Is Roon right for us?

My fiance likes music, and laments that we do not have a Sonos system.
I recently found out about Roon in my research, and knowing how much she likes music, I think she’d really like the unique approach Roon takes with their UI.
With all of this being so complicated with so many moving parts, I’m hoping the user community here can help clarify what’s best for us (Roon vs…).
Here’s what I think we need:

  • The ability to play at least CD quality music over WiFi
  • The ability to use my legacy analog amp/speakers in the livingroom (and a second set that I haven’t bought yet, but will, for the office (may power with another NAD, may power with something like a powered endpoint amp)
  • The flexibility to not be tied to a particular manufacturer (i.e. Bluesound, which is really appealing, but I don’t like the restriction, and don’t want to buy a Node 2i for anywhere I don’t want to run one of their Pulse speakers).
  • A multiroom system that allows us to use our iPhones as remotes for music. It would also be nice to use an iPad or Mac.
  • Flexibility to choose what source is playing to which endpoint (I anticipate I may want to play something on one endpoint or set of endpoints, and she may want to play on another). Volume control remotely is important, I think?

We use the following sources currently:

  • Purchased music on iPhones
  • Amazon Prime Music
  • Google Play
  • Pandora
  • Podcasts
  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Additionally, I have quite the CD collection, and am thinking about ripping it. I would want it ripped in a user-friendly way with all the metadata - I don’t want to have to name all the songs and tracks myself. I want it to be easily navigable.

Originally I was thinking Bluesound (legacy system is NAD, and I like PSB), but I just don’t like the Bluesound-only thing. I do like how universal everything is (any source, any device, lots of cross-compatibility, etc.), and I like that they technically make all the things I need (Node, Powernode, Vault, speakers).
Then I found out about Play-Fi DTS.
The open-source nature of Play-Fi DTS is really attractive. I heard there were early issues with the app, but they may no longer be an issue? Not sure. I like that I can get Paradigm speakers with the ARC feature at a killer deal currently (and I like Paradigm’s sound), and get a Link so I can stream to each legacy system for not a ton of money, too.
I also like that Play-Fi allows headphone syncing.
I fear that Play-Fi may be my only option for video (not sure on the details, but we can use either phone, iPad, Mac, PC, or DVD player to stream Netflix or Prime Video)
I am not too sure if “Critical Listening Mode” is the only way to get CD quality. Also not sure if Play-Fi CLM works via WiFi, or if the endpoints need to be wired. And if I’m WiFi, to what rate is stuff downsampled?
And finally, not too sure on the best way to do NAS on the Play-Fi system (when I eventually choose to rip all the CDs).

Now Roon - I gather it’s an app interface that makes interacting with the music better.
And I gather it’s high-res (at least as good as CDs?), and that doesn’t require wired ethernet to send HiFi signal to endpoints.
My concern with Roon is the Core. Just how hard is it to DIY? I like the $500 price tag for a NAS core (ROCK), but know nothing about Linux, and don’t want to waste a weekend learning. But that Nucleus pricetag is not small!
I’m also worried about the apparent inability to use other sources, like Pandora, Prime Music, Google Music, or video like Netflix or Prime Video. Am I misunderstanding Roon?
Could I perhaps use a Play-Fi system like the Paradigm PW Series for video through Play-Fi, and use Roon instead if I want to do music?
I saw that JBL makes some Roon-compatible speakers, but I’ve never had a high opinion of the sound quality of JBL.

So what’s the better option? Or can I Roon on Play-Fi? I’ve heard mixed results with that.
I don’t care if it takes some savvy to set it up, but I want it to be easy enough to use that she will enjoy the experience.

In case it factors into things, my budget is fluid, but not endless. I don’t want to spend $3000+ to get what I need from Bluesound (Vault, Powernode, Pulse, Pulse Mini).

Roon will hit all your bullet points, but it only streams from Tidal, Qobuz, and local ripped CDs.

and internet radio.

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Dbpoweramp for CD ripping is a worthy investment.

I have tinkered with Play-Fi on my Anthem MRX AVR. I find it to be rather quirky.

It’s not Roon that’s for darn sure.

Building a Core using ROCK and a NUC as a base is straightforward and needs no Linux knowledge - plenty of help available in the Community if you get stuck. Just make sure you choose a compatible NUC from the relevant knowledgebase article. I’m assuming you meant NUC and not NAS? The former is probably the simplest approach.

My inner geek is not sure that qualifies as a wasted weekend :grin:

You can use Windows on the NUC and install the Roon core on that. The Windows license is about $140 extra for the Home edition. Or you could use a Mac Mini.

