Categories
Audio Personal Computing

Roon Core on a NAS???

This post describes an couple of alternatives to shoehorning Roon Core into a NAS virtual environment. The advent of the 2021 Mac Mini offers a new and attractive alternative.

Roon Nucleus image courtesy of Roon Labs

After commenting on several posts regarding running Roon Core in a TrueNAS BHYVE VM in the Roon Community Forums, I get the occasional request for help troubleshooting a colicky Roon Core installation. Please stick to Roon recommended configurations unless you are a computer systems professional. Installation of Roon on Linux hardware or in a storage server virtual machine requires familiarity with the host operating system, host OS package manager, host OS virtual machine manager, creation of guest environments, and installation of Linux and applications in the guest environment. This is a lot to learn for non-professionals.

For DIY Readers

Most DIY-minded readers would be happiest running Roon Core on a Mac Mini backed up by a TrueNAS SOHO file server configuration. The Mac Mini can perform media management. The Mac Mini can back up your external media to TrueNAS using Time Machine. iX Systems ensures that TrueNAS is easily configured as a Time Machine storage server supporting encryption at rest and encryption in transit.

For My Other Readers

Those not members of the DIY gang would be happiest using Roon Nucleus as their Roon Core. Roon Labs has designed Nucleus to be a no fuss appliance that keeps OS and Roon Controller up to date software wise. Roon Nucleus is audibly and electrically quiet as a result of its fanless design and custom power supply that replaces the laptop switching power supply used with similar systems.

After the break, we’ll look at the alternatives in more detail.

References

  1. https://www.truenas.com/docs/hub/tasks/advanced/virtual-machines/
  2. https://roonlabs.com/nucleus
  3. https://roonlabs.com/partners
  4. https://www.bluesound.com/
  5. https://mytek.audio/home
  6. https://retired-moocher-dave.org/2021/02/19/truenas-encryption/

Don’t Try This at Home!

The good folks at Roon advise that Roon core will not run in a FreeBSD Linux jail. FreeBSD Linux compatibility does not provide all of the kernel services Roon Core requires.

As Much As I’d Like to Help

It is really hard to help with computer problems without seeing the symptoms. If you are trying to run Roon Core in an environment other than those officially supported, you need to be mindful that success is not guaranteed.

  • You need to follow the Host OS hardware recommendations scrupulously. If it says Intel Xeon, spring for Xeon. If it says ECC memory, spring for ECC. If server grade motherboards are recommended, use the recommended motherboards. If specific storage enclosures and storage device families are recommended, use those. You expect your server to run continuously without scrambling your data. Professional-grade parts make that possible
  • Follow the Host OS installation instructions scrupulously. Take notes regarding options chosen and settings selected. Note network addresses and ports for future reference.
  • Follow the instructions for creating the virtual execution environment scrupulously. Note that BSD jails and BHYVE virtual machines are not designed to be general application execution environments. They are pared down somewhat to do server-ish things.
  • Install the Guest OS scrupulously following the installation instructions and configuration guidance. Note all installation choices for future reference.
  • Follow Roon’s instructions scrupulously. If it runs, consider yourself lucky. Print the instructions and use them as a check list so you don’t miss anything.

What’s working at the Manor?

Here, I have Roon Core running in the following environment.

  • OS: TrueNAS 12 core FreeBSD distribution
  • VM: BHYVE 4 GB memory, 64 GB disk per Roon Recommendations
  • Guest OS: Ubuntu Linux LTS with Gnome Desktop from some years ago

Because I use my Mac for photography and tax record keeping, I maintain a TrueNAS server to provide file storage for MacOS Time Machine. Tucking Roon into TrueNAS was an afternoon’s work the third time. In FreeNAS 9 days, it took some tinkering to get it all together correctly. With TrueNAS 12, UI design and the Guide are much improved making an afternoon install a reasonable expectation.

Guest OS Updates?

I’ve been shamelessly lazy in this regard as this environment is colicky about VNC and SSH access in its old age. I have to log in and run apt update and apt upgrade manually. Roon Nucleus looks after itself just as Roon Controller does. Controller will prompt you to initiate upgrades at you convenience.

Media Storage?

Media is kept in file systems in the main storage pool. There are separate filesystems for

  • iTunes managed media (ALAC)
  • HD Audio ripped from media I own
  • HD Audio purchased from Qobuz

I do this mostly to make it easy to use Roon Focus to make and export lists of what I have by where it came from.

My iMac mounts these shares and does most of the media management for me. I have to be careful to keep matching user IDs on the Mac and the file server as there is no Yellow Pages environment for user management. It’s just not worth the trouble to set up Samba or a Windows Domain Controller to manage one or 2 users. So I have to mind my RWX’s.

Thoughts on Roon Nucleus

Nucleus simplifies the process of adding Roon to an established system by providing a robust Roon Core that looks after itself software-wise. Roon Nucleus is a packaged Roon Core appliance intended for use by any audio enthusiast wanting dedicated computing resources for Roon Core. Nucleus is entry level in the sense that it does one thing, run Roon Core. There are no front panel displays or controls, and no built in DAC, preamp outputs, or headphone amplifier. Its just a Roon Core execution resource.

The smaller Roon Nucleus is a fuss free Roon Core in a nice enclosure with adequate computer resources to support 6 or fewer audio zones in simultaneous use. Roon Nucleus includes a custom enclosure designed for silent operation, an Intel NUC processor, low noise linear power supply, and adequate memory and storage to run Roon Core. Nucleus includes the first year of a Roon Subscription.

The Roon Nucleus is similar in price to the Bluesound Vault 2i which includes a CD drive for adding CD’s to your streaming library.

Nucleus arrives ready to run. All you do is

  • Supply power
  • Supply a network connection
  • Supply media on an external disk
  • Turn it on
  • Configure Nucleus in Roon Controller App
  • Let it update Roon OS and Roon Core
  • Configure your Qobuz and Tidal accounts
  • Start listening

A New DIY Arrival from Apple

If you are somewhat system-admin handy, a Mac Mini is a good alternative. In comparison, setting up the Mac Mini to run Roon Core requires somewhat more material and effort. In comparison, a 2021 Mac Mini plus a lifetime Roon license is $1400. Roon Nucleus is $1460 in the US. To turn a Mac Mini into a Roon Core requires somewhat more effort that setting up Roon Nucleus.

  • Supply your own display, keyboard, and mouse.
  • Connect those.
  • Update MacOS
  • Download MacOS Roon Core plus Controller and install it.
  • Connect the external media storage
  • Configure Roon in Roon Controller running locally
  • Roon Core will run as a service and you may log out.
  • Set up Time Machine and add the external storage to the media to be backed up.
  • Mouse, keyboard, and display can be disconnected and stored

MacOS does offer one advantage over Rock and Nucleus. MacOS Time Machine can back up your music. Rock and Nucleus do not include disk backup capabilities.

Time Machine with TrueNAS

iX Systems ensures that TrueNAS easily supports Time Machine with one click configuration of an SMB share as a Time Machine repository. If you have significant local music, you may want to consider the Mac Mini alternative. Reference 6 reviews setup of encrypted Time Machine storage in TrueNAS 12.