Roon Launches!

From the press release:
MUNICH, Germany (May 11, 2015) – Led by the team that created the industry defining Sooloos media control system, the newly formed Roon Labs is set to debut its first product at Munich High End 2015. Simply called Roon, it is a software service that redefines how music lovers search through, interact with, and explore their music collections and subscription services, in one unified interface.
"Roon brings back the feel of owning music, the compelling presentation of the total album,” described Enno Vandermeer, CEO of Roon Labs. “Think of the gate fold sleeve of the vinyl era, with big fullcolor panels of artwork and photographs, plus the inner sleeve filled with lyrics, credits, and other information. It added layers of depth and dimension to music. Roon delivers all of that, but updates it by building links between all the information so you can explore your collection like never before. It connects the dots between the past, present and future of music."
In my experience, you really don't know what you're missing until Roon shows you through the use of continually evolving dynamic metdata.
Roon identifies all the files in your local and streaming music library, then finds a world of information – bios, photos, credits, reviews, concert info, and more – to weave an interface filled with images, information, and links. It creates a surfable, searchable digital magazine to browse and play back your collection.
Currently, Roon supports all PCM formats up to 24/384 in WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, OGG, MP3, and AAC formats. DSD support will be added in the future. Tidal is their launch streaming partner (good choice) so you can access Tidal's lossless streaming service from within Roon. Roon treats Tidal's library like your own in terms of attaching their rich dynamic metadata driven feature set, "...integration with TIDAL means that Roon can endlessly show you new connections to explore, help you build the collection you always dreamed of having. All the music in the world is a big place. Roon gives it meaning, context, and relationships."

Roon runs on Mac and PC and these versions are available beginning today. The iOS and Android versions will be available soon. Roon is sold on yearly subscription basis for $119/year or $499 for a lifetime membership. There's also a 14-day free trial.

I've been playing with a beta copy of Roon and I can tell you that bit about redefining how we interact with our music is not some marketing spin. Yeow. We'll be doing a complete review of Roon in the near future with an as yet secret special treat so stay tuned.

Visit Roon Labs.

COMMENTS
DH's picture

There's a whole thread about it on computeraudiophile.com, including participation from the company. It sounds really exciting. Could be the first software tempting me to leave JRiver/JRemote.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...to call Roon a game changer.
DH's picture

It's not up yet

grawhi80's picture

Can you comment on your findings on Sound Quality v the usual suspects of Audirvana and Pure Music so far? Or an Auralic Aries??

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Sorry but I have not really dug into sound quality comparison mode yet. I will say so far so very good.
Priaptor's picture

Michael,

I think you are really going to like the SQ if you do what I did. First, while Roon currently doesn't support integer mode, it is scheduled to support these feature.

Second, my SQ results have been resolved. While I have yet to confirm this on a PC, I can unequivocally state that on a Mac laptop, the best SQ with the least problems is to run the Core mode, ie server, ona dedicated machine on the network and connect your DAC to a private node. When I did this it was musical bliss. In fact the best my portable rig, composed of a HUGO/LCD-X has ever sounded; even better, to me, than JRiver or Audirvana 2.1 running direct on my portable machine. I was pretty much amazed last night when I ran Roon this way.

So it appears, from my perch, that as features get added to Roon, whether I use my portable rig or main rig with my MSB Diamond, the way to go is to have a server (in this case my very powerful desktop) running the core using it's substantial horsepower to do all that Roon does and use my CAPs as a private node driving my MSB and the same with my MacbookPro running my HUGO. I will not be converting my MSB over until they release ASIO compatibility, BUT, I just wanted to set the record straight as to my initial findings of suboptimal SQ.

Priaptor's picture

Sorry to say not in the same league as JRiver. The need to partner with someone for this to be viable. I love everything else but without better SQ it is not, IMHO, ready for prime time. The caveat is that I am comparing it on a Mac. Haven't compared it on a PC as yet.

Steven Plaskin's picture

I don't wish to rain on Michael's future review, but he generally uses a Mac for his music. Tonight I listened to Roon on my Asus ROG G501JW. A fast laptop that sounds quite excellent running Windows 8.1. Listening to Roon with some software tweaks such as custom power settings and page file turned off, I thought the sound was somewhat veiled in the midrange and high end.

