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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

    Recommended Comments



    28 minutes ago, EvilTed said:

    You pays your money, you takes your chance.

     

    I have a lot more data than music files and being in the Data Protection industry, I really don't ever want to have to perform a full restore.

     

    You should use 2x SSDs in RAID 0 for the QNAP OS and Roon.

    Double the performance and easily snapped to those spinning disks for immediate restore, in the event of failure.

     

    3x 4TB USB drives shipped vs. restoring 10 TB over the wire?

    Please convince me of the logic here?

     

    1. You will be capped by your ISP and have to pay extra

    2. You will be waiting around for a while.

     

     

    Hi Evil or should I say Ted :~)

     

    I would totally love to RAID0 my M.2 drives and should've done as you say, snapshot them to the spinning disk array. 

     

    Restoring 10TB over my network (NAS to NAS) is pretty easy and doesn't take too long. It's much quicker than the pony express and I control the entire process. 

     

    Restoring 10TB over the Internet from a company such as Backblaze is an unknown, but I have 1 Gbps up/down fiber into my house and no data caps. The fact that it's $65 per month is crazy and I thank my lucky stars every day :~)

     

     

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    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I have 1 Gbps up/down fiber into my house and no data caps. The fact that it's $65 per month is crazy and I thank my lucky stars every day :~)

     

    You should!! I'm stuck here with no fiber provider serving my location. Spectrum excitingly raised their top tier to 940 Mbps download, but a criminally low 35 Mbps upload. 

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    3 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    but I have 1 Gbps up/down fiber into my house and no data caps. The fact that it's $65 per month is crazy and I thank my lucky stars every day

    Wow that's nuts. xfinity or something else?

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    3 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    CenturyLink.

    Ahh yes.  Hoping that fiber makes it out to the east burbs, tired of the xfinity prices.

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    Interesting how this varies geographically. Here in an outlying community in the Southwest, the price and speed for CenturyLink are about what Chris mentioned, while Xfinity (Comcast) is far more expensive for the same download speed, and upload is limited to something like 40mbps. But very few people seem to want CenturyLink, or to stick with them if they can help it. On Nextdoor here (social media for neighborhoods - think "They leave their garbage cans out all day!", but Facebook-ized) there are constant complaints about their lack of reliability. Xfinity very seldom goes down.
     

    And I also have to say that dealing with Xfinity Mobile after AT&T and Verizon has been an extremely pleasant change.
     

    I have no doubt the situation is different elsewhere, but I'm reasonably happy with Xfinity here.

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    Wanna live in Belgium 80$ for 200Mbps download and 20Mbps upload.

    My Car cost 15000$ more here than in America and the German factory is only 600km from my home.

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    5 hours ago, austinpop said:

     

    You should!! I'm stuck here with no fiber provider serving my location. Spectrum excitingly raised their top tier to 940 Mbps download, but a criminally low 35 Mbps upload. 

    About 5 years ago I was at a Hospital waiting for my Dad to get out of surgery.  While bored and screwing around I sent some emails and texts out and was amazed how fast it went.  So I opened up Speedtest by Ookla and ran a test of the upload and download speeds.  The Download speed at the time was nothing great like 50 Mbps but the upload speed was 90Mbps.  I tried to explain how fast this was to my mom but she had no idea what I was talking about.  Compared to my parents Comcast speed and my house's speed at the time, we were getting 300Mbps download and 12Mbps upload.  I joked around to some of my friends and said, if you need to upload anything big, go to a hospital and log into their WiFi.  Sending and receiving information about a patient is vital in a hospital, thus the great upload speed.  

     

    Today my Comcast speed is 800Mbps down and 25Mbps up.  They kept doubling the speed over the past 3 years without any extra fees.  I do pay out of my ass for full premium cable channels, phone, internet and home security.  Such is life.

     

     

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    60 D/L and 70 U/L on the guest WiFi at the hospital where I am at the moment, so no guarantees.

     

    19 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    CenturyLink.

    Those cheap SOBs won’t upgrade the local switch so we are stuck with their lousy copper DSL.  I’m too embarrassed to even post numbers.  I got to know the local tech supervisor pretty well due to their aging equipment always failing.  He was able to backdoor a bonded connection, which corporate tech support told me wasn’t possible, to double my download speed to 20Mbps.  Sad, huh?

     

    The situation gets kind of better - we are getting fiber.  I thought the US was spending big bucks on spreading fiber but they want to charge my neighbor and me to bring the fiber from the street to the house.   Mine isn’t so bad at 200 ft. distance but he’s almost a 1/2 mile and they want US$600!!! WTF? He said no.  We are trying to work through our congress-person but getting their attention right about now is literally impossible.  

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    On 6/12/2020 at 9:59 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

    “I also use convolution filters for room correction with roughly 65,000 taps“ 

    Great article. What’s a tap?

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    34 minutes ago, Temporal_Dissident said:

    Great article. What’s a tap?

     

     

    Tap – A FIR “tap” is simply a coefficient/delay pair. The number of FIR taps, (often designated as “N”) is an indication of 1) the amount of memory required to implement the filter, 2) the number of calculations required, and 3) the amount of “filtering” the filter can do; in effect, more taps means more stopband attenuation, less ripple, narrower filters, etc.

