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    Review | Running a Large Roon Library on a QNAP TVS-872XT

    Since Roon Labs launched its eponymous app Roon in March of 2015 at the Munich High End show, I've been thinking of ways to streamline it in my system and optimize its performance. And yes, once in a while I listen to the Roon team's great advice, which usually involves them telling me they've done all the homework and I should just do X, Y, and Z. Roon Labs has an amazing team of people with varied backgrounds and enough technical skills to run circles around 99.9% of HiFi companies. It's quite refreshing to exchange emails with the team because I almost always learn something during the exchange. 

     

    I've had several conversations with the Roon Labs team over the years about the best way to run Roon, given my requirements. The team wisely starts most conversations by telling me I'm an edge case. An edge case is much better than a head case or a nut case, so I'll take that for what it's worth. I understand my predicament and don't expect any special treatment from the team or any custom solutions to my self-created problems. I get it. At the end of our conversations, the proposed solution is usually to get a Nucleus, hang a USB drive off of it, and call it a day. 

     

    I respect the suggested solution, and it's one I've installed in quite a few systems around the world. However, I sometimes have a problem following the rules, listening to authority, and going with the flow. Thus, for my latest attempt at perfecting my Roon installation I got in touch with QNAP and had them send a TVS-872XT NAS. I have other reasons for going the QNAP route as well. I didn't try it just to be difficult :~)

     

     

    My Requirements

     

    It helps to understand my requirements and where I'm coming from, before digging into the QNAP details. If one's requirements are vastly different, then this article can be disregarded, unless an escape from the real world is desired. In that case, please read on. Readers may pick up something they can use now or at some point in the future.  


    I like to tweak and eke out every last ounce of performance from the things I understand. Software, storage, and networking are in my wheelhouse and I love to dig in. Amps, speakers, preamps, not so much. I'm also a huge fan of music. It works magic on my mind and has been immensely important to me since I high-speed dubbed my brother's Houses of the Holy cassette to place in my first Walkman back in second grade (1983). Also note, that's the year I borrowed his vinyl copy of Pink Floyd's The Wall, to play for my second grade class. It was a seminal moment in my education when the class heard "Hey teachers, leave those kids alone," while my friends and I looked at the "funny" album jacket in the back of the class. Anyway, I have a lot of music in my collection because I absolutely love it and can't live without it.

     

    In addition to having a large library, I want solutions that are streamlined as much as possible. This is why I don't prefer the Nucleus with a huge USB drive hanging off the back. Such a solution works wonders for many people, it's just not my thing. I like the QNAP because it's the Roon core, music storage (with possible redundancy), and Roon database backup (on separate internal drive). Installing the Roon app on a QNAP NAS is as easy as clicking the install button in the App Center via the NAS management interface. 

     

    I also struggle with Roon's lack of support for the latest interface types on external drives connected to the Nucleus or Roon ROCK. USB-C / Thunderbolt external drives are everywhere, but Intel hasn't delivered stable drivers that can be used on Roon OS devices. It isn't the speed of this interface that's needed, but it's the lack of availability of things like external USB 3 drive housings that support RAID and the fact that I usually repurpose tech devices at some point in the future. A USB-C / Thunderbolt drive purchased now will give me many more years of repurposing than a USB 3 drive I'd have to purchase to work with a Roon OS device. 

     

    It should go without saying that I require any solution to be very fast while browsing through the Roon app or while doing any type of file copy to/from the device. 

     

    I also use convolution filters for room correction with roughly 65,000 taps. Any solution for Roon must be able to handle DSP without issue.

     

    Here are my music library details. This isn't about having the "biggest" collection or trying to prove something. There's always someone, somewhere with a bigger collection and more of everything. I'm just providing details of my collection so people can gauge the efficacy of my review with respect to their collections and requirements. 

