Roon is not for me, but what is?

Couple of days ago i’ve created a trial to see what is all the fuss about Roon. I have to admit it looks nice, but the product is not really meant for me.

I don’t have huge collection of music. I only stream, lately mostly using Tidal and Deezer, both Hi-Fi. I use their dedicated apps to AirPlay to Allo DigiOne connected to Naim Dac. It’s super convenient as i have complete Apple ecosystem (Macbook, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV).

Definitely the sound coming from DigiOne as Roon endpoint is better compared to AirPlay. But this ends the benefits of using Roon. I don’t need cataloging music collection, don’t need multi-room. I don’t want music server and i don’t want to be bothered to turn on my computer to listen to music. The Roon radio and recommendations to be honest, don’t work well, at least with me, constantly getting an errors…

I just need a way to avoid AirPlay and stream directly from the DigiOne with a nice application to control it, which works preferably on an iPad and doesn’t require separated server. Nothing more, nothing less.

So what else is there and could fulfil those needs?

Audirvana, JRiver…

Both don’t have standalone iPad apps and require a computer running as a server. And their interfaces looks really outdated nowadays.

A Bluesound Node 2i could be one option.

Using the BluOS app you can use both Tidal and Deezer within the BluOS app. SQ might be better than using Airplay (Shairport) with the DigiOne.

If you can trial one (like with 30 day money back guarantee) that would be ideal.

The BluOS app used to be crap when I had a Node but it’s improved quite a bit.

The Node 2i also supports proper Airplay 2, so that would allow you to use the ‘native’ Tidal and Deezer apps which are quite good these days (as you know already). Maybe this would sound better than Shairport on your DigiOne? I don’t know much about Shairport and if it’s doing anything funky (that it shouldn’t be doing) with the ‘bits’.

The Node 2i also supports Spotify Connect. Maybe the long rumoured Spotify CD quality streaming tier actually happens one day (there was testing at some point).

I know you want to use the ‘native’ Tidal and Deezer apps, so if something else comes to mind, I’ll come back here.

Thanks, i would prefer exploring a software solution if possible, but if nothing really exists out there i could give Node i2 a shot.

With the ‘native’ Tidal and Deezer iPad apps, you only have Airplay and Chromecast as options that are capable of CD quality streaming (for your Tidal HiFi and Deezer HiFi subscriptions). Maybe Play-Fi too.

Airplay you know about (Shairport on your DigiOne).

Chromecast isn’t an option with your DigiOne. Neither is Play-Fi.

Chromecast Audio (now out of production but you may be able to get your hands on remaining stock) has a TOSlink output. But that’s new hardware.

Another option is finding something with Chromecast Built-In, but that’s again new hardware.

Anything available on the Raspberry itself? I’ve played around installing UPNP/DNLA client which allowed me to use Audirvana connected to Tidal and even stream MQA. But it requires a computer and the interface is really dreadful.

The above was if you wanted to stick with the ‘native’ Tidal and Deezer iOS apps.

But if you’re happy to move away from the ‘native’ Tidal and Deezer iOS apps, you can use mConnect Player HD on iPad, to play to your DigiOne (UPnP).

It supports Tidal and Qobuz. Deezer isn’t supported yet on mConnect Player.

I forgot the other hardware alternative to the Node 2i, the classic Sonos Connect.

Give Tidal via mConnect Player HD playing to your DigiOne a try on your iPad. I think it’s $9 on the App Store.

I will be more than happy as long as it provides good experience, like Roon for example. I will check mConnect, thanks a lot.

None of the above things I discussed are as good as the overall Roon UI experience.

There’s no free lunch in this world sadly. If CD quality streaming does come to Spotify, this might change things because for someone that mostly streams, the native Spotify app is superb… but who knows if Spotify CD quality streaming ever eventuates.

They will work though and the experiences shouldn’t be absolutely terrible.

Especially the native Tidal and Deezer apps are good and constantly getting better.

Tidal and Deezer via BluOS isn’t as good as the native apps but not too bad.

Tidal via mConnect Player is visually just OK - nothing more than ok. It works and will play losslessly. It might sound better than Airplay/Shairport on your DigiOne, depending on how Shairport works (I don’t know how it works).

Give Tidal via mConnect Player HD a try.

