How is this possible? Playback out of TIDAL is much better over ROON than Tidal itself

I am new to Roon, but as an audiophile and musically trained expert on classical music I have long experience with HighResolution and DSD music reproduction of acoustic records.

So I have given up the following ticket for Tidal, but they first answered that I should ask this with Roon, but they didn’t realize that this isn’t an issue with Roon, on the contrary, Roon is the much better sounding product, with all kind of Tidal Sources (RedBook CD, MQA Master). I have no plausible explanation for this, what I could read in old Roon posts were all about the opposite.

I have been participating in developing of audiophile SW products. With this background I can clearly and reliably distinguish between the SQ of the two playback methods (TIDAL->ROON vs. TIDAL native playback), being the inferiority of direct TIDAL playback very pronounced.

Playing back Tidal over ROON delivers both cleaner and more detailed sound with a more real soundstage and ambience than all other playing options I could try: Compared to PC (desktop appl. + WEB, KODI), Android HW/SW configs with all possible settings as well (UAPP, BubbleUPnP).

The quality differences were equally there while playing back on PC (web player + desktop) and Android.

This observation was valid with or without bitperfect Roon settings with no upsampling (without any other enhancement features as e.g. on-the-fly DSD HQPlayer), with or without external DACs.

HW: PC i7 ; DAC LH Geek out V2 DAC, Android 6.0.1 Nexus7 (2013)

HP: Sennheiser HD650 and IE800
Near-feald Monitors Dynaudio BM5A MK-II and Genelec M030
The quality difference is also present in the builtin DACs of both PC and Nexus7.

Roon has no (user) EQ-feature. This advantage was even with a 24bit source from the Master section present, albeit Roon hasn’t an MQA option yet!

How could it happen, is a mistery to me. PCM in the FLAC to soundcard input conversion is not a lossless process, leaving room for a variety of algorithms? Or Roon has a very good but hidden sound processing unit which is kept secret? Or using the DAC instead of CPU clock for streaming control or something in that direction?

One could capture the sound output streams e.g. with Totalrecorder and compare… But I have little time for this task at the moment…

Did somebody else make the same experience or have an explanation for this? A hint by ROON experts would be appreciated…


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No expert here but the computer output will be very electrically noisy.
Have you tried a Meridian Explorer 2 on your PC to level the playing field and enjoy MQA from either Roon or Tidal on the same computer?
Thoughts Chris

Can’t speak for the Tidal apps, but Roon has no ‘hidden engine’ inside. Using RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport), it does let the DAC own the clock – that may be of significance here.

As @Chrislayeruk points out – PC’s can by noisy. The advantages of using RAAT can be expanded upon by using a low-noise, dedicated RoonBridge endpoint (an SBC of choice, or a MicroRendu or sMS-200), eliminating all kinds of PC-related nastiness.

More about RAAT and its design goals in the knowledge base:

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I have no Meridian Explorer 2, I have the LightHarmonic GeekOut V2 Infinity with decent SQ. (Even without on-the-fly DSD128 over HQO).

But the SQ advantage with ROON is very consequently present with the much cheaper built-in DACs and with RedBook CD CD-Quality playback. MQA can possibly sound any better than HighRes Audio with the same bitrate/24 Bit, being it only a good tradeoff between SQ and storage - and my DACs are capable of playing back all kind of genuine HigRes. (I have a small collection of HD music and I have subscribed for the (now dying) NAXOS ClassicsOnline HD streaming service as well).

Thank You, the clock issue was my first tought as well.

Bur could this clocking handling feature make a difference with the standalone PC playback as well, where there is no need for RAAT transfer at all? And there is also this difference definitely there.

I don’t know your hardware so I can’t help. I only know that I don’t see a difference via Explorer but I haven’t looked for one either.
I just use Roon as my audio interface and the Tidal integration is superb.
I can only think it’s due to the quality of the RAAT protocol as has been suggested.

RAAT advantages extend to ‘local’ endpoints as well:

It [RAAT] enables you to play your Roon music to:

  • Roon Ready hardware devices
  • Audio outputs, sound cards, and USB DACs connected to the Core.
  • Audio outputs, sound cards, and USB DACs connected to any computer or device running Roon Bridge
  • Audio outputs and USB DACs connected to Android devices running Roon Remote.

For now I would just sit back and enjoy Roon. Valuable listening time slipping away! :wink:


That was clear to me. I have decided to keep ROON for two reasons:

  1. First of all, the unexpected (and unexplainable) SQ-bonus I have at home with the Core on PC in home office and with my Android Tablet connected anywhere in the house, both with a USB DAC.

