I want to build a future proof audio environment for my 2 homes. The problem is, all the “stakes on the ground” turn out to be flakey … except roon. for example, I had no less than 11 sonos devices made obsolete by Sonos last year (and, they can’t do hi-res). This is something of a betrayal, IMO. Apple similarly, took itunes and turned it into a money harvesting machine complete with privacy invasion. Roon is the salvation, allowing me to migrate out of sonos gear over time. However, I can’t group unlike systems (like Airplay and older sonos devices). Also, Airplay is Apple, and has its own issues. So, I find myself at a loss. Perhaps Raat is the “transparency layer”? Make all hardware roon ready as a basic strategy for all future purchases? Or is there a better way to allow flexibility without getting sucked into Sonos or Apple (or anybody’s proprietary multi-room system (BlueOS, Yahama’s thing, SVS etc.))?
the issue you are facing is quite popular - believe it or not.
Many other audiophiles of the course of the last few decades faced issue like that.
There is not 100% future proof strategy, however there is a golden rule of staging – what I mean by that.
Separate Streamer/DAC or Streamer and DAC with Amplifiers. Stay away from integrated amplifiers or just buy them to use them exclusively as amplifiers. Use those amplifier with passive only speakers. It’s way easier to change one ring in a chain, rather than the whole chain.
Many streamers and DACs were not Hi-Res Ready like 10 years ago and we only compatible with HiFi (up to 41khz and 16bit), things changed over that course of time. You could still use the old amplifier from say 90s which has XLR connection and connect it to your DAC/Streamer.
The more rings in your chain the easier it is to swap every one of them. The more universal it is – 3 in 1 say – the more complicated your life is gonna be.
I’ve found this to be the case as well. My current strategy is doing the yearly Roon membership. I get my music either from CDs or from places that let me buy lossless FLAC files (Bandcamp, HDTracks, Qobuz, generally in that order) and so far it’s been pretty good. I got away from iTunes pretty easily since I hadn’t invested much money in that. When CDs are so plentiful, it just didn’t make sense to me.
What I like about Roon is that I can upgrade the underlying hardware at my own pace. And, God forbid, if something better than Roon comes along, I can move right along since I don’t have any specialized hardware. I’m using a Mac mini that a guy at work gave me for my core and it’s been plenty powerful enough to handle the task.
This thread is all very melodramatic.
My solution? Buy a Lumin streamer, or multiples of. They’re absolutely superb.
Given the gear that the OP listed, they may not be on the market for streamers starting above $2k… Heck, I’m future-proof too with ~$300 Pi2AES-based streamers
Pure analogue loudspeakers and amps etc are very safe.
I would say DACs with AES/SPDIF are also very safe.
USB DACs also pretty safe since it’s a pretty stable standard.
If you use Roon / Ropiee at worse you’l need to replace some pretty inexpensive components!
NAD work for me. All in one end points, room correction and BluOS if you want.
Yes. A lot of interesting points here. Thank you all. This is a lot like Cameras. The digital parts (like camera bodies) lose half their value in a year because of progress in technology, and the mostly analog parts (like Lenses) maintain their value better. (makes me wonder if class D should be treated as digital!) Of course, it’s not all about value preservation either. One poster suggested buying fully integrated top end Lumin gear. I guess that makes it easy … I mean, you can buy your way out of almost any problem. This is opposite of the strategy to deconstruct. The strategy to completely deconstruct (rings in the chain) is interesting but requires vastly more components ergo interconnects, and interconnects make for a lot of issues (corrosion, cost, mess, protocol interactions in digital, etc.). So, It looks like what I should have done is provide criteria. That is an interesting exercise by itself, but I won’t attempt it in this thread. I would suspect that the product development people at ANY serious audio manufacturer would have assumptions about what we need more broadly. I wonder how those balance between consumer needs and business needs.
I actually like the “RAAT” everywhere approach, using Pi 4’s and RoPieee. Let them feed either active speakers, or DACs driving amplified speakers, or DACs driving amplifiers driving passive speakers – no need for each audio zone to be the same configuration. And if you want to buy “Roon Ready” equipment as well, it drops right in.
That being said, I appreciate the Chromecast support as well – I have lots of devices which work with that.
RAAT everywhere using Ropiee has been my strategy too.
I have a couple of ‘digital’ HATS driving DACs (one to my tube amps and electrostatic speakers - my highest quality zone), all of which I owned long before I started using roon.
A few DAC HATS driving 4 zones on my old multi room audio system, and an audio system in the office. I’ve owned all this for more than 15 years too.
And one AMP HAT driving in wall speakers in another room
In the studio I have my mac laptop connected to an audio interface for recording and mixing via AES to the PMC monitors, but roon can drive this too.
I have done some work with Home Assistant to automate switching things on and off as roon zone start and stop playing.
