“A Roon Ready product is a hardware audio player which has implemented RAAT and been certified by the Roon team for proper implementation”. That’s how Roon themselves describe Roon Ready.
For the layman, it means the certified third party network device can play catch on the digital audio stream emanating from a Roon server before it is sent downstream for D/A conversion.
A lesser-known fact is that Roon’s RAAT network transmission protocol is asynchronous. That means the receiver (e.g. network streamer) controls data flow and timing. In other words, a Roon Ready device “owns the clock”; just as an asynchronous USB DAC owns the clock when connected to a PC or Mac. More info on RAAT can be found at Roon’s knowledge base here.
Roon announced the first round of hardware manufacturers seeking Roon Ready accreditation just prior to CES. That was January.
Of the eighteen hardware partners now listed on the Roon website, the majority remain asterisked as “coming soon”. View them as nearly Roon Ready.
A press release accompanied by a listing on Roon’s website indicates that the certification process is underway but has yet to be finalised. The manufacturer must first implement Roon’s SDK kit on their network device and have it thoroughly tested before final sign off by Roon’s own software dev team. Only then is it 100% Roon Ready. Official certification by Roon (theoretically) elevates quality control to a higher level than UPnP’s free-for-all.
Roon’s commitment to QC is further underlined by this statement from their website’s knowledge base: “Another requirement of the certification program is that hardware manufacturers leave devices with us long-term for support and QA purposes.”
AURALiC’s Aries (reviewed here), IQaudIO Rasperry Pi DAC (covered here) and Sonore’s Sonicorbiter SE (covered here) are three devices that are already classified as Roon Ready.
Moving this officially-certified trio up to a quartet this month is exaSound’s PlayPoint (‘PP’) – a US$1999 network streamer introduced by the Canadian manufacturer at RMAF some six months ago.
The PP’s front panel touchscreen display is feature not found on too many rivals – a nice point of difference.
In keeping music library and streamer self-contained, one might plug a USB hard drive into the PP’s back panel for indexing by MPD. Here, remote control comes via smartphone or tablet. exaSound recommend MPaD for iPad and MPoD for iPhone/iPod Touch. Android users are direct towards MPDroid.
Requiring a different set of smart device apps, the PP offers network streaming compatibility with UPnP, Open Home and Apple’s Airplay.
On file support, the PP will decode PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD up to 12.288MHz (aka 4XDSD or DSD256) AND it will do so with stereo or 8-channel surround sound content.
That’s a boon for the HQPlayer user looking to up-sample content to hi-res PCM or DSD before firing it over the network it to the PP. This streamer supports the NAA streaming protocol used by developer Signalyst.
A recent exaSound firmware update recently introduced Roon Readiness to the PlayPoint. It can now be fired up for automatic discovery by a pre-existing Roon server.
Lastly, a wrinkle. Well, more of a crease. The exaSound PlayPoint is presently only compatible with an exaSound DAC. The company offers three models. The e12 at US$1999, the e22 MKII at US$3499 and the flagship e28 MKII that sells for between US$3299 and US$3899 (depending on Femto clock optioning). Compare all three here. If you’ve got one of those, you’re set.
The Roon Ready count now stands at four (4). Expect to see details of further Roon Readied devices on DAR as soon as they become certified.