Set up, a real mix of HDMI, network, PC and Linux... Solved

I’m just setting up a music / TV system and I’d love some advice as it’s all a little messy at the moment.

My music source is TIDAL, I have an AVR (Marantz SR6009) and the focus is high quality music. Added on to this are a TV and a desire to run everything from a desk based PC.

Now the unsatisfactory bits! My PC is old and has no HDMI output. The AVR has no cabled network connection because getting a cable to it is difficult. I can run ROON on the PC and use a wifi network connection to the AVR instead, but wifi will not support the streaming quality of TIDAL, and sounds awful.

I have a very small Linux laptop which DOES have an HDMI output, and at the moment, this is used to run the AVR using TIDAL. But the laptop will not support ROON.

My question is how best to change the system? Should I try to cable up the AVR so that ROON on my PC can direct TIDAL network streaming straight to it, or should I upgrade my PC so that ROON can HDMI from it to the AVR?

I don’t know what the implications to the digital data stream quality are, although directing network stream straight to the AVR on the face of it would seem the best on the Keep It Simple principle. Or is there some way of running the Linux laptop as a satellite similar to an Android app while running ROON on the PC? Spotify would let me do this, TIDAL does not seem to.

Can anyone help?

The HDMI connection is known to be very noisy and could introduce significant levels of jitter to your system. I’d have recommended that you avoided it even if you had one.

As far as cabled network connections are concerned I have had some success with HomePlug ethernet over mains adapters. YMMV. This may allow you to provide a stable internet access point close to the Marantz.

One solution would be an asynchronous USB to S/PDIF cable (like the Halide Bridge, for example). You can link this directly from any PC to the Marantz. Downside of this is that your Linux laptop doesn’t (yet) support Roon. They are working on a Roon app for Linux but I don’t know when this might be. Not long, I suspect.

The Raspberry Pi2 has been used as a Roon device (see other threads on the Roon site), but this would depend on how comfortable you are putting together the various bits needed. I’m no techie but from what I’ve seen the instructions appear to be very easy to follow and there would be plenty of support if you got stuck.

Alternatively you could buy a cheap ready-to-go Roon-enabled device now and wait for better devices to come along. You could use an Airport Express to allow AirPlay audio to play into the Marantz. This is limited to 24/48 at present, but would be a useful stopgap until more attractive items become available.

Thank you for this, and for opening up another minefield or two!!

Can I go back a stage or two: what is the best way to get from a ROON / TIDAL subscription to the AVR? Putting aside my local difficulties with computers, laptops and cables, what would be the optimal way to take the digital data from the internet-provider’s router to the AVR inputs?

Best way would be a direct Ethernet cable from router to close to the AVR. Since this doesn’t appear possible, next best is probably Homeplugs. You connect one via Ethernet cable to your router, and the other would sit next to the AVR and provide an Ethernet point for whatever your Roon endpoint was. I’ve had hits and misses with HomePlugs. I currently use Devolo 1200+ units which appear to be very stable, though this might also be due to better firmware in my Roon endpoint (Meridian MS200). I don’t like WiFi.

You will still need a Roon endpoint next to the AVR of course, and need to be running Roon on your PC as Server.

Getting an ethernet cable to the AVR is not impossible, just a bit tricky (getting through walls and ceilings in a 300 year old house!). It can be done and it sounds like it should be done.

I don’t understand what you mean by ‘Roon endpoint’ though. I think I’m missing a critical bit of this jigsaw puzzle :frowning:

You can’t just plug an Ethernet cable into your AVR to get Roon/Tidal.

Roon needs to run on a PC or Mac (Linux is coming) first. You can then either plug this PC into your AVR (as you were thinking you might do with the HDMI cable), or site the PC somewhere else on your network and use a Roon endpoint (also on the network) to deliver the audio to the AVR.

Currently these end points can be one of:
another PC running Roon as a remote to the main PC;
Apple AirPlay devices;
Merdian Sooloos devices (more expensive);
Squeezebox units (the Squeezebox Touch is the one I’d go for); or
the Raspberry Pi2 or similar.

