Sonicorbiter + Geek Pulse + wifi: I keep saying it's too complicated

First of all, this is not a criticism of any of the components I mention, everything works great. It’s just another installment in my concern that this stuff will never be mainstream until we simplify.

So I just got my Sonicorbiter SE, the little cube is so tiny I giggle every time I see it. So I relocated my Eero wifi access point (I have written about the awesome Eero) to enable pulling an Ethernet cable, plugged in the Sonicorbiter, plugged the Geek Pulse into the USB port, turned everything on, looked in Roon – and nothing. Dang.

There are a lot of boxes: Eero, SOSE, Geek Pulse, Geek LPS (power supply and also cleanses the USB signal), Roon itself. Something is wrong, I have to troubleshoot. Turns out it was a matter of startup sequencing: the Geek LPS has to be started before the Geek Pulse, otherwise the driver in the SOSE doesn’t see it, and if the SOSE doesn’t have a DAC Roon doesn’t care about it.

Not a tough problem, and eventually everything works great.

And it isn’t really a bug anywhere, each box behaves reasonably, if perhaps a little picky.

But the end result is that I hesitate to recommend this (awesome!) configuration to mainstream music lovers.

I guess that’s were RoonReady (RoonCertified) networked DACs will help.

Connect to LAN and switch it on, job done.

I’ve given thought to whether we should show “crippled” (i.e. DAC-less) RoonReady devices in the UI. It would be a little bit friendlier if we did, but it opens up tricky experience questions and breaks some of our assumptions/concepts. For instance, we expect to have the branding and capabilities information in hand before figuring out how to present a device to the user, and we expect that devices that we display can actually be enabled and turned into zones. It’s a decision I’ve always been a little bit uncertain about. It might change in the future.

USB Bridges really aren’t “the vision” for RoonReady, or what it was built to do. They’re the first thing to come out because they are simple to make, but they are always going to be worse than the more labor-intensive integrations.

We have two real RoonReady source components now (IQaudIO and exaSound PlayPoint–which looks like a bridge, but is only for their DACs + provides a good end-to-end integration including control of the DAC that wouldn’t be possible with generic USB Audio), and several more more working through certification.

I was talking with @VirusKiller the other day about how I would love to figure out how to enable/encourage more “consumer-y” products. Something more reminiscent of the Squeezebox family than HiFi. The problem is figuring out who’s going to make them…

Yes, that is the key question. I think the simplicity/reliability is more important than price at this point. Price comes down with volume, we are already orders of magnitude lower than high-end audio. So it should be possible to bring some vendors in.

Like PSAudio who includes a network bridge in their DAC (in the cheaper DAC, optional in the expensive one). Could be a Roon bridge.

My old point was, I would only recommend Meridian Sooloos to somebody who is a music lover, technically savvy, and wealthy. We have now eliminated the last requirement, but have a ways to go on the second.

This experience I’m describing wasn’t really bad, quickly solved and the result is great. I’m bringing it up only because we want to raise the bar, because we strive for ubiquity.

[quote=“brian, post:3, topic:9194, full:true”]
I’ve given thought to whether we should show “crippled” (i.e. DAC-less) RoonReady devices in the UI. It would be a little bit friendlier if we did, but it opens up tricky experience questions and breaks some of our assumptions/concepts. For instance, we expect to have the branding and capabilities information in hand before figuring out how to present a device to the user, and we expect that devices that we display can actually be enabled and turned into zones. [/quote]
I’m probably not understanding something here, but don’t you already do something like this with your Squeezebox emulation?

I’ve got a Raspberry Pi + HiFiBerry Digi+ combo running PiCorePlayer and this shows up as a zone. I’d like to think that the PiCorePlayer software could be replaced in the future by a RoonBridge image, and thus turn this connection into a full Roon zone…

Let’s face it, there is plenty of equipment out there that will never be Roon-certified (my old Denon AVR3808 for example, or indeed new equipment such as the Quad Artera). So I think that there’s definitely a place for DAC-less RoonReady devices that can act as a bridge between the network and provide S/PDIF into a DAC.

