I am going to build a highly modded NUC - I need recommendations and have some questions

Xymox

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Apr 16, 2019
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I have been asked by a bunch of people to try modding a NUC like crazy to adapt it to audio use. Apply everything I know from building the AppleTV X and Switch X.

I have handy a number of music servers and a lot of experience doing super high end setups. Taiko is my current reference. I have some very high end systems I can use in development of this modded NUC.

SO... I don't know NUCs for audio use. There are so many and I need to pick a unit to base my work on. I also have some general ideas and design topology I want to go towards.

Size matters. In this case, smaller is better. The reason is technical. The longer each trace is on a PCB the more it acts like a antenna both transmitting and receiving noise. Nice short well managed traces with a good backplane. This will lead to less noise on the traces and on the buss signals between chips. All the chips close together also makes for better power supply delivery and management. Long power supply traces induce issues. Of course too small and things can bleed into each other. But one thing for sure, I do not want a big PC style Mother Board.

That said.. I do need some room inside. I would like to land some biggerish caps. So I need some open space.

I would like to be able to run off 12V, better yet 14v. The 19V thing is kinda annoyingly high. I will use a 4 pin noise canceling r-core based linear.

I don't want hardware I dont need. I dont need any kind of serious graphic chip. Well. Unless I also want to make it more of a universal box that could also do video streaming like a AppleTV.

I need a good USB for use with a external DAC.

I DO NOT need a lot of CPU power. More power = more noise. Its physics. So a lower power CPU that will run roon or various other UPnP applications would be good. Again, I don't need much in GPU power, just CPU power.

I will need a LOT of SSD. RAID 1.

I dont think I will need a lot of RAM ?

I would like a SFP+ port. It needs to be 10Gbps ready.

For a OS I think I prefer Linux, my fav is FreeBSD but that is not practical. I suppose the NUC should also be capable of Windows. But Windows just has too much going on and so I would rather use a *nix based solution. My goals are very low processing jitter, buss jitter and ram/SSD jitter. *Nix is a better way to go then windows because windows has so much chatter thru the CPU.

So my thoughts are that you guys could help suggest some hardware. You have a LOT more experience then I I will then go thru a R&D process and some of you could be beta testers. We could develop a product that should be pretty killer and also not break the bank. My direct A/B during R&D will be a Taiko.

There are just so many NUCs its hard to know which and you guys might have some great suggestions.
 
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Your question is beyond my technical competence, but have you watched Gabster's Roon ROCK NUC build on YouTube? It's not really what you're asking about, but I built one exactly as he detailed, and it's certainly better than the Windows-based mini pc I was using for Roon before.
Good luck...I'll be eagerly watching for updates from you!
 
I have been asked by a bunch of people to try modding a NUC like crazy to adapt it to audio use. Apply everything I know from building the AppleTV X and Switch X.

I have handy a number of music servers and a lot of experience doing super high end setups. Taiko is my current reference. I have some very high end systems I can use in development of this modded NUC.

SO... I don't know NUCs for audio use. There are so many and I need to pick a unit to base my work on. I also have some general ideas and design topology I want to go towards.

Size matters. In this case, smaller is better. The reason is technical. The longer each trace is on a PCB the more it acts like a antenna both transmitting and receiving noise. Nice short well managed traces with a good backplane. This will lead to less noise on the traces and on the buss signals between chips. All the chips close together also makes for better power supply delivery and management. Long power supply traces induce issues. Of course too small and things can bleed into each other. But one thing for sure, I do not want a big PC style Mother Board.

That said.. I do need some room inside. I would like to land some biggerish caps. So I need some open space.

I would like to be able to run off 12V, better yet 14v. The 19V thing is kinda annoyingly high. I will use a 4 pin noise canceling r-core based linear.

I don't want hardware I dont need. I dont need any kind of serious graphic chip. Well. Unless I also want to make it more of a universal box that could also do video streaming like a AppleTV.

I need a good USB for use with a external DAC.

I DO NOT need a lot of CPU power. More power = more noise. Its physics. So a lower power CPU that will run roon or various other UPnP applications would be good. Again, I don't need much in GPU power, just CPU power.

I will need a LOT of SSD. RAID 1.

I dont think I will need a lot of RAM ?

I would like a SFP+ port. It needs to be 10Gbps ready.

For a OS I think I prefer Linux, my fav is FreeBSD but that is not practical. I suppose the NUC should also be capable of Windows. But Windows just has too much going on and so I would rather use a *nix based solution. My goals are very low processing jitter, buss jitter and ram/SSD jitter. *Nix is a better way to go then windows because windows has so much chatter thru the CPU.

So my thoughts are that you guys could help suggest some hardware. You have a LOT more experience then I I will then go thru a R&D process and some of you could be beta testers. We could develop a product that should be pretty killer and also not break the bank. My direct A/B during R&D will be a Taiko.

There are just so many NUCs its hard to know which and you guys might have some great suggestions.

Three comments...

Somebody who should know told me that Intel is getting out of the NUC business. That might affect your thinking.

I am using Daphile here in an actual Intel NUC as the entire operating system and audio application. It's the best I've used, with regard to performance. I put 32 Gb of memory into the NUC so that I could load all the songs I want to play at one sitting into memory and play from there. That obviously gets around the SSD jitter problem and some of the bus jitter.

