I wanted to say first of to all of you that this post is not meant to be negative in anyway. I am not even really the target audience for this piece of awesome software, but I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on it. Due to saving up about $400+ and being able to get a very beginner set of audio. This being a Schiit Modi 3 DAC and Schiit Magni 3 AMP. These being paired with a AKG K240 MK2s gave me an experience that blew my virgin audiophile ears away. Even with my music library not being that huge with about only 1900 songs (all converted to 24bit/44.1kHz ALAC due to owning Apple devices). These mostly being not being classical or jazz, but rather more modern Hip-Hop and Rap with my oldest music being dated back to the Beatles. As some of you may be able to tell I am bit on the younger side and while I really enjoyed being able to stream my music at very high quality. From anywhere in my home I am simply too broke due to other circumstances. I gladly used Roon for 1 year and today will be the last day that I am enjoying the experience it brought me. That being the case I was wondering what would be a good free alternative to Roon.
My current setup right now is that I have a old Dell Window’s laptop being used as my Roon Core which streams all my content via Ethernet. I have an macbook also connected via Ethernet that I use as daily driver which is my main endpoint where I have connected Schiit stack too and stream my music most of the time. I sometimes listen via my iPhone when I am at home, but I stream to my 2nd most used endpoint which is my family room being the only 5.1 setup in my home. Which has an AVR with Airplay 2 allowing for Roon to connect to it via Ethernet and stream my content at the same HQ as my macbook.
I know by going with a free alternative of Roon that I am not gonna get any of the awesome feature it has. Also that I will have to put in some work to get configured on my end. Which is not really a problem for me. The only problem with this is that I need the server to be on my Windows 10 laptop and while I would love to spin up Debian or even Arch and get rid of Windows I simply can’t since I have to use Windows for another purpose. Which means I can’t partition the drive and dual boot. If anyone has a relative easy method and also free way of achieving something close to Roon. I would greatly appreciate your suggestions.
Once I am in more financially stable part of my life. I do plan on getting a lifetime license of Roon, but until then I am only able to use a free alternative. Thank you in advance for any suggestions. I am really glad I got to experience this service!
That’s a great post! So glad you love Roon and sorry you can’t afford to continue with it. Hopefully your current financial circumstances will get better and you’ll be able to come back to enjoy this software. Best of luck to you!
I have been on the fence with Plex. I use it for Media such as Movies and TV, but I hear for music it is kinda lackluster. Though a lot of the post I saw about this were kinda outdated so maybe it has changed. I will look into it. Thank you for the suggestion!.
I know I won’t get something remotely close in features. Roon is very unique in that way and it is why that it is still around today. If I found something which can do like basic things and have 1/16 of the features of Roon. I would be very happy with that.
Money is unfortunately very tight and I don’t want to go out of my way to pay for it right now. Meaning collecting credit debt. I appreciate you pointing this out as I may come back and use this instead of committing to lifetime.
This is a great list! Though I am limited since mpd would only available for systems that uses systemd. Which means linux and iTunes/Music have a inconvenience of loading music onto the main system drive. Which means I end up losing storage space which is not something I can really spare. I should have mention most of music is loaded on a external drive in my original post.
I tried LMS, but it seems there is a bit of a learning curve. Which is not a problem it just means I need to invest time into it. Foobar2000 I haven’t looked into yet, but I will give it a try. Thank you once again for the list!
Thankfully I am not limited on that front due to me being in Apple Music family plan where I split the cost with several people, however my local content is at a higher quality than what Apple Music has currently. I mostly use Apple Music to find new content and then if I am able to then I go buy CDs where I can rip the content so that I may play it locally. The other place where it comes useful is on my phone since I don’t download my local content to my iPhone I keep the streaming equivalent download on my phone and when I am out and about I use it then. I am very excited to see Apple’s hifi equivalent of tidal come out.
You are right , JRiver is $60 for a single OS $80 for all 3 (Windows, Mac & Linux) , then drops to an upgrade price of $20 per year should you choose to take it . It has a 30 day trial , fully functioning.
Other options may be
Minim Server , starter version maybe with a separate remote app
VLC is a very clean interface which is free and i think can be set up as a Server/Renderer/Controller set up
FooBar has been mentioned
Plex I have no experience of but looks good
Kodi is free and handles Audio and Video
Media Monkey is free for basic functionality
Just a few, watch out because some are free (time limit) trials, Limited functionality etc but many are worth trying
I spent a good decade or more on Foobar. I love that piece of software - sometimes it’s fun to just to play around with the layout and themes. If you have an Android device there is an app that allows you to control foobar remotely which is awesome. You can also set it up as a DLNA renderer with a downloadable component.
I have a lifetime Plex Pass. For movies and TV shows the software is just plain incredible and with a few tweaks files can be sent to a high quality player with MadVR to do the 4K upscaling. Combined with RClone to mount Google Drive it’s one awesome solution. For music…its meh. The flinging feature is buggy, you can’t fling TIDAL content (MQA drama aside), the metadata is not presented nearly as clearly as I would want, and the way the ‘audio chain’ is shown is non-informative at best. No real DSP features are available for stable apps. PlexAmp has an EQ but its a lame 5 or 6 band EQ with preset frequencies and it is unclear if the settings apply to flung audio.
I also have JRiver. Its a good piece of software that reminds me of a more community/enthusiast focused version of iTunes. It has a plethora of built in features and its integration of MadVR is slick. That said…the WDM driver never worked quite right for me though and I felt that the audio side of JRiver didn’t offer much beyond what could be found in high quality freeware solutions (EAC, Foobar, etc).
Roon is definitely the best (by far) but it also has its flaws. The biggest letdown is a lack of WAN access to your library without VPN hacks. Plex has done this since I first used it in 2012ish and it does it flawlessly. I realize Roon is quite a bit more complex and not written to handle poor connections, but it is the number one request I see here and beyond.
There is no perfect solution because everyone has different requirements. I personally use Roon for music (using a VPN when I am outside of my house) and Plex for everything else. Plex is also my music player for when I have unreliable connections and need something that can dynamically transcode down.
It is too bad you don’t have an old computer kicking around. Vortexbox is what got me started and was really easy to set up and use. If you did have an old laptop or desktop kicking around, I bet you could get this set up and going really quick. It uses SqeezeLite as a player which is not as visually nice but gets the job done. https://www.vortexbox.org/