Roon Ready Writeups: Roon Nucleus Music Server Review

roon nucleus music server plus

Bringing it all back home

Since the release of Roon 2.0, we’ve presented a selection of mobile audio gear dedicated to helping us get the most from Roon ARC. If you’ve missed our recent notifications, ARC is a new app that transforms your Roon library into a bespoke streaming service with all your favorite Roon features. We’re pretty excited about the reception it’s received. This time out, we’re taking a different path to an enhanced ARC experience and optimal overall Roon performance by bringing it all back home to the most critical piece of any Roon system, your Roon Server.

Before we continue, let’s briefly describe the three components that make up a Roon setup; Roon Server, Roon apps, and audio devices. Those parts can be separate devices or bundled all in one. An example of the all-in-one approach is a laptop that functions as your Roon Server, software control interface, and audio device – perhaps in the form of a headphone out. This is how the majority of people start out when using Roon.

The separates method offers greater flexibility and limitless device possibilities. An example setup might consist of a Roon Nucleus, an Android or iOS tablet with the Roon app as remote, and Devialet Phantom I speakers running as a stereo pair as audio devices. Our How Roon Works video above provides an excellent overview. You can also check out the Show (off) your Roon Setup thread on our Roon Community for more ideas and inspiration.

In essence, your Roon Server is the musical superbrain of the entire Roon operation. It manages your Roon library, handles signal processing, and oversees music playback. It’s home to your Roon software, its superior audio engine, database, playlists, local music storage locations, and all the customizations and preference settings you’ve made to Roon. Whether you’re listening at home or with Roon ARC on the go, it’s the first link of your signal chain. Accordingly, it’s super important that you ensure Roon Server is parked on a machine that’s sufficiently up to scratch.

In this review, we’ll explain why Roon Nucleus and Nucleus Plus represent the best choices you can make for your Roon Server. The Roon Store’s exclusive promotional offers mean there’s no better place to purchase your Nucleus. But first, this important message.

roon nucleus plus music server

Friends don’t let friends run Roon Server on NAS.

This has been a public service announcement from your friendly Roon Technical Support team. Yes, it’s somewhat said in jest. But it’s also a genuine plea to help you help yourself. The most compelling argument for choosing a purpose-driven server machine is the mountain of support requests from customers with Celeron and Atom-based NAS units or similar boxes with prohibitive native software that does nothing but fight with Roon. The same can be said for nine-year-old laptops with badly outdated operating systems.

For the love of all things music, don’t do that to yourself. An underpowered server machine is the quickest possible route to a bad Roon experience, with a shaky home network coming in as a close second. However, if your desire is to start corresponding regularly with Roon Tech Support, then it’s a great strategy.

To be clear: there’s no shaming, passing judgment, or snarky attitude in this advice. We totally get your thinking – you have an older machine sitting unused; why not make it a Roon Server. That’s all it’ll be used for; it should be fine, right? In our experience, no, not always. Ideally, you want each device in your system to perform at its best. Starting with an unstable foundation for your Roon Server will have ripple effects further downstream. That’s not what we want for you. Nucleus and Nucleus Plus provide the most solid platform possible for Roon because we built them that way.

roon nucleus music server

The only server designed specifically for Roon, by Roon.   

Before you turn red and wag your finger from anticipating a sales attempt, we’re not saying you must have a Nucleus to use Roon. That’s not at all the case. 

We’re simply saying that Roon Nucleus is the best way to experience Roon. Why? It’s the only music server on the market explicitly designed to showcase Roon’s full performance potential that’s manufactured by the same team that created Roon. It immediately plants Roon on terra firma, and it’s the fastest way to upgrade the performance of an existing setup.

Alternatively, you can run Roon on a recent laptop or small form factor desktop that meets our recommendations and have great results – many of our customers do. My first Roon platform was a Mac laptop; it’s the easiest, most immediate point of entry for many of us. But much like the onboard DACs in our mobile devices, the problem is that most computers aren’t built to be high-quality audio transports. And, to make things worse, they’re distracted by a slew of behind-the-scenes activity and house circuitry that hinder performance and potentially deteriorate sound quality.

Nucleus has an advantage over other platforms because it was engineered to provide the most reliable and problem-free Roon experience. It’s designed to do one thing and do it unerringly: provide a home for Roon. All that Windows and Mac busy-work jive is eliminated. Nucleus isn’t checking emails, looking for driver updates, juggling dozens of other unessential processes, or flexing your firewall against overly curious apps. Its only concern is Roon.

