Recommendations for multi-room setup?

Hi, we’re interested in Roon to manage our multi-room music setup. If it’s not too much trouble, I wanted to describe our situation and see if anyone has recommendations for how to put it together.

Right now we have:

– One room wirh a traditional amp and pair of speakers, usually connected to MacBook with Dragonfly DAC to stream KCRW off the internet, or Tidal/Spotify.

– A second room with another traditional amp and pair of speakers, usually connected to another MacBook with a Dragonfly DAC to also stream KCRW off the internet, or Spotify.

– A third room with one pair of Sonos 5:Gen2 speakers. Right now usually streaming Spotify to them from iPhones.

In addition, we have about 800 albums on CD that we’re in the process of ripping to ALAC, and we’ll want somewhere to store and access them. Also a few mp3 files here and there.

Our goal is to put together a system that allows us to use iPhones to control streaming of all the above sources to any combinations of the speakers in the three rooms, as close to lossless as possible.

We’re happy to buy a new system to serve as the core and ALAC storage. We’re equally happy with Mac, Windows or Linux, but want to keep everything as compatible as possible. One priority will be to keep the size footprint as small as possible. (Doubting however that a Raspberry Pi is the solution we’re looking for.)

We’re probably also looking at buying new computers to serve as the output points for the two rooms with traditional stereo amps and speakers. As above, any OS is fine, but a small size footprint is highly desirable.

Finally, we’d like to keep the cost in a manageable range – not thinking super high-end, more working with commonly available computer gear.

If any suggestions come to mind, we’re ready to take notes!

You didn’t mention a budget but one simple way is to use one of your laptops as the Roon core, then stream to Rpi based endpoints running Ropiee. If you don’t want a laptop, you can use a Nucleus or a NUC as core. Nice thing about Roon is it works native with Sonos. BTW, I wouldn’t use computers as endpoints. That’s probably overkill.

Thanks for the suggestions. I found a few links on Nucleus and NUC, will have to check out their features, differences, etc.

Nice to know that an RPi will actually serve as an endpoint. I have some RPi 3’s and a 4 on hand. For this purpose, would there be any benefit in going with the 4, or is a 3B sufficient?

RP3B is fine…4 is ok too but uses more power and runs hotter. for the Dragonfly days you will be fine on RPi I also suggest you use Ropieee.org as the OS of choice - specifically the XL variant as it also supports direct airplay and Spotify connections outside of roon.

Intel NUC with ROCK by Roon) is also your best bet - get a unit that can add in internal disk if you can or just use an external USB drive for storage. You can learn a lot in the KB area

https://kb.roonlabs.com/ROCK:_Getting_Started

Great, thanks, I’ll go to ropieee.org and get one of our RPi3B’s set up.

Even though our current library doesn’t rate as a big one, I’m happy to invest in the NUC8i7BEH + 8GB RAM + 128GB M.2 SSD combination to make sure that we have room to grow. However, I’m surprised to see (at https://kb.roonlabs.com/Roon_Optimized_Core_Kit) that a 128GB SSD is considered big enough for a library of 12K+ albums. As mentioned, our CD collection is currently somewhere around 800 albums. We’re in the process of re-ripping to ALAC, but also have the same albums in an existing iTunes collection, many in compressed formats. Right now that iTunes file folder is 110 GB. Not understanding how we could fit 15x as many albums, all in uncompressed format, on an SSD only 16% larger?

This is for the system drive, i.e. where the Roon database resides. You’ll need a much larger drive for the media files. The M2 SSD cannot be used for your music.

Thanks. Is there a good article or post on the pluses and minuses of various storage options for media files to interface with hardware like the NUC8i7BEH? As a starting point I have a currently unused 2TB SATA SSD and USB adapter I could try out, but wonder if something else would be better long-term.

Use the 2tb ssd internally if you don’t mind formatting it, externally if you like to transfer music faster as exfat format so it can be on a usb on your pc/Mac to copy music

The rule is that all grouped “zones” (zones are the grouping of rooms and when you send audio to a “zone” it will be synced to those locations) must be using the same “protocol”. For example, a zone must all be Airplay, Cast, RAAT, etc.

Each of those protocols will give you a different limit on bitrate with RAAT being the most transparent with no limitations.

