Roon newbie with observations and some questions

I just downloaded and installed Roon to try it out after being somewhat dissatisfied with iTunes and I’d like some advise from longer term users of Roon.

Here’s my current setup: I have 5 airport expresses setup around the house, soe output TOSLink to DACs, some just directly for less critical spots. I have a Naim uniti that I have music attached directly as well as using it as an Airplay receiver. I also have a homepod. I’ve been using iTunes as the controller for streaming and I’ve got my music library on external disks on several macs around the house. It works well but also has issues.

I’ve been using the iTunes remote on my iPhone (mostly) and also on an iPad. It works well. After using iTunes for 17 years (I started with a 3rd gen iPod) I’ve carved some deep grooves in my brain about how to serach and browse for music. I’m a big fan of the songs view with the column browser showing. You have three quickly scrollable regions at the top with Genres, Artists, and Albums, and at the bottom is the song list for the selected entries above. Super easy to find something in my modest 2300 album collection (ripped as flacs and converted to ALAC). Not great for just browsing though, but there is an album view that does exactly what you’d expect.

The things I don’t like about iTunes (and now Music) is that it has NEVER worked properly sharing libraries, there are always songs or complete albums missing with no way to troubleshoot it. So I keep several copies of my library on external drives hung behind a couple iMacs (office and workshop) and attached to my Naim. This is a bit of a pain if I add artwork, lyrics, or tidy up metadata or plain add a new album; I new have to propagate those changes out to the other drives. Also airplay is flaky after computers wake from sleep etc.

So after looking at other iTunes alternatives (there aren’t any that are acceptable), I decided to bite the bullet and try Roon. Given my more or less happiness with iTunes, paying for a music management app (which streams on the side) wasn’t thrilling. But looking at what it can do and how it is architected, really appeals to me.

So here’s my impressions and usability issues:

  • The system is super easy to setup (my case: headless mac mini, and a mix of various outputs, iPhone, iPad, and mac controllers), but doesn’t like to find a core across subnets even with multicast DNS reflection. No big deal, point it to the IP address and off we go.

  • The layout with the various outputs is wonderful, the granular control is very nice. The metadata and art additions are great too. I wish there were more liner notes or images though.

  • The artist view isn’t useful, as I have no idea what many of the artists look like, or the picture for them is not immediately recognizable.

  • The album view is also nice, but it scrolls horizontally. My world almost exclusively scrolls vertically. Ok, I’ll get used to that.

  • The song view scrolls vertically which is refreshing, but it is impossible to collapse the songs to have a reasonable list length to scroll through. My 30,000 song list extends tothe center of the earth.

  • I start looking for the other views or a way to modify the current views A program this expensive must have other views right? There are no other options… :frowning:

This is particularly egregious on the iPhone remote app where there isn’t a way to jump the scrolling. So I have to manually scroll through EVERY artist or album. This is making the iTunes remote app look like mana from heaven. The iPad app has the little alphabet pop-up; although it’s not nearly as nicely done as other apps where is is a template over the scrollbar on the right. So there is NO browsing possible on the iPhone remote app as far as I can tell (sure, if you want to take minutes to find things), it’s search only.

I’m seeing a lot of power in the filter function, but that’s is very different than I typically work. I’m more than willing to modify my methods (after 17 years, that’s a bit hard), but it seems much less elegant and easy to look for someting you might want to listen to; like flipping through your albums in the old days.

So after that wall of text, here’s the questions:

  • How do you advanced Roon users quickly and easily navigate and also forage for interesting music in your collection?

  • Am I alone in wanting some more views or the ability to customize views? My kingdom for a list view

  • Is the core communication and messaging protocol public? Can I write my own controller?

Thanks in advance.

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You’re not alone. I think it’s best to see Roon as a pure play at DSP and streaming music to various kinds of outputs. Their RAAT protocol (proprietary and unpublished), used to communicate bits between the Core and an endpoint, is really the heart of the product. I think many of us feel that they don’t really understand, or perhaps don’t have the resources for, modern UI design.

Personally, I don’t regard Roon as a “product”. It’s a thrill ride the Roon Labs team is on for their own edification, and we are allowed to buy tickets to go along. But they’re driving, and they’re not overly impressed by the peanut gallery.

There’s a half-hearted attempt at a RESTful API, but it’s missing various critical capabilities, and is somewhat dated.


Try it for a week or ten days. If you still feel like you need all the old (and reliable for you) tools you used before, don’t buy Roon. A LOT of Roon users, myself included, love it for it’s music discovery capabilities. I would argue THAT is the heart of Roon.

One of the things you may have missed is the Focus feature. Focus is like a database filter function. For instance, your track list can be shortened using the Focus feature to restrict the display based on pretty much any metadata; artist name, genre, format, etc. And of course, these criteria can be combined. Once you have a focus you find useful, you can bookmark that focus and it becomes readily accessible and live in that subsequent music added to your library gets automatically added to the bookmark.

