 3% CPU load without DSP, 4-5% load with DSP (convolution, sample rate conversion).
  2. Playing a local 24/192 file, 7% CPU without DSP, 8-9% with DSP.
  3. Playing Tidal shows a peak of 30% to establish the stream and get things going, then 6% to play
  4. Doing nothing at all, 2% CPU
  5. Changing the sort order of the album browser, momentary 10% load

Surprised me. @Brian, care to comment?

Aside from all the geek porn, I think the question is, what does “perform better” mean?
From these experiments, and all my experience, and most of what I see on this forum, CPU performance is not a big challenge.

I would say most of the other issues discussed here, such as the endpoint, matter more.
And SSD for the database…

All of the above re cores and speed etc will determine the overall performance which needs to be up to par and in line with your database needs…ie library size predominantly plus how many streams you might want concurrently and how many DSP options you need.

If its just for roon only look at getting an intel NUC i5 or i7 if your library is large. see here https://kb.roonlabs.com/Roon_Optimized_Core_Kit

Roon is multi-threaded. Much of it is for the sake of decoupling–database work, playback, user interface, networking. They all have different desired timing/response characteristics. Threads are a good way to separate them. In particular, we follow strict rules in the user interface thread (above and beyond what is conventional) to shift away as much work as possible and keep the UI responsive.

Because we use a handful of threads, Roon will naturally spread out a bit on a system with multiple cores. This isn’t a good, bad, or necessary thing…just what happens when schedulers do their thing.

I expect that most Roon machines look nearly idle most of the time, but our recommendations are there to make sure that they don’t fail when different kinds of loads are stacked up at once. When importing new content, performing audio analysis, applying library settings, and playing back in a few zones, things should still be stable.


I’d guess either of the referenced CPUs will do just fine and perform in a similar manner.
While it wont help you at this time it would be great if you could add some data to the spread sheet referenced in the first post here:

That is, when you have made your decision! :slight_smile:

1 Like