Roon Ready Writeup: Meze Audio Rai Penta and Advar In-Ear Monitors

In the last few DAC reviews I’ve written for The Roon Store, I’ve been somewhat coy about the headphones I used to demo the devices. And let me tell you, it was hard to keep the reason for that a secret. Now, I can dispense with mystery and reveal our new partnership with Meze Audio. Like most music fans and audio gearheads who have heard Meze Audio’s products, we’re blown away by their design, build quality and sound. 

Meze has taken the audio world by storm since the release of their 99 Classic in 2015. And, they’ve continued that streak with each follow-up product they’ve unveiled – dethroning some of the most revered headphones on the market in their quest for perfection. Now that we’ve spent quality time with their headphones, we can attest that their mountain of audio awards is well deserved.  

Our passion at The Roon Store is to help you get the most musical sound reproduction possible from your system. Our Meze partnership places us in a unique position to realize that goal; few devices can transport you to an entirely new acoustic space and elevate detailed listening and music appreciation in the way a quality pair of headphones or IEMs can. They’re high-quality audio devices you can take anywhere. The abundance of small portable, affordable DAC/amps means easy high-res audio on the go – everywhere you go.

Meze Audio Advar

Musical Mysticism:

Meze’s products have an alluring quality, inspired by the heritage of their Romanian birthplace. They create a stunning harmony made of timeless aesthetics and acoustic advancements fueled by a yearning to challenge the barriers accepted by the mainstream audio manufacturing community.  

I can’t say that I’ve been overly concerned with headphone cosmetics in the past. If they sound good and are reasonably comfortable, that’s been my benchmark. Meze changed that, their products are artworks that produce sound. Once you’ve seen and heard them, the thought of returning to ugly plastics is truly disheartening.

Advar takes its name from Romanian Mysticism, the Advar was a powerful talisman that blessed those who wore it. Just as the Meze Advar, finished in high-gloss black chrome and textured yellow gold, blesses the listener with a warm, dynamic sound. The precisely tuned 10.2 mm dynamic driver is easily driven by standard mobile devices but shines with a bump in power. Advar’s EQ curve sounds similar to the Meze 99 Classics, with a slight emphasis on the bass, upper midrange, and the mid-treble. 

The Rai Penta is Meze’s flagship IEM. The aesthetics, innovation, and build quality of their full-sized headphones are miniaturized in Rai Penta with incredible precision. They’re also the most lightweight, well-fitting, and comfortable IEM I’ve ever worn. The pebbled space-blue anodized finish is etched to display Meze’s lyre logo. Its beauty is matched only by its sound.

Rai Penta features a perfectly tuned, five-driver, hybrid array that delivers a pristine, harmonically balanced, sound signature with remarkable detail across their entire frequency spectrum. Meze’s Pressure Equalization System graces Rai Penta with a soundstage resembling their flagship Empyrean and Elite models – packing incredible value into its jewel-like enclosure. Like Advar, the efficiency of its driver array means it can be powered by ordinary mobile devices. But, when paired with a headphone DAC/amp it delivers lustrous listening.

Kick Out the Jams 

For our listening tests, I demoed each track with Advar, followed by Rai Penta, to reveal the unique sonic characteristics exhibited by the different models. They were paired with Chord’s Mojo 2 portable DAC with the EQ and Crossfeed features set to “off”.

Fleetwood Mac – Gold Dust Woman from Rumours

  • Advar: This is pure 1970s album rock gold-dust at its most sublime. Advar’s subtly enhanced voicing makes it a perfect companion for this track. Each instrument in the mix is afforded ample room to breathe. Mick Fleetwood’s metronome-like rim shots are crisp, and McVie’s bass line is warm, fat, and natural. Buckingham’s layered guitar parts sparkle while Christine’s keyboard adds understated yet perfect color. Stevie Nicks’ spellbinding vocals exhibit an intoxicating depth of emotion and yearning. As the song builds, and the mix thickens, the airy sense of space is retained. If I only had five minutes with Advar to make a purchase decision this track would seal the deal.
  • Rai Penta: Through Rai Penta, the experience is like sitting in the studio with the band for the final mixdown. Highs are spectacularly vivid and overall resolution is truly breathtaking. The soundstage is more spacious but not exaggerated. The instrumentation benefits from pronounced clarity and depth, the air around Stevie’s vocal is ethereal and vocal harmonies display added texture and nuance. There’s no denying that it’s a reference sound signature, but one that’s pleasing and inviting.

Compay Segundo – Yo Vengo Aquí from Nueva Antología. 20 Aniversario

  • Advar: Antologia (originally titled Yo Yengo Aquí when released) was recorded a year before Segundo garnered renewed fame as the elder statesman of the Buena Vista Social Club album and documentary. He’s joined here by a Trio from Madrid for a set of Cuban and Spanish folk standards. The soundstage here is gorgeous, the small lively recording space adds a rich organic compression to the track. Compay’s fluid guitar lines weave through the mix as his warm voice anchors the Grupo. Spanish lead vocalist Julio Fernández fits hand in glove with Segundo’s baritone and adds tasty maracas texture. Benito Suarez deps nicely on the second guitar as Salvador Repilado’s Contrabasso provides a robust foundation. Few listeners would believe this was a quickly assembled ensemble with just a few hours of rehearsal under their belt before these recordings. Yo Vengo Aquí flows from the Advars like pure honey.
  • Rai Penta: here Yo Vengo Aquí jumps from the Rai Penta like a dancer and mirrors the presentation of the previous track. Hidden details reveal themselves more effortlessly; the interplay of the instruments exhibits greater nuance and vocals are more distinct. The crispness of the acoustic guitars is enhanced, spotlighting their instrumental dexterity. Surprisingly the maracas feel slightly recessed when heard thru the Rai Penta. Rai Penta’s bass voice is full and natural but the added warmth and richness of Advar’s gentle bump in the lows is missing here. 

