I am very keen on trying out using an Intel NUC as a ROCK Core. At the moment I’m using my old 2012 Macbook as a core, streaming Tidal to my Lumin D2, upscaling all files to DSD128 5Mhz. Sample Rate Conversion is the only DSP I am running.
I am mainly looking for a reasonable and suitable solution, without breaking the bank. A setup that runs everyday, and has no problems running DSD128.
BUT - Which NUC to choose? Which options will have an impact on sound or generel performance (fanless, RAM, SSD)?
What are your experiences and impressions with different Intel generations, or whether i3, i5, i8, i10 e.g. is “enough” when upscaling to DSD files, and have any of you positive experiences with using upgraded power supply, for instance IfI?
Looking forward to hearing from you, please let me know if I forget to supply information.
If your library is small a gen 10 i3 is more than up to that job. A larger library, more end points or more DSP justifies an i5 or i7. An i5 would represent a reasonable middle ground but it really isn’t a necessity.
Where will the server be located? In your listening room, basement, media closet, etc… Some folks mention fan noise from the NUCs as as a distraction and decide to go with lower power cpu’s or higher power cpu’s and fan-less cases.
How large is your music library and where will it be located, usb attached drive, Internal Sata drive, Network - NAS?
Do you have a robust home Network? Some folks encounter issues with dropouts, skips, slow loading that can be traced to Network/router issues not related to the Roon server.
Lots of choices and opinions.
I use a NUC8I7BEH with 16GB ram, fast dependable Samsung m.2 pcie drive for Roon OS/Database, internal Sata Samsung drive for my music. Cost for all was under $1000. It is overkill for my needs (small library, no up-sampling or DSP) but it works very well, always available, snappy response and no problems.
I don’t have any local files, NAS, USB Drives or other Internal Files - Simply just using Tidal through Roon. I imagine a 2.5" HDD won’t be needed Peter Lie? But from what I get from your response @Henry_McLeod, you would recommend a Generation 10? Would there be any downside of choosing Gen 5 or Gen 8?
And to get back to you @Mike_LC: As I mentioned, I only use Tidal, no local nor downloaded. The server will most likely be placed in a closet with all the other technical stuff in our home, including the router. Far away from the listening position. Is there a specific model-naming I should look out for, if choosing a fanless? I assume that fanless would interrupt the environment less, and result in better sound?
My network is 1000mbit, and I consider it very robust, though Roon seems to have hiccups once a’ month or so. But that’s nothing a reboot of my router cannot fix.
Gen 8i7 has the best single thread performance for Roon DSP. Some day if you want to run Windows it also has the best GPU. This is why I recommend it.
Gen 10 has the best (lowest) idle power consumption.
Gen 5 cannot boot with m.2 NVMe, and gives you dual core only. You’ll have to use m.2 SATA instead.
Your 2012 MacBook probably has an i5. If you get an i3 it’s not much of an upgrade, you may as well keep using MacBook.
If you want to DIY build it, check this out:
If you want another company to build it for you, there are several.
The problem with NUC is that it is not upgradeable. If you select specific CPU you will be stuck with it for the next 5-10 years. Your needs will change over time. Roon will evolve too. Therefore, CPU is the most important thing, memory and storage you can change over time. Hence, pick the best CPU you can get. I do not know how computer savvy are you, but this is what I would do. Pick a unit that has both m.2 and regular 2.5 SSD slot. SSD are affordable right now. You can 4TB SSD drive or even higher. This will eliminate need for external storage device. The benefit of such a setup are faster I/O reads of hard drive. RAM memory you can start with 8GB. I would prefer 32GB. You probably thinking of installing Roon Rock OS. I would go different route. I would ensure that CPU allows virtualization, and I would run Roon on Windows as service or as a docker app. Docker app would isolate Roon from OS. The benefit of having Windows 10 installed is that NUC has built in Bluetooth transmitter. You can pair it with wireless headphones and other devices. The sound card on NUC is surprisingly good, however if you leave it as it is and allow Roon to do DSP processing, you will have great setup. Once again, think about future, not what you need right now.
I have a 5th gen i5 which does everything I need but you will only really find them second hand. I also have a 7i7 that I found second hand but haven’t pressed it in to service yet. 10th gen are easy to get. But I like dual core machines over the four and six core machines of the last couple of generations. It is a personal preference. I doubt it has a significant impact on Roon itself.
I had mine running on windows on my high spec i5 gaming machine which is all ssd drives and 32 meg ram.
I was going to get a NUC or small PC.
However I had an old 2012 i5 MacBook Pro lying about, 8 meg ram, and I’ve put an SSD in.
I put Linux on it following a thread on here and in truth it’s not much slower than my gaming PC although I only put the drive in today and not tried any upscaling, I now don’t plan another upgrade for the core as I don’t think I will see much of a navigation speed increase.
In my common sense: A nuc with a generation 5 i3 processor can be over very soon, maybe even tomorrow. If you think about future, then I think an i5 nuc is good enough for many years, Future upgrades by Roon can be handled by the extra processor speed that is unused at the moment. However: upgrading to an i7 Nuc is overkill and far too expensive for using only Roon Rock.
I think a gen 5, 6, 7 with i5 processor will do the job for many years without problems.