     

     

    My Roon Library.jpg

     

     

     

     

    Music
    Albums in Roon library 21,571
    Qobuz & Tidal albums 1,677
    Local albums 19,894

     

    Tracks in Roon 324,348
    Tracks in Qobuz & Tidal 25,495
    Local tracks 298,853

     

    Music stored on the QNAP
    10.09TB
    371,597 files
    31,301 folders

     

    Roon Database
    21.62 GB
    167,648 files
    83,521 folders

     

    Roon Database Backup
    42.11 GB
    154,748 files
    63,234 folders

     

     

     

     

     


    QNAP TVS-872XT

     

    QNAP TVS-872XT Front.jpgI talked to the team at QNAP about my project to streamline and optimize Roon for my entire library, and told them I also needed a semi-powerful NAS because of my desire to use digital signal processing on the Roon core. Soon after, a QNAP TVS-872XT arrived on my doorstep. The people at QNAP have been very helpful and understanding during this entire process. Especially because I've had this unit for several months and should've posted this review months ago. However, becoming an unwilling homeschool second grade teacher to an unwilling second grade student put a huge damper on things over the last few months. 

     

    The TVS-872XT has terrific specs for a NAS that's to be used as a Roon core. The CPU is an Intel Core i5-8400T running at 1.7 GHz with six cores. It has 16 GB of memory and a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port in addition to the dual 1 Gb ports. The NAS also features 8 "traditional" drive bays that support 3.5/2.5 inch spinning or solid state drives and two M.2 solid state drive slots accessible after opening the chassis. 

     

    Over the years QNAP has expanded the features and capabilities of its NAS devices greatly. There are tons of other features on the TVS-872XT that may never be needed by an audiophile, but it's lovely to know the features are available if needed. This NAS is also plenty powerful for users to install virtual machines or Docker containers for other audio experimentation. I installed a few things over the last couple months while testing items such as ConvoFS, the convolving system for digital room correction that operates at the storage level but doesn't alter original files, and a JRiver Docker container. There is also a plentiful list of available apps for QNAP devices that can help one send audio around one's house. I installed MinimServer for UPnP/DLNA while testing an Auralic Altair G1. QNAP NAS devices are very flexible and will handle almost anything an audiophile can throw at them. 

     

    I setup the QNAP TVS-872XT with three Seagate 6 TB drives (ST6000VN0033), one Samsung 500 GB 970 EVO M.2 NVME drive, and one Samsung 250 GB 960 EVO M.2 NVME drive. I used this drive configuration because I had the drives already and I knew they'd work well and wouldn't hurt performance. 

     

    I used the three Seagate drives in a static RAID 0 volume (16.14 TB usable space). RAID 0 has no redundancy and I wouldn't recommend doing it this way unless one has the time to manually recover from a drive failure. Ideally I would've had more drives on hand to use a RAID 5 setup with additional storage headroom. Such a setup would enable me to replace a failed drive without turning the QNAP off and without re-copying 10 TB of music back to the NAS. A single drive failure in a RAID 5 group isn't an issue for audiophiles because no data is lost and the data that was on the failed dive is rebuilt automatically in the QNAP once the drive is replaced. 

     

    On the 500 GB Samsung 970 EVO M.2 drive I installed only the Roon application. This drive contains the Roon database that's fairly important to house on a fast solid state drive. 

     

    The 250 GB M.2 drive contains only the automatic backups of the Roon database. These two M.2 drives operate separately, so any failure of one has no effect on the other. A failure of the entire NAS through a lightning strike may be an issue in that both drives containing the Roon database could be wiped out, but this risk can be minimized by either using the built-in Dropbox database backup or copying it to an external drive that isn't always plugged in.

     

     

    QNAP Roon Apps on Drives.pngQNAP Roon Drives.jpg

     


    Real World Performance

     

    The Roon software is excellent. The QNAP hardware is excellent. The bottom line performance of Roon with a large library on the QNAP ranges from maddeningly poor to excellent. Fortunately, after many months of experimenting with this setup, I believe I've found a way to make it run excellent 100% of the time. As you'll see, it's probably the most basic, non-technical, first level Helpdesk way to solve problems, but it works. 

     

    Note: The Roon team is currently working with QNAP to resolve the issues I ran into during this review. 

