Roon vs. Apple Music

Aside from the high res ability of Roon, I’m trying to weigh the options of Apple Music vs Roon. I can rip my entire collection in ALAC to AM, and listen to it on the go via the iOS app, albeit in AAC, but still extremely reliable (unlike Plex), and convenient.

At home, AM on my laptop is very nice, and I have ALAC which is good enough. Looking for other pluses and minuses.

I switched from (then) iTunes to Swinsian, because the latter could automatically adjust audio device sample rate and bit depth according the played file. In iTunes this was not possible. Not sure how it is today (this was maybe 2 years ago), after the name change.

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You are basically giving yourself the answer: If you want convenience and flexibility and you are on an Apple ecosystem anyway, Apple music is hard to beat.

If you want the best possible sound quality, Apple Music is not the place to go. Airplay streaming to your Hifi / Speakers is not the best sounding route to take.

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If you are happy with the sound quality you get through Apple Music / Airplay 2 then in my opinion it is a better experience overall… with some caveats. If you do multiroom audio then Airplay 2 works well but sometimes speakers go out of sync and you need to pause and restart playback to fix it (not a big deal but potentially annoying). You also cannot adjust sync timing manually as you can with Roon. This may or may not matter to you of course. Apple’s dynamic playlists are amazing and in my opinion are more powerful, more customisable and overall work a lot better than bookmarks in Roon (which I think is the equivalent). You are also going to have access to more consumer friendly devices with Airplay 2 compatibility: Sonos, Bluesound, Apple TV 3/ 4, numerous receivers, soundbars etc. You can send audio (in sync) to all these.

One last caveat: No funky DSP / EQ with airplay 2. At best you will have bass / treble adjustment on the devices you stream to. Some offer Dirac / audyssey etc but then you will not be able to sync audio with other airplay devices (and no ability to manualy sync timings).

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A different + for Roon: library management.

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Why come on forum dedicated to a music player and try to convince satisfied users that an inferior transport system is better. Most people here are quite happy with Roon and many have moved from iTunes in the past for a better experience

I am unclear what point you are trying to make ?

I use iTunes still on Win 10 simply to maintain my files on my iPod and iPad , yes its clear and “pretty” but doesn’t hold a candle to Roon

My 2 P

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As someone who is fairly new to Roon and came from iTunes and did a stint with apple music, I have a bit of experience with this.

My situation is that I have two iMacs that I control my music from as well as an iPhone and iPad (controlling via apple remote). I have two main systems (Naim Uniti Atom, and a streamer of my design), and three more zones that are either homepods or airport expresses. So I am pretty tightly wrapped into the apple ecosystem. I have been an iTunes user since I got my 3rd gen iPod (17 years?).

Pros:

  • Airplay works well on all my devices to all my various systems.
  • playing music is an apple-like experience (the same crappy non-conforming UI that iTunes has always had)
  • Adding apple music makes the homepod and carplay so much smarter. (Without it, siri is so dumb and can’t seem to find any of your music in your library. Pay $15 a month and magically she plays anything you want and finds it instantly. )
  • multiple iTunes libraries are easy to deal with. I have a lossless library for home and a complete second MP3 library for loading onto my phone and use in the car etc. iTunes is worthless for making the MP3’s from the lossless files, but 3rd party utilities make this easy.
  • As long as airplay is recognized and supported by apple, every hardware maker will support it. That’s the beauty of being the 1000lb gorilla. But apple drops things without any regard and leaves users in the cold. They have done this repeatedly for the 33 years that I’ve been using apple products.

Cons:

  • The home sharing functionality has been broken for the last several iTunes versions. In theory I can host my iTunes library on one machine and access and play from it on any other iTunes program on my network. This works about 70% of the time. Some songs are just plain missing on the remote iTunes machine. If I examine those tracks or play them on the machine that has the library local, they are fine. But the remote machines don’t like them. I fought with that a lot a couple years ago, and just bit the bullet and duplicated my iTunes libraries on each machine. I keep them on little external drives on a 12 south shelf on the back of the machines. The plus is that I have another backup of my music. The minus is I have to keep them in sync.
  • iTunes is a mess, it was weird and non-standard years go and didn’t follow apple’s own UI guidlines. Then they shoehorned a store into it, and it got even worse.
  • In my experience with Apple Music, their recommendations are awful. They have my entire music catalog to examine to see what I own and play and yet I get recommendations for things WAY out of character. Now I refuse to let apple touch my library after reading about the iTunes match fiasco, so maybe I’m not doing something correctly. but of all the services, apple music should know me the best, and their suggestions are the worst.

But apple music (as I used it) and iTunes are all about playing what you already know you want to hear (which is essentially the same with LMS and JRiver). It shows you the metadata data that you add (artwork etc), there is precious little discovery and hyperlinking to other artists etc. That is a strong point of roon and something you don’t get with iTunes.

I could go on and on, but this is already a wall-o-text.

Sheldon

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If you’re an iOS user you’re probably going to run iTunes/AM in parallel with Roon to facilitate portable use of the collection. Since I started downloading I tend to opt for FLAC so anything downloaded has to be converted first for the phone. (I still rip. CDs in Apple Lossless as that’s how I started back in 2009!)

