in ,

Podcast: Roon ARC is your very own private streaming service

  • This one’s personal. Soon after moving to Berlin in 2016, I phoned Roon Labs’ CEO Enno Vandermeer with a feature request: how about giving the Roon Remote smartphone app – err – remote access to the server so that Roon streaming could take place out in the street (with headphones)? Or at the office. Or at the gym. Or at a hotel. Or at the airport.

    Why would I request such a feature? A good number of the CD rips and downloads sitting on a hard drive directly connected to my Roon Core can’t be found on any streaming service. I’m talking out-of-print releases, original masters that have been supplanted by remasters, Neil Young’s back catalogue, a good number of Analogical Force releases and a smattering of vinyl rips; some rare — AFX’s Analord series chief among them. In other words, I wanted to turn that hard-drive full of songs into my own private streaming service.

    Six years down the line and Roon Labs has made that feature request real. According to Vandermeer, remote access to Roon has, “since forever”, been the number one requested feature among the software company’s ever-expanding user base.

    Roon 2.0, released today, is a free, over-the-air update to Roon that adds 1) a new Roon ARC settings panel to the Roon app and 2) a second smartphone app – called Roon ARC – to the Apple App and Google Play stores. The settings panel is where we confirm that remote access to the Roon Core is possible. If not, we’ll need to take a few minutes to set up port forwarding on our home router. (Roon Labs has some ‘how to’ guides in the works).

    The Roon ARC app, however, is where the fun really starts. Available for iOS and Android, ARC allows us to stream Roon content – Tidal and Qobuz included – on a smartphone or portable player no matter where we are in the world. Tidal and Qobuz content is streamed directly from Tidal and Qobuz servers and locally stored (hard-drive) content is streamed from the Core at home.

    But hang on a sec: if you’re like me and your mobile phone plan comes with a fixed data allowance, you’ll have to pay closer attention to the data being eaten by Roon ARC. Closer attention than those bathing in the glory of an unlimited data plan.

    ARC’s settings page puts us back in control with four independent streaming quality settings for wifi and cellular: 1) original (hi-res) quality; 2) CD quality; 3) balanced (lossy) and 4) bandwidth optimized (low-bitrate lossy). And in pulling up Roon ARC’s super-informative Signal Path pane when either of the lossy options is engaged, we learn that Tidal streams directly from its servers using the AAC codec and that Roon Core re-encodes locally-stored files on-the-fly using the Opus codec.

    Now comes the coup de grâce: not only does Roon ARC stream but it permits offline (downloads*) of any locally** stored content to turn that hard-drive full of songs connected to our Roon Core into our very own private streaming service — to be used out in the street, on the train, at the office, at the gym, at a hotel or at the airport. What a time to be alive.

    And a good time to bring this story full circle by sitting down with Enno Vandermeer for a chat about the freshly minted Roon 2.0 and Roon ARC. Listen via SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn or the embedded player below:

    *All downloads are transferred from Roon Core to Roon ARC in their original format.

    **Offlining Tidal or Qobuz content with Roon ARC isn’t possible. Why not? The answer’s in the podcast.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

    This week’s 5 best hi-fi news announcements (September ’22)

    IKEA & Swedish House Mafia have designed your next hi-fi rack