Roon 1.8

I bought my first streaming DAC in 2016, even though I wasn't yet convinced about streaming. Streaming audio was a great idea, but how would I get the music data from wherever it lives to my DAC's Ethernet port?

I was already a Roon user, but Roon and my DAC—a PS Audio DirectStream—weren't yet talking to each other. The experiences offered by the various control apps I tried were unsatisfying. I had a vision of how things ought to work, but the world didn't conform. Not yet.

I built up an Intel NUC and loaded it with ROCK—the Roon-Optimized Core Kit—and Roon. Soon, after some upgrades, Roon and my DAC were talking to each other, and I was up and streaming. I assembled my first network-attached storage (NAS) device, with 10TB of storage space shared, with redundancy, across four large hard drives, stashed in a back-room closet. The future of hi-fi—or should I say its present—was taking shape.

I was an early Roon adopter, but I always had complaints. For a product that sold itself on the richness of its information environment, it wasn't all that rich. Its design wasn't especially amenable to classical music (although it was as good as anything else). I spent a winter ripping all my CDs, editing metadata, and loading the music into my Roon library: I still have nightmares about importing boxed sets.

Meanwhile, Roon stubbornly refused to add certain, obvious features. As far as I can tell, they still haven't added a notes field where I can record such information as the optimal listening level for a particular recording.

Behind the scenes, though, the company was engaged in what it's clear in retrospect was a sophisticated, professional software-development effort. Roon was, and is, taking a long-term approach: When developers encountered structural limitations, they spent months reengineering whole sections of code.

Roon 1.8 is a big update. Visually, it's new, and to me, better. They've improved their recommendations engine, Valence. It's a major feature, and pretty good at recommending music, but for me that's not a big deal. More interesting and important are improvements to the Focus feature, a sophisticated hybrid of Search and Browse. Focus now encompasses streamed music from Tidal and Qobuz—not just music in your library. The music I own and the music I rent is now one big, searchable, browsable library.

People who love classical music are especially well-served by 1.8. Start by typing "Beethoven" into Search, then click on the composer's portrait at the top of the page. Click on Discography, then Focus. You can now filter Beethoven's works by type, performer, ensemble, and many other criteria. Display all the Beethoven albums in MQA (664 of them) or in high-rez FLAC (1183). With just one more click, you can list all available Beethoven releases by Glenn Gould or Fazil Say. In three clicks, I had a list of all the high-rez Beethoven chamber music (216 albums). With one more click, you can bring up a list of all the producers responsible for those recordings. (Is it possible to add Engineers to Focus? Can I do it myself?)

One day, not long after I'd been offered an opportunity to try out the 1.8 beta, I found myself listening to a new recording I thought sounded especially fine. Clicking on Credits, I learned that one of the engineers was Julian Schwenker. Clicking on his name summoned 67 albums on which he had a production role, including some in my library that I admire. Discogs lists 104 technical credits, so Roon—rather, Tidal and Qobuz plus my library, via Roon—is missing about a third of his recorded output, but now I have the actual music. I spent the rest of the evening sampling his work, looking for other great-sounding albums.

One day, I decided I wanted to compare versions of "La Donna è Mobile" from Rigoletto. I did what I thought made sense: searched for Verdi, clicked on his Composer link, clicked on Compositions, then used Focus to select "Aria" as the "Form." Only three aria recordings were listed, one of them transcribed for solo piano. I tried several other approaches to accessing the list of arias, but I never got the result I wanted. Roon isn't perfect.

I searched for Kind of Blue and found three versions in my library, four more on both Tidal and Qobuz. Roon had chosen one version by default. Clicking on Credits and scrolling down,

I saw Robert Palmer's name as an author of liner notes—but the link was to the late English singer/songwriter and not, as it should be, to the music writer who wrote Deep Blues and other excellent books. I found a second link, to the correct Robert Palmer, farther down the list.

Albums that have had several releases (like Kind of Blue) have all the production information lumped together: 50 names are listed in the production credits, including Rudy Van Gelder, several mastering engineers, and the two Robert Palmers. When I clicked on a different version of Kind of Blue, I saw exactly the same production credits. There is no differentiation by release. (Keeping track of releases and appropriate production credits is a tall order—maybe too tall—but it's what an optimized Roon would do.)