     

    The Good - I like simplicity, so I installed Roon directly on the QNAP. I've used NAS drives in the past with the Roon core on a separate device, but the overall user experience isn't nearly as good. The biggest drawback to that method is that Roon doesn't immediately recognizing new music added to the local NAS. It can take either a manual scan of the NAS or a scheduled rescan. With Roon installed on the NAS, on its own M.2 solid state drive, and the music sitting on a RAID array of spinning disks, new music was displayed in Roon within seconds of adding it over my network. Of course new music from Qobuz or Tidal is added instantly no matter the configuration. 

     

    I love having Roon on a single box rather than placing a Nucleus or Roon ROCK on my network to act as the core. It's one less box to power, update, and think about. 

     

    The QNAP TVS-872XT has more than enough power to run Roon and fairly heavy digital signal processing without breaking a sweat. I use FIR convolution filters for room correction often, and experiment with all the Roon DSP settings as needed. These can get CPU intensive and cause delays in playback on less powerful machines. The Intel Core i5 in the QNAP TVS-872XT is all one needs. For example, I can't discern a difference, with respect to time between clicking play and hearing the music, whether I have convolution enabled or disabled. I currently use a 65,000 tap filter, but I've used filters 3 and 4 times that large, and still never noticed a difference in Roon's speed while running on the QNAP.

     

    Another thing that's more related to QNAP than Roon is the QNAP's ability to back itself up to another NAS or numerous online services. Back in the day when Amazon offered unlimited storage for less than $100 per year, things were terrific. I just logged into my Amazon account via the QNAP interface and configured it to backup everything to the cloud. Now that Amazon is much more expensive, I just backup my 10 TB locally. Either way, the QNAP can automate almost anything an audiophile would want with respect to backing up. 

     

    My everyday user experience with Roon on the QNAP, when everything was behaving, was really nice. Searching a large library can be taxing and take time on hardware that isn't up to the task. The QNAP was very snappy during searches. Searching is usually the number one thing that bothers me when a piece of hardware isn't up to snuff. When I search for Pearl Jam, I want results in a reasonable amount of time. I don't expect instant results, but I expect results long before I lose interest in playing music and start checking text messages. 

    Here is a video of me navigating my library and doing the things I would do on a normal day in Roon. As you can see it's pretty quick given that I pull up Pearl Jam in a search and browse all my PJ albums. 

     

     

     

     

     


    The Bad - Until very recently Roon's performance on the QNAP TVS-872XT was hit and miss. At times it was excellent and at other times it was unusable. By unusable, I mean searches taking several minutes and a minute between clicking play and the music actually coming out of my speakers. Activity like this would send me on a wild goose chase trying to find how I may be causing the problem with my own network or other devices. I always look at myself first in these situations because I run a different network than most audiophiles. The Roon team frequently suggests using "dumb" switches etc... but I have a complete Ubiquiti UniFi managed network with fiber between the switches and to some Roon Ready endpoints. Throughout all of the issues I could never track down a network problem of my own when this Roon strangeness occurred. It's still possible the problem is somewhere on my network, but I just couldn't find it here. 

     

    The solution to the aforementioned issues was almost always restarting the Roon app on the QNAP. 90% of the time Roon would come back up and all would be right in my audio world. The problem is that restarting Roon takes 4 minutes on the QNAP TVS-872XT. Start your stop watch just before you want to listen to some music after a rough day, and sit there for four minutes before you start listening. It's a first world chronometric marathon of a problem, but a problem nonetheless. 

     

    The second part to this problem was that it happened sporadically. I could never figure out a pattern to what was happening. I started looking into the QNAP Resource Monitor when tings with Roon went awry and I noticed very high CPU usage at the same time by the RoonAppliance process. The RAM utilization would climb over 6 GB as well, but that wasn't indicative of a problem. 

     

     

    QNAP Roon Power Schedule.jpgIn early May I started rebooting the QNAP TVS-872XT weekly through it's absolutely simple Power Schedule feature. This seemed to resolve the issue for the most part, but not 100%. I lived with it like this for a few weeks before I said heck with it and switched to the shotgun approach. I then scheduled a daily reboot of the QNAP at 5:00 in the morning. This enabled me to start fresh every day with a fully functioning system. 

