I worry about complexity

I wrote a description in the Audio Hardware section of how I created the simplest Roon box I could think of. No network, no NAS. It is pretty neat and simple. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it took a lot of tinkering and investigation to get it right. And I have more experience and more helpful contacts (including here) than most people. And even now, it isn’t completely right, the Roon server sometimes becomes unavailable from the remotes even though the network is up.

So how will this thing become mainstream? I once upset a lot of people at the Meridian forum by stating my concern that there was no future in this, because to be a Meridian Sooloos customer you need to be (a) a music enthusiast, (b) wealthy, and © technically savvy. I don’t know too many people like that (and those I do know have already settled on solutions). I know lots of people with one or two of those, but they couldn’t become Meridian customers.

Roon reduces the cost, disposable income is no longer a high barrier. But it does that by allowing combination of a variety of parts at different price and quality level, and of DIY gear. And the result is an even higher demand for technical savvy.

If you are even reading the stuff on this forum, you are already an exception.

How do we mainstream it? I keep coming back to self-contained hardware solutions, like Meridian did, but not necessarily at the same superb sound quality and cosmetic level. But is that a good business?

Interesting questions. I worry.

Roon-Ready gear should provide an easy access point for the less technically minded. Of course it depends on manufacturers writing firmware or drivers and bugfixing that software. I think it will happen. If I were a manufacturer I would be sorely tempted to arrange an extended trial period for Roon or bundle an annual subscription rather than write and support my own control app. The only gap with Roon atm is Internet Radio.

Trading increased technical competence for cost is normal. Raspberry Pi users are likely to have the least expensive network zone solutions, but they typically have above average technical competence.

Was there any particular area where you thought complexity was an issue Anders ? Setup, playback, metadata ?

I personally am tech savvy, i prefer to build over buy however when it came to roon - i installed roonserver on my headless machine. i installed roon onto my office pc, ran it, it found roonserver… i clicked the audio output as my dac… i searched for an artist and clicked play.

i dont get the hard part?

Interesting concern. But IMO it’s unnecessary. Why?

Well, who is the primary market for Roon? As far as I can tell, it’s people with a digital music collection. And the vast majority of those are not going to be people with cost prohibitive, all-in-one audiophile solutions, wanting to migrate their music. No, it’s going to be people that have a collection on their PC or Mac, an external drive, or a NAS. Or quite possibly, out on the cloud. IMO those people are not going to be intimidated by complexity in Roon. Sure, some things are mysterious to some of us, like metadata handling and updating. But the basic stuff like installing Roon or RoonServer, pointing it to our digital music collection, and connecting to our audio system is easy.

The less technically savvy generally won’t have a digital music collection anyway. Except those with things like Sooloos. They could need some help, but they’re likely a small fraction of the total Roon market. For them, it’s as @andybob said, they can buy Roon-Ready devices, or devices with Roon already installed.

And finally, for that less-technical minority buying Roon-Ready devices, I’m sure support for those people will emerge from the vendors of said devices. People who can migrate digital music collections to a place that Roon can access it, and get their Roon up-and-working for them. And if they don’t, just send me a message. If you can afford Sooloos, you can afford to fly me out to your place and set your Roon up for you. :wink:

If you can afford Sooloos, you can afford to fly me out to your place and set your Roon up for you. :wink:

He’s just a Roon hobo, flitting from tropical island to ski chalet, settin’ up zones and breakin’ hearts …

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LOL! That about nails it I think…

@nathanb You are the exception. “My headless machine”, forsooth.

The main outlet for wifi routers is Home Depot, and 40% of them are returned in perfect technical order. How hard is it to set up a wifi? Too hard.

How hard is it to make a headless Windows or Mac box? It isn’t designed for that, lots of details to adjust.

How hard is it to set up a Windows Server? Not designed for consumers. Microsoft did make Home Server ten years ago but it didn’t sell.

How hard is it to set up a headless Linux box? To begin with, how do I buy one?

@scolley Ah, depends on the ambition level and time scale. Ambition level for adoption.

Look ahead a few years. Sales of shiny disks are already declining drastically. Downloads are not compensating. Streaming is winning.

