or maybe I’m not understanding something?
This post in intended as a discussion for the various ways to work around Roon and why asking for certain features in Roon makes no sense. Specifically why asking for things like Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, etc. shows a lack of understanding on what Roon is and where it sits in your digital audio path.
To level-set: The reference Roon install is standalone Core (NuC or otherwise), one or more Audio Endpoints or Zones (running RAAT), and a Remote. All 3 should be separate. Having them separate isn’t critical for this discussion but keep that in mind as you read through this.
What is Roon? From the website “Using your files and streaming music, Roon builds you an interconnected digital library.”
At its heart, Roon is library management.
In the world of audio you have media, source components, transports, analog frontends (like pre-amps, amplifiers, etc.), and ultimately some way of changing air pressure to produce sound and I’ll call those things speakers.
If you have a vinyl playback system you’ll have a bookshelf for library/media management (maybe a spreadsheet), records, record player / phono pre-amp (as source component / transport), pre-amp, etc.
If you have CDs you’ll have a similar bookshelf for library/media management, CDs, a CD transport, DAC (sometimes in same box as transport), pre-amp, etc.
So where does Roon fit?
Roon is your bookshelf and your spreadsheet or however else you keep track of what media you own. That’s it! At its heart it is a very nice bookshelf. The nicest bookshelf you’ve ever seen for storing and organizing digital media.
But, a digital bookshelf doesn’t work well if it doesn’t have the ability to “serve” media. Unlike your records and CDs you’re certainly not going to move digital files from your bookshelf to your transport just to listen to something. That’s silly. That’d be like having a bookshelf of USB drives you plug into a transport when you want to listen to something. We do this for physical media. We are not going to do it for digital (or soft) media.
A soft media bookshelf, for that reason, requires a way to “stream” that soft media from its storage location to a digital transport. Roon just happens to do this better than anything else (opinion). Roon has a bunch of support to stream soft media from your bookshelf to your transport including Roon Advanced Audio Transport (RAAT) being the preferred. Others are LMS, Airplay, Cast, Sonos, HQPlayer Audio Adapter, etc.
Tidal and Spotify are bookshelves. That is, they provide a way for you to access soft media and feed that media to a digital transport (usually the same thing you’re using as a “remote”).
But, wait, doesn’t Roon work with Tidal and Qobuz? Think of it this way. Roon takes the Tidal and Qobuz bookshelves and then merge them with your own bookshelf. That is, you still only have “The Roon Bookshelf” when using Roon. But, if you’ve connected Tidal and/or Qobuz to Roon then you get this amazing merged bookshelf of soft media. But, you’re not really using Tidal or Qobuz’s bookshelf. You’re still using your own Roon bookshelf.
OK, one bookshelf, your Roon bookshelf. Your Roon bookshelf is serving soft media to a digital transport over a well supported ecosystem of protocols.
What is Tidal Connect? It is a way to stream from the Tidal bookshelf to your digital transport. The key here is that your streaming from a different bookshelf that is not Roon. Roon does not have access to the Tidal bookshelf. It only has access to the Roon bookshelf. Your Roon bookshelf. Same with Spotify.
If you want to use Tidal or Spotify Connect than you need to use an app that has access to those bookshelves. That is, you need to be in the Spotify or Tidal application.
How do we work around Roon? Remember the reference architecture using standalone remotes and digital transports? If you follow the reference then make sure your Remote device supports Spotify and/or Tidal app and make sure your digital transport (audio endpoint) supports Tidal and/or Spotify Connect. When you want to stream from those bookshelves then you’re all set. Open the application that has access to that bookshelf and point it at the transport that supports that service. Done. Easy. No reason for Roon to get involved here.
What about Bluetooth? Where is the bookshelf? Is it an app on your phone? Is it a file on your phone? Again, it’s not Roon’s bookshelf so don’t get Roon involved. Just get a transport that supports BT (either DAC or headphones etc.).
But you want Roon to stream its bookshelf to a BT device? There are transports which will take a network stream and push it into BT. I can, almost, understand why Roon would support this directly but BT is a support nightmare. If you think the forums are filled with issues relating to streaming over Wifi wait until people try using BT. It’s ugly. Honestly, if you want BT streaming just use Roon App on your phone / tablet and connect that phone / tablet to a BT speaker that way. Your phone / tablet is optimized for this. A metal heatsink which houses a Roon Core is not.
Well… that’s my view of the world. My world starts at the bookshelf. If I wanted access to a bunch of dissociate bookshelves I’d use Sonos. I want one bookshelf so I use Roon. I use RAAT to stream from that bookshelf. That’s the Roon way. That’s the way it should be. Probably makes me a “fanboy/fangirl”. I don’t think Roon has enough swag to truly have “fanboy’s / fangirl’s” yet (get on it Roon) but hopefully some day.
If you really want to start bolting other bookshelves onto Roon there are a couple notable extensions which already do this:
OK, what’s your world? What’s your view and why am I wrong?
(and, as always, thanks for reading)
EDIT: I don’t work for Roon. I’m just a user and a fan. I’m not speaking for Roon Labs with this post. At any time Roon Labs could change focus or software roadmap and make this whole discussion irrelevant. I feel the post was relevant at the time I submitted it. I have no idea if it is still relevant when you are reading it some time after I submitted it.