It’s a gateway to plug-and-play Roon enjoyment that provides silent, high-performance, power-efficient reliability and superior audio quality in a visually striking modern enclosure. And it’s an unrivaled, dead simple to use, purpose-driven home for Roon Server! Why deny yourself that kind of luxury?

roon nucleus music server plus

Inside the mysterious finned black box

When designing Nucleus, we ultimately decided to produce two models. They’re identical in all respects except for raw computing horsepower. We wanted to provide options based on specific needs and adjust device costs around the use scenario. A few other goals were for:

  • A turn-key Roon Server that does not require a Mac, PC, or NAS
  • Computing power to support Roon’s requirements now and in the future
  • Ease of use – with little to no customer support needed after installation
  • Software and firmware updates that are downloaded “over the air” and managed by the end-user
  • Reliable and robust operation – tamper-resistant and nothing to service
  • Audiophile-friendly – no fans or moving parts

Nucleus is perfect for the majority of our subscribers. Nucleus Plus is for those with more rigorous processing requirements due to library size, more simultaneous playback streams, DSP, convolution, and high-rate DSD playback. Their differences and details are below.

NUCLEUS

  • Built on an optimized Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM
  • Library capacity: Up to 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Pre-installed internal storage is available. 
  • Multi-room streaming: Up to 6 simultaneous zones
  • DSP capability: All DSP functions available in the PCM domain, certain combinations of functions using DSD, upsampling, or multi-channel processing may not be possible. 

NUCLEUS PLUS

  • Built on an optimized Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB RAM
  • Library capacity: Over 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Pre-installed internal storage is available. 
  • Multi-room streaming: Over 6 simultaneous zones
  • DSP capability: All DSP functions available
  • Compatible with Crestron and Control 4 control modules
roon nucleus music server plus

Connection points are identical in both models:

  • Inputs are 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage, and Gigabit LAN connection.
  • Outputs include 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 

They’re bold yet simple, functional and durable yet visually stimulating – just like Roon. Both models are housed in a striking winged heat-dissipating aluminum chassis finished in automotive-grade off-black satin paint. A low-profile Roon logo is stamped on their face.

The connection points listed above, the power supply connection, and the power button are on the rear panel inside a port inspired by the hanger bays of the Death Star. Nucleus measures 10.5in (W) x 10.5in (D) x 2.5in (H). The device itself weighs about 7 lbs, depending on internal storage. Nucleus can accommodate 2.5-inch HDD or SSD drives with a maximum height of 15mm.

Setup and software updates are done via an easily accessible, intuitively simple web interface. Control of Roon is handled with the Roon Remote app. On-the-go access to your Roon Library with ARC is guaranteed by Nucleus’ always-on design. You can also connect an external disc drive to rip CDs directly to the Nucleus. 

Sonically, Nucleus and Nucleus Plus are identical. While reviewing our recent parade of DACs, I’ve discovered that a direct wired or wireless Roon Ready connection to the Nucleus is always sonically superior to connecting to the USB port of a computer remote. It’s a darker achromatic slate that feeds an entirely transparent signal to Roon’s audio engine. That neutral background allows you to shape your system’s sound signature with DACS, playback devices, amps, and speakers. Nucleus provides the optimal platform for sonic sculpting; simply choose from any of our 1000+ Roon Certified partner devices to customize your sound.

If you’re looking for the quickest, easiest, most reliable, problem-free, best-sounding, sweetest smelling, and immediately excellent Roon-designed Roon server experience… Ok, maybe not the sweetest smelling; I was just making sure you were listening. If you’d like all that other good stuff, then Nucleus is for you! A personal bonus is that Nucleus has provided snappier Roon performance and 100% problem-free operation since I added one to my setup. Now let’s look at some other benefits.

tidal for roon nucleus music server

Plug yourself into the web of sound

Ok, your Roon server is sorted; now what? Now it’s all about the music. If you have a library of local music files, connect an external hard drive directly to the Nucleus, point Roon toward your network storage location, or simply drag and drop your music to the internal storage drive. Roon immediately flexes its metadata superpowers on your collection – to bring its hidden relationships and stories to life. You can tap into an even more spectacular sound repository if you don’t have many music files. Or…you can have both! Upload your music and add streaming; that’s our favorite!

As music lovers, we’re fortunate to live in a time when music is so plentiful and easily accessible. Syncing a streaming service in Roon immediately plugs you into what we call the vast web of sound. Adding streaming to Roon lets you explore and stream untold millions of lossless and Hi-Res tracks.​ It also means 24/7 access to an unrivaled array of high-resolution recordings when using Roon ARC.

TIDAL, Qobuz, or KKBOX membership places a practically limitless all-encompassing palette of music at your fingertips. Once synced, Roon’s rich features are applied to those immense catalogs delivering effortless discovery of new and forgotten favorites informed by an intimate understanding of the interconnected storylines of the music we already love.

tidal for roon nucleus music server

For instance, using the TIDAL browse tab in Roon unlocks an exclusive set of personalized mixes, new album recommendations based on popularity and your listening history, and the keys to exploring new genres. TIDAL’s selection of curated playlists is easy to find and even easier to spin. Roon uses your streaming subscription to augment those features with even more recommendations, featured albums, daily mixes, and a Roon Radio experience tailored to your specific tastes. Roon accentuates the treasure hunt while its MUSE audio engine delivers a pristine, uncolored, bit-perfect listening experience.

