This is a great thread!
From my perspective, one of the real beauties of computer audio is that music that had long been out of print on physical media has become available. The ability to stream this music is icing on the cake.
I think that the developers are headed the right direction as they strive to make Roon work as an appliance. This is an extremely difficult task when attempted over multiple platforms, and trying to deliver bit perfect streams to virtually unlimited hardware setups to very demanding hobbyists.
The march to quality music reproduction in the home has generally been a combination of acceptable sound quality and user convenience. Each user decides what works for their situation.
Consumer audio, particularly high-end audio, has always been a difficult proposition for manufacturers and retailers. The great hi-fi boom of the late 1960s and 1970s was fed by quality and convenience. Think transistors vs tubes, receivers vs separates, bookshelf speakers and more user friendly software from 78s to 45 rpm singles to 33 1/3 please albums. Factor in CD players and today’s music servers and away we go. How does a company survive and prosper?
I may be wrong, but I look at the software playback systems for computer audio files as the modern equivalent of the phono cartridge for vinyl and shellac records or the laser/transport for CDs.
Add in the complexity of dealing with multiple streaming service subscriptions and formats and models and the question of portability while trying to meld quality and convenience…whew!
In my case, I currently subscribe to Tidal hi-fi (for Roon), Sirius XM (for the vehicles), Apple Music (for new music search capabilities, ease of use and portability), Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall, and Met Opera On Demand. I also listen to FM radio which I find best served in the digital domain by Tune- In radio.
My audio systems over the years have gone from simple (think portable record player and 45s), to complex (think multiple tube amplifiers, pre-amplifiers, moving coil cartridge step-up devices, multi-armed turntables, and multiple speaker units). In short, from something that anyone can use to monsters that nobody but me would touch. Not surprisingly, most music was listened to when the audio quality was pretty good and the playback system was easy for everybody to operate.
The current Roon systems I’m using tend toward the more complex. Not because the audio components are difficult to use (although there are tubes and separates), but because the computer components involved to get music to the systems are somewhat complex and can, at times, require some frustrating trouble-shooting. As a result, I am once again the keeper of the audio system and am it’s primary user.
The folks at Roon are doing a great job in trying to make their system easier to use but aren’t there yet. This thread popped up while I was investigating possible solutions to make my audio systems easier for everybody to use. (I think that I found a solution that fits almost all my needs, but I don’t want do jump ship yet.) To me this is the challenge that Roon faces going forward. I plan to hang in a bit longer to see what develops.
Sorry for the length, but the original post was highly thought provoking.