Roon Adding Midrange Glare or Distortion

Core Machine (Operating system/System info/Roon build number)
Custom Rock Server / i5 16gb 500gbSSD / OSBuild 227 Server SW Build 667

Network Details (Including networking gear model/manufacturer and if on WiFi/Ethernet)
Single box router/modem combo > hardwired ethernet

Audio Devices (Specify what device you’re using and its connection type - USB/HDMI/etc.)
Core > Ethernet > Gateway > Ethernet > SOtM sMS-200Ultra > USB > SOtM tX-USBultra > USB > Lampizator Amber 3 DAC

Description Of Issue

Long time user here. New problem with SQ. Did extensive testing to narrow down the source of the issue. Timeline of symptoms and tests as follows:

  • Felt as though I was experiencing an overall drop in SQ. Some tracks sounded close to the way they did before onset of problem, others had some static or a veil over the midrange detail. Sometimes tracks make it hard to hear the issue, others make it apparent.

  • Found a track that highlighted the issue and made it easy to notice a mid-range glare every time. Issue seems to be present across both local and streaming files. The track chosen for testing is ‘Come Away With Me - Norah Jones’ streamed from Tidal. This produces a very audible issue. It sounds as if singer is getting to close to mic and her vocals are breaking up.

  • First troubleshooting step was to power cycle all my gear. No change.

  • Next step was to try and narrow down which component was the source of the distortion so I began individually testing them. Firstly, I played an analog copy of the song through a cd transport to my DAC. Sounded perfect so DAC, amps, and speakers are not malfunctioning. Next was to switch out my SOtM endpoint stack for a different second SOtM device that is confirmed to be working correctly. The problem persisted with the endpoint change meaning that the issue could not be attributed to a malfunction with anything between the endpoint and the speakers.

  • Assuming there was something wrong with my core, I did tests to confirm that it is operating correctly, the processor is staying cool, and that the ram cards had not failed or something.

  • After confirming the hardware side of things were operating correctly, I changed my focus to configuration issues.

  • I checked the settings in Roon for my endpoint as well as the settings on my endpoint config to make sure that the output signal is compatible with my DAC. I have confirmed that in both places, the settings match the capabilities of my DAC and even tried reducing the sample rates and bit depth below the abilities of my equipment with no difference made to the distortion.

  • I re-installed Roon from scratch on the Core and reverted to default settings, then changed my endpoint settings ONLY to match the DAC. The distortion was still present.

  • For giggles, I also reinstalled the OS on my endpoint and the distortion was still present.

  • I then setup a new computer as the core thinking it had to be something hardware related with my core. The new device with default settings, except for endpoint settings changed to match DAC, produced the same distortion.

  • At this point, I considered that the Tidal copy of the track I chose was the problem, so I plugged a laptop into the DAC with the Tidal app running standalone outside of Roon. WIth the Tidal app playing the track from my laptop to my DAC, all the distortion is gone and it sounds correct.

  • This caused me to again wonder about my endpoint even though I tried two of them. So I closed Tidal on the laptop but left it plugged into the DAC via USB. I then opened Roon (core running elsewhere than laptop). I enabled the USB output of the laptop as an endpoint. I set the correct settings for my DAC, and played the test track. The distortion was present and exactly the same.

  • My only conclusion left to take from this is that Roon is introducing this mid-range glare or distortion. I don’t know how to further diagnose or fix this. Have been using Roon and most of my associated gear for years with a deep understanding of the software and hardware involved. Thanks in advance for any help or time you spend on this.

Hope everyone is well and happily listening.

Hi @Michael_Kenyon

Which variant of Come Away With Me are you streaming? I can see five in Tidal…

Can you post a screenshot of your signal path when playing?

Edit - just played some of them… I have volume levelling turned on in Roon, so I can infer some information about the mastering mastering. The amount of gain reduction to bring them to -14LUFS varies. The 192kHz mqa sounds similar to my cd rip. The tidal 44.1kHz mqa sounds different - possibly how you describe!

You may just be hearing mastering differences, or possibly differences in mqa decoding in your signal chain.

This distortion was never heard for years and now is present in all sorts of stuff so I am doubting it is simply a bad copy that I am listening to but I will report back. Here is the information you asked for.

Here is the copy I am listening to.

Here is my device setup.

Here is confirmation that the DSP is off.

Here are both signal paths with either the Master setting enabled for Tidal or the Hifi setting enabled for Tidal.

This is in fact distortion. It makes almost all detailed female vocals unlistenable once focused on it.

Is the problem present on both Master and HiFi streams?

Yes it is present on both. By going into settings>services>Tidal and changing the streaming quality from master to hifi, it alters my signal path as seen above, but does not change the distortion. Even local files are affected.

I guess that eliminates Roon’s mqa processing then, and also the possibility that Tidal have swapped in a ‘new’ master.

The only difference in the chain I can see now is the RAAT processing of the SoTM. Have there been any firmware updates?

When you tried usb out using your laptop as endpoint, was that usb straight into the DAC?

Edit - I see that it was. Sorry. I’m stumped. Your diagnostics so far look pretty comprehensive to me. Hopefully that and the screenshots will help @support suggest further things to try.


Thanks so much Andy. To answer your question in a more detailed manner, I did attempt to use the laptop as a endpoint directly connected via USB to the DAC. I also plugged it in via USB to the secondary SOtM USB cleaner box to confirm that the cleaner wasn’t the source of issues seeing that it reclocks the incoming signal before going USB back out to the DAC. When used as a Roon endpoint the laptop produced the same distortion in both the above configurations. I used both configurations with the Tidal program outside of Roon on the laptop and both configs yielded clean audio when not using Roon.
I am stumped too. Extremely frustrating. Please help support team.
Thanks AndyR.

Andy, there have been some updates. I have tried a few versions of the firmware. But no other SOtM users are reporting the same issues. Also the laptop used as an endpoint bypassing the SOtM streamer produces the same distortion…
Super discouraged.

I have no idea what reason could be but it is very interesting issue. I am following with great interest. Did you try other soft player, other than Tidal himself, like Amarra Luxe, Audirvana or JPLAY FEMTO?

One error in my reporting. The song for testing is ‘Don’t Know Why - Norah Jones’ off of the album ‘Come Away With Me’.

No, tbh I got done trying different software and interfaces years ago. I own 3 Roon licenses, one of which is lifetime, so I am pretty committed to fixing this. The fact that playing from Tidal’s program removes the issues let’s me know that the other programs will likely work fine but that does me no good unfortunately.

@support please help me

Is it present on all the Tidal versions? There are six Tidal versions for me and I’d like to try out the one which seems to be causing you the issue.

This is one of my other accounts. The system won’t allow my new account to post any more replies for 22hrs so I had to switch over.

Give me a few minutes and I will get right back with you on whether different versions make a difference. But the same distortion is present on local files and across the board. Its just harder to hear in certain tracks so I tried to pick something that everyone had access to and has likely heard before. Also the same version played direct from Tidal outside of Roon does not have the distortion present. I will check but even if one version of this song sounds better, there is still a problem present that needs solved. Thank you for your time.

Distortion is present on all.

Still trying over here. Please find time to help me @support.

Maybe someone who has both Tidal and Qobuz could compare the two.