Denon Receiver Options for Highest Quality with Roon

I know very little about Roon - hopefully this is the correct forum to ask this question. The ‘support’ forum seems to want specifics that don’t apply to my question. I’m not currently a Roon user.

I’ve got a Denon 4500 that has internal streaming with Heos that I have been amazed with. I settled upon using Amazon HD (and Ultra) as my subscription service and I’ve been generally very pleased with the value that it provides. The high resolution streaming is pretty mind blowing.

I had a DVD Audio player in the early 2000s and a few DVD-A discs, but streaming high resolution is definitely next level. I did pick up a Sony 4k video player that plays SACD and I’m really impressed with DSD even with this simple setup. I guess I didn’t realize until reading it here that my Audyssey is converting my DSD to PCM, but frankly not sure it really matters that much. Direct Stream sounds like trash compared to what Audyssey does, but maybe I will need to compare it again with this in mind to see if I can distinguish the difference for what purity it provides. I doubt it.

I have tinkered with using Tidal and I was frustrated with the MQA limiting my ability to ‘unfold’ the fullest high resolution potential of the Tidal high resolution files. The Denon can only do 16/44 from Tidal. I can hook up a laptop and get the first unfold over HDMI, but that’s super lame. I could use an LG phone, but again, lame.

I could spend $550 and get a Bluesound Node 2i and I guess output via digital connection and enjoy a possibly slightly better interface for Tidal, but that’s sort of pricey for what might not really be better sound quality with an external device. I haven’t really looked into the logistics of how that would work best.

So, I’m curious, what can I expect from Roon playing Tidal with my Denon if I’m hoping to get the most out of the MQA high resolution files? The searches that I’ve done here so far don’t look extremely promising.

I don’t yet have a full grasp of what all Roon does, but my initial impression is that maybe the highest quality is linked to DSD streaming that HDMI can’t transmit due to copyright protection? It would require some sort of ‘endpoint’ beyond my ‘Roon Tested’ Denon receiver and even with that I still can’t pass along the DSD streaming? I would have to resort to PCM and that’s not as good?

Would a desktop PC server running Roon even be able to fully unfold Tidal MQA at all? It is starting to sound like maybe no? What does it take then? I mean, something has to do this with Tidal and Roon, huh?

Is the better option to use Qobuz and if so what would the prospects be of passing along the highest possible resolution it offers? I presume it streams flac files just like Amazon HD.

From what I gather Roon does focus on sound quality beyond just a more polished interface. I really don’t have a huge stockpile of digital files on my computer to stream locally. So, I wouldn’t benefit from that capability very much.

I seem to catch on that Roon is going to be converting the streaming format once it gets to the local network? Are these conversions going to degrade the ultimate quality somehow like maybe my Denon internally converting the SACD DSD files with Audyssey? I haven’t cared about that so far, but how many conversions of the audio can take place before it actually does really start to have an impact and defeat the purpose of paying for higher quality streaming?

Basically, I might like to dump Amazon and use one of the other services possibly. Heos is great for what it is, but boy it sure could be a lot better in terms of interface. For the purpose of pure audio quality I’m not sure any option compares to Amazon HD Ultra that streams internally to the Denon unfortunately.

I have seen a lot of Roon fans on Youtube. I’m sure many of them are sponsored. It’s pretty pricey compared to something like a lifetime Plex Pass which is frankly a very similar service imo. I would enjoy the improved interface and features of keeping a history and doing a little of that Spotify/Pandora curation of suggestions magic that I’m missing with Heos and Amazon HD. $700 is a lot to ask for that though.

Hi Jason,
If you want highest quality with Roon, why do you subscribe to Tidal and play mqa?

If you don’t want to spend 700$ on Roon, and still want a great interface + the best quality,
then Qobuz is your choice. Streaming goes up to 24/192k which is all you ever need.
They have a light and dark interface now, and the app communicates with Heos flawlessly
so not a single bit gets lost. It sounds open, natural, detailed.
(I have a Denon 3700 and Focal Kanta 2 speakers btw; upgrading my amp next year)

Here is a comparison of an original track and the mqa version :

Some of what I posted might not have been 100% clear. I had a few Tidal trial subscriptions. I settled upon Amazon HD because I can stream it natively to the Denon in high resolution and as an Amazon Prime member already it was just more affordable.

I have on occasion wished that there was a history of what I’ve listened to with Amazon. I’m sure I could be adding things as ‘favorites’ possibly and make better use of what it can do, but it’s still just not very feature rich other than the pure sound quality. I’ve also sort of stagnated with my listening and not really grown much beyond the older jazz recordings that I’ve become a fan of. I understand Quobuz may have a nice selection of jazz. I haven’t tried it yet because it doesn’t stream natively to Heos.

There’s also consideration of what will work for mobile streaming. I know Apple Music, Amazon, and Tidal will work in my car with Apple Car Play, but I’m not sure about Quobuz.

I do really like the idea of Roon, but the expense of the service plus the hardware required to run it (?) and then potentially paying more per month for a subscription service are pretty significant obstacles to finding it feasible financially.

