I’m investigating Roon as a replacement for our current method of playing music in the home, which is via a set of Bluetooth-enabled Marshall powered speakers. Is it possible to connect a small, discreet device to the Marshall speakers (either physically, or via Bluetooth) to enable them to stream via RAAP over wifi (i.e. to effectively make them “Roon ready?” I am not an audio tech expert so simple answers please! And before you ask, no, I do not want to replace the Marshall speakers - apart from the cost, I do not like the aesthetics of most of the roon-ready speakers on the market.
You can stream via BT from the pc running the Roon core software to them or a Roon remote will do the same if you connect it via BT. This will be a compressed stream due to nature of BT so lossless or high res playback is off the table using this method. It will only use RAAT until it hits the Bluetooth output of your device.
What other connections do the speakers have?
If you have a line in then any Roon Ready streaming box with a built in DAC can be used to bridge playing from the Pc running the core software to your speakers. Various prices available so this depends on what your budget is. If you not worried about hires then you could use any type of AirPlay receiver as they are pretty cheap as Roon can send to that easily. The wiim mini pro is a cheap way to achieve this but quality of its DAC isn’t stellar it’s best used with a better quality outboard DAC.
You can just buy a DAC and attach it to the pc running Roon core via USB and take its line out to the speakers.
If the speakers have any digital inputs then that opens other avenues.
I’d say, get a Bluesound Node 2i, or an Allo Katana Player, and run it into the aux input of your Marshall.
Might be useful if you posted a link to the exact model of your Marshall powered speakers.
But assuming it has a RCA line in or a 3.5mm AUX input you could either use a small RAAT bridge (like a Raspberry Pi running Roopiee), a used Chromecast Audio (note this is a now discontinued model with a 3.5mm audio output) or a used Apple AirPort N Express (A1264).
The last two would add ChromeCast or AirPlay support to your speaker, so not RAAT but likely more than fine for a portable bluetooth speaker. Both could be connected to either a 3.5mm jack or RCA input with an appropriate cable. The AirPort Express (A1264)] can also be picked up very cheaply. The one downside is that you can’t group ChromeCast or AirPlay speakers with RAAT zones.
You can get USB Bluetooth Transmitters which you could connect to a USB port on your Roon Core machine and then pair it with your Marshall Bluetooth speakers. If you go this route you’ll need a USB transmitter that presents itself as a USB sound card (the regular / cheap USB bluetooth adaptors you get for mice / keyboards won’t work). The cheap Chinese ones are bit hit and miss and are forever changing their names. Probably the easiest way to find one that will work is to look for a USB Bluetooth headphone adaptor that works with a PlayStation / PS4. I haven’t used this model myself but some people seem to have success with Creative’s BT transmitters.
A word of warning though, I tried doing something similar with an older Sennheiser Bluetooth transmitter and in the end gave up as the Bluetooth connection would drop and re-pairing it with my speakers became a pain. So if you go down this path make sure you can return the adaptor as you may find it’s just too flaky & unreliable to practically use.
Personally if your Marshall speaker has stereo RCA inputs on the back and can find an old AirPort Express (A1264) for ~$15 on eBay (or a Chromecast Audio for a few dollars more) then I’d go that route as that will give you a solid and reliable connection without any resampling or dropouts. You’ll either need a 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable or 3.5mm to 3.5mm stereo cable depending on what AUX / LINE IN inputs your speaker has.
All other RAAT options will start to get expensive or complex, a standard RPi in a nice case will set you back ~$100 (and that’s if you can find one) and I’m guessing that running RoonBridge on Raspberry Pi Zero is probably outside your technical comfort zone.
The Chromecast Audio works well if you can find one. I’m listening to one right now.
I just furnished my old TV soundbar, an old android phone, and a 3.5mm cable into a Roon Ready streamer for the shower.
Thanks for the ideas, folks. My core is in a closet and I have thick walls in my house (300 year old farmhouse) so direct Bluetooth from the core to the speaker isn’t really an option. Speaker model is a Marshall Action II - it has a 3.5mm AUX input only. Given that I’m still in experimentation mode to an extent, I think I’ll pick up a chromecast device from eBay and see how that works before taking it further.