Wouldn’t a streaming, mid-quality customer benefit from Roon metadata browsing? Which means, everybody?

Ok, a little less ambitious than 100 million young people, consider the baby boomers. NY Times just wrote that they own $59 trillion, and they grew up with music. “No problem, Grampa, just drop Roonserver on your headless box and point it at your NAS, and your iPad will discover it over the wifi network.”

@andybob @scolley @nathanb What is hard? Another example:

I installed the USB driver for the Geek Pulse. Worked great.
I streamed to the Meridian over IP. Worked great.
But then I installed the Meridian USB driver because the 818.v3 has high res capabilities that are not yet available over IP. Worked great.
But now the Geek Pulse didn’t work. A lot of troubleshooting, repair, uninstall, reboot, reinstall, reboot, etc. and eventually it worked.
Now, whom do I call? LHLabs (maker of the Geek)? “You said our driver worked fine?” Meridian? “Our driver worked fine?” Microsoft? “What are you talking about?”

And it isn’t just that it failed and was difficult to fix. If this were an ordinary product space, I wouldn’t want to. If installing the toaster makes the microwave fail, what would you say?

Anders - All of the following is opinion. So…

IMO once you pulled a Meridan 818 into the equation, you went way out of “product” space. Toasters are simple, simple products. The 818 is no toaster. It’s an expensive and complicated piece of equipment. Same goes for your Geek Pulse DAC - a relatively new, and somewhat esoteric bit of gear. So “yes”, for people doing things like what you are doing… there’s a support gap that could be filled.

But for the other 95% of the people that this product is going to appeal to, setup is easy. And when it’s not, the Roon Labs folks are very helpful on this forum.

That said, I agree completely that WiFi is just too hard for many people to set up. Way too hard. Though frankly, I’d never move music over WiFi - vs. Ethernet - but that’s just me. And setting up headless Windows? You’re right. It’s not made for that and it take a non-standard set of skills/knowledge to make that work. However, with Roon-Ready devices coming, you won’t have to. You’ll be able to buy, pre-installed kits that are a lot closer to “plug-and-play”. Just give it a few months. Though there is - and will likely remain - a support gap for the 5% like yourself.

I joked about flying out to help people earlier. But this IS a service business opportunity ripe for the picking. And a market that appears to be growing.

True, Meridian and Geek are not mainstream, but that is not the cause of the USB driver conflict. Could have happened with any USB DAC and any USB headphone device.

For this to make sense for a mainstream user, the music library (metadata AND content) needs to live in the cloud. No always-on server at home, no configuration nightmare. Roon is just an app that you log into on each device, and those apps talk to the cloud.

This is where we must end up to start attracting broader audiences. It may seem like we’ve architected ourselves into a corner because of what the product looks like today. If we were a 30 person dev team, it would be scarier, but pushing around the architecture a bit isn’t scary when the whole architecture still fits in one person’s brain at a reasonable level of detail.

As you point out, mainstream users don’t want always-on servers and have poor success rate setting up appliances on their own. They only use WiFi. If they buy networked audio endpoints, they look more like Soundbars or B+W Zeppelins.

The only thing that a mainstream user’s home network is guaranteed to do somewhat reliably is to let devices talk to the internet. The fact that you can use your phone with WiFi permanently disabled (and in some cases get a better user experience–ever tried to load GPS directions from your own driveway?) means that many phone users are using LTE at home. There’s something subtly brilliant about the Spotify Connect infrastructure–since everything goes through the cloud, any device that can do Facebook can do Spotify Connect.

There are remaining hurdles. Mainstream users prefer music solutions that include content. And they prefer free/ad-supported over paying. These are what I see as the more real barriers for us and the real mainstream user.

In the mean time, there are a lot of more accessible markets to penetrate. Markets with 10s or low 100s of thousands of users that can provide significant growth for a small self-funded organization like ours. Some of those users will be music or audio hobbyists willing to do some legwork, some will use Roon as a companion to a hardware product, and some will be sold Roon via a dealer and receive hand-holding and support via the sales channel, just like with Meridian and Sooloos.