More devices are coming, these will be advertised as RoonReady.

Does the fact that I can currently see the Marantz as a network audio player on my PC, and play through it on wifi (albeit not high quality) mean that the Marantz is an endpoint? (The PC is only connected by network cable: no HDMI, no wifi).

Hi Louise,

I expect that you are streaming to the Marantz using a DLNA/UPnP app. Those protocols are not supported in Roon. Roon can stream over an Ethernet or wireless connection by RAAT or AirPlay (and to Meridian devices).

My latest unofficial attempt at explaining the architecture was in this post. Official documentation is in the works.

So sorry, I missed the fact that the Marantz also supports AirPlay. You should be able to see the Marantz as an endpoint using AirPlay from your Roon Core. Since you say the wifi is patchy I would try using a pair of HomePlugs to connect your AVR to the rest of your network.

This is beginning to make sense, thank you!

Will a network switch be OK in the network? I do have a single Ethernet cable in the same room as the AVR, running to the PC. Would a switch in that to run extra Ethernet cable to the AVR be better than a mains circuit device, in terms of jitter and artifact?

I’d be inclined to use Ethernet where you can. I don’t have any experience of mains circuit networking, but have heard occasional stories of issues. It may be a good solution where Ethernet or Wi-Fi are impractical but if you can use Ethernet that would be my go to solution.

Yes, much better to use a switch, I’d assumed from your first post that there was no ethernet cabling in the same room as the AVR. Given you’re wanting to run a PC off the switch as well I’m tempted to suggest a Gigabit switch (so long as the PC supports Gigabit ethernet), but you really don’t need to spend a fortune on the switch. Good quality Cat6 or Cat7 patch cable between the switch and the AVR is always a good idea as it’s properly screened.

I now have a switch (200Mbps, the computer network card is not Gb), and I think all is now working, as I did set the AVR to use ethernet and not wi-fi, but the screen display when I play music still says AirPlay. The base volume shifted dramatically though on configuring the cable, so I guess it’s using it.

There are some settings I don’t understand on the Roon audio set up, such as ‘DSD to PCM’. To get the best out of the TIDAL stream, are the defaults OK or do I need to fiddle?

I’m not aware that Tidal has any DSD tracks. I’d just leave it for now.

AirPlay is right.

Glad it’s working.

Sounds truly excellent, thank you all :slightly_smiling:

Just a minor problem showing: the start volume of different albums on Roon can vary widely, leading to some nasty shocks while scrambling to find the volume control.

And on my wishlist: a similar system for video too: networked from PC straight to AVR.

Roon has a volume levelling option which can be turned on or off for each Queue. You will find it in the cog wheel in the mid-right of the Queue screen (tap the footer or music note icon to get to the Queue screen).

Volume levelling applies 2dB of headroom and maintains a constant loudness between songs. Because it is processing the signal it is not bit-perfect and the audio chain light will not be purple. Volume levelling is not reccomended for critical listening.

The audio chain light? I did understand from ROON reviews that the system did some signal path analysis, but I can’t see anything about it on the interface.

Ah, I’ve found it. I’ve got green, high quality AirPlay streaming from a purple source, FLAC 44.1kHz 16 bit 2ch. That’s without volume levelling and the output level set to 100%. So, how to start chasing down the lack of bit perfection?

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I’ll end this thread and start a specificone, as we have now deviated from the thread title. many thanks to all who helped :slight_smile:

Hi Louise,

If I understand your posts correctly, you are playing from your pc to your AVR using Airplay, right? I am interested in using that same method, but I’m not aware of ways to use Airplay on a Windows (10) pc. Can you tell me how you got that working, or what I need for that?

My PC is just 2 feet away from my AVR, so using the HDMI cable I’ve used so far is my preferred option. However, I can’t get that to work with ROON yet.

I’d like to hear from you about the Airplay setup. Thanks in advance!