Gábor Szabó – Mizrab from The Socerer

  • Advar: Mizrab was recorded before a live audience at Boston’s Jazz Workshop in April 1967. The ringing decay of the hand cymbal in the opening perfectly showcases Advar’s smooth upper register as the remaining instrumentation highlights its accurate, life-like expressiveness. Szabo’s amplified acoustic unfurls fluid serpentine ribbons of mesmerizing gypsy jazz guitar throughout the piece. Hal Gordon’s hand drums feel like they’re just a few feet away as they establish a pulsing rhythmic exchange with Marty Morell’s kit. Advar places you right at the heart of Mizrab’s hypnotic musical journey.
  • Rai Penta: Mizrab benefits from Rai Penta’s accuracy and detailed imaging, the same opening finger cymbals exude stunning realism, sounding as if they’re inches away from the listener’s seat. The recording space becomes more apparent and defined. The same annoying live music attendees who yammer endlessly walked the earth in 1967, you can hear them in the background while the band coaxes Mizrab along its sinuous path. Its a mesmerizing listen, with a touch less warmth than with Advar but in no way less satisfying.

The Verdict:

Meze occupies a singular position among audio manufacturers. Their passion for innovation and “no-compromise” quest for perfection drives their every decision. It isn’t hollow marketing copy, it’s confirmed by the four mouse scrolls it takes to get through the accolades listed on their home page. Their engineering acumen, choice of materials, precision craftsmanship, and build quality testify to their dedication to excellence. Attention to detail extends to the most minute elements of their products.

Advar and Rai Penta demonstrate individual strengths and have uniquely tuned voices that gelled exceptionally well with the demo tracks we selected – and everything else we played through them. They’re pieces of sound art, designed to reveal subtle details with warmth and incredible accuracy that are built for a lifetime of enjoyment. If you’re in the market for a premium set of in-ear monitors that are comfortable and boast unrivaled sound quality they deserve your consideration. Surprising intricacies are waiting for discovery in your favorite songs, hear them again for the first time.

See our full Meze headphone offerings at the Roon Store. 

Additional Observations of Note:

  • Selecting the best fitting ear tip is essential to getting optimal sound and isolation from both Advar and Rai Penta. Experiment with the provided ear tips until you find the one that offers a snug fit. Advar seemed a bit thin in the Low/Mid Bass until I found the correct ear tip – once found, the frequency response was lush and full.
  • The MMCX connection on the Advar doesn’t fit as snuggly with the flange as it does with Rai Penta. There was no discernable loss of imaging or detail, but it creates the impression that it is not completely seated. 
Meze Audio Advar Rai Penta

Tech Specs:

ADVAR

  • Driver: 10.2mm Dynamic driver
  • Frequency Range: 10 Hz – 30 kHz
  • Impedance: 31 Ω
  • SPL: 111dB/mW
  • Distortion: <1% at 1kHz
  • Stock cable: braided cable made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires ending in gold plated 3.5mm
  • Materials: Solid stainless steel chassis produced by metal injection molding, with CNC finishing
  • Finish: High-gloss Black Chrome plating on the main shell

RAI PENTA

  • Driver: PENTA-HYBRID DRIVER (4 x Customized Balanced Armature and 1 x Dynamic Driver working harmoniously together)
  • Frequency Range: 4Hz – 45kHz
  • Impedance: 20Ω
  • Sensitivity: 100dB SPL/1mW
  • Max Input Power: 30mW
  • Distortion: <1%
  • Stock cable: braided cable made of SPC (silver plated copper) custom wires ending in gold plated 3.5mm
  • Materials: High precision sculpted chassis is CNC milled from solid aluminum
  • Finish: Pebbled anodized Space-Blue finish with aluminum Meze Lyre detail

What’s in the Box

ADVAR

  • Left and right in-ear monitors
  • 48″ braided audio cable with dual MMCX connectors and a straight 3.5mm plug
  • 5 Pairs of Final Audio silicone ear tips
  • Cleaning tool
  • MMCX removal tool
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • User Manual

RAI PENTA

  • Left and right in-ear monitors
  • 48″ Braided cable with dual MMCX connectors and a straight 3.5mm plug
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4″ Adapter
  • Airline adapter (female 3.5mm jack-to-dual 3.5mm male plugs)
  • 8 pairs of ear tips
  • Cleaning tool
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • User Manual

Roon Partner Update: July 2022

We continued adding to our partner family in the summer as we added new devices from the likes of Burson Audio, dCS and TAD. 

For a full list of our partner brands and every Roon Ready and Roon Tested device, visit our Partners page on the Roon website.

Burson Audio – Composer 3XP, Conductor 3P, Conductor 3R, Conductor 3X GT, Conductor 3XR, Playmate 2 and Timekeeper 3i
Roon Tested

We added seven devices from Burson Audio who also come in as a new partner to our growing family. Burson Audio is dedicated to challenging the conventional and is pushing the boundaries of audio excellence through innovation.

Their revolutionary discrete audio opamps are benchmarks in the HiFi industry today, establishing a totally unique perspective on music delivery. Each of the new products from the Burson Audio Conductor range (3XP, 3P, 3R, 3X GT 3XR) and the Playmate 2 and Timekeeper 3i are all certified as Roon Tested, ready to deliver spectacular performance in any system.

dCS Lina
Roon Ready

The all-new Lina is the 13th certified device from the renowned HiFi engineers at dCS joining our Roon Ready family. Featuring the remarkable dCS Ring DAC technology inside, the Lina Network DAC is a showcase of the incredible precision manufacturing that dCS is known for, along with their passion for perfect music reproduction, all at an approachable price point.

This is a totally unique entry into the streaming DAC space, and when combined with its complimentary Lina family components, it’s a supremely capable single-stop solution for every Head-Fi need.

