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Coming over the hill: the monstrous Roon 1.3

New Year’s Day 2017. A time for looking forward to the possible futures that lie ahead. For Roon users a r/evolution is imminent: Roon 1.3. will arrive with so many new features that it’s tough to know where to start. From a preview of the official changelog (and not hands-on experience), I tease out what I consider to be the forthcoming update’s top ten new features:

1. With Roon 1.3 installed on your server, it will stream to Sonos devices – any and all of them. At the DARhaus, that means Roon’s superior interface can take over as controller of a stereo pair of Play:1 in the bedroom and a Wyred 4 Sound-modded Connect, that feeds a Chord Mojo over coaxial, in my lounge room’s headphone setup. (Presumably) sample rate compatibility will be capped at Sonos’ hard limit of 48kHz but that’s where this first item becomes twice spicy: I prefer Redbook content streamed via the W4S-modded Connect to any hi-res content channelled into and out of the USB-lassoed Roon Ready microRendu from Sonore.

Perhaps Roon’s newfound Sonos compatibility might also give Xuanqian Wang of AURALiC pause to reconsider his “never, ever” stance on bringing Roon Readiness to the Aries Mini?

2. Bought a hi-res download from HDTracks? Want to browse all of the downloaded folder’s .jpg-d cover art or .pdf-sealed liner notes? Roon 1.3’s artwork gallery browser will allow us to scroll through a folder’s numerous cover art files without ever leaving the app. The tag editor and file location browser has also been overhauled. Organised folders have been zapped.

3. Roon 1.3 will make it easier for us to let the world know that we’re playing air-bass to Level 42 at 2am or zoning out to Brian Eno on a Thursday afternoon. An all new social sharing feature will push public displays of ‘Now Playing’ to Facebook and/or Twitter, all from a coupla in-app clicks.

4. Most Spotify users will be familiar with the playlist: an ordered collection of songs. It’s through playlists that the majority of mainstreamers listen to music. Roon 1.3 will take this concept further with (something they call) Collections – an un/ordered virtual container for everything from individual songs to albums to genres. Users can create a bag in which to drop Roon-accessible stuff, including Tidal content. For example, I might want to create a collection in which to drop Fabric mixes, some stored in the cloud and some locally, or a collection for Pitchfork’s Top 100 albums of the 1980s or one for all my 24bit/192kHz library content.

Projecting: can you see how 3) and 4) might eventually come together as (social network) shareable Collections?

So far, so beginner.

For power users, Roon’s new DSP engine brings a basketful of fresh features to the table:

5. Headphone listeners get a crossfeed filter – similar to that found in Chord’s Hugo, Hugo TT or Fidelia – that can be switched on to flesh out the headstage.

6. If you’re like me, you might already use Roon’s Now Playing waveform display as a rough guide as to how much dynamic range compression was applied by the mastering engineer. Roon 1.3 will take this further with proper dynamic range analysis and volume levelling. That means an end to ongoing volume adjustments, especially when listening to Roon radio or Collections.

7. One of the biggest complaints about DSD is the paucity of available content. With Roon 1.3, you can roll your own. Many HQPlayer users report a smoother, richer sound when upsampling PCM to DSD at source. Soon you’ll be able to access the same from within Roon itself. 1.3 brings with it a re-sampling engine that will allow users to apply sample rate conversion to every type of content before it is sent downstream to a direct-connected DAC or over the network to a streamer – yes, from 44.1kHz to 384kHz PCM to DSD128 and DSD256. A choice of SRC filters will allow listeners to season according to taste. For some that will mean bidding adieu to HQPlayer (we hardly knew ye). Just make sure your network can handle DSD streaming and that your Core device is capable of the additional number-crunching.

8. End users wanting to stream multi-channel content to a multi-channel DAC – like those offered by Exasound or Merging Technologies – will also be looked after in Roon 1.3 . The new version will offer channel mapping and downmixing to stereo zones as well as support for DSD content.

