Would the sound quality on a NUC with Rock be as good as on a Nucleus or an Innuos?

I am thinking about getting a NUC with Intel® Core™ i3 7th or i7 Fanless Roon Music Server. I am wondering whether there is any significant difference in sound quality with this machine running Roon rock as as opposed to a Nucleus or an Innuous Zen. Anyone compared or have views.

FWIW, my opinion:
As a core only, with a networked connection to bridged endpoints, any hardware will sound the same.


I’d +1 @mikeb’s answer and go further, unless you’re using an analogue output from the device, think sound card, they’ll sound identical. Definitely go fanless, that’s one audio output you can live without. Building your own NUC is a decent saving over the pre-built options and leaves you in charge of support and upgrades, both pluses.

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thanks. How do I set up a bridge ? (as you can gather I am not v IT savvy).

Atm I run Roon from my Mac via wireless internet. my Roon Ready dac and streamer are connected via the internet through a Cisco switcher as is my NAS (which is v noisy).

If you’ve already got a Roon Ready DAC/Streamer connected via ethernet with the Roon Core running on your Mac, then you already have in effect a “bridged” setup.

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Yes the core is on the Mac but the Mac is not connected to the ethernet - accessing wirelessly.

That’s irrelevant, as far as networking is concerned - what’s happening is that the Roon Core is using the RAAT protocol over the wifi and ethernet networks to stream the audio to your Roon Ready DAC/Streamer.

There will be a performance hit in using wifi - Roon Labs best practice states that the Roon Core should be on a wired network for best performance. But RAAT itself runs over both wifi and ethernet networks.

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thanks that is helpful. I will look at getting an adaptor for my Mac Pro so I can connect through ethernet As per my earlier posts am aiming to get a NUC or a nucleus which will be a wired connection via ethernet

I do also have a QNAP NAS atm which is connected to the ethernet but I have tried to move the core from the Mac to the nas, ng the instructions here on this site, but have’t been able to to do which is a bit frustrating.

OK, personal opinion follows; doubtless many here would disagree (although many would possibly also agree).

Question: what should I use to run my Roon Core? The options open to me are:

  • general purpose PC / Mac (used for other things besides Roon Core)
  • QNAP/Synology NAS
  • PC using ROCK (a so-called MOCK system)
  • self-build Intel NUC using ROCK on a supported NUC model
  • self-build fanless NUC using ROCK
  • Turnkey Nucleus appliance
  • Roon Partner Roon Core Server (e.g. Innuous)

My answer: First choice: the Nucleus - ready to go and fully supported by Roon Labs. Alternatively, if you are comfortable about assembling an Intel NUC, go for an Intel NUC that is on Roon Labs supported list and use ROCK. You’ll get the equivalent of a Nucleus (although without the feature of Home Automation support and it won’t be fanless), and because it’s DIY, it will be cheaper. No difference in SQ whatsoever (in my opinion)

The other options have a variety of drawbacks (in my opinion).

  • A PC or Mac is great for trialling Roon, but I feel that the Roon Core is at its best in a Roon appliance, such as a Nucleus or an Intel NUC using ROCK
  • QNAP/Synology NAS - I feel that a NAS should remain a NAS, and not try and become a general purpose compute server.
  • PC using ROCK - great if you like tinkering, but it won’t be supported by Roon Labs if a future release of Roon causes issues.
  • self-build fanless NUC using ROCK. This is almost like a DIY version of the Nucleus, but because the motherboard of an Intel NUC has been transplanted into a fanless case, then it is not officially supported by Roon Labs. However, many of us (including myself!) are prepared to take the risk (should be much lower than a MOCK system) and get as close as we can to having a Nucleus at less cost…
  • Roon Partner Roon Core Server - these come at a wide variety of price points; some at similar cost to the Nucleus models, and some considerably more. Personally, I am not convinced that the SQ difference (if there is any - which is debated ad nauseam in HiFi forums) justifies the higher cost of some of these systems. You mentioned the Innuous Zen in your initial post. My personal view is that I would not choose one of these models for myself. I get the impression that Innuous have rather “bolted-on” Roon to their existing player software, and offer Roon as an alternative environment. It may not be where their heart is, and their designers have different views on hardware requirements for Roon than those held by the designers of Roon Labs.