TAD D1000TX DA1000TX
Roon Tested

We’re thrilled to announce that Technical Audio Devices Laboratories (TAD) is a brand new Roon partner, jumping in with two new Roon Tested products, the D1000TX Disc player and the DA1000TX DAC. Each of these reference HiFi components is meticulously crafted with hand-picked componentry, assembled to the highest of standards. The DA1000TX is equipped with TAD’s Asynchronous USB Communication Engine, offering support for resolutions up to 32/384kH in PCM and DSD256. The D1000TX shares this masterclass digital topology, enhancing its overall functionality with an integrated SACD and CD player.

Both of these sources can effortlessly deliver your music with perfect timing thanks to TAD’s Master Clock UPCG. From showcasing your CD collection in flawless form to ensuring your digital-first listening system is fully equipped, the DA1000TX and the D1000TX are stellar solutions for nearly every HiFi setup.


CanJam London

CanJam is the world’s premier headphone audio show with annual events in New York City, Singapore, Los Angeles, London, and Shanghai and is produced by Head-Fi.org, the world’s largest online audio community. 

Last weekend we attended CanJam London, our second CanJam this year after the Chicago event in June.

Located in the ballroom of Park Plaza, Westminster, the room was full of headphones and personal/portable audio brands showcasing their latest innovations amongst an excited crowd of audiophiles and music lovers. 

The show gave us the unique opportunity to showcase Roon to music fanatics looking for an immersive experience when listening to music through headphones, without compromising on sound quality. 

Our weekend started on Friday at the dCS Lina Lounge launch, where we got to experience firsthand the ideation behind the new dCS Lina headphone system while experiencing some captivating live music by Judie Jackson. 

Once set-up, we were then ready for a weekend full of demonstrations through our partner devices which included Audeze LCD-XC headphones, AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt and Red USB DACs, Chord Mojo 2 USB DAC, T+A HA200 headphone amplifier, and the dCS Lina system. There were also a range of Roon Ready and Roon Tested devices being demonstrated on other stands too, including iFi Audio Zen Stream, Naim Uniti Atom, Astell&Kern AK HC2, SP2000T, and Kann Max, and the Burson Audio Conductor 3XGT. 

Our specially curated playlist, CanJam London, was also a hit with the varied mix of artists and music on offer during the demonstrations. CanJam London is available in Playlists by Roon on your Roon Home Screen.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and having now ticked off Chicago and London, we’re looking forward to the next CanJam SoCal in California on September 17-18, 2022.

Get tickets


Roon Ready Writeup: Chord Mojo 2 and Poly Review

Audio gear for your Roon lifestyle

In December 2021 we launched The Roon Store, the only e-commerce gear site specifically designed with the needs of Roon users in mind. It’s focused entirely on audio equipment that pairs seamlessly with Roon. No matter where you are on your Roon journey, aspiring user, recent subscriber, or long-time customer – the Roon Store has something for you.

A new approach to gear reviews

The internet is chock full of specs-heavy reviews, and like many of our customers, we find those details fascinating. But technical specifications don’t generate much excitement when describing our relationship with the gear that provides the soundtrack to our lives. 

How many times have you heard someone reminisce lovingly about the sensitivity rating of their old JBL L100 speakers? You don’t, they talk about how well they remember and enjoyed their sound. So, we’re approaching reviews differently and with an intentionally Rooncentric focus. In Roon Ready Writeups, we’ll spotlight our favorite gear and describe how it enhances the enjoyment of Roon. You’ll come away with a feel for product performance; and a clear picture of how well it fits your needs and lifestyle. 

Chord Mojo 2: small size, big sound

We have an unabashed love for portable, small form factor DACs that improve desktop, mobile, and tablet listening. If you’ve heard Chord products in action, you’re probably familiar with their excellence in this area.  They fit perfectly with our Roon Ready philosophy: they just work, they provide lush, detailed sound, and most importantly, they help enrich our love of music. 

The Mojo 2 / Poly is one of our favorite Chord combos because its design facilitates multiple applications: it can pull double duty as a remarkable upgrade for a legacy system, or a formidable desktop audio solution. Let’s take a closer look at their characteristics.

Got My Mojo Working, Pt. 2

The Chord Mojo 2, the second generation of the Mojo (originally released in 2015), packs even more performance and features into a smaller enclosure than the original. The Mojo 2 boasts a DAC designed by Chord’s own Rob Watts, and supports up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD256. Hugely impressive for a DAC/amp that fits in my 11-year-old’s hand. Many costly full-size DACs can’t match the Mojo 2’s finesse. 

Battery management has been vastly improved, and intelligent desktop mode protects against overcharging while in desktop, or component, use. Fully charged, the battery provides 8 hours of listening time. The original Mojo’s input configuration is preserved on Mojo 2, ensuring compatibility with Poly. Those who complain about the USB-C input location of Mojo 2 can credit Chord when they realize it was an intentional customer-focused design decision. Mojo 2 can charge in tandem with Poly, even while in use, with a 2A (amps) rated charger.

Connection points include:

  • Co-axial, Optical, Mini USB, and USB-C inputs 
  • Dual 3.5 stereo headphone outs
  • Mini USB charging port
Chord Mojo 2

Pristine wireless streaming with Poly

Poly is a Roon Ready streaming module that snaps into the inputs of the Mojo 2, making it visible on your home network to Roon. Chord calls it a “fully fledged high-resolution wireless network music player, streamer and SD card playback device with wireless playback and control from smartphones.”

In addition to Roon, it supports DNLA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and FLAC, WAV, ACC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, and MP3 file formats. PCM handling up to 24-bit/768kHz, DSD via DoP to DSD256, and SD card DSD playback. A full charge offers 9 hours of Roon Ready streaming. Setup was quick and painless with the Chord GoFigure app. Check out our Poly setup video in The Roon Store for help with that.

