• A Quick Spin With The RoonReady Sonore Sonicorbiter SE



    Got a USB DAC that you'd like to put on your network? Been looking for a network DAC that supports a plethora of sample rates and protocols? Want to remove a Mac or traditional PC form your listening room? The Sonicorbiter SE may help you with these first-world problems. The Sonicorbiter SE isn't a DAC but it can breath new life and capabilities into almost any DAC available.

    The Sonicorbiter SE is an Ethernet to USB (or TosLink) converter. It uses software developed by Andrew Gillis of Small Green Computer / Vortexbox fame, that runs on unmodified Cubox hardware. Sure the tiny ( 2" x 2" x 2") Cubox is a neat piece of hardware, but the Sonicorbiter SE is all about software. This is where the real value lies. It's possible to duplicate much of the Sonicorbiter SE's functionality on one's own by purchasing a Cubox or Raspberry Pi based solution, but let's get real. Nothing is more expensive than our time. If people want to spend countless hours trying to duplicate what's already available, then more power to them. I however, highly recommend outsourcing this work to Sonore by purchasing the Sonicorbiter SE (likely sold out as we speak). Plus, as of right now Joe Sixpack or Joe Bloggs can't create their own RoonReady device without working with the Roon Labs team to get the license and to get the product certified. Sonore had those boxes checked before any other company in the world.

    I've been using a Sonicorbiter SE for a few weeks and totally love this little device. What's not to love about a $300 network endpoint? Well, there are a few items but I don't believe they are show stoppers. Again, this thing is $300! In this hobby that same $300 won't buy you one meter of cable.

    Not A Full Fledged Review, Just A Quick Spin

    Briefly, the Sonore Sonicorbiter SE is a network audio solution for SqueezeLite, ShairPort/AirPlay, MPD, DLNA, HQ Player NAA, and is RoonReady. Many of these options have been discussed for years around here, and all are still very valid ways to send music over one's network. However, I'm most interested in using the RoonReady capability of the Sonicorbiter SE. Once connected to the network, via wired Ethernet only, users can select which of the aforementioned modes they'd like to use. My unit came with RoonReady already selected, but I could have just as easily opened the Obiter's webpage and selected the RoonReady icon. There's no real configuration required and there are only a couple options. If one is using a DSD capable DAC he can select the DSD option. One option to note is the RoonReady volume control. It's possible to select Hardware, Software, or None. Based on my experience, it's best to select None. When I selected Hardware, thinking I only wanted my DAC to control the volume (hardware) the Sonicorbiter SE wouldn't appear as a RoonReady device within the Roon application. As soon as I selected None, it appeared instantly.

    Since I received the Orbiter I've connected it to several DACs including my Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC RS / Alpha USB combo, emm Labs DAC2X, Mytek Brooklyn, and many others. The Sonicorbiter SE turns these DACs into network capable devices for $300. Mark my words, the concept of the Sonicorbiter SE has legs and will become even bigger in our hobby. Plus, this specific device is only a precursor of what's to come with the Sonore microRendu. But that's a story for a later date. In my system right now, I'm running Roon on a MacBook Pro, controlling playback with an iPad Air 2, sending audio to the Sonicorbiter SE2 that is connected to the Mytek Brooklyn DAC via USB. I can't wait to simplify this setup even further when Roon releases its software to install on QNAP NAS units. Then I will use an iPad to select music on the NAS and it will be sent straight to the Orbiter. Again, that's a story for a later date.

    With the Sonicorbiter SE in my system, I sent PCM audio up through 24 bit / 352.8 kHz and DSD audio up through DSD256 to the Mytek Brooklyn DAC without an issue. Gapless 24/192 and DSD64 was also a breeze. The sound quality of the Orbiter is pretty good, especially with the iFi iPower supply that's an option when purchasing the Orbiter. Readers must keep in mind that the Cubox hardware used for the Sonicorbiter SE isn't built for low noise, it's built for low price and small size.