So I think Ropiee and a few carefully chosen HATs can do a really great integration job. And you can still get top quality when you need it (Pi2Designs and RME in my case)
I started in digital audio with various DLNA/UPnP semi-broken solutions, and found relative sanity when I landed on Roon 5+ years ago. Over several gear upgrades and moves, I converged onto two variants:
- Pi 2 Design-based Ropieee streamers for DAC>amp>headphone systems.
- Linn-based speaker systems where I can use Linn’s Space Optimization to manage our tricky living spaces.
Roon’s relationship with Linn is a bit edgy, but it has been improving and I’m very happy with Roon as my single control point for all music we listen to, both locally stored and internet-streamed (Qobuz).
- Roon RAAT and open-source platforms like Ropieee.
- Linn Songcast — if they went belly-up, I’d have a lot more to worry about, Linn has been in business as long as I have, and Scots are a sturdy breed (speaking as a former Edinburgh resident, Edinburgh University graduate, and admirer of all things Scottish).
- Even is Roon goes “poof,” the current RAAT endpoints can be reflashed to speak DLNA, and the Linn gear already does. I’d rather stay away from DLNA if I can, though.
This is actually the feature which convinced me to pull the lifetime sub. I’ve got a background in computers and networks so tinkering is second nature. I feed darn near everything with a Raspberry Pi, some with HATs and some not, into DACs or integrated amps and go old school from there.
I don’t think people truly understand how disruptive and innovative RAAT is until you experience what you’re going through. I think it’s perfectly fine to buy into a single ecosystem but for those of us that literally grew-up “opensource” RAAT is my go to.
*yes, yes, I realize RAAT isn’t opensource but it’s the closest “audiophile” and usable thing we have. The actual opensource stuff is truly awful.
Pi’s with Ropieee as has already been suggested - but if you’re going multi-room you need a rock solid network, and I mean rock solid. Wires if you can, carefully check everything here before you make any big decisions. Roon is great, but there’s a ton of stuff it doesn’t like.
Here is what I was looking for. A credible architecture, and oh, by the way, it’s the design goals of Raat.
I wrote up a white-paper for manufacturers a few months ago, but it was a little bit sparse in some areas. So here, I’m expanding it and filling in the gaps with more explanation. There’s some light compare/contrast with AirPlay in here, but I didn’t make that the focus of the writeup.
Well-architected systems give better user experiences. They work better in the short and long term, and they surface fewer unexpected limitations down the road as the world changes.
AirPlay started its life as a feature of the AirPort Express. It evolved into an audio distribution system a few years later. It is hobbled by trying to fit into the performance envelope of the embedded devices of yesteryear, and it’s cobbled together–a mishmash of hacked up versions of several well-known protocols, with very little coherence to the overall system design. It looks like what it is: an overgrown feature masquerading as infrastructure. It’s stretched pretty thin, at this point, and it hasn’t evolved in a long time.
RAAT has an advantage: it is 10-30 years younger than the bits+pieces that make up AirPlay. We can see not only where the world has gone, but, one level up, what types of change have taken place. We are in a great position to do a better job.
Also worth mentioning: designing network protocols for transporting audio is a core competency of ours. I did the protocol design for RAAT, but this isn’t my first time, it’s my third. The last protocol I built handles all of the networked audio distribution for Meridian’s products, and the one before that handled audio distribution for Sooloos products up until about 2010. There is no substitute for the experience of actually putting something like this into production in the real world.
RAAT is plumbing. It gets the audio from point A to point B without screwing it up, and without bringing limitations to the table that might compel the software/hardware on either side of it to screw things up. It’s an enabling technology for “doing things right” everywhere else in the system. Otherwise, it shouldn’t get in the way.
- Support all relevant audio formats today and for the foreseeable future. We don’t publish a list of formats that RAAT supports because it is not the limiting factor. RAAT is already built to handle multi-channel, and 32bit content. Once Roon supports them, RAAT will too.
- Stable Streaming over Ethernet and WiFi networks. We take this for granted in 2016, but it’s easier-said-than-done, and a huge set of implementation choices are driven by this requirement.
- Modest endpoint hardware requirements. This means endpoints don’t have to handle expensive DSP or content decoding–that will happen on the server. This means that many existing devices can add support for RoonReady without changing the hardware.
- Audio devices must own the audio clock. Many other protocols get this wrong, including AirPlay. It’s not possible for two clocks to agree perfectly. Letting the DAC control the pace of streaming removes the need for a clock-drift-compensation mechanism that is bound to increase cost, decrease quality or both.
- Tight playback synchronization suitable for multi-room listening. There’s a careful line to walk here. If we demand ultra tight (1-10us) sync, it becomes impossible to implement the system on existing/unspecialized/heterogenious hardware platforms. We shoot to be within 1ms (and under ideal circumstances often much better), which is more than adequate for multi-room listening.