Finally, too many albums, including new releases, have little or no information. The recent Gearbox Records release Cherry Jam (mentioned in this issue's Revinylization, p.105) is available on Tidal and Qobuz—the latter at 24/192. The Roon listing, though, credits only the label, Don Cherry, and two composers. There's no album description and no other musicians or production personnel.

There's a lot of work to do still, as I'm sure the company would acknowledge. But with its most recent update, Roon has taken a key step toward fulfilling not only its own promise but the considerable promise of server-based and streaming audio.

RH's picture

As someone who also went through the tedium of ripping my large CD collection, all the meta-data issues, then getting a server working reliably, trouble-shooting server issues, struggling with spotty integration of data/favorites etc within Tidal and my server app...

...I laugh at those who say vinyl records are too much hassle, digital is easy. Not in the audiophile world ;-) I'm still batting issues with my server on and off; when I get frustrated I just put on a record and relax.

And, Jim, (Or anyone else), on the subject of music servers:

I'm curious if it has changed your experience of listening to music for better or worse, vs the old days of physical media (including CDs).

My experience:

I ditched records for CDs early on and often found myself scratching my head over the angst many audiophiles expressed about digital "not being musical." I found digital music thrilling and musical.

Like many I ended up ripping my CD collection to stream via a server (iphone/ipad control apps), and then later added Tidal.

At first this seemed like nirvana. All my music tracks at the touch of a finger, and adding Tidal, millions more at my beckon.
But I found it became a "be careful what you ask for" scenario.

The ease of flicking through music made it start to feel less special, more disposable. I found myself "surfing" music as I would surf the internet "this sounds great, but I wonder what the next track is like..." flick, flick, flick...

Yes I was discovering new music on Tidal, but adding favorites was so easy I just kept building up unmanageable levels of saved favorites. But since there was always more to explore, more music to surf, I rarely went back to the favorites anyway. I was encountering tons more music, but remembering less and less of what I'd encountered. I had very little connection to or memory of my favorites.

Further, like many I work on a computer all day long. When I want to relax afterward with my hi fi system, it wasn't that appealing to have to just interact with more computer devices, more screen time.
And digital music, coming out of our smart speaker, our phones, our laptops, just seemed so ubiquitous and easy it seemed to become devalued - moving more to background attention rather than foreground. Basically, I'd developed "Music ADD."

For me, getting back in to vinyl records solved that problem. The way the physicality causes me to concentrate, I always end up listening to at least a side of an album, usually the whole thing, with no fidgety, restless quality as I had with scrolling through digital music. And of course the thrill of the tangibility of a record collection, the aesthetic conceptual pleasures of using a turntable etc. Receiving a new record makes me giddy in a way that swiping through tracks on my iphone never provided.

So I'm wondering if a music server has altered your listening experience for better or worse in any way?

(Some audiophiles I've discussed this with had similar experiences, others say they have no problem concentrating on digital music streaming)

Jack L's picture


For yours truly, a 30-40-hr weekly working on the computer is way way enough (digitally). When I go home, I want to get back my normal life as a human being rather than like a robot.

Yes, streaming with a server provides us the convenience of compiling millions of music tunes in easy-access files.

But who needs huge music files when our ears can only listen to one tune at a time? So why need to crank up our brain to compile the music files & then retrieve our favourites on searching. Anything get too overwhelming is no more fun let alone the good money spent on seting up the streaming server hardware+software.

To show off to my peers being so digitally upfront ??!!

Get real! you may label me as an old schooler.

That said, I still enjoy my music streaming but in much much less complex way. I want to give my brain a break at home.

Considering digital music is only my backburner music source, I've draw the line at money spending, time consuming & brainpower draining by setting up a basic, simple, effective & low low costing streaming system.

A Sony WIFI Blu-ray player linked to a basic 24bit192KHZ DAC hooked direct to my phono-preaamp. With my 4KUHD TV connected to my Sony Blu-ray player, I can stream whatever 4k/1K music performances free on You-Tube etc etc. Simple & easy.