An alternative is to ditch playback of my files in favour of a streaming service for playback when travelling. Did that for a while and got bored. As far as home playback goes though I left Apple years ago for Cambridge Stream Magic and then Roon. I find it unthinkable to backtrack now. I’d miss hi-res and DSD playback too much - even though only a small part of my listening. iTunes was a great solution for 10+ years ago.

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Roon seems to be the only interface that allows grouping of albums (via saved bookmarks). I run away from AppleMusic and AmazonMusic because they can not do that.

Apple Music is OK if you don’t want/need the higher resolution of Roon and the information provided in all the metadata. I use Roon at home and Apple Music in the car.

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I came from Apple partly because I was sick of it missing a fair amount of artwork even from recent popular music. Call me fussy and lazy but it was worth the admission price for that alone!

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There are scripts to add artwork and lyrics etc to your tracks in iTunes. But they seem to not be able to handle tens of thousands of tracks. I was always babysitting the scripts, and rerunning and running in small batches to make them work. I’ve spent a lot of hours grooming my metadata (that’s why I never let apple touch my tracks. They can read them all they want, but no writing to my metadata except playcounts and such). Roon was really nice in that regard. All the metadata just shows up, and in many cases better quality artwork than I had.

Now I need to find liner notes, any ideas? I think I’m going to have to fire up the scanner, but that is going to be a soul crushing exercise like ripping was.

Sheldon

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It depends on wether you player supports Custom Tags

I use JRiver to handle box sets by defining

Box Set (Name)
Disc Name
Disc Volume ( option for multi volume sets)

But can you easily create an album collection of all albums where Ella swings with Basie? Not a playlist, but an assemble of all relevant albums with their covers?

It’s funny because Apple changed the music industry entirely with iTunes as the Napster solution. The early interface was cool. They brought everyone music in a new way. I dug it.

But then they started pitching new products (e.g. their subscription service) to me in a manner that I didn’t enjoy. And they wanted me to download music in their special Apple only format (and would occasionally reset my settings during an update to ensure that this was occurring). Then somehow the interface (to me) got a little clunkier.

Roon came aboard with a promise of a sexy interface. With the promise of way more information about artists, bands, backstories, links (who played where), and artwork. Roon promised to take my library, and integrate it seamlessly with streaming music (giving me the options of enjoying both - when let’s face it, once you’ve really bought into streaming music your library isn’t all that necessary, but I still feel more secure having it). With the promise of intriguing song recommendations. And even the promise of a community interested in the music, rather than interested in the company.

So here I am.

Loving it.

I think it’s a big difference.

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I want to feel that way, but I keep running across albums with tracks missing. Until streaming is really matching what I can buy and rip, or borrow from friends and rip, or download from nefarious sources, I’m going to be skeptical of it.

It’s like Netflix. I was really excited when they started the streaming model. It’s really disappointing how little is on Netflix. Sure if you want the latest comic book movie or horrible sequel you are all set. But if you want something older or obscure, you are screwed. Places like netflix held the promise of “all movies” and they are failing to deliver. (I realize they are at the mercy of outside content holders, but the result to the consumer is the same). It’s sad that the pirate bay has a deeper catalog than netflix.

I guess I’m an old dog, and a control freak. I just can’t get into the streaming thing as more than discovery. If I like it, I want it spinning on my server. That said, if my house burnt down, I’d be all over streaming in a big way.

Sheldon

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And I’m the opposite. I want nothing but streaming. My goal is to own nothing. It’s all good.

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I left Apple Music before Apple split iTunes into different apps. Although iTunes was terribly overloaded, I liked the UI. But I didn’t like the new Music App anymore. I didn’t really care about it, but when I took a quick look at it, I couldn’t find a way to show the album covers in the title view, for example.
Nevertheless there were some features on iTunes (and probably still are) that I painfully miss on Roon:

  1. the automated playlists - yes, you can reach some of it with filter/taggs/focus/bookmarks, but not in the fineness that iTunes made possible. For example, I had a playlist for new songs that automatically dropped out as soon as they were played ten times.

  2. if I didn’t listen to automated playlists, I listened to my albums in shuffle mode: iTunes selected a random album, played it from the first to the last track, then selected another random album, played it from the first to the last track, and so on. That doesn’t seem to be possible at all with Roon - or I haven’t figured out how to do it yet.

Nevertheless, I think Roon beats Apple Music in all other respects. I love Roon - and would love it a little bit more if it would offer these features as well.

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I am one of those wacky people who frequently listens to music away from my home computer - while walking, driving, at a friend’s house, etc. I can do that with Apple Music - not so with Roon. Apple Music also lets me organize music for the mobile experience (smart playlists, albums and playlists in folders, etc), Qobuz and Tidal don’t allow any organization.

Roon Radio is probably the best implementation I’ve seen. Apple Music’s is just confusing most of the time.

Finding new (to me) music on Roon is super easy. Tagging is a great way to define multiple views into my library.

Apple Music has the most comprehensive library.

For me, the ideal setup is Roon integrating with Apple Music. Best of all worlds.

I stick to Roon + Qobuz at home. Apple Music on the road, or when Qobuz doesn’t have the music I want.

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I use both. I have AirPods in several rooms, including my wife’s atelier and the MBR. It’s easy to just ask SIRI to play something or to pause or adjust the volume, or set a shut off timer. When I’m listening with my Meridian Audio system, I mostly use Roon and my private library. I’d love to see them integrated but afraid it’s not likely to happen. Too bad.

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