    A couple issues I ran into with the Sonicorbiter SE aren't showstoppers. First, the TosLink port requires a special adapter or cable in order to fit in the port. This is because the optical port is recessed in the plastic case. This has been the problem with Cuboxes since they were first introduced with an optical port years ago. It's nothing Sonore had control over, but I believe Sonore's Jesus Rodriguez is researching a solution for his customers. Second, I ran into a very strange problem that has taken three days to troubleshoot (as of this writing) with the Roon Labs team. The CA readers who also frequent the Roon forums will likely have seen my long thread about sending audio to the Sonicorbiter SE form Windows based Roon computers. Fortunately, the issue has been duplicated by Brian at Roon Labs, and it's not an issue that only effects the Orbiter. I found the same issue when using Auralic's Aries as a RoonReady endpoint. Two issue, that really aren't issues of the Orbiter alone, and will likely be fixed soon.

    I also want to touch on Roon licensing and certification. This is a critical piece of RoonReady devices that shouldn't be overlooked. Roon doesn't use, what I consider the most non-standard standard, UPnP/DLNA, to send audio from point A to point B. Roon uses its own UDP based secret sauce for end to end control. Thus, to manufacture a RoonReady endpoint a company must work with the Roon Labs team to license its software and provide a hardware sample for certification. The software that is being licensed was created by Roon Labs and is installed on the third party manufacturer's device. In this case RoonReady software is installed on the Sonicorbiter SE. When users send audio from a Roon server to a RoonReady endpoint, they are sending it from Roon-to-Roon. This controlled environment can be considered the Apple to UPnP's Microsoft. Closed and works, versus open and should work. The certification step to being RoonReady is equally as critical. In fact, when I ran into problems with Windows based Roon servers sending audio to the Orbiter, the Roon Labs team was positive that the platform I was using worked and it even had the device in its lab for trying to replicate my problem. I know we aren't talking about sending missiles across the globe and nobody on Earth absolutely 100% NEEDS this stuff, but the whole licensing and certification process makes my music listening life much easier.


    Wrap-up

    The combination of RoonReady and the Sonore Sonicorbiter SE is the beginning of something special. This tiny device can turn a "simple" USB DAC into a network capable powerhouse with more features than almost any high end DAC alone can offer. If you want to get in on the RoonReady bandwagon while it's on the ground floor and it's still inexpensive, I can't recommend the Sonore Sonicorbiter SE enough. It may not be the height of living when it comes to absolute sound quality, but at $300 I doubt it's too rich for anyone's blood. Pick one up and give it a spin. It's a great device.








    Comments 52 Comments
    1. occamsrazor's Avatar
      occamsrazor -
      Speaking of the Brooklyn, am eagerly awaiting your review! :-)
    1. iago's Avatar
      iago -
      Very interesting product, and I would be really interested in a comparison between Sonicorbiter's and other device's sonic qualities ...
    1. rogerdn's Avatar
      rogerdn -
      Does this arrangement completely relieve the Roon PC server of any influence on SQ ?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by rogerdn View Post
      Does this arrangement completely relieve the Roon PC server of any influence on SQ ?
      Yes.
    1. orgel's Avatar
      orgel -
      Nice write-up, Chris.

      The SonicOrbiter SE is indeed out of stock at the moment (obviously, because I wanted to purchase one), but Jesus R said he hoped he would have some this week.

      Anyone who's interested in using the SOSE or microRendu as an HQPlayer NAA should be sure to check out this thread in Sonore's forum:

      http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f2...support-27418/

      --David
    1. mjm6's Avatar
      mjm6 -
      Suppose someone has (or had) a Sonos system and liked several aspects of that system, in particular:

      very easy navigation of the library
      easy access to the control interface through the old remote devices
      single-box amp and interface
      ability to group zones
      ability to label zones and see what is happening on the system at any given time

      Do you see devices like this getting to that point where they are a legit equivalent offering for whole-house audio, and also providing the ability to stream the HD audio that isn't offered through the Sonos system?

      I ask because my Sonos is now over a decade old and some of the devices are starting to become unreliable. I can double down on the Sonos, but I'd prefer to bring my listening room into the fold by eliminating the CAPSv2 in there and moving to something like this throughout the house. Then, use Jriver on the media server and feed to all the rooms as needed. Could use the microRendu in the listening room, and the SOse in the rest of the house.

      Too bad there isn't a model with a built-in amp... something coming for that maybe?

