Roon Optimized Core Kit

Roon Optimized Core Kit

Let's first explain what Roon OS is, and then we can talk about Roon Optimized Core Kit.

Roon OS is a custom Linux-based operating system, tailored for running Roon Server and providing a best-in-class, appliance-type user experience.

Roon OS boots very quickly and integrates seamlessly with the suite of Roon applications for updating, discovery, configuration, and support. It also comes with a disaster recovery mechanism.

Roon OS includes a web-based administration UI that allows users to check system status, configure network settings, start or stop services, and factory reset the device from desktop and mobile web browsers. The Roon application can locate Roon OS on the network and give users a link to open this webUI in a browser.

So, what is Roon Optimized Core Kit (ROCK) then?

ROCK is a do-it-yourself build of Roon OS. To use it, you must buy hardware components, assemble them, and install ROCK.

This is what ROCK offers (and what it doesn't offer):
  1. It is completely free ($0)
  2. It is an alternative to Windows/MacOS/Ubuntu/Arch/etc...
  3. It runs Roon (The stock Linux RoonServer to be exact), but does not come with a Roon membership. You can sign up for a free trial or purchase a Roon membership here
  4. It is an extremely lightweight Linux-based operating system. Much more on the scale of an embedded machine than a desktop or server operating system
  5. It is a turn-key image with all the required pieces to make a Linux-based Roon appliance without any prior knowledge of Roon or Linux
  6. It auto-updates in an experience similar to Roon, integrated fully into the Roon Remotes' Settings->About  page
  7. It provides a web browser-based configuration for networking setup, factory reset, power/reboot, etc...
  8. It has working multichannel digital audio output support (if the hardware has a working HDMI or DisplayPort connector)
  9. OS updates will blow away any "custom" changes you may have made to the OS, so we do not recommend you try to tweak the OS
  10. It can not run additional software, nor does it support any customizations or modifications to the operating system

You can migrate your Roon databases over to it easily using our backup functionality. It exposes your internal storage and external storage (USB) drives over an SMB share (micro-NAS!). You can backup your storage content using whatever backup solution you currently use because the internal storage is accessible via a network share. The OS does not need to be backed up, because it can easily be re-flashed at any time.

What hardware does ROCK run on?

For a fully turn-key fanless system in a beautiful case, check out the Nucleus by Roon Labs.
If you are willing to buy computer components, put them together, and install the operating system by hand, we suggest the configurations below.

ROCK For Small to Medium-Sized Libraries

We recommend the NUC11TNHi3 with 4GB RAM and 128GB M.2 SSD for small to medium-sized libraries. You can find these components on Amazon at the links below.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
NUC11TNHi3View Price
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128GB M.2 SSD*
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If you are planning to add a non-M.2 SSD for internal storage, please note that the Intel NUC will only accept 2.5" drives with a maximum 9.5mm thickness

ROCK For Large Libraries (12k+ albums) or DSP Use

We recommend the NUC11TNHi7 with 8GB RAM and 256GB M.2 SSD for large libraries (12k+ albums) or heavy DSP use. 

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon DE
NUC11TNHi7View Price
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256GB M.2 SSD*
View Price
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If you are planning to add a non-M.2 SSD for internal storage, please note that the Intel NUC will only accept 2.5" drives with a maximum 9.5mm thickness

How do I get the ROCK Installer?

If you are buying a Nucleus by Roon Labs to run ROCK, then you will not need the installer as it comes pre-installed.

For the more do-it-yourself solutions, we are providing ROCK as a free downloadable image that you burn onto a tiny USB flash drive, and then boot the machine with it to install.

Check the ROCK Install Guide for detailed information.

More about ROCK's hardware support...