The sound quality is surprisingly good relative to my vinyl. I can't complain at all.

Peace of mine, Amen!

Jack L

CG's picture

Roon appears to be a great archiving and database system.

Does it actually allow music to be played back? (joking, but...) How does it sound? How does it compare to other solutions, like Daphile just to name one that might be somewhat comparable in some ways?

Or, am I just being dopey to care about such things?

dc_bruce's picture

A thoughtful article followed by an equally thoughtful comment! Thankfully, I did not toss my modest vinyl collection when "perfect sound forever" came out. I just put it in the basement. Only when I "re-discovered" audio in the early oughties did the records come upstairs. My Sony XA-777ES disc player has failed to read SACDs for some years, and the availability of high quality streaming services has led me to (finally) move forward and purchase a DAC and streamer. There are some recordings I can think of that I don't have in any format, and I'm looking forward to sampling them on a streaming service. And, I admit, I hope to be able to use streaming services the way I used FM radio 30 or more years ago -- just tune in for some casual listening to whatever the DJ serves up.

I continue to buy -- and my family continues to give me -- new records. That will continue. The "deliberateness" of selecting and playing a record that "RH" describes is a very different process than going through the various versions of a recording available on a streaming service. It seems to me that there is a place for both activities, although I'm not interested in comparing the umpteenth reissue of "KOB" to the Columbia 6-eye record I've owned since new, even if the A side is a semi-tone off. However, I am curious to hear the recordings of cellist Jacqueline Du Pre, for example, and a couple of Grateful Dead albums that I never bought because my then-roommates had them.

I will even, slowly rip my CDs to my network storage and pay someone to rip my SACDs. Until that's completed, I'll feed the digital output of my Sony player to the new DAC.

So, Roon will be part of my planned purchase.

tonykaz's picture

Thousands of pounds of Albums on strong shelving ?

I've traveled the World with a Shirt Pocket player & room filling music library, I'm like a mobile Classical Radio Station. I also have POP & JAZZ and a strange mix of other eclectic wonders.

Less than a Decade ago we seemed to have MP3 players while hoping for the Higher quality thru Meridian's unfolding of original masters.

Streaming hit us like a SteamRoller.

We can internet preview any musical offering presented by our favourite Reviewers from anywhere in the World and at any hour. Phew! I'm now buying with confidence that I'm not getting another dud.

Our Stereophile World is getting better and better.

If this last Decade is any indicator, this next 10 years are going to be wonderful and well-worth the personal struggles to keep-up technologically !

We won the Audiophile Lottery

Tony in Venice Florida

anomaly7's picture

The Tikiyaki Orchestra is da bomb- and they are also available on vinyl. I love both formats now that DACs have finally evolved to the point that they can reproduce digital so that it actually sounds analog, and streaming from Qobuz has expanded my listening options to the point that I have more music at my disposal to listen to than I can find time accommodate. Life is good.

Awsmone0's picture

Good article, Roon 1.8 is a big step up for classical listeners, but liner notes are often absent
Some aspects of the new format are less desirable such as it’s harder to see the format type than before
I find streaming music a mixed blessing, it’s fine a lot of the time followed by half a day wasted of frustration getting some upgrade to work, given all the moving parts
To me the big improvement has been in the playback software and hardware, with HQplayer and my chord m scaler and Femto USB card bringing my digital to an undreamed of level just 1 year ago, the roon improvements are nice, but don’t compare with the other improvements , and I would have forgoed the roon 1.8 if I didn’t get the other sq improvements

AB's picture

Good article on Roon and based on my trial a couple of weeks ago I mainly agree with it. When I first started playing music in Roon from my NAS I was surprised, and not in a good sense. The sound quality was much inferior to my expectations. My normal playback is via BubbleUPnP/MinimServer from NAS to exaSound Sigma streamer e38 DAC or alternatively HQPlayer from NAS to Sigma/e38, the HQPlayer usually gives better sound quality but BubbleUPnP has a better control interface. I thought Roon would be of similar sound quality to BubbleUPnP at least. But no, it was like listening to 16bit/44.1kHz even though the files were hires.
Playing Roon to HQPlayer improved the sound a lot, but it still seemed to be slightly less good than using HQPlayer alone (maybe only 1 or 2% difference). One advantage the Roon-HQPlayer method did have was in playing DSD files without clicks or gaps at track interfaces, which can be done in HQPlayer alone using its album mode as opposed to playlist mode, but its fiddly.
I gave up on my Roon trial, it has some nice features but the sound quality standalone was inadequate, through HQPlayer it was acceptable but I was not prepared to rearrange my music files and metadata just to suit Roon.