     

     

    Here is an example of before and after rebooting. The first image shows Roon using 42.82% of the CPU and 6.5 GB of memory. Trying to navigate my music collection with resource utilization like this was a nonstarter. In the second image you can see Roon using 0.75% CPU and 5.1 GB of memory after restarting the NAS. At that point everything in Roon worked wonderfully. 

     

    before reboot.jpgafter reboot.jpg

     

     

     

    The Solution - Once I switched to the daily reboot regimen, Roon on the QNAP TVS-872XT was fantastic. It was very fast and never had any issues such as the one minute pause between clicking play and the tracks actually being inserted into the queue. 


    For reference, here are videos of the Roon application restarting on the QNAP TVS-872XT and restarting the entire QNAP TVS-872XT. Readers can see the timeline of what's happening during the reboot and how long it takes when one has a library of 21,571 albums / 324,348 tracks.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Conclusion

     

    Using Roon on the QNAP TVS-872XT is now excellent. Searching a large local library and two streaming services is more than acceptably fast. I can be an impatient person when it comes to technology. I have no problems with the speed of Roon on the QNAP TVS-872XT. I love that I've removed the old Roon ROCK NUC that functioned as my Roon core. It's an extra box about which I no longer care. Readers new to the NAS concept should also know that the The QNAP sits in my basement, near my network stack and furnace. There is no need to have it anywhere near one's listening space. 

     

    Given the added flexibility of the QNAP platform and the hardware headroom of the TVS-872XT, I believe it's a very solid device on which to base a Roon installation. In fact the TVS-872XT is a great foundational piece for all audiophiles who have a large library of local music. I recommend using the dual M.2 solid state drive configuration to hold the Roon database and backup as I did, but I don't recommend going the RAID 0 route. Get enough disks to hold the entire local library, with headroom, and use a simple RAID 5 array. Other configurations can be argued and debated until we're all blue in the face, and many others will likely work well. If you want a proven solution, one that I use every day, go with my recommendation. Now worries either way though. 

     

     

    Recommendation:

     

     

     

    * Using our links gives us a tiny kickback and doesn't cost you anything. We're experimenting with this, so please no phone calls, letters, or telegrams just yet. 

     

     

     

    Community Star Ratings and Reviews

     

    We encourage those who have experience with the QNAP TVS-872XT to leave a star rating and quick review on our new Polestar platform.

     

     



    User Feedback

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    Chris, here you are solving problem faster than I can create them again!

     

    Edit: I have begun rebooting the Mini that runs as my Core every day as well. If I let it, and Roon, run continuously, it will slow down as well and CPU/RAM usage spikes for no reason other than beginning playback.

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    Nice report.

     

    It might be useful to supplement the comments on how well this NAS and its cpu handle your complex tasks, including DSP, with the numbers from Roon's assessment of the processing headroom.  This will indicate current throughput relative to the instantaneous demands of the task.

     

    I did not see any reference to functions such as up/downsampling and/or format conversions and, unsurprisingly, no attempt to use more than 2 channels such as for bass management or multichannel.  These are the things that might stress an "Core i5-8400T running at 1.7 GHz."

     

     

     

     

    .

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    25 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

    Nice report.

     

    It might be useful to supplement the comments on how well this NAS and its cpu handle your complex tasks, including DSP, with the numbers from Roon's assessment of the processing headroom.  This will indicate current throughput relative to the instantaneous demands of the task.

     

    I did not see any reference to functions such as up/downsampling and/or format conversions and, unsurprisingly, no attempt to use more than 2 channels such as for bass management or multichannel.  These are the things that might stress an "Core i5-8400T running at 1.7 GHz."

     

     

     

     

    .

    Hi Kal, great points. I will run some tests and post results. I’ve used DSD512 upsampling on this NAS without an issue. I’ll post the exact stats. 

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    The most stressful test I've used involved high resolution, DSP and multichannel. "Only with the easy configuration at DSD64 did the headroom rise above "1.5x" and give continuous playback. Adding the convolution processing, it shrank to "1x" and played only some of the time. With DSD128 and DSD256, the headroom was always less than "1x" and playback was riddled with interruptions."  Convolution filters were more stressful than PEQ.  The illustration below is with the (unspecified) i7 in a Nucleus+.