A few additional observations of note:

  • The Mojo 2’s headphone outputs lack individual volume controls. 
  • Poly’s internal Hot Spot functionality is a touch tricky. 
  • Poly requires a few steps for waking up the unit and initiating use. 
  • The devices can get pretty warm when using the leather case during extended listening.
  • MQA fans may need to look elsewhere as Mojo 2 doesn’t offer MQA support.

Style and grace

The Mojo 2 / Poly combo provides a huge soundstage in a small footprint and exudes exceptionally fine design, features, and sound. Mojo 2 is housed in a robust, bead-blasted aluminum enclosure, finished in satin black, with lovely polychromatic spherical controls for volume, power, and the menu. The controls appear complicated in the manual but are easily mastered in a few hours of use. Chord has graciously included a handy decoder card to help with that. More details on Mojo 2’s tone-shaping features in a moment.

Chord Mojo 2

Pint-sized solutions

  • The Mojo 2 / Poly partnership provides a clever way to integrate Roon with a sweet-sounding legacy setup, using just a quality 3.5 mm to RCA interconnect cable. When I connected the duo to a vintage Yahama amp powering my old B&W DM603 S3 towers I was gobsmacked by what I heard. My old setup sounded like a modern system just by adding those two devices.
  • The highly flexible design facilitates high-res desktop and handheld device audio.
  • High-quality system or DAC/headphone audio solution for a small space.
  • The design makes this combo a perfect point of entry for the aspiring audiophile because its flexibility serves multiple uses.
  • SD Card slot provides easy onboard high-res listening on the go.

Problem free reliability

The Mojo 2 / Poly dynamic duo provided rock-solid Roon stability both as a wired and wireless RAAT streaming endpoint. The long-range WiFi capability of the Poly placed my outdoor hammock within range of my network, a first and a pleasant surprise. A fully-charged Mojo 2 / Poly combo clocked in at just under 10 hours of sublime headphone listening. 

If problem-free Roon integration and reliability are top of your list, your worries are over. I didn’t have a single issue with this pair; how incredible they sound together is a bonus. 

Chord Mojo 2 Poly

Sonics that strike a Chord

Whether alone, or paired with Poly, Mojo 2 delivers a stunning, attention-grabbing listening experience. Mojo 2 features a revolutionary lossless UHD DSP (Ultra-High Definition Digital Signal Processor), EQ, & Crossfeed that begs exploration. 

DSP EQ offers 4 bands of tone control (lower bass, mid-bass, lower treble, and upper treble) with 18 steps of adjustment in each band – providing a bewildering 130,000 + possible EQ customizations. Dialing in adjustments while listening to personal reference tracks by Jackie McLean, George Harrison, Bob Marley, The Beatles, and The Grateful Dead revealed spellbinding texture and detail. I heard nuance and heft in these tracks that made them feel fresh and exciting again. 

Mojo 2’s new Crossfeed feature was borrowed from Hugo’s flagship Dave and Hugo 2 DACs. It improves spatial effects for a more ‘speaker-like’ soundstage when using headphones by subtly mixing both channels to achieve a more natural sound. Crossfeed may not seem noticeable initially, but I immediately missed it upon switching it off after a few days’ use. It added an energizing, live music vibe to listening sessions that I quickly grew to enjoy. 

The Mojo 2 / Poly partnership shined when tested with a variety of high-quality headphones. I’m withholding those details for now – but only because you’ll be hearing more about them soon in a coming review. 

If you’re looking for a small form factor portable Roon Ready DAC with great aesthetics, features, and breathtaking sound reproduction the Chord Mojo 2 / Poly pairing is one to experience. Visit the Roon Store, we’ll help you do that!


Roon Feature Spotlight: Focus

Roon is totally unique when compared to other music library and streaming software because it’s built for music lovers, by music lovers. We understand the unique challenges that accompany being an ardent seeker of sound, and we’ve removed them – to make your music experience more enjoyable.

Music oversaturation is real, and many reading this have likely experienced it. Too much of a good thing: the frustration of finding something fresh or forgotten to listen to, despite having a huge streaming library or digital music collection. Rather than sparking discovery and excitement, we play the same music, repeatedly.

And if you’re one of those people who have both a streaming and file-based collection, the problem is compounded. Finding a way to merge them that doesn’t resemble lifeless file-folder browsing or spreadsheets of miniature album art is an ordeal. We feel your pain.

Roon was created to cure those headaches and make traversing the web of sound exciting again. Our Focus tool relieves music saturation with interactive design and reveals the hidden connections vital to bringing music to life. In this article, we’ll show you several ways to use Focus to rediscover lost nuggets in your collection and curate new favorites more intentionally. 

Artist Focus: Classical Closeup

We’ll start by using Artist Focus to discover Classical Music. Several months ago, a customer in our Community Music section praised a Bach album by Martha Argerich and Mischa Maisky. I glanced at the album art, did a quick search, added it to my library, and reminded myself to listen to it closely. I did and enjoyed it. So naturally, I asked myself “… are there other recordings by Mischa Maisky and Martha Argerich I might also enjoy?”

