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Everyone wins with Roon, DAR!

  • DAR is an audiophile publication – that much is obvious – but we’re not ones to hide our love of the gear behind a love of music. What sets this webzine apart is the music upon which it is built, especially the music used to conduct reviews; it is, in the main, different to other mags.

    My own tastes lean heavily on alternative rock, indie rock and large helpings of electronic music; more specifically, techno and its siblings IDM, electronica and ambient techno. In listening to everything from Neil Young & Crazy Horse to Biosphere to Deadbeat to Les Savy Fav, I subjectively assess the sonic characteristics of loudspeakers, headphones, amplifiers, D/A converters and streamers.

    Helping me organise and access my music, both local and on Tidal, is Roon. I’ve covered the whys and wherefores here, here, here, here and here. To say that I’m a fan is an understatement. Roon returns some much needed visual pleasure to digital audio library navigation and playback. Roon also strips the setup pain from network audio. 


    What does the DAR readership listen to? It’s something I’ve often considered. One might reasonably assume that the average reader would subsist on a diet of classical, jazz and chicks with guitars. After all, and despite a couple of notable exceptions, this the music that dominates at audio shows.

    Not so fast. The number of comments spilling in response to the Roon license giveaway competition was seriously impressive – over 150 of you took the time to list your top 5 albums of all time. Talk about quantity.

    However, more remarkable was the quality of those top 5 lists. Over 90% of artists listed could be found on my music server. Perhaps an even higher percentage on Enno Vandermeer’s, CEO of Roon Labs. We note only a single mention of Diana Krall (and her ilk). The remainder, to borrow from millennial verbiage for a moment, was straight fire. Refresh your memories here. In short, you guys rock!

    Not an easy task then for Vandermeer to pick his favourite three entries. So impressed was our man from Roon that he intends to offer a prize to everyone who entered the competition:

    “When John approached us about the idea of a contest, it was more than exciting; we knew this was a great opportunity to create a dialog that wasn’t about audio hardware, software, and file or streaming formats.

    The subject would be music – but we struggled with what the contest question should be. As is often the case, keeping it simple seemed like the best solution: list your Top 5 Albums of All Time for a chance to win a year’s worth of Roon.

    On the surface, it all seemed so simple…but once I saw John’s post (which included not one, but three Top 5 lists) I began to obsess. How would I go about selecting my Top 5? Seminal/influential albums by genre? Sentimental albums (including all the “guilty pleasures”)? A broad cross-genre variety? A “smart guy” list – think: Jack Black’s character in the movie version of High Fidelity?

    As it turns out, even harder than choosing your Top 5 is selecting three winners from the overwhelming response (. I’ve discovered (and rediscovered) so much music by going through these lists that it’s taken me nearly two months to finish the selection. Choosing “winners” is both ridiculous and impossible, so here goes… With no scientific basis at all (and with a heavy personal bias), the three winners are:

    In the category of “I Wish I Had Made This List”:

    Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    The Rapture – Echoes
    Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
    Bob Marley & the Wailers – Catch a Fire
    Radiohead – Kid A

    In the category of “Lists Featuring Beach Boys and Beastie Boys”:

    Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
    The Clash – London Calling
    The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds
    Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson
    Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

    In the category of “Wow, So Many Genres!”:

    Tang CO
    Keith Jarrett – The Koln Concert
    M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
    Angela Hewitt – Goldberg Variations
    Mogwai – Central Belters
    Van Morrison – Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

    These three readers will each receive a 1-year Roon membership. [They each have emails from yours trult in their inboxes – Ed].

    We thought about some runner-up awards but because choosing three (or even ten) winners from over 100 responses is somewhat preposterous. As such, we’d like to offer a 90-day Roon membership to everyone who responded. Just email us at [email protected] with a copy of the list you posted and we’ll set you up.


    And because it seems a little weak to ask DAR’s readers to cough up their hard-considered Top 5 lists without doing so myself, I have struggled mightily to pare down the 80-odd albums that absolutely had to be included. I’ve taken a cue from John and put together three lists that could serve as my own top 5 (in a pinch), even though no single list could possibly do the heavy lifting alone:

    • Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works, Volume 2
    • Tom Waits – Bone Machine
    • Meshell Ndegeocello – Peace Beyond Passion
    • Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
    • Tool – Aenima
    • Ahmad Jamal – Pittsburgh
    • Peter Gabriel – Us
    • Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
    • Massive Attack – Mezzanine
    • James Blake – Overgrown
    • Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygene
    • Meshuggah – Destroy Erase Improve
    • Bjork – Post
    • Jeff Buckley – Grace
    • John Coltrane – Blue Train

    Thanks to everyone who participated!”

    Agreed. Thanks go to Roon for their generosity here. We’ll almost certainly be running a similar competition in the coming months.

    Further information: Roon Labs

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John is the editor of Darko.Audio, from whose ad revenues he derives an income. He is an occasional contributor to 6moons but has previously written pieces for TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile. John used to live in Sydney. Now he lives in Berlin.

