I am working with an AV integrator to install a Roon Nucleus as the Core for a distributed audio system in the condo we are renovating. Given the number of zones required the equipment rack could start getting unwieldy depending on how the system is configured, so I would welcome advice on the right balance of efficiency vs. performance.
The renovation includes a home theater which has driven the choice of a Trinnov Altitude as one Roon endpoint, and I am also planning to use a Trinnov Amethyst as another Roon endpoint for critical listening in the living room to make calibration and fine-tuning simpler by using the same platform for both zones. But I am struggling with the other zones, which include 1) a combination of good in-ceiling speakers and sub-woofers in four other main rooms and 2) dual tweeter in-ceiling speakers for five less critical zones such as bathrooms and closets. I also need to decide on amplification for the five less critical zones.
In addition to using Roon to access Qobuz, Tidal and my music library, I will also want to be able to stream Spotify, TuneIn Radio (and maybe other streaming sources TBD) to all zones.
The initial plan was to use Bluesound Node 2i streamers for the powered zones and Bluesound Powernode 2i for the five less critical zones.
My integrator has now come back with the following suggestion to try to save on rack space:
We now have a lot of Bluesound devices and I think it may be cleaner and frankly better from an integration perspective if we remove the 5 powered units and replace them with a couple of non-amplified units and use a Crestron Matrix Amp/Switch to route signals and amplify speakers to the 5 rooms (7 in total for the non-amplified Theater and Living Room feed). This would save a ton of space and make it cleaner from a control perspective as each of those 5 rooms is going to have volume controlled via lighting keypads. It would be much easier to control those zones if it’s a Crestron device in the headend doing the volume control as opposed to Bluesound. The other benefit is the Crestron Matrix Amp/Switch has 2 digital outputs which we could use to feed the Theater and the Living Room systems for non-Roon based audio sources. My guess is we could get away with just 2 non-amplified units to feed those 7 total zones.
I welcome comments on the above, including:
Suggestions for other Roon endpoints I should be considering besides Bluesound that will not blow the budget
Pros and cons of the Crestron solution described above and suggestions for any alternatives that could deliver comparable multi-zone efficiency while optimizing performance.
I wouldn’t give up on Bluesound so quickly. I use BlueOS devices in several places in my home for similar applications to yours. For multi-room, NAD makes a CI-580 which has 4 zones. You can control it either via Roon or BlueOS apps. You can also gang them to provide up to 64 zones. It’s a preamp only, so you will either need powered speakers or a multizone amp which are available from many custom install vendors. This will give you discreet control over each zone.
I also have 6 sets of speakers in a outdoor setting but I don’t need discreet control, since when the outside is on, I want all speakers play the same music. So here I use a single BlueNode which then feeds a 6 zone amp. The amp is configured to come on when it senses a signal on the input and you can have one input that is shared across all 6 zones. I have a similar setup in my garage where I have 3 sets of speakers driven by one BlueNode and a 3 zone amp.
Creston and the other custom install controllers are great but are not DIY, so every time you make a change, you have to get the installer to make an update. I gave up on these many years ago and run the whole house on DIY automation solutions.
After many delays – some COVID-19 related, many others not – I finally moved into my new place over the summer.
The two Trinnov endpoints are working great with Roon, but the four NAD CI 580s are not. I have now learned that there is a known issue using the NAD CI 580s as Roon endpoints. This is supposedly being addressed (see Roon drops rooms when connecting to NAD CI580), but after waiting for a few months without any progress I am ready to give up on the NADs and I am looking for alternatives.
I have been told that the Roon playback issue does not exist with single zone Bluesound products, so going with the Node 2i is an option but is definitely not an optimal solution given that I would need 12 of these to replace three CI 580.
So I would welcome any recommendations for other multi-zone preamps to replace the CI 580. Some requirements include:
Support for Hi Res Audio up to 24/192
Digital outputs for 8 zones
Balanced analog XLR outputs for 4 zones (which would be an improvement over the CI 580 or Node 2i which only have analog RCA outputs)
Ability to group all 12 zones together with the Roon UI (am I right that I would need to use the same hardware platform for both the digital and analog zones?)
Based on the recommendations previously received here I decided against using Crestron to control the distributed audio and I am hoping to use Roon as my primary UI, so at this point it is critical that any solution works with Roon right out of the box. I am therefore wondering whether I should have a bias towards Roon Tested solutions?
One clarification to the last sentence of my above post: I think I used the term “Roon Tested” in error. I thought that Roon Tested described a more extensively tested category than Roon Ready devices. Since I am definitely looking for network players I am interested in getting recommendations for Roon Ready multi-zone preamps.
Have you considered just getting 8 Roon Ready streamers such as the Sonore microRendu and using their USB output for the 8 digital zones where you must already have an integrated DAC/amp or something. For the 4 zones where you want XLR, there are a number of streaming DACs such as the ifi iDSD or Mytek Brooklyn that potentially meet this need. Of course, you’d need 4 of them. This would allow you to connect all 12 zones simply using ethernet cabling and the 12 zones will be easy to group (or any subset of them) using the Roon control app.
You are correct that I am using integrated DAC/amps for the 8 digital zones, but these only have coaxial and Toslink inputs and no USB. I see now that I do, however, have the option to swap out the digital inputs for unbalanced analog RCA inputs. So that would enable me to consider a solution that would give me analog outputs to all 12 zones, ideally with four of them balanced XLR and 8 RCA.
Can you also clarify one point for me: I thought Roon could only group zones that are connected to devices from the same hardware manufacturer. But are you saying that as long as Roon can detect these devices on the network then the zones can be grouped? Right now I cannot group my Trinnov and Bluesound zones unless I connect one of the Bluesound outputs to a Trinnov digital input and use that instead of the native Roon input on the Trinnov (but that is only true in theory since the NAD Bluesound devices are not working reliably with Roon).
Finally, I gather from your reply that you are not aware of any other Roon Ready multi-zone network music players that could be an option to save on total expense and rack space?
For these zones you need a Roon endpoint with digital coax or optical out. There are plenty of those on the market include ELAC for under $500 to the Allo DigiOne and other Pi based endpoints that require a little more work but are considerably cheaper. However, you’ll need one per zone. I am unaware of any multi-zone endpoints.
I have a Trinnov 32 and multiple BlueSound Node 2 and they group easily. So I think the problem is the CI580. I have one and it hasn’t worked smoothly with Roon since a BluOS update last year. As Rugby already answered, the only thing you have avoid is trying to mix in devices that are using other protocols like Chromecast or Airplay. You can’t group TCP/IP based Roon endpoints with those devices due to timing and buffering differences.
You made me go back and look at the specs of my equipment, and having done so I now see that I can swap out the 8 digital zone inputs for unbalanced analog RCA inputs. Since I do not have that option for the balanced analog XLR inputs in the other 4 zones, I am thinking that it might make sense to standardize on a single DAC platform across all zones rather than mix two different ones, particularly since in some cases this would result in playing through different DACs in adjoining rooms.
Does this scenario add any other options that you think I should consider?
There are many Roon Ready streaming DACs that will take a file on ethernet/WiFi input and convert it to analog out at many price points. The more expensive ones will also give you balanced XLR out in addition to RCA. Suggest you review the Roon partner list to get an idea of what’s available but there are none I’m aware of that are designed for a multi zone stereo package outside of NAD.