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 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!

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.

44 Days in ’91

Music flashpoints are an exceedingly rare phenomenon. Even when considering a mainstream genre like Rock you can count these transformational convulsions on a single hand. Some of the reason for their scarcity comes from the difficulty involved in packing all the necessary ingredients into a single coalescent moment. The required elements are a creative environment that has gone stale, the sudden emergence of a new sound, a large audience, and a means for reaching them.

Historically, television has exploited those moments more effectively than any competing medium. A few examples spring instantly to mind: Elvis‘ first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, The Beatles‘ first Sullivan performance… and the day in 1991 that Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit broke on MTV. 

Those who experienced that debut in real-time remember it vividly. ‘Everything will be different now…’, the screen seemed to convey with mysterious certainty. A new era had sprung to life before our eyes.

I was at the top of the rock world… then next thing I know it’s ‘Hey Joe’s Crab Shack, it’s great to be here!!’ Really, it was that fast, man. Nirvana murdered my career, and everyone else’s. Everything that came before was over.

Sebastian Bach, Lead Singer of Skid Row

The Long Winter of Hair Metal

If you weren’t of a certain age in the early 1990s, it may be difficult to understand the dominance that MTV enjoyed when it came to defining music trends. It was the most powerful visual platform music had ever seen. The problem was that it had become a wasteland of cheesy sound-alike hair bands. The programing had slowly devolved into a relentless parade of awful music and vapid videos filled with men in makeup, hairspray drenched teased hair, scantily clad women, spandex, studded leather, pointy guitars, and musical cliché. It had been that way for what felt like a lifetime, with no end in sight.

Then suddenly, in the waning days of the summer of 1991, seven landmark albums were released within 44 days of each other; with startling immediacy Rock was reborn!

  • Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album), August 12, 1991
  • Pearl Jam – Ten, August 27, 1991
  • Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I & II, September 17, 1991
  • Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik, September 24, 1991
  • Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger, September 24, 1991
  • Nirvana – Nevermind, September 24, 1991

An interview scene from the recent SXSW premiere of the Ronnie James Dio documentary Dio: Dreamers Never Die captured the moment perfectly. Veteran Rock-radio DJ, and former host of VH1’s Metal Mania, Eddie Trunk, recounted how the program director of WDHA, ‘The Rock of New Jersey’, walked into the booth minutes before the start of his show. Trunk was told to put all the Metal discs on the console in a cardboard box. After doing so, he was handed Nirvana’s Nevermind.; “This is what we play now,” the program director said as he walked away. Trunk recalled that he had never seen a moment like that in Rock music before or since. 

Sebastian Bach of Skid Row displayed self-effacing humor after the film screening as he shared a memory of that period. “We had just released an album and were huge! I was at the top of the rock world… then next thing I know it’s ‘Hey Joe’s Crab Shack, it’s great to be here!!’ Really, it was that fast, man. Nirvana murdered my career, and everyone else’s. Everything that came before was over.” 

But Nirvana didn’t do all of this single-handedly; it was a unique joint effort from a truly unlikely confederacy of albums.

Seven Albums

Metallica‘s eponymous album was first, accompanied by a series of darkly themed videos beginning with the nightmare hell-ride, Enter SandmanThe band had previously enjoyed a committed cult following, but all that changed after The Black Album. They made the hair metal bands that preceded them look ridiculous. Their breed of metal was pulverizing, ominous, and entirely unlike the sound that had saturated the airwaves for years on end. And it was suddenly mainstream; one had the feeling that something was stirring. 

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/ysw33p1clm4kb
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/197137267

Pearl Jam‘s Ten was branded “grunge” but there’s a substantial classic-rock aesthetic to their sound. The spirit of Hendrix, Page, and other late ’60s / early ’70’s guitar heroes can clearly be felt. Eddie Vedder’s words resonated with a whole new generation of listeners looking for deeper subject matter to identify with. Their video for Even Flow captured the raw energy of the new sound and scene.

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0884977724745
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/195069318

Guns N’ Roses rewarded fans who had patiently waited for a follow-up to their debut Appetite for Destruction with two full-length releases, Use You Illusion I & II. G&R wasn’t new to the scene. They were frequent fixtures on MTV and rock radio who withstood the sea change thanks to their skill at cranking out pure unadulterated Rock. Use Your Illusion I & II debuted at the Number 1 and 2 slots of Billboard’s Album Chart. Several songs from the record morphed into some of the most cinematic, and expensive, rock videos to ever appear on MTV. 