  2. The ultimate SQ-bonus in connection with the Core with integrated HQPlayer.

  3. Tidal integration with ROON as a streaming source for classics and JAZZ.

Unfortunately, this benefits are bound to staying home. I would need Tidal standalone when travelling but I don’t like the lesser sound quality out of it.

(And on the negative side with ROON: I like single tapping feature from all of the major playback apps more for starting and album and playback starting from a single track until the end of the album than the bothersome ROON implementation. (Spoti, Google playMusic, NEXUS). ClassicsOnline).

One thought to MQA and highres: the bigger shortcoming of CD fomat is the 16 bitdepth, while the difference between 16 and 24 bits brings a huge audible difference to me, the difference between 44/24 and 96/24 I have found hardly audible.

Make sure you use the right player on Android…otherwise, everything gets resampled

Using USB Audio Pro, you can stream Tidal thru the app without resampling [with / without USB DAC]…only app to do this

Chris, if you’re not a Meridian employee, they should give you a % of sales for your efforts. :grinning:

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Lol, nope not an employee in any way. It’s just Explorer 2 is so Affordable with the winter discount. I wouldn’t want people to miss out.

I have tried all of this, all setting combinations of every compared apps + EQing, believe me. To no avail, the advantage of ROON playback remained. (At leasst 20+ hours trying is behind before opening this topic, I had to purchase the UAPP because the 5 trial days weren’t enough.)

I agree with you Roon sounds better. I think it is because of the way RAAT works.

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Thank You, for sharing of your same experiences.
After some further investigations my guess now is, that not the RAAT protocol itself but the receiver modules (that one within the Core and that on the remote equipment, in this case android) have a parameter to use the DAC’s internal clock as a master. Or else for the sake of architectureal uniformity the standalone Core playback makes use of the RAAT interface and the RAAT interface is where this clock parameter setting is located. In any case, it seems to be a very elegant design, which brings such important advantages even to SQ.

This hypothesis seems to be supprted by my yesterday observation that there was no difference when playing back TIDAL vs. ROON over my old EMU 0404USB DAC in native ASIO - there is the Setting “internal Clock” default ! I have also recorded Totalrecorder: the records made from ROON Playback and Tidal Playback weren’t different when played back within the same player. (Only tested by just listening, I’ll make a diffmaker session for this.)

I have forgotten to mention, that I could get a SQ improvement with ROON not only from TIDAL as source but from local library items as well. (On Android among the many playback apps I have tried only HiBy Music was on par with ROON - HiBy doesn’t have TIDAL integration so local playback was there the only comparison).

This all would be consistent with my above theorizing and this could bring a plausible explanation. And it makes it possible, that many if not all of HW-equipment might be susceptible to the clock usage.
Which would be intriguing though, if internal clock settings with built-in DACs were also be available and this could make such a dramatic effect.

Some words by the internal experts?

Are you aware that the final link in the playback chain on all Android devices is the forced resampling by the OS…and that is the thing that will have the most impact on sound quality and not the App being used

This is exactly the same on Windows and OSX, where the Audio Midi and Windows Kernel will dictate the output rate, unless the App [such as Roon] takes away that final step from the OS

The only Android app that will get around that limitation is the USB Audio Pro Player…which like Roon [on PC’s] allows the native rate audio to be output

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But it works well!

I don’t think so. I couldn’t hear that much difference within UAPP whith bitferect settings while setting “Android sample rate to fix 44.1” and disable to “Upsample to highest rate” vs. letting do the upsampling.

So I need the fixed 44/16 bitferfect settings only for pure comparison, to rule out all other factors.

This is not true in general, at least the otherwise excellent Onkyo HFPlayer does also let direct playback setting without upsampling on Android as well and I can confirm this on the USB DAC display of the received sample rate.

Yes ROON works not only well but best, and the SQ advantage in question is not even advertised by ROON !

So I have to understand it to see, if it is on ROON itself or my (or some other’s) equipments which are not working optimally in general but only with ROON.
In the latter case I have to see why and whether I would need another DAC/Android phone and if so how to choose them.

So the question here is valid and remains open.

Hello, have you already tried a different PC or Mac? maybe it’s only a driver compatibility issue…

yes, unfortunately you are right. My experience is similar…Many times I prefer Tidal desktop app sound (Windows).