Here’s how I found an answer:

  • Go to the artist page
  • Open Focus (1)
  • Scroll to the right until reaching PERFORMERS
  • Expand the list
  • Select Mischa Maisky (2)

Then, let’s say I only want Argerich & Maisky main albums – not compilations or collections. Additionally, I want to see all my high-res and MQA options:

  • Go to the TYPE column
  • Click Main albums (3)
  • Then find the FORMAT column
  • Select CD Quality
  • Then, in the Focus parameters list, click CD Quality again. (4)

When it turns red, the focus parameter is inverted. Instead of showing CD Quality, it’s showing everything other than CD Quality. Additionally, no compilations or appearances are shown. 17 albums meet my Focus parameters. (5)

Album Focus: Producer Deep-Dive

Some producers are seemingly ubiquitous in a particular music genre, Glyn Johns is an example in my library. Recently I decided to revisit high-res Rock, Pop, and Blues albums produced by Glyn that I haven’t played in a few months. Using Album Focus I:

  • Selected Glyn Johns under PRODUCTION (1)
  • Clicked 44.1khz in the SAMPLE RATE column
  • Clicked it in the Focus Parameters list to invert the selection (2)
  • Chose Played in the last 3 Months under PLAYED IN THE LAST
  • Then clicked it a second time in the Focus Parameters list to invert it (3)
  • And that easily, I’m provided with a list of Glyn Johns produced albums by The Beatles, Stones, Who, and Zeppelin, in high-quality sound, that I haven’t played in 3 months! (4) Quality classic rock listening, activate!

Focus settings are super fun and easy to apply and adjust. No other music software feature I’ve used is so visually engaging or intuitive.

Track Focus: Ringing in the Years

Track Focus parameters utilize horizontal presentation, but otherwise, work the same as Artist and Album Focus.

This time I decided to revisit 24-bit tracks from my Qobuz Library that were released in the 1990s. To do this I:

  • Expanded Focus and scrolled down to RELEASE DATE
  • Then clicked View more
  • On the Year window, I moved the left year indicator to 1991 (1) and the right one to 1999 (2)
  • My entire library of 47,159 tracks became focused on tracks released from 1991-1999 (3)
  • Next, I clicked 24bit under BIT DEPTH (4)
  • Then Qobuz Library under STORAGE (5)
  • And just like that, I had 617 tracks of 24-bit bliss courtesy of Track Focus (6)

With Focus, the possibilities for creating customized artist, album, track, or composition lists are limited only by your imagination, not uninspired technology. 

Focus Bonus Tips 

Bookmarks:

In the last example, I created a customized list of tracks. Now, I can use those results to create a bookmark. Here’s how:

  • With the Track focus still on the page, go to the top right-hand side of Roon and click the Bookmark tab. 
  • Then Add Bookmark.
  • Create a bookmark name, I chose Qobuz 24-bit ’90s  
  • Anytime I select that bookmark, I’ll see my Qobuz 24bit tracks from the ’90s. 

What’s even cooler, is when I add anything new to my Qobuz library that matches the parameters I used to build the Track Focus list, it’s automatically populated to the Qobuz 24-bit ’90s bookmark.

Playlists:

But what if I want to create a playlist with the ’90s Qobuz Track Focus, instead of a bookmark? No problem:

  • With the Qobuz 24-bit ’90s track focus still selected, I go to my play queue
  • Select all tracks
  • And click the red Remove from Queue button to tidy things up
  • Then I return to the Tracks page
  • Select everything on that page
  • Then click the ellipsis button at the top of the page
  • And Add to playlist
  • Click + New playlist
  • Type Qobuz 24-bit ’90s
  • Click Create

With a few simple steps, any Tracks Focus can become a bookmark or playlist. But be careful, you could spend an entire day making bookmarks and playlists. It’s pretty addictive.

With careful curation of your Roon Library, Focus becomes an oracle of exploration and discovery. For instance, instead of adding the top folder of your digital music files library consider adding a genre subfolder instead. Instantly your genre-themed music folders are poised for treasure hunting. Focus unlocks the connections that make music spellbinding. You’ll never waste time on aimless folder browsing again.

If you’d like to know more about a Roon Feature or have Roon tricks and tips to share, send me a message at our Roon Community. We’d love to see them and hear how Roon deepens your love of music!

Roon Partner Update: June 2022

We’ve had a bright start to the summer as we introduced five new devices from audio brands such as Thrax Audio, Matrix Audio and Zidoo.

For a full list of our partner brands and every Roon Ready and Roon Tested device, visit our Partners page on the Roon website.

Matrix Audio element i2, M2 and X2
Roon Ready

Four new devices from Matrix Audio’s family of streaming DACs were certified as Roon Ready in June: the Element i2, Element M2, Element X2, and the Mini-i Pro 3 all can now stream Hi-Res audio natively from Roon. Each of these DACs are engineered to deliver spectacular sonic reproduction at an equally impressive value and comes standard with useful connectivity options such as balanced audio output, a balanced headphone connector, and USB-C. The Element series sports a fantastic touchscreen interface with a revamped UI, and the Mini-i Pro 3 features cutting-edge Bluetooth streaming, unlocking even more streaming possibilities for your system. 

Thrax Audio Ares
Roon Ready

We’re welcoming Thrax Audio’s third device to the Roon Ready family with the Ares MkII, a powerhouse integrated amplifier. Featuring tandem full monoblock amplifiers in its chassis, the Ares has individual linear power supplies and transformers dedicated to each of its stereo audio channels, ensuring that the powerful solid-state amplification stages receive every bit of current they need. The Ares’ digital capabilities are equally impressive, with power delivered by a dedicated transformer, and support for resolutions up to 32/768kHz, this is a complete listening solution for many two-channel Roon users. 

Zidoo Neo Alpha
Roon Ready

The brand-new Neo Alpha is the latest Roon Ready device from Zidoo. The Neo Alpha is an all-in-one streaming hub for your home media and Hi-Fi listening system, and includes HDMI output with support for 4K streaming, alongside support for a myriad of Hi-Res streaming formats, including DSD and MQA. This is the total solution for anyone who appreciates high-quality video and audio streaming and can function as a powerful hub for all of your multimedia needs.


What is Roon Used for?

It’s usually best to define something in terms of other things that your audience understands. In the case of Roon, that’s neither easy nor particularly helpful because there’s nothing quite like Roon. Rather than attempting to define it, let’s discuss what Roon is used for. This article will help you to approach Roon with appropriate expectations.

Augmented Reality

“…an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities…” – Wikipedia.