Use Your Illusion I
Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0072064244152
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/629051

Use Your Illusion II
Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/b5huv2vxfiqcc
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/89413071

September 24, 1991, delivered a devastating triumvirate of albums whose combined impact, and individual merits, are unlikely to be repeated. 

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Blood, Sugar, Sex, Majik sees the funk-rock tribe expand their sonic horizons thanks to production from Rick Rubin. The video releases for Breaking the GirlGive It Away, and Under the Bridge are surreal scenes plucked straight from an Orange Sunshine fueled reverie. They played music with a warrior’s intensity, the RHCP were the only band who sounded like that.    

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0093624932147
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/288404

Soundgarden was always too singular sonically to fit comfortably under the “grunge” banner. On Badmotorfinger, their eclectic influences and musicianship are on full display. Full of inventive arrangements, unusual time signatures, and sludgy guitar heaviness – the album cuts its own trail across the musical landscape of that summer. The crazed neon desert visuals of Jesus Christ Pose proved too controversial for MTV, earning a ban from the network. MTV hasn’t played the video in its entirety to this day.

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0060255722974
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/67019132

Nirvana‘s Nevermind struck the final deadly blow. I don’t know if I’ll ever see another album redirect the arc of rock music the way that one did. No doubt, the six albums that preceded it had done their work in weakening the target; but Nirvana’s heavy sonic attack and subject matter recalled punk’s go-to-hell abandon with delirious ferocity. But it was the imagery of their videos that proved lethal. 

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0060253749865
TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/77610756

The final nail: Smells Like Teen Spirit

On September 10th, 1991, Nevermind‘s first video Smells Like Teen Spirit exploded before an unprepared audience. Everything in that 4 minutes and 39 seconds was the mirror opposite of the soul-sucking drek we had endured in the long winter of Hair-Metal. The only makeup and spandex seen were buried in the greenish mire that obscured the Anarchy Cheerleaders thrashing in the foreground. Nirvana wore striped shirts, torn jeans, doc martens, and converse, with guitars slung low and set to destroy. Kobain with hair in his face tearing away at the guitar, Novoselic head down, driving the bass, Grohl a hurricane of blurred arms and bass drumming. The kids rocking out in the video were representative of the musical liberation we all felt. Everything that had previously assailed us musically was swept away in its aftermath.

In celebration of these records, we’ve built 44 Days in ’91; a playlist featuring the heaviest tracks from these albums. Together again, just as they were on MTV and the airwaves in the days that followed. You can find it on your Home Page in Roon.

If you were a member of Hair Nation who was sad to see those earlier Metal bands go, we want to hear your side of the story. Head over to Roon Community and submit your favorite metal songs of the mid-’80s to early ’90s to our thread entitled Glam-Metal: Roon Listeners’ Playlist. We’ll compile the best and share a playlist of your favorites. 

Black Trailblazers


At Roon our passion for music is illustrated by a growing selection of eclectic playlists featuring a diverse mix of genres, instrumentation, and voices from around the globe. As music lovers we’re fortunate to live in a time when music is so plentiful and easily accessible; when you sync a Qobuz or TIDAL membership with your Roon subscription the selection is practically limitless. An all encompassing palette of sound is at your fingertips, accompanied by the freedom to listen to, and enjoy, anything you desire. 

It’s easy to forget that this wasn’t always the case. But we’re not talking about the relatively new emergence of streaming music and its transformation of the music industry; we’re talking about a time in history when there were strict racial boundaries in music. When black music was heard only in black churches, black clubs and theaters, black radio stations, and when black musicians were relegated to Race Records Charts and Race Label catalogs. American Music was just as segregated as American society and culture.  But Black Jazz, Blues, Folk, and Gospel music was relentlessly working their magic; building enclaves in white record collections, fighting rhythmically for acceptance. Beauty, determined to be appreciated – like a rose growing through concrete to find the sunshine. 

The list below is a roster of the black trailblazing musicians who broke through the race barrier with music that was too beautiful to be ignored or denied. It makes sense that music would be a force that helped tear down racial discrimination in The United States. Music is a universal language, but one that speaks to us in ways that exceed our full understanding. Tonal color, pitch, tempo, texture, timbre, harmony, melody, rhythm, they communicate something deeper than language. They resonate with an emotional core that recognizes and reminds us of our commonalities – it’s a nonverbal language of brotherhood.