I’m just a little upset with the Bezos/Scott clan atm too frankly and I’m curious what it would take to have the option to do it better with another service. This might be one battle that costs too much to fight to try to go a different route.

I understand the cost concerns getting started with Roon. If you have a windows or Mac desktop/laptop mini whatever laying around you can do the Roon trial to see if its worth further consideration.

I went with the Nuc/Rock server and the lifetime subscription before the trail was over. It was worth it to me. Going on 2 years now and no regrets. I have Tidal and Qobuz included. The NUC is connected to my Denon receiver via HDMI for multi-channel hi-res playback.

BTW, welcome to the community.

FYI, Denon’s Audyssey implementation also requires 48 kHz internal sample rate conversion of any audio input >48 kHz. Bear that in mind when chasing higher sample rates or MQA.

AJ

1 Like

Can you cite where you’ve seen this? That’s the first I’ve heard of it. I don’t doubt that it is true, but I have just not heard any of this before. I’ve also not dug into the details of alternate high resolution streaming options very far before.

I will definitely have to give another listen in direct/pure direct modes to see if I can actually hear any difference again now.

Many reliable sources going back a decade or so. Do a search engine query of AVSForum or Stereophile Music in the Round. Audyssey 48 kHz convolution in AVRs has been a known compromise for quite a while.

AJ

1 Like

I can confirm the 48KHz limitation of Audyssey. Same for Dirac which downsample everything down to 48KHz. Only a few processors are available with Dirac at 96KHz. With the Denon, to get full source sampling, you have to play music on Direct or Pure Direct Audio Modes to bypass internal downsampling. Of course, doing that there is no Audyssey, nor bass management and no subwoofers. You get pure 2.0 audio.

1 Like

Ok, well, wow! that this is the first that I’m hearing of this after a solid year plus of streaming with the Denon using Audyssey. I’ve done the occasional tinkering with direct/pure mode and never listened for long because Audyssey does such a magnificent job with smoothing out the eq for the room. It only made me think how much I would miss Audyssey with a regular preamp/integrated that didn’t have it.

I will definitely have to revisit direct/pure with this in mind. I’ve got a (small) stack of MoFi SACD discs that I’ve really been enjoying using Audyssey. That incredible source material hasn’t yet really been experienced for what it was intended to produce I suppose. I somehow imagine that I will still prefer the Audyssey down-sampled room corrected sound unfortunately. At least the source is the highest quality mastering possible.

Well, I haven’t fully processed exactly what this makes me think of the pursuit of a Roon enabled streaming solution. I’m not getting a ton of answers pertaining to exactly how to best implement Roon with the Denon for the best possible sound quality.

Should I just presume the purchase (or trial) of Roon and use of the Denon as the ‘Roon Tested’ endpoint (?) is going to be close to as good as it gets? There’s no way I’m going to resort to using Airplay just to have that fancy interface on my regular little Iphone screen. I’m not tossing out that much ‘quality’ if it is down-sampled in Audyssey or not by the time the Denon processes it. In fairness maybe I shouldn’t presume that I know all there is to know before making a final judgement.

I would rather suffer the abysmal Heos interface and keep what I’ve got streaming high resolution internally on the Denon. Even if Audyssey is down-sampling the source of some of those supposed high resolution files it is very clearly better quality than 16/44 to my ears. Maybe those that do sound better are the best mastered versions of those albums, but nevertheless. There is a ‘veil’ lifted from the highs that I simply don’t believe to be a placebo effect, but obviously it has been getting kneecapped by Audyssey if those are ‘uprez’ fakes or not that Amazon is streaming.

It doesn’t help that the Amazon Windows App and interface is just so very super lame even compared to what Apple and Tidal are doing with theirs. I hate to say it, but the hip-hop fixation in Tidal spoils their otherwise comparatively pretty slick implementation for me personally and I’m not a hip-hop hater by any means. I might be eager to see how Roon could give all of it a makeover and strip out their ‘curation’ of what they would like for me to listen to next.

Honestly, for the same money as a Roon subscription/hardware I could pick up a pretty nice turntable instead. I, frankly, somewhat loath the image of becoming a vinyl chasing hipster and spending a fortune on vinyl, but they sure do rave about how great it is.

I’ve been enjoying that my relatively cheapo Sony 4k universal disc player can spin SACD almost for free as an added bonus with SACD discs that are easier to store. I enjoy the extremely high quality source material without all of that vinyl fuss. Even if my SACD player setup is not killing it for what the format has to offer. I can easily store my discs securely with SACD and unfortunately that’s sort of a thing in the mix too.

Since you are into room correction and want the highest possible resolution replay, use your Denon in pure direct with Roon, get the REW program for free, buy a UMIC USB measurement microphone and start reading and implementing Magnus’ excellent guide to DIY room correction - and you will not look back in regret, I promise!

It’s actually sort of odd that you mention that. I started to jump in on ordering room correction panels recently and pulled back on it. It was suggested to get a microphone for REW and see what’s happening. This is just another reminder to do so.

My formula for success: Use a surplus i5 PC to run roon server, or get a NUC and run rock. Get a cheap tiny footprint i3 Windows PC to run roon control/playback. Get a Topping D10 to convert USB out from the PC to s/pdif coax out to the Denon.