When I said dac-less, I didn’t mean literally “lacking a DAC chip”. I meant situations where audio devices that we need to have dialogue with are missing. S/PDIF doesn’t qualify because we can play to a disconnected S/PDIF port. We cannot play to a disconnected USB port.

I just recommend Sonos to my non geeky mates.

the ripped their cd’s themselves?

Most of them won’t have two CDs to rub together. They’ll be streaming Spotify or similar.

@AndersVinberg maybe I misunderstood your original post.
I have a PowerLine network with a localLAN port connected to SOSE, with GeekOut v2 going into the back of my amp. It works very well and I can see the chain in Roon with no problems. The problem has been that SOSE disappears from the network periodically and I am hoping that will be fixed (or improved) with 1.2.
I have not understood, at all, what a ‘bridge’ is in the new Roon lexicon and RoonCrippled was a new one from @brian!

Jokes aside, I do find it odd to read ‘USB Bridges really aren’t in the vision for RoonReady, or what it was built to do.’ Followed by ‘We have two real RoonReady devices now…’

I find it rather dismissive that those of us who have licensed Roon and bought into bridges in the absence of any other solution belong in the crippled category by design. If we had known that we were the cripples, would we have just waited a year for Roon to be ready to give us the “real” product and, if we had done that, would there be a Roon today?

I think you’re misunderstanding.

When I said “a crippled bridge” I meant a USB bridge with no USB device connected at the moment–it is crippled because it can’t play audio. I was not saying that bridges are inherently crippled.

(You’ll notice that right now, we do not display crippled bridges in the UI–if you pull the USB plug on the SOSE, the SOSE disappears entirely from Roon. That behavior is the context for the discussion we were having. The thought was that maybe the SOSE should still appear in the UI but give feedback to the effect of “I need a USB Device before I can be useful”).

And I’m not sure where the word “RoonCrippled” came from–certainly not from me.

You’ve inserted the word “in” into my phrasing in a way that that substantially changes the meaning of my words.

RoonReady was designed to do things like end-to-end volume control synchronization (meaning: you can change the volume from Roon, from the front panel, or from an IR remote and the volume display in all locations stays in sync). It was designed to utilize displays on device front-panels, integrate with IR remotes and other control buttons in the listening room, and so on.

RoonReady is also intended to eliminate the configuration work involved in setting up a USB Audio device–so that non-technical users don’t need to deal with checkboxes asking questions about whether the DAC has DSD-over-PCM support.

USB bridges discard these benefits in favor of compatibility with existing USB devices. This has value, too, and we clearly believe that, because we are working with and certifying those devices.

That said, no USB Bridge device can fully implement all possible aspects of RoonReady integration because they are limited by what USB Audio is capable of. USB Audio doesn’t have mechanisms for 2-way volume sync, accessing frontpanel displays, integrating with IR remotes, or telling us about the value of the DSD-over-PCM checkbox automatically.

So while these bridges are a convenient way to move audio around your home using network cables, they are not a full representation of what we are setting out to do with RoonReady-the-product. That’s not their fault, and it’s not ours. It’s just a result of where the world is right now.

You are right Brian - I was teasing with "RoonCrippled"and it is in bad taste.
You are also right in that I inserted “in” - not intentionally and, personally, I would find “aren’t the vision” to be a more profound statement than “aren’t in the vision” - the former, in my opinion being more absolute and monolithic.