Racial division doesn’t have a chance when one group of people can recognize themselves in the art of another group of people. We’ve all had our lives enriched through that musical kinship. We hope you’ll find something that resonates with you in our Black Trailblazers playlist in Roon, Qobuz, and TIDAL music; offered in honor of the musical visionaries who first opened our ears, and our hearts.

Ethel Waters

Firsts in Black Music:

  • First African-American Ensemble to play at The White House (1882) – 
    • The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir from the Fisk School in Nashville, Tennessee became the first African American choir to perform at the White House for President Chester Arthur.
  • First Commercially Recorded African-American Singer (1890) – 
    • George W. Johnson – The Whistling Coon
  • First Black Musicians in a Motion Picture (1923) – 
    • Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle in Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake performing Affectionate Dan.
  • First Black Performer on US Television (June 14, 1939) – 
    • Ethel Waters on The Ethel Waters Show
Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • First Black Emmy Award Winner
    • Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series (1959) – Harry Belafonte for Tonight with Belafonte 
  • First Black Grammy Recipients
    • Best Jazz Performance, Soloist (1958) – Ella Fitzgerald for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
    • Best Female, Pop Vocal Performance (1958) – Ella Fitzgerald for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook
    • Best Jazz Performance, Jazz Group (1958) – Count Basie for Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie)
    • Best Performance by a Dance Band (1958) – Count Basie for Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie)
    • Album of the Year (1974) – Stevie Wonder for Innervisions
  • First Black Oscar Winners
    • Best Music, Original Song (1972) – Isaac Hayes for Theme From Shaft – First African-American winner for Best Original Song. First African-American to win a non-acting award.
    • Best Original Song Score (1984) – Prince for Purple Rain.
Prince
  • First Black Tony Award Winner 
    • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (1954) – Harry    Belafonte for John Murray Anderson’s Almanac
  • First Black Musician to achieve an E.G.O.T (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) (2018) – 
    • John Legend
  • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, First Black Inductees (1986)
    • Chuck Berry
    • James Brown
    • Ray Charles
    • Sam Cooke
    • Fats Domino
    • Little Richard
  • Country Music Hame of Fame, First Black Inductee (2000)
    • Charley Pride
  • MTV
    • First All Black Band to Appear on MTV (1982) – Musical Youth with Pass the Dutchie
Musical Youth
  • First Black Billboard Record Chart Toppers
    • Best Selling Popular Record Albums Chart Number 1 (Billboard’s First Album Chart) (March 24, 1945) – The Nat King Cole Trio
    • Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 (September 29, 1958) – Tommy Edwards with It’s All In The Game

Due to the scarcity of some of the recordings in this list, some selections had to be substituted for representative pieces from the same time period.

If you’d like to know more about Roon, simply get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get set up.

Alternatively, you can try the free 14 day trial here.

Get Back to The Beatles with Roon

The last few months have been an interesting time for 60s music fans. After all, how often do we see a decades-old sour story about a band or album evolve in such a way that history, and our beliefs, are permanently reconstructed? Rarely. All the more so when it involves a band like The Beatles and their final (released) studio album Let it Be. When it comes to Beatle lore, the icey saga of Let it Be was chiseled into stone as cold as the West London film studio where the band that created The 60s had allegedly unraveled. Those of us who saw the original film remember what it was like all too well. Dreadful stuff: frustrated and agitated Beatles bickering with each other. It was memorable for all the wrong reasons. I, like many Beatles fans, was certain that it would never see an expanded reissue, let alone a deluxe treatment. The album title itself seemed to confirm it! 

And yet, the word got out that they were doing just that. A multi-disc box set was released last October, and about a month later there they were, in restored color, for Get Back – a three-part documentary series. It’s been absolutely dizzying, mesmerizing, and revelatory to witness. Still a bit uncomfortable to watch, in places, but, on the whole, a complete regenesis with plenty of musical and brotherly love. It’s certainly the most revealing and most human vista we’ve ever gotten of them. Seeing the Rooftop Concert in its triumphant entirety had me immediately Focusing on the Fab corner of my Roon Library, and I wasn’t the only one.

