After testing Roon initially via MacBook that was wireless connected to my system-switch, I now bought a NUC to embed in my system. The test phase convinced my of the Roon experience and the SQ quality seemed on par, yet a wireless connected MacBook results in drop-outs with Hi-Res and I do not like a laptop that needs to be "on" for playing music.
Reviewing the web, I opted for a NUC with an i5, 8GB RAM and 128SSD spec and installed Roon Rock. The NUC is wired-connected to my Netgear system switch that also holds the NAS, and Airport Express for Internet and my NDX-2. Roon delivers a detailed installation guide for Rock, yet I needed some additional technical videos (tip: watch the Hans Beekhuyzen channel on YouTube) to get everything in place. I also had to change a DHCP setting on the Airport Express.
Building up the Roon library out of my NAS (holds some 6000 albums) is quick and a matter of one or two hours.
My conclusions so far are:
- the user experience of Roon is second-to-none: this is how modern streaming should work. Everything is incredibly integrated and streamlined, and works flawlessly. It is very difficult to stop playing music when using Roon. Literally at every (!) moment you are encouraged to listen to "related" music based on genre, composers and more. Very nicely done. A good indicator is that one hardly has the need to look into the user guide; I think that says a lot about the user experience and interface. Yes, there are things to improve (like the Tags in my opinion) but they are relatively small
- Sound Quality: playing albums from my NAS, I believe the sound quality through the Naim App is slightly better than Roon. Especially with H-Res albums. When I "passed-by" Roon and played directly over the Naim App there was more blackness and attack in the music. It also has a bit more warmth than when using Roon. I have an Hi-Res album of Amy Whinehouse that highlighted this quite well. The differences are not huge, but they are there. One reason I could think of (apart from the longer data-chain, since the music physically passes the NUC so there is an extra device in the chain) is that I have invested in high quality UTP cable for all devices (AudioQuest and Chord) but not yet for the wired conenction of the NUC. That has a standard UTP cable. Maybe I should buy a good cable for that one too?
- Sound Quality: initially I activated the DSP Conversion but this took out a lot of the NDX-2 magic. Absolutely less good than when de-activated. The DSP setting I used was with only "Sample Frequency" activated to sample to DSD128; all others where off. Now, this DSP conversion to me is all pretty complex, so I could be me who chose the wrong settings. Therefor I'd be really interested in the experiences of others here on the forum. If somebody has a positive experience, I'd love to see some screenshots with the exact (!) settings chosen.
- Sound Quality: I am very positively surprised by Tidal. This sounds wonderful through Roon. The big, big surprise are the MQA Master Labels: apart from the massive library of MQA albums available in Tidal through Roon, the sound quality is very impressive and on par with a lot of Hi-Res good-quality-labels I have on my NAS
So bottom line, I'd be very interested to permanently flip over to Roon .... if ..... if I get the Sound quality of NAS albums on par with regular play. I probably will look into a good UTP cable for the connection of the NUC onto the switch. Maybe an Sbooster on my Netgear switch could help too