Roon, Tidal & Naim Uniti Nova

Hi, @ support
I am in my first week of a 30 day trial of Roon to run with my Naim Uniti Nova and Tidal (CD quality) subscription. I was investigating any differences between playing the new Graham Nash compilation “Over The Years” direct from Tidal using the Naim app on my iPad as against playing the same album using the Roon app on my iPad. The Roon details of the album showed it as Flac 48kHz 24 bit MQA 96 kHz, whilst Tidal showed it as Flac 44.1 kHz 16 bit. The Tidal stream played fine but the Roon stream was unstable and stopped early during play, albeit it did play a full track occasionally. I understand that the Naim Uniti Nova is not at this time MQA compatible but can I configure Roon to allow a higher specifiation than via Tidal, and be a stable stream? Also, is there a noticeable sonic improvement to be gained from listening to the same material at the same spec via Roon rather than Tidal? I would be grateful for your thoughts. I have tried to find the answers from relevant Forums and your website but the technical references are not clear to me.

Regards
Neil

You may need to give some more details here. What specification of machine are you running as your roon core server and how is everything connected - wired, wireless etc for a start.

Hi Ged

Thanks for the quick response. The details of my hardware are:

Roon Core is on my MacBook Pro 13 inch, running macOS Sierra 10.12.6, Processor 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, Memory 4GB 1600 MHz DDR3, Graphics Intel HD Graphics 4000 1536 MB.

Roon Control is on my Apple iPad (2018).

Latest version of Roon and Apple iOS Roon app, latest version of Tidal and Apple iOS Tidal app, newly released Naim Uniti Nova with up-to-date software and Apple iOS Naim app. All apps are on and operated from my iPad.

All my connections are wireless from the same BTHub4-HM29 Router.

Hope that helps. Can’t think of anything else but have I missed something?

Regards
Neil

Hello @Neil_Bloomer,

Thanks for contacting support, I’d be happy to take a look over this issue with you. Starting off, I just want to say I looked up that album in Roon and it seems that there are indeed two versions of this Album, one recorded in 48kHz 24bit/ 96kHZ MQA and one in 44.1kHz / 16bit. These are both listed under the “Versions” tab in Roon as shown here:

As for the rest of your questions:

The sonic improvement is most noticeable when you play higher bit tracks, especially if they have MQA capabilities so playing the 24 bit/ 96kHz MQA version will yield better results generally speaking although I am not sure if you have the ability to select this version using the Naim App, but it does exist on TIDAL.

The biggest differences between playing the album in the Naim app vs Roon is the ability to configure your DAC in a multitude of ways, such as applying DSP EQ, Upsampling, Crossfeed, Headroom Management, ect. You can read more about our DSP engine here: https://kb.roonlabs.com/DSP_Engine

Roon itself is able to perform the first MQA unfold (called MQA Core Decoder) and this benefit will be there even if the DAC is not MQA Compatible, again I cannot comment on if the Naim App/TIDAL can perform the Core decoding or not, that is a question you have to ask them.

A question for you, have you identified your Naim Uniti Nova in Roon? You can do so in the Settings -> Device Setup Screen, more information can be found here: https://kb.roonlabs.com/Audio_Setup_Basics. By identifying your device, this makes sure that the settings which the DAC doesn’t support are hidden, such as MQA full unfold and leaves just the device settings which you can change.

Furthermore, can you please provide a screenshot of your Signal Path Information while playing the MQA album? The signal path can be accessed while playing the album and clicking the purple/blue/green “star” right above the playback bar and it should look something like this:

Please let me know when possible.

Thanks,
Noris

Thank you Noris, your email was really informative. I have made sure that the 48 kHz 24 bit version of the Graham Nash album was selected on my Roon Core & Control and the Naim Uniti Nova was identified as the device in Roon on both the Core and Control. On both the Core and Control the Signal Path information is the same. I am sorry but I don’t know how to add a screenshot but I have transcribed it below:

Signal Path Lossless

Source
Tidal Flac 44.1 kHz 24 bit 2ch, MQA 44.1 kHz

Authentication
MQA Studio 44.1 kHz

MQA Core Decoder
to 88.2 kHz 24 bit

Naim Audio Uniti Nova
Noon Advanced Audio Transport

Amplifier
Analog Amplifier

Analog Output

Hope that helps The streams on both Core and Control seem to be working fine.

Regards
Neil

Hello @Neil_Bloomer,

Glad to hear that my post has been informative. I am a little confused, you mentioned that you selected the 48 kHZ 24 bit version to play but the Signal Path you have transcribed seems to indicate that you are using the 44.1 kHz 24 bit version which I have been unable to find.

Can you please confirm if you have transcribed it properly? Also to confirm, when you mention that you have TIDAL (CD quality) subscription, you are referring that you have the “HiFi” subscription and not the regular “premium” TIDAL subscription correct?

You also mention:

Does this mean that the original issue does not exist anymore and you are able to play the TIDAL content normally instead of the original issue you mentioned here:

Please let me know when possible.