TIDAL: Get Back (Rooftop Performance) https://tidal.com/browse/album/213891547

Qobuz: Get Back (Rooftop Performance) https://open.qobuz.com/album/x9pgg6gsai8vc

Roon, as a microcosm, reflected the impact those releases had on dedicated fans and curious onlookers alike. Within days, The Beatles were the most listened-to band in Roon. Admittedly, they’re never too far outside the top ten anyhow; but, as John Lennon once said, they were toppermost of the poppermost again. It was easy to understand why, the Let it Be Super Deluxe Set remastering is very tastefully done, and sonically rewarding – as expected. But it’s the twenty-seven previously unreleased studio jams, outtakes, and rehearsals that provide a fascinating wellspring of ‘what-ifs’. What if All Things Must Pass had been born with three Beatle voices instead of just George’s alone? What if John Lennon’s brooding broadside Gimme Some Truth had landed on Let it Be instead of kicking off side two of Imagine?! What if Glyn Johns’ raw mixes had emerged as the finished product instead of Phil Spector’s strings and high sheen approach? The head swims, and those are just a few of many questions the set spawns! And it would be rude not to take a moment to just say the words, “thank you Billy Preston”, and smile. His contribution was such a transformational force in the entire proceedings.

The Roon ripples reverberated from Let it Be into the other Super Deluxe sets in the band’s reissue roster. Abbey Road, The Beatles (aka The White Album), and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band were getting a lot of residual play time on customer systems. But, in true Roon fashion, it was the stuff that was percolating under those sets that was most fascinating. 

The Beatles were/are masters of marketing and product. Over the years there’s been a staggering parade of Beatles releases, some official, some not – all of it well documented, meticulously indexed, and obsessively collected. Those factors make for a catalog that is perfectly irresistible to Roon customers and naturally suited for Roon’s music library superpowers. Much of The Beatles’ massive discography isn’t available on streaming sites. But because of how easy it is to import a personal music library, it was on full display in Roon and getting loads of play time: The Beatles in Mono, The E.P. Collection, The US Albums Box Set, Beatles Ballads, Love Songs, Anthology 2, Twist and Shout, The Lost Album, Reel Music, Hey Jude, Beatles Bop – Hamburg Days, Introducing… The Beatles – just to name a crate full.

Most people with digital music files will tell you that the bugbear of owning large collections has always been figuring out how to organize and use them in an intuitive and enjoyable way. Our customers have discovered that Roon solves the problem. Let me explain, for the non-Rooner, how this is done with just a few mouse clicks.

Scene opens: you’ve launched your Roon trial, installed the Roon software, synced your streaming services, detected and enabled all the audio devices that are connected to your local internet network, you’ve queued up some music to play and everything sounds great! But there’s your external hard drive with several terabytes of music on it. ‘Ugh’, you think, ‘I’ll mess with that later’. But, with Roon, there’s no need for dread. Especially not in your scenario, you’re importing an extensive collection of Beatles files and albums. This is heavily documented and easily recognized music. Roon utilizes data from several metadata providers and adds some secret magic that makes this process painless. When you link your collection in Roon, the metadata engine goes into high gear comparing your files against our data and in less time than you can imagine your music is in Roon, identified and ready to enjoy. And none of that processing alters a single bit or byte on your hard drive; Roon metadata is simply a nice set of clothes for your music files.

Roon does the same thing with all the other music on your drive. If an obscure vinyl rip or import compilation isn’t recognized, simply tell Roon to use your embedded artwork and file tags instead. It’s that easy. Your streaming favorites, digital music library, and live radio station presets are all integrated and ready to explore & enjoy in bit-perfect, high-resolution, lossless audio. That’s Roon through the fish-eye lens of a Beatle collection, but it functions the same way no matter what you listen to. If this sounds like something that would help you bring order to your digital collection and facilitate filling your listening space with your favorite music then we invite you to take a look at Roon. If you’d like to know more, simply get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get set up.

Alternatively, you can try the free 14 day trial here.