So… you can go cheap and just hang Chromcast devices off everything. You can hang Apple devices off everything if you want to push Airplay directly from each phone to each room. Or you can put a Roon Endpoint in each room to give you the best sound quality.

You mention “Spotify” which Roon does not support so that would require dumping out of Roon Remote and either using Spotify directly (if your endpoint supported Spotify Connect) or having an endpoint that support Airplay or Cast or whatever your source supports.

Example:
My family room has a MBP, Apple Airport Express, Apple TV, and soon an Pi running RoPieee XL. My family room is “my lab” so I can test all this stuff and play but the primary use of all this is:
MBP - runs RAAT and has local software if I want to use Tidal or whatever directly. It’s connected via optical.
Airport Express - I use this as my Airplay device because it supports 16/44.1 instead of 16/48 which I think sounds better for audio. I’ve got rooms with other Airplay devices that don’t support RAAT so this becomes the source when I create a zone with those rooms.
Apple TV - This is there for streaming video. I’ve never sent anything to it that didn’t include a video stream.

Anyway, others are helping with the Roon set-up but I wanted to make sure you had some details on the requirements to create zones in Roon and some of the limitations. There is also some interaction between a Roon endpoint and Sonos pre-defined zones. I don’t have Sonos so cannot provide guidance there.

I don’t have kids and the wife is good with switching between Roon and Airplay from her phone. However, that is obviously more complicated than a set it and forget it type of set-up (something more to what Sonos provides).

On the plus side… you’ve got plenty of gear in place that loading Roon on a desktop and using the trial will give you an excellent idea on if it goes far enough with the multi-room functionality to be worth a full purchase.

Thanks for the comments, that’s all good to know. Some questions/issues at this point:

– My wife likes to stream Spotify, and would like to sync the speakers in all three rooms when she does so. If Roon doesn’t support Spotify, is there another way to accomplish this? It’s a high priority for us.

– She also likes to play music from the kcrw.com website from her MacBook Pro, not from an iPhone, as the larger screen gives her a better view of various streams, playlists, etc. Will that be any issue with Roon?

– As a Roon demo, I can set up a Raspberry Pi with the amp/speakers in one room, and put the trial core software on one of several boxes. This could be a Windows 10 desktop, an Ubuntu 18.04.3 desktop, or a MacBook Pro running Mojave. Any votes on which would be the easiest one to use short-term as a trial?

Spotify - Spotify connect does not support this and Roon does not support Spotify. You’ll need to stream Spotify using Airplay 2, Cast, Heos, Naim, Sonos… basically… You’ve got to have a system in place that already supports multi-room and then attach that to Spotify. You’d control Spotify either in that system, like Sonos, or within Spotify (example Airplay 2). The suggestion here is to put together a system that supports both native multi-room and Roon. Use native for Spotify and Roon for your CDs. Again, Airplay 2 would do this but at the limit of 16/44.1 bitrates.

In my house, we’ve moved all our “radio” listening into Roon so we can use the Roon endpoints / zones to steer the audio. If the requirement is to use the website directly that may be a better candidate for Airplay 2 as Roon cannot send audio to anything that isn’t originated from the Roon Core. That is, the Core must be “tuned” to the radio station from within Roon (done from Roon Remote) and that would provide a limited set of playback details compared to the website.

The demo is not limited. Set-up the Core, set-up all your endpoints, go nuts! I’ll let others comment on “easiest to use”. I run ROCK and have never used Core from anything else.

One thing to keep in mind, because I see people getting confused by this all the time on these forums…
Core - Source of the music. This can include local files, Tidal, Qobuz, or Live Radio
Remote - The thing that controls the core, the UI, the pretty pretty clicky clicky
Endpoint - The place/device Core sends the audio that is hooked up to the thing, usually speakers or headphones, you use to listen to the music.

Some devices can be all 3. For example, a Mac can be a Core, the Remote, and Endpoint. That would mean your files are stored on the Mac, you’re using the software on the Mac to make selections, and the Mac is connected to an audio playback system like a DAC or headphones or whatever. Some things can only be one thing like Airport Express can only be an endpoint. An iPhone can be two things, an endpoint and a remote.