Roon’s flagship feature is an enhanced presentation of your digital music library, enriched with hyperlinked metadata, beautiful album art, lyrics, credits, reviews, artist bios, concert dates, and more. An “augmented reality” metadata overlay is what well over a hundred thousand Roon subscribers are paying for, and it’s Roon’s primary value proposition. This concept and its implications should be your main takeaway from this article.

Real world digital music libraries are typically collections of folders, sub-folders, and files scattered across multiple computers and drives. If present, embedded metadata may only be viewed statically. Navigating such libraries is like reading spreadsheets. At best, you’re scrolling through thousands of album cover icons, hoping to find something worth your time to play. As a result, you tend to play the same things over and over again. Sound familiar?

The designers of Roon were discontent with the spreadsheet paradigm for exploring digital music, so they set out to create a rich experience that encourages discovery and is more akin to handling physical media. They would have to solve two extraordinarily difficult problems to achieve this goal. The first was creating a cloud database with high-quality album art, plus licensed and crowd-sourced metadata for all the world’s music. This task will never be finished, but Roon Labs is making tremendous progress.

The second problem was identifying all tracks in each subscriber’s music library, matching them to records in that cloud database. Roon presents successfully identified tracks and albums with the best quality album art, reviews, lyrics, and detailed, hyperlinked credits, overriding incomplete or inaccurate metadata embedded in the files. Identifying every track is an impossible task, but subscribers who take the time to help the process along will have a richer experience with Roon.

Roon makes no changes to the files in your library. Yet, the view it presents is greatly enhanced with licensed and crowd-sourced metadata, creating a fresh and engaging experience that inspires music exploration and discovery.

Two Streaming Services

In addition to managing your library of files, Roon is used as a frontend for the TIDAL and Qobuz streaming services. Both provide free apps for navigating their music catalogs. So, what value does Roon add? Quite a lot, it turns out. Their catalogs are immense, with over seventy million tracks each; the tyranny of choice can be overwhelming. But as you expand your library with favorites from these services, Roon learns your preferences. Over time, Roon makes increasingly helpful recommendations based on your listening habits, enabling you to mine these massive catalogs for precious veins of content that you’ll enjoy. Roon treats the albums you add to your library from streaming services the same way it does local files, enriching them with its cloud metadata.

Your local library and streaming favorites create powerful jumping-off points to find new music. For example, Doug Sax was an extremely talented mastering engineer. Any album that he worked on will almost certainly sound fantastic. You won’t find mastering credits in iTunes or streaming apps, but this information is present for most albums in Roon’s cloud database. According to Roon, Doug Sax mastered 74 of the 2,350 albums in my music library. Not surprisingly, they are among my favorites. Naturally, I’d like to discover more albums that he mastered, and Roon makes this possible. When I click on “Doug Sax” under album credits, Roon reveals 1,091 albums mastered by him on TIDAL, sorted by popularity and ready for me to explore.

The same approach works for your favorite bass player or composer. Be aware that Roon makes no guarantees that their cloud database is 100% accurate or complete. Again, this is an impossible task for all of the world’s music. But the database is constantly improving, and what is there will enable you to discover music and artists in ways that were not possible before Roon.

One Library, One Environment

A Roon subscription is used to manage a single music library at a single physical location. Although this may change, for now, Roon’s domain is limited to one local area network, typically at your primary place of residence. Roon’s device discovery protocols do not traverse router interfaces, or in plain English, you generally can’t take Roon with you in the car, public transportation, on vacation, or to the office.

Each member of your household may create a Roon profile. Doing so is a good idea because it allows each person to have their own playback history, tags, playlists, and recommendations. However, if your streaming subscription is a family plan, keep in mind that you must choose one member’s streaming account to link with your Roon library. For example, I have to scroll through pages of my wife’s favorite Beegie Adair albums to find my Steely Dan and Infected Mushroom collections. We use personal tags to mitigate the issue. While helpful, creating tags requires discipline as albums are not automatically tagged to the profile of the person who added them. The same principle applies to music purchases from download services and CD rips.

One Interface, Three Presentations

Roon’s user interface is an OpenGL masterpiece that scales both in size and functionality to fit the device on which it runs. Call it responsive design, if you like. The presentation style across smartphones, tablets, and computers is consistent, regardless of the underlying operating system (a remarkable achievement).

Still, Roon excludes some functions that would be awkward to use on smaller screens. For example, DSP Presets may be recalled from the smartphone app, but you’ll need a tablet or computer to adjust specific parametric EQ points. And convolution filter sets may only be uploaded from a computer. Once you’re familiar with Roon’s control surface, you’ll be at home with it across all your devices. However, don’t be surprised to find a few minor differences in functionality as you move from one to the next.

The goal of Roon’s tabloid-like interface is to encourage exploration and discovery. As such, it intentionally eschews convenience features like voice commands in favor of a more engaged style of personal interaction.

Many (inequal) Playback Systems

Roon may be able to send music to most devices in your home, but be aware that not all devices in the Roon ecosystem are equal. If you’re purchasing a networked audio component for use with Roon, focus on those certified as Roon Ready. These offer the most complete integrations. For example, when you change the volume on the device, that change is accurately reflected on all Roon control apps. The reverse is also true; changes made via Roon are displayed correctly on the device. Clicking “Play” in Roon causes the device to switch to the Roon input. These are little things, but they make the experience friendlier, especially for non-technical family members and guests.

Roon offers limited support for devices that do not speak its native RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) protocol. Examples include Google Chromecast, SONOS®, Apple AirPlay, Logitech Squeezebox, and Signalyst NAA (Network Audio Adapters). Bluetooth, DLNA, DTS PlayFi, and Denon HEOS are not supported by Roon. Still, systems with standard digital audio inputs, like S/PDIF and USB, may be integrated with Roon by adding relatively expensive bridge devices. While Roon can control a wide variety of devices, adapting as many as possible to use Roon’s native RAAT protocol will result in the best experience and fewest surprises for you and other household members.