I installed Fidelizer Pro 6.6 in Extremist Mode with network support and the sound vastly improved. In fact, I think it sounds better than JRiver with Fidelizer.

Priaptor, I just received the MSB Premium Quad USB module and installed it a few minutes ago. I'll let you guys know how Roon sounds with this update.

Priaptor's picture

try it on a windows machine. My main server is a 2012 R2 running AO so I will need to try Roon as you have your notebook. I definitely see this interface as something I really want. On my headphone setup I use a HUGO and MacbookPro so I am only comparing JRiver v Roon on a Mac at this time and can't say the two compare.

I just upgraded my Diamond Plus (waiting for the right time to go to the V) with a Quad USB. I don't know how the Analog Quad works relative to the Diamond but for me it was a HUGE upgrade. It literally floored me.

stevebythebay's picture

I've had it awhile and in my system (late 2014 Mac Mini using Thunderbird attached LaCie drive, and Berkeley Alpha USB/Berkeley Reference into Spectral amp/preamp to Wilson Alexia's the sound was not what I'd hoped for. It fell well short of either the leaders in my system, namely Amarra and JRiver. Not nearly as "quiet" or musically "right". So, I've taken it out of the system. It's pretty, I'll give you that. But my tastes run to easy access/management of library and tags rather than "museum exploration". Hope it improves over time in both sonic and more capable of tailoring by the user.

Mark Tarone's picture

Fully agree with your citing this as a Game Changer. Definitely will be for me and people who are passionate about music. Will be interesting to see how broad the appeal is - hopefully, very broad.

Computer playback of music has always left me feeling disconnected from the artist. Seeing an album image isn't enough. Now, I can connect, explore and discover. Premium management of my purchased library and massive streaming libraries + major information and connections added. THRILLED.

Thanks for your original post last month and this news about the launch!

Dan Gravell's picture

I'm really interested to see how this integrates with music servers, and how the "architecture" of a Roon system fits together with existing ecosystems.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
Auralic is one of Roon Labs' "launch partners" and I still have the Auralic Aries here for evaluation. Hopefully, I can also report on this as well as the Roon stand alone app.
pisymbol's picture

So let me get this straight, Roon is offering basically liner notes, artwork, and perhaps one or two critics review for an extra $10 bucks a month ON TOP of Tidal's already outrageous $20/month for lossless streaming? So you are endorsing a service that will in effect cost the consumer to spend $30/month to listen a record? What planet does Roon Labs live on? It's not Earth.

First off, the majority of music fans don't even care about liner notes or artwork for most mainstream music. Does anyone here really need to see the liner notes on Dark Side of the Moon AGAIN? Really? And if you were curious, you are telling me you would spend $10 for it? WHAT!?

Secondly, as a major classical and opera fan, I don't really need liner notes anyway when I listen to Callas' Tosca for the 12th time. But even if I DID want more back story about a particular record there is this search engine called Google that gives me a myriad array of information within 30 seconds of clicking. Much more so than Roon could possible give me.

Finally, perhaps in mobile environments this is a nice to have. But wait, if I'm on my phone, I don't really want to waste my data plan on lyrics and artwork and metadata updates, right? I want to listen to music.

I'm sorry but Roon Labs seems like Meridian wanted to spin it the original Sooloos team off because they know their business model here is not sane. If Roon was free, or a value-add on top of Tidal or other services for a nominal fee ($1 extra a month), yeah...that would be pretty cool. But no way am I paying a single penny for information that is freely available already within 30 seconds of Googling. This makes no sense to me.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
When we review Roon, or if you download the free trial, you will see there is much more to it than liner notes. Yes, I think it's safe to say that I'll be "endorsing" Roon as an interface to your music with no equal, at present. Whether or not that is of interest to you or anyone else, is certainly up to you and everyone else.
DavidZ's picture

Pisymbol, I'm leaning toward your view. But set aside the pricing issue for a second. I am using minimserver and JPLay v6 in my system, and very happy with that combination. So here's a question: why does Roon have to duplicate the server and renderer playback functions at all? I haven't really gone thru the tutorial on CA, or checked the program out. But it sounds like a wonderful "magazine" for my ipad -- a dynamic one that references my music files. Hey, album covers are separate entities from the vinyl. It seems to me that Roon could have tremendous appeal, separate and apart from being a music player. And since it is software, it could be configured with the player function or not. My 2 bits, FWIW. -- David

pisymbol's picture

David. that is a great way to look at it. I would give more credit to Roon though and say it's a Magazine+ in that it offers multi-room functionality as well as a few other odds and ends that are outside of just pure presentation.

