Continuing the discussion from What does Roon offer? I’m coming from the Meridian world:
I wanted to pull this out of the other thread, because it’s an important topic to address.
The Meridian/Sooloos system is one of the best music products on the market today–but since designing and building that product, we’ve gone through three or four tear-it-down-and-do-it-right cycles. At this point, the way Roon approaches metadata is several huge steps ahead of where the Meridian system is today.
A good way to think about the Meridian system is as a standard artist->album->track database with a bunch of “extras” tacked on at the album level, like reviews, credits, genres, and tags. This was a step forward from what other people were doing at the time, but compared to where we are today, now it kind of feels like how iTunes felt to us in back in 2007.
We’ve completely re-thought how music metadata should be represented. Instead of treating it as a three-level artist->album->track hierarchy, we represent it as a web of relationships. Tracks relate to their albums just as before, but both tracks and albums can have artists and credits. A track can also be associated with a performance of a work, which is composed by a composer. Unlike in the Meridian system, which essentially only supported rich data at the album level, we have “extras” at practically every point in the system. Performers have artwork, biographies, birth/death data, countries, periods (think Baroque, Renaissance), and so forth. Works have composers and composition dates, forms and instrumentations. I’ve really only barely scratched the surface here. At this point, Roon is managing approximately ten times as much data for a given music collection than the Meridian system does.
We’ve also made import significantly more automated. Instead of sitting in front of Control:PC or Control:Mac making manual grooming choices during import, the Roon software adopts a less intrusive approach. After you tell Roon where the audio files live, Roon sucks it in and indexes it in the background. Done.
As I’m sure you know, an automatic process isn’t going to get everything right 100% of the time (although, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how good a job it does right out of the box). To help with this, there are a couple of wizards in the app that walk you through fixing badly structured or mis-identified music. If all else fails, there’s an option that allows you to turn off the automatic behavior and revert content back to the metadata that it came with.
The Meridian system keeps your audio files in an obscured proprietary filesystem layout (something that Roon will not do, btw). Accessing it directly to extract the content is quite complex for an outside piece of software. One of the most irritating issues is that files imported from CDs using the meridian system are untagged, and sometimes not even broken up into individual files for each track! Thankfully, their product provides a lossless export feature that allows you to export the files, tagged with metadata and artwork exactly as they exist in your Meridian system. This is the best way to get media out of the system.
Depending on what mechanisms you used for grooming, there may be some data that isn’t included as part of the export. We are encouraging Meridian to embed as much data as possible via that export mechanism.
Once you’ve got the files out of there, you can import them into Roon with minimal effort. During import, Roon holds onto the metadata from your files verbatim in its databases. This allows us to implement that feature mentioned above where we revert to file-level metadata and ensures that no data is lost as part of our import process, so that you don’t lose access to anything important that might have been embedded in those files.
If we were to simply replicate your existing content verbatim within Roon with every aspect preserved, you’d be missing out on most of the value that Roon offers to music collectors. While we don’t want you to lose access to carefully groomed data, we also know that in many cases, the Roon system is capable of automatically producing metadata far more detailed and accurate than what the Meridian databases are even capable of representing. The best result is going to come from a mixture of the two, and we’re working to make that as simple to achieve as possible.