Please explain what I need to make Roon work...

I am having trouble figuring out what I do not know about Roon… I wish to try Roon because it sounds great and I am tremendously disappointed with the alternatives I have tried for browsing and selecting music. Most of my library has been ripped from my personal CD collection (I rip each CD into both FLAC and ALAC). The files are on a desktop computer in my home office (plugged directly into the router). The sound system is in the living room.

Currently, I use a Monitor Audio A100 as a preamp/DAC/streamer using the analog outputs to my amp. The device supports DLNA and AirPlay from my desktop (over a Wi-Fi connection). However, I generally play lossless files resident on the iPhone using AirPlay Direct. My iTunes catalog is a horrible mess, and yet I think the FLAC files are nicely arranged as the folder structure aligns with the CD ripping. But the iPhone is just really convenient. I am overall pleased with the system’s sound quality.

I think I can install Roon on my desktop: the Roon library would exist on my desktop and the desktop’s processing power would do the heavy lifting. Roon would also play the files on the desktop. Then, I think, I could select the Monitor Audio A100 as the output device. I expect the sound quality would be just the same as I have today. But I would enjoy the Roon interface (with my FLAC files) and I am interested in getting Tidal as well to use with Roon.

The prospect of spending $700 for Roon makes me wonder if I could take better advantage of the investment by also getting Wi-Fi out of the equation. As the desktop has a good backup arrangement, I have thought about using an NAS. A wireless NAS could be synchronized with the FLAC files from my desktop, which are already backed up, so that I would not need to worry about backing up the NAS. Then the NAS could output USB to a DAC, etc.

But am I missing a component, an “endpoint?” I do not think I need a heavy duty NAS (or a Nucleus) since the desktop would provide the horsepower. Then how would Roon identify the NAS an as output device? And would another device be necessary to function as a player (to convert the files into an audio stream)? Like the raspberry pi approach? Now it is starting to sound like more tinkering than my schedule might permit.

Thanks for reading all this ramble, and please share any insights that might help fill the gaps in my knowledge. I am hoping to get this sorted out up front so I can take advantage of Roon’s 2-week trial listening to music rather than tinkering with mechanicals.

You need a computer device to run the Roon core software. So, yes, you can do that with your desktop computer. It needs to be connected to your network using ethernet for best results although some people have acceptable results with a WIFI connection.

The Roon core on you desktop can access your local music files plus Tidal and/or Qobuz. Your desktop with Roon is your music streamer. You should be able to access your local music files, but I believe Roon recommends they be on different hard drive. I’m not sure if that is necessary but if so, you could copy them to a USB drive connected directly to your desktop. Some people have their music files on a NAS connected to their network with ethernet, but I don’t think that is the best way to do it.

Now, you need to get your music from Roon on your computer to your sound system. Since your Monitor Audio A100 is probably not a Roon ready device, you could use a Raspberry Pi 4 running RopieeeXL. I assembled mine for $74 using parts from Amazon. For best results, it should be connected to your network using ethernet. However, WIFI might work OK. The Pi 4 would be connected to your A100 via USB if the A100 has USB in. Or you can install a HAT device on the Pi4 that has RCA out’s, etc.

Finally, you need to control Roon and select your music, etc. either using your desktop computer or an iPhone, iPad, or Android device with the Roon app. I prefer using my laptop, iPad next, iPhone last. It’s just a matter of preference, I think. Those, of course, can use WIFI. I don’t think the Android app works as well as the IOS.

Roon does use Airplay so I think your A100 should work as an endpoint. A NAS is not an endpoint. An endpoint is either a DAC or a device that contains a DAC such as your A100. The simplest approach for you is to install Roon on your desktop, point it at your music library on your desktop, then enable the A100 as an endpoint using Airplay and see if it works. Roon has a 30 day trial. If you like it, keep it. If not, no harm done and no money spent.

If you decide to keep it, then you might consider a Roon ready enpoint that can use RAAT. I may be wrong, but the problem with Airplay is you’re limited to CD quality resolution. If you want to play hi-rez files you’ll need to upgrade.

I would spend the $74 dollars to experience high-res music if your DAC supports it. 24/192 definitely sounds better than 16/44.1 and might make the difference in your evaluation of Roon.

Also, unless you want to do MQA files that require an MQA capable DAC, you might want to consider Qobuz instead of Tidal. Not only that, but Qobuz is $12.50 per month if you pay for a year. Tidal is $19.99 per month. Some people say the Tidal library is better, but that is not my experience. It depends on what type of music you want.