Geoff - this is really helpful advice. I am leaning towards a self build intel using rock on a supported nuc model or a fanless nucleus - such as this one.

how easy is it to put together the self build nuc/supported model - are there easy to follow guides on what you have to do (I am a novice at self building).
Also can you copy my Flac files from the nas onto it.

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A rip-off. More than twice as expensive as something on Amazon that has better components.


Even cheaper if you buy the components and build it yourself.
If some of the people on this forum have done it, you can do it.

BTW - Fanless only matters if you’re going to have the device in the same room that you’re listening in.
OTOH, I have a NUC on my desk, about 1 foot away, and I have never heard the fan.

Geoff can’t, but you can. :smirk:

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Maybe. But you need to compare like for like.

The link given had 4GB of RAM, 128 GB SSD and an i3 8th GEN CPU for 658 English pounds ($864).

The one I linked to has 8GB of RAM. 1 TB HDD ( with the capability to add an M.2) and an i3 8th GEN CPU.
All for $329.

So, I don’t understand your point.

I built my fanless NUC just yesterday : NUC 8i3BEH in an Akasa case LINK

It was quite easy, hardest part is actually removing the motherboard from the original NUC case. It took me a little over an hour and I took my time with it. Akasa have an instructional video here.

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Indeed - the Akasa video makes it look easy, but it requires a knack. However, I managed it without breaking anything on my 7th gen Intel NUC.

Here’s a similar video that goes into a little more detail on the transplant process.

The link I followed was for a barebones NUC (with a fan) so didn’t seem comparable. Perhaps Amazon presented me with different results because I’m in the UK. On a like for like comparison last year when I was buying Inside Tech were comparably priced against Intel NUC via amazon. Things change.

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Slim, the link you gave is for the Intel NUC configuration with a list price of $584.00 - and sold by “Cravings Savings” (whoever they are) via the Amazon.com marketplace for the price of $329.

So, going on list prices, the Inside-Tech price is not extortionate - considering that you get a prebuilt fanless transplanted NUC, with a guarantee.

So, indeed, a DIY approach will always be cheaper, but for a little extra cost, the ready-to-go fanless NUC from Inside-Tech (with a guarantee) is a pretty good Nucleus lookalike for those who don’t feel up to the DIY approach.

Edit: you do still have to install ROCK on the Inside-Tech NUC yourself, but that’s pretty straightforward. Originally, Inside-Tech were shipping these things with ROCK preinstalled, until it was pointed out to them that this was contrary to Roon Labs licensing terms and conditions.

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My link was pre-built with better componenrts. All NUCs have a guarantee.

As far as fanless goes, that only matters if the unit is in the same room and even then only if it’s right next to the listerner.

So, couldn’t disagree more with your assessment, but that’s OK. :sunglasses:

Maybe is depends on what money means to the OP.

In addition to the options very helpfully listed by Geoff, there seems to me to be at least one other. This is the purpose-built, fanless PC dedicated to running ROON Server and nothing else.

This is similar as a PC using ROCK, but instead of using ROCK, running a more flexible operating system like Windows 10 or, better, a Linux distribution, together with Roon Server. Such a PC doesn’t use NUC hardware, but rather a mini-ITX board or even a ATX board, and can be built using available fanless and totally silent housings, should the PC happen to be in the listening room

As all options have their advantages and drawbacks, it’s my opinion that the advantages of a purpose-built and fanless media-PC are that it uses desktop CPUs for best performance possible, that it offers great flexibility in terms of hardware support and configurability, that, depending on the chassis chosen, it can have multiple SSD or hard disks inside its housing for your music files, that it can have coaxial and optical output, and that it doesn’t stand much costlier than a NUC built. The advantages of a full operating system over ROCK are its great flexibility in terms of networking, configuration and support of disk drives, and availability of software for web-based administration and remote monitoring. One last advantage, at least for me, is that in case of running into problems you have access to the system and tools for diagnosing and resolving the problems.

The drawbacks of such a solution are that you must select the parts and make sure they will work together, that you must be able to assemble the PC and install and configure the operating system. The flexibility of configuration, remote administration and monitoring comes with the drawback that the system is not an appliance you turn on and forget about. If you run into problems, you are largely on your own and there’s no company to blame and to ask for support.

I fully realize that this option is definitely not for everybody, but it was the path I decided to go down and I am very happy with the result.

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