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.
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
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.
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
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!
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.
“…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.
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.
In our previous blog post A Celebration of Jazz – A Global Journeywe explored a variety of regional jazz scenes. We continue our blog series to celebrate International Jazz Day with an exploration of the contemporary jazz scene. For International Women’s Day we created our playlist Women in Jazz to celebrate the women leading the way today. We explore the international contemporary jazz scene further in our playlists Expansive Jazz and Contemporary ECM.
Explore the expansive and experimental sounds of the genre-bending contemporary jazz scene where a new generation of artists are continuously reinventing the sound of jazz.
It has been a strong start to the year with contemporary jazz releases. We feature new releases from Bassist Derrick Hodge, Kokoroko, Immanuel Wilkins, Sons of Kemet, Ebi Soda, Kamasi Washington, Julius Rodriguez, and Ezra Collective along with some strong leaders in the genre – Robert Glasper’s supergroup R&R = Now and Christian Scott.
The London-based Afrobeat band Kokoroko have released two stand out tracks in their new debut album Could We Be More. In this playlist we feature Something’s Going On with its influences of psychedelic jazz and funk combining African roots and London sounds. In our playlist Sarah Pick’s we feature We Give Thanks, written with the idea of recapturing the energy you get when you get to the end of shows.
Another highlight is Brighton-based jazz quintet Ebi Soda’s Chandler from their new album Honk if You’re Sad which combines psychedelia, dissonance, hip hop, jazz, and electronic music. Chandler features their truly unique sound combined with guest trumpet and flugelhorn player Yazz Ahmed playing an ambient melody.
German label ECM has, since 1969, been one of the most influential labels for jazz and classical music. ECM soon became known as the ‘gold standard for sound, presence and pressing’, applying precision and focus to improvised music. We’ve put together some of the more recent jazz masterpieces from their catalog.
We open with Noam from Saxophonist Oded Tzur’s Isabela. Tzur’s background in the Tel Aviv jazz scene of the 2000’s, included a variety of musical training. An interest in Indian classical music plays into Tzur’s interest in the relationship between ancient and modern musical traditions. Throughout the album, Tzur uses a raga, a melodic framework for improvisation similar to a Chalan in Indian Classical Music.
We highlight Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen twice, with The Circle from his new album Opening, and again with the fantastic The Tunnel from The Other Side. The Tord Gustavsen Trio are known for exploring Scandinavian hymns, jazz, and choral music in their work. In Opening, they explore Norwegian classical and Scandinavian folk songs whilst introducing the artistry of their new bassist Steinar Raknes.
The stand out track comes from Danish guitarist Jakob Bro with his new trio featuring Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen and Spanish drummer Jorge Rossy. There is a sense of a dignified slowness – a solemnity characteristic of ECM recordings.
Women in Jazz
A celebration of the women paving the way in the contemporary jazz scene, including Grammy award-winning Esperanza Spalding, trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and harpist Brandee Younger.
A highlight of this playlist are the rich vocals of Swiss-Albanian singer Elina Duni. Born into an artistic family in Tirana, Duni began singing at a young age, later settling in Geneva, Switzerland where she discovered jazz alongside her classical piano training. We feature the hauntingly sad Meu Amor from Duni’s solo project Partir where she accompanies herself on guitar. Partir, meaning departure, features songs sung in nine different languages reflecting on movement and her own departure from her homeland.
Leading the way in the international contemporary jazz scene are five times Grammy-Award winning American jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, Yazmin Lacey, and jazz harpist Brandee Younger.
From Norway, we have bassist and singer Ellen Andrea-Wang with Fjord Ferry from her album Diving. Andrea-Wang’s genre-defying style features in Fjord Ferry with her prominent bass fused with ethereal vocals.
To learn more about how to explore Jazz in Roon, revisit last year’s blog piece A New Way to Discover Jazz from our Founder and CEO Enno Vandermeer. All of our playlists are available in Playlists by Roon on your Roon home page.
To celebrate International Jazz Day we would like to introduce you to our jazz playlists in Roon. Through this jazz blog series we hope to showcase the variety of sounds and styles in jazz, and introduce you to the unique ways in which cultures and music traditions are incorporated into jazz. First, we explore the unique sounds coming from different countries and cities with our playlists Icelandic Jazz, Kenyan Jazz, South African Jazz, Cuban Jazz, London Jazz Explosion, and Mountain Jazz.
