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Sonore Sonicorbiter SE: a $300 Roon Endpoint (and more)

  • For many users, Roon starts life on a single machine – a PC or Mac hooked up to a DAC over USB. Lifting sound quality to the next level might see a USB-S/PDIF converter (e.g. Audiophilleo or Resonessence Labs Concero), USB filter (e.g. AudioQuest JitterBug) or USB re-clocker (e.g. Schiit Wyrd, Wyred4Sound Recover or UpTone Regen) applied.

    From there, perhaps a move to fancier hardware. The compromise is commensurate wallet damage. Products that combine Roon Server and Roon Endpoint on a single machine that feature fully-optimised (and sometimes bespoke) hardware and software like that offered by South Korea’s SoTM or New Zealand’s Antipodes Audio won’t head out the factory door for less than US$3K.

    For keeping total spend on a tighter leash we might consider separating Roon server and Endpoint: run Roon Core (the server software) on a low-rent PC, Mac or NAS and have it stream digital audio across the network to a Roon Ready Endpoint, with an iPad or Android tablet app chairing the meeting. Simples.

    At time of writing, Roon Endpoint options are few. Audio Alchemy, Bel Canto, Bryston, Cary Audio, Constellation Audio, dCS, Exasound, LH Labs, Lumin, PS Audio and TotalDAC all have Roon Ready compatibility in the works but timelines and pricing remain unpredictable. One look at that list and we could intuit with reasonable confidence just how many of these Roon Ready Endpoints will land with an RRP south of a grand: zero.

    The exception proving the rule is the already suitably equipped AURALiC Aries which starts life at US$999. The Aries Mini misses out, presumably because AURALiC don’t want sales of their entry-level streamer cannibalising those of their more deluxe offering. Fair enough.


    What’s a Roon-loving wallet watcher to do?

    Fortunately there are options but each arrives with compromise in tow: 1) the discontinued Squeezebox Touch is capable of hi-res streaming but hardware supply and pricing remains variable; 2) the Apple TV up/down-samples incoming signals, even Redbook, to 16bit/48kHz – therefore no hi-res support; the Apple Airport Express sees Redbook streams untouched but higher sample rates downed to 16bit/44.1kHz – again, no hi-res. Neither Apple product make use of Roon’s RAAT streaming protocol – it’s Airplay or the highway.

    In his CES 2016 wrap, Chris Connaker remarked that the Google Chromecast Audio might soon be appointed as Roon catcher. A US$35 Endpoint – nice. Until then though we hunt the middle ground between Apple’s Airplay devices and AURALiC’s upper-tier streamer.

    Fitting that bill, a newly arrived contender from Sonore.

    Based around an unmodified CuBox-i, the Sonicorbiter SE is a palm-sized Roon Endpoint that offers a “fast multicore ARM processor”, 1Gb Ram and Ethernet input. Hard-wire the Sonicorbiter SE to a router and power it up. Supplying the go juice is a 110VAC linear power supply (for US residents) or standard – presumably switch-mode – PSU for international folk seeing 220-240VAC at the wall.

    However, an additional US$55 on top of the Sonicorbiter SE’s baseline price of US$298 nets a super low noise ‘iPower’ SMPS from iFi Audio. Alternatively, one could BYO a 5V 1amp linear supply.

    At the business end, a USB output feeds the downstream DAC with “PCM, DSD/DoP and native DSD” (PCM support tops out at 768kHz, DSD at 22.5792 MHz). The Sonicorbiter SE’s optical output won’t deal in DSD but will accommodate PCM up to 24bit/192kHz.

    Best of all, the Sonicorbiter SE is Roon Ready; a hi-res PCM and DSD-compatible Roon Endpoint for ~US$298.

    But wait – there’s more.


    Via a web browser-based remote config, the Sonicorbiter SE can be clicked into four alternative operational modes: Squeezelite will see it present as a Squeezebox to LMS/SqueezeboxServer; ShairPort as an Airplay device; DLNA as an OpenHome renderer (with MinimServer or similar running elsewhere); MPD will talk to a mounted network share; HQPlayer NAA will asynchronously stream from a HQPlayer outputting source.

    Those wanting to reach Peak Roon here could append the Sonicorbiter SE with UpTone Regen and fancy USB wire, re-clock its Toslink output with a Wyred4Sound Remedy and/or make use of Roon Server’s in-built HQ Player compatibility for which Roon sends audio data to HQ Player and the latter marshals the network stream.

    Not bad deal for three hundred clams. Not bad at all.

    Further information: Sonore Sonicorbiter SE

    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. John, using Roon on the macmini server in my listening room main system…..usb output to my dac. I also have 3 additional amps to power speakers for background music throughout my house/yard…..each of which has its own apple tv or airport express. The macmini server feeds Roon to these apple tvs and airport express via airplay. My issue is that Roon will output usb OR airplay, but not BOTH. Suggestions for running Roon on all 4 systems at once (same music for whole house audio)?

      • You could run Roon on all location at once and sync them but you would need a Sonicorbiter SE for each location.

    2. John

      I can’t seem to find literature on installing room core on nas. forums seem to suggest this isn’t possible as of yet. can you point me in the right direction?

      • The literature isn’t out yet because the code isn’t out to manufacturers yet. Better to ask on the Roon forum.

    3. Hi John,

      Interesting article. Maybe we’re moving into a world of affordable, great quality streaming devices. I hope so.

