How to get the best experience from Roon Radio?

Update: I added an idea to fix the repetitiveness of Roon Radio down at Post #16

I like Roon Radio a lot, but there are also some frustrations.

  1. It seems repetitive. For instance, if I go to the Art Rock genre and start Roon Radio, it wants to play a lot of Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno, Talk Talk, Roxy Music, The Stooges, T Rex, David Bowie, Queen, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, and The Doors. Also for some strange reason it wants to play songs from Yello’s 2016 album Toy. This is despite the Art Rock genre within Roon also showing Frank Zappa, YMO, Neu, and Toyah (to name a few) whose songs, after hundreds of other tracks, never show up on the queue.
    .
    And isn’t Talking Heads basically the defining example of Art Rock? Yet they are not listed at all. And other than that one random Yello album, there’s nothing from 1984 to the present. It all seems so needlessly limited.

To compare, here’s Spotify’s listing for the Art Rock genre:

  1. Is there any way to queue up a bunch of tracks from one Roon Radio set (using the Thumbs Up queue) – let’s say “Classic Rock” – then switch to a different Roon Radio “Synthpop”, without skipping the other tracks in the queue by default?
    .
    I know I can have a queue full of “Classic Rock” radio, then start “Synthpop” radio and scroll up in the queue and drag the “skipped” Classic Rock tracks back down but A) this is annoying to have to do every time and B) there’s still the interruption of the first Synthpop song from the new set, which is now playing, before it switches back to the Classic Rock songs that were skipped, plays those, then goes back to Synthpop radio.

I think you’d get a better response by choosing a Yello or Toyah track and then hit Roon Radio.

Genre as a selection criteria has always yielded the most unsatisfying results for me. A lot of times because I don’t agree with who is listed as a particular genre, or, because what I really want is a deep dive in an obscure sub-genre.

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You’re right. Upon browsing genres I’m even more confused.

Billy Joel, Brian Eno, Bono, and Billie Holliday are “Classical”?!? What?

The description for “Krautrock” says it refers to “legions of German bands of the early 70s” yet includes only the obvious Can, Neu, Kraftwerk, Faust, Tangerine Dream, and the solo projects of their members? What about the legions of other groups? Come on… this is silly, Roon.

I’ve looked through so many genres which in Roon’s mind only contain a grand total of like 12 bands, when someone with even a cursory knowledge of music history (or a look at Wikipedia) would know that these genres contain dozens if not hundreds of artists.

Roon Radio was the feature that attracted me to Roon but the more I listen to it the more disappointed I become. It’s a shame that (as Roon has officially stated) it doesn’t consider your personal preferences. I’m not convinced that their methodology is the right way forward – it seems as more and more people use it and give their thumbs up/down votes to the algorithm, it will just gravitate more and more towards the songs and artists that everyone already knows.

I posted about classical music the other day, sedate keyboard to full orchestra without a transition !!

Because they have at one point released music which was classical or deemed classical. Ever listen to Billy Joel’s “Fantasies & Delusions”?

Did you try running Roon Radio as per my suggestion. I just highlighted “I Love You” by Yello on “Say Yes to Another Excess” and hit Roon Radio.

Yello I Love You
Art of Noise Back to Back
Kraftwerk The Man Machine
Frankie The Power of Love
Jean-Michael Jarre Diva
Visage In the Year 2525
Roger Waters us + Them
Bronski Beat Heat Wave
Hurts Fractured
Gary Numan The 1930s Rust
Malcolm McLaren Deep In Vogue
Ultravox Contact
John Foxx No-One Driving

A pretty varied mix and very close to what I’d expect from the seed.

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I must be doing it wrong somehow. It’s like no matter what I select, Roon Radio gives me the same thing over and over. I’d be curious to know what your first 25 songs are. Whenever I do it, Roon Radio wants to feed me the same 10-30 artists over and over again (often different tracks from a single album by each artist).

For example, “I Love You” gives me:

Yello I Love You
Frankie Goes To Hollywood Relax (Come Fighting)
Bronski Beat Smalltown Boy [Remix]
Duel Propaganda
JMJ Ethnicolor
Roger Waters Breathe
Depeche Mode Welcome To My World
Gary Numan Music For Chameleons
Yello Daily Disco
Kraftwerk Techno Pop
Hurts Voices
OMD Tesla Girls
Propaganda Abuse [There]
Visage Mind Of A Toy
The Human League Love Action (I Believe In Love)
John Foxx Underpass
Depeche Mode Leave In Silence
Grace Jones William’s Blood
Simple Minds Colors Fly and Catherine Wheel
Yello Vicious Minds (Remastered)
Kraftwerk The Model
Malcolm McLaren House Of The Blue Danube
Frankie Goes To Hollywood Rage Hard
OMD Dollar Girl
JMJ Equinoxe Pt 1
Propaganda Das Testament des Dr Mabuse [13th Life Mix]
Ultravox Mr X
Depeche Mode Strangelove [Blind Mix]
Yazoo Mr. Blue
Alphaville She Fades Away
Yello Dr Van Steiner
Kraftwerk Pocket Calculator
Grace Jones A Rolling Stone
Blancmange My Baby
Frankie Goes To Hollywood Two Tribes
Heaven 17 The Best Kept Secret
Soft Cell Seedy Films
Depeche Mode Everything Counts
Bronski Beat Junk [Remix]
JMJ Ethnicolor II
Yello Eternal Legs
Grace Jones Slave To The Rhythm
Roger Waters One Of These Days
Gary Numan White Boys And Heroes
Hurts Suffer
Depeche Mode Should Be Higher
OMD Apollo
Yello The Evening’s Young
Kraftwerk House Phone
Visage Visage
The Human League Don’t You Want Me
John Foxx No-One Driving
Grace Jones Sunset Sunrise
Simple Minds Someone, Somewhere in Summertime
Malcolm McLaren Deep In Vogue
Propaganda Abuse [Here]
Depeche Mode Monument
Frankie Goes To Hollywood For Heaven’s Sake

As the last song perfectly reflects my feelings, I’ll stop there. It just keeps going exactly like that. It’s about as much diversity as the local FM “Classic Rock” station that plays Zeppelin, Hendrix, The Doors, CCR, and The Rolling Stones all day long.

And just in case anyone thinks this result is because the seed song is obscure or something, here’s what it gives for the entire genre of Jazz-Funk:

Miles Davis Right Off
Herbie Hancock Watermelon Man
Miles Davis On The Corner
Idris Muhammad Loran’s Dance
Jorja Smith Rose Rouge
Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery Night Train
Freddie Hubbard Mr. Clean
Level 42 Lessons In Love
Kamaal Williams, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson Street Dreams
Donald Byrd Flight Time
Kamasi Washington Change Of The Guard
Stanley Clarke Quiet Afternoon
Grant Green It Ain’t Necessarily So
Derrick Hodge The Cost
Herbie Hancock Ostinato (Suite for Angela)
Miles Davis Sivad
Orlando Julius, The Heliocentrics In The Middle
George Benson Take Five
Dr Lonnie Smith, Robert Glasper Play It Back
Freddie Hubbard, Don Sebesky Moment to Moment
Blue Note All-Stars Bruce’s Vibe
Diplo, Marlena Shaw California Soul (Diplo Remix)
Brad Mehldau, Mark Guiliana Taming The Dragon
Kamasi Washington Desire
Joshua Redman Never Let Me Go
BadBadNotGood, Sam Herring Time Moves Slow
Jack DeJohnette et al El Swing
Miles Davis Go Ahead John
Yussef Kamaal Yo Chavez
Donald Byrd, Wade Marcus You And The Music
Madlib, Sound Directions Song For My Father
The RH Factor The Stroke
The Souljazz Orchestra Conquering Lion
Grant Green If I Had You
Quantic Motivic Retrograde
Joshua Redman Chill
MM&W Dracula
Beastie Boys Freaky Hijiki
Herbie Hancock Wiggle-Waggle
Miles Davis Black Satin
Chip Wickham Blue To Red
Stanley Clarke Life Suite
Idris Muhammad Power Of Soul
John Scofield Lucky For Her
Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery Baby, It’s Cold Outside
Freddie Hubbard Here’s That Rainy Day

Now you can see that the last 10 songs are more repeated artists than not. So it just keeps going like that, recycling artists from the top of the list. Maybe 1 in every subsequent 30 songs will be a new artist (if I’m lucky) but otherwise Roon Radio stays with the ones listed above. Wash, rinse, repeat. And every single time that I start this station it’s the exact same set of artists as above – despite the fact that Roon’s landing page for this genre lists Lonnie Smith, Reuben Wilson, Charles Earland, Jack McDuff, Bobbi Humphrey, Ronnie Foster, Tom Browne, and Gil Scott-Heron. Why are they listed but never on the radio?

It really seems like each Roon Radio “station” is really only a list of about 10-30 artists which it just randomly selects songs (often from a single album of an artist, even if that artist has 10+ albums in their discography) to shuffle and repeat ad nauseam.

Roon Radio seems great if you listen to a station for an hour. Any longer than that and it gets monotonous really quick. At first I thought Roon Radio was so much better than Spotify’s radio etc but then realized it’s the same thing, just different artists and songs which are maybe a bit more obscure, yet still limited and repetitive.