    Follow John on YouTube or Twitter


    1. Roon is great stuff. I really miss using it. Will renew my subscription once they add support for digital room correction convolution (similar to the convolution engine in JRiver).

    2. Thanks to ROON! and DAR! for bringing this to the people. It was a lot of fun to see others list. They generous to offer a trial as well! Really looking forward to checking out Roon for myself.

    3. Odd. “Top” anything. This is organic stuff, like agriculture. Each season produces new and often more interesting crop of music. What’s created is never wholly new, just building on the past with a twist of new technology and the very fact that artists are born into a “new” world – of experiences of all kinds. We all evolve, so even the familiar produces a different experience. “You can’t go home again”. Much like wine, the environment (food and everyone and everything when we partake) becomes part of the experience. We’re all really “sampling”…

      What Roon does is add more to the mix, especially much of what was lost in vinyl liner notes. It’s a pathway to connections and undiscovered country, without the burden of some DJ or other serial “guide”. Not an overlord, but a bit more of a “nudge”. It might be nice to have it more clearly differentiate between our own collection and the world of sound beyond. That would help in the discovery process. Maybe a better and more intelligent linkage to cloud libraries would make that possible. The music library on the ‘Net where we can sample the artist would benefit listeners.

    4. Nice lists! I’m going to have to search through the rest. I totally agree with your observation as to regular music shows – while not exactly my top 5’s 80% lives on my server too! Why don’t I have any public enemy however, is beyond me!

    5. Being able to better relate to the music referenced in DAR makes the reviews and discussions easier to relate to. Given many of the musical references in the competition, it seems likely that many of us are in or around our forties and as such, probably represent that tail end of the mainstream stereo / HiFi / Audiophile generation.

      As for Roon, it has so transformed the way I enjoy music over the past several months, that I sprang for an iPad (a device I have no other use case for) to use as a remote control.

    6. This is very goos news.
      Believe it or not, I had come to the conclusion this morning that I had to give a try to Roon trial.

      Initially I know I will install Roon Bridge on my Raspberry Pi3.

      But now my question becomes, which is the most cost/effective hardware solution to run Roon Server?

      In my initial thinking I have identified the following options:

      1) Mac Mini i5, 16Gb, 256Gb SSD (1099$)
      2) Small Green Computer Sonic Transporter i5 (645$)
      3) Intel NUC i5 (NUC6i5SYH+16Gb Ram+250Gb SSD) (583$)
      4) Other ?

      Any hint would be good….

      • Before I moved to a NUC, I was using a MacMini but I know that Michael Lavorgna over at AudioStream digs the the Sonic Transporter. 🙂

      • Check the Roonlabs site for minimum specs for a Roon Core/Server. I’m currently using a 5TB USB WD drive attached to a fast most current MacMini with 8GB mem. The bigger your library, the more capable server hardware you’ll want. When I communicated with James at SGC he didn’t think any of his options would better the MacMini hardware.

    7. HI JD,

      With author consent, I would love to see say 20 lists published in order to rediscover some great albums.

    8. I use it for a year by now (with a lifetime subscription) the best investment I did for my music library !

    9. I added some amazing music to my Roon library from all the responses. Thanks everyone for all the responses!

      I’m still on an annual Roon subscription. Is the 90-days only for new subs or can it be applied to an active annual subscription?

    10. Hey John!

      Maybe you could compile a list of all the albums that were entered and sort by popularity? It might give some of the readers to explore new music. Thank you!



    11. RE: “As such, we’d like to offer a 90-day Roon membership to everyone who responded.”
      Even the guy who mentioned Krall?!

    12. On Roon and Tidal – does it integrate the ENTIRE Tidal library or just the titles the you’ve marked as a “favorite” (i.e. my music)?

      • The *entire* library is available but titles marked as favourites appear as if part of your local library.

    13. Hi John,
      One of the concessions I will make to Fremer and the other vinyl zealots is that there is something very enticing about being able to sit down with another music freak and talk favorite albums with the physical media in your hands. Mikael Stanne isnt a name that will be familiar to many of your readers, and I expect that many arent particularly entranced by death metal in any form, but to sit down with this guy over a coffee and talk favorite albums with him would be fantastic. Roon, as good as it is, will never really equal that experience.

      I dont know how many stores Blackplastic have in Germany, but I can assure you that there is nothing like this anywhere near me in Darwin 🙁

      • I agree. Vinyl is enjoyable in so very many ways but my findings with entry-level turntables – probably 90% of those that are sold – is that they don’t sound as good as that same cash spent on a DAC and streamer. What I saying in a circuitous way is that the black stuff’s resurgence is about many things (nostalgia, tangibility, active listening etc.) but I don’t think sound quality – through actual tried and tested A/B comparisons and not the received wisdom of “rich, warm” – is the prime motivator here.

        My search for a sub-$1500 turntable + phono stage combo that bests the Schiit Bifrost multibit and/or Chord Mojo paired with a Sonore microRendu continues.

    Time capsule #1: Prefab Sprout on the Pioneer PLX-500 turntable

    iFi Audio’s Black Label micro iDSD can go everywhere you do