Dedicated NUC/Nucleaus vs shared PC (w Fiber Media Converter connected to Endpoint)
A Roon system of 2 devices includes:
- Music Server (NUC/Nucleaus/PC, etc...)
- Endpoint (SOtM, Sonore, etc..)
with Fiber Media Converter in between.
I think we all agree that a dedicated machine of NUC/Nucleaus will be better than a shared PC as a music server. But is there a big difference of sound quality if we have optical isolation between the shared PC and an endpoint ?
Here is the idea:
A shared PC creates 2 problems:
- Analog noises (from power, fan..). But most of them can be eliminated by optical isolation like Fiber Media Converter (according to Small Green Computer).
- Latency, jitter (because PC run many other tasks). But the endpoint and DAC have buffers. So all jitters before DAC can be ignored. Besides, if we don’t listen to too fast music, the issue (if happen) will not impact much.
So does a NUC really brings a difference, compared with a shared Pc connected with endpoint through FIber media converter ????
Each component within streaming system has to be considered as entrance way for noise, jitter. This can be either self generated or passed from previous component in chain. Now you can isolate this noise via FMC from entering next component in chain, timing is another issue, can't restore timing lost in previous component or components.
Issue is each component in chain liable to this self generated noise and jitter. Lets say one has poor quality modem (just taking this as example as first component in chain from ISP) produces much self noise and jitter, signal integrity impacted, heard as loss of resolution and some measure of digititus or fatigue. The problem is you CANNOT GAIN back what was lost from that first component, or any previous component in chain. The best you can do beyond the previous component is eliminate ANY MORE noise and jitter entering chain. This is why every component in chain is critical for optimized streaming.
“But is there a big difference of sound quality if we have optical isolation between the shared PC and an endpoint ?”
This would squarely depends on your rest of the system. You may hear the difference by upgrading to NUC or you may not. I doubt you would get any consensus to your dilemma. For me, both NUC or PC is a non-starter. A dedicated streamer like Innuos or Lumin along with a decent DAC is a must if you’re serious about getting the best out of cloud based streaming services like Qobuz or Tidal.
Once you accomplish above, then you can tweak your way into optimizing the Ethernet signal before it reaches your streamer.
If you’re running Roon, I believe with Lumin you need a headless NUC for Core. Alternatively, Lumin is perfectly capable of streaming music natively with Qobuz or Tidal through its proprietary app. Innuos is capable of both Roon core and rendering duties. But then you are faced with the ‘myth’ spread by Roon geniuses that both Core and Rendering should be on separate devices for optimal performance. IME that’s not the case, if both Core and Rendering are implemented properly, they can coexist in one box.
Nope, that pc is noisy environment, you've lost both resolution and lost a great deal of timing/jitter with that solution, the FMC can't repair what was damaged in pc. Every component in chain critical to optimize streaming.
I differ from latik and ghdprentice in I believe NUC can be nice solution as server only, Roon core only on NUC, streaming out of NUC is issue, where separate streamer come into play. Streamer is where Roon Endpoint goes.
For one box solution you need top notch rendering within that single unit, this means Roon Core and Endpoint both in this single server/streamer. In that case my choices go towards Anitpodes K series, Aurender W20 or N series. I've chosen to continue with diy route via recent addition of custom build server based on ATX motherboard (Windows or PC computer boards). With this I can choose to use as streamer or server via choice of different PCIe cards. Optimized via Euphony operating system and choice of Roon or Stylus Version 4 music player.
Going route of custom build can give one both versatility and possibility of optimizing many rendering protocols. Also, atx boards used in SOTA servers/streamers such as Taiko Extreme and Wadax. There are sources for professional builds as well as diy possibility. Much more bang for buck with these builds vs common off the shelf servers and/or steamers. These builds can range from SOTA to elementary.
Fiber media is cheap ,nothing special inside much bette4 off with a Uptone audio
ether regen , which can use fiber optic,as well as Aethernet, and there is a bunch of low noise regulation worth every penny and not that expensive at $630
i learned awhile back just because it says fiber optic the signal through a $40 fiber optic devise the signal is not that clean b6 the time it goes through the fiber optic
a waste , I tried both ways you get what you pay for , try light cannot pick up noise But if it’s dirty before hand that is what it-will read down stream more blurry compared . And the media transceiver too for the fiber optic counts a good one$100 each ,not $20
I would have agreed with you more a few years ago about using a computer, but with the green computer isolation and the fact that my wife’s laptop doesn’t have a fan in it, really takes two of the main problems out of the equation. I’m still not crazy about using an off the shelf computer, but it would certainly be worth a try.