      Sonore were also developing a device called the uRendu (mu as in symbol for ‘micro’) . Do you have any idea if this is it, or is that something else we should be looking out for?

    4. John, first started using a HRT Music Streamer about 6 years ago and more recently a Calyx 24/192 and decent VUE US cables so don’t have to be sold on DACs, however, I am getting a bit confused about the various streaming and other devices that you review and comment on. I am currently in Sydney (normally live Vientiane, Lao) can you advise some audio retailers where I experience some this new technology.
      PS really appreciate your continous flow of audio commentary, you must never stop listening and writing.

    5. Dear John
      You can do the same with a raspberry pi 2 board or similar and save about 200$ or more .There are a few free software distributions out there for instance… VOLUMIO project RUNE project Moode player Archpile
      and two classic which in difference between the above require a display and at least a mouse for control them allthough they can run headless as the above via web interface or android / apple aplication.
      All of these they can reproduce almost all formats of digital files and they are easy to set them up .

      • No, the two are not the same. To quote one of the vendors for the sonicorbiter:
        One of the biggest problems with the Pi is all the USB ports and the Ethernet (USB to Ethernet chip) are all on the same USB hub. This causes a lot of jitter as the music packets come in from the network and go back out to a USB attached DAC over the same hub chip.

        The i.MX6 CPU we use in the Orbiter costs a lot more then the chip on the Pi. But it’s a lot better design. I has a full PCI bus like a MAC or PC. This is much better for audio.

        The SonicOrbiter software is well designed and trouble free. You could theoretically create something similar, but it would take a lot of time and effort and wouldn’t run as smoothly. “Easy to setup”? For Whom? …Not for about 99% of potential users.

        Plus with the SonicOrbiter you get support. At Sonore and smallgreencomputer they will even log onto your system remotely and fix problems if necessary.

        • CuBox has limited ethernet:
          (*) Note that due to internal i.MX6 buses the 1000Mbps interface speed is limited to 470Mbps.”

    6. Sorry I was in a hurry ,I forgot to mention that the above stands as digital transport somebody will need a usb dac to complete the set and another device to control it like a smartphone ,tablet or a computer conected in the same network .Optimum results can be achieved usning a nas server for the music files but it will work also with a 3.5 inch self pwered external hard drive (preferably)which will contain the music files.

    7. Sounds like a good device, I just wish you didn’t have to switch between the modes, and could have them all listening for input simultaneously, though I guess that might be complex. Personally I’m waiting to see how the long-awaited Sonore uRendu turns out…..

    8. Thank you John.

      What about sound quality? Did you have the chance to listen to it? Any plans to do it in the future?

    9. WOW!!! A CuBox, with all its hardware limits, sold at three times the value.
      Fucking marketing geniuses!!!

    10. I have a similar device (SOtM SMS-100) that runs an earlier version of the same software (it doesn’t have a Roon endpoint). But I can use RoonServer to feed HQP or LMS on the SMS-100, and have playback from control from a Roon tablet to my device.

      So based on my experience, I’d say connect this to your network/server setup, add on a decent power supply (the iFi will be fine) and you will get high end sound for a mid-fi price.

      Sonore is coming out with a higher-end ethernet to USB device using basically the same software in the near future. Similar functionality. but it’s going to have high level noise regulation, bespoke board, and all the audiophile bells and whistles built in. I’m sure that will give very high end sound for a high end – but not stratospheric – pricc.

    11. I have an HTPC running my DAC (Naim DAC-V1) via USB, things are fine. I found the opening paragraph whereby you mention “Lifting sound quality to the next level might see a USB-S/PDIF converter” very interesting… Would converting the USB to S/PDIF improve sound quality? would this support 192/24bit res or is S/PDIF limited to 96/24?

      Why would I get improved quality over direct USB connection? is it due to PC power noise being eliminated?

      • In my experience, adding a USB-S/PDIF converter improves SQ predominantly by re-clocking the data but the by-product seems to be – as you say – a reduction in noise getting from computer to DAC.

    12. John, forgive my ignorance but would the Sonicorbiter work with an Aries Mini to bring Roon to the Mini? If so, how?

    13. John, Airplay is where it’s at for Roon, the dev team is working hard in creating an alternate universe and include everyone. 😉

      Open invitation to drink as much as my beer if you can get all these other non-Airplay systems to work effectively and consistently with Roon.

    14. No, the Aries Mini and Sonicorbiter SE are both network players you attach to your DAC. You could replace the Aries Mini with the Sonicorbiter SE if you want Roon support. It also has MPD like the Aries Mini does.

      • One more thing though: Aries Mini’s Airplay ‘input’ offers Roon support for Redbook streams.

    15. For the price, this does not look like a bad option if you want plug and play. Software development and support are not free.

      With that being said – for the DIY crowd, the Raspberry Pi2 along with a HiFiBerry Digi+ board address the USB network issue. It takes audio from the I2S bus of the Pi and provides optical and coaxial outputs for a DAC. If you are handy with a soldering iron, a power jack can be added to the Digi+ to power itself and the Pi. Sound quality wise, It blows away the Mac Mini over USB to my Nova220. From reviews I have seen, a decent linear power supply with this setup rivals the Aries Mini. Roon is working on an image to turn the Pi in to an endpoint, but in the mean time PiCorePlayer can be used to emulate the supported squeezebox touch.

      • You lost me at ‘for the DIY crowd’. Sure – good points. For those not so inclined, an AURALiC Aries Mini + Chord Mojo will provide a formidable rival for under half the dosh down.

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