Autumnal Acoustics

Every year an interesting shift occurs in my listening preferences at about the middle of October when the evening air turns crisp and the autumn sun flames out in fallen-leaf orange behind the trees on the hill. The tones from my speakers reliably reflect this seasonal change, with pastoral hues of wet earth and black trees, as the hypnotic strains of British Folk drift through my space. I can’t quite explain why my mind equates colder weather with that genre; perhaps it’s an ancestral memory that has been stripped of all its features but sound. Whatever the cause, my default fall selections are always a familiar narrow rotation of Brit-Folk favs. Just as routinely, I have vowed that I’ll investigate the golden era of British and Irish Folk music more thoroughly. And, despite never having managed to keep that promise in the past, I’ve always meant to.

The problem has been that as much as I love this music, and recognize a smattering of artists and albums outside of my favorites, exploring the genre can feel at times like getting turned around in the forest. There’s so much stylistic similarity in the landscape, ensembles absorbed and discarded personnel frequently, and groups embraced new sounds so often that it’s quite difficult to find your footing on the path of discovery. But if one is fortunate enough to have Roon, and a synced streaming service as a guide, the same challenge suddenly becomes an inspired adventure of autumnal acoustics.

This time I tried something different by beginning with a favorite selection and then allowing Roon to influence my new route – the scenery promptly changed and offered a wealth of surprise and variety I’ve never encountered previously. A few hours later I’d been reacquainted with a few forgotten gems and had acquired a handful of new discoveries. Each one of them linked to my original selection by Roon’s unparalleled understanding of the web of sound. All the listener must do is simply follow the notes.

My first go-to of fall is always TrafficJohn Barleycorn (Must Die). It’s something of a wonder that the record exists as a Traffic album at all. It was to be Steve Winwood’s first solo release, but it was having trouble getting started. Former bandmate Jim Capaldi was invited ‘round to collaborate, a second former partner, Chris Wood, showed up – and a trio incarnation of Traffic was accidentally formed. Winwood, at twenty two years old, reimagined an Elizabethan-era folk standard for the title track which recounts the story of John Barleycorn – a character who suffers a wrath of indignities that correspond with the phases of barley cultivation. It exhibits a staggeringly brilliant folk authenticity not found anywhere else on the album, and only rarely in Traffic’s discography. You’ll catch yourself checking the credits in Roon incredulously for confirmation that this was a trio when you hear how much music these guys put down. Winwood’s delicate acoustic guitar ties Celtic patterns through his accompanying piano chords as Chris Wood weaves flute airs around Jim Capaldi’s tasteful rustic percussion. Winwood and Capaldi’s vocals relay the story of Barleycorn’s saga with the skill of master storytellers. It might not even be British Folk by some definitions but it defies any effort to argue it otherwise.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/77629646

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/15197455

From Barleycorn, my go-to is always Fairport Convention but this time I vowed to do things differently. So instead of instinctively queueing up their What We Did On Our Holidays album I scrolled to similar artists instead, and chose Sandy Denny. Her discography revealed the long out-of-print compilation I’ve Always Kept a Unicorn: The Acoustic Sandy Denny, which served up Sandy Denny with Fairport Convention She Moves Through the Fair. A favorite from the aforementioned Fairport album, but here rendered in a deft acoustic version, with guitars simultaneously articulate and percussive supporting Denny’s angelic voice to absolute perfection. Fairport Convention could strip the music down to nothing and still dig into the marrow of the listener. This track is a superlative example of that. As always, Roon makes unearthing these previously unknown alternate versions an unburdened joy. New favorites are always waiting at the end of a few mouse clicks.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/59412740

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/31434205

Nick DrakeTime Has Told Me is synonymous with fall to my ears. There isn’t a year that goes by where Nick Drake doesn’t become a regular on my turntable. I’ve heard that listening to his music is permitted at other times of the year as well but I’ve never risked testing the theory. This beautifully written and performed original is the auditory equivalent of a warm fire in the cold of the countryside. And it’s a natural follow up to the previous selection because two members of Fairport Convention contribute to it. If that’s not something you knew previously, it’s no problem. Roon hips you to that stuff in the track credits. All through the software it’s that simple. This track is one to follow the lyrics on, it’s another example of Nick Drake’s poetry outshining the transcendent music that carries it along. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/77611146

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/12738446

I typically follow Nick Drake with Bert Jansch or John Renbourn, but this time I let Roon point me toward PentangleBasket of Light where both were band members. I chose the album because I recognized it’s cover from a former roommate’s vinyl collection but had only a vague memory of the music on it. The record is a spellbinding chimera, an eclectic hybrid of Indian influenced modal sounds and progressive jazz-psyche infused with British Folk originals. It provided an intriguing inroad into a band I’ve been curious about for years. In Roon the transition from curiosity to discovery is as natural as the change in seasons.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/64013871

