I could have gone without notice. This is for you to learn what hinders people (me and many others, as I read on your forums) to buy Roon.
I’ve been searching for a good multiroom solution for years. I came across Roon a few years ago and discarded it. Last week, I read about Roon Radio, about Valence and was enthusiastic. I upgraded my NAS to host the Roon Core, installed the Roon app on PC and smartphone. Invested hours and hours to polish my library, to have really clean ID3 tags and so much more.
I wanted you guys to be my music solution, I really wanted to love Roon. I can’t. Here’s why (and it’s things you could solve easily!!):
1. Roon Radio and Valence are a stranded investment.
Every autoplay feature promises to play music to your likings based on one or more tracks or artists. I tried Tidal and Roon at the same time, I tried Roon Radio first and really wanted to love it. I even gave it three shots (normal users give you 1 shot and if it doesn’t work within 3 tracks you lose).
First try: Play music similar to Marshmello and Halsey’s “Be Kind”. Roon Radio gave me a completely weird sequence of seemingly random tracks: Some heavy metal tracks (I hate metal), some hardcore techno tracks (I like techno, but not when I asked for modern radio pop), some weird indie pop tracks. Almost all of them by completely unknown artists dug from the depths of the Tidal archive. I used the “I don’t like” feedback multiple times, but it did not get better. Frustration.
Then I tried Tidal’s autoplay feature for the same track and was pampered by harmless modern radio pop for two hours. Wow, that was impressive! Skimmed the Roon forums and they’re full of complaints about Roon Radio not playing matching/similar music (but anything).
Second try: (next day) Play music similar to a melodic Calvin Harris track, I don’t remember the name. This was better, at least it started better. Similar music, nothing special, but after some tracks it went bad: Old rave tracks from my library, weird harcdore techno from Tidal. Again, feedback had no effect. Frustration.
Again, I tried the same with Tidal and got to know many tracks I loved at first “sight”.
Third try: Play music similar to Anne-Marie and Doja Cat’s “To be young”. Contrary to this calm, but powerful song, Roon Radio suggested only awful depressive whining music. Again, feedback didn’t change anything.
Do I have to tell you that Tidal did a perfect job on this, again?
Finally, yesterday evening was one of the best evenings ever: I love synthie-pop and always found it hard to find good new artists as radios don’t play it and amazon’s “customers who bought this…” function didn’t help either. So I told Tidal to play music similar to Chvrches’ album “Every open eye”, without much hope. Several hours later, I knew there’s an army of bands and tracks I never heard of, but already love!! Wow, I love Tidal!! But unfortunately not Roon.
What to do: Integrate Tidal’s autoplay feature in Roon, including track radio and artist radio. Include Tidal’s “My Mix” dynamic playlists in Roon. Stop investing in Roon Radio and Valence, it’s bloody crap, a massive failure, a giant stranded investment. Or restart from scratch, if you can afford it.
Additional thoughts on this:
- My impression is that people (me included) do not want to care about selecting music any more, they want to delegate this. To radio stations and music magazines, in the past. To modern matching algorithms, in the present. The best matching algorithm is nothing less than the centerpiece of any modern music platform.
- The large streaming platforms offer almost all music ever made (that has at least a little market). They most likely have every single track you have in your library. Therefore, having a library is worthless as soon as you have an account with one of the streaming platforms. This might lead to: Roon is useless as it is used to manage your library. I think you saw this coming and this is why you invested so much into Roon Radio and Valence. It must be hard to see you failed.
- Roon is based on your library. This can be a plus, but it will mostly be a weakness: Your library represents your musical past and only a small fraction are the tracks you actually hear. So the suggestions are based on what you loved in the past but don’t want at present. It’s like being forced into shoes you outgrew years ago.
2. Albums are not albums.
I have around 1500 EDM tracks from the year 2000 to now. Almost all of them do NOT belong to any album. They are just tracks. All of them reside in one folder (“EDM”). I invested one whole night to edit all 1500 ID3 tags to ensure there’s no album and no album artist tag set. To my utter frustration, I had to see that Roon lists every single of those tracks as a separate “album”, all of those “albums” named “EDM” (the name of the folder was taken because there’s no album tag).
Those “albums” pollute my album list. If I’m in the mood to listen to some albums, I cannot find any as the album view is full of “EDM” “albums”. I have about 300 albums, but Roon says I have 1774.
What to do: An album is only an album if it has an album tag. Otherwise, it must not be part of the albums list. All of those tracks are part of the titles list, of course.
3. Wrong album covers
I have lots of albums in one folder, because my folders are structured by genre, not by artist. I save the mp3 or flac files and sometimes a cover jpg. But Roon thinks that all those jpgs belong to all music files in this folder. Roon got it right only if the music file contained an image in the ID3 tag. If the music file did not contain a cover image, Roon presented the first of the jpgs saved in the folder as the “cover image”, proudly stating that it found 45 other images for this album as well (the other jpgs in this folder). So, for most albums of one genre, it presented the same wrong cover image. If it wasn’t so frustrating, it would be funny…
I managed to get rid of the wrong cover images by deleting all the jpgs in the genre folders.
What to do: Ignore additional jpgs in the music folders. Or match the filenames: Only show the jpg if its filename matches the beginning of the music file name.
Roons UI/UX is outdated and needs a remake. The menu structure is not optimal, especially Live Radio having two menu entries (one for your curated selection, one for stations I saved).
Tidal integration is not complete: I had the impression that when searching, library matches come first, Tidal matches come below. This is short-sighted as there’s no need to buy new albums as Tidal has them all. It would be better to integrate the search results.
Technical note: Hosting Roon Core on my Synology DS218+ was a breeze. I upgraded the RAM by 8GB (to 10GB total), plugged a 120GB SSD, installed the latest Roon version from roononnas.org on the SSD and was up and running. Roon impressed me with fabulous indexing speed. I never experienced stuttering, nor wait times or connection problems. One note: You can’t run Synology Media Server and Roon Core at the same time. DSM will say they’re both running, but Roon will randomly stop playback every 2 or 3 minutes.
So what am I up to now?
Heck, I just don’t know. After trying to love Roon, I’m single again.
- Tidal has fabulous UI/UX and the autoplay function leads my musical life to new heights, but it is not multiroom capable. Besides that, it can’t play albums from my library, but this is not a problem as all music is on Tidal, anyways. Maybe I’ll add all albums in my library to the albums list on Tidal. Then I have my library with me everywhere and it will not be polluted by “albums” (see 2.) or show wrong cover art as Roon did.
- Chromecast is the way to go? I realized that I can play to chromecast devices from Tidal’s PC and Android and even iOS app. So we’re covered for our primary use case “play X in room Y”. Using the Google Home app, I can create speaker groups and cast from the Tidal app to the group. This even covers multiroom use cases The only problem is that the Tidal app is not networked: If I start the music on one device, I cannot skip a track from another. But I can stop it from there and start playing something else. Edit: Using the Google Home app, I can even skip tracks
- Chromecast can be set up in an audiophile way as it basically only tells the network player to play X from source Y. Sound quality is not affected by your phone/pc/device, it only depends on the quality of your network player (how about a Linn Klimax DSM?! ).
- Internet Radio: Same. Use an internet radio app and chromecast to your endpoint. For me, radio.at works well.
Sure, I would have wanted all of this baked into ONE system. But there is no such system, so I’ll have to live with this scattered ecosystem for another while…