9. Got a nasty room node at 60Hz? Roon 1.3 will allow us to compensate for room (and loudspeaker output) anomalies. The power of DSP will see Roon 1.3’s settings panel offer a fully-fledged parametric EQ facility:

10. Roon OS is now (almost) ready to roll. From a USB boot image, hardware partners and power users can install a Roon Core equipped Linux operating system to their (server) box of choice. I’m spying my Intel NUC that serves files over the network from its kitchen location.

Don’t reach for a new browser tab just yet though. We must exercise patience in getting hands on with this not inconsiderable upgrade. According to Roon Labs CEO Enno Vandermeer, Roon 1.3 will be made available for download “Once it’s finalised, hopefully sometime in January 2017”.

Further information: Roon Labs

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR from which he derives an income from its ad revenues. John is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
Instagram: DarkoAudio
Facebook: DAR

87 Comments

  1. DSP, DSD…Happy New Year indeed.
    Dynamic range analysis and volume levelling. Nice but isn’t that the same as replay gain which has been a Squeezebox feature for years?
    About the Sonos Connect – does it downsample hi-res to redbook or simply skip/stop playing?
    Wish Sonos would get with the program and offer at least 24-96.

    • I don’t think the Sonos will skip playing, just downsample. Squeezebox has had replaygain for a long while, yes – almost as long as it has been a discontinued product! 😉

      • John is correct, Roon will down sample the same it works currently for Airplay.

        Roon has had Replaygain support as well, but we’ve moved over to R128 as it is a superior standard for loudness determination.

    • Yeah I know John I’m living in the past but I still used LMS instead of Roon to control my sMS-200. One foot in the past and one in the present. But guess what I just sold my sMS-200. Nice but paired with Mojo just too clinical sounding for my sensitive ears. DSP will no doubt sway me towards Roon.

  2. Can’t wait for this. This looks like an awesome release!
    In the coming weeks I get a new W4S DAC v2, can’t wait to hook it up.

  3. As i mainly listen to music via my own playlists, point 6 is a biggie for me. An end to ongoing volume adjustments is just what the Doc ordered.

  4. Wow quite a release! Any idea if the system requirements will increase? I just literally placed an order for a new NAS last night that comes with Celeron processor (QNAP TS-251+) which will apparently run Roon fine currently, but a bit concerned now with all these new features…

  5. “…zoning out to Brian Eno on a Thursday afternoon.” I was, just this morning, right on the heels of “Thinking Music, Part IV.”

    Happy New Year, John, and continued success here.

  6. Maybe I’m not of the right generation, but why would you want the world to know what you’re listening to, and why would the world (let alone my friends) care?

    • I rank this up there with live toilet webcams and sharing everything you order from Amazon, but if you’re in the Facebag millieu then this is exactly the sort of mindless crap that keeps you continually engaged while building your profile for advertisers.

      I trust that the Roon team will implement any ‘social’ integration as strictly opt-in. If the Roon UI gets polluted with social media icons and login pop-ups by default, then it will be time to move on to something else.

  7. Great run down John and wonderful to see Roon continuing to evolve. Roon is best thing to happen to digital music since the CD and this type of release shows a continued commitment to being a one stop shop… Spotify integration would be nice, but one suspects Tidal won’t allow that. Oh well, we can dream.

  8. Hopefully Bluesound players get the long anticipated update to make them endpoints this month so I can finally give this a go!

  9. Great update! Iam looking forward to getting rid of hqplayer. Was hoping for full convolution so I could load FIR filters as I do now into hqplayer.
    What is the speaker setup tab?

  10. here is where i’m a bit confused, however, so please excuse me:
    most of my stuff is ripped flac or alac…some is 24/192 flac files…all
    on ipod touch (with either dragonfly red or mojo)…will i be able
    to up the bit rate then with the new tweaks coming in?
    i apologize if i sound like i’m in left field…which i am…

    • Yes, you can upsample those files but not directly from the phone itself. For that you’ll need to put them onto your Roon server first.

      • thanks, john….i’ll read more and ask their tech dept for more once it’s released for clarification.