Jack L's picture


That's totally unacceptable to me sonically let alone the hassle & money spent in setting it up.

FYI, my 20+-year old CDs ($4 a piece, already put aside for ages) sound so so unexpectedly better after processed by the 24bit192KHz basic DAC (of a New York brand-name) I got dirt dirt cheap from Amazon when played on my basic Sony WiFi Blu-ray player.

Solely for sound quality (what else is more important anyway), try my cheapie yet effective way as already posted above.

I really mean it given my addiction to vinyl classical music, my first priority music media. Of course whatever hi-teck digital media, hard wiring or streaming, still can't touch vinyl sound quality, IMO. Yet my easy going streaming setup unexpectedly delivers the sound quality somehow closer to analogue than ever before.

As I said, I just can't complain having played a smart game on streaming, a rewarding achievement for an old schooler like yours truly.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Jim Austin's picture

That means that the data arrives at its destination in packets, just like all data delivered over the internet. Once those packets have been unpacked and the music stream reconstructed, it is easy to determine (although it depends on your DAC) whether or not the music stream is bit-perfect--that is, if the data entering your DAC is exactly what is stored on your NAS. Unless you choose otherwise (with DSP or when you link zones), the data Roon delivers to the end point is indeed bit-perfect.

Am I claiming that "bits is bits"? No I'm not. Once you've determined that the data delivered to your streamer is bit-perfect, Roon has done its job. Sound quality will then depend on local issues, in particular, on how precisely and well the data is unpacked and reclocked--the audio stream restored. This is the job of your ExaSound Sigma streamer. I have a very high opinion of exaSound--it ought to be able to render a high-quality audio stream from the data in those packets as long as the data is bit-perfect--so I'm surprised to learn that the sound produced by your system depends on the packet source. Be sure you're comparing apples with apples--that nothing in the signal chain is intentionally altering the data the data in one case but not the other. Otherwise, I have no explanation, but Roon is not the culprit.

Jim Austin, Editor

AB's picture

Thanks for you comments. I can understand your point but my finding during my trial of Roon 1.8 showed a clear disparity. Roon was running on the same server as HQPlayer and DSP was not being applied, it was using the same network path. I checked using the very useful Roon feature showing the flow path that nothing unusual was happening. I could understand a small difference in how the data is handled but this was surprising, and immediately obvious. I also compared using files on the servers local drive with the same result.

Another observation is that when comparing HQPlayer and BubbleUPnP, with no filtering applied in HQPlayer the sound is distinctly different to when I play the same file when controlling from BubbleUPnP. The former is of course using the HQP Network Audio Adapter in the Sigma while BubbleUPnP is using MinimServer and the Sigma UPnP interface. Roon is a third method of playing the music to the Sigma, but in my case clearly inferior. The fourth case was when Roon sent a raw data stream to HQPlayer, here the sound was almost identical. I preferred HQPlayer alone but am willing to admit that there may actually have been no difference.

The take home message for me is: try Roon (as with anything else) on your own system and see if works to the standard required. I was disappointed but others may be pleased.

CG's picture


A few years back, on a web site associated with Stereophile magazine that appears to have been lost to time, there was an article named "There's no such thing as digital". This article has apparently been lost to time, too, from what I can tell.

Anyway, it was a conversation with Charley Hansen - who has also been lost to time, Gordon Rankin, and Steve Silberman.

One of the contentions they made is that although digital signals are encoded in a way such that their absolute level doesn't matter to a first approximation, the electrical signals used to communicate the digital information between various parts of the system still are subject to various problems like noise.