On top of that, Roon Radio has zero personalization so even if you thumbs up/down something it keeps feeding you the same stuff. So how can I “train the algorithm” if it keeps giving me the same thing? How will the algorithm ever know to put Bobbi Humphrey on the Jazz Funk genre station if none of her songs ever appear and get a chance to be thumbed-up?

I miss Rdio /sigh/

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Do you have Tidal and/or Qobuz or just a local library?

I have both Qobuz and Tidal premium tiers. As well as a local library of 80,000 songs (99% are full albums).

I always add a last track that I would like listen to. It then plays tracks similar to your last track played. You can always go back and insert another last track to mimic.

Right, but once Roon Radio starts after the last track, then about 20-30 tracks later Roon Radio starts repeating the same artists over and over. I’ve listened for hours and hours, the behavior is always the same. While it does take quite a long time to repeat an exact track, it’s a bit weird that no matter what I select, from either a track-based Radio, or a genre-based Radio, it basically spits out a shuffled discography of 10-30 artists and never branches out further than that.

If anyone is seeing Roon Radio behave vastly different than what I have described and documented above, I’d really like to see the data and know how to tweak it to be more diverse and less repetitive. Even huge top-level genres like “Blues” seem to suffer the same fate – hope you like SRV, Led Zep, Cream, Ray Charles, Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Bros Band, Billie Holiday and a small handful of others over and over again… and never hearing 95% of the artists on this list or any of these lists who have recordings available on Tidal and Qobuz.

That’s strange. I got a very different result to you seeding with Jazz-Funk.

I did start getting repetitions after about 35 tracks (Nils Landgren, Herbie Hancock). There are quite a few threads on this topic of roon radio repeating. In general though my roon picks look very different to yours, although I did get several Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and a few others the same as you. That surprised me. I thought the picks would be much more similar as my understanding is that Valance is averaging out the entire roon user-base and not personalising individual tastes. I guess something else must be going on?

The other thing is I wouldn’t categorize my stream as particularly Jazz-Funk. I was obviously enjoying it and not particularly bothered as I only switched it off after a couple of hours when the repetitions started to kick in. I can see that would be a problem if you were expecting a more consistent mood. The problem I think with seeding with a genre is that for roon a genre is an album level attribute not track level attribute. So it looks as if roon will pick tracks with very different genres just because the album has a few Jazz-Funk tracks. That’s something else that surprised me as I thought Valance was using more data points than genre.






Thanks for the data! I definitely see a lot of overlap – the songs might be different, but it looks like at least half of the albums are what I have seen over and over again. And yeah it’s not always exactly Jazz Funk but it is generally enjoyable. I just wish it wasn’t so narrowly focused and repetitive.

Here’s a screenshot (great idea, thanks) from what I’m seeing today. It looks like Bobbi Humphrey finally made it in there but otherwise it’s a lot of the same tracks/artists/albums as yesterday.

It goes from top-left down, then across by column. I put a green line where it obviously starts to repeat artists. I could have kept going for another 100 songs and it would have looked the same. And again, this is not only Jazz Funk doing this. I see this across many genres, even top-level, non-obscure ones like Blues. I might post another example or two later if I have time.

It would be interesting to get an Official Comment By A Roon Spokesperson if there is any way to improve this on an individual level, or even just some acknowledgement of if this is expected behavior, or something. I don’t expect them to give away their “secret sauce” but some comment would be nice.

I’m especially curious why different users are seeing slightly different queues for the same station (w/r/t artists and albums present on one person’s queue, but totally absent on another) AND how we can influence getting missing artists and albums INTO the Roon Radio queue/algorithm. It seems like the only option now is to say “This doesn’t belong” which in theory would appear to completely narrow down the options to only popular songs over the long run. Where’s the positive influence mechanism?

Wow! That’s scary how similar our streams are. It is much easier to see from the album thumbnails. So, it really is the case that Valance is averaging out the entire roon user base.

The only real difference for me that stands out is that you got Level 42 and I didn’t. If roon was personalising I would have expected much more crossover like Level 42, Incognito, Shakatak etc. which I am not getting. Looks like its not popular with the roon user-base either.

Here’s the top-level Reggae genre radio that I get. Green line where it seems to run out of ideas and heavily repeats the same artists/albums (though there are a few scattered repeats before this). Again I will point to various sources of genre-defining musicians here and here and here – why does Roon Radio only apparently know of ~20 of them?

Rdio did this so well almost a decade ago. It’s not like having personalized radio that digs wide and deep through the past 70 years of music history is unachievable. If anything, with the advances in artificial intelligence, access to so many millions more songs, cheaper computing power, etc Roon Radio should be an order of magnitude better than Rdio ever was.