    Roon failure.JPG

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    Hi Can send DSD512 and apply a 66,000 tap FIR convolution filter and don't experience any playback issues. Here is a screenshot Roon and the QNAP.

     

    Screen Shot 2020-06-12 at 10.40.02 AM.png

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    Streaming 24/192 from Qobuz causes a large spike in CPU when also doing DSD conversion and convolution. But still. no audio dropouts. 

     

    I wish I had a multichannel DAC. 

     

    Screen Shot 2020-06-12 at 10.45.41 AM.png

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    I just added parametric EQ for the heck of it and the QNAP didn't even blink. 

     

    Looks like the only thing that will likely phase it is multichannel.

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    9 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I just added parametric EQ for the heck of it and the QNAP didn't even blink. 

    Good but at 2x or less, there is little margin left in the tank.  Note that, at what Roon thinks are desirable rates, the processing speed is replaced by the friendly star. 😉

    EDIT:  If the NAS does any housekeeping work in the background or is accessed for another task, the tank may run dry. 

    9 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    Looks like the only thing that will likely phase it is multichannel.

    Agreed.  So if that trebles the workload, it will likely cut the processing speed to 1/3.  So, 2x becomes less than 1 and will fail.

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    Re: rebooting Roon.. I run Roon core on a Zenith server and have control running on a 2018 Mac Mini i7 32 gig ram , it starts out with a few % total CPU usage on the Mini , but after a while I hear the fans and see usage is around 50% = 25% user & 25% system, core temps have gone from the 40's to the 80-90's, and the fan has ramped up from about 1700 rpm to 3800.

     

    Roon is aware of this usage creep but hasn't solved it other than requiring a reboot of the Mini.. If I quit Roon the usage drops back down to a few %, but re-starting Roon without re-booting the Mini takes it right back up . Only solution is reboot the Mini

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    I have had the same fan problem with nearly the same Mac Mini - maxxed out on performance.

    I have also read that there have been some problems with fan running and Apple recommends shutting down, pull out power cable x 15 seconds, plug back in, wait 5 seconds, hit power button.  Works every time, then 2 days later, fan blowing constantly - it is rather frustrating for near field listening at the computer desk, but does not seem to affect performance at all.  If I am listening in my other rooms obviously the fan noise is not an issue.

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    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

     

    I wish I had a multichannel DAC. 

     

    Try a Lynx Hilo.  If you have the right software you can  use the 3 analog outs (headphones, line out, monitor out) as a 6 channel DAC. Pure Music crossover can be configured to use them that way so you can triamp.. not sure about any surround software that will see them separately, but I know very little about surround software.

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    Just a hunch and not taking into account Chris's extra large DB + files count, I see similar questions regarding delay's on various forums.  Although I don't see said behaviors much if ever ( super long searches or just general bogged down experiences at times), I would venture to guess many of these types of issues have to do with the streaming integration - which if I understand, ROON only has so much control of.  The way ROON processes and manages the metadata went through a major change fairly recently (cloud) if I recall

     

    I don't stream, use local only library (files located on NAS), have a decent sized footprint (4200 albums), use managed switch/fiber home network and don't see these issues some experience.  I have a Qobuz account (only for purchasing) and I am usually logged in via ROON just for visibility of additional albums, artists etc..but it is slower having that extra service logged in. 

     

    Whenever I perform ROON updates (set to manual), I log out of the streaming services first, reboot everything, perform the update and go on my way. 

     

    Anyway just my .02

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    Rebooting your NAS is not a solution. Roon is a memory / CPU hog regardless of the platform. This needs to be addressed by the Roon developers.

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    Chris,

    I may have missed this but why aren't you sending Roon (NAS) to an HQPlayer machine to do the heavy lifting (modulators, upsampling, converting, etc)?

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    21 minutes ago, Ran said:

    Rebooting your NAS is not a solution. Roon is a memory / CPU hog regardless of the platform. This needs to be addressed by the Roon developers.


    It’s a solution I can control. It’s either reboot or don’t use Roon. 