  11. Thanks for this good preview! Exciting things ahead for sure. Virtually every one of these features I’ll be using. Roon is a must have for me already – but really mostly wanted the crossfade and EQ and now we’ll have both – plus multichannel capability and more. I do find the user interface could use a bit of improvement as I constantly have to switch around to get to where I need, but I will say it’s already great – just room for improvement. I hope they improve the iOS app though as it has several key features entirely missing. Perhaps this is coming soon too. Also perhaps some day we’ll get an actual Roon Server on iOS. That would be very nice for when I’m in the car or out and about.

  12. I’m feeling a bit sorry for Jussi and his HQPlayer. It plus Roon has been quite a team. Now Roon wants to eat his lunch.

    But I supposed that is business…

    • Don’t think so.
      JRiver also has DSD upsampling and users left it for HQPlayer and then bought into Roon as a superior interface for HQP. Why? The upsampling in to DSD in JRiver is generic; in HQP it is proprietary and constantly developing and improving – the best on the market.

      Jussi is a world leader in building filters and modulators. Decades of experience. That’s the reason people are willing to buy his software. Extremely doubtful anyone at Roon can match his expertise in this specific area. And I bet the guys at Roon will be the first ones to agree with that.

      So HQP users will still use Roon as an interface for HQP; and HQP will still be the “upsampler” of choice for audiophiles. Audiophiles who prefer the upsampling in HQP will simply continue to use Roon that way.

      Don’t get me wrong. I think adding that feature to Roon is a good thing, and doubtless many will use and appreciate it. But those who want “the best” will still use HQP.

    • I expect that Jussi / Miska will continue to develop and innovate HQPlayer. I’ve never gotten the impression that he’s interested in ‘mainstreaming’ HQP or becoming too dependent upon or beholden to a third-party.

  13. Yeah me to a degree too that’s the first thing that occured to me when reading this. I get the impression HQPlayer’s Miska takes the like it or lump it approach however to integration with other products albeit he has amazing level of engagement with his user base.
    Its the upsampling that made me (obviously) get HQPlayer and i really loved that for a while it having a genuine big impact on SQ however i ended up buying a qnap tvs-0471 with all its benefits of running 24/7 and headless Roon running on it. Miska/ Jussi gave a thumbs down to creating (or allowing) a special HQPlayer release for a QNAP/ Synology NAS citing insufficient horsepower and not being a believer in the approach. Hence sadly goodbye to hqplayer for me already. My rig runs Roon currently just as well as my I7 high end pc did previously and i reckon there is plenty of available horsepower left over.
    I’m really excited about the prospect of native Roon upsampling even if i have to limit the level of upsampling to say redbook level up to 192 – awesome news as well as the fact Roon will likely do it in a more user friendly way. My only concern will be the processing demands will my rig be able to run it and importantly will the community QNAP nominated external qpg package editor ‘Crieke’ be in a position to on board the latest version and incorporate all these new features. As you say Roon/ HQPlayer have been working together really well. Pure speculation but wouldn’t surprise me if Roon asked Miska to directly to contribute more formally with all his incredible expertise and he said no – hence them taking the DIY approach for upsampling.

  14. Whilst it’s been good to have a convolution engine available, I’ve found HQPlayer to be quite frustrating when hanging off the back of Roon. It requires frequent restarts… doesn’t like it when you switch off your DAC for example, and hangs if you send two commands in quick succession (e.g, play and then seek within a track before HQPlayer has cued the track properly, which takes a couple of seconds). It was great that Roon & Jussi collaborated to get them working together, but honestly it never felt like a long term solution to me, just too flaky.

    Having parametric EQ natively in Roon is a killer feature imho, and crossfeed is a nice surprise.

    • I have personally found the latest versions of HQPlayer and Roon very very stable, no restarts required. It is ever so slightly a contraption with a slight delay on start, but very robust nonetheless, in my case at least. I do like one feature about HQP that Jussi added on my request: upsampling PCM to PCM and DSD to DSD. My DAC sounds better with PCM to PCM upsampling, possibly because it maxes out at DSD64 (EmmLabs XDS1v2)

    • On the parametric EQ: Wouldn’t it be great if it could do room corrections? This is like literally a step away.

    • That’s more of a specific DAC issue, and how it’s drivers are written. Many users don’t have that issue.

