Trying streaming again in 2020

tl;dr: Everyone should try streaming (again), if available to them; it is better than you imagine (or remember).

Earlier this spring there was extensive discussion regarding whether Roon “cares” about local music libraries (pace @danny). My sole contribution to that thread was to posit that certain subsets of the Roon population might have rational reasons to have local libraries, at least in the short to medium term. While my views were met with some combination of pity and scorn (my admittedly sensitive soul’s view of it anyway), I wondered whether I should really try streaming again. Tidal offered a $4 CAD plan for 4 months, so effectively with no risk or investment. (Qobuz is not available in Canada, alas.) Here are some personal observations to share about my (re-)discovery process.

Choice
It is astonishing how many recordings are now available via streaming platforms. Outside of a few (critical) label holdouts (Hyperion for example), I have not found any glaring, material omissions in the genres I know something about, so far. Sure, I have a (not insignificant) number of CDs that can’t be streamed (yet), but if I didn’t already have them (and know about them) I might not likely miss them too much, truth be told.

More to the point, I have felt like a “kid in the candy store”, poking about for new things to listen to, with the magical “Add to Library” action which feels so great. It is the akin to the feeling I had when I first went to Oberlin Conservatory and had access to their recordings library; the euphoria I felt listening to organum for the first time for example, something that I had never even heard of as a young musician growing up in rural Alaska. It is astounding how fun it all is.

Verdict: A+

Discoverability
I finally understood the Roon Advantage™, because the process of following Artist and other links to discover new stuff is so much fun. I hadn’t needed to do this with my own library before because a) my library was only 55k+ tracks and b) I remember most of it pretty well. So, I didn’t “get” it. I do understand dicoverabiliy via Roon better now.

Are there problems? Yes, especially related to metadata accuracy: occasionally ensembles get conflated (La Fenice for example), and this is even more apparrent with the much larger volume of available recordings now. And, I suspect that metadata will continue to be a significant problem in classical music.

The only negative part so far? The design decision to display “tracks” (AKA “works”) instead of albums (in some views at least). An album view is almost always easier to navigate, at least for me. Let’s say you want to view what Tidal recordings are available devoted to Landini (14th century Italy composer): a list of works (aka “tracks”) is much less readable than a list of albums, because there will be many (short) pieces but relatively few albums. Maybe there is a way to toggle this in the GUI?

Verdict: A (still amazing)

Roon Radio
Well, a polarizing experience. At times, I was led to some amazing finds: early on, a recording of Vivanco by Capilla Flamenca that somehow I had missed. Or a contrabassoon recital that I never would have even considered buying. Or an old Alla Francesca recording that was new to us… and on and on and on.

On the flip side, occasional blips into absolutely “crappy” recordings. Classical isn’t curated in any meaningful way, so for every major label there is a budget knockoff with many “50 best piano favourites” albums or some such nonsense. This is the cost of serendipity I guess: there is no effective “quality” meter (yet).

If I could implement any integration I wanted, I would try to work out a deal with Presto (classical and jazz retailer in the UK) so that Roon had access to the meta information about recordings (the awards won etc) that Presto has amased, and use that to preferentially weight those recordings slightly higher. Maybe in return for a link to Presto to buy the recording, for those that still want to own rather than rent? A dream, perhaps.

Verdict: pretty good, all things considered.

New Releases For You
This feature has so much promise, and yet also has somewhat of a long road ahead. For example, one time when I looked, of the first “screen” of 8 classical albums, 4 (half) were “garbage” recordings. Subjective, yes, but instantly recognizable. To my eyes, these were “spam”. Again, poor consistency in classical metadata will limit possibilities, but in other genres this feature will be interesting.

Another challenge is that there are some ensembles that are between or even blends of genres: easy to hear and describe verbally, but not currently defined in metadata in a way that allows Roon to understand their “essence”. For example, my wife is a fan of Kris Drever (Scottish singer and guitar player), and to suggest classic British folk music is really to miss the point. Or, another example: The Cat Empire (Australian band). For Roon to suggest other Australian bands also is to miss the essence of their music and why you may like it, simply based on one of the few data points available.

Verdict: the future is bright, but a work in progress.

Conclusion
I have continued to pay for Tidal. :slight_smile:

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And if/when you stop paying, your “collection” magically disappears. Poof! Streaming might be the future, but I like collecting things and calling them mine - without a subscription. Each to his own.

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Streaming is not “the future” it is “now” more than ever. CD format is totally dead.