      ---Michael
    1. firedog's Avatar
      firedog -
      Quote Originally Posted by mjm6 View Post
      Suppose someone has (or had) a Sonos system and liked several aspects of that system, in particular:

      very easy navigation of the library
      easy access to the control interface through the old remote devices
      single-box amp and interface
      ability to group zones
      ability to label zones and see what is happening on the system at any given time

      Do you see devices like this getting to that point where they are a legit equivalent offering for whole-house audio, and also providing the ability to stream the HD audio that isn't offered through the Sonos system?

      I ask because my Sonos is now over a decade old and some of the devices are starting to become unreliable. I can double down on the Sonos, but I'd prefer to bring my listening room into the fold by eliminating the CAPSv2 in there and moving to something like this throughout the house. Then, use Jriver on the media server and feed to all the rooms as needed. Could use the microRendu in the listening room, and the SOse in the rest of the house.

      Too bad there isn't a model with a built-in amp... something coming for that maybe?

      ---Michael
      I think this and Roon/Roon Ready devices could definitely do what you want. I'm sure some type of good quality all in one with amp is coming along that could do it. In fact this device can also do it, with Roon, or LMS.

      In fact I just read today about the new Raspberry Pi 3 model that can be equipped with a DAC board and an amp board and is Roon ready. You could affordably put one of those in multiple rooms:

      IQaudIO introduce Roon Ready Raspberry Pi DAC, amplifier | DAR__KO

      Raspberry Pi Audio - IQaudIO Limited

      https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/ras...-pi-3-on-sale/
    1. bobflood's Avatar
      bobflood -
      Welcome to the SB Duet of the modern day (minus the wireless controller).
    1. mjm6's Avatar
      mjm6 -
      Quote Originally Posted by firedog View Post
      I think this and Roon/Roon Ready devices could definitely do what you want. I'm sure some type of good quality all in one with amp is coming along that could do it. In fact this device can also do it, with Roon, or LMS.

      In fact I just read today about the new Raspberry Pi 3 model that can be equipped with a DAC board and an amp board and is Roon ready. You could affordably put one of those in multiple rooms:

      IQaudIO introduce Roon Ready Raspberry Pi DAC, amplifier | DAR__KO

      Raspberry Pi Audio - IQaudIO Limited

      https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/ras...-pi-3-on-sale/
      Firedog,

      Yes! I was thinking of the Pi's a bit when I asked this.

      I've not looked into this too much, but I don't use Roon, so I'd be more interested in the ability to render from JRiver primarily (using JRemote as the interface, with JRiver on my main server in the closet).

      Can I put together a Pi device with an built-in amp and have it function like a Sonos Connect:Amp in that it has volume controls, zone grouping, etc? I'm thinking it can, but I need to do a bit more research to verify.

      The SonicOrbiterSE looks like it will do it as well, minus the DAC and amp, so it would function like the Sonos Connect somewhat (but even that had a DAC in it).

      The mini-Aires is probably closer to the Sonos Connect, but at that price, no thanks.


      ---Michael
    1. Rexp's Avatar
      Rexp -
      Quote Originally Posted by firedog View Post
      I think this and Roon/Roon Ready devices could definitely do what you want. I'm sure some type of good quality all in one with amp is coming along that could do it. In fact this device can also do it, with Roon, or LMS.

      In fact I just read today about the new Raspberry Pi 3 model that can be equipped with a DAC board and an amp board and is Roon ready. You could affordably put one of those in multiple rooms:

      IQaudIO introduce Roon Ready Raspberry Pi DAC, amplifier | DAR__KO

      Raspberry Pi Audio - IQaudIO Limited

      https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/ras...-pi-3-on-sale/
      Thanks for the heads up, one of these babies + Roon sounds like a game changer, and all for 50 bucks!
    1. vortecjr's Avatar
      vortecjr -
      Chris, thank you for doing this mini review. Please allow me to provide some additional information.

      The Sonicorbiter operating system is a collaboration between Sonore by Simple Design and Small Green Computer. Andrew writes all the control software from scratch. It's my job to perform quality control on all releases and updates. We work together on updates and new fixes. The software is hardware specific, but we try to keep as much in common between all the platforms.

      While hardware is based on a Cubox, we have opted to include better power supplies with the unit. The base unit includes a linear supply for use in North America. The iPower power supply is offered as an upgrade for an additional 49 USD for use world wide.

