Is Roon viable for classical music?

I have a big collection of classical music stored in iTunes on my iMac. I’ve re-tagged everything to transpose artist and composer. I’ve also split “albums” so that, for example, each concerto in an album of multiple concertos, is an item in its own right.

Now, I’ve been reading some of the threads about Roon and classical music but many of them seem to pre-date the latest version of Roon so I’m not sure how relevant they are. I’d love to use Roon but as I understand it to do so I will need to get a Roon-compatible streamer or equivalent. So before I make what will be a hefty investment, I’d like to find out whether Roon will import my music collection relatively seamlessly? Or will I need to do a load of manual retagging (which would probably not be viable).

I would really appreciate your thoughts and experiences. Thank you.

I can’t really answer your question, but a Roon trial can be run on and play music on any PC/Mac of recent vintage, preferably with an SSD rather than a spinning disc. You can then import your music and see for yourself whether you find the results acceptable. Roon does not ‘mess with’ your files, so your iTunes library will stay intact.

The ‘Roon-compatible streamer or equivalent’ can come much later if you decide to stay with it.

While I love the technical aspects of Roon (remote control, lightweight endpoints, etc.) and the way it manages popular music and jazz, I find managing classical music wanting. Simple searches for compositions or performers do not return expected results. As Anthony suggests, download the trial and give it a whirl. I don’t have the time or inclination to tag all my albums but the work you have done on your collection may be usable in Roon. Let us know what you find.

These actions are almost certainly going to cause you problems. Roon will have extreme difficulty in being able to identify albums and releases known to it.

For a start, Roon will recognise an album where a folder contains the complete list of tracks that the album has/had. By splitting up albums into folders containing individual works, you’re going to end up with a bunch of unidentified albums, each containing individual tracks, because Roon won’t have sufficient information to reconstruct the compositions from it (e.g. a symphony with four movements). Roon also looks at ID3 metadata tags, and if you’ve swapped the content of the Artist and Composer tags, Roon will probably fail to make much sense of it.

Give it a go, by all means, but I doubt that you’ll have a seamless import experience. As the Irishman said to the stranger who asked him the way to Tipperary, “if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here…”.

One further thought, Philip. Years ago, Roon abandoned the idea of using folders as an organizing metaphor/tool. So, if your concertos are split into multiple folders, Roon won’t care: it will still attempt to ID your tracks via their association with an album.

Now, Roon provides a way to continue to use your tags and organization structure but the side effect may be the absence of metadata linking that Roon is known for.

The transition won’t be “seamless”; not sure about “relatively seamless”. I made it and became a life member; haven’t regretted it. Your results may vary. :slight_smile:

John, splitting albums into multiple folders makes Roons job that much harder; for example, that’s what this Roon user did, and Roon was unable to recognise the compositions. It is possible to tell Roon to reconstruct the original albums from multiple unidentified albums using the “Merge Albums” function of Roon, but it’s a manual process after the fact.

Much clearer, thanks. Anyone depending on iTunes’ folder setup as an organizing tool for their library will be in for a Roon awakening.

groan… :grinning:

I started with iTunes 1.0 for Windows way back when I was bought an iPod as a fathers day present. It put me off iTunes completely and looking at it recently hasn’t endeared me to it any. That program certainly did ‘mess with your files’ and I am still cleaning up the mess years later. The metadata crimes it committed can never be forgiven…:slight_smile:

Anthony, Peter, Geoff, John, thank you all for your observations. I’ve done as you suggested, signed up for a 14-day trial, downloaded and installed Roon on my iMac. I then imported my iTunes music library and… chaos. Just a horrible mess.

So I’ve gone to Settings/Library and changed various tags from Roon to those I set in iTunes. Roon is now grinding through my library. After about four hours it’s analysed 900 of 12,400 music files. So I reckon it will take most of my trial period to complete the task :frowning: I’m not feeling optimistic but I’ll report back on the result in due course.

Hi,

Audio Analysis is mainly used for volume leveling and the waveform display, if you’re not too worried about that, at least initially, you can switch off background audio analysis from Roon’s settings. Alternatively you can increase the number of cores it uses to speed it up.

Thanks, Carl, for pointing this out. Interesting… I wasn’t aware I’d asked Roon to do any Audio Analysis. Anyway, it’s still chugging away and I’ll let it carry on.

Audio analysis is on by default. What it is, and how it can be controlled is explained here.

I really appreciate your help here, Geoff. I’ve followed the link and I’m not sure I understand the explanation. I have a decent hi-fi set-up so I’d like to retain the full dynamic range of the music I listen to. If volume leveling has an impact here then for me it’s a no no.

On the other hand I notice that different albums have different audio levels. So I have to adjust the volume on my amplifier (or music source such as Roon) to compensate for this. If volume leveling overcame this issue (without reducing dynamic range) then I’d love that. I don’t think that’s what volume leveling does but please correct me if I’m wrong.

Volume levelling can be switched on per endpoint to level out changes in file volumes. It is off by default. Roon does not change your files in any way. This is just a processing feature which is optional, but does help in some situations (late night listening in my case). The audio analysis lets Roon gather the data it needs to do this, as well as providing the waveform display you will see when playing a track.

It does not stop you using Roon for the remainder of the trial, no need to wait for it to stop. Roon may be a bit sluggish though if you are short of processing power or have slow access to where you store the music whilst analysis is going on.

