Roon Server on NAS

Roon Server on NAS

Roon Server requires a more powerful processor than most media servers due to our architecture. Historically, most NAS devices have not been powerful enough to deliver a first-class experience with Roon, but an increasing number are becoming capable.

Less powerful NAS devices can also work for smaller collections, although they won't perform as well as systems that meet our recommended specifications.

Why would anyone want this?

If you already have a capable NAS and you don't want another machine in the house to run as the brain of your audio system, running Roon Server on your NAS can be a great solution. If you have a large amount of content, a NAS can be a convenient and secure way to store it, especially if you have other personal media (photos, videos, backups). Another benefit is that NAS operating systems can provide RAID mirroring, which provides fault tolerance. However, remember that RAID mirroring is not an alternative to backup.

Why wouldn't someone want this?

NAS devices are electrically and mechanically noisy, not optimized for high-performance audio, and not especially powerful (for their cost). With the arrival of 6TB and 8TB drives, most people no longer need a multi-disk NAS in the home because all their music can be stored on a single drive and less expensive machines for running your audio system exist.

Which NAS devices are supported?

Most QNAP, Synology, and ASUSTOR devices with a 64-bit x86 CPU, like Intel or AMD, and at least 2GB RAM are supported. We strongly recommend 4GB of RAM and an SSD for the Roon databases. Your music files can be on spinning disks, but ideally the Roon database should be on an SSD. This one optimization can provide the single biggest improvement to Roon’s performance and user experience.

If your NAS does not have a free slot for an SSD, you can use an SSD via an external enclosure connected via eSATA or USB 3.0. Anything 64GB or larger should be fine -- extra space will not help. As of the end of 2018, you can buy a 128GB USB 3.0 SSD on Amazon for under $60. The gain in experience is absolutely worth the $60. An upgrade of RAM can be done on many devices; check your NAS device’s manual.

What is the ideal NAS configuration for Roon?

The NAS family we recommend as of end 2018 is the QNAP TS-473 and 4GB of RAM.

An optimal NAS configuration:
  1. 1 bay with a small SSD (120GB, about $40 right now) for the Roon Server install and the Roon database
  2. 2 bays with 6TB drives, RAID1 (mirrored)
  3. 1 bay with 6TB drive for weekly backup of the mirrored set
Why this works so well:
  1. The SSD gives you fast performance for Roon. We advise against running Roon's database on a spinning disk.
  2. The dual 6TB mirrored drives give you fault-tolerant storage for music, which allows for about 15,000 CD-quality albums.
  3. The third 6TB drive gives you a periodic local backup of your music. Remember, RAID is fault tolerance, and not backup.
The whole thing is under $2k and pretty awesome to stuff in a closet or rack away from your listening room. If you require more music storage (or storage for something other than music), go with a TS-673 or TS-873, which has more drive bays. On these platforms, use a similar configuration as noted above. 

What is a Roon database? Where are the music files stored?

Roon stores its metadata and indexes in a custom database built for performance. This database is populated by Roon when it identifies your music files. It lives separately from your music files, and for performance reasons, it is highly recommended that the Roon database is on an SSD instead of a spinning disk. Your music files can be stored on spinning disks with no consequences to performance.

The database files are internal to Roon, and should not be manipulated.

Normally, if your music files are on the NAS’s drive, you would access them with smb://host/share or \\host\share syntax. However, since the files are local on the NAS, which is where your Roon Server is running too, you can use the local paths for better performance. 

What will happen if Roon Server runs on a slower CPU (such as Atom or Celeron)?

Roon Server uses a lot more CPU than any other audio software. While Roon Server will work fine on these slower CPUs, consequences of running on them potentially include:
  1. Stuttering or dropouts in audio playback
  2. Slow response for searching
  3. Slow loading of artist, album, composer, and work pages
  4. Longer startup and connection times for remotes
  5. Slower audio analysis for normalization/crossfading/other
  6. Slower import of new music 
Overall, the experience will not be as good as it can be. You can fix this by running on a better-suited CPU, such as an Intel Core i3 or i5.

What will happen if the Roon database runs on a spinning disk (non-SSD)?

Roon database performance is impacted most by the media the Roon database is run on. We don't run Roon databases on spinning disks, and neither should you. Will it work? Yes. Will you have the best Roon experience: NO. Everything will be noticeably sluggish if you run on a spinning disk.

How does this install differ from a normal Linux install?

The NAS's operating system is not general-purpose, but the Roon Server software for your NAS is the same as the standard Linux Roon Server, so there should be no difference in functionality. As with any Linux installation, support for Native DSD output is contingent on having a kernel + ALSA library that supports it.

How do I install Roon on my NAS?

This project was a collaboration between the Roon Team and a member of the Roon community: Chris Rieke! Chris had started working on the Synology version of Roon Server on his own, so we contacted him and arranged to work together on these projects. Chris will be involved in the maintenance and support for both of these NAS packages in the future. Instructions for downloading Roon on Synology, QNAP, and ASUSTOR NAS devices can be found on Chris' website.
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