Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Roon Core and Innuos Streamers - To DSP/Upsample or Not?

I get a lot of questions regarding the capabilities of Innuos Music Streamers and Roon. I am going to attempt to address some of them now, and will probably continue to add to this blog as more questions come up.

How Does Roon Work With An Innuos Streamer?

Great question, and for this we need to first go to the Roon web page that gives a brief overview of how Roon Works.

The great thing about Innuos streamers is the fact that they can run Roon Core AND act as the Roon Streamer. You add the (USB Audio Class 2 capable) DAC of your choosing and away you go. Sort of...

What if I Want To Do Upsampling Or DSP? Can I still Use The Innuos As A Roon Core?

As my parents taught me, "all things in moderation". The same goes for DSP and upsampling.  Most Innuos models run the Intel Quad Core N4200 chip. 

Zen Mini MK3: 4 GB of DDR3 RAM
Zen MK3: 8GB of low voltage DDR RAM, with 4GB dedicated to RAM playback
Zenith MK3: 8GB of low voltage DDR RAM, with 4GB dedicated to RAM playback
Statement: 8GB of low voltage DDR RAM, with 4GB dedicated to RAM playback

From the Roon Optimized Core Kit Knowledge Base, they recommend 8GB of ram and a 128GB SSD for heavy DSP or large libraries.

From this we could infer that the Zen Mini is probably not a good candidate for anyone interested in DSP, upsampling, or large libraries. The others are probably okay for moderate DSP and upsampling.

We could also infer that the Zen, Zenith and Statement could handle moderate DSP and upsampling. I say moderate because of the Intel N4200 chip is only quad core and may start sounding worse when tasked too heavily. They may not play super hi rez formats like DSD with upsampling and DSP. So the rule here is PCM only for sure, but DSD? Maybe not.

Here is a link to a great comparison site for PC components. It will allow you to compare benchmarks of CPU's, SSD's, RAM and more.

My Soapbox on DSP: Bottom line. Less is more with DSP. Use broad, low Q filters, and minimize DSP on high frequencies to prevent comb filtering. Use mechanical acoustic treatments to tame resonances/reflections and take the time to properly position your loudspeakers before going to the digital toolbox.

Conclusion (so far)

With this information in mind, how should one best use their Innuos Streamer? In my opinion, minimize the use of DSP and upsampling, and use your Innuos as a Roon core and a streamer. This creates the shortest signal path for the data and ensures that that path is optimal as far as minimizing noise or interference.

As always, use your ears to guide you. If you use DSP or upsampling with ANY Roon core there may be tradeoffs. Why? Because you are taxing the processor with more tasks. Sometimes the negatives outweigh the benefits when you start demanding more from the CPU.

If you have more questions on Innuos music streamers or would like to purchase one, please contact us at 303-653-6341.  Thanks for reading this far!