Summary

Roon is used to present an enhanced abstract view of your music library, enriched with cloud metadata and art. It enables each household member to discover and play the music they enjoy to devices of varying capabilities throughout the home.

Try Roon free for 14 days

High End Munich Summary

It was great to be back at High End Munich for the first time since 2019, seeing a huge array of different products and of course getting to see some old and new faces. 

Because of the pandemic, we haven’t been able to be part of this incredible show so we certainly made up for the lost time in doing so. 

With four expo halls across the ground floor filled with exhibitor booths, along with more exhibitor rooms and enclosed demonstration rooms, it was an event that was busy with partners, press, and audiophiles. 

Roon has grown vastly since our last visit to High End Munich, with many brands and devices now partnering with us to bring music fanatics a tailored, immersive experience. 

In fact, Roon has over 75 certified partners, with many coming in between the last event and now. In the last five months alone, 40 devices have been added to our partner family, without a face-to-face conversation being had. 

Importantly, Roon has changed in that time as well. 

Our 1.8 release last year gave users a completely new look and feel, more context and meaning to their music through Valence, powerful filtering of your music library through Focus, a reimagination of classical music and a tailor-made experience made with users at the forefront. 

Conversations that were had with partners and Roon users typified exactly why we’ll continue to provide music fanatics with the best tools for an optimized listening experience.

You can see a round up of our experience and glimpse at a selection of the devices we saw on display from our partners.

The Blues: Founders & Followers

The Blues had a baby, and they named the baby Rock-n-Roll.

Muddy Waters

Community Connections

One of my favorite things to do during a workday is to take a short break and check out the lively music discussions that are percolating in our Roon Community. The reason I find them so engaging is in their resemblance to conversations I had decades ago when I worked in music shops. Whenever a favorite music sage walked in the door, the day instantly transformed, and I knew that some hidden corner of sonic knowledge was about to be illuminated for my benefit. Many of those customers were exceptionally generous in sharing their wisdom, and I soaked it up gratefully. There’s nothing like having your feet placed on the path by one who has traveled the same road. 

There are several examples of similar mentorship in Community; one is a majestically prolific survey of Blues-Rock and the Blues titans that inspired its genesis. I would have given anything for a primer of this quality back when I first approached the genre. It’s a masterpiece of stories and sound curated by forum member 7NoteScale and enriched with selections from dozens of his fellow blues-hounds.

It provides an outstanding introduction to one of America’s most influential and enduring musical forms. Jazz, Rock-n-Roll, Rock, R&B, Country, Soul, Rap, and myriad other genres took root in The Blues’ fertile soil. Its primary instrument is unrivaled in conveying emotion and the vagaries of our existence; the human voice, lifted in song and accompanied by the preferred tools of itinerant musicians – the harmonica and guitar. 

Muddy Waters & Howlin’ Wolf

We’ve taken some of our personal Blues favs and paired them with suggestions from the Blues or Blues-based Rock thread to create two consummate playlists. These playlists, combined with Roon’s unparalleled understanding of the relationships that unite these forms, provide a perfect springboard for discovery. If you’ve synced a TIDAL or Qobuz subscription with Roon, you have everything you need to follow the deep river of song straight into the heart of The Blues. The first playlist is dedicated to the founders of Blues-Rock; it’s chock-full of tunes from the early 1960s to 1972 that define the genre. The second celebrates the Blues masters and songs that their acolytes emulated. 

Blues-Rock Founders

If you’re relatively new to this music, it may come as a surprise to learn that Blues-Rock first coalesced in England. The Blues was positively exotic to young Brits who first heard snippets of it on BBC Radio and then scoured music shops searching for the sounds they had heard. Blues fanatics were adept at recognizing the characteristics of like-minded listeners, and small gangs of aficionados formed in admiration of their muse.

The Blues became so popular in the UK that Melody Maker magazine teamed up with promoters to host a Blues package tour in 1962, consisting of Chess Records legends Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, and Sonny Boy Williamson. Many of them had never played outside of The United States. They couldn’t believe the welcome they received from young white audiences who sat in rapt attention, hungry for the music and hanging on every word and blue note. 

Attending the concerts were young disciples who would leave their mark on music, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Jimmy Page, Eric Burdon, Eric Clapton, and Steve Winwood

‘We didn’t think we were ever going to do anything much, except turn other people on to Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and Jimmy Reed. We had no aspirations bigger than that’. 

Keith Richards, The Human Riff, and Rolling Stone
The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones, who took their name from the Muddy Waters song, were devout students who sought no greater purpose than to spread the word. Their founder, Brian Jones, worked tirelessly to unlock the secrets of Elmore James‘ slide playing before leaving home to form a band and play revved-up versions of blues standards. The Animals, The Yardbirds, and The Pretty Things all followed their lead. Blues elders like John Mayall helped develop guitar heroes; Eric Clapton, Peter Green, and Mick Taylor each served stints with The Bluesbreakers.

Young American listeners, swept up in The British Invasion, didn’t realize that the ‘new sound’ had essentially been created in their backyard and was being carried back to its birthplace.

In The States, a similar phenomenon emerged as music fans Paul Butterfield, Nick Gravenites, Michael Bloomfield, and Elvin Bishop haunted the Blues clubs of Chicago’s Southside, enthralled by what they heard. They slowly summoned the courage to approach their musical heroes, which eventually led to invitations to jam with the very players they idolized. 

The Butterfield Blues Band

Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Little Walter, and Otis Rush provided advice and encouragement, and The Butterfield Blues Band was born. They were a powerhouse outfit that left an indelible mark on listeners. Bob Dylan asked them to back him up when he went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Their lead guitarist, Mike Bloomfield, was an incendiary player and as influential in The U.S. as Clapton was in England. Fellow blues upstarts like John Hammond, Canned Heat, and Charlie Musselwhite soon appeared. The erudite Folk Music Boom of the late ’50s and early ’60s was giving way to a tougher, more visceral, sound that shunned Pop’s triviality.