     

     

     

     

    4 minutes ago, ted_b said:

    Chris,

    I may have missed this but why aren't you sending Roon (NAS) to an HQPlayer machine to do the heavy lifting (modulators, upsampling, converting, etc)?


    I do. The above DSP was only a test. 

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    Just curious. Can an adult live long enough to listen to 10 TB of music? :)

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    6 minutes ago, bobflood said:

    Just curious. Can an adult live long enough to listen to 10 TB of music? :)

    Definitely not. What’s the alternative, picking certain tracks from albums to save and delete the others?

     

    First world problems of the highest order :~)

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    2 hours ago, bbosler said:

    Try a Lynx Hilo.  If you have the right software you can  use the 3 analog outs (headphones, line out, monitor out) as a 6 channel DAC. Pure Music crossover can be configured to use them that way so you can triamp.. not sure about any surround software that will see them separately, but I know very little about surround software.

    For less than that, you can buy a Merging Anubis and, for much less, an OKTO DAC8 Pro.

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    1 hour ago, bobflood said:

    Just curious. Can an adult live long enough to listen to 10 TB of music? :)

    Heck no, but 9TB most definitely 😁

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    2 hours ago, Ran said:

    Rebooting your NAS is not a solution. Roon is a memory / CPU hog regardless of the platform. This needs to be addressed by the Roon developers.

    Indeed.  The same tasks that strain the CPU under Roon generally run easily under JRMC.

     

    1 hour ago, bobflood said:

    Just curious. Can an adult live long enough to listen to 10 TB of music? :)

     

    Probably not but I can't decide which TB I can't live without. 🤞

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    As a technician it kind of hurts to reboot a NAS every morning + my QNAP TVS672XT (the smaller sister of the TVS 872XT, also pretty well specˋd) needs ca. 1-2 hours after reboot to re-index all files, create photo miniature icons etc. which also reduces CPU efficiency + creates additional hard disk/SSD wear etc. so this is IMHO not the best to do to a NAS - at least if the investment into it matters. 

    in general, the hardware of QNAP is great (they are using pretty recent CPUs), in regards to software I find them a bit crappy. Had my old Synology run over months without a need to restart. That‘s definitely not possible on my QNAP, needs to be restarted every ca. 2 weeks – everytime it starts to slow down and lag with certain tasks...

    Roon also runs well on my TV672XT but I‘m nowhere near the database size of this review...

     

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    10 minutes ago, Yop1403 said:

    As a technician it kind of hurts to reboot a NAS every morning + my QNAP TVS672XT (the smaller sister of the TVS 872XT, also pretty well specˋd) needs ca. 1-2 hours after reboot to re-index all files, create photo miniature icons etc. which also reduces CPU efficiency + creates additional hard disk/SSD wear etc. so this is IMHO not the best to do to a NAS - at least if the investment into it matters. 

    in general, the hardware of QNAP is great (they are using pretty recent CPUs), in regards to software I find them a bit crappy. Had my old Synology run over months without a need to restart. That‘s definitely not possible on my QNAP, needs to be restarted every ca. 2 weeks – everytime it starts to slow down and lag with certain tasks...

    Roon also runs well on my TV672XT but I‘m nowhere near the database size of this review...

     

    I suppose I could create a script to just restart Roon but I’ll take the easy route for now. I don’t have anything else to index upon reboot, so I’m ok with it. Not ideal, but I can live with it. 

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    Any thoughts on SQ running Roon on the QNAP vs. a Nucleus?

    I’ve been running Roon (with a bunch of DSP) on a top spec’d (as of 2 years ago) SonicTransporter, and it is rock solid. I toyed with Roon on my Synology NAS just for fun and had some problems. 

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    10 minutes ago, MarkS said:

    Any thoughts on SQ running Roon on the QNAP vs. a Nucleus?

    I’ve been running Roon (with a bunch of DSP) on a top spec’d (as of 2 years ago) SonicTransporter, and it is rock solid. I toyed with Roon on my Synology NAS just for fun and had some problems. 

    I haven’t found any sonic differences with Roon core running inside the NAS out outside on a Roon ROCK NUC. I do t have a nucleus. 

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