You can have 1 Core per account.
You can have as many Remotes as you want but they must be on the same network as the core (unless you want some significant network “hacks”)
You can have as many Endpoints as you want but they must be on the same network as the core (unless you want some significant network “hacks”)

Hi Frank, just to add a bit to the already useful feedback: I have aimed at exactly the same. I wanted to be able to use roon but also Spotify / tunein radio / Apple Music in multiroom mode. I tried a lot of options including a full sonos setup, mixture of sonos with blue sound, RPi endpoints only, Apple HomePods, etc. As others have recommended, you need an existing multiroom system that works independently from Roon. You then need to be able to somehow ‘attach’ Roon to this system. That way you can enjoy both multiroom use cases: Roon and Spotify (or other). The solution I found that works for me (similar requirements to yours): A mixture of Bluesound speakers + RPi endpoints (Allo Digi in this case). I have a few blue sound speakers in the rooms where I expect to be using Spotify or Apple Music (multiroom in sync). The RPi cannot be used in this multiroom configuration of course. I prefer the sound quality though so I use it with Roon exclusively.
Despite the frustrations with Bluesound (there are many), it is the only way I have found to be able to accommodate both Roon and Spotify (multiroom via airplay 2) use cases.

If you don’t mind about multiroom Spotify then things become a lot simpler and your options widen.

Best
Y

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Not to derail but… Have you loaded Ropieee XL on any of your RPi’s?
That should give you Airplay, Spotify Connect, and RAAT on the same RPi. I have not used it since it was in beta but it worked pretty darn well. I’m sure it’s improved from the beta. Without first hand experience using it in the way described above I’m hesitate to recommend it but…

Ropiee XL might be a solution which would support the various use cases described with a single endpoint.

First, thanks to everyone for the comments.

Re Ropieee XL, I should have that set up on an RPI in one of the rooms with amp/speakers later today. Can my wife stream music from either Spotify or kcrw.com from her MacBook or iPhone simultaneously to the two rooms that would have Ropieee XL with amp/speakers, and also the room with the two Sonos speakers?

A word on the NUC8I7BEH you mentioned. I have one and very happy with it. Just thought you should be aware they are currently hard to find. Most online sites list them as back ordered. Micro Center has them at many locations but they are in-store purchase only.

If you’re going to run the Roon trial on another device then chances are they will be back in stock by the time you’re ready.

As far as I am aware you cannot achieve multiroom Spotify playback with this combination of devices. Ropieee uses airplay 1 as far as I am aware so you can stream Spotify via airplay to it but you cannot group other speakers with it. You would need Airplay 2 enabled devices (speakers or streamers) to be able to achieve multiroom playback for Spotify.

My response was confusing, sorry about that. As someone else mentioned Ropiee XL supports Airplay. Airplay 2 is the requirement for multi-room with Airplay. So, Ropiee XL cannot be grouped to an Airplay 2 endpoint. However, Roon can group Airplay devices together.

Can your wife stream music from Spotify or kcrw on her Mac or Phone to two rooms with Ropieee XL? No. Apple devices support Airplay and Airplay 2. Only Airplay 2 allows you to group endpoints. Ropiee XL does not, yet, support Airplay 2. There are a couple endpoints that support both Airplay 2 and Roon though; Bluesound being one which was mentioned by Yiannis_Kouropalatis.

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Okay, so it sounds like Ropieee is off the table. I just took a look at the Bluesound website, and they make a number of products including wireless speakers (which sound like what Yiannis has). Given the gear we already have, I think looking at the website that maybe what we need is a Bluesound Node 2i for each of our two rooms that has an amp and speakers? Would that, along with a Roon core device, meet our objective of allowing my wife to stream Spotify and kcrw.com to those rooms plus the Sonos speakers simultaneously from her MacBook and iPhone, while I would be able to play my ALAC library and Tidal to all rooms via Roon?

As a side note, Airplay (and Airplay 2) is a big mystery area for me, so I can see I need to read up on that.

Hello, You may want to take a look at the Elac Discovery Z3 Roon Ready Speaker.

I have one for my Kitchen zone and plan to get another for the Bedroom zone to replace the PC for music.

I could give you the specs but probably better to check the reviews online. I can’t say how it would compare to what your looking at now but it is about the same price as the Bluesound Node 2i.

I do have 3 zones, Nuc over HDMI to receiver in the living room surround system, Z3 in the kitchen and PC in the bedroom. Roon groups them and plays throughout the house.

More Sonos 5: Gen2. As many as you need.