  15. I don’t mind! There have already been other applications that do upsampling to DSD too. But they have different algorithms than HQPlayer, so it is NOT the same thing. Given the same input data, each algorithm gives you different output data.

  16. John, thanks for this post. It is timely as I am in the process of setting up my NAS network and looking to a management platform. But, I do wonder if you could perhaps post something on your media/music network setup? How are you using the NUC in your network? Do you run a NAS in addition to the NUC or can it perform this function and what is the benefit. Do (and can) these modules need to live at the broadband entry point to your home? The recommendations from Roon for a NAS is completely over the top (QNAP 271) for my purposes – I don’t have 15000 CDs!! Forgive my naivety, but I would really value something on the moving options for best approach to accessing our digital music library at home.

  17. What would be really killer is if they fix the android app so one can scroll through a big collection- like you can with every other control point I’ve ever seen, including Roon’s own iOS app.

  18. Very disappointed in you, as you now seem compelled to push vaporware for a living. It took the kiddies at Roon more than a year to produce some semblance of a users manual. When will we see 1.3? Really, honestly, who knows? I guess as long as Enno’s mommy keeps letting him use the basement for his silly computer camp projects there’s hope. Roon has always been a music player for geeks, not music lovers.

    • I’ll bite. An article about a forthcoming piece of software and all of a sudden I’m a vapourware pusher? Nonsense. I write about Roon – and will continue to do so – because it is the software that ties my music fandom to my inner geek and it is the first to do so (with Audirvana+ pulling up a close second). But I am curious: which music player do you recommend for music lovers, David?

      P.S. Personal insults, like that lobbed in Vandermeer’s direction, have no place on DAR.

    • I think the opposite is true. Roon is a player for music lovers. Music lovers also want to know about their music, and how it fits into the larger music world. Roon is a display of /gateway to this information.

      • Absolutely. Just yesterday I added Meredith Monk / “Our Lady Of Late” and I was transported to a new universe, and I read about her right there, and I could trace more of her records, and as I went to sleep I could still feel in my head her touch. Just unbelievable…

    • Reading between the lines: This is the price the Roon team has to pay for not developing a Windows Phone app.

    • Thanks John. Enjoyed the write up.

      @ DS, add another geek. Roon is a great program for music lovers. To each their own.

      PS: Roon doesn’t really need a user manual. JRiver on the other hand…..?

  19. How’s the sound quality of the new playback engine compared to Roon+HQPlayer (assuming you’ve used the latter)?

  20. Regarding the volume leveling, I assume this is no way would impact fidelity? For some reason, I read iOS/music apps volume leveling does impact sonics.

    • I’ve never heard volume leveling that didn’t negatively impact SQ, so don’t use it for listening, just for parties and situations like that.

      Maybe somehow the implemetation in Roon will be better…

    • I would never use it just bc I’m a bit crazy that way… But volume controls can be very innocuous to sound quality assuming their are implemented properly and not used to heavily. Even HQPlayer has a volume control (which I of course have defeated).

      Additionally, keep in mind this will only work in the PCM domain. You cannot volume adjust a DSD stream.

  21. Just because Roon has added some upsampling filters does not mean they are as good as Jussi’s in HQPlayer. I would highly doubt it. Time will tell.

    Also, isn’t 1.3 suppose to finally offer a power user a simple hierarchical view (i.e file view) of one’s collection?

    • Maybe not but i imagine they will continue to refine it just as HQPlayer has evolved over a period of time. i would hope/ imagine Roon are bringing it in as a feature because they believe it gives good results, filters n all. Lets see.

      I assume upsampling will also apply to tidal streams as well as owned material stored locally…

      I see a comment in here about it missing room correction but i thought that was covered in John’s point number 9. i.e. its in

      • Upsampling in HQPlayer applies to anything coming out of Roon, ie Tidal as well, and I’m sure it will be similar in v1.3.

        As for room correction (roon-correction? 🙂 ), what I meant is using a room profiler to determine the eq required, like Dirac does, as opposed to doing it “by hand”.

