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How to upgrade system - HW & SW


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I have a 2014 iMac, running Mojave with a Thunderbolt external drive with almost 2TB of ripped songs (AIFF) connected to iTunes.

I want to update to Catalina which I know eliminates iTunes and switches to Apple Music.

 

So - I've been looking at iTunes alternatives for my local files, as well as possible hardware alternatives to the endpoints,

and a dedicated streamer alternative to using my using my iMac as my streamer.

I also subscribe to Apple Music's family plan - so no hi-res music.

I currently play then thtough a Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus to Emotiva powered speakers (my office)

I also stream my local library via Airplay (and an Eero mesh wifi throughout the house) to 4 endpoints -

two of which are Apple Airports connected to Dacs to either powered speakers,

one an Apple TV connected to a soundbar, and one of which is my main audiophile system:

Mac MIni connected to a Rega Dac, Triode TRV-35SE tube amp and Joseph Audio Pulsar speakers.

 

Here's what I need some advice on: (and what to prioritize - I have a limited budget.)

Thanks!

 

•Best iTunes alternative (Thinking about Audinirvana or Roon) to stream local files

•Best for high-res streaming? Tidal? Quboz? Roon?

 

•Best hardware for multi room with local files. I could repurpose that Mac Mini? NAS? Dedicated Streamer? NUC running ROCK

•Best alternative over wifi/airplay for endpoints to connect to existing Dacs-amps-speakers.

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Hi flyingelephant,

 

I'll throw out a couple of general ideas & opinions, but let me preface by saying my system is based on Windows 10 and some linux based operating systems.

 

On 5/5/2020 at 2:10 PM, flyingelephant said:

 

•Best iTunes alternative (Thinking about Audinirvana or Roon) to stream local files

I'm currently using Roon set up as Roon ROCK on an Intel NUC pc. In the past I've used J River but I've never tried Audinirvana. Overall I prefer Roon to J River for its user interface, I'm not sure Roon actually sounds better but for multiroom use I certainly think it works better. To me it's easier to setup and use the built in DSP, I also think it's easier to integrate wifi Raspberry Pi diy endpoints with Roon. At the current price for ROON's lifetime membership I'm not sure I'd pick it over some of the less expensive alternatives.

On 5/5/2020 at 2:10 PM, flyingelephant said:

Best for high-res streaming? Tidal? Quboz? Roon?

I'm using Qobuz and am pretty happy with it, everything is cd quality or better and it integrates very well with Roon. The stand alone Qobuz app for Windows works very well but I think the flexibility & sound with Roon is a bit better. I don't know if or how well Qobuz integrates with other player software.

On 5/5/2020 at 2:10 PM, flyingelephant said:

•Best hardware for multi room with local files. I could repurpose that Mac Mini? NAS? Dedicated Streamer? NUC running ROCK

OK, in the past I used a desktop PC running Windows 10 as my Roon Core but switched to using Roon ROCK on an intel NUC pc. The biggest advantage is I can leave the ROCK on 24/7. I don't think there is a big sound advantage, but the PC I was using is setup as a DAW station and is very quiet. I used to have the ROCK pull files from a NAS but now I have an external hard drive connected directly to the ROCK and use the NAS for backup. This setup is definitely easier to do and has faster response time with Roon.

On 5/5/2020 at 2:10 PM, flyingelephant said:

•Best alternative over wifi/airplay for endpoints to connect to existing Dacs-amps-speakers.

I'm using a few different things, for my two main setups I'm using endpoints hard wired to ethernet switches. In one setup I'm using a Sonore ultrarendu and in the other I'm using a repurposed lenovo small form pc running Windows 10. The lenovo also has HQPlayer software on it, for the dac in this setup the combination of Roon with HQPlayer sounds very, very good. The ultrarendu setup's dac actually sounds better without using HQPlayer. 

On two other floors I'm using Raspberry Pi 3's with hats as wifi endpoints and they work really well for this. If you're somehat computer capable, the Raspberry Pi's are a great inexpensive way to get more endpoints. They integrate very well with Roon, I've never tried to set them up with any other player software so if you don't use Roon that would be something to check into.

 

Regards,

Mario 

 

 

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5 hours ago, marioed said:

Hi flyingelephant,

 

I'll throw out a couple of general ideas & opinions, but let me preface by saying my system is based on Windows 10 and some linux based operating systems.

 

I'm currently using Roon set up as Roon ROCK on an Intel NUC pc. In the past I've used J River but I've never tried Audinirvana. Overall I prefer Roon to J River for its user interface, I'm not sure Roon actually sounds better but for multiroom use I certainly think it works better. To me it's easier to setup and use the built in DSP, I also think it's easier to integrate wifi Raspberry Pi diy endpoints with Roon. At the current price for ROON's lifetime membership I'm not sure I'd pick it over some of the less expensive alternatives.

