Our First Playlists

Celeste

Our team is obsessive about creating the best experiences for people who love music and sound, and our goal has always been to bring more music into peoples’ lives. Over the last year, most of us will have spent more time than ever at home, using music to manage everything from mood to childcare. As self-proclaimed music fanatics with a broad range of musical interests, we wanted to start sharing some of our favorite music with our community of music lovers, in partnership with our streaming partners TIDAL and Qobuz.

We started with our mixed-genre playlist Roon Recent for Qobuz, featuring recent contemporary favorites. The playlist begins with genre-bending jazz from multi-Grammy Award-winning Robert Glasper ft. H.E.R., London-based musical collective Nubyian-Twist, and musical marvel Terrace Martin. We move onto the soulful voices of Kandace Springs, Lianne La Havas, Celeste, and Baby Rose. The tone changes with the iconic Norah Jones and Melody Gardot, Norwegian singers Ane Brun and Astrid S, and singer-songwriters St. Vincent and Brandy Clark. The mood takes another turn ending with Australian blues rock band The Teskey Brothers, Bon Iver, Mumford & Sons, and The War on Drugs.

Joy Denalane

Our next mixed-genre playlist Roon Repeat on TIDAL features tracks our team had on repeat. We begin with acclaimed jazz pianist Brad Mehldau’s expansive Born to Trouble from Grammy Award-winning album Finding Gabriel. Jazz-crossover features heavily with Thundercat, Terrace Martin ft. Ric Wilson, Steam Down ft. Afronaut Zu, Kassa Overall and Jazzmeia Horn. We feature classical-crossover from string trio Time for Three, and Daniel Hope ft. soul singer Joy Denalane on This Bitter Earth / On the Nature of Daylight – a Clyde Otis / Max Richter mash-up. Vocal highlights include singer-songwriters Sarah Jarousz, AURORA, Tunisian singer Emel, and Finish singer Joose Keskitalo.

Igor Levit

Next is a classical playlist Roon Relax for Qobuz. We begin with Mozart from renowned pianist Fazil Say, moving onto Igor Levit’s Busoni: Chorale Preludes (10) after JS Bach – No. 5, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639, a rarely played arrangement of a Bach Chorale. More beautiful Bach appears from Christian Tetzlaff and Fretwork. Tetzlaff’s articulate performance of Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001: I. Adagio comes from J.S. Bach Sonatas & Partitas, his third recording of these solo violin works. Viol-consort Fretwork’s Contrapunctus 1 follows from their faithful arrangement of J.S. Bach’s The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080. After instrumental works from Chopin, Beethoven and Scarlatti, we move from a contemporary lute and violin duet from Thomas Dunford (lute) and Theotime Langlois de Swarte (violin) onto Jonas Nordberg performing Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger on the theorbo, a baroque lute. We then move from Lieder with Matthias Goerne’s hauntingly beautiful Litanei from Schubert: Wanderer’s Nachtlied and Schumann: Dichterliebe from Mark Padmore onto Dowland from Anthony Rooley, and Emma Kirkby’s O Let Me Weep, from Purcell: The Fairy Queen. We continue in the Baroque era with excerpts from J.S. Bach: Magnificat in D Major, BWV 243 (Emmanuelle Haïm) and Bach: St Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (Suzuki). We end with sacred works from Thomas Tallis (Stile Antico), and Renaissance composers Alonso Lobo (Tenebrae) and Josquin Des Prez (Gabrieli Consort).

Moses Boyd

Next in our Qobuz series is Roon Rhythm, a playlist of contemporary jazz favourites. We open with Our Spanish Love Song, a duet from bassist Charlie Haden and guitarist Pat Metheny, from their magnificent album Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories). We move onto another duet, Save Your Love for Me, from trumpeter Till Brönner and pianist Bob James. Vocal highlights include Veronica Swift, René Marie and Diana Krall. London-based semi-free duo Binker & Moses, made up of saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, feature with their energetic Fete by the River. Moses Boyd features again with Stranger than Fiction. Also from London’s brimming jazz scene are jazz-fusion keyboardist Kamaal Williams and vocalist Zara McFarlane. Los Angeles-based saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s Change of the Guard is another genre-defying highlight. We end the playlist with the multiple Grammy Award-winning American quasi-collective Snarky Puppy, with Whitecap from their iconic album Tell Your Friends.