Thanks,
Noris

I have an Naim Atom and have no issues playing mqa files with Roon doing the first unfold from Tidal. Sounds excellent to. Are you hardwired or wirless it might be wise to check your network and internet are both working as they should as network issue could cause dropouts.

Hi Noris. Your quick response is really appreciated. I am just playing the Graham Nash album from my Roon Core MacBook after removing the 44.1 kHz 24 bit version from my library which I had not done previously. The Signal Path is now changing as the tracks alternate in order between the exact transcription I gave you in my last email and changes to the following elements of the Signal Path:

Source
Tidal Flac 48 kHz 24 bit 2ch, MQA 96kHz

Authentication
MQA Studio 96 kHz

MQA Core Decoder
to 96 kHz 24 bit

How weird is that. Since I have removed the less spec version from the library the playback has been stable apart from the changing Signal Path.

I can confirm I have the HiFi Tidal Subscription.

You are being very patient with my issue and I am very grateful for your time.

Regards
Neil

Hello @Neil_Bloomer,

I took another look at that album, you are indeed correct. I noticed the alternating between the 48 kHz and the 44.1 kHz for several tracks. I have noticed Marrakesh Express and Military Madness are in 44.1 kHz while Immigration Man is in 48 kHz, this is due to the recording itself and what is available from TIDAL, simply put it seems that TIDAL does not have 48 kHz versions of those songs and only has 44.1 kHz versions.

I have just confirmed that this is indeed expected behavior since Roon lists the highest bit-rate track in the album description, but the album itself contains tracks in a lower bit-rate due to availability from TIDAL.
Since the original issue of the stream randomly stopping or not making it through a full song is not present, I believe that it was just the other album causing issues with playback.

I would continue listening to music as you usually do and let me know if there are any other issues that seem to affect your playback, there is nothing actionable at the moment if the tracks are playing as they should. Please do let me know if you feel otherwise.

Thanks,
Noris

Thank you Noris for your comments. What was particularly concerning was that the Graham Nash album was the first HD album I tried to play from Tidal via Roon. I automatically assumed that I had configured something wrongly but you have put my mind at rest.

However, if I could ask one final question which I included in my original email. Is there anything I could reconfigure within Roon to improve the sound from my system, such as the list you mentioned in relation to the DAC in a previous comment?

Hi Simon. As a real novice to the Roon, Naim (Uniti Nova), Tidal configuration I would be grateful for any advice on how to reconfigure any of the three to as you put it “play mqa files with Roon doing the first unfold from Tidal”. You can see from Noris’s last response that the issues I raised were associated with the Graham Nash album on Tidal and otherwise everything is working fine. Cheers.

Hello @Neil_Bloomer,

As I have mentioned previously, our DSP engine would be the most suitable to make the system sound better from within Roon, you can read more about it on our Knowledge Base linked here: https://kb.roonlabs.com/DSP_Engine.

Personally, I have the Parametric EQ enabled and have configured the EQ since I prefer more bass and less treble in my music. You can also increase the overall Gain using the Parametric EQ and I have also done that. If you listen to a lot of Classical or Rock music where sounds are heavily panned to one side due to the microphone that was used to record, crossfeed is the setting you are looking to apply, I have found that the default crossfeed option is suitable for my listening tastes.

There are many things that you can configure in regards to the sound using the DSP engine but ultimately it comes down to personal preference and what sounds good to your ears. Also, it is suggested that you use hardwire connections if possible (Ethernet Cable) rather than WiFi for better stability and throughput. As for the question you addressed to Simon, if you see that Roon is doing “Core Decoding” in the Signal Path, then you already have the first MQA unfold from TIDAL enabled and is being reflected in the output. Hope this helps.

Thanks,
Noris

As Noris says your already getting mqa first unfold. Without an mqa DAC you cant get it any higher. The DAC in the Naims is really good and I would not look to have separate DAC just for MQA a syour making the chain even more complicated and more processed as the analogue inputs to the Nova digitise the signal on input then after all internal DSP through its back through its DAC.

If your network is solid and your running the core on a dedicated computer or device then youll reap the benefits of stable and sweet sounding system.

I have tried upsampling to DSD 128 and 384 pcm on my Atom and it sounds no better or worse than at its native rate so I would just let the Naim kit do of its own thing as it was designed to do.

Thank you to both Noris & Simon. All the kit is new to me and I am only beginning to appreciate the capabilities I have available. The Roon Community Support is a real positive that I can keep dipping in to as my understanding develops. Thank you guys.

Regards
Neil

1 Like

Glad to have been of help @Neil_Bloomer! If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask, we have a very active & understanding community here who are happy to assist, no matter where you stand in regards to expertise of audio systems. Shout out to @CrystalGipsy, thanks for letting Neil know about your setup and what your experience has been like. Hope you have a great day and as I said, don’t hesitate to ask anything at all!

Thanks,
Noris