I think most of the NUCs will operate with supply voltages below 19VDC. Obviously, the current draw scales accordingly. I'd bet the internal switching supplies are more efficient at the higher voltage, I2R and all that.
 
I have been asked by a bunch of people to try modding a NUC like crazy to adapt it to audio use. Apply everything I know from building the AppleTV X and Switch X.

I have handy a number of music servers and a lot of experience doing super high end setups. Taiko is my current reference. I have some very high end systems I can use in development of this modded NUC.

SO... I don't know NUCs for audio use. There are so many and I need to pick a unit to base my work on. I also have some general ideas and design topology I want to go towards.

Size matters. In this case, smaller is better. The reason is technical. The longer each trace is on a PCB the more it acts like a antenna both transmitting and receiving noise. Nice short well managed traces with a good backplane. This will lead to less noise on the traces and on the buss signals between chips. All the chips close together also makes for better power supply delivery and management. Long power supply traces induce issues. Of course too small and things can bleed into each other. But one thing for sure, I do not want a big PC style Mother Board.

That said.. I do need some room inside. I would like to land some biggerish caps. So I need some open space.

I would like to be able to run off 12V, better yet 14v. The 19V thing is kinda annoyingly high. I will use a 4 pin noise canceling r-core based linear.

I don't want hardware I dont need. I dont need any kind of serious graphic chip. Well. Unless I also want to make it more of a universal box that could also do video streaming like a AppleTV.

I need a good USB for use with a external DAC.

I DO NOT need a lot of CPU power. More power = more noise. Its physics. So a lower power CPU that will run roon or various other UPnP applications would be good. Again, I don't need much in GPU power, just CPU power.

I will need a LOT of SSD. RAID 1.

I dont think I will need a lot of RAM ?

I would like a SFP+ port. It needs to be 10Gbps ready.

For a OS I think I prefer Linux, my fav is FreeBSD but that is not practical. I suppose the NUC should also be capable of Windows. But Windows just has too much going on and so I would rather use a *nix based solution. My goals are very low processing jitter, buss jitter and ram/SSD jitter. *Nix is a better way to go then windows because windows has so much chatter thru the CPU.

So my thoughts are that you guys could help suggest some hardware. You have a LOT more experience then I I will then go thru a R&D process and some of you could be beta testers. We could develop a product that should be pretty killer and also not break the bank. My direct A/B during R&D will be a Taiko.

There are just so many NUCs its hard to know which and you guys might have some great suggestions.

You should go over to audiophilestyle.com and read the threads there. Many threads on bullding NUCs.

On a side note, people have found that higher powered CPUs sound better than low powered CPUs. It may sound counterintuitive to your thinking but that’s been pretty well estabilished.
 
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I have a Roon Rock NUC in a silent Akasa case. It is good. I will say I've tried Windows based for Roon, and the Roon Rock linux setup and the Rock/linux was clearly better sonically. A incredibly simplified OS compare to the bloat of Windows, even the stripped down Windows some are using has dozens more processes running than a stripped down Linux build.
 
This just dropped! New Roon Titan Server. All the aesthetics, none of the sound! The thing to beat :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

roon-nucleus-titan-678x509.jpg
 
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I have been asked by a bunch of people to try modding a NUC like crazy to adapt it to audio use. Apply everything I know from building the AppleTV X and Switch X.

I have handy a number of music servers and a lot of experience doing super high end setups. Taiko is my current reference. I have some very high end systems I can use in development of this modded NUC.

SO... I don't know NUCs for audio use. There are so many and I need to pick a unit to base my work on. I also have some general ideas and design topology I want to go towards.

Size matters. In this case, smaller is better. The reason is technical. The longer each trace is on a PCB the more it acts like a antenna both transmitting and receiving noise. Nice short well managed traces with a good backplane. This will lead to less noise on the traces and on the buss signals between chips. All the chips close together also makes for better power supply delivery and management. Long power supply traces induce issues. Of course too small and things can bleed into each other. But one thing for sure, I do not want a big PC style Mother Board.

That said.. I do need some room inside. I would like to land some biggerish caps. So I need some open space.

I would like to be able to run off 12V, better yet 14v. The 19V thing is kinda annoyingly high. I will use a 4 pin noise canceling r-core based linear.

I don't want hardware I dont need. I dont need any kind of serious graphic chip. Well. Unless I also want to make it more of a universal box that could also do video streaming like a AppleTV.

I need a good USB for use with a external DAC.

I DO NOT need a lot of CPU power. More power = more noise. Its physics. So a lower power CPU that will run roon or various other UPnP applications would be good. Again, I don't need much in GPU power, just CPU power.

I will need a LOT of SSD. RAID 1.

I dont think I will need a lot of RAM ?

I would like a SFP+ port. It needs to be 10Gbps ready.

For a OS I think I prefer Linux, my fav is FreeBSD but that is not practical. I suppose the NUC should also be capable of Windows. But Windows just has too much going on and so I would rather use a *nix based solution. My goals are very low processing jitter, buss jitter and ram/SSD jitter. *Nix is a better way to go then windows because windows has so much chatter thru the CPU.

So my thoughts are that you guys could help suggest some hardware. You have a LOT more experience then I I will then go thru a R&D process and some of you could be beta testers. We could develop a product that should be pretty killer and also not break the bank. My direct A/B during R&D will be a Taiko.

There are just so many NUCs its hard to know which and you guys might have some great suggestions.
Hi, Xymox. Any progress? Thanks!
 

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