I have come to a crossroads and, I [do] regret to say, have to jump ship. Roon is a phenomenal product but we just can’t afford it.
But let me start with what is so truly cool about Roon:
- Seamless integration with Tidal. This simply works. Search for an album; if you have it already, it will play that, if you don’t, it will find it on Tidal and play that (if it exists). Awesome! Very few albums in our own archive exist in Tidal and Qobuz, so Tidal will only ever be a nice addition. But granted, a nice and unobtrusive one it is.
- Roon has a very good UI. Apart from not being in Danish, it is really quite amazingly good. There are a few lapses but those are minor and easily tolerated.
- Navigating multi-room playback is textbook easy.
- Bringing different protocols together as well as it does, e.g. DLNA, Airplay, Chromecast and RAAT, is just a stroke of genius.
- We don’t use DSP but the fact that Roon does it so effortlessly is no little feat. But, as I say, all our devices play well as they are.
- In terms of actual bugs or malfunctions we have had none whatsoever. Roon just flat-out works.
Then there are the problems:
- Roon does not play well with segregated networks. In our case, two locations tied together by a VPN. If you can’t multicast, you can’t discover the server and you can’t discover devices.
One solution would be to put a Roon Core at both ends of the VPN. That, however, accelerates the cost from an already staggering $700 to a downright heart bleeding $1,400. I certainly do appreciate the expenses in software development, making my own living there too, and the costs of having to provide metadata en masse, but since none of this information is localized anyway, we have little use for it. And even if we did accept English information on non-English albums, few of them have any information at all.
- Localisation: I have to provide the Danish translation myself, and really wouldn’t mind if the price had been lower. I work with terminologisation and do this professionally; I could and would chip in my piece of the burden to localize for the greater good, and actually began to do so before the price increase last winter, but that was where the enchantment wore off. That said, however, I do commend Roon for requiring translations be team driven.
We have settled for Minimserver for DLNA and BubbleUPnP for OpenHome (Linn’s extended DLNA). They run off of a Synology NAS at each location, replicating files and metadata*) over VPN. The OpenHome Control Point operates the same devices we did before since almost everything we have is DLNA compliant and can be handled by BubbleUPnP. Tidal support is handled by the control points, so only multi-room playback is a serious lack in this setup. I have initiated a cross-platform project to make an OpenHome control point, but until that is finished, we use Lumin as the control point on Android and iOS, and trusty old Linn Kazoo on Windows.
These are some other solutions we tested but discarded:
- Pure DLNA implementations. There is an inherent drawback in the DLNA control point specification, tying them one-to-one to a renderer, making shared playlists and multiple control points a tremendous hassle.
- Plex, Kodi and Emby. They extend DLNA and alleviate some of the control point issues from pure DLNA implementations but not all. On top of that, they are aimed predominantly at video and much too convoluted to operate. Emby came close by adding an extra tier to the control point chain, at least letting it have shared playlists but requiring their own control point (which is sloppily made).
- Volumio and Rune Audio. They appear to be focused solely on making renderers. Wouldn’t work, even if they look cool. Interesting as renderers, though.
Who knows. One day I will come crawling back. Until then, I wish you all the best and hope that Roon will flourish. I do love the product, I just can’t afford it.
/ Thomas Nielsen
*) We already had a system in place, where metadata are stored and versioned in a SQL server and written to file tags upon change. Originally this was done because we had master files for use with Squeezebox together with down-sampled [duplicate] files for Sonos and needed an easy way to change across format.