Here we explore Icelandic jazz, with its unique combination of influences from Afro-American jazz to Scandinavian jazz and Icelandic folk influences.
To understand the history of jazz in Iceland, it is important to recognise the impact which music had as part of diplomatic relations between the US and Iceland in the 1950s in a time when black artists such as Dizzy Gillepsie and Thelonious Monk held great fame.
During the cold war, Iceland had a policy banning black soldiers from the Keflavik US air base. Opera singers were allowed to come to Iceland, but jazz musicians were limited both in performance and on the radio. Nevertheless, Afro-American jazz had a huge influence on Icelandic jazz musicians over the years, likely in part due to the American air base present from World War II.
Iceland is geographically closer to the US and the UK, yet culturally aligned with Scandinavia. This unique blend of cultures has produced an interesting and varied sound amongst Icelandic jazz musicians who cover a variety of jazz sub-genres.
Our playlist features contemporary Icelandic musicians, many appearing over the years at the increasingly popular Reykjavik Jazz Festival. We feature Gunnar Gunnarson’s melodic chamber jazz, an example of the mixed influences found in Icelandic jazz from Icelandic folk music, classical music, and jazz. Another highlight is pianist-composer Agnar Már Magnússon who draws on the openness of Icelandic folk music and nature for inspiration.
South African Jazz
Building on South Africa’s rich and unique musical traditions a new generation of jazz artists are flourishing with a fresh expansive sound. Leading the way are Nduduzo Makhathini, the first South African to be signed onto Blue Note records, keyboardist/singer Thandi Ntuli, and trombonist/singer Siya Makuzeni.
To understand the contemporary jazz scene in South Africa it is important to first understand the historical influences which bred genres such as Cape jazz and Soweto blues.
African-American jazz started to reach South Africa in the early 20th Century. During the 1960s and 1970s South African jazz was internationally acclaimed, with its unique blend of township dance music with hard bop and free jazz. Artists such as the Jazz Epistles and the Blue Notes produced their own bebop.
During apartheid, black musicians were forced to go underground or perform behind screens to white audiences. Many unique South African genres such as Kwela, mbaqanga and marabi emerged during this time from the influences of American ragtime and dixieland combined with African trance-like rhythm, the pennywhistle, and combining guitar with brass.
Forced to emerge underground, these genres such as marabi were often not recorded. As with speakeasies in the prohibition era in America, marabi sounds were designed to draw people into the bars or ‘shebeens’. Paul Simon’s Graceland brought attention to marabi in 1986.
Our playlist focuses on the new generation of South African jazz artists emerging with a new fresh sound, combining traditional elements with an experimental sound.
We open with Keleketla!’s International Love affair from Keleketla!, meaning “response” in Sepedi. Using a call and response style this genre-defying song is a ‘celebration of our need to come together as one and the healing power of music.’ It is an international collaboration featuring musicians from South Africa, Nigeria, UK and USA. The album was recorded in Soweto and mixed in London.
Another highlight is internationally renowned Nduduzo Makhathini. Makhathini grew up in the hillscapes of umGungundlovu, surrounded by music and ritual practices. Influenced by the church and South African jazz giants such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Makhathini is conscious that South African jazz should retain its unique sounds.
Explore the rich variety of sounds coming from Kenya’s jazz musicians, from the new generation pushing the boundaries of jazz to Mzee Ngala, the founder of the popular kenyan genre bango which combines jazz and Kenyan traditional music.
Kenya has a relatively small but exciting emerging jazz scene. In Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, artists are blending contemporary jazz with traditional local music.
We open the playlist with Lisa Oduor-Noah, a Kenyan singer who grew up surrounded by a variety of musical styles from Lingala to R&B and blues. Michael Ongaro brings a distinct sound on guitar and flute, fusing jazz, folk and classical traditions.
Kato Change embraces a variety of influences, from flamenco, blues and rock to African traditions. We feature African Woman from his debut album The Change Experience. Inspired by videos of musicians on YouTube, Kato Change taught himself guitar. Change is part of a global community of musical exchange via platforms such as YouTube, something which has influenced his sound.