      When using RoonReady with hardware volume control your device needs to support this function or Roon will not enable the unit for playback. An example of a device that supports hardware volume control is an Audio Quest Dragonfly. In this example, selecting the hardware volume control bypasses software volume control in Roon and uses the Audio Quest Dragonfly's volume control in the analog domain.

      In regards to the optical output we have sourced a 90 degree adapter that allows for a better connection and use of your own optical cable.

      The Windows event is rather strange and only appears to affect one Sonore customer in addition to Chris. The Roon guys were finally able to reproduce the event after trying a number of Windows based computers. The fix is being tested and will be released soon per Roon.
    1. earnmyturns's Avatar
      earnmyturns -
      I've been using the Sonicorbiter SE's UPnP/DLNA capabilities to stream gapless FLAC from a Synology NAS with MinimServer to a couple of different DACs (Schiit's Bifrost Multibit and Bel Canto's C7R), controlled by BubbleUPnP on various Android devices. Perfect operation every time, makes the common woes of UPnP/DLNA alluded to go away. Great little device, saved me from wasting even more time debugging a standard Linux audio distro on another CuBox. I'm using Bel Canto mLink USB>S/PDIF converters and Nordost Blue Haven cables between the streamer and the DACs at the moment to reduce noise/jitter, I can't wait to see how the microRendu might do without a need for separate converters.
    1. Distinctive's Avatar
      Distinctive -
      Quote Originally Posted by vortecjr View Post
      The Sonicorbiter operating system is a collaboration between Sonore by Simple Design and Small Green Computer. Andrew writes all the control software from scratch. It's my job to perform quality control on all releases and updates. We work together on updates and new fixes. The software is hardware specific, but we try to keep as much in common between all the platforms.
      Have you (or SGC) considered bundling the microRendu with the microJukebox in order to support Roon Server?
    1. miguelito's Avatar
      miguelito -
      The (amazing) Roon team has found the solution for the Windows streaming problem to RoonReady devices (Aries and SonicOrbiter SE). It will be out in the next Roon release - no firmware update required on the devices themselves.
    1. vortecjr's Avatar
      vortecjr -
      Quote Originally Posted by Distinctive View Post
      Have you (or SGC) considered bundling the microRendu with the microJukebox in order to support Roon Server?
      Been there done that....we had this working at RMAF last year. Roon has not released the application for Linux though.
    1. joelha's Avatar
      joelha -
      Quote Originally Posted by The Computer Audiophile View Post
      Yes.
      Hey Chris,

      No challenge here, just curiosity, but how did you setup your system to come to this conclusion?

      Joel
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by joelha View Post
      Hey Chris,

      No challenge here, just curiosity, but how did you setup your system to come to this conclusion?

      Joel
      Hi Joel - No worries, and good question.

      I setup five different computers as Roon servers to send audio to the Sonicorbiter SE.

      1. Windows 8.1 noisy, non-tweaked (hardware or software) PC with 6TB spinning drives of local storage.
      2. Windows 2012 R2 server SOtM / AO server with highly tweaker hardware and software.
      3. OS X El Capitan MacBook Pro
      4. OS X El Capitan / Windows 10 (Boot Camp) MacBook Pro retina
      5. OS X El Capitan iMac 5K


      I couldn't hear a hint of difference between the sources when sending audio over Ethernet to the RoonReady Sonicorbiter SE. This combined with the fact I have no idea how the source could possibly effect the sound of the Ethernet endpoint in this situation, lead me to believe the source has no effect on sound quality.

      Note: I completely respect the opinions of others who will try similar tests as more RoonReady endpoints become available. In addition, my conclusion here has absolutely nothing to do with locally attached server / DAC combinations not using audio over Ethernet.
    1. willcampbell's Avatar
      willcampbell -
      Thanks for the quick spin.
      One question: would the USB output power a DAC like the Audioengine D1 that is USB-powered?
    1. The Computer Audiophile's Avatar
      The Computer Audiophile -
      Quote Originally Posted by willcampbell View Post
      Thanks for the quick spin.
      One question: would the USB output power a DAC like the Audioengine D1 that is USB-powered?
      Yes.
    1. Distinctive's Avatar
      Distinctive -
      Quote Originally Posted by vortecjr View Post
      Been there done that....we had this working at RMAF last year. Roon has not released the application for Linux though.
      Thx.
      Regarding bundling, as a footnote I was not only referring to the operational aspect but also a commercial one.