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