What I don't understand is that they seem clearly in bed with Tidal (just read the license agreement), so why not have Tidal license the technology and add that as part of the Tidal ecosystem by offering it free as part of lossless membership? Now the $20/tier starts to mean something more to the average consumer.

pisymbol's picture

I didn't say it was just liner notes.

$10/month is outrageous if this is truly a software only based interface on top of your existing library. Period.

Again, if it was a software program you bought once for like $50 bucks (like buying a non-free software player) or some kind of add-on on top of your Tidal/Spotify subscription (Roon licensed their technology to those companies) or had a free tier with ad backed revenue, then at least the product is grounded in the current market realities we all live in. But at $10/month, it is DOA. Plain and simple.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
You think it's DOA before understanding what the product is and does. That's a stretch of logic, imo.
pisymbol's picture

I watched multiple YouTube videos on it, read your description, read several other people's description, am familiar with the original Sooloos stuff from reading Stereophile and other publications.

So though I think your enthusiasm for this product is great, the pricing model is insanity and needs to be addressed in your review.

And I will go out on a limb here too: I'll bet within a month or two, Roon changes it. Mark my words.

DH's picture

Well, I went to sign up and was turned off by the sign up system. You have to choose which subscription you want before you even have tried the software. How do you know how much/if you are willing to commit before you've even seen it?

Additionally, they have one of those opt out systems: they take your CC info and then charge you the fee as soon as the 14 days are up. Of course, you can "opt out" any time during those 14 days. If for whatever reason you don't, you get charged.

I really don't like that way of doing business. Give me a free version that doesn't work anymore after 14 days. Maybe I want to consider whether I want to subscribe or not when the trial is up. Maybe I want to purchase next month because I have time to test it now but am traveling starting next week for a month....or whatever.

I just don't like the "give us your CC before you even know what you want and we will charge you" approach to business. Especially for a totally new product no one has seen.

Michael, maybe as someone who got to be a beta tester it's a no brainer for you. Not for me.

Let your potential customer have a little control of the process.

Venere 2's picture

It sounds like the special features and online content that can be assessed from Blu ray or DVD movies. Stuff that can be interesting, but can also be useless. Either way, it does nothing to improve the quality of the image, or sound quality for music.

I know I rarely look at this stuff even though I watch a lot of movies on Blu Ray. I can't say I jumped out of my seat in a fit of enthusiasm reading about this Roon.

ashutoshp's picture

but is Roon meant to allow the use of any piece of hardware (i.e., DAC) for MQA without forcing the consumer to buy Meridian hardware? To me, the details seem to be spot on with what Meridian CAN do with MQA.
Is this any good for streaming TiDAL because I don't have a media library and do not intend to make one?

beaur's picture

After downloading Roon last night and then watching it do it's work on my files I went all in. First surprise to me was that Tidal integrates seamlessly and while I don't know if this offer is open to the whole Tidal universe I signed up for 6 months prepaid at a rate of $16/month or the cost of a CD. I had been skeptical to the value of Tidal but at a cost of 1 CD per month I am in.

Now Roon worked it's magic and cataloged by files in about half an hour. It's worth the price of admission just for what it did to the classical files I have. I signed up for the lifetime membership so my ROI is steep right now but getting cheaper every day. At $450/$499 it's less than the cost of a new piece of equipment. Immediate benefit has nothing to do with sound. It's multiple zone feature allows me to play thru my system and then on my laptop, all seamlessly. When IOS app is ready I'll be able to play on phone and tablet. With 2 kids in the house that will come in handy. As far as SQ, while I do not plan on any A/B demos all I can say right now is that it's not too bad.

Steven Plaskin's picture
I installed Roon tonight on my Asus ROG G501JW as the server and the remote on a MacBook Pro. The installation on both computers was a piece of cake. Everything seems to be working perfectly.
Steven Plaskin's picture
My next review will discuss a tweak for the computer that has helped reduce the differences between music software by reducing noise. I believe this might also be helping Roon.
mrvco's picture

I just watched the CA 33m epic on YouTube about Roon. I'm not sure what the "Next Big Thing" appeal is of Roon yet (unless the ability to "Search the Internet" and "Post and Click on Links" suddenly disappears from existence), but I do like the Tidal integration and of course would want to see that level of integration with Spotify and any other streaming service of note. Other than that I don't see much here that is particularly clever or unique, but it may not be meant for me since I don't have a 100k+ title library with multiple rips / masterings of the same albums.

