In the Lab with Roon
We've been playing here in the shop with the Roon library manager / music player from Roon Labs. Initially, I was dubious that I could see value in paying for a media manager in the age of ubiquitous free options, but boy was I wrong!
How it works
Roon is made up of three 'parts'. The Core, the Controller, and the Output. Working backwards, the Output is simply whatever audio device you are choosing to play music on. Roon supports a range of outputs, from 'Roon Ready' devices they have certified for high resolution RAAT streaming, to simply Airplaying to device, and a range in between.
Flexibility at it's Finest
Roon can also manage multiple endpoints, so it becomes a very robust multi-room streaming solution. Roon supports many different kinds of output devices, including:
For Roon Ready networked devices, you get streamed formats up to 384kHz/24-bit PCM and DSD256 using ( RAAT Streaming ) and it's able to intelligently convert audio to the optimal resolution for other devices.
"Roon's Discovery interface is a great way to rediscover your library"
Core is what makes Roon a little different - it's the 'brains' of the operation. This can be your computer, a dedicated bit of hardware, like the Nucleus, or even a custom built device like the Roon Optomized Core Kit . It scans your music library for metadata like any other media manager, but that's about where the similarity ends. It can manage libraries from a number of sources - a USB hard drive, network sources, or even streaming sources like Tidal.
Once it's scanned all of the music you have to offer, it starts digesting it - pulling down extra information like dynamic range, album and even Artist artwork, bios, and tags. This database includes things like play counts and track counts, and is kept updated all the time. The idea is that it creates a "searchable, surfable magazine about your music". Instead of browsing through artists or albums, you get an almost entirely new view of your library.
The 'overview' page gives you the normal stats you might be after - track count, reviews found, and your newest music, but also has a 'featured artist' from your library, some genre recomendations based on your recent playing activity, and even a 'featured composer'. You also have the traditional categories - browse by artist, album, composer, track, etc or search by keyword for a track, album, or artist.
Discovery, set a course
The 'Discover' page is one of the more interesting features. Based on your library it recommends avenues for exploration - perhaps a genre or two, or a performer that may be in your library, or may be affiliated with someone in your library, as well as interesting collaborations you may not have known about. All of this is based on your library - track count, artists, playback stats, etc, so it's completely unique to your setup. It's a great way to rediscover your collection.
Roon Radio is another interesting feature. If you start playing something and come to the end of your playlist, Roon can automatically continue playing from your library, turning into your own personalized radio station.
If you have been wondering how you are going to manage your growing library of music, look no further! Swing by the shop and have a look at what Roon can do...