Roon is better than JRiver - but mostly for it’s features and interface, not it’s sound. JRiver Media Center is powerful, but it has a steep learning curve and is a bit arcane. Many features are not apparent to the novice user. 
Roon puts me off with it’s sales model. $150/year or $500 for a lifetime license is, to me, obscene in the extreme. Audirvana, on the other hand, is half the price of one year’s license for Roon ($75), and that’s for a lifetime license, and includes all future updates! JRiver is $50 for an initial license, and they’ll twenty-five-dollar you to death for every new release. I like Audirvana because it gives you your locally stored music library, Tidal and Quobuz all at your fingertips, in one place; has MQA decoding in software, is easy to set-up and use, doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and doesn’t continue to “nickel-and-dime” you to death forever. Audirvana also has a shallow learning curve and is easy for even a novice to understand, yet it’s very powerful. Plus, it sounds good!

 

How do you like the NUC? I’m toying with the idea of making a Hackintosh using one of them (NUC8, Intel i5 Gen 9). I can ostensibly make one for about US$500 that will handily outperform Apple’s $1300 Mini with more memory and more storage plus it will run cooler than the Mac and that’s also better for longevity. Because I have an iPhone and an iPad, Windows is simply not an option for me. The synergy that Apple has achieved between their computers and their “i” devices has to be experienced to be believed, and I don’t want to lose that!

 

George

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Glad to see someone else chime in.

1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

Roon puts me off with it’s sales model. $150/year or $500 for a lifetime license is, to me, obscene in the extreme.

Uhm, actually I think Roon raised their lifetime license to somewhere around $700, hence why I said I'd probably look for an alternative. 

After what you said about Audirvana, I took a look at their website. It's nice to see they run on both Mac & Windows, even better if they could also run on linux. Flyingelephant I'd suggest taking a hard look at Audirvana. It probably would be worth seeing if there is any way to use it with raspberry pi's or similar inexpensive endpoints. 

1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

How do you like the NUC?

I like them, I've currently got two set up, an i3 as a windows 10 htpc and an i5 as the Roon ROCK. They're real easy to setup, run fairly cool and are simple to modify. The ROCK has been running pretty much 24/7 for two years without a hitch. I shut it down overnight every couple of weeks. 

2 hours ago, gmgraves said:

Because I have an iPhone and an iPad, Windows is simply not an option for me. The synergy that Apple has achieved between their computers and their “i” devices has to be experienced to be believed, and I don’t want to lose that!

I get where you're coming from. If I hadn't started off using Windows and got into building and modifying pc's I'd probably go Apple. I use an iPhone & iPad and have gotten use to mixing the two systems. I started dabbling some in linux but doubt I'd really switch at this point.

 

Regards,

Mario

 

 

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Thank you for your replies! Lots to decide.

I like the idea of a NUC with an external hard drive with the files, and NAS as backup.

How do you move more files to the NUC's external drive, if I rip other files, or buy from Qobuz?

 

I also am liking the Raspberry Pi with Hats as endpoints.

What's the best way to get them connected to Wifi?

Would that be an Airplay integration? Or?

 

Many thanks!

 

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21 hours ago, gmgraves said:

 

 

How do you like the NUC? I’m toying with the idea of making a Hackintosh using one of them (NUC8, Intel i5 Gen 9). I can ostensibly make one for about US$500 that will handily outperform Apple’s $1300 Mini with more memory and more storage plus it will run cooler than the Mac and that’s also better for longevity. Because I have an iPhone and an iPad, Windows is simply not an option for me. The synergy that Apple has achieved between their computers and their “i” devices has to be experienced to be believed, and I don’t want to lose that!

 

How would you integrate the NUC? Would you still run Audinirvana? Thanks!

 

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2 hours ago, flyingelephant said:

How would you integrate the NUC? Would you still run Audinirvana? Thanks!

 

I’m afraid that I don’t fully understand your question. The NUK with the Mac “Catalina” OS installed, would replace my Mac mini in my home office, which is getting long in the tooth (old). The Mac I use as a “music computer”, permanently connected to my stereo, is a MacBook Pro from around 2010. It runs MacOS 10.11.6 “El Capitan”. While an old OS (it is the newest one that this laptop will allow to be installed), it is new enough to support all of the music apps I need, such as Audirvana, Amazon Music, Audacity, Audio Highjack (a program which allows one to schedule one’s computer to record music from a website. For example, I use it every summer to automatically record each day’s Proms concerts off of BBC 3’s web site). The NUC would not be used primarily for music, but rather for general computing, but since Audirvana allows installs on two computers on the same WiFi network, I will install it on the NUC. After all, I do have desktop speakers and I do like to listen to music while I work on the computer. 
 