Víkingur Ólafsson

Next is Relaxing Classics – TIDAL Masters for TIDAL, a classical playlist in Master Quality – MQA. We open with Schuman, J.S. Bach and Chopin from pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Víkingur Ólafsson, and Josep Colom. Violin highlights come from Ana María Valderrama (Brahms), Hilary Hahn (Bach), and Daniel Hope (Kreisler). Two duos stand out with Avi Avital and Alon Sariel’s Vivaldi: Double Mandolin Concerto, for 2 mandolins, RV 532, and Duo Animacorde’s Paganini: Sonata Concertata, MS 2 for violin and guitar. We include beautiful chamber music from Quatuor Ébène (Beethoven) and Emery String Quartet (Fauré), and lute and guitar concertos from Christopher Parkening (Vivaldi) and Thibaut Garcia (Aranjuez). Tenor Christoph Prégardien performs the ruminative Der Lindenbaum from Schubert: Winterreise, followed by Beethoven from baritone Matthias Goerne and Dowland from countertenor Phillipe Jaroussky. We end with two choral works, Palestrina from The Hilliard Ensemble and Ólafur Arnalds from Voces8. 

Sarah works on music editorial and research as part of Roon’s Music Team.

Introducing TIDAL Magazine

Willie Nelson

We’d love to share some recent articles we’ve enjoyed from our friends and partners at TIDAL. Discover a rich catalogue of essays, features and in-depth interviews on TIDAL Magazine, which features original articles from a wide variety of music journalists, perfect for the curious music lover. Here are some of our recent favorites.

The Doors’ ‘L.A. Woman’ at 50, and More: Robby Krieger in Conversation by Ryan Reed

The guitar legend on the band’s final LP before Jim Morrison’s passing, his fusion-focused solo work and that time Zappa wanted to produce the Doors. 

A Portrait of the Guitarist: Richard Thompson in Conversation by Jim Farber

In a frank and revealing new memoir, the British folk-rock pioneer and six-string giant assesses his trailblazing tenure in Fairport Convention.  

Rolling Stones

Enter the Imperial Seventies: The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ by David Fricke

With this eclectic, inspired piece of guitar heaven released a half-century ago, the greatest rock & roll band in the world earned the billing.

“We play a little of everything”: Willie Nelson in Conversation by David Fricke

The American icon on Sinatra, Django Reinhardt, the art of the duet, his Texas beginnings and more.

Beyonce

Rock and Roll: Beyoncé’s ‘LEMONADE’ @ 5 by Erica Campbell

How the masterwork defines and transcends the rock tradition. Erica Campbell argues for a place in the rock pantheon for Beyoncé’s LEMONADE.

“I’m Constantly Striving”: Archie Shepp in Conversation by Tom Moon

In a long and wide-ranging interview, the jazz giant thinks about his rapid ascent in the avant-garde, his shift toward the tradition, his new duo set with Jason Moran, his unearthed contributions to A Love Supreme and much more.

Archie Shepp

Evocation: Jimmy Giuffre @ 100 by Ben Ratliff

Prescient yet tradition-bound, modest but innovative, the clarinetist and saxophonist was a jazz cult hero whose music turns up in the most unexpected places.

A TIDAL Jazz Reader By Evan Haga

A celebration for International Jazz Day with interviews and criticism, including Roon’s two-part interview with Cuban artist Daymé Arocena
Head over to TIDAL Magazine to discover an abundance of original content.

Daymé Arocena: Music Roots & Creative Process. Part 2.

Image: Daymé Arocena. Photo credit: Pablo Dewin

We continue our conversation with Cuban artist Daymé Arocena in celebration of International Jazz Day. In Part 1, Daymé discussed Cuban music movements and teaching at Berklee. Here Daymé chats with us about her musical upbringing, creative process, and her song Homenaje from our Cuban Jazz playlist.

[Editor]: Talk to us about your relationship with jazz, as we’d love to know how you got into jazz. Was your musical upbringing learning traditional rhythms such as batá, or was it more of a classical training?

I can say that I didn’t get into jazz, jazz got into me. I never thought I was going to be a jazz singer, I thought jazz was weird music for weird people. When I was a teenager I wanted to sing music like Whitney Houston and Christina Aguilera.

When I was in the conservatory, they had a big band that needed a singer, and I said ok. They gave me My Funny Valentine, Bye Bye Blackbird, a few standards to learn. I was just so into the great energy of the big band, and thriving with it, that at a certain point I was joining them in the jazz festivals of Cuba and Havana.

I started getting invited to join other bands, where I was asked to improvise by imitating the musicians. That is how I started to scat. Eventually I couldn’t listen to pop music anymore. All I wanted to do was sing and hear jazz.

At the same time it was amazing to have this classical training. I was at the conservatory, studying choir conducting, and it was all about Montiverdi and Beethoven. When I was born there were fourteen people living in my house. We had a tiny two-bedroom apartment to share with all of those people. I was born in 1992, when there was a special period of Cuba. There was no electricity, no radio, no tv, but the entire house played rumba!

I grew up that way, listening to rumba in the house, singing jazz in the big band, and studying classical music.

Image: Daymé Arocena. Photo credit: Pablo Dewin

Daymé talks to us about her creative process.

