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Getting Started with Roon Labs: An Always Up-To-Date Guide

Introduction

Some time has passed since I published my first articles on Roon which must have been in 2016 or 2017. Anyway, I have decided to create some kind of collective information hub for all Roon knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the years. Since you’re coming to this page, I assume you already have a rough idea what Roon is or how it will benefit your music collection. But if you’d like to brush up your knowledge about Roon, I suggest visiting their website at www.roonlabs.com

I’ve been a Roon subscriber (annual subscription) for a few years now. Actually I have regretted not acting on their initial lifetime offering of $399 which has now gone up to $699. But from a product standpoint I am still impressed. Both in terms of artistic tastefulness, convenience and sound there simply is NO comparable audiophile streaming product in existence that can compete with Roon. Yes, I have tried virtually any Raspberry PI distribution including Moode, PiCoreplayer, Volumio – you name it. Somehow my enthusiasm always drove me back to Roon. For me, the only useable alternatives on the desktop level where Audirvana and JRiver reign.

In 2020, integration with streaming services from Qobuz/Tidal are essential must-haves for audiophiles. And Roon covers that with striking perfection, too. Nobody else manages local/streaming libraries so seamlessly.

Ok, enough with the praise :) Let’s start with practical suggestions.

Roon Core

Roon needs to run its server components on a dedicated computer. In my experience, you can run Roon core on an inexpensive Intel-based NAS such as the DS218+ from Synology. That is of course only if you’re not into multi-room streaming and/or heavily use sample rate conversions / room correction features. As a bonus the NAS server acts as a home for your music collection.

Unfortunately, I bought my NAS system earlier and it doesn’t have an Intel CPU. However I set up this scenario for a friends DS218+ and it works great! If you’re in the market for a NAS, this might be a great way to lower your cost and have lower carbon footprint, too.

Another cheap option is to get a second-hand Lenovo Thinkpad which can be had for about 200 Euros. I have installed Roon Rock OS on it. Works a treat and consumes only about 11W peak. You can download their OS for free from the Roon Labs website. Although it was designed for Intel NUC computers, many users are happily using it on similarly speced machines.

If you’re not into DIY and want minimum fuss, Roon Labs offers their own ready-made solution called the Nucleus. Unfortunately, it’s a bit expensive for many music lovers.

Some of my earlier articles:
Cheap Roon Server Buying Guide

Roon Control Apps (Roon Remote)

Next, we need a remote to interact with Roon. Luckily this is an easy one because Roon has apps for iOS and Android. I personally use my iPad which has the best user experience but I occasionally reach out for my phone when it’s convenient.

If you want a dedicated device and don’t want to spend a lot of money, I figured out how to run Roon an sub-100 Euro Amazon Kindle tablets:
How To Turn Your Amazon Kindle Fire HD Into a Roon Remote Control

To my knowledge, Roon is now officially supported in the Amazon Appstore so you can just pick any Fire Tablet you like.

Roon Outputs

Roon enjoys widespread support by a wide range of manufacturers including DACs with direct Roon support. But if you just want something that plays to your existing DAC, the Raspberry PI is an excellent choice for an endpoint and of course unbeatable for the price. You can flash an SD card with Ropieee (https://ropieee.org/). This will turn your PI into a Roon endpoint within minutes. Alternatively, Volumio and many others have optional support for Roon, too.

Previous articles:
Volumio vs Roon – Which Sounds Better?
Get RoonReady using the Sonore microRendu and Sonic Orbiter SE
Is Roon Labs and PICoreplayer the Answer To My Prayers?

How Do You Get New Music To Your Roon Library?

If you have ripped your personal CD collection, simply move those file over to the NAS. Roon will automatically rcognize the music and display the new content through your Roon Remote app.

Here’s how I rip my CDs:
dbpoweramp – The Better iTunes Alternative for CD Rips?

Please make sure to respect copyright though and also be sure that it’s legal in your country to extract the music from your CDs to files.

Alternatively if you don’t need a physical disk, Qobuz offers reasonably priced music in Flac format. Highresaudio.de is also one of my preferred shops. Buying music online will certainly remove the hassle of shipping and integrating stuff into your music library.

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