Double E. Once we get past the wow factor of the Roon interface – it begs to be touched – the first E-word surfaces: expense. At US$119/year or US$499 for a lifetime license, Roon isn’t cheap and being glib about money isn’t cool. Instead, we might reframe our view of software’s role in an audio system. Roon isn’t chained to a single device like a Mac or PC, its network audio connectivity makes it extensible. That’s today’s second E-word.
The newcomer’s Roon experience often begins on a Mac or Windows PC firing digital audio directly into a DAC over USB. Here Roon’s triple-deck software layering might not be readily apparent. Inside the application sits the following: 1) a file server; 2) a music player; 3) an interface (or skin) that controls the connection between 1) and 2).
The first component to secede is usually the control interface. Roon Remote can be installed on any (compatible) Android tablet, iPad or iPhone.
Then comes Roon Ready devices like AURALiC’s Aries/LE, Sonore’s microRENDU and Sonicorbiter SE or the IQAudIO RPi DAC (among others) which replace the original Windows PC or Mac as playback device. The PC/Mac is now free to be tucked away out of sight in a cupboard or spare bedroom where it sends files over the network to the Roon Ready device now supplying the DAC.
No longer a newcomer, the Roon user need not fuss over a consumer grade PC or Mac’s audiophile credentials (and noise profile) now that his/her Roon Ready device handles playback.
The Roon triangle is now fully exposed by its networked hardware layout: 1) Roon Core (server) running on a Mac or PC, 2) a Roon Ready playback device connected to DAC and 3) Roon Remote running on tablet or smartphone that controls the connection between 1) and 2).
It’s as easy as 1 – 2 – 3.
Let’s exemplify: at DAR HQ, Roon’s trio of software components run on three separate devices. Roon is installed on a Windows 10-loaded NUC on my work desk but only its server (Core) sees regular use: it manages the contents of a USB-attached HDD and serves music files to the networked Roon Ready DEQX PreMate+ sat in a Hifi Racks rack across the room.
When I’m sat on the couch, remote control is handled by an iPhone. When I’m sat at my work desk and iPhone out of reach, the NUC’s own Roon GUI is called upon.
Next week (or the week after), Roon Ready code is expected to land on the PS Audio DirectStream Junior when it will take the place of the DEQX as the Roon Ready device of choice. The NUC running Windows 10 however will hold tight to Roon Core duties.
The NUC could easily be substituted for any Mac running Mac OS – but what about Linux?
Mark Jenkins’ second generation Fedora-based DX server runs both the Roon Core (server) and the Roon Ready (player) components; their RAAT-fuelled conversation is internal. The Roon Ready playback engine is what influences sound quality here but the DX could just as easily be deployed as server only, sending files to either the DEQX or the PS Audio device. US$6500 is a lot of scratch just to use the DX as a file server.
A more financially sane choice might be a NAS devices from QNAP and Synology. From today, these are now fully Roon Core compatible.
Roon’s latest press release explains: “The one thing we keep hearing is that users wish they had more options for where to run their Roon Core. Today, we’re proud to announce Roon Server for compatible QNAP and Synology NAS devices, which means you can enjoy the Roon experience without a PC!”
Rather than develop QNAP- and Synology-compatible Core code in-house, Roon Labs collaborated with community developer Chris Rieke.
“Chris Rieke had started working on the Synology version of Roon Server on his own, so we contacted him and arranged to work together on these projects. Chris will be involved in the maintenance and support for both of these NAS packages in the future.”
For those not already in possession of QNAP or Synology NAS, or those ruminating on how their existing NAS device’s hardware profile will cope when running Roon Core, the recommendation from the horse’s mouth is as follows “Any NAS with a 64-bit Intel CPU is compatible, but to get the best experience, we strongly recommend a top-of-the-line (Core i3 or i5) NAS with expanded RAM (4GB or more).”
More information on hardware requirements and as well as instructions on how to install Roon Core on a NAS can be found over at Roon Labs’ Knowledge Base.
Further information: Roon Labs