Price: $376 (discontinued)
Design: Intel’s NUC is a seemingly perfect solution as an inexpensive music server. The small chassis of the NUC5i5RYK has a 5th-gen dual-core Intel i5-5250U processor, and mine came installed with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB M.2 SSD for quick internal storage that can run Windows 10 and Roon with nary a hiccup. It has plenty of I/O for an external SSD like my 512GB Samsung T5 (which runs at USB 3.0 speeds with the NUC5i5RYK), the server that houses all of my local music. For Roon Ready devices that I have in for review, the NUC can technically be run anywhere on my network, though I have it hooked up to my Sony A80J OLED television and connected to my Hegel H590 via USB.
Why I chose it: Oh, boy. Here’s where my roots as a cheap bastard come very much to the fore. A more respectable audiophile who wanted to build a music server on the cheap probably wouldn’t bat an eye at spending $500-700 on a new, warranted, purpose-built machine. I am not respectable and therefore decided to roll the dice and dumpster-dive on eBay for my music server back in 2018. I found my 2015-vintage NUC5i5RYK for $280 shipped, and honestly, I couldn’t have been happier with my purchase. I run Roon and nothing else off this old dual-core machine, and I’ve never run into performance hiccups. And I couldn’t have been bothered by the NUC’s appearance—it looked like it had been on the wrong side of a very abusive relationship. But despite looking like hell, it worked then and continues to work to this day. The only required maintenance in those four years of front-line duty has been installing a replacement case fan that cost me $17.27, and even that wasn’t strictly necessary. The fan worked fine, but it was becoming noisy because its bearings started to go bad. My Intel NUC music server is far from fancy, but it does exactly what I need and nothing more. Mission accomplished.
. . . Hans Wetzel