Plus, the electronics used to process such signals are not completely immune to interference and noise. So, even though the ones and zeros may be just perfect, the current paths used to transmit them may wreak havoc on analog circuits attached to them from noise and what have you. Digital processing isn't especially quiet, at least in electrical terms.

This noise can and very well might affect analog circuits in your audio system.

(Side comment: This is why various forms of error correction are built into many of the communications protocols used to communicate digitally encoded information.)

How these intruding signals and noise get into the system isn't a topic that you can fit into a a comment box that follows a Stereophile review. But, Khan Academy has some pretty good explanations under the title "Circuit analysis overview". If you're more of a physicist, you can find Richard Feynman's explanation of this in Chapter 22 of Volume 2 of his famous lectures. Or, just look in Wikipedia under "Kirchoff's circuit laws" for a start.

My point is, different processes running on a computer use different resources within the computer, which in turn generate varying types and levels of electrical noise. If you connect that to your audio system, there's a high probability that this noise will propagate through the digital parts of the system to the analog parts. Once there, it might be audible. It probably will be audible in some way. (There are ways to mitigate this, but that is also for another time.)

So, if you change the processing, you change the electrical noise. This is true whether you change the processing hardware or you change the processing instructions. You can measure this.

If you change the interconnection scheme, whether through "grounding", various conductors in the current loops, changing the electromagnetic coupling between various pieces, or the basic configuration, you change the noise. You can measure this.

Generally, we haven't done a great job at figuring out how to measure whether and exactly how the system noise affects our aural perception of the resulting sound, so we just tend to argue about that part.

But, overall, I really like your take home message!

michaelavorgna's picture

That was a great conversation.

AudioStream also offered "How To" guides and reviews that covered things like network audio. In some detail.

Michael Lavorgna
Twittering Machines (former Editor of AudioStream)

Brown Sound's picture

Nice to see you, sir. I do really miss the old site, especially the really old DIY aspects of the computer audio hobby. Cheers.

Jack L's picture


Balanced audio signal interconnection, which has been used for decades in recording studios & PA, is now getting very popular in home audio equipment, from digital players, streamers, DACs, preamp & power amps in these few years.

So why balanced signal transmission? To prevent noise/hum getting into the audio signals in very long run cables, e.g. recording studios & auditoriums.

Do we really NEED balanced signal interconnection in home audios?
IMO, not at all. Why? 'Cause home audio never involves miles of long run interconnects like recording studios & PA.

So why nearly all 'hi-end' audio equipment get balanced in/out terminals starting these few years?

Marketing ! Get more such quasi 'professional' features in home audios can stimulate more sales at higher prices. Consumers got to pay more ! No choice.

Technically, instead of one input amplifier stage like normal auido in the past, there are 2 input amp stages to handle the balanced input signals. To ensure the 100% balanced input signal processing, the 2 input stages amps must be 100% matching each other.

My question: how can we be assured these 2 balanced input amps will be 100% matching in years to come? How about uneven active devices & passive parts aging ???

It is not doing the input music harmonics any favour. More electronics in the signal path, more harmonic, intermoduation & phase distortios generated.

Like my humble home system (2TTs, Blu-ray player, DAC, tape deck, tube phono-preamp, 2 tube power amps, 3 active subs & 4K UHD TV. All UNbalanced interconnected with 99% pure silver cables. (except for the TV, with HDMI & optical fiber)

Any noise/hum heard? NONE even with phono input at full volume wtih TT spinning & 3 active subs ON.

Once we know the 'trick' to STOP the micro ground noise potential of each component from 'talking to each other', ground noise cannot exist at all.

This simple 'trick' has replaced the need of using balanced interconnection.

Jack L

Jack L's picture


One long existing noise source is the micro ground noise potential
at the metal case of each (active) component, e.g. streamer, DAC. preamp etc etc.

Ground noise occurs when such ground noise current at one componet box flows down to another component box of lower ground noise potential. Balanced interconnection is to eliminate such ground noise current inter-flowing.

To find out which component causing ground noise, we have to measure the micro ground noise potential possibly developed on any or all the components housings.

It is a bit of hassle but technically such measurement is simple & easy. NO rocket science. Don't worry.