We have worked with Intel to support its Intel NUC line of products. They are low-power, high-performance, easy-to-install units that work very nicely as a Roon Server machine. The models we support are:
    1. NUC5i3xxx
    2. NUC5i5xxx
    3. NUC6i3SYx
    4. NUC6i5SYx
    5. NUC7i3BNx
    6. NUC7i5BNx
    7. NUC7i7BNx
    8. NUC7i3DNx
    9. NUC7i5DNx
    10. NUC7i7DNx
    11. NUC8i3BEx
    12. NUC8i5BEx
    13. NUC8i5BEx
    14. NUC8i7BEx
    15. NUC10i3FNx
    16. NUC10i5FNx
    17. NUC10i7FNx 
    18. NUC11TNHi3
    19. NUC11TNHi5
    20. NUC11TNHi7
    21. NUC11PAHi3
    22. NUC11PAHi5
    23. NUC11PAHi7
    24. NUC12WSHi3*
    25. NUC12WSHi5*
    26. NUC12WSHi7*
* Roon does not currently support HDMI audio on the NUC12 models

  1. Any hardware configurations other than the above are unsupported. 
    Although they may work now, they may also stop working at any time due to updates.

  2. The M2 SSD is meant for only the Operating System and cannot be used for music content.
    If you want music content in this device, you'll need to use another disk (see: Internal Storage)

  3. Other important notes on hardware support:
    1. You will most likely need to update your BIOS on these machines
    2. We recommend using the onboard ethernet, but support for some USB ethernet and WiFi adapters is included. Some of the above NUC7s have built-in WiFi, which we may support, but once again, we recommend using ethernet and not assuming WiFi works here or is an acceptable solution for Roon Server connectivity
    3. 4GB RAM minimum, 16GB should be more than you will ever need
    4. Make sure you are installing to an SSD and not a spinning disk. The NUCs we recommend have an M.2 SSD slot for just this purpose. ROCK's installer will use a tiny bit of it for the operating system, and the rest for the Roon Database
    5. Internal storage (for music content) can be any size, and can be an SSD or a spinning disk, but note that the NUC kits tend to not support drives thicker than 15mm (not enough space inside the housing)
    6. Internal storage (for music content) WILL be reformatted, so don't put your music on it and expect it to work... you will need to copy your music to it via the network share exposed, or via Roon drag/drop import
    7. External storage (USB) is also supported
    8. External storage (USB) can be the most popular filesystem format, and will not be formatted, so you can put your music on it and just plug it into the box. Filesystems supported: EXT2/3/4 VFAT/FAT32/FAT16 EXFAT NTFS HFSPLUS HFS;
    9. ROCK can also mount SMB shares (but not AFP or NFS)
    10. USB DACs are supported, as are the built-in audio devices on the machine. All audio devices are supported in exclusive mode.
    11. "Secure Boot" must be disabled. For more information, see our BIOS Configuration Guide
    12. The drive must be SATA or NVMe 

Which NUC do I need?

Here is an example of how to read recent (this scheme has been used since the 5th generation) NUC model names:

NUC7i7BNH should be read as NUC, 7, i7, BN, H
  1. NUC = NUC
  2. 7 = 7th generation
  3. i7 = i7 cpu, i3 for i3, i5 for i5, i7 for i7, C for Celeron, P for Pentium
  4. BN = model name -- this name is arbitrary. 11th generation 
  5. H = a slot for 2.5" hard drive. There is also K for no-hard-drive slot, and B/E for board-only and embedded models-- but those are not consumer models.
Now that you can understand those model names, and you read the requirements plus what we have tested above, you can figure out what NUCs will most likely work. You can find the models for all the NUCs here.

Will ROCK run on my existing hardware?

How about this other hardware? We have only tested with the above-mentioned NUCs. It may work with other machines, but the drivers needed may not exist there. Try it out and let us know. We can not comment on whether any different hardware will work, as we have not tested it. We will not make any guesses, educated as they might be.  

If you do manage to get it to run, that's great, but we can not guarantee it will continue to work with future builds, nor will it fall under the scope of our support. Consider yourself warned.

ROCK is great, but I want to do X Y, and Z.

Please read this. It was written by a member of our community that summed up our thoughts on this very well.

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