How to get the best experience from Roon Radio?

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?

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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.

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(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.

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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.

I think Roon Radio is a step in the right direction, and I hope the official Roon folks (@danny etc) realize that my criticism is based on a feeling that it has the potential to be so much better. Please give it the kick in the ass that it needs!

The main problems are:

  1. It gets too artist-repetitive too quickly and seems to stay that way. I’ve tested up to 500 songs from all types of starting points and once it goes past about the first 80-130 songs, forget it. 95% of the songs after that will be repeats of the artists that I already heard, and often it will be from the same album (or two, if I’m lucky). I’m really curious why it tends to fixate on single albums. Like “Let’s throw some Bjork into this David Bowie radio, but only songs from Vulnicura”. Why does it think a random song from Vulnicura is related to David Bowie but then it goes on to never play any Sugarcubes, which IMHO is much more relevant?

  2. The starting points always output the same songs. So if I start with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the seed, I get the same station output even if I go back to it a week later (95% the same songs, just a different order). So basically for me, every starting point is a one-time-only play, because I’ve “been there, heard that”. It’s always a gamble and too much manual searching to find a starting point that won’t quickly get boring.

  3. The algorithm seems kinda dumb, honestly. If I start with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and it outputs Guns N Roses and Bruce Springsteen several times in the first 2 hours, but never Pixies or Alice In Chains or Meat Puppets, something is seriously wrong. I wonder if this is the result of bad voting by the community? GNR thrown into a Nirvana station isn’t necessarily bad (I like variety), but it becomes bad when the algo plays 11 GNR songs and 5 songs from “Born in the USA” (WTF) but nothing from artists which are much more relevant and directly tied to Nirvana.

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I had the Bruce Springsteen conundrum last night. Seeded from Rolling Stones Sympathy of the Devil it played John Lennon, Neil Young, The Beatles, The Door, Van Morrison, The Who, Bob Dylan, Led Zep then for some reason decided to play the London Calling by Clash, then back to Crosby,Stills and Nash and then Bruce Springsteen. A few of those understand but a lot don’t follow on at all and choosing solo and their bands is weak choices. Also a lot of the track choices where not of the right time very old Bob and I don’t get Bruce or The Clash at all.

I have already posted in another thread that when switching to Qobuz only radio seems to have taken a nose dive.

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I’ve got a library of 80,000 songs + Qobuz + Tidal so there should be no lack of songs for Roon Radio to choose from. It’s funny because when I look at my Roon library, it knows exactly which bands fit into which genres and sub-genres, the various relationships between bands, who collaborated on what, which bands shared members, who wrote songs for other bands, etc etc etc… and then those songs and bands never actually show up on the radio, instead I get super questionable and repetitive picks. It’s baffling. It’s like the “library catalog and discovery” side of Roon knows about this stuff but the radio side is clueless.

None of us know what goes on ‘behind the curtain’, but my sense of the reasons for your observations (#2 and #3) @armandhammer are basically two-fold. First, output is based on the collective Roon user experience, and second, they want to avoid making ‘bad’ decisions. Consequently, choices directed more toward the heart of the frequency distribution will be what you hear. The closer you get to the fringes the more likely you will make a ‘mistake’. My sense is that this is worst for mainstream rock, where there are a lot of Roon users playing the same old stuff. It is a deep rut to fall into.
I’d expect that with time, experience and a broader user base Valence will get better at exploring those areas at the fringe that actually make sense. Or maybe we’ll get an ability to direct Roon to make riskier decisions,
As to point #1, this seems to be some kind of bug. It feels like Valence has just gotten bored and turned off whatever deduplication it uses earlier on. TBH, when it is 80-100 songs out, I don’t mind. I probably don’t even notice it as bad, if I notice at all. But again, if the choice is to repeat something safe, play something that might be a ‘mistake’, or turn off the radio, what do you do?
I happen to get a lot of joy out of what Valence does. It has introduced me to lots of good new music, so there is a lot of good stuff at the heart of it. But as you say, it can also get better.

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I really hope Roon is working on something which will throw more randomness, deep cuts, and happy (but relevant) surprises into the radio. It’s definitely a concern that as of now, we only have an ability to vote to remove stuff from the radio, but no way to suggest new content. So it would appear that over time the radio will get less interesting and more “lowest common denominator” effect after the “weird” and “unfamiliar” stuff gets voted down… ending up with a radio that’s not much different than the local classic rock station that plays Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Hendrix, Eagles, and Pink Floyd all day long but never Mott The Hoople, Frank Zappa, Roxy Music, The Clash, pre-1975 Fleetwood Mac, or Warren Zevon.

It’s a good start. I have found some great entry points that do result in a fascinating mix of songs. It’s just that for me, this only happens about 10% of the time. The rest of the time I find myself wondering what the hell is going on and why I just heard “Black Hole Sun” followed by “Glory Days”.

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I appreciate all the effort you’ve put in @armandhammer analyzing the radio behaviour. I only started using radio in the last few days and my opinion is that it is pretty terrible - frequently playing multiple songs from the same album and repeating the same artists. Spotify and Tidal are considerably more relevant in their radio track choices so it keeps forcing me away from Roon…

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I’ve been away from Roon for a few months now. Just checking back. One of the reasons I left was because the Radio feature is useless for my purposes. I want to listen to a customized station based on all of my music (not just 1 song or 1 artist).

I’ve been using Deezer’s Flow for a while now. It works pretty well. I guess Roon still hasn’t figured this out.

Shuffle seems to use the same algorithm. I started a shuffle of a bookmark with 536 albums in it. (Edit: probably more like a couple of hundred because there are duplicates between my local library and Tidal/Qobuz.)

In the first hour, it played five songs by the Beatles (three from the same album), and three by James Brown. Roughly half the selections played were by two artists. There are hundreds of artists in the bookmark.

The thumbs up/down dialogue pops up every now and then, too, as if it’s playing radio instead of bookmark shuffle.

Edit: Oh, cool, there’s the Beatles again, as I’m typing. At least it’s from a different album.

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If v1.8 doesn’t contain major fixes and improvements for Roon Radio I’m going to throw my hands in the air. I can live with and work around the bad iOS app (my other major pain point) but there seems to be no way for end users to fix/manipulate the Radio. Would be nice to see some additions to the API which let 3rd party extension devs do interesting things with the radio too. Here’s hoping!

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Having the same feeling …

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So far no hints about Roon Radio 1.8 improvements.

Would love to see:

  1. Less repetitiveness of Artists on stations / a wider variation of related music. Stations get kinda stale too quickly. This seems to be a Valence issue which surely will be improved over time on the cloud side.

  2. The ability to seed stations with multiple inputs: from a playlist, by adding several artists or albums, or a few different genres.

  3. The ability to Save stations. And then be able to combine 2+ stations into a single mega station (not complicated: just output a shuffle of what the individual stations would generate by themselves)

  4. The ability to Fine Tune stations:
    A) A slider to control the percentage of songs from my Library vs Cloud
    B) A slider to control between Popular tracks vs Deep / Eclectic tracks
    C) A slider to control between whether tracks are Closely Related or More Discovery
    D) A double-ended slider to control the time period (select any range from 1920s to 2020s)
    E) A way to ban certain Artists or Tracks from a station or all stations

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