I really don’t understand why it’s so limited and why there’s zero ability to personalize it on-the-fly based on up/down votes. Group-based algo training seems like an interesting idea (especially to remove songs that obviously are mis-categorized) but it shouldn’t be the ONLY factor. As it stands, if you don’t like many of the following Reggae artists or songs or you just want to discover something new, you’re screwed because Roon Radio will apparently repeat the same general mix of artists and albums into infinity. I’ve queued up 400+ tracks and it’s all the same.

And before somebody points out the obvious: Yes I know genre radio isn’t the only way to do it, I can find more Jazz Funk or Reggae by starting the radio from a song or album too. But it’s still the same problem… I have to constantly pick different/new radio starting points – even if I want to stay in the same genre – because every starting point becomes repetitive real quick.

In my mind, the radio should be so diverse and full of branching points / connections / pathways that it should throw out something completely different (yet relevant) every time, even from the same starting point. Especially for genres. I should just be able to play some Reggae today, tomorrow, next week, or next month and get something that’s significantly different each time. That’s not what happens as it exists now – there seems to be some weird threshold where ~20-30 artists get heavily repeated no matter the starting point.

(I’m not trying to beat this to death, I swear)

Let’s go at this from another angle and use the genre “Indie Rock” as an example. I have a local library of 200+ indie rock artists and 700+ indie rock albums, all of which Roon categorizes correctly. So if I go to the Indie Rock genre page in Roon it shows Pavement, Fugazi, Sebadoh, Archers of Loaf, Superchunk, Built To Spill, The American Analog Set, Unrest, Les Savy Fav, Throwing Muses, Spoon, Pinback, Minus The Bear, Helium, The Dismemberment Plan…

So obviously Roon knows what Indie Rock is.

Yet when I start the Indie Rock radio station, it plays NONE of these.

When I see it do such a questionable job on a genre that I know really well, it makes me wonder what else Roon Radio is missing across the entire music spectrum.

On a somewhat (confusing) positive note, it does seem to do a mostly decent job if I start with, say, a Superchunk song… then it spits out what I would mostly consider to be a great selection of related songs and artists (though still at that weird ~20 artist limit which gets tiring after a couple hours).

If there was a way to create a radio station based on several songs, that would be a breakthrough and would probably resolve most of my complaints. Then I could seed it with songs from each of the artists that I mentioned in the first paragraph and get a super diverse output of Indie Rock that probably wouldn’t be repetitive for 20+ hours of listening. Maybe only 10 seed songs would be enough to knock it out of the park.

Famous last words, but this shouldn’t be very difficult to do because the pieces seem to be in place – just combine and shuffle the radio queues that already exist (in the algorithm) for each of the 10 seed songs on the server side, and serve the merged output to the user as a unified super-station. How to choose the songs would take a bit of clever UI… an easy way would be to just do it via Playlists (same UI as starting Radio from an Album)… and automatically have it select the first 10 tracks in a playlist as the seeds for the super station. Users could create/adjust playlists as needed to get the desired station output.

That’s my idea for making the radio more diverse and less predictable in a way that seems feasible within the constraints of the current system (as I see it from the outside as a customer). It’s clear that the current approach is very limited and quickly repeats and recycles the same artists and albums over and over. I feel like it’s so obvious that surely Roon Labs must realize it’s a legit problem even if they’re not saying so publicly. Hopefully we get a working solution sooner than later.

Here’s a thread from last year where some of this is explained by @brian (Roon CTO)

What does Roon Radio actually DO?

For me, it still leaves too many questions and concerns as I have detailed above in this thread. Even if Roon can’t officially respond with an explanation, it would be nice for somebody official to say “Don’t worry, we hear you, and we’re working on it.” Heck, just click the little heart down there :arrow_double_down:

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I’ve said from day one it’ll converge at the lowest common denominator. Welcome to automated groupthink.

I’ve tried to track some of this with a spreadsheet and visualize it with a frequency count which is highlighted with color. If anybody wants me to add the first 250 songs of Roon Radio’s output from starting at a specific album, track, artist, or genre just say so (especially if you think it shows a trend that is drastically different than what I documented). I included 1 of each type to start with.

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@armandhammer, thanks for doing this.

I was going to do the same thing over the weekend for a three hour roon radio session, until I discovered that a) roon did not play anything from my local library, choosing tidal/qobuz tracks instead, even when most were in my library, and b) you can convert history to a playlist but you can’t export that playlist to excel if it only contains streaming titles.

I was dreading the task of typing it all in to a spreadsheet to do the analysis you have already done, thinking nobody would care, and especially nobody at roon labs.

So thanks again. At least one person cares.

My conclusion, just eyeballing the history, is that the roon radio " intelligence" is indeed “artificial.”

Also, Tidal app stations seem to give more variety, and more relevance to the seed track/artist.