London Jazz Explosion
Explore the thriving London jazz scene with this contemporary jazz playlist. Multi-genre and multi-cultural influences are brought together by an emerging scene of collaborative young, fresh artists.
Shabaka Hutchings has established himself as a core member of the London jazz scene. His group Sons of Kemet draws on influences from the diverse sounds of London’s club culture from house, grime, and jungle, to dub.
As part of the Caribbean diaspora, Hutchings wants to recreate the jubilant community celebration of music as he experienced with the calypso and soca music of Barbados’ Carnival. Here we feature My Queen is Anna Julia Cooper from Your Queen Is a Reptile, blending funky tuba bass lines from Theon Cross with Hutchings on the saxophone.
Theon Cross features again with deep bass lines on Activate with Moses Boyd Exodus and saxophonist Nubya Garcia.
Other highlights include Ill Considered, Tom Green Septet, Misha Mullov Abbado, and also featured on our Women in Jazz playlist are Yazz Ahmed, Yazmin Lacey and Zara McFarlane.
Explore the variety and richness of Cuban jazz. From traditional influences of Afro-Cuban mambo, cha-cha and salsa, to timba and songo bands Havana D’Primera and Los Van Van, Rumba from Changüí de Guantánamo to genre-bending artist Daymé Arocena.
Highlights include Yissy Garcia and Afro-Cuban pianist-composer David Virelles. We feature Virelles’ Bodas de Oro from his album Igbó Alákọrin, a Yoruba phrase meaning The Singer’s Grove. This album champions the roots and singers from Santiago de Cuba.
Along with Daymé Arocena, composer and drummer Yissy Garcia is leading the way in this new generation of Cuban jazz artists. Known for her versatility, Garcia combines tradition and experimentation in a powerful way, fusing latin jazz, electronics and traditional Cuban music.
As we described in our post Playlists in Roon, this year our music team started curating more playlists available only in Roon. Our playlists cover a range of genres, seasons, artist profiles, and sounds from around the world. We’ve created a selection of lifestyle playlists for the weekend: Uncorked, Hazy, Pour Over, Sauté, and EDM Party.
To accompany your evening drinks, Uncorked is our expansive playlist of afrobeat, disco-funk, electronic pop and jazz funk. Highlights include Nu Guinea, Terrace Martin and iconic 70s Nigerian artist Shina Williams with his fusion of afrobeat, electronics, boogie and disco.
The playlist opens with Quantic, a pseudonym for British producer, DJ and musician Will Holland. Taking its inspiration from Holland’s global travels and move across the Atlantic to New York, Atlantic Oscillations brings out dance oriented sounds with Holland’s world-renowned sound, blending house, disco, soul and jazz.
Lagos-based Shina Williams’ Agboju Logun is the highlight of this playlist. First released on Phonodisk in 1979 on the African Dances album, then in 1984 as an alternative mix on Earthworks, Rough Trade. The track became an Afro disco classic with its innovative fusion of afrobeat, electronics, boogie and disco.
Williams brought together the best of Nigeria’s percussionists stating “I want to show the whole wide world that Africa is alive with modern musicians to reckon with anywhere”. The album gained little international attention until the 1984 album release.
We continue with Afrobeat fusion from the Canadian group The Souljazz Orchestra who blend soul, jazz, funk, Afrobeat and Latin-American styles, and Marumo’s, a collaboration of South African blind musicians with Khomo Tsaka Deile Kae, a funk rock setting of a pastoral story of a herder boy who loses his father’s cattle.
Other highlights include French house-electronic duo Polo & Pan and Italian funk, disco, electronic, world music producer duo Nu Guinea (now Nu Genea) from Naples. Nu Guinea draws on 70s and 80s Neopolitan artists such as Tullio de Piscopo’s fusion of jazz, funk, disco and African rhythms. We feature Ddoje Facce from their album Nuovo Napoli which reflects this sound as well as the Neopolitan music scene and local dialect.
Begin your evening with Hazy, a downtempo playlist of atmospheric favorites. Explore the diversity of sound from deep house to bands such as Kerala Dust who combine influences of psychedelic rock, blues and techno.