Roon does not stream any of the sources you mentioned except ripped CDs. But it streams Tidal and Qobuz and does it very nicely, in the way it integrates with your local library.

Here are some things you should know about Play-Fi:

I very much agree with you about Linux , but I wouldn’t be tempted into purchasing a Nucleus. As someone who has recently purchased a NUC (NUC8i5BEH) installed Roon Rock and now up and running successfully and very happily, I can assure you that if you take a similar approach you do not need to know anything about Linux itself. The Roon Rock installation installs both the Roon Core and an underlying proprietary Linux system on the NUC. You do not need to install or configure Linux separately.

It really is quite straightforward, and there are lots of people on this forum who will be preparded to help if you do run into problems.

As to whether Roon is right for you, my view is that Roon is for people who have a large, curated collection of digital music from CD rips or high quality digital downloads, or people who use Tidal (and now Qobuz) who want a better organizing and playback system than the apps provided by those services, and who want high quality audio playback end-to-end. (Or, people who want both personal library and high quality streaming integrated into one playback system.)

The advantage of Roon for either case is the nice user interface, the rich metadata (if that’s important to you), the iOS and Android remote functionality, and the flexibility for high quality playback to multiple zones and types of endpoints using their RAAT protocol.

In my view, it works best with a computer running the core and computers running Roon output at the endpoints. The endpoints can be inexpensive NUCs or Raspberry Pi devices, but either way the main benefit is that you install and control what’s running on it and you run software developed, distributed and supported by Roon throughout your system.

Chromecast Audio was an inexpensive, simple, reliable and flexible playback alternative when used with active speakers or an inexpensive amp/speaker combo. Unfortunately, Google has discontinued the product. You can still find remaining stock but it seems like a dead end at this point. On the other hand, for $30 or $40 it will likely work for years and costs a lot less than a NUC or RPI setup for your remote endpoints.

For your Netflix/Amazon streaming needs, a Roku or Fire TV is by far the least expensive, simplest, and most reliable option.

Another alternative to consider is DLNA. With all it’s flaws, it works well if you get it set up correctly and it is widely supported in playback devices.In that case, JRiver Media Center is worth a look. I have used both, and personally prefer Roon and RAAT for simplicity and reliability.

Google has discontinued the Chromecast Audio device, but will they not continue to support standard Google Chromecast devices? It should be possible to use Google Chromecast with a cheap HDMI to Optical SPDIF splitter to provide a digital signal for any DAC that supports Optical SPDIF.

I use this combination to provide a Roon end point for a Marantz NA7004 I use in a bedroom system.

Do you have a PC? I run the core on Windows, using a NUC. Very simple to install.

Installing Ropieee to a Raspberry pi is very cheap and not difficult, you just connect that to a DAC. It rarely gives any issues and they are usually fixed by pulling the power and rebooting it.

My wife is now using Roon at home without any problems.

Qobuz and Tidal will astonish you in terms of sounds quality over Amazon music and Pandora and Roon has its own ability to curate music.

NAD via their Blusound acquisition can provide Roon endpoints. I have several Node2 that is use as Roon endpoints for legacy in-room systems and a NAD 4 zone preamp that I use for my in wall speakers around various rooms in the house. I use other Roon endpoints in other systems and it all integrates seamlessly. You can install Roon Core on just about anything that runs Mac OS, Windows, or Linux, including an existing laptop or desktop system. You don’t need to have Roon Core running on a separate device like a NUC or Nucleus server. You can install a full stack of Roon on a regular PC and use it as both the Roon Core and as an endpoint connected via USB to one of your systems if you want. I think Roon is the most flexible music control system out there currently but it is music only. If you want multi-room streaming of video you will have to look elsewhere. I know JRiver Media Center will do it and I sure there are other options as well.

Yes that would work. I think roon resamples/downsamples to 48k for the hdmi chromecast. At least it does on mine, but it’s a first generation. It doesn’t do that for chromecast audio. Not a big deal. Still sounds fine. Probably similar to Airplay.

Yes - I’m pretty sure it does on my more recent Google Chromecast as well. I hadn’t realised that the Chromecast Audio catered for higher sampling frequency. Definitely not a big deal for my Marantz NA7004 based system.

As a solution, it works astonishingly well for its price.

Not hard at all. Go over to Best Buy, get a medium HP desktop with an i5 or Ryzen 5 processor running Windows, download and install the Roon Core software on it. Presto, you’re done.

Based on the lovely responses from a very engaged community, I have some new questions, some ongoing:
I’m guessing the best way to see if I like the Roon experience is to set up a computer I already own as a core, and if I like it, get a dedicated ROCK (which can be either a NUC or a NAS, according to Roon).