Jack L

2_channel_ears's picture

"Keeping track of releases and appropriate production credits is a tall order—maybe too tall—but it's what an optimized Roon would do."

I've encountered some of the issues with metadata that Mr. Austin cites. However, fixing it is indeed a tall order but not one for which Roon is perhaps able to handle alone. They rely on what comes across from the services (Tidal and Qobuz) and AllMusic. This forum article explains how to report:

It would be nice to know what a person is credited for if that data is accessible to Roon. I came across, I think it was a Frank Sinatra album that credited Bruce Springsteen. Hey, dey're both from Jorsey, right? I was about to submit it to AllMusic until I learned on Discogs that Bruce had written liner notes.

Jim Austin's picture

However, fixing it is indeed a tall order but not one for which Roon is perhaps able to handle alone.

One admirable quality the Roon folks have long exhibited is focus. They set their own priorities and stick to them. Anything outside their self-identified scope is irrelevant. (So, for example, they long resisted concerning themselves with the challenge of getting music into your Roon library, which could be harrowing in some cases, as with certain classical boxed sets.)

So now they are faced with a very important issue: The available metadata isn't very good. It's not their fault. But even so, it's a real limitation on the ultimate quality of the product they offer. I just hope it can be addressed by someone. Maybe they can take the lead.

Jim Austin, Editor


ok's picture

I never understood what a server (roon ready or not) can do that my trusty computer or smartphone cannot.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

We've written about the sonic advantages of a dedicated music server—one that handles music alone— for years and reported on our experiences. If none of our words have succeeded in convincing you, have you listened for yourself?

ok's picture

since I'm rather satisfied with my current configuration(s) and I don't feel the need for unnecessary complications. I'm sure that this or that server or streamer could make an audible difference - everything does - but for now I prefer to save my money for a new dac, which never fails to make a hell of a difference no matter what people say. Besides being the digital type of audiophile I have occationally felt the urge for some analog break, but streamer/server.. I just don't get it, at least as far as UI is concerned. Well, that's only me after all.

Jack L's picture


No, you are not alone.

I can't agree more to yr honest comment: "I don't feel the need of UNnecessary complications." Who reallly NEEDs it ??

Music is a leisure habbit for relaxing our mind. So why go for such undue complications, taxing our mind, our body & spending our hard earned money.

To show off our peers we are so upfront in the digital fashion which needs upgrade if not sooner than later let alone digital serving technology still NEEDs improvement like Roon ???

Yes, it is a matter of priority. To save money to acquire a quality DAC is more reallistic way of digital music enjoyment for digital music lovers who hate high-tech complications.

Your truly is, on the contrary, a vinyl classical music addict. So anything digital serves only as a backburner music source for me.
So why should I drain my brain power & my hard-earned money to get involved in such musical server headaches ????

That said, I still go for music streaming to update myself the current classical performance events in a simple, easy & very very cost saving way as already posted in here & other Stereophile forums.

All roads lead to Rome. Good sound is available even comparable with vinyl if we play digital SMART !!

Listening is believing

Jack L

Archimago's picture

Been a Roon lifetime member since 2019. It's great and sounds wonderful.

DSP functions really are convenient and easily adds an appreciable level of optimization with room correction.

The one thing I wish they could do is broaden the streaming services available. Support of Amazon Music, Deezer, and of course Spotify would be excellent on top of Qobuz and Tidal.

Obviously this will depend on the service and whether they'll let Roon in.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I'd add the two classical music streaming services, Primephonic and Idagio, to that list.

Archimago's picture

Agree Jason.

michaelavorgna's picture

Roon's "Tag" feature can be used to store album and track level data of your choosing. Adding 'optimal listening level' to an album or track would take all of a few seconds.

Michael Lavorgna
Twittering Machines

Jim Austin's picture

I can see how that could work, but it's certainly not what tags were designed for. They were, I think, intended to define a category for grouping albums or tracks with common elements. Better than nothing, though, I suppose.

Hope all is well.

Jim Austin, Editor

Bluejimbop's picture

After reading this column & comments to fire myself up to finally set up my Q-NAP dedicated server, I think I'll leave it in its box for another few months and go hide under the covers..