Tips for getting the most from Roon Software

Roon.

If you’re into streaming music or computer audio then most likely you’ve heard of this music-playback software and might be wondering what it is exactly and why you should think about using it instead of just running Tidal, Qobuz or Spotify natively via a web-browser interface.

I get asked a lot of questions regarding playback software specifically and as someone who deals with multiple software-playback packages on multiple platforms, Roon is probably the one I get queried about the most.

So, what is it?

Here’s the 411 on Roon direct from their website: “… Roon is a music management and listening solution that takes a very different approach to interacting with your music. Instead of seeing a spreadsheet-like view of your music (as with iTunes and almost all other media systems), Roon provides a very rich non-list based experience, using credits, artist relationships, genres, lyrics, concert/tour dates, artwork, and more to allow for an informative navigation and exploration of your library. Roon manages digital music files collected on hard drives and networked storage. It can also watch your iTunes library, and optionally integrate with the music streaming service Tidal.”

Roon provides “bit perfect playback of lossy and lossless file formats, including high resolution audio content (PCM and DSD).”

So, it’s basically an app (Roon, or Roon Server depending on your hardware configuration) that you need to install on a computer (Mac or PC) or audio-hardware specific device (like Roon’s own Nucleus Server or a device of your own construction – an Intel NUC, or utilizing a Raspberry Pi for example). This is where the “Core” resides, which you control via Roon Remote (iPad, iPhone, iPad, Android tablet, etc.) to browse your online or local music libraries.

OK, so that’s the basics – there’s a lot more, but this is about getting the most of Roon, not an in-depth analysis of the software. Roon has an excellent online knowledge base and extremely healthy and active online community which can be accessed via their website to answer pretty much any question you might want to ask.

OK, with that out of the way, I decided to go directly to the horse’s mouth and elicit the help of Dipin Sehdev, the VP of Marketing for Roon and ask him for some of his top tips for getting started with the software and then what to do to tailor the experience with the software for your personal, bespoke use.

The Roon interface is deep and features dozens of shortcuts and tricks to maximize its potential as a formidable and multi-pronged tool for (as I said earlier) accessing not only online, cloud-based content from streaming-music services, but for use with local file management and playback off USB or NAS-based drives within the ecosystem of one’s personal computer-audio setup.

Q&A

Rafe Arnott: Dipin, could you please explain for those readers out there in the wilds of the Internet who are just deciding it’s time to put their toes into the waters of streaming audio why they should consider Roon instead of just sticking with their current streaming-music platform of choice?

Dipin Sehdev: “There are multiple ways to stream music. The most popular ways to stream are through Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music and the like. While having access to millions of tracks is fantastic, you don’t own any of the music, you are leasing the music. With these services your favorite album, artist, or track can be pulled from the service at any time.  

“The key question is what do you do if you are an avid music collector? After painstakingly ripping your CD and SACD collection bit-perfectly and transitioning to purchasing hi-res music online, what’s next? This is where Roon comes in. We organize and categorize your music properly with rich metadata, liner notes, bios, album reviews (as if you bought a physical copy) and much more. Roon can stream your music to many devices around your home without being limited to a single protocol.

“Also, in addition to the music you have added, Roon is integrated with Tidal. It’s the best of both worlds. Streaming over the network can be a troublesome experience, you end up spending more time troubleshooting as tech support than listening to your music. Roon takes care of the various streaming protocol (like Airplay, Sonos, and Chromecast) for you so that you don’t have to worry about your device’s capabilities or the type of file you are streaming. One of the biggest frustration people face is that they have their favorite music in 96/24 FLAC or DSD, but they want to listen to music out of their main system while doing something else in different rooms. Well not only does Roon stream to smart devices and tablets, it makes sure that your music plays on whatever device you want to use at any given time.”

RA: What are the basic requirements for installing Roon and getting it up and running?

DS: “For most people, the quickest way to get up and running is on your current Mac or PC. You can see the minimum specs on our website Roon Labs.”

RA: OK, so let’s say I’m running Roon via a Mac or PC via USB out. What’s the first thing I should be leveraging on my computer to maximize Roon’s advanced software architecture to get the best sonic results?

DS: “We have a powerful DSP engine built into Roon. Whether you are listening out of your laptop speakers, headphones, or you hifi system, using the DSP engine will ensure you will get the best sound out of your music.”

RA: What about local file storage on NAS or USB drives, what are some things I can do to maximize their sonic potential?

DS: “The important factor to consider when dealing with digital audio is data loss which can affect the sound quality. Having a strong network set up in your home is the best way to ensure all the information in your music is transmitted to your device properly. I also recommend hardwiring as much equipment as you can within your network.”

RA: Roon has built-in enhancement features like DSP that you mentioned and volume levelling, can you explain what advantages or disadvantages these features possess?

DS: “DSP allows you fine tune your equipment to the room. Volume levelling ensures you don’t have to consistently run to the volume control. The output of all your music is at the same level.”  

RA: Talk to me about separating the “Core” and “Output” and why this matters?

DS: “The Core is our software: Core equals Roon. Outputs are the devices you are streaming music to. These devices can be hardwired or available on the network. Roon will be able to send music to any Airplay, Sonos, Chromecast, Roon Ready, or Roon Tested device in your home. We’ve built an ecosystem around flexibility for Outputs. You can use Roon on Output devices that sell for as little as $35.”

RA: What if I’m on a budget and I just have a laptop and want to run it all from there? What can I do to wring the most SQ out of a simple one-stop setup like this?

DS: “Go into the DSP engine and fine tune the equipment you currently have to it’s maximum potential.”

RA: OK, I want to go whole hog on Roon and dive in to get the BEST sound quality possible and am not constrained by a budget. What setup would you recommend and how would one implement it properly?

DS: “I recommend getting a Nucleus+ which is consistently running on the network. This ensures the metadata and music perpetually stays up-to-date. Next, I recommend picking Roon Ready equipment. Roon Ready ensures you will be able to stream your music to the maximum capabilities of your device. We’ve partnered with over 70 Roon Ready manufactures, which you can learn more about on our website.”

COMPANY INFO
Roon Labs LLC

COMMENTS
Topher's picture

Hey Rafe–thanks for this beginners' guide to Roon, I definitely understand it better than I did. But for now at least I think I'll stick to my bare bones Tidal–DAC–Headphones setup. The reviews on Tidal are pretty good, and there's always Wikipedia if you absolutely have to know who played bass on that Lou Donaldson record. And to be honest, after spending what must have been a thousand hours painstakingly getting my iTunes metadata just like I like it, I panic a bit when I hear things like "We organize and categorize your music properly. . ." the same way I do when Apple forces me to update iTunes!

Seasons greetings to all at AudioStream,
Chris

my2sons's picture

When will Qobuz work on Roon?

Rafe Arnott's picture
I'll ask Roon.
Rols's picture

It’s working now. Release 1.6 of the Roon software includes Qobuz.

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