CES 2016: Roon Labs detail RoonReady partnerships


ces2016Throughout 2015 I wrote the bejesus out of Roon. Go here, here, here, herehere, and here for in-depth coverage. Roon’s intuitive and clean interface screams to be touched, its meta data reveal goes coal mine deep and its network stability is rock solid, even when streaming hi-res content (which you can’t do with Apple Airplay). No surprises then that Roon was anointed DAR’s Product of the Year for 2015.

At last October’s RMAF, Roon’s Rob Darling said that come CES 2016 we should expect to see his company pushing the pedal to the metal on third party integration, the official title for which is ‘RoonReady’ (RIP ‘Roon Speakers’). That time has arrived.

“The RoonReady hardware program puts Roon technology into network audio players from partner companies”, says Roon Labs’ pre-CES announcement.

But what does that mean for the end user? Roon Endpoint functionality, essentially its playback engine, is moved beyond OS X and Windows and onto hardware specifically designed to meet audiophile sensitivities. That’s terrific news for anyone frustrated with Roon not sounding as good as say Audirvana+ or JRiver.

The third party audio manufacturer installing Roon code on his network streaming device enables it to receive a digital audio stream from a Roon server. In other words, the network streamer becomes a Roon Endpoint. (For specifics go here).

Along for the RoonReady ride comes digital audio compatibility of up to 24-bit/384KHz PCM and DSD as well as streamer grouping for multi-zone, fully-synchronised playback.

As per yesterday’s announcement, AURALiC is slated to be the first RoonReady manufacturer. Roon code will land on their Aries and Aries LE (but not Aries Mini) streamers via the Chinese company’s next update to Lightning DS v3.0, (hopefully) arriving in January 2016. Before that, AURALiC CEO Xuanqian Wang will demonstrate his devices’ new Roon streaming capabilities at CES.

Broadening our outlook, software updates from IQ Audio, Small Green Computer, and Sonore, that will certify their devices as RoonReady, will reportedly land this month also.

Other manufacturers signing on for the RoonReady programme include Audio Alchemy, Bel Canto, Bryston, Cary Audio, Constellation Audio, dCS, Exasound, LH Labs, Lumin, PS Audio, SoTM, and TotalDAC.

The question that looms large for this commentator is this: does RoonReady not obviate the use of each manufacturer’s own software?

More information as events unfold at CES 2016.

Further information: Roon Labs


Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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    • The RoonReady certification is for Ethernet DACs and not for Music Servers. Roon has not announced or created any program for Music Server partners yet.

  1. Your last statement is critical. A manufacturer who has provided a far better sonic playback solution than the Roon software has on a computer-based system, ought to be leery of accepting anything more than access to the Roon metadata.

    The attraction for a user is access to the liner notes, etc. and presentation/interface — not the Roon player, which is sonically terribly inferior to most dedicated software, let alone hardware players which they already provide and tune to their specific systems.

    • “terribly inferior”? Really? Can’t agree.
      Maybe you’re just doing the usual audiophile game of : “I’ll take a really small difference and talk about it as if it is extremely large and significant” – because every tiny difference I hear, well, is just shattering in its magnitude…..”

    • I don’t agree that Roon sounds ‘terribly’ inferior to other players. Inferior yes (to Audirvana+) but the delta is small.

      • I’m with you John. A+ sounds marginally better than Roon, but I can’t say I miss it after switching. Some other programs I’ve tried on the Mac sound about the same as Roon. All in all, Roon sounds very very good to me and I listen with with some pretty revealing gear, like STAX 009 headphones.

  2. Aurender will probably make their own announcement at CES. Though I’m betting their implementation will be quite different from other vendors. They already have a superb player that would not benefit from anything more than integrating the metadata aspects of Roon. Likely an extension of their existing library management scheme.

    • Aurender has no Android App, and are not capable to produce one. For that reason a Roon implementation would open a new market for them – for all those people who do not want to be forced towards Apple but want an Aurender device ( me for example 😉

        • Excuse me, you are right. It is auralic who stopped development of their Android app. And as Auralic now has Roon implemented they have solved this omission for roon +android users

    • I very much doubt Roon will give you a programmatic way (ie an API) to access their metadata. For one it would be hard for an external vendor to link all the info. Secondly it would open the door for people to steal the metadata (which is arguably Roon’s main asset). I predict Aurender will implement RoonSpeakers (or whatever Roon is calling it these days).

    • I’ll take that bet…

      You are misunderstanding about what RoonReady means. What vendors implement is the ability to receive music over the Roon RATT protocol. Essentially your device receives the music data from a Roon server, decodes it, and play it back with its own playback engine (not Roon’s). Think of it like any other streaming protocol such as DLNA/UPnP. As far as I know, there will not be Roon built into the Audrender app or any other. You would use the Roon app when doing playback from a Roon Server.

      • Thanks for clarification. That may well explain the delay in anything coming out of Aurender, other than the newly announced A10. For wired boxes, where both sufficient and steady bandwidth is available, this is essentially a no brainer; that seems to exclude Sonos offering Roon (despite an internal DAC), given their WiFi based approach, for instance. Also fine for those systems that are offered primarily as a PC alternative music server (Baetis server (as in “A camel is a horse designed by a committee” approach by finding or specing out and “gluing” parts together; with Windows and it’s problems and limitations). However, for servers that would primarily source local music (on the server drives or via a local NAS) the utility of Roon diminishes. Add to that the substantial software investments made by Aurender for both the player function and IOS app integration and it’s no wonder they’ve not come forward with a Roon option.
        Roon is probably leery of giving away, even via licensing, the jewels.
        Having been down the road over many years building Windows-based systems, moving to MacMini, and finally to Aurender it really does take significant work on all fronts to deliver a really excellent music server, at least in a high end sound system. That said, as always, YMMV.