  22. If Roon will start working with Sonos it looks like I might be moving my listening to Tidal (at least until the day that Spotify support comes … if ever).

  23. a new recruit to roon, tried the free trail , just signed up for life time, love it.
    have all my music on an hp sever ( all cd’s flaced , hi ress and some dsd ) cabled to the following oppo 105, sonos, ps audio DS jr and tv pvr and home office for streaming music , blueray movies hd movies photos etc.
    oppo and sonos both pull from sever no dramas,( oppo has no play list ) ps audio needs something to push files to it , tried j river , mconnect , no way — roon after a bit of playing around is the go. i have roon core on and old asus laptop ( i7/ 16 G – samsung pro ssd — all good i want to move roon core to server ( but roon wants ssd / i 5/ 8 g., so will need to upgrade or add ssd , i like what i hear and will be moving core to server soon. roon for oppo ? that would be great , anything happening here .
    i would like to see more stuff on network players , re music on nas or server as i think this is the way to go., not from laptop, like who has to set up laptop to play anything , i like to come home , smart phone app , play music . DS jr plus roon is now a network player , pretty good one i must say.
    oppo plays to redgum 6 channel power amp VAF speakers . ,sonos to marantz pm 6004 old recon marantz ls17a speakers , DS jr to old poineer 6 class A – b6 VAF speaker need new ( want) amp ( ps audio has made the old amp sound so much better but, thinking of vinnie rossi , redgum, marantz premiun pm 10/ lavardin. hmmm 1st world problems , have you tested any of these , differances ?
    anthow , roon get’s 10/10 from me as oppo 105 , ps audio, this is good , redgum. cheers for aus. paul

  24. as an ios, osx, and dragonfly black user (but inevitable upgrader) just wanted to say i’m keeping an eye on these articles trying to navigate the roon, hq player, tidal, audirvana, j-river choices; thanks for continuing to help us see the forest for the trees.

    • Corsair, I’ve been doing something similar. Macbook with dragonfly red (and jitterbug), now debating whether to take the next step with a Aries Mini or Node 2 (+ storing music on an external drive rather than NAS at first).

  25. Sonos integration makes Roon a better proposition as i have both Auralic and Sonos on my network. The only thing holding me back is the cost. Hopefully Roon becomes a little more mainstream and the prices can be adjusted for the budget conscious audiophile. Great write up John

  26. Lets hope that version 1.3 is not the total pile of crap for classical music that is currently the case. I tried the current version and have rarely been so frustrated and disappointed by any software. Apparently, according to Roon, an opera with say, 30 arias, is 30 pices of music that are seemingly unrelated (oh and they each have their own artwork – just to make it worse). As to the concept of a directory structure – well that is all beyond Roon. If only their developers had used a library (for books) they would understand the need and logic of a directory structure. Simply put if I want Jane Austen I look under fiction A NOT P for Pride and Prejudice and M for Mansfield Park.
    Andy

    • >>Simply put if I want Jane Austen I look under fiction A NOT P for Pride and Prejudice and M for Mansfield Park

      You know you can view your library by Artist? Then you can look under “J” for Jane Austen.

        • Based upon what? I wasn’t expecting it at all and I’m surely not the only one for whom MQA on Tidal at CES came out of the blue – or did you know about that announcement in advance?

          • Roon had said they were working on MQA months ago and that it was coming soon. Whether that means 1.3 or a future update is of course the question.

            It’s also not that much of a surprise about Tidal as it was known they had MQA ready for some time and were just awaiting getting enough titles.

            And since Tidal and Roon are partners to some degree, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that their could have been some collaboration.

            And so since it’s been in the pipeline for some time, it was not an absurd notion that it might be in 1.3 and I think it still might be.

          • MQA on Tidal’s launch and its ‘delay’ was more likely the result of lawyers getting license agreements in place than getting sufficient titles (secured in May). Consequently, I knew not when Tidal would drop the lever. And perhaps neither did Roon, otherwise 1.3 *would* include support for MQA unfolding. But it doesn’t and nowhere that I have seen did Roon suggest that it might. Perhaps a case of an over-eager fan’s conjecture elsewhere on the net?