Actually, pretty much everywhere I go in the mainstream world, I rarely see soundbars and never see Zeppelins. But almost every place I go to has a Sonos system. That, I think, is the universal uncomplicated endopint.

Really? My music collection is nearly 2TB. At least half ow which is 96/24 or 192/24. Where would I find a host for that much data at any reasonable price? That’s way more than most “unlimited” storage offers will actually allow. And is there enough bandwidth to stream 192/24 from the cloud (assuming no MQA)?

But, @rbienstock, as you include 2TB of 96/24 and 192/24 in your problem statement you rule yourself out of the mainstream population. You are in the non-mainstream music geek group…where most of us are. The price to pay when using 192/24 files includes knowing what they are (mainstream does not), knowing what kit will play it (mainstream Jo with his Sonos will not), where to store it and how to serve it across a network … Etc.

You are right to mention MQA though as that does have the potential to change things. The knowledge barriers for mainstream adoption are still there though.

@brian I agree fully. And I don’t think you have painted yourself in a corner, because you will always want to appeal to the enthusiast with a large library like @rbienstock and the techies like most of us, so you want to support a local cache mode for people who are capable of setting it up.

So what you have is (a) the perfect data model and user interface which is appropriate forever, and (b) the perfect local cache model. All you need to add is the cloud service and reverse the logic about who is authoritative in the cache case.

And I understand the market path. No complaints about what you are doing. Just looking ahead…

In the current print edition of The Absolute Sound, Robert Harley in an editorial titled Future Shock expresses concerns similar to mine.

But he takes a different twist on it: hiding dealers need to not only learn thus technology but take responsibility for debugging the customer’s network. This is part of making the customer’s system work.

Interesting perspective.

Glad you saw that article Anderson. I saw it and thought about you, and your concerns.

IMO it was very well written and worth thinking about. That said, it’s a long term wake-up call that the audio world has changed. Not quick fixes - it’s industry wide: not Roon specific. So IMO we’re not going to solve it here. Though recognizing it might have some value…

Either way, it’s here. :neutral_face:

Amazon Cloud Drive – unlimited storage, $60/yr - https://www.amazon.com/clouddrive/home
Great fast storage. US only (for now), terrible UI, terrible app, but that doesn’t matter if we store to/from them.

As for bandwidth, 192/24 is nothing compared to a 4k video from youtube. I realize not everyone has that type of bandwidth… but they will.

Supporting and maintaining an Internet-connected home network (and all the computers and devices that connect to and use it) well is not non-trivial. When it works, great, but when something doesn’t work you can spend a lot of time troubleshooting the issues and a chunk of change actually fixing them. Add something into the mix as fickle as chasing the high-end computer audio dragon and it must drive non-technical folks (or technical folks that don’t enjoy it) batty.

I’d like to say that it will get better before it gets worse, but as the number of connected devices and services continues to increase, I’m not hopeful that will be the case for many folks. I’d like to think that there is a business opportunity here, but I don’t believe there are enough people out there ready to pay for competent home IT support (design, config, disaster recovery, etc.). Unfortunately many of those bridges have already been burned due to the unprofessional antics of some of the week-known outfits out there.

I recently shelled out almost $500 for software to play music. I have spent a couple hundred US dollars on a DAC and headphone amp, and another several hundred on headphones. Certainly, as a lifetime subscriber to Roon, I am in the minority. I have no idea how to rationalize this purchase to my friends and family. The time I spend listening to music is an invaluable part of my life, something I value only secondarily to time spent with my wife and kids, The combination of Roon and Tidal is without peer as far as I can tell. Apple Music, Spotify, I’ve played with both, and though I’ve been invested in iTunes since its inception, the combination of Roon and Tidal is by far the best way I’ve found to enjoy and expand my music collection. My setup is as simple as I can envision - all my files are on an external drive, I run Roon on a Macbook Pro through a simple USB DAC and amp, and the remote on an Android tablet (mostly just because I can) and love it. Simple, great sound, and access to an ever growing library of music (thanks to a Tidal subscription). Clearly this is not how the mainstream listener accesses his/her library of music. I think Roon can succeed without tapping into the mainstream. It’s those of us that appreciate music and the experience of listening that will ensure Roon’s success.