If you use Roon in your system you need to have a device to run Roon Core, which is their server software that delivers the superb interface with all of their rich-meta. Any old computer can used to run Roon Core and it works well, but the Roon Nucelus is Roon’s dedicated turnkey solution that runs Roon Core and nothing else. There are 2 versions of the Nucleus available which are £1499 and £2499, you can learn more about them both on the links below.
A lot people do pass comment that the 2 Roon Nucleus are expensive for what they are when using a computer will do the same job. I used a standard computer to run the Roon Core before I had a Nucleus on demonstration and it needed the occasional reboot, Roon would often lock up and updates were never to straightforward and of course that computer always needed to be powered on for Roon to operate. That is true with the Nucleus, but since I powered it on for the first time back in April and set it up it has required absolutely no user intervention from me, no lock ups, updates are done automatically with no hassle, it just works. They are a lot of money for what they are when all is said and done, I can’t deny that, but if you want something that just works, that you don’t have to mess around with then they are worth every penny. I have one customer who is respectfully pretty useless when it comes to computers, he is simply of the wrong generation and for him the Nucelus is a lifesaver, he would not have been able to use Roon otherwise.
For me this level of convenience certainly improves the value of the Nucleus. When I first put the Nucleus+ on demonstation I compared it to an i7 Macbook Pro, an i7 iMac and an i5 Windows 10 laptop and in all 3 cases I preferred the sound of the Nucleus+ running the core (the Endpoint was a Vitus RD-101 DAC/Streamer), it simply was more engaging and the music was more insightful, with the various computer options it still sounded good, but the soundwas definitely lacking some presence in comparison.
The standard Nucleus is based around an Intel i3 processor and is designed to work in a system where the user is not using DSD upsampling and has a library size of less than 12,000 albums, the Nucleus+ has a dual core i7 processor and does all the same things as the standard Nucleus but can cope with the processor intensive DSD upsampling, larger libraries and also multiple zones of audio.
Both versions of the Nucleus have a space allocated internally where you can install a 2.5 inch SSD hard drive – most people seem to be using Roon with Tidal and Qobuz, but for those users with physical collections (or digital collections) you can put your music onto the SSD drive and Roon simply adds it to you library. It has always been a case of copy/paste your music to the drive via your network
However, in a recent update Roon added direct CD ripping to the featureset of the Nucelus, when that was announced that only meant one thing for me – the Melco D100 CD Drive!!
The D100 is a brilliant bit of kit and has proved to be incredibly popular, people seem to really like what it does. Just about everyone initially dismisses it with comments such as ‘it can’t make any difference’ or ‘it’s only 0’s and 1’s it can’t improve anything’ but everyone who hears what a D100 can has been convinced of its abilities and has bought one. If you have a large collection and a Roon Nucleus the Melco D100 is the very best way to ensure you are getting the most accurate and best sounding rip of your music.
The Nucleus has 2 USB ports on the rear, so it is just a case of connecting the D100 into one of these USB ports and powering it on. All you need to do is insert a disc into the D100 and close the drawer, when the rip has finished it autoejects. Roon uses CD paranoia to integrate the CD and make the rip, which is very good. It is slow, but very accurate and it simply just works. The Nucelus set up interface (which you access on broswer via the units IP address) will show you progress on the rip if you need to see it, but in reality, you don’t. You’ll know when a rip is finished.
I ripped a CD I know well using an old Sony IT optical drive, I also ripped the same disc again using the D100. I altered the tags so I could differentiate between the 2 and listening to them both was almost like the difference between using the Nucleus and a computer to run the Core, the D100 rip had more life about it, it was more detailed and transparent, but not clinical or upfront in any way. I demo’d both of these rips to a customer I know well, but I kept the iPad out of his reach so he couldn’t see what version was playing, I was back and forth several times, sometimes playing the same version more than once in a row and everytime he could hear the difference between the 2 versions and picked the D100 everytime.
Remember, the D100 is not just for Melco owners, it works brilliantly connected to the Nucleus and I also have a couple of customers who use their D100 on a computer with dBpoweramp, ripping CD’s to their computer to move over to the NAS drive.
If you have any questions about Roon, the Nucleus itself or the Melco D100 please not hesitate to get in touch!