HiFi Bargains: Roon + Streaming

Imagine your long lost great Uncle Bud passed away and bequeathed unto you his 2-million album music library.

When the U-Haul arrives from Gary, Indiana, you unload its 20,000 boxes into your basement and when the truck is empty, you sit sipping a beer realizing – I don’t have enough time to listen to even a fraction of this music. Where do I begin? Frozen by this stark reality, you put on Kind of Blue and weep.

The end.


Tidal and Qobuz offer millions of albums through their respective streaming services. As was the case with your long lost Uncle Bud, no one has the time to listen to that much music, let along would anyone want to. While I know some people say they like all kinds of music, I do, that’s rarely the case. Cue up some John Philip Sousa and I’ll march right out of the room. To extract the full value on offer from streaming services, we need curation.

Ideally, this curation will not only play music we know and love, it will also introduce us to music that’s new to us, whether it be old or new. We have all interacted with curation algorithms, whether we know it or not. You bought that, you might be interested in this to the more insidious ads that show up in our social media feeds based on browsing history to the movie recommendations from a movie streaming service, machine logic is watching. Rarely, at least in my case, do these algorithms produce much more than annoyance.

Roon

Roon is much more than music management software. For starters, Roon the company, developed their own network protocol, Roon RAAT, which makes the task of connecting and inter-connecting your Roon equipped audio devices a snap — very nearly plug and play, or everything UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) was supposed to be but never was. The reason for this ease of use is Roon is embedded in audio hardware whether that be pair of powered speakers, a streaming DAC, or a streaming integrated amplifier. This also means that Roon works with audio hardware from different manufacturers, allowing owners to mix, match, and control multi-room, multi-manufacturer hifi’s around their homes using the same, wonderful, interface. While I’m not going to dig into Roon’s other features here like the inbuilt DSP, room correction software, and file conversion on the fly, Roon is much more than music management software.

I’ve been a Roon user from Day 1 back in 2015, actually pre-Day 1 as I got to play with a beta version pre-release, and there is no way I would want to live without it. I have become addicted to, and dependent on, Roon for my daily music listening. I subscribe to Tidal and Qobuz in addition to having my own NAS-based music library, the latter exists and continues to grow mainly as a means for me to support the artists I enjoy. Otherwise, I could simply stream about 99% of the music I buy. Roon has transformed the experience of interacting with digital music files and streaming from a fairly awful chore to a delight. That is a magic trick worth the price of admission in and of itself. But…

The Golden Key to the Streaming Music Curation Kingdom is Roon Radio

Simply put, Roon Radio plays music its brains believe are in-line with the music you’ve been listening to. This intelligence, and I would not call it artificial, is not limited to your music library as Roon Radio digs deep into the Tidal and Qobuz vaults to uncover heretofore unknown gems that would otherwise remain buried in the morass of the too much.  It is no exaggeration to say that on most days, as in nearly every single day, Roon Radio introduces me to music that’s new to me that I find myself enjoying as much as I was enjoying the music I chose to listen to on my own.

Roon Radio is responsible for introducing me to thousands of albums over the course of our 5-year relationship and I’ve added about 1500 of these to my library. To clarify, the Roon software includes a feature in the form a big + Add To Library button, that will add an album to your music library as if you owned it. The rub is, you don’t own it so if you ever cancel your streaming subscription or if a streaming service goes under, this music will disappear from your library faster than you can say Oh crap!. This possible eventuality bothers some people to such an extent they choose not to stream. To my mind, that’s like never taking a shower because we’re only going to get dirty again.

How do we determine the value of such a service? If we use $9.99 as the average cost of album, some quick math says I never could have afforded to buy all of this new-to-me music, even if we ignore the fact that I never would have discovered it without Roon Radio. For the sake of making a point, let’s say I’ve added 1500 albums to my Roon library from Tidal and Qobuz which would add up to a $15,000 spend if I’d bought ’em. That’s a lot of scratch.

Roon costs $9.99/month or $699.99 for a lifetime subscription. As we learned from our recent Poll, the clear majority of participants already subscribe to Tidal and/or Qobuz. Factoring in my Roon value numbers, plus the 5-years worth of pure enjoyment I’ve experienced on a near-daily basis listening to music I would otherwise never have found, my calculator says Roon is a Screaming HiFi Bargain.

If you currently stream and would like to tap the real value of that proposition, I know of no better tool than Roon.


Company Website: Roon