I hope this answers your question. If not, ask again, and I will try again to answer.

George

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2 hours ago, flyingelephant said:

How would you integrate the NUC? Would you still run Audinirvana? Thanks!

Well if you want to use Audirvana you'd need to setup the NUC with either Windows 10 or do a "Hackintosh". That would still probably be cheaper than buying a NUC and a lifetime Roon license.

 

I'd really recommend you start by downloading the trial versions of Roon & Audirvana onto your current computer to see which one you prefer. That decision will have a fairly big impact on how you proceed with hardware.

 

Roon ROCK is a linux based operating system free with a Roon license, it's very easy to install and setup on a NUC but you can't alter or customize it like you can with Windows 10 or Ubuntu. That's why deciding on the software you want to use is kinda the first step. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, flyingelephant said:

I like the idea of a NUC with an external hard drive with the files, and NAS as backup.

How do you move more files to the NUC's external drive, if I rip other files, or buy from Qobuz?

With the Roon ROCK, whenever I add files to it's external storage I also add them to the NAS. 

2 hours ago, flyingelephant said:

I also am liking the Raspberry Pi with Hats as endpoints.

What's the best way to get them connected to Wifi?

Would that be an Airplay integration? Or?

With the Raspberry Pi's I'm using they are connected via wifi, you can do that when you install the software and set them up. You'd have to check elsewhere about whether Airplay integration is possible or not, I'm running Windows & Linux OS's.

 

 

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2 hours ago, marioed said:

Well if you want to use Audirvana you'd need to setup the NUC with either Windows 10 or do a "Hackintosh". That would still probably be cheaper than buying a NUC and a lifetime Roon license.

 

I'd really recommend you start by downloading the trial versions of Roon & Audirvana onto your current computer to see which one you prefer. That decision will have a fairly big impact on how you proceed with hardware.


 

Excellent suggestion. I looked at Roon some time ago and found it to be very impressive. Of course it had better be for what they want for it. It would have to come with a yearly “subscription” to a lady of the evening to give oral gratification before I would support such a software business model, but that’s just me😏 


I downloaded the trial version of Audirvana because, with one of their many upgrades, Tidal’s software stopped working on both of my Macs, and their tech support people seemed not too interested in helping me sort it out. They asked me the same set of questions SEVEN TIMES before I finally gave up and tried Audirvana. (Tidal still works on my iPhone and iPad though).

 

2 hours ago, marioed said:

Roon ROCK is a linux based operating system free with a Roon license, it's very easy to install and setup on a NUC but you can't alter or customize it like you can with Windows 10 or Ubuntu. That's why deciding on the software you want to use is kinda the first step. 

I can see that. So, will Roon Rock only give you Roon, or will the OS run other Linux applications as well?

George

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1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

I can see that. So, will Roon Rock only give you Roon, or will the OS run other Linux applications as well?

No the ROCK setup is only Roon you can't add or run anything else on it. That's one of the reasons I feel comfortable leaving it on 24/7, it runs cool, temp wise, and sounds good.

4 hours ago, gmgraves said:

The NUC would not be used primarily for music, but rather for general computing, but since Audirvana allows installs on two computers on the same WiFi network, I will install it on the NUC.

I'm curious, does this mean you can only use Audirvana on two computers or one computer and one endpoint with a license? That could be a drawback if you have a large number of endpoints. With Roon you have the core on one computer but you can have controller or bridges on as many endpoints as you want. In addition any tablet, smartphone or computer with a monitor & keyboard can be used as a controller.

1 hour ago, gmgraves said:

Of course it had better be for what they want for it. It would have to come with a yearly “subscription” to a lady of the evening to give oral gratification before I would support such a software business model, but that’s just me😏 

I know what you mean. I was fortunate I guess to buy a lifetime subscription fairly early when it was very affordable.

 

 

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41 minutes ago, marioed said:

No the ROCK setup is only Roon you can't add or run anything else on it. That's one of the reasons I feel comfortable leaving it on 24/7, it runs cool, temp wise, and sounds good.

Thanks.

Quote

I'm curious, does this mean you can only use Audirvana on two computers or one computer and one endpoint with a license? That could be a drawback if you have a large number of endpoints. With Roon you have the core on one computer but you can have controller or bridges on as many endpoints as you want. In addition any tablet, smartphone or computer with a monitor & keyboard can be used as a controller.
 

I honestly don’t know if Audirvana has provisions to add more endpoints. I never thought about it until you mentioned it!

Quote

I know what you mean. I was fortunate I guess to buy a lifetime subscription fairly early when it was very affordable.

Yes, very fortunate.💸

George

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