I’ve been following Roon almost since the beginning. My first full experience with the software came at Axpona (2016?) when the CEO/Founder hosted a seminar/demo, and I was amazed at its ability to catalog huge music collections. It especially appealed to me because I had thousands of albums floating around on a hard drive, and I badly needed a piece of software that could make sense of my collection.
Even so, I balked at the cost ($499 lifetime, $119 annually at the time) because, for one, it was a much larger investment than my $50 (one-time) J River Media Center software license, and two, I didn’t really get the whole “core-endpoint” concept. However, Roon is the type of thing that you will wonder how you did without it once you get it, and that’s where I am now.
Now I have my Roon Core, the computer where your account and database resides, set up on a three-year-old laptop, plus several Roon endpoints (audio devices that receive music from the core), placed all over the house. It takes a little work to get going, but it’s really not that bad. All you basically have to do is install the Roon software on your core computer, then connect the endpoints (a streamer with Roon like my Cambridge Audio CXN V2, an Apple Airplay device, or a laptop with an AudioQuest Dragonfly) to your audio system.
Click here for more info on how Roon works: https://roonlabs.com/howroonworks
(Keep in mind, you must have the Core computer on at all times to access music via the endpoints. I lock my laptop to restrict access.)
Then you can install the Roon remote app on your smartphone or tablet and have an awesome visual guide to your complete collection while directing music to all your endpoints. (Pro Tip: You can even use Amazon Fire tablets, which gives you a cheap big-screen option to control the experience)
What Roon Does
I have my Roon core network connected to a Seagate NAS drive with all of my music stored on it and my TIDAL account. With that combination, Roon links all of my local network music with my online collection and creates a unified collection. Not only that, it gives my music context. For example, it will point out all the albums I have collected from a particular artist, both local and online, then show me the rest of their discography on TIDAL.
Not only that, Roon will show me all the artists that collaborated with the artist in question and then recommend albums by those artists. As you can tell, with Roon, discovering new music is never an issue, especially with a personalized “Discover” screen that digs gems out of your collection.
Now I know some will say, “I can do the same thing on the TIDAL, Spotify, or Qobuz apps.” Yes, all those services have nice music discovery/suggestion features (that are getting better every day). Still, they don’t incorporate info gleaned from all the local FLAC files you may have collected over the years, and they don’t let you search your library with the depth that Roon does. More on that later.
Roon also handles all the metadata and cover art issues you tend to have with other music software. I can’t be the only one that has spent hours renaming Cover Art files to “folder” so that you can see the album cover in your playlist. Roon automatically pulls this and other info like Genre (another pain point for me) from their crowdsourced database.
Really, there’s so much that Roon will do. It would take many, many pages to go over all the features, like EQ, DSP, Bit-Perfect playback, multi-room, etc. However, the latest release, Roon 1.8 ($9.99/month annually, $12.99 monthly) improves upon the astounding functionality of the popular software package by improving search features, usability, and UI design. If you liked Roon before, you should like it even more now, and if you were on the fence, then the new upgrade is a good reason to take another look.
Click here for more info on how Roon works: https://roonlabs.com/howroonworks
If you want to know more about Roon 1.8 and about how we got along with it, read on!
The Low Down
What we dig about Roon 1.8: An amazing new UI with beautiful typography reminiscent of a Rolling Stone magazine. Great pics and vivid colors highlight music selections, easier scrolling, and better information flow on both the Roon software and the mobile remote apps.
Actually, you get the same comprehensive experience no matter what screen you use…that was not the case previously. Deep search options for both your local and online music and multitudinous stats regarding your listening habits are really cool. Crowdsourced music discovery features are second to none.
What to think about: Roon takes a little more effort and commitment to use as compared to other audio software like Aurdivana (which we also like); some people say the sound quality is not as good as other audio software (we think they’re crazy), and yes you have to pay a monthly or annual fee (get over it, gramps. It’s not that much..) Especially with the new monthly subscription option. MQA Albums should be easier to find.
About Roon 1.8
So let me say this upfront. Roon 1.8 isn’t a complete overhaul of the software’s overall functionality. If you’ve used Roon in the past, this release will be familiar in a lot of ways. However, this latest version has a dazzling new look and feel that flows a lot better than previous releases.
Now, on every platform (Android, iOS, PC, Mac), the new Roon provides a full-featured interface where you can quickly scroll through tons of music and find new (or old) tunes with ease. While Roon always had an alluring UI, Roon 1.8 takes things further than ever before, with excellent typeface and color that resembles a top music magazine. To see your personal music collection organized in such a way is a dream for music junkies like myself.
They have upgraded popular features like Focus, which lets you dig into your music like never before. With a couple of clicks, you can quickly sort out your favorite performers’ producers or filter their music by genre and source. Now it not only works with your local files but with your online music services too.
The Home Screen, the center of the Roon experience, has been revamped with a clean look that is a pleasure to look at. It also has a new summary section that gives a graphical presentation of your recent listening patterns. At a glance, you can see your top artists, albums, and genres, sorted by the last week, month, or even year.
Recently, one of my all-time favorite artists, Chick Corea, passed away, and I did a search for his music as an avid fan is wont to do. Roon made this a thoroughly enjoyable pursuit, showing me all the Chick Corea albums (and albums he appeared on) in my library, followed by recommendations of Corea albums that weren’t in my library.
I had never even heard of some of these albums, which surprised me since I’ve done many searches for his music on TIDAL in the past. Roon also suggested collaborations between Corea and bassist Avishai Cohen, an artist I recently discovered and really like. From looking at these projects, I found out that Corea signed Cohen to a label he co-owned and that Corea produced a lot of his early work.
This is something that would’ve been hard to find on TIDAL alone and is just a small example of some of the treats available for music lovers on Roon 1.8. This software now has over 40 music recommendation features that utilize crowdsourced data from other music lovers, and they are top-notch.
Regarding the sound, some have complained about Roon’s sound quality compared to software like Audirvana. As someone who has used both extensively, I personally haven’t heard much of a difference between the two. In any case, I’m pleased with how Roon 1.8 sounds. That said, many people in the online music groups I frequent believe that Roon 1.8 sounds better than previous releases, so take that how you wish.
The Wrap Up
As I’ve said in the past, Roon is probably not for everybody. Some folks will find it too expensive/complicated, and others will not see the value of all the metadata. But for music lovers with huge digital music collections who need an easier way to organize and make sense of it all, Roon is a godsend.
Roon 1.8 now makes the software even easier to live with, utilizing powerful new search and discovery features along with a new UI, which represents the biggest redesign since Roon’s debut. The UI has always been one of the main draws of the software, and now it looks better than ever. There is also a more flexible $12.99 per month payment option for those who have complained about the cost, or as before, you can save cash by billing annually ($9.99/month). If you have been thinking about giving Roon a try, now’s a great time to give it a spin.
For more info and a free trial, visit https://roonlabs.com/.
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I’m an audio writer who started as a young audio salesman/consumer electronics professional back in the late 90s. That’s where I discovered the magic of 2-Channel sound. My thirst for great sound has led me on a delightful music quest that continues today.