- Support for new streaming services, file formats, DRM schemes, etc can be supported without firmware upgrade. In fact, the only reason an upgrade should be required is to fix a low-level bug, or to access more hardware functionality. This is really important. Not all partners/hardware have easy firmware update paths that can be done at home. Our acceptance of this reality has deeply influenced RAAT’s design. Just as with Google’s Cast devices, the majority of the business logic is delivered to the device at run-time as a script. This means that we are capable of completely re-designing the audio streaming and buffering logic without updating device firmware. This is absolutely critical, since most of the bugs + evolution in a system like this relate to networking, not audio. Other than Cast, we are unaware of another system that is this flexible.
- Cheap to implement, and easy to distribute. No patented technologies involved. No requirement that manufacturers use technologies that are subject to export restrictions. And Roon provides provides a high quality, portable reference implementation as a base for customization instead of a pile of documents describing a network protocol.
- Provide a great user experience. This means no stupid 2s delays when touching transport controls (looking at you, AirPlay). It means no too-simple-to-be-good approaches to zone synchronization (looking at you, squeezebox). It means no artificial stream format limitations. It means that the system is flexible enough to allow processing in the server or the endpoint. It means that volume control and source selection works right whenever possible.
- Promote Honesty regarding what is happening to the audio. RAAT is tied to Roon’s signal chain feature. We work with manufacturers to make sure that potentially destructive processing stages like software volume controls are exposed to interested users, and that processing isn’t being concealed or hidden.
- Enforce high quality user experiences via a certification program. User experience is another core competency for us. We are actively pushing hardware companies to make better user experiences by iterating with them on the product before allowing them to be released. We require parity between RoonReady integrations and other audio protocols offered by the devices, ensuring that Roon support does not become a second class citizen. Another requirement of the certification program is that hardware manufacturers leave devices with us long-term for support and QA purposes.
- Two-way control integration. Artwork and now-playing information can be displayed on hardware devices. Front-panel controls and IR remotes can control Roon via the device. Volume controls on device front panels can be kept in sync with Roon. If you’re talking to a device that has multiple inputs, and start music in Roon, the input automatically switches to Roon’s input. Anyone who’s used Roon’s Meridian integration knows the value of this set of capabilities.
- Deeply extensible protocol. We’ve placed many extension points in the hardware protocol, and in the interfaces between the RAAT implementation and the hardware-specific code. This allows us to easily support more functionality in the future. We fully expect to learn of more use cases as the breadth of hardware that we are supporting grows, and the protocols are designed to get out of the way and scale gracefully.
- No support for under-specced platforms or un-proven network stacks. RAAT is built to evolve over time. We continue to improve the network protocol. We might decide to change the buffer size requirements on the device to increase stability. We might decide to build a second network protocol optimized for streaming over WAN, or something else like that. We give the same advice for users of Roon as we do to manufacturers building RAAT-based products: under-specced systems lead to bad user experiences; hardware is cheaper than ever and getting cheaper all the time; don’t over-economize if you want the best result.
Agree on Lumin streamer recommendation from @Martin_Kelly. If you can afford the T2, go for it as it has great trickle down from the superb X1 and you can always tether a DAC to it if technology outstrips the installed dual DAC ES9028 PRO.
If you buy a ROON - READY streamer ( or streamer dac ) you r there ! You can connect that to any system ! ( like the ROON - READY Primare NP5 , works like a dream, if your all the rest of your system is not ROON - READY ! ( Out of experience
I agree that Roon has been the connective tissue. I bought a lifetime Roon membership when they first came out, and since then I’ve made equipment decisions based on Roon compatibility, with as much future-proofing as possible. With the exception of a Nucleus (which has been fantastic for me), and vinyl (of course) I’ve looked for items that have multiple applications beyond Roon, but “Roon-ready” is the key - it’s hard to imagine me buying anything digital without it.
My long term audio equipment strategy is to continue to utilize Roon/RAAT as my audio source and use streamers or streamer/DAC’s that work with Roon and that make sense for the rooms and the gear that I have where I listen to music. If I get new gear, I will make sure that it has a means of connecting to some type of Roon endpoint. I am leery of a built in Roon interface in an integrated amp or AVR receiver, because software updates on those devices can cause issues.
Sticking with Roon does force me to stick with either Qobuz or Tidal for streaming, but I am OK with that. Roon has been rock solid for me and has been far more stable than anything else that I have used. Plus, I love the Roon interface.
I’m simply streaming from Roon with RAAT to my Trinnov or alternatively to HQPlayer on a Mac Mini and via an Allo USBridge or an Allo DigiOne Hat back to the Trinnov. The Trinnov is my preamp and I’ll never miss him again. DAC behind the Trinnov is a CanEver ZeroUno tube DAC. And I think i will never change this setup again…
All the components are hardware- and software- updatable. So it’s an invest for the future.
do you mean melodramatic? I don’t get any sense of over sensationalism or bombast in any of the posts, just people who care about their music and kit. I share the frustration of the original poster who is seeking long term fixes to increasingly shortening product cycling and the speed of change (my Naim amps are older than all my marriages added together).
I have opted for the many links in the chain approach, thankfully my current and forever wife likes boxes.