Blues-Rock hit its high water mark when heavies like Cream, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Jeff Beck Group, Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zeppelin fused the blues with thunderous amplification and improvisational intensity that staggered the imagination. Meanwhile, in The American South, Johnny Winter, The Allman Brothers Band, and ZZ Top crafted a unique Blues-Rock variant that was equally potent. 

Fleetwood Mac

Even bands like The Doors and The Grateful Dead, who are much more closely associated with Psychedelic Rock, had a strong affinity for raw blues. The Dead’s singer Rod “Pigpen” McKernan was the son of a Rhythm & Blues radio DJ and was conversant in The Blues. The Doors’ live cover of Little Red Rooster features stinging lead guitar from Albert King. All the bands mentioned, plus many more, are waiting for you in our Blues-Rock Founders playlist on your Roon home page. 

Blues Origins

When diving into a devoted study of The Blues one begins to wonder if the name is a description of the emotional impact it carries or a plural term that hopes to contain its many forms. There’s no single inclusive characteristic that sums up the music. Some point to its prominent 12-bar structure, but there were plenty of legendary bluesmen who rarely utilized it. 

Our Blues Origins playlist follows the same track sequencing as its Blues-Rock Founders off-shoot and allows the listener to trace the cover version back to its source. Just as Blues-Rock Founders provides an in-road into that form, Blue Origins takes you to ground zero and facilitates an opportunity to follow the thread from one blues legend to another with Roon’s similar artists and recommended album features. No crossroads deal required; we’ve done the work for you. 

BB King

The playlist is a who’s-who of The Blues. Giants like Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Robert Johnson, and Albert King weigh in with several selections, highlighting their influence. Lesser-known figures like Sam Collins, Willie Cobbs, Robert Wilkins, Floyd Jones, and Wilbert Harrison demonstrate that the hidden corners of the music proved to be just as abundant as the dominant strains. 

Albert King

There’s so much more that I could say about the musicians in this list and the music they created. But, I’m not confident that any of it would be as effective as the feeling one gets from listening to it. The quote below speaks to the sensation of first hearing it with near biblical reverence.

When I first heard Howlin’ Wolf, I said, ‘This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.’

Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records.

Could a more compelling summation than that be articulated? I don’t think so, but we welcome you to spin up our Blues Origins playlist and take a crack at it!

If you’d like to know more about Roon, simply get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get set up. If you’re ready to get started, you can try our free 14-day trial here.

Roon Partner Update: May

Throughout May, we introduced ten new devices from audio brands such as Arcam, Astell&Kern, Chord Electronics, CanEVER Audio and JBL.

For a full list of our partner brands and every Roon Ready and Roon Tested device, visit our Partners page on the Roon website.

Arcam
Roon Ready

Arcam has added four new devices to their ever-growing lineup in our partner family last month, with the AVR11, AVR21, AVR31, and AV41 all becoming Roon Ready. All of the new models in Arcam’s lineup this month feature modern HDMI 2.1 connectivity, and include DIRAC Live room correction built-in.

The AVR11 and AVR21 use fantastic A/B amplification in their multichannel designs, while the AVR31 offers Arcam’s powerful Class G amp technology onboard. The AV41 is a stellar Preamp/Processor with a host of inputs and full support for Dolby Atmos output.

Astell&Kern
Roon Ready & Roon Tested

We’re excited to announce two more Astell&Kern have joined the Roon partner family with the Roon Tested AK HC2 and the Roon Ready KANN MAX. The AK HC2 is a USB-C based portable DAC offering HiFi performance in a package that couldn’t be easier to toss in a pocket and bring anywhere you go. 

The KANN MAX is the Digital Audio Player in the award-winning KANN series, and features the high power output you’d expect in an even smaller and more convenient package. Of course, the KANN MAX is bolstered by a high end ESS Sabre DAC, and can thank Astell&Kern engineering for its stellar sonic performance.

Chord Electronics
Roon Tested

We would like to join Chord as they welcome the Mojo2 to the Roon family, this being the 12th Chord device to be certified as Roon Tested.

The Mojo2 builds on the foundation made by the much loved, award winning Mojo, taking its familiar pocketable form factor and elevating the experience offered to even greater heights. With improved charging circuitry, a USB-C port, and industry-leading lossless DSP volume capability, the Mojo2 is a remarkable and welcome addition to the Roon Tested lineup. 

CanEVER Audio
Roon Tested

Last month our brand new Roon Partner, CanEVER Audio, announced that the ZeroUno DAC is now Roon Tested. CanEVER is an Italian HiFi manufacturer, attuned to the joy and energy brought out by the music that we love.

The ZeroUno is a unique tube DAC, and emphasizes accurate reproduction of musicality and the emotive nature of sound in its design. With a jitter-free USB implementation, and an incredibly low noise floor, this DAC is certain to be an exciting addition to any system.

JBL Synthesis
Roon Ready

New Roon Ready additions from the exciting JBL Synthesis line include the SDR-35 and SDR-58.

The SDR-35 is a powerful Class G home theater AVR that features DIRAC Live room correction and Dolby ATMOS capability out of the box. The SDR-35’s 16 channel output and with HDR10+ support ensure that capability and home theater performance are top-notch. The SDR-58 is a 16 channel preamp and processor with full support for HDMI 2.1 built-in.

Just like its AVR sibling, the SDR-58 features AirPlay 2 and Chromecast support built in, alongside its DIRAC Live room correction technology. Whether you’re taking advantage of JBL’s Sythesis amplification technology or providing your own, you can’t go wrong with these AV solutions.