Bit late on the comments …

Roon really works on albums

You will see each Work is split into its requisite Movements . If Roon can’t ID an Album this won’t happen. This makes the Composition view a mess,

If all was well and in albums then each composition would sort out ok. You would then see your 10 Beethoven’s Fifth recordings etc.

Unsplitting your albums ie reconstitute Albums would help but it sounds like a lot of work.

Even box sets can be an issue , if a box is a collection of x albums you can split off albums. If not leave as an album ie box

Keep us posted, there are several regular posters with large classical libraries, we’ve been through the pain

No offense but Roon and classical is a bit Work inProgress to me

Don’t give too soon it’s worth the effort

Mike

So I’ve been playing with Roon on my iMac, iPad and iPhone. Here’s what I’ve found so far…

What works:

  • Albums: I can sort by Album Title to give me the same alphabetical order as I get in iTunes. In this view I can search for a composer, eg Beethoven, choose the Top Result, scroll down and choose All Albums and then in the resulting window choose Sort by Album Title. I now have all my Beethoven albums listed alphabetically. This gives me a pretty good browsing experience.

  • Search: To find music by a specific composer (tagged as Artist in my iTunes database) I can search for a composer’s name and get a listing of works. I can also search for composer and work, eg Beethoven Symphony 4 and get a listing of versions. So that’s pretty good.

  • Playlists: I can view the Classical playlist in my iTunes database in columnar form, listing alphabetically. It makes for a very long, scrolling page but might just be useful.

  • Tags: This is a blank slate but it would be easy to add tags (eg Orchestral, Chamber, Instrumental, etc) to provide another window on my music collection.

What doesn’t work:

  • Artists: Provides pages of artists, who turn out to be a mix of both composers and performers. They’re listed by surname (which is what I want) but some are presented in the format surname, first name; others in the format first name, surname. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason to this. I’m puzzled. Under artists I’m getting some performers (remember I transposed artists and composers in iTunes) as well as composers. This seems to be random. For example, there’s Alfred Brendel, under whom is listed a single album (there are many Brendel albums in my collection). So the Artists view is pretty cluttered and unhelpful.

  • Composers: As with Artists, offers a mix of both composers and performers. Interestingly, if I look at Alfred Brendel in the Composer tab here, I get a much more complete list of albums. Under the Performer tab I still get the one album. I’ve checked back in my iTunes database and the tagging for all the Brendel albums is consistent so I don’t know what’s causing this inconsistency. Similar experience with Ashkenazy.

Individual albums:

  • The Focus On Similar button brings up what, for me at least, is a pretty random list of other albums in my collection. I’ve looked at the Roon guide and I don’t understand where the suggestions have come from (they seem to have been arbitrarily generated by Roon) or how to delete them.

  • The list of suggestions under By This Artist isn’t always reliable – sometimes it includes albums by the same performer rather than artist/composer. The list’s order isn’t helpful – ideally there should be a range of sorting options; failing that ascending alphabetical order by album title would suit me best.

The iPad interface seems to be very similar to that of the desktop app. I like it.

The iPhone interface appears to lack the ability to sort a list of albums. So if I want to look at, say, my Beethoven albums in ascending alphabetical order, I just can’t find a way of doing so. This is a major weakness.

So, overall a bit of a mixed bag but there’s enough here to make me pause for thought. I’ll keep playing with Roon and in the meanwhile I’d love to hear how this compares with others’ experiences and any suggestions.

I’ve checked out the Tracks and Compositions views in the main navigation menu. Neither of them is critical from my point of view and I’m struggling to see how I could get it to work without a huge amount of work.

Good to hear from you, Mike. You must have posted your message as I was writing mine. Thank you for your suggestions and, as you’ll see, I’ve set down my impressions from today’s familiarization. Would love to hear back from you.

The first thought is to revert Artist and Composer to their “correct” places that will certainly help Roon ID a lot

You can then force a rescan Settings>Storage>forcerescan

Of course if you are uncertain if Roon is for you that may be a bit drastic

Also try Albums Focus , select Performer (Composer in your case) and see wht you getwhat you get

Hi @Philip_Gibson,

I don’t know what Brendel you have but I have quite a few where where Brendel gets a co-composition spot, especially with Mozart. You will see this a lot in roon where the performer has written or improvised their own Cadenza. From memory, for example, Mozart never got round to writing a Cadenza for the 1st Movement of the 20th Concerto. but just “made it up” when he played the debut. So Brendel is quite the musicologist and he has written his own. That’s is one reason why he might have a composer credit.

Once you work out where the artist “role” credits are you will probably find that he has been assigned an “Arranger” credit. It should be a “Cadenza” credit but the problem is that if roon does that then both Composers and Performers end up being assigned “Production” credits along with the sleeve note authors and photographers. Other credits roon use on a routine basis that end up presenting a very confusing cross-mapping of Composers / Performers / Producers are:

Orchestrator -> Composer
Arranger -> Composer
Original Material -> Composer
Orchestration -> Production
Cadenza -> Performer
Quotation Author -> Production

A lot of this confusion is inconsistency from the metadata suppliers. You are also going to find that an awful lot of composers have “Production” credits purely because they said something famous that has been cited in the liner notes.

Hope you haven’t got too many box sets. Good luck with your journey.