We open with Kerala Dust, formed in London in 2016 and now based in Berlin. Kerala dust blends electronic music with traditional and experimental songwriting, drawing on influences from Tom Waits to CAN and The Velvet Underground.
Ninze follows with their experimental Ketapop sound, mixing downtempo atmospheric sounds with melancholy melodies.
A highlight of this playlist is Palomita from the Ouïe imprint release Endup from NU, a Germany-based production outfit. Palomita moves from a mid tempo vibe to a Latin dance influence.
We feature Modir from Seb Wildblood, co-founder of London club night and label Church. Modir, from his first album and first release on his own label SW Foreign Parts features Wildblood’s hazy organic sound. Wildblood states “This track has a really warm & nostalgic feel for me. It was made using a Juno 106, TR909 & Field Recording sampled at home. Móðir translates to Mother in Icelandic, so shouts to my mum on this one.”
Another highlight is Sueño en Paraguay from Argentine producer Chancha Vía Circuito, known for his fusion of electronic music and cumbia – a complex blend of traditional Latin American rhythms.
Enjoy your morning coffee with our mellow selection of indie artists. We feature Iron & Wine’s new melancholic release Calm on the Valley, from an unearthed album of lost recordings Archive Series Volume No.5: Tallahassee recorded in the late 90’s.
Tomberlin brings the sound of the influences of her first pandemic winter in New York on idkwntht (“I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This”), exploring themes of connection and disconnection with guest vocals from Told Slant’s Felix Walworth.
A highlight of this playlist is the moody soft vocals of Adrienne Lenker, lead singer of Big Thief. This song explores the transitions in the natural world, and the importance of embracing change.
We highlight Adrienne Lenker again with her track Heavy Focus from her solo album songs. Lenker recorded songs early in the pandemic, alone in a one-room cabin in the woods. Heavy Focus reveals a folksy sound with honest lyrics, encouraging the listener to focus in.
Another highlight is Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun’s cover of Willie Nelson’s Always on My Mind from her album Leave me Breathless, an album full of unique re-interpretations and covers.
Sauté provides an uplifting yet mellow selection for cooking or eating. We begin with Brazilian singer-songwriter Leo Middea who brings together influences of samba, bossa, and soul.
We follow with funk from Swedish duo Duoya, Gustav Horneij and Dimitrios Karatzios, disco vibes from Jungle, and retro-soul from Durand Jones & The Indications with Love Will Work it Out from Private Space. Private Space pulls on classic soul and themes of longing for post-pandemic connection.
Brooklyn-based, Baltimore-raised, songwriter Aaron Frazer features in our playlist with his retro soulful sound both as co-lead singer of Durand Jones & The Indications and on his debut solo album Introducing… with Ride with Me.
The highlight of this playlist is Grammy award-winning Pakistani-born, New York-based, vocalist Arooj Aftab. Aftab blends jazz, trance, and traditional Pakistani classical music for her unique and mesmerizing sound. Here we feature Mohabbat, Aftab’s stripped down version of a famous ghazal and song originally written by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri.
EDM Party, by Noris Onea.
Get ready for the weekend with our high energy EDM party mix from our Senior Technical Support Specialist Noris Onea. Noris tells us about his playlist:
Right from the start of the playlist, we kick off with several well known Big-room House artists such as Armin van Buuren, Dimitri Vegas, R3HAB and David Guetta with their highly energetic tracks. Later on we dive into Tiësto, Avicii, and Martin Garrix.
As we progress through the playlist, we have some notable mentions from Electro House, Progressive House, Trap, Club and Deep House music to keep the blood pumping through your veins and your subwoofers vibrating.
The playlist contains a few really unique tracks, such as Dimitri Vegas’ “Opa”, which features a Greek Zorba theme, New World Sound’s “Flute” which features a flute-heavy EDM beat, German DJ Tujamo’s down-and-dirty “Who”, and of course plenty of DJ remixes such as RL Grime’s “Satisfaction”, Coldplay’s “Paradise”, and Major Lazer + MOSKA’s “Despacito”.
This playlist has also been optimized for track-to-track transitions, so if you just hit play (or shuffle, it is up to you!) you’re sure to have a great experience from start to finish. This is one playlist where the DJ can “Save My Night”, as mentioned in the intro track from the playlist and keep the memories alive for the following “Years”!
