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Roon 1.5 adds MQA, Linn DS support

  • Roon v1.5 is upon us.

    The software update’s first new feature smooths the setup path for newcomers and power users: Roon now offers automatic device discovery and configuration. Fire up the software for the first time and Roon will auto-detect and auto-configure every Roon Ready streamer and Roon Tested DAC on the network. Invisible to the end user, Roon will draw on a newly-coded internal database of Roon-capable devices that details optimal settings for each device:

    From v1.5’s release notes: “Over the last couple of months, we’ve been building a database of audio devices, starting with every Roon Tested and Roon Ready device. For each device, we are capturing dozens of data points, everything from its input/output connections to its preferred USB settings, to its implementation quirks. The database will continue to grow over time, and will eventually be made accessible to everyone, as a reference and troubleshooting guide.”

    Attach a new Roon-capable device to the network and Roon will pop-up a message asking if you want to stream music to it. Answer in the affirmative and Roon will automatically take care of setup and activation.

    Next out of the new feature gate is the long-awaited MQA support. Like Tidal’s desktop app and Audirvana+, Roon v1.5 will execute the first unfold – to 24bit/88.2kHz or to 24bit/96kHz – before passing the resulting hi-res data downstream to the DAC. This data hand-off can take place over USB to a direct-connected DAC or over the network to an Ethernet/wifi-connected streamer.

    However, Roon’s new internal hardware device database makes it aware of a DAC’s pre-existing MQA capabilities and it can withhold the first unfold when necessary, allowing a fully MQA-capable DAC (like the Mytek Brooklyn+) to execute both rendering and decoding. In the case of the rendering-only devices (like the AudioQuest DragonFlys), Roon will still execute the first unfold before passing data downstream. Again, this can take place over USB or over the network. (Readers with system specific queries are advised to hit up Roon’s forum community here).

    The clever part is that Roon doesn’t force us to choose between its back-end DSP and MQA. We can have both. In normal circumstances, DSP messes with an otherwise bit-perfect datastream to ruin the downstream DAC’s blue/green light authentication. This isn’t normal circumstances. Roon has worked with MQA for a bespoke solution: after Roon’s MQA decoder has executed any unfolding, the MQA portion of the stream is peeled away from the audio data, DSP applied and then the MQA portion is re-attached to the stream before being sent onwards to the DAC.

    Getting nerdy, the digital signal path looks like this: (optional) MQA decode –> remove MQA information –> DSP –> re-attach MQA information –> DAC.

    Furthermore, Roon now makes it easier for users to visually separate MQA from non-MQA content when browsing Tidal:

    “Several months ago, we kicked off a data mining project to accumulate format information about TIDAL content, and particularly about high-resolution content. Since then, we have been slowly accumulating more and more information about the stream formats of TIDAL albums and tracks.

    Starting in Roon 1.5, this data has been incorporated into the Roon interface. You will easily be able to distinguish lossy, lossless, and MQA content on TIDAL, including information about original sample rate. Format information for TIDAL content is handled just as for local content, so it is available for display in all of the usual places, as well as in focus.”

    Lastly, good news for owners of Linn DS streamers. Roon will now talk to them. All of them. The Scottish manufacturer has reportedly developed a new network streaming protocol that allows Roon to talk to every single one of its streaming-enabled products.

    The Roon v1.5 update comes free of charge to existing subscribers and will begin rolling out to users from today.

    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, Vimeo and Twitter

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