Audiophile’s best friend

Roon software is the perfect fishing dog.

Blog over.

Just kidding. Let me explain what I mean.

Actually, my Portugese Podengo (pequeño) named Ford is the perfect fishing dog, but his is the example to which I’m comparing my favorite music software this fine Friday morning. I listen to music all the time, and this topic means a lot to me as I know it means a lot to many of you.

Ford and I recently met up with The Music Room’s sales guy / system expert Nick Lucini for a day of fly fishing on Colorado’s mighty South Platte river. The stretch we were targeting isn’t quite Gold Medal trout water, but it’s very close, and catch-and-release is mandatory. The fish get big in this creek, let me tell you.

A friend of Nick’s named Eric come from Denver to meet us, and he brought his dog as well. This will be a quick tale of two dogs if you’re already getting antsy. I’ll tie this back to music soon enough.

My dog Ford and I have logged hundreds of adventure miles together, with lots of daredevil scrambling, off-trail exploration, and, when the situation calls for it, even some good ol’ fashioned trespassing thrown in.

He learned long ago to trust my direction, and because of all the fun we’ve had, he’s usually quite glued to my cue when we’re outside.

In contrast, as soon as we started out for the river from the parking lot I could tell that Eric was managing a handful. While Ford trotted silently behind me, Eric’s dog pounded his collar with his neck, straining to get out of his guardian’s reach at every second.

Once we were in the water, Eric attempted to fly fish while tethered to his pooch. As that became quickly untenable, he gave up and tried to see how his bounding boy might handle a little freedom.

Just then, I was tying on a new set of flies near the bank and the precocious beast splashed full steam toward Ford and me, bounding in youngster-fashion right into my line and rod and subsequently tangling himself and me utterly completely in under 3 seconds. Part of my rod went floating down the river, and the other half was attached to the furry fella. All of this in 40 degree water. Good stuff!

We got untangled, but it didn’t escape my notice that my trusty lad Ford had remained seated on the bank the entire time, watching me and otherwise curling up in the morning sunlight.

All day it was like that. Ford patiently followed and explored a little but kept his activities close. He celebrated my catches with a sniff and a lick, and he earned every morsel of the jerky I shared with him as we left.

And now, getting to the point of all of this: Roon is the good fishing dog of music software.

There are a lot of software programs that audiophiles use to play back our tunes. Some sound better than others, and folks who ultimately prize sonics above all else can also have to put up with a lot of hassle to get the best SQ.

I think I fall more in line with the majority of music listeners however, preferring my music player to fit into my life seamlessly and to be appealing and intuitive. Sound quality is big, but not everything.

And in my experience, Roon nails all of that. No other program out there does exactly what Roon does, which is nothing. Nothing except which I ask it to do. Its capabilities far exceed most other programs, but you wouldn't know it right off the bat.

iTunes constantly takes me places I don’t want to go. It thrusts its wares in my face at every turn, and it hogs space on my computer by head-scratchingly making a copy of every single track I present to it. Sound quality is fine, but I truly dislike the program for the other reasons.

JRiver, pardon me for feeling this way and remember this is my opinion here — JRiver has always looked like a cluttered and crazy pile to me. At any moment my entire screen and therefore my conscious and subconscious are bombarded with titles, buttons, features, options, text here, text there, a hundred album covers here, all wrapped in a lifeless, Windows-looking facade.

When you wade further into streaming apps like those that come packaged with some hardware streamers, you might notice as my coworker and fellow tester Ben pointed out recently: none of them is rated more than two and a half stars in any app store. Frustration clearly abounds with the programs that have smaller companies behind them and less money put into their development.

Spotify and Tidal’s desktop applications are a bit better and more established. And they look fairly nice. But between Spotify’s overeager shoving in your face of mountains of music you’ve never heard of to Tidal’s complete denial of its HiFi customers and full embrace of Kanye West titles and Jay-Z (why not) joints it promotes with similar fervor, I still feel beleaguered by them, not served.

In glorious contrast, Roon has never forced anything on me. It’s not even changed since I started using the amazing program. Well let me qualify that — the program has improved, but really it didn’t let me know. Over time I found new features when I went looking for them. Awesome stuff that I use now every day like upsampling, DSP-based parametric equalization and exclusivity mode / sample rate control.

Roon truly does what is asked of it and no more. And it performs its functions looking as cute as a button just like my dear Ford. Good boy. That Roon is a better window into the Tidal experience is a plus. That it is not-so-secretly hinting that it will integrate Qobuz streaming soon is a huge plus to me.

But the best thing that Roon gives its user, is that same respect and devotion I get from my furry lad. In this day and age of eroding privacy, forceful advertising and disappointing experiences, Roon, for me, has been worth every penny.

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I run Roon on a MacBook at home and an iMac at work. As time goes on I find I’m using the computer at home for less and less — it’s basically just my Roon server now. Were I to do it again, I would actually go with a Roon Nucleus, which is a standalone mini computer server designed by Roon, and available at The Music Room right here.

With lots of storage connectivity and the horsepower built in to handle future Roon developments, the Nucleus is just like the program itself — designed to keep up with your life, to offer only what you ask for, to stay out of the way and to look good while doing it.

If I’ve made you curious about my favorite music software and their first hardware product, Nucleus, take a look at this white paper which describes Roon’s cute little server in more detail.

And give my man Nick a call at 720-336-8742 to start a conversation about my preferred one-stop digital rig. Roon just may be the solution to your software frustrations, like it was for me.

Have a great weekend, and happy listening!