This setup will also let you run Tidal, Qobuz and Amazon (not bit perfect) desktops along with roon if you want. (Get a wireless keyboard/mouse if you want to do all that from the couch. For roon all you need is a tablet or phone.)

Tidal and roon will both do the first MQA “unfold”, which is generally enough.

If you want the final “unfold” (which is just upsampling and a weird filter) you could get an MQA dac. BUT, doing the digital->analog conversion and feeding analog to the AVR will get you triple conversion, i.e. D->A in the dac, A->D in the AVR for Audyssey/dsp, then D->A again for output. Whatever alleged benefit of the MQA second “unfold” would likely not outweigh all that.

1 Like

Thank you for the summary! I apparently have a little more homework to do when it comes to what exactly you are getting with Tidal and the MQA ‘unfold’ process. I guess I took it for face value and I shouldn’t have.

I sincerely appreciate your community here trying to help me understand what it is that I’m dealing with. I would like to avoid all of the extra conversions - not because I know what amount of degradation it might create, but just because it seems logical to believe it should be minimized. That’s been one of the things I haven’t really been 100% certain about with Roon and what it’s doing to the original streams before it gets to your preamp/amp. I’ve seen the tricky little signal path that is graphically created that shows what the path is over on the Darko Youtube channel, but I’m not 100% sure what that translates to in terms of absolute final quality of signal, etc.

Thanks again!

1 Like

Jason, I recently bought a Denon AVR-X3700 and use it with Roon, so I can possibly be of some help here:

Roon is a great interface, that’s without question. In my case, its cool in that it combines my large library of ripped CD’s (ripped in the 90’s), HD digital albums I’ve purchased, along with a collection favorite albums from a streaming service. I use Qobuz. I never liked sound quality of Tidal MQA.

Roon can stream to multiple rooms of the house, simultaneously, as well as to my dedicated two channel system. I can transfer the music queue to different zones. Also I use Roon on my phone with headphones to play my albums while in the garage and lawn, also while working out, so I love it.

Initial Roon buy-in and learning curve can be steep. You need a computer, other stuff, to run Roon. But, there are cheap computer and hardware options, and if you’ve got nothing better to do…

With the new Denon, I played music “direct/pure” with low-rez (wife’s Spotify), hi-rez from my library, streaming albums, ripped CD’s, etc. Then, I ran Audyssey and played all of this music again. Everything sounds better with Audyssey enabled. It’s not even close.

And, I don’t notice a difference between hi-rez music and CD quality music, whatever the source. The Denon doesn’t have the ability to properly convey the differences as well as a high-end DAC and associated gear could. Even then, most people won’t be able to distinguish.

We use my wife’s Spotify at times to stream to the Denon while we are making dinner, entertaining, etc. and it sounds great, so you aren’t missing anything sound-quality wise by not having Roon.

1 Like

I will add that Audyssey Dynamic EQ is a pretty great feature.

1 Like

I really do enjoy what Audyssey brings to the table. Maybe too much so. I’ll have to at least make another run at bypassing it. I have the app and I think I’m currently letting it play naturally above like 10khz. I know I’ve seen people recommend to go much lower than that. So, I just know that I’m really going to notice it when I turn it off. The room measurements it gets before smoothing don’t look all that pretty.

Dynamic EQ is nice and even the extravagant ‘night mode’ options with the adjustments is cool for dialing in just the right amount of ‘night mode’ to fit your situation.

I hate to take this too far off topic, but I just played 3 of those MoFi SACD discs without Audyssey and I’m pretty stunned by what I heard giving it a more critical listen.

The background to this is that I just got a new external amp for my Denon about idk 2 months ago. The Parasound baby Halo, A23+. It has much more control over my floorstanding speakers - Revel f35s. When I first got my Denon 4500 I was running some Ascend CBM 170s that I had for a very long time and I almost exclusively ran them with the sub. So, Audyssey made an indelible impression with how much of a difference it made in a 2.1 setup.

I think the Denon struggled so hard to really control the Revels down low that the extra help from Audyssey made the difference to keep it on in straight 2 channel. Including the Dynamic EQ bump in low end authority.

The Parasound doesn’t really suffer from control down low, however. It’s got a pretty stellar damping factor. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it improves upon what the Denon could do for me.

I have the app for Audyssey and I could make adjustments that might help, but I think I do prefer it in Pure Direct. I removed the BBC dip for one thing. I think the BBC dip tones down some sharpness that is a little fatiguing. In fact, it might just be better off to limit the Audyssey to whatever I’ve seen recommended - 800mhz? or whatever. IDK.

Sorry to go off topic, but I really appreciate you guys bringing this to my attention. I’m not sure when or if I would have otherwise really given Direct/Pure Direct the chance it deserved. Especially with SACD DSD playback. I’ll be looking forward to trying it with some of the Amazon HD Utra material and see what it sounds like with it.

Removed as discussed earlier.

How do you pass the audio to Denon? Directly to Denon or using a DAC?

No separate DAC. I just have an Ethernet cable plugged into it.