Hello Roon Community, sorry if I have a few ignorant questions and sorry if I wrongly categorized this post. Still learning all things audiophile and Roon.
Recent convert from 15+ years on iTunes/Apple Music. Morbidly depressed there is no easy solution I’m aware of to convert my listening history, play count, ratings and playlists to Roon. I understand a few manual ways to get my ratings and playlists into Roon, but not found any solution for play count and listening history. Either way, I’m increasingly “done” with Apple and on the verge of buying Roon lifetime for the whopping $700, but in need of some more insight to see if Roon is my lifelong solution. Been using it for about a month now and surprisingly enjoy it much more than Apple Music although I’m missing workflow details I’ve come to expect, mostly playlist folders.
In (hopefully) switching to Roon, it’s also timed with building a new pc and upgrading my multimedia system. Currently I listen to Roon in the following ways: (1) On DROP + THX Wireless Headphones via Bluetooth 5.0 AptX Adaptive. This is 60% of my listening experience. And no, my iMac isn’t using the AptX Adaptive, I’m just listing its best wireless spec as that might affect new build and purchases recommendations. (2) iPhone 6s connected to portable Oontz Angle 3 Ultra portable speaker. This is 30% of my listening experience. (3) On a Logitech Z-5500 THX-Certified 5.1 Digital Surround Sound Speaker System connected to iMac Retina 5K late-2014 via TOSLINK optical [Play high sample rate digital audio on Mac computers - Apple Support]. This is 10% of my listening experience.
In building a new PC and multimedia system, I’m going tabula rasa on everything except the Panda wireless headphones. I rely on wireless for work and I’m fairly happy with their performance. This means I intend to upgrade my portable and surround solutions in addition to adding stereo bookshelf speakers in my living room for Roon and LPs. Overall, I’m looking for advice along the lines of "If I was able to start with a blank slate and given how you use Roon: I would do X, build Y and buy Z.
Here we go.
1 - Workstation-Server PC
Currently leaning to building a ~80TB RaidZ2 “always-on” workstation-server running bare metal Ubuntu with servers for Roon, Plex, and Nextcloud. May dual boot the machine into windows for some gaming or just go with Linux native and VM gaming, but not a priority as this activity is so infrequent. Daily use of the workstation is multitasking with writing programs, 100+ tabs of internet browsing (yes its a disease) and productivity apps. A couple times a month I’m running Adobe apps. In trying to build the machine to get the most out of Roon, I’m trying to understand the following:
PC - If the workstation-server has the right specs, is there any issue with running Roon core on Ubuntu along with the Plex and Nextcloud servers and workstation use? My Plex server has not outside users and it rarely transcodes. It is for personal use only and we only really stream to one device at a time. In other words, to “get the most out of Roon” how important is it to run core standalone on a NUC, NAS, or the Nucleus? Ideally all my 80TBs of media is in one machine, although I’m open to doing the RaidZ2 on the HHDs for Plex and some SSD solution for the 2TBs needed for my Roon/Nextcloud media… if that’s a thing. Not sure.
Hardware - Does Roon benefit from any sound cards? Although gaming is only a couple hours a month, when I game, I like full specs and full immersive experience. I’ve come across the EVGA Nu Audio sound card that might benefit both experiences. I’m sure there are more products like this and I wonder how they will help or hurt Roon’s final output on my PC? Another way to ask this is: If the Roon core recommended specs are only relevant to the “server” functionality, then does Roon running as an audio device on this same workstation-server PC have separate recommended specs for the hardware to get the highest quality output? If so, what PC hardware would give you the best results? If not, what audio device(s) am I looking for to ensures my (1) wireless Panda headphones, (2) upgraded portable speaker, (3) upgraded surround sound (4) and new bookcase speakers are processing the same quality output? If there is not a single device that ensure all these endpoints have the same quality processing, I’m to understand that every endpoint is “on its own”? In other words, quality specs on the PC, ie a sound card, have nothing to do with the quality coming out of the surround sound or bookcase speakers? Those require their own devices to process the digital Roon data?
Native DSD… I’m not experienced with listening to music at this level of quality yet, but I intend to be at this level one day and want this machine to be ready for that time. How do I get native DSD? Does it work differently if Roon core is running on Windows, Linux or Mac? Does it need specific hardware? Or is native DSD something you only get from each endpoint and the devices processing for those speakers? Also, are there other high quality features like Native DSD that I should be aware of?
2 - Surround Sound
As I understand it, stereo music isn’t meant for surround so its basically anathema for audiophiles that I enjoy doing this, although I do have native 5.1 albums… Return to Ommadawn, anyone? Either way, I enjoy the immersive experience a lot and whatever black magic the Z-5500s has been doing to the stereo music to mix out a 5.1 experience has been very enjoyable. I want this same experience but upgraded. The surround is in my office/theater room and with an upgraded system, what devices am I looking for and needing to learn about to get the most out of Roon while the surround system also serves my movie watching needs? Especially a bonus if this system can also do Dolby Atmos.
3 - Portable Speaker
I bought the Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i and had to return it after a few days. I can’t consider the device portable when the battery pack cannot play the sound above 30% without the bass blowing out. What a horrible flaw. Hoping an updated version solves this problem as that speaker sounded excellent. Any other options out there that are best for Roon?
PS, I’m looking for products/builds that take me into the next level of audiophile kingdom… not trying to be king of the hill. So please no empty responses like, “well if you want the best, these $40,000 speakers…” My budget is flexible, but I’m not close enough to the fiat faucet to blow money like that.