Listen to Uncorked, Hazy, Pour Over, Sauté, and EDM Party in Playlists in Roon on your Roon Home Page.
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.
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.
Metallica‘s eponymous album was first, accompanied by a series of darkly themed videos beginning with the nightmare hell-ride, Enter Sandman. The 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.
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.
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.
September 24, 1991, delivered a devastating triumvirate of albums whose combined impact, and individual merits, are unlikely to be repeated.
The Red Hot Chili PeppersBlood, Sugar, Sex, Majik sees the funk-rock tribe expand their sonic horizons thanks to production from Rick Rubin. The video releases for Breaking the Girl, Give 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.
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.
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.
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.
I’d like to fill you all in on what’s been happening with search in Roon, what we have done in our latest release to make things better, and a little bit of what we have planned for the future.
Before I get started, one piece of background: we feel strongly that it’s best for the product to present a single, clear answer to a search query that blends both library and streaming content without putting them into separate “silos” as some other products do. This allows Roon to give a single set of answers to a query without forcing the user to pick apart, disambiguate, or dig deeper based on where the results are coming from. You’re not searching your library OR searching TIDAL, you’re just searching and getting results. It’s a simpler and better experience.
Thus, Roon has to independently search your library, held within the Roon Core, and streaming content, held within cloud services, and then merge the results together. This merging problem is a tricky one. You don’t often see interleaved results from multiple search engines, and there’s a good reason for that; the fact that we hadn’t completely cracked it had left Roon’s search experience in an unacceptable state.
A bit over a year ago, we decided that not only did this have to be fixed, but that search was a “forever problem” – not something that we could fix once and forget about. It requires continual care and feeding and dedicated staff who think about search and only search, so we hired a search specialist and about a year ago and we got to work tackling search with fresh eyes.
We released the auto-complete feature earlier this year, and in building that, gained a detailed understanding of exactly how and why our existing search engine was getting things wrong. That allowed us to kick off the “big project”: an overhaul of Roon’s search infrastructure end to end.
We began by analyzing hundreds of complaints and reports from the Roon community to understand what the problems were. We used your feedback to build test cases and validate our work. Separately, we analyzed anonymized data from our servers to understand what real-world search queries looked like.
As we dug deeper, we figured out that one of the major problems is that the search engine used for the Roon library just worked too differently from the search engine used for streaming content. The two search engines computed and scored results according to different principles, each established during different eras of Roon’s product development.
The library algorithm generally returned results that were too noisy and numerous, and in a significant number of cases, noise from the library drowned out more accurate streaming results. This was especially painful for people with large libraries.
Another problem that we found is that queries for classical music just look different from queries for other content, and Roon’s search engine was behaving particularly badly with some of these queries.
We decided that in general, our approach to cloud-based search was sane (if in need of some tweaks), and the approach to library search was, quite simply, wrong.
Thus, the library search engine required a complete, ground-up rewrite. Since the most mature search technology is cloud-based and Roon’s library is not, we ended up building an embedded search engine that implements the same ideas as cloud-based engines like ElasticSearch, but in a way that lets it run inside of the Roon Core.
We also built a model that can distinguish classical and non-classical search queries prior to performing a search, so that we can tweak various parts of the search process to produce more appropriate results for classical or non-classical queries. Alongside this, we updated the user interface to give more priority to composers and compositions when a classical search is detected, which should save classical users a bit of scrolling.
Then, we had to come up with a new approach to merging library and cloud results. This required a fair amount of consideration, but we ended up landing on a really neat (and as far as we know, novel) approach for making consistent scores for search results that came from different search engines, and we’ve implemented it in Roon.
Finally, we spent months testing this stuff amongst ourselves, then with increasingly larger groups of users, until it was clear that people were feeling improvement. During this process, we iterated on all parts of the system.
I’m confident that the major and structural issues with Roon’s search engine have been addressed. I’m also sure that for the foreseeable future, people will sometimes run into searches that they don’t feel are working right. Search is a “forever problem”, right?
Now that the bulky work is done, we will be able to iterate with the Roon community more rapidly as feedback comes in, and we intend to continue improving search indefinitely.
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.
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) –
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.
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 BeSuper 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.