Speaking only for myself, I find the Roon thing difficult to understand. I waited for RoonReady, held-off on an Auralic Mini just to be sure and then was left in a world with very few options, nine months into Roon. I thought RoonReady was IT, what we had been waiting for and furthermore, selected products would be certified as RoonReady so that we would all know we had the complete Roon experience. Then there was talk of RoonBridge, whatever that is and it seems that my SOSE/Geek solution to what was available at the time is, perhaps, just a USB Bridge, which may not be the “vision”. I don’t really care - I will use what works for me and I am not inclined to pay a significant premium for the “vision” until its value was evident. I doubt that I am an appropriate Roon client as I will only live in a walled garden if the garden is filled with joy and free of vexations. Apologies for any offence given.

There is a specific difference between your case and mine: the Geek Out is a self-contained device and it doesn’t have a separate power switch, so there is no problem with boot order. My situation occurred because the Geek Pulse has two boxes, and the sequence of turning them on interfered with the SOSE recognizing them. (I have a Geek Out too, works great.)

None of this is a fault of Roon or SOSE or LHL/Geek. It is just an observation (part of a long-running conversation) about the challenges of “computer-based audio”. What we get is a great deal of flexibility, which leads to cost reduction, both because we can combine various things to meet specific needs and because we can take advantage of competition – last year’s top-notch device is this year’s old dog. And it allows us to be early adopters. But the price we pay is complexity – there are too many boxes in the chain, and many things can go wrong. Not because they don’t work properly, but because of unanticipated interactions.

Meridian Sooloos, the technical predecessor of Roon, illustrates it perfectly: an equivalent of your setup is gorgeous and easy to set up but costs about $20,000, and progress is slow.

I’m very sensitive to this issue because I work in the IT industry: our classical customers are corporations that demand configuration flexibility and have the IT staff to make it work; in the new world (both mobile devices and cloud) people are more inclined to buy complete, integrated, closed systems. We can’t install cards in our phones or tablets or laptops, and in many cases we can’t even replace batteries. PCs were more flexible but more complex.

This conversation just reflects this tension. Most of us on this forum (even those who make self-deprecating comments) are skilled far beyond the general population. We can be satisfied with a small presence in the world, but I encourage the Roon team to think in terms of millions of customers, not thousands. (Billions? Probably not…)


@pncd, try as I might I have no idea what you’re on about and why you feel hard done by. It’s great that Roon is able to have it’s users enjoy the benefits of Roon without having to go out and purchase a RoonReady DAC or network player of whatever the hell marketeers ultimately choose to call them. I’m very happy to accept that a RoonReady device will provide a further enhanced user experience, so, if and when the time comes that I’m again in the market for a DAC I may well choose a RoonReady device…if, and only if it meets my requirements re sound. In the meantime I’m perfectly happy to have the flexibility to configure as many endpoints as take my fancy using RoonBridge to connect USB capable DACs. It would’ve been ludicrous had Roon’s position been such that current USB DACs were rendered incompatible with Roon because RoonBridge didn’t see the light of day.

It used to be called RoonSpeakers, but the name was changed to better describe what it is.
It is a small program that will run in a variety of operating systems and enable Roon to see the outputs from the device it is running on as network zones.

The more deeply integrated products take longer to make than bridges, but they are coming.

A vexing truth: more than half of the work we do with RoonReady partners is explaining this user experience to them and pushing them through the process of getting their hardware platforms to do it, or at least come as close as possible. A frustrating number of these hardware platforms are unable to get there because they lack the needed interconnects, or haven’t exposed control functionality cleanly enough to the software.

At least in that world, our profile is high enough that we are in a position to influence the next generation of products. But that takes time, too.

There are 1000s of DAC manufactures many of them boutique audio shops. 99% of DACs will never have RoonReady support built in. So it’s important to have bridges so everybody can use Roon.

I think it would be great if Roon shows a Roon player even if it couldn’t play. Maybe with an X over it or something. Right now a RoonReady Bridge doesn’t even show up in Roon if the DAC is not ready to play.

This makes trouble shooting more difficult then it needs to be. If Roon could say something like “Hey your DAC is turned off”. That would be huge!

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By the way, does anyone know if there was a request from LH Labs for Geek Source to work with Roon?