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Is that a statement as nobody mentioned CD’s? And whilst I no longer buy CD’s it cannot be said that the format is dead. They are still being manufactured and sold. Sure you can say that the medium is not selling the way it once was and perhaps its future looks bleak. However, dead no.

You only have to look at various music/audio forums to see that people still love them & buy them. Given this forum is about streaming, the likelihood that people still buy CD’s here would be lower than other forums not dedicated to streaming.

Cheers.

Audioforums are a niche, it’s only >0.01% of music consumers. Most children nowadays don’t know any better than streaming, it is what they grow up with. We are the last generation that has ever bought music, just like we where the last generation that has ever used a typewriter.

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Yes, I agree, we’re probably the last generation to buy/own music on physical media, but at least I moved on from tapes and LP’s, lol! Besides, CD on ebay can be a real bargain these days.

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Actually, I stream, buy downloads as well as CDs. I still like to own music that I particularly like. Sometimes the cost of a CD (usually box sets) is much cheaper than purchasing the download.

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I’m one of the dying breed that buy. My LP buying has slowed as I don’t live with my main system these days - I am not in my ‘real’ home, with no timeline to return (unfortunately).

I buy digital downloads & don’t subscribe to any streaming service. I did try Tidal not too long before subscribing to Roon. With some 5750 albums on my NAS alone for the odd piece of new music I don’t get to hear immediately is neither here nor there to me.

Further, I found Tidal didn’t have quite a lot of albums that I own & like, not to mention the recommendations and push toward music I don’t care for offputting. I suspect Spotify would have a marginally better selection that meets my needs, but for starters it doesn’t integrate with Roon.

I’m also not a fan of flicking/fast forwarding/skipping tracks. We know that’s how the younger generation listen (to a large extent). It’s about songs, not albums. I’m still an album kind of person (that’s not to say I don’t ever skip) & I don’t like the way many use streaming services to just sample & move on without truly listening and getting to know an album. Along with that, I like to listen to lyrics, just as I did when I was a kid, rather than just glossing the surface.

Of course that’s just me & each to their own!

Cheers.

Never feel any obligation to listen to a full album from start to finish. Skippity do dah. My background is similar and my crowd also frowns upon single-song listening removed from the album order placement. Screw that noise and the people that pressure you to listen in that antiquated format.

Streaming is the bomb. It is like having a record store (dated, but the OP gets it), and being able to play any artist, album, or song on a whim. You can fast-forward, skip, repeat, pause, and do a number of things to a particular song that were never before available to consumers.

The point is, just enjoy yourself. Music is enjoyable.

Same here, I stream but also enjoy treasure hunting for used CDs at a few local retailers and online stores. The thrill of finding a gem for a few bucks can’t be beat - and way more satisfying than the sugar rush of the Qobuz/Tidal shopping spree.

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Great post, @Nathan_Wilkes !
Streaming sure has matured, and it is wonderful to live in the golden age of access. We have great streaming services, vinyl, CDs, and downloads. Most releases are available in most of these formats, so we can pick our poison. I still purchase new and used CDs, SACDs, and purchase downloads quite frequently. Most of what I have on vinyl is available on the streaming services, so I don’t play vinyl much anymore, but I understand its attraction and hope it’s future remains bright.

I support The success of all of these formats and don’t buy into the popular habit of shunning one format over another, although about 93% of my listening is by streaming local ripped/downloaded files via Roon. Streaming fills in the gaps for me. I have about 1k LPs, but I should really gift them to my son, who is 99% vinyl.

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The thing is, you can do both. If a recording is so important, go and buy it. Streaming has allowed me to sample so much without committing to a purchase and also to enjoy all the music I could never afford to own in an earlier life. Should it all disappear in a ‘Poof’, I know what to buy and can enjoy the process of tracking it down.

The problem is, new cars no longer boast CD players in them. A tragic mistake in my opinion and one that will hurt performing artist very badly down the road.

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Very true Chris - we all listen to music in our car.

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Streaming is right for all the reasons mentioned… especially discovering new artists and music.
But… when I listen to my most beloved music… nothing beats a well recorded vinyl LP. So rich and detailed.

Even though it was probably digitally mastered…

I will not be renewing my Roon subscription, much prefer my Tidal app, always enoy listening to new music, especially love the ever increasing amount of MQA music available there.

You mean, so full of second order harmonics. Yes, that can sound pleasant to the ears but if your system is “voiced” to this it will have a hard time sounding good on digital sources as well.

Streaming only – when your only need is the latest remastered edition.

(which is never?)


Streaming can only be a handy complementary service for me and could never replace owned media (in whatever form and shape they come).

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