  3. Interesting! Would be great to say use the Aires quality with room interface. I assume that would allow a whole lot of other control devices to start working?

  4. You can now use Roon with HQPlayer as the playback engine. Even though the functionality is fairly new, it works quite well and gives you full HQPlayer quality (arguable the best of the best) with a Roon interface.

  5. For manufacturers this is an opportunity to lose a headache and gain a competitive edge. They concentrate on what they are good at – audio – and let Roon worry about the GUI.
    It also enables multiple end points and zones with their devices, something very few have been able or willing to add.
    I think you will see Roon become almost a standard addition to lots of high end devices.
    If we could get more of them to add HQPlayer NAA to their devices it would also be fantastic.

    • That’s right – Roon removes the software headache in a single swoop. Roon also adds iOS and Android remote into the bargain. I wonder if the cannier manufacturers will pass those software dev savings onto consumers in the form of subsidised Roon subscriptions?

  6. John,

    This is a re-post of the lost comment I referred to above.

    I personally am disappointed with the (non)support for Android from Auralic. The Androind 1.0 Lightning DS app was six months late and then it was basically useless. 1.1 is the current (and final) Android release. If you have an android device have a squizz and see for yourself. It really is very lame and barely makes the Minimum Viable Product threshold. I have had an Aries since April that is unused as a result. I am therefore still streaming Tidal through my PC which is what I had been hoping to escape.

    When I asked Auralic in October for their plans they said they had dropped Android development all together and they told me at that time they are apparently working on a cross platform solution. No word on progress on that front either.

    The Roon/MQA announcement is welcome but only if it also brings with it a viable solution for non Apple users. Please grill Auralic on this issue when you have the opportunity. Or ask them if they will buy back an unused Aries with you-beaut power supply.

    I am still excited about the vision but Auralic need to understand that if they plan to move their company “in a software direction” then this also brings with it the need to support your customer base and not just flit onto the ‘next big thing’. That is how you build a brand. It is not acceptable to continue to announce new solutions while ignoring your customers.

    John, thank you for continuing to support the highest standards of transparency in your work.

    Regards David

  7. Roon not sounds as good as JRiver ???
    Are you kidding?
    I use both – roon 1.1 (88) and JRiver 21 (30) and not only for me roon is the very better of the two

  8. First post on DAR 🙂

    It would be interesting to have Roon run on a raspberry pi at some point. I am currently using one with the additional Hifiberry digital interface and Volumio player installed as network player which works OK and has good sound quality. I would be willing to pay for the additional comfort Roon might bring from a software/library perspective though.

  9. Just to set the record straight, John. The RoonReady certification relates to DACs with an Ethernet input being able to play from the Roon Server app, sometimes called Core, running on some other box.

    In our case (I am speaking for Antipodes Audio) the solution is to run Roon Server, the library, and Roon Speakers all on the Antipodes server. We have been running this with Roon Beta software for some time now, enabling us to fully integrate Roon and optimise our new Antipodes 2.0 based servers for the task. Servers using our Antipodes 2.0 software will have Roon pushed to them over the internet as soon as we get a commercial release of the Roon code, and Roon will be available for use alongside the SqueezeBox/Squeezelite, HQPlayer, MPD, MinimServer, BubbleUPnP, Plex and SONOS playback solutions offered in Antipodes 2.0.

    It is disappointing for us that Roon has chosen to prioritise networked players, and that Roon has not been clear that the current program is restricted to such devices. There has not been an opportunity for Antipodes Audio (or competing server manufacturers) to join a suitable Roon partnering program up to this point. Roon has assured us that they will attend to this soon, but we have not been advised of any date yet.

    But you can be assured that Antipodes Audio is working with Roon to offer Roon for use on our servers.

    • With finite (time) resources available to them I can only assume that the Roon guys are forced to lay their partner programme out in stages. In this case, streamers first, servers second.

      However, you can be assured Mark that Roon Ready/Core on the DX will get DAR coverage when it finally arrives.

  10. Agreed. Roon are biting off a lot at the moment. I would like to add that we are very impressed with the quality of their software development, and we can see that they are progressively addressing the needs that go beyond Roon’s initial core strengths. We had initial concerns that the application may be ‘heavy’ and compromise sound quality as a result, either directly or indirectly by requiring more powerful hardware. But their code runs very efficiently and we need not have worried, except that there are certain architectural considerations to optimising for Roon.

    As noted in a post here, having firms that do the software GUI brilliantly, that also know not to screw up the audio performance, means we can focus on optimising the sound quality for each solution. I prefer that we remain open and agnostic, as there are some real advantages to the different playback solutions we are offering in 2.0, and who knows what is coming around the corner. Roon excels in the area of exploring your favourite music, and TIDAL integration, but they look to me as though they are not going to rest on those laurels and will continue to expand their set of strengths over time.

  11. John

    I just downloaded Roon to the IPad hoping that it would control the Aries and see the library on the connected SSD. This doesn’t appear to work and I get the impression Roon needs to be installed on a computer/server connected to Aries. With your extensive knowledge of both Roon and Aries, can you please confirm this or otherwise enlighten me?

    • Yes, you need to have Roon running on a Windows or Mac computer elsewhere on your network for it to scan your music library and serve files to the Aries.