Try to imagine another way you can have all of the above with such ease. You cannot; Roon is the only way to experience what I’ve described. And Nucleus + Roon + streaming is unquestionably the very best way to enjoy music.

Conclusion

Nucleus is an unrivaled, dead simple to use, purpose-driven home Roon Server and an immediate gateway to plug-and-play Roon enjoyment.

Its high performance, power-efficient reliability, and fanless solid-state design guarantee superior audio quality. An intuitive user interface provides effortless ease of use and support-free operation, allowing you to focus on what Roon is all about – unparalleled exploration and discovery of bit-perfect high-resolution music delivered to your listening space – wherever that may be. 

If that sounds appealing to you, we’re confident you will love Nucleus. 

Click here to customize your Nucleus at The Roon Store!

roon nuclues music server plus

Roon Nucleus FAQs

Are these devices Roon Certified?

They’re beyond certified; Nucleus and Nucleus Plus are Roon bona fide! This is the only music server explicitly designed for Roon by the same team that created Roon. 

What does a Roon Nucleus do?

Nucleus is a device that acts as your Roon Server – it’s the foundation and the most critical piece of your Roon system. It’s where everything begins and the best way to experience Roon. It’s also dead simple to use and a perfect purpose-driven home for Roon.

Do I need a streamer with Roon Nucleus?

You don’t have to have a streamer; Nucleus will handle all that. But you may still want one, depending on your use scenario and where you place Nucleus in your listening environment. Nucleus is your mothership; you can connect it to your audio devices using a wired or wireless connection. 

Does Roon Nucleus sound better?

In some cases, yes. I’ve discovered that a direct wired or Roon Ready connection to the Nucleus is always sonically superior to connecting to the USB port of a computer remote. It’s a neutral palette for Roon’s advanced audio engine that allows you to shape your system’s sound signature with any of our 1000+ Roon Certified partner devices.

Is Roon Nucleus an endpoint?

No, it’s not an audio device; its job is more important. It’s your Roon Server – the origin of all things Roon, the gatekeeper of in-home listening and on-the-go Roon ARC enjoyment. Nucleus provides the most stable, quickest, easiest, utterly reliable, problem-free, best-sounding, and immediately excellent Roon-designed Roon Server experience. Get one; you’ll see what we mean.

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • Inputs are 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive or network attached storage box.
  • Outputs include 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 

Tech specs: 

Roon Nucleus

  • Audio inputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage (NAS)
  • Audio outputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 
  • Zones: up to six simultaneous zones
  • Digital signal processing (DSP): complete DSP functionality in the PCM audio domain. Some DSP functions and combinations may be limited by the DSD and MQA formats to ensure format integrity.
  • Internal storage: 2.5″ SATA SSD or HDD up to 15mm drive height (drive not included)
  • External storage: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting external storage drives, network attached storage (NAS)
  • Library capacity: up to 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Network: gigabit network LAN
  • APP: Roon Remote (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android) and Roon ARC (iOS and Android)
  • Control systems: Roon API, Crestron, Control4
  • Power supply: DC Power Supply (19V, 60W); Barrel length: 2.5mm ID, 5.5mm OD, 11mm L; Cord length: 4 feet
  • Enclosure: heat-dissipating one-piece die-cast aluminum chassis.
  • Finish: automotive grade satin off-black
  • Dimensions: 10.5in (W) x 10.5in (D) x 2.5in (H)
  • Weight: 7lbs (product only)
  • Warranty: 2 years

Roon Nucleus Plus:

  • Audio inputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage.
  • Audio outputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 
  • Zones: unlimited simultaneous zones
  • Digital signal processing (DSP): complete DSP functionality. Some DSP functions and combinations may be limited by the DSD and MQA formats to ensure format integrity.
  • Internal storage: 2.5″ SATA SSD or HDD up to 15mm drive height (drive not included)
  • External storage: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting external storage drives, network attached storage (NAS)
  • Library capacity: More than 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Network: Gigabit network LAN
  • APP: Roon Remote (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android) and Roon ARC (iOS and Android)
  • Control systems: Roon API, Crestron, Control4
  • Power supply: DC Power Supply (19V, 60W); Barrel length: 2.5mm ID, 5.5mm OD, 11mm L; Cord length: 4 feet
  • Enclosure: Heat-dissipating one-piece die-cast aluminum chassis.
  • Finish: automotive grade satin off-black
  • Dimensions: 10.5in (W) x 10.5in (D) x 2.5in (H)
  • Weight: 7lbs (product only)
  • Warranty: 2 years

What comes in the box?

Roon Nucleus/Nucleus Plus:

  • Roon Nucleus Server
  • Universal DC Power Supply with US/UK/EU/AU plug adapters
  • Quick Start Guide
  • One year of Roon promo subscription code
  • Four screws for mounting an internal storage drive (drive not included)