  • Can I set up a NUC as a ROCK and a NAS? I mean, with enough space on the HD in a NUC, one ought to be able to store stuff? Or is it better to connect an external HD to a NUC with my music ripped from dbpoweramp?

So I still need a hardware setup. What are the good options for Roon endpoints? There are a lot of partners and I don’t really want to go surf every manufacturer’s webpage to find out what they make, and if it meets my needs. I’m sure y’all have already figured this out.

  • I would like something like a PW Link just to make the connection to an external amp and speakers. Based on what R_Neal said, sounds like a Raspberry Pi or cheap Nuc are the best options? Or can I really get HiFi music with a Google Chromecast Audio like hmack said? $35 per endpoint is filthy cheap, if it works (HiFi, with Roon). Not sure what is better, cheap Nuc, RPI, or Chromecast Audio.
  • I would also like the option to purchase a built solution (endpoint+amp+speakers all-in-one), like a PW 600. Who makes something akin to Bluesound (in terms of quality)?

Only if you want to. I have used Roon for years with the Core on a multi purpose machine. But, the machine is very fast and no one listens to music while I"m doing other things on the computer. A dedicated computer just makes things easier, it is not a necessity.

Chromecast’s work great with CD resolution. As you said, filthy cheap. No harm in using them to get a setup started and then slowly change over as time and funds permit to other endpoints. The great thing about Roon is you don’t have to start with a fully baked system, it can grow, expand and change with you.

I love the Insignia Chromecast enabled speaker endpoints. Bought a couple filthy cheap at Best Buy for under 30.00

ROCK is a stripped down special purpose Linux kernel that runs Roon Server and nothing else. So, no. You can’t use a ROCK device to do anything else. If you want to do more than run Roon Server, use a general purpose OS.

Edit: See here as to ROCK storage.

He asked if you can store stuff with ROCK, and of course you can with an additional SSD fitted.

@Erik_Kellison So normally you use a small M.2 SSD for the OS and a 2.5 inch spinning HDD (or SSD if you are flush) for the music. I have that configuration and it works very well for a dedicated Roon system. If you use a standard NUC case, buy the bigger device as that will have the room for an internal drive. These are good for around 2TB which will hold quite a large collection at CD resolutions ripped to FLAC. A bigger drive might be too thick to fit in the given space.

“What are the good options for Roon endpoints?”

Well I already had a MacBook Air, an Auralic Mini and a few other hifi bits - the Roon core sits on the MacBook fine, I can use it (I know, my audiophile self still goes hiss and boo! :blush: ) at the same time and no problems with speed, drop out or anything. I send the music wirelessly to the Mini as a Roon end point (it also does Airplay and other protocols so there will be some way you can send music to it direct from your other music services on your e-devices when you are not using Roon) and the SQ is fantastic.

The main reason I use Roon is twofold, its the only way I can get music from my Mac to my HiFi in full fat hi-res, Airplay don’t do that ( I used to have an Airport Express). I used to use Lightning DS for streaming Qobuz direct through the Mini, and its fine, its just not a music discovery or cataloguing system.

Which is the second reason I use Roon, it has given me back my music library again! I can add albums form Qobuz to my Roon library, correct any metadata I fancy changing and cover art and even artist pics if I get pedantic - and that album now feels like ‘mine’ in ‘my’ library of music. I can view my library based on when I added the album (when Roon sort that out once and for all with Qobuz!) when the album was released and so on (streaming services still have rubbish metadata so can’t manage that properly) - it’s like having a shelf of CD’s or Vinyl again - but with the joy of metadata links that will keep you up all night discovering new music!

The Mini has its own very capable DAC built in (hits way above its price bracket, which is why Auralic are sort of not mentioning it too much now as they bring out more and more expensive options) or you can insert DAC of choice between it and the amp. That’s it - system done! I also happen to have inserted an SSD in the Auralic Mini and have my own rips on there as well, Roon found that pronto, dealt with duplicates from Qobuz and its all now part of my library.

To be honest I played with Roon several times, but it wasn’t until they added Qobuz integration and I actually saw all my own stuff from Qobuz in there that the penny dropped. It’s a terrific music library management and music discovery system that links out to streaming services. I personally think this is the future for the serious music lover and one day we won’t bother who we subscribe to for our stream, systems like Roon will just deal with all that behind the scenes. When we change music services software like Roon will simply use our library metadata to link to albums from the new service and we won’t even notice - sort of like an automatic Soundiz conversion!

Just my tuppence worth as a new user! :blush: