Roon Nucleus+ Arrives at AudioStream

Roon Labs is comprised of a dedicated crew of individuals who toil endlessly to hone their audio software-engineering chops so that their digital-audio player is always at the bleeding edge of development, delivering the best possible music-listening experience for end users.

I’ve been running their ‘Core’ software on a dedicated MacBook Air 11-inch with a USB 2.0 two-terabyte HD and their ‘Remote’ software on an iPad Mini 2 for a few years now without a glitch and love the experience – using it as my reference digital-audio player. It’s become my defacto bar to measure other digital-audio players/software packages to.

But…

But, over the past year since I’ve taken the helm here at AudioStream I’ve been exposed to some incredibly impressive streaming hardware running manufacturer-specific software players. Hardware that is optimized for music playback. Hardware that is so much more noticeably transparent and revealing of detail in comparison to my MacBook Air that I’ve had to rethink its status as a reference.

While I’ve been overwhelmed with what the hardware capabilities of these solutions are bringing to the sonic picture, I’ve been a little underwhelmed by the music-playback experience offered by the UI of them. They do everything I need without fuss and a minimal learning curve to master digital-file library management and playback (be it local or cloud-based), it’s just that they don’t really do everything I want or wish of them.

And if I’m being honest, what I want from them is to be more Roon-like.

Fast, powerful, silent: Roon Nucleus+.

So, now armed with the aural knowledge of what updated and dedicated digital-audio playback hardware is sonically cable of delivering, I really started pining for Roon’s in-house, Intel-partnered, bespoke hardware – the Nucleus and the Nucleus+ – to see how it stacked up against some of the other hardware/software combos I’d entertained in my sound system, and of particular comparative interest; how it stacked up against my little MacBook Air.

Dipin Sedev and Rob Darling of Roon soon facilitated me receiving the $2,498 USD Nucleus+ for a review. The short and skinny is this; it uses an Intel dual-core i7 processor (compared to the i3 of the standard Nucleus) loaded with eight Gigabytes of RAM, a dedicated 64-Gigabyte solid-state hard drive for the Roon Core and file-system management, two USB 3.0 connections for either an external hard drive coupling or output to a DAC, an HDMI output and a gigabit Ethernet input with space inside its one-piece, die-cast aluminum chassis for a 2.5-inch SSD or conventional HD up to 9.5 millimetres in height. No analog outs because there is no DAC.

Initial impressions are that it presents an immediate and noticeable drop in the noise floor compared to my MacBook Air and a more propulsive, dynamic drive to music. Once again telling my ears there is more to bits-are-bits than meets the eye.

I plan on installing a dedicated internal SSD for all my local high-res PCM, Redbook and DSD files next week and start head-to-head comparisons against other streamer/server heavyweights I have in-house. Look for a full review on the Roon Nucleus+ in the coming months.

COMPANY INFO
Roon Labs

COMMENTS
pdxdon's picture

Rafe,

I recently got an innuos Zen Mk 3 which is similar to the Nucleus, but with even more engineering put into low noise. Check it out. $2599

curbfeeler's picture

I have two buddies who use an Innuos music server with Roon as the user interface and music library manager. The sound was outstanding. I think I'll pull the trigger on a Zen Mk3.

Doak's picture

Very curious about how you intend to implement using this new gadget.
Will you be connecting it directly to your DAC via USB cable? If not, why not?
On the subject of placing a drive for your music library inside of the Roon Nuc: Please also explore the option of an externally powered USB HD. For a variety of reasons, it may prove to be a better way to go.
I may be jumping the gun with my inquiry. If so, just say the word. Thanks
Doak

Rafe Arnott's picture
Hi, I'll be connecting the Nucleus+ to various DACs via USB and also via Ethernet as it's on the network (Rossini, Bartok to start). I've got an external two terabyte USB drive attached now, and will also be installing an SSD. Always ask, you're never jumping the gun. Cheers Doak, –R
hltf's picture

I'd be curious what choice of SSD you made. Which would be best? I heard at some point in the past that Samsung EVO SSDs would be, but I'd be curious if you agree and whether that has changed with any recent developments. On Amazon I now see Samsung EVO, QVO, NAND etc, and I am not quite sure what is likely to be best for this purpose.

I have a Nucleus myself with USB drives (latter to be upgraded to SSD at some point) and I too very much appreciated the jump in SQ when I moved from my MacMini.

Thanks

Rafe Arnott's picture
Will be using the WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB PC SSD - SATA III 6 Gb/s 2.5"/7mm Solid State Drive.
hltf's picture

Thanks for the information. The Samsung is a good bit more it seems. This WD might be the one to have.

Winchy's picture

I’ve been trying to move my Roon core from an ancient PC fed to an old AVR amp through Sonos connect. to something more modern and “cleaner sounding”. Unable to afford a nucleus+ after acquiring an arcam FMJ AVR 850 and REL S5, I’ve settled for a nuc 8i7 BEH with 8gb and a 128gb ssd for the Roon core and an external usb HD. I am yet to resolve how best to link this digitally to my Chord Hugo2 which in turn will supply an analogue output to the AVR 850. I’m inclined at the moment to a Raspberry Pi3 with the digital+ pro add on but... this would be optical. Ther3 have been several suggestions that a usb link would be better - really? Any suggestions welcome,

Iftachl's picture

@Winchy, I have a Chord Qutest (which is similar to the Hugo2) connected directly via USB to the roon core. I added an AQ Jitterbug to reduce noise. I think you will be happy

Rafe Arnott's picture
direct experience with the nuc 8i7 BEH, so hard for me to chime in here. The best advice I can give is try different cables into the Hugo2 and listen. You can always return the cables you don't want if you settle on a preferred input after testing.
Echolane's picture

Just today i auditioned an InnuOS ZENith Mark3. I wanted to a/b the InnuOS with a Roon Nucleus but that wasn’t possible, has anyone done that? Id be interested. I’m kinda hung up on the value of linear power supplies which i believe create better audio quality. The Roon Nucleus so far as I know has none. The InnuOS Statement has 5 or 6 linear power supplies! I’m told all the InnuOS sound way better.

sirwilliamlee's picture

this roon allows for an internal hard drive to be ADDED?
my music requires a minimum of 256gb.
please forgive my absence of computer savvy...
do hard drives come 256, or even 512?
id like to keep all-in-one if possible.
and for connection, id prefer hooking to my directstream dac via hdmi.
if any could direct me to appropriately sized and best for audio quality id be most thankful.
comments/guidance are appreciated.

Rafe Arnott's picture
Of SSD are available off sites like Amazon to put into the Nucleus or Nucleus+ and can be had for less than $100 for 512GB or larger capacity.
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