Venere 2's picture

I read the review on Toneaudio and read all of the information on Roon's site. It is really all about the paint job on the Ferrari, and nothing about the engine…

This thing looks good, is practical and does "fun things" like find the last song you played many years ago on a Monday morning, during a leap year yada yada yada. Sounds like a novelty that stops being fun after a few days.

Does it play files bit perfect? Integer mode? Or anything else that is about SOUND QUALITY? from a few people in this thread, apparently not. That alone should kill this thing. Who cares how flashy and fun it is if the sound quality is not up to snuff? I wish I could insert a rolling eyes upward face right here!

Why is it that JRiver (Amarra, Bitperfect and others) can produce excellent sound quality, but have (JRiver) awful user interfaces? Why can't someone make a great sounding software solution that is also user friendly? Is it that difficult to bridge functionality, user friendliness and great sound quality in one software solution?

It is possible to get a Ferrari, Porsche (and many other high performance cars) that look good, and do magic when you step on the throttle.

Priaptor's picture

having an "awful interface". In fact, before Roon I think I can state I think it is the best interface there is with the most latitude and easiest to use and navigate.

However, once one uses Roon, it is a completely different experience. Using Roon is the experience and one can easily get lost in endless hyperlinks, reads, etc instead of listening to the music, which of course has its own drawbacks; drawbacks I am willing to accept given the power of what Roon can do.

HOWEVER, still, IMHO and with all due respect to Steve, I have tried Roon on both Windows and OSX and it has work to do in the SQ department as well as elsewhere. The elsewhere will continue to improve, I just hope they improve in the SQ department as all others have and then I am all in. I am purchasing it for a year as I believe these guys are committed to providing the best product, but I want to see the SQ or integration with an engine that has better SQ and one year is enough of a trial. I gave up on Amarra long ago as it just took too long and as you said, the interface left much to be desired.

Right now (although this will surely change, IMHO, in the near future with Roon) you can't beat the interface and SQ of Jriver .

Steven Plaskin's picture

I agree with you Priaptor that work needs to be done in the sound department. I also gave up on Amarra for numerous reasons.

If I play Roon with a heavily tweaked out setup, differences between music programs are significantly reduced. I also noticed that Roon uses more CPU and would probably like some horsepower in your computer.

What gives me the best sonic results with Roon:

1. Asus ROG G501JW Laptop with latest Haswell 2.6 GHz i7 Quad Core, 16 GB RAM, PCIe 4X SSD (Very fast-the thing boots up in a few seconds), enhanced heat dissipation since this is a gamer computer. Windows 8.1 tweaked.

2 GRAID Thunderbolt Drives 8TB; one for PCM, the other for DSD each run with an HD Plex Linear Power Supply

iFi Audio micro iPower powered by an HDPLex Linear Power Supply

Shunyata Hydra DPC-6 power center for digital. All of this stuff is plugged into the DPC-6. I feel that this is a better solution than running a linear power supply for the computer since the motherboard has a number of SMPS.

5. Fidelizer Pro

I did find that JPlay 6 sounded better using it traditionally or with the JPlay Server.

Steven Plaskin's picture

Darn, I forgot something!

Another big improvement in reducing computer noise I use is the Synergistic Research Grounding Block with High Definition Ground Wire and AC plug. I just submitted this review to Michael. I think it will be posted after Michael gives us his Munich show reports.

Casimir's picture

A 500$ HighEnd App without an ASIO support ???

Priaptor's picture

they are going to be working on that and since so many have requested it will address it. I agree with you. It should have been in the roll out

Steven Plaskin's picture
Given Roon's shortcomings, the product has great potential and is presently fun to use. I purchased the lifetime license.
DavidZ's picture

Why can't Roon just function as the "control point" (in upnp/DLNA lingo) and let the user choose whatever server and renderer (s)he wanted? Then all concerns about SQ would be moot, and we could have all the other benefits? Just sayin....