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/5414939525476

From Pentangle I was served up a selection in the Similar Albums section that yielded a thick vein of gold that cut straight through to the heart of the music. Various ArtistsAnthems in Eden: An Anthology Of British & Irish Folk 1955-1978 is an eighty four track, multi-disc collection, that reveals the complete genetic encoding of the idiom. Finding recordings that thoroughly unlock the mysteries of a genre is commonplace in Roon because the design was built with this in mind. Try to imagine another place where that’s facilitated with such ease, effortless discovery of new favorites that are informed by an intimate understanding of the interconnected storylines of the music we already love. That’s what Roon does, and it’s the reason why I’m finally able to explore British Folk in the way I’ve always wanted.

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/69046725

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0602527958880

Tell us about your experiences! Does a certain genre, artist, band, piece of music, song, or album make you think of the arrival of Autumn? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Share them with us in our Autumnal Acoustics music thread on Community. And thank you all for your wonderful contributions in the Classical Community Conversations thread! We’re looking forward to sharing your recommendations in an upcoming playlist. Please stay tuned for that! 


Community Music Discovery: October 2021

Lately I’ve been reflecting on one of life’s greatest paradoxes: that classical music can be intimidating. It only takes a few moments of sitting with the thought for the absurdity of it to bleed through.  It’s like saying ‘I saw the most terrifying field of sunflowers the other day’….someone might think you had suffered a head injury and call for help. Yet, some of us have experienced hesitancy when approaching classical music. Fortunately, Roon cures that reluctance and makes exploration a pleasure.

Roon subscribers are uncommonly knowledgeable across an incredible range of musical forms. They’re all on display in the What Are We Listening To thread of our Community forums. They know classical music particularly well, and they love to talk about it. Many of the descriptions that accompany their listening choices are simply radiant in their perception and appreciation. Their suggestions stimulate interest, and with a streaming service integrated in Roon, they’re all right there waiting at the end of a search. It’s really that easy! It’s still somewhat stupefyingly unimaginable, to those of us who were hanging around music stores 30 years ago, that music can be found and heard so effortlessly… it’s science fiction for music heads. The next thing you know you’ll have added 160 definitive classical compositions to your Roon library. And, without even a twinge of hesitation.

My Roon classical journey was jump-started with an RCA Red Seal discovery: Gregor Piatigorsky’s Dvorak; Walton: Cello Concertos. It’s a lively conversation between Piatigorsky and the Orchestra; the cello and the symphony exchange voices in vibrant repartee. A listener doesn’t have to be fluent in classical music to know there’s something special happening on this recording. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/4918900

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0884977773224

From there, Roon recommended a handful of other RCA Living Stereo and Red Seal classics. I selected one that featured Jascha Heifetz performing Violin Concertos by Sibelius, Prokofiev, and Glazunov. It’s absolutely stunning to me that Roon made it so easy to find an album as remarkable as this one. I can’t imagine being able to accomplish this so seamlessly anywhere else but in Roon. This album is packed with imagination and drama, richly painted as sound. I’ve listened to it nearly everyday since I added it. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/62707810

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0886445075557

My most recent find required no effort at all. It was shared by a community member, Sjaak D, in response to last month’s Roon Rediscoveries story. It’s a Philips collection by Mitsuko Uchida, Mozart: The Piano Sonatas. Sjaak recalled an evening years ago when he returned home to find his Hi-Fi and modest collection of discs stolen, including this one. And how, despite auditioning several collections of Mozart’s Piano Sonatas over a number of years, none exhibited the same zest or excitement demonstrated by the Uchida set. His longing went unsatiated until he was able to secure another copy of this specific collection. It only takes listening to a few pieces on this set to understand why.

Immediately thereafter another community member, Christian_S, affirmed the brilliance of Uchida’s performance. An instant bond was formed between two people who have never met, but are simpatico in their deep appreciation of music. This is how friendships are born. Any album that sparks a connection like that has a place in my library. 

