Roon Labs’ Roon music server software program is is unparalleled by way of its efficiency, its strong metadata assist, and its flexibility. You can combine any AirPlay, Chromecast, or native Roon RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) audio system and different audio gear for multi-room streaming. The high-end music-streaming providers Tidal and Qobuz have built-in Roon so their subscribers can profit from the Roon’s consumer interface and its deep properly of metadata (critiques, lyrics, artist bios, style classifications, album credit, launch dates, recording dates, and even stay live performance dates). And that’s simply scratching the floor of what Roon is able to.

Roon is software program, so that you’ll want {hardware} to run it on. You can run it on a headless (no show wanted) Mac or a PC, or you may set it up on a high-end NAS field (Roon recommends having not less than an Intel Core i3 Ivy Bridge-architecture CPU, 4GB of RAM, and an SSD to run the server software program). But none of these choices are aesthetically pleasing (or quiet, since they’ll most likely have cooling followers), and also you would possibly run into overheating issues for those who disguise the gear in a closet. And then there’s the entire matter of configuring Roon itself.

Roon now affords a strategy to get all the advantages of its software program in a plug-and-play bundle: Check out Nucleus, Roon’s first stand-alone {hardware}/software program answer. I’ve been evaluating Nucleus for greater than 5 months and located it to be a stellar answer. Unfortunately, it’s additionally a really costly answer, beginning at $1,399 plus the price of storage and a Roon subscription.

What is Nucleus?

Nucleus is an audio-optimized file server that you simply’ll virtually by no means work together with instantly. It has no mouse, no keyboard, and no show. It’s designed for passionate music lovers who don’t have the time, know-how, or inclination to construct out a pc as a do-it-yourself venture.

Roon

Side view of the Nucleus’ warmth sink fins.

Nucleus runs a stripped down, security-hardened model of Linux that’s optimized to run Roon. Its four-step setup is straightforward and easy, and you may run it from any internet browser or good machine by way of Roon’s slick app (I’ll get into that extra under).

Aesthetically talking, the Nucleus appears like a large warmth sink. And that’s just about what its metallic exterior is. The total shell is designed to dissipate all processor warmth effectively. And it really works. During my take a look at interval, I had the Nucleus on a shelf in my Salamander leisure heart. The Nucleus ran heat, however by no means scorching. Ventilation was by no means a difficulty.

Roon Nucleus front quarter view Roon

A entrance quarter view of the Roon Nucleus.

Put an SSD contained in the Nucleus and it’ll don’t have any shifting components in any way. It will function in useless silence. You’ll by no means know you might have it in your room, a lot much less your tools rack. If you actually wish to geek out, try Roon’s white paper devoted to the design and engineering decisions made through the Nucleus’ growth.

Built-in inputs/outputs

The coronary heart of the Nucleus is an Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing), a small type issue desktop laptop, and it provides you many built-in enter/output choices: There are two USB 3.0 ports that you should utilize for connecting exterior onerous drives and/or a DAC of your alternative. The HDMI output helps stereo and multi-channel audio output. There’s a USB-C port on the unit’s rear that proper now doesn’t serve any sensible function. Roon would possibly (or may not) allow that port for added performance down the highway.

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