Roon desribes itself as “the music player for music lovers” which pretty much sums up the value proposition of the software suite that is running on MacOS, Windows and iOS. Inhereting the audiophile genes from the initial Sooloos Hard- and Software that was devolped in the first decade of the millenium Roon is now the much cheaper and more approachable successor that is available as software download starting from € 119 for the annual membership. While the perfect consolidation, accessibility and enrichment of your music library consisting of almost any source you like (iTunes, NAS, local storage and/or streaming solutions) seems to be the primary purpose of the software, the full value is actually derived from its audiophile playback capabilities that are loaded with plenty of additional features such as multi-room and DSP.
1. Roon delivers bit perfect output and is transparent about it
Roon provides no-compromise audio perfection. Bit perfect playback of lossy and lossless file formats, including high resolution audio content (PCM and DSD). Sending the audio data the audio device with no alterations. Bit depth and sample rate are unaffected and no other digital signal processing is applied.
The idea is to provide perfect, untouched signal quality across the whole signal path (as long as the user wants it to be that way). Roon offers you perfect transparency along that signal path combined with a corresponding assessment of the quality delivered ranging from high quality, lossless or enhanced depending on the source material, settings and gear you are using for playback. This assessment is shown for each individual stage within the path as well as for the overall result.
2. Roon perfectly integrates all of your music sources
The software running on the so called Roon Core is super flexible in terms of creating and managing your music library. It can handle almost any source you can think of including streaming services such as TIDAL and qobuz as well as the cloud service Dropbox. Anything stored locally and/or within your network is easily integrated as well.
As a result you get the full choice, flexibility and richness of your music collection all perfectly intregrated and displayed in a consistent way. No matter where your music comes from originally, it’s all browsable within the homogenous look and feel of Roon. In the end you will not discover any differences in the user experience when using Roon to browse through your collection. When looking at an album that can be found in more than one location Roon will show you all available options so you can chose which one to listen to. It’s really impressive how well that seamless integration of all sources works!
3. Music discovery with Roon
FInding new music through Roon recomendations has always been one of the major assets of the software from my point of view. Now it even got better with the latest update 1.7. proudly named Valence by roon labs.
Valence is a system built on a massive new cloud database, which uses machine learning algorithms – designed with our passion for music – to model the many dimensions of relatedness more deeply than ever before. And because you use Roon to explore, collect, and listen to the music you love, Valence understands you like no other.
The secret ingredient is the Roon community; Valence learns from the musical tastes of over 100,000 expert listeners who use Roon.
The result is the ultimate music expert, which presents the world of music through a lens personalized just for you.
As a result you get better – more personalized – recommendations based on not only your taste and listening history but also on the interconnections that can be found within the 100k+ roon community. On top of that recommendations are no longer limited to your local storage but is expanded to streaming via TIDAL and qobuz. Those major improvements together open up a whole new world of possibilities.
Traditionally recommendations within Roon have been used together with “Roon radio” which can be described as an automatic continuation of your music queue. Whenever your manually selected queue comes to an end Roon will keep playing (if enabled) additional tracks that work well together with what you have been listening to so far. These auto picks really deliver great quality (at least regarding my musical taste) and can not only be used for active music discovery but also for social events when you want to keep the music playing without taking care of it.
With Valence music discovery is further expanded beyond the borders of Roon Radio. Roon is showing additional recommendations in two more contexts:
1. On the Overview Page you will now see a “New Releases for you” section that – as the name suggests – shows new album and singles releases that Roon assumes to be especially relevant to you. 2. When looking at an album you will be served with further recommendations within the album view in the brand-new “Recommended For You” section on the right-hand column. Initially two more albums are shown that matches the current selection. Those two can be expanded to a full list of ten. To make things even easier those albums can be played or added to your playlist with only one click. NICE!
4. The Roon Community
I would say Roon can be described as an enthusiasts’ product and so is the community. First and foremost it obviously is about the Roon software itself. But actually there is so much more to discover as it’s basically a place where music nerds meet to discuss. Depending on the topic you will be able to really dig deep into specific aspects of music reproduction. Regarding my level of knowledge this reguarly goes well beyond the borders of what I would call “home turf”. Therefore following these discussion which are typically enriched with loads of external links lead to a very strong learning curve (at least for me).
On top of that I really like the fact that the ever growing range of hifi gear that is supporting Roon is also well represented within the community. Combined with the first aspect it could be the case that even senior staff of various audio manufactures seem to be present and active within the community leading to first hand feedback on hardware and brand specific topics in conjunction with Roon.
Last but not least there is the fact that many of the community threads are straightforward entertaining and pretty well pleasing your curiosity. I especially enjoy spending time on “show of topics” like:
A rather small but to me very insightful feature of Roon is that it stores all of your playback history. While the capabilities of the playback queue are limited the “History” feature on the main menu is not. It shows everything (!) that you have ever played through roon based on a timeline since inception.
With the data shown you can get a grip on interesting facts and questions like what did I listen to on a special occasion like your birthday, the last party or during dinner. On top of that you get an idea of how many hours of quality listening time you had with Roon and your setup. Going further it could also be helpful to understand how many tracks you have been listening to through streaming as the source is also shown in the historic data. Based on that you could (roughly) calculate the value for money you get out of your online subscriptions and how much money was possibly paid out to artists that you have been listening to. Great things to look into from my point of view!