I've tried both, a dedicated fan less PC and a normal PC. I could not hear any difference. Even if a music player is the only running app, Windows still runs a plethora of background tasks. I would not worry about that. Besides, any 'dedicated' streamer or player that runs on an operating system does too.
I used a USB to USB galvanic isolator and that made a huge difference. It takes out literally all the PC noise. There also are USB to optical (toslink) converters on the market, 192kHz / 24 bit ... more than enough for normal music playback.
I have both a dedicated music server (the sonicTransporter i9) and a Mac Mini in my HiFi system. When I started with Roon, I ran the Core on the Mac Mini. Since buying the sTi9, I've been running Roon Core on it and using the Mini for DSP software (HQ Player, BACCH4Mac) and music library management. Lately I've been running both Roon Core and HQP on the sTi9.
IMO, concerns about fan and electrical noise from a multi-purpose computer probably are over-blown (at least for relatively new equipment). I've never tried fibre optical connections, but am a little skeptical about significant SQ improvements. If you turn off background processes (such as Time Machine on a Mac), you can minimize the number of system events that might impact your music listening. But then, you probably can't eliminate them completely. That, and the faster processor in the sTi9, are the reasons I use the latter for Roon Core and HQ Player software. I still use the Mini to download digital music files (from HD Tracks or Qobuz) and expose its music library over the network to Roon and to the file player on my Matrix Element X (streamer+DAC+preamp).
If I were starting from scratch, I'd consider a faster M1 Mac Mini for all the functions currently spread over my 2 devices (sTi9 and Intel Mac Mini). A Nuc would work, too, but I happen to be tied into the Apple ecosystem with other devices. I probably would not seriously consider a Nucleus because IMO there are alternatives that offer more bang for the buck (faster processors, more software applications, lower cost).
Just my two cents here. A streamer at the end of the day is just a stripped down pc. Yes I understand the concept that by taking out all the other duties that a normal pc does can remove all the issues. Think sometime people are getting into an area of noise and jitter that our human ears are incapable of hearing. In the end is not a streamer also introducing issues as a component in the chain. The argument that if the router as first entry point loosing data that can never be recovered will drive you nuts. If that is the argument then you need to trace your inbound all the way back to you internet provider and ALL it in counters before your house. If it sounds great to your ears just sit back and enjoy the music!
@sgreg1You can only control what you can control. Just as the electrical grid is not something I can control, so is ISP. Doesn't mean I can't realize full potential of what is offered via equipment upgrades within the home or audio system.
For those who believe a general service computer delivers sound quality on par with dedicated streaming components I'd suggest doing direct comparisons in home. Both noise and jitter in digital components are easily heard. Contemporary digital far superior to early digital, due largely to massive efforts in reducing both. We are not at end game in these efforts, further reductions now has digital playing at or near level playing field with the best of best vinyl rigs. Lowering of noise floors and reducing jitter to ever more vanishing levels is totally responsible for providing digital with more analog like sound qualities.
For some, general service computers may be sufficient, but to state no better sound quality possible is total nonsense.
@snsI think in term of data preservation, there is no loss from music server to DAC. But the problem is that each component will add noise. Do you think the optical isolator and DAC buffer can help to remove most noises from a shared PC.
@truongv0kyThe only optical conversion I've done post server included Sonore OpticalRendu which is optical streamer This replaced SOTM SMS 200 Neo ethernet streamer. Was it the streamer alone or combo of streamer and optical conversion that was responsible for improvement? Presume mostly due to OpticalRendu as it has better clock than SOTM, lower noise floor of optical vs ethernet didn't hurt.
I did try optical conversion in front of server, prefer ethernet here.
Optical does provide 100% isolation, ethernet something less than total isolation. Issue is second fiber media converter injects it's own noise, cheap FMC have noisy power supply and pretty poor clocks. So, bottom line, implementation most important in optical vs ethernet solution.
I run my core on a dedicated NUC with ROCK installed. I used to use another NUC as the endpoint. I figured out that wasn't nearly good enough and now I have a streamer as an endpoint.
The guy who introduced me to Roon, out in the middle of the California desert, had his core way off in another room on another floor of his house. the core hooks to the network, not the sound system so don't let a fan make noise in your listening room.
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