I don’t use lists much but I understand the usefulness of lists. I sometimes wish Roon provided options for list versions of their views, but I don’t think that is their design philosophy. So check out the Focus feature. It’s the most powerful way to modify the data presented in each view.

Also check out Tags. Tags are user generated metadata that also can be Focused and Bookmarked. Useful for adding your own info to your album collection.

I sometimes think Roon gets way too bogged down in their own so-called philosophy. I think flexibility provides a better experience for more users. So, they can have their design philosophy as default, but further tweaks to better suit more users.

I am all for the development of the software and for it to grow accordingly. Whether list views or any other type of view suit me is neither here nor there. However, providing options, I believe is paramount.


Thanks for the replies guys. I’ve been playing with it while I’ve been working from home and this evening while I was rebuilding some speakers in the shop. I am really grooving on it. The focus feature is quite impressive.

The ios app is still sad, but all other aspects of Roon are quite impressive.

Discovery was mentioned above and that brings up one of my issues with apple and iTunes. I have carplay in my car, and if you subscribe to apple music, carplay is more handy in that you can ask siri to play anything (she seems unable to sort out my music on the phone worth a damn).

But with apple music, you’d think apple would know my musical tastes EXACTLY. They have my entire iTunes library along with play counts and history at their fingertips. I was hoping there would be a “for you” screen that was actually useful, but Noooo, it completely sucks. Sometimes it thinks this middle aged dude is a 12 year old girl. I really liked pandora for discovering new music, and the graphical nature of music-map ( I was hoping that a company who has pioneered a lot of graphical metaphors would do something really slick along those lines, but it’s not very useful.

Also where have the liner notes gone, I miss listening to music and reading the booklet…

Thanks a lot for the replies.


As others have said… Just Use It
You found Focus and that may very well solve some of your frustrations. I’ve been using Roon for just over a year. I had to let old habits die and I’m glad I did. Roon has it right for discovery. Just start somewhere… then look at the artist page… click an “Influenced By” or “Similar To” and keep diving. I’ve found producers and studio artists that are in common across some of my favorite albums.

I find the tiny screen user interfaces a pita to use. I generally don’t do more than pick a song to seed radio and be done with it. It’s a big screen, tablet at least, interface for sure. So, you’re not alone if you’re used to using your phone.

Liner notes, as clickable pdf, are lacking and especially when I can find them online but not in Roon. You’re right about that. But generally, the credits are well populated from the album.

So, to answer your question “quickly and easily navigate”? Forget everything you know and just start clicking everywhere. Eventually you find a “Roon way”.

Click everywhere is great advice, but there is also the Roon Knowledge Base which is an excellent resource to find out more about the product.

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BTW after a week of Roon, I’m sold. The roon radio algorithm is better than genius on iTunes ever was. And music discovery via artist bios and filtering is unlike any other software I’ve tried. The core talks to my airplay and RAAT endpoints better than iTunes did.

I’m going yearly for the moment, and I’ve ordered a NUC and a 2TB SSD to replacew the 2010 mac mini I’m using now.

The iphone app still sucks, but hopefully that will improve. Every other controller option is good though.

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Also take a look at the recommendations over on the lower right that show when you view an album. When you pick one of those, more related recommendations show up, and so on.

Glad to hear that you’re falling in love with it. The amount of new music that I’ve discovered in I think about a year after I bought a lifetime subscription is frankly pretty much unmanageable. I don’t think I have enough of my lifetime left to fully explore what Roon has already helped me discover and it keeps throwing up even more candidates for further exploration on a daily basis!

Although I accept that the discovery capabilities are the true value-add and are fantastic I really don’t think they should be used as “cover” for neglecting the smaller and simpler details and I was particularly pleased to see you (Sheldon) call out the iOS app as an issue. I don’t 100% feel the same as you maybe because I’m a less “widely travelled” iOS app user. I actually really like the iPad scrolling shortcut where it pops up the 2-character alphabetic prompts as you hold down the scroll bar but maybe that’s just because I haven’t encountered any of the apps that you alluded to that do it better. Where I do agree though is that the app running on even the biggest iPhone (I have an 11 Pro Max) totally sucks because it has absolutely no way to jump the scrolling, not even the tiny A-to-Z markers on the right that something like the Apple Music app has. When I’m not allowing Roon Radio to throw stuff at me I pretty much live in Album view and having to scroll linearly through a thousand or so albums is basically unusable. I know that one can always search but pulling up a keyboard on a phone isn’t a great experience either.

I note that when I looked a couple of days ago Roon had 2 job openings open on its web site, one for search development and one for a UI developer for the remotes so maybe Roon has this aspect of the system unstaffed or understaffed at the moment and when that position is filled we might start seeing progress. I actually quite like the app on the iPad but just small stuff like being able to hide unused items on the main menu and putting in some sort of scroll jumping when running on the iPhone would on their own make a worthwhile difference to usability for me (well, night and day difference when it comes to the iPhone).