          • … speaking of Tidal “Masters” (aka MQA) titles, I only see a few hundred in the Masters listing in the Tidal Desktop app, but I thought we were going to get ~30,000 titles by Warner alone. Or is this 30K titles over time and eventually many more hopefully? Not clear, and also (other than the “Masters” tab in Tidal), I don’t see any way to identify what is an MQA title on Tidal except to play it and see if the “Master” identifier comes up instead of the normal “HIFI”. Thanks for any clarity!

            Also, it appears that the Tidal play queue history, when clicking on a title that was originally played as an MQA title, now plays as HIFI. Appears some work needs to be done to the Tidal app. And of course we all hope Roon supports MQA soon. Some of this content I’ve heard so far absolutely awesome!

  27. I’m excited about Roon on Sonos but do wish that Sonos would improve their hardware, it’s a shame that to get better quality you have to look at the likes of a Wyred4Sound upgrade and even that still doesn’t fix the lack of HiRes audio … esp with Tidal now doing MQA. I just wish the Connect and Connect Amp allowed HiRes (and the Connect Amo had more inputs) – there’s only so many years you should try to get away with the same hardware… it’s sad when you’re considering upgrading your Sonos with Raspberry Pi.

  28. Hi John,
    I just started a Roon trial, so I’m not yet up to speed. And I’m thinking of trying out Tidal because I’m hoping that the MQA unfolding business allows me to stream higher res music more efficiently over my slow internet connection (7Mbps). I’m also considering/planning to get a Bluesound Node 2. So your comment above has me confused: if I’m listening to a Tidal MQA track over a Node 2 with Roon as a front end – would that not work if Roon isn’t yet MQA compatible? Thx

  29. Hi John,
    I emailed a list of my “top 5 albums” last week hoping to secure a 3 month trial of Roon
    Is that offer still available?
    Many Thanks
    John

  30. I for one am finding the Roon/Tidal interface rather frustrating.

    I’m using Roon solely with Tidal. I have about 300 tracks added to my tidal account, and most of the time, all that Roon does is allow me to play just those tracks. In the discovery queue for instance, if I pick any artist that is present in the 300 tracks, I only get the tracks that are part of the 300. (Other artists work better … but they rarely match what I’m interested in).

    Yes, the Roon player tends to work a lot better than the Tidal one (e.g., it never hangs between songs), but as far my listening habits go, it doesn’t help that much.

  31. Vlad, I agree and raised a similar point on Roon website recently. There were some reasonable suggestions but no real solutions. Limiting the artist radio to your own music is not going to work for me.

    I use an Auralic Aries with Lightening DS app which allows full “artist radio” search of all tidal content. Lightening DS is not perfect but with both Roon and DS to choose from, I use DS.

  32. We all know how impressive Roon is in regards of it interface, but what about THE most important thing which is sound quality? How does it compares let say with Audirvana + or Amarra etc?

  33. My quick impression is that Roon is roughly equal in sound quality to Amarra (apples to apples, i.e. no upsampling, EQ, etc.). Both Roon and Amarra are noticeably better than the exact same files played back with iTunes (through the same gear and a variety of gear). I haven’t tested Audirvana. Perhaps others have done more complete testing. I am not sure quite why this difference exists since all playback is “bitperfect”. Is the difference in sound due to dithering, something “magical” about the different playback engines, better jitter reduction somehow (although the gear, cabling, etc. is all the same), or some other factor?

    • The magic is in system resource demands. Over-simplifying, the lower the demands made by software on CPU cycles during playback, the lower electrical noise generated inside the computer and the better sounding the software.

      • I sense that system resource demands are indeed a big part of the puzzle. But the differences in sound seem to be related to much more than just that. I have at times (as an experiment running lots of stuff in the background, including transferring files and more via USB, WiFi and more) severely loaded my serving system (2013 MacBook Air) down and I don’t really notice a degradation in sound quality via Roon much or at all. Certainly not down to the level of what iTunes sounds like. So something more is going on here…

2016 – Goodnight, I say

Mytek’s Clef: a portable MQA DAC/amplifier with AAC Bluetooth