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/album/4717063

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/album/0002894683562

That’s Roon, everyday. I get to be part of that, and if you’re a Roon subscriber you know what I’m talking about. In Roon you’ll discover the Community vibe of a great record store and all the inventory you could ever want, right under your fingertips. Each great album and accompanying conversation leads the way to another. The music never stops. 

So, while we have you, what Classical performances do we need to hear? This music is too good to go unheard. If you know it well and love it, help us to know it and appreciate it too.  Tell us here, and we’ll share your recommendations in our upcoming listener-curated playlists.




Community Music Discovery: September 2021

Hello, 

My name is Jamie and I’m a member of Roon’s Customer Success and Support Team. I also help out with alpha testing our new features, metadata development, and assisting our customers with getting the best possible experience when enjoying Roon. And now, I get to talk to all of you about music. Which is pretty sweet for me because aside from my family there isn’t anything that means as much to me as music. Like many of my colleagues at Roon I’m enamored with all kinds of music and I’ve been privileged to work in the music industry for many years. I was the kid who bought 7-inch singles with his lunch money and later grew up to do live music production, work as a recording engineer, record store clerk, music writer, radio DJ, sound archivist, tape restoration engineer, and compilation producer. The common thread that runs through all those roles is that they provided me with the opportunity to connect with people through a shared love of music. 

One of the things I enjoy most about spending my day with Roon is the way it fosters the rediscovery of music that has moved and inspired me throughout my life. The best parts of my workday are when Roon Radio brings that well-loved but somewhat orphaned song back into my orbit unexpectedly. What always surprises me is the journey that these songs seem to have taken in their absence. They bristle with new energy, gleam with a new coat of paint, or exude some elusive quality that has made them glow a bit brighter. The real explanation for their evolution is that we have changed. Our attention to sonic detail, discernment, taste, and music listening education has grown such that these songs seem to take on a new life. I’ve had no shortage of these moments and I’d like to lay a few of them on you.

Wilson Pickett – Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You. My CD copy of Rhino Records’ The Very Best of Wilson Pickett disappeared without a trace from my music shelf years ago and spirited away this track. Wilson took on every song that he recorded at 110%; what that means is that the songs that weren’t hits still smoke. On this one, Pickett is paired with a Gamble & Huff studio hit-squad that churns out just the right amount of grit. The fat, fuzzy, overdrive on the rhythm guitar part in the chorus was a new detail I had missed before.

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/12220508

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/19940807

Quicksilver Messenger Service – Mona. I had a dear friend who grew up just south of San Francisco in the late 60s and hitchhiked to the Fillmore West to see shows as a teenager. He told me that Quicksilver Messenger Service was one of the heaviest San-Fran groups he saw live, even heavier than The Grateful Dead. At some point, I ran into a used copy of their Happy Trails album. It showcased a few epic live Bo Diddley workouts that cemented my friend’s observations. Recently when I bumped into this song the beat had become even more tribal and propulsive. Bo’s primitive rhythmic chop is psychedelicized with driving lead guitar from John Cipollina while a second tremolo guitar part pushes the pulse of the song in and out of syncopation. Hearing it again after all these years was a revelation.

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/18930964

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/2501438

Reuben Wilson – Hold On, I’m Comin. There were a few serious Hammond organ cats at work for Blue Note Records in the 1960s. Reuban was never as highly regarded as Jimmy Smith, John Patton, or Larry Young but he could cook too. This supercharged version of Sam & Dave’s Hold On, I’m Comin really gets things boiling. Wilson roots right down in the grove on this one and carries everyone along with him. Lee Morgan and George Coleman blow like they were raised at Stax, Grant Green leans into R&B riffs you could hammer nails with, and Idris Muhammad swings it all kinds of funky on the kit. This cut feels like it was custom-made for playlists. 

Qobuz: https://open.qobuz.com/track/1781377

TIDAL: https://tidal.com/browse/track/2326663

New music discoveries are exciting but there’s something equally special about these rediscoveries – at least we think so. Tell us about your experiences! Which songs have Roon ushered back into your life and library after a long absence? Pick two or three of them and share the qualities that you noticed this time around in the Roon Rediscoveries thread on our Roon Community forum. 

We’ll curate your selections for inclusion in our upcoming TIDAL and Qobuz playlists and publish your song comments on our Music Blog next month. Roon has always been about discovery and exploration. The thing that drives those two catalysts is connections and nothing connects a community quite like music. So, let’s talk music!