Of course, but it’s really hard for me to justify purchasing Roon just for the nice UI experience. And it will also require to have some sort of a server, which i don’t want to…

The native apps experience is perfect if you ask me, i only need a way to run those apps directly on the DigiOne and control it remotely. Spotify has this feature called Spotify Connect.

As for the quality, i know that AirPlay is CD Quality and i don’t know if this is due to FLAC being converted to ALAC and from there i don’t know if anything is being done on Shairport side but comparing it to Roon Endpoint it sounds more sterile and uninviting. Perhaps it could be also the other way around, Roon could be doing something which i like.

If all Roon DSP is disabled, Roon isn’t doing anything other than bitperfect playback. There’s a couple of ways to easily verify this but you can trust me (and trust Roon).

Anyway, not much more that I can add. You’ll need to try some things and see how you go.

Best of luck with it all.

Ok, just tried mConnect Player HD. It works, but experience is not really there. My search continues…

Ha, I told you it works and that’s about it. Sound quality should be great via UPnP though.

For a $10 app (and under) and strictly using your existing hardware, you will struggle with this:

With different hardware (like those I suggest above) better options (much better than mConnect Player) open up.

But of best of luck with the search. I’ll be interested to read what you eventually settle with and if others have other options that work with your DigiOne.

Two more potential solutions i discovered googling around:

  1. Run LMS on Raspberry with Tidal plugin and control it via iPeng on iPad. No MQA i think.
  2. Use Amarra Play directly on the iPad. MQA is supported but not sure if i still have to use the desktop version as a server. Not very clear in their website.

Looks like Deezer HiFI it’s not really supported, probably should explore Qobuz instead as a backup. But i really like Deezer’s flow feature.

Maybe volumio could be something for you?

Hmm, have to check it out. Always though is just another “bloated” Raspberry OS. Currently running plain DietPi with just few things installed, but looking at Volumio website, looks like they have some level of “native” Tidal integration. Thanks for pointing it out. Adding to to do list.

I think the right way to think of Roon is not (only) as a player with a nice interface; think of it as having a music nerd sitting next to you who can go into great details about the artists you are listening to. Oh, you are listening to $song. Did you know that $artist also played this with $artist_1, $artist_2 and $artist_3? And that $artist_3 was hailed as the successor to $artist_4 by the critics at the time? Etc etc etc. It’s not just trivia, but it helps you explore your music library in a way no other software program can, to my knowledge.

If you have a large personal library + a streaming service like Tidal it’s the best of both worlds, because Roon helps you explore the music you already own and can leverage on Tidal to let you listen to all the stuff you don’t own.

A few days ago I was listening to Tribalistas (my library), and Roon helped me explore the songs and collaboration by Marisa Monte. Using just the Tidal or Spotify app wouldn’t be the same. Now, of course the information that Roon accesses is not exactly top-secret data that only Roon knows; armed with a PC, some googling and some patience you can probably achieve a similar result. So, well, only you can know how much this kind of service is worth to you, and if paying for the Roon licence makes sense or not.

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Yes, i get the point that if i have big local library Roon will help me organize it and so on. The issue is that i don’t have. I only stream. And Tidal library is already organized, by artist, albums and so. It gives me recommendations and similar artist, it will also play similar songs to what i was listening to, the artist bio and picture is also there. Tidal aslo does the first unfold of MQA. And all of this is already free, and not requiring me to have a dedicated server.

May be Roon interface and suggestions are little bit better, may be not. But i’m pretty sure that Tidal has much more designers and engineers working on the app compared to Roon, and probably this difference will diminish or even worse. Same goes for Deezer, and they already have this great feature called Flow and it gets the music discovery on a how new level, much better than what i have seen so far in Roon. And every streaming services already have curated content and crowd generated playlists, unlike Roon.

So what Roon gives me for 500$? The abilty to stream directly from my DigiOne and not AirPlay. But than i will also need to buy some kind of server, so this is at least 500$ more. Sorry but i’m not sold on that. Probably it has some unique value proposition to some people and creates good return of investment, but not for me. And that’s why i’m looking for somethig which will suit beter my needs.

Do you have any interest in being able to stream Tidal to different rooms (players) in your home and have the streams perfectly synchronized? I have this need and Roon is good at this.