     

    From: https://dspguru.com/dsp/faqs/fir/basics/

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    On 6/23/2020 at 8:58 AM, The Computer Audiophile said:

     

     

     

    I'm using M.2 drives to hold the 20GB Roon database, per Roon recommendations. This is where speed matters, not the spinning drives serving up 100MB tracks at a time. 

     

     

     

    Hi Chris, I am currently attempting to configure a similar setup with TVS-672XT. Question about the M.2 drives. Since you are using these to run roon database, did you enable "Cache accelerator" for these drives? If so, what did you set the overprovisioning to? thanks.. Udi 

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    5 minutes ago, udis said:

    Hi Chris, I am currently attempting to configure a similar setup with TVS-672XT. Question about the M.2 drives. Since you are using these to run roon database, did you enable "Cache accelerator" for these drives? If so, what did you set the overprovisioning to? thanks.. Udi 

    If I understand you correctly, you're taking about SSD cache acceleration (link). I didn't enable this because I don't have files stored on a spinning drive that I need extremely quick access to and that aren't already delivered fast enough. Is this the same acceleration you're talking about? 

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    I wouldn't use the SSDs for cache acceleration.

     

    Create a thick volume using both SSDs and put them in RAID 0.

    You use this volume for the QNAP OS and all applications, including Roon and it's database.

     

    Then you can snapshot this volume and either export the snapshot to an external drive over USB or to another volume on the NAS.

    Note that it has to have as much free space as the volume.

     

    HTH

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    59 minutes ago, EvilTed said:

    I wouldn't use the SSDs for cache acceleration.

     

    Create a thick volume using both SSDs and put them in RAID 0.

    You use this volume for the QNAP OS and all applications, including Roon and it's database.

     

    Then you can snapshot this volume and either export the snapshot to an external drive over USB or to another volume on the NAS.

    Note that it has to have as much free space as the volume.

     

    HTH

    Given that static volumes have better performance than thin or thick volumes and are much simpler, I’d raid 0 them and just use Roon’s built in backup tool to another volume. 

     

    In reality though, the complexity isn’t necessary. It’s fun though. 

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    Yeah, but like I said, I run the OS and all the Apps on the Thick Volume and so I want to use SnapShots.

    You cannot use QNAP SnapShots on Static Volumes, but you can easily convert between volume types and figure out if the performance is degraded.

    I run 2x EVO 500 GB SSDs in RAID 0 in a thick volume and it has absolutely no performance issues.

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    12 minutes ago, EvilTed said:

    Yeah, but like I said, I run the OS and all the Apps on the Thick Volume and so I want to use SnapShots.

    You cannot use QNAP SnapShots on Static Volumes, but you can easily convert between volume types and figure out if the performance is degraded.

    I run 2x EVO 500 GB SSDs in RAID 0 in a thick volume and it has absolutely no performance issues.

    Dumb question. Why do you snapshot the OS and apps that can easily be reinstalled from their sources?

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    All the configuration :)

     

    Yes, the apps are easily reinstalled but settings and configuration are not.

    Jobs for anti-virus runs, HBS3 syncs of the NAS with Backblaze B2 etc.

    It's a PITA to set this stuff up again from scratch and much easier to just snap it and be done.

     

    This is also good practice in case you get robbed.

    If you take a snapshot and keep it offsite, all you need to do is purchase another QNAP, set it up and then restore the snapshot and you have everything operational again.

     

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    On 7/12/2020 at 4:34 PM, The Computer Audiophile said:

    If I understand you correctly, you're taking about SSD cache acceleration (link). I didn't enable this because I don't have files stored on a spinning drive that I need extremely quick access to and that aren't already delivered fast enough. Is this the same acceleration you're talking about? 

    Yes. That's exactly what I am referring to. thanks.

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    @The Computer Audiophile - quick question on the m.2 drives. How did you configure these in terms of pool(s) and volume(s)? I currently have it in the same pool as my spinning drives, but the two m.2 drives share a separate volume.

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    7 minutes ago, udis said:

    @The Computer Audiophile - quick question on the m.2 drives. How did you configure these in terms of pool(s) and volume(s)? I currently have it in the same pool as my spinning drives, but the two m.2 drives share a separate volume.

    I go for simplicity and speed on the QNAPs. Static volumes on the M.2 drives are fastest and easiest. 

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    11 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    I go for simplicity and speed on the QNAPs. Static volumes on the M.2 drives are fastest and easiest. 

    Do they share a volume or is each on a separate static volume. Sorry if I am missing something obvious. 

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    Just now, udis said:

    Do they share a volume or is each on a separate static volume. Sorry if I am missing something obvious. 

    The way I used them, they don’t share a volume because there is no need. Just straight up one drive one volume. 

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    2 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

    The way I used them, they don’t share a volume because there is no need. Just straight up one drive one volume. 

    Got it! And the backup designation is set in Roon and not a job you’ve created in a QNAP backup app?

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