I have been writing music my whole life, I always follow the way the music comes to me. I never push things. I don’t sit in front of the piano and say, “I’m going to write a song”, because I get inspiration in any kind of situation and I just follow that. The way it came is the way it is. I feel I am just a bridge. I get the message and I deliver the message. I am kind of like a “musical Uber”.

For almost 7 years I’ve been getting songs through my dreams. It started happening after I received my religious ceremony, kind of a manifestation or appearance that I get in my dreams. Sometimes I see another artist singing a song in my dreams, and I realize that it’s a new song, and my new song.

For our playlist we’ve chosen Homenaje. Can you tell us what inspired this song?

‘Homenaje’ means ‘homage’. I wanted to have a connection with my previous album, Cubafonía, the pretty Cuban sound. Sonocardiogram is pretty jazzy, let’s say experimental, so I had a few different ideas, each inspired by a Cuban artist I admire.

The beginning was inspired by a song of Emiliano Salvador. Another part was from Arsenio Rodriguez. People believe Rodriguez was the creator of salsa music because he improved the son, which is what Buena Vista Social Club plays. That kind of group used to be seven artists, septedo, clean, and simple. He added piano, a horn section, and he was the first guy that brought the idea of a bigger group in the 50s. It’s what we have today as salsa!

In the very middle there is Cuban pianism, inspired by Lilí Martínez – one of the top guys in the history of Latin pianism in Cuba. At the very end, I was inspired by a woman called Merceditas Valdés, who was the first person to incorporate the chants and sounds of Afro-Cuban religion, which were only known in secret ceremonies. She combined them with jazz and made it popular. It’s my tribute to the big artists and pioneers in Cuban music history.

Follow Daymé Arocena on Instagram, and listen to her music on TIDAL and Qobuz.

A New Way to Discover Jazz

In the century since its birth, jazz has exploded from its African American roots to music scenes around the world, absorbing and incorporating cultural traditions as it goes. With its incredible variety of subgenres and branches, it covers a huge breadth of instruments, performers, and styles. That complexity gives Roon a tremendous amount of data, connections, and content to work with.

Finding your way with Roon

Jazz stands apart from other contemporary genres largely due to its emphasis on improvisation, which often blurs the line between “composer” and “performer.” While much of jazz relies on a songbook of standards for its foundation, no two performances of a tune are alike, making the canon of recorded jazz rich territory for exploration. Take a standard like Gershwin’s Summertime as an example… In Roon, you’ll find thousands of recordings by various performers from different periods and across genres, and then you can search within them. (Try using Filter to find versions by Mahalia Jackson, John Coltrane, or even Janis Joplin).

Roon makes it easy to find new recordings, to put your discoveries into context, and to make clear links between performers. Our goal is to create a fluid, sprawling journey through jazz that mirrors the music itself.


Jazz is the only music in which the same note can be played night after night, but differently each time.

Ornette Coleman

Seeing the whole picture

Another defining characteristic of jazz is that ensemble lineups (even among well-known groups) are fluid, and collaborations among musicians are the rule rather than the exception. Because Roon knows the personnel on most jazz recordings, you’ll be presented with music in a way that lets you easily uncover gems in your collection and beyond it.

For example, you might know Herbie Hancock from classic albums like Maiden Voyage or Head Hunters, his groundbreaking innovations like Rockit, or popular recent releases like his album covering Joni Mitchell, but Roon understands the full breadth of his work over the last 60 years, across more than 500 albums.

Explore his early performances on classic Miles Davis releases, his collaborations with luminaries like Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, or his hundreds of appearances across legendary labels like Blue Note, Verve, and Columbia Jazz. When you explore a jazz legend in Roon, you’re not limited to their own albums or someone’s idea of a “greatest hits” playlist – you can find every performance, every appearance, and every composition using Focus.

From Kamasi to Coleman

Connections between jazz musicians form a web-like pattern, which makes for some exciting discoveries. Our recommendation technology, Valence, guides you with recommendations and suggestions whether you’re new to the genre or a seasoned connoisseur. Browsing a performer, for example, you may be guided to recordings made during their career heyday, see their music performed by other musicians, or explore their influences and followers. All these cues are designed to send you even deeper into the genre.

Let’s use Kamasi Washington’s acclaimed Heaven and Earth (2018) as an example. In Roon, when you view the track list, you’ll see that the majority are original compositions, but the third track, Hub Tones, is by trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard. We can see that there are 17 other recordings of the composition, which takes us off into other artists, albums, performances, and even different places in time. Or you could scroll through Kamasi Washington’s page to see his influences, which include greats like Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter and Ornette Coleman. In a few simple steps we’re discovering jazz musicians and performances as if we had an expert by our side.

Ready to hear more?

We’ve curated some playlists if you’d like to kickstart your own journey through jazz. They’re made by our experts and informed by the listening habits of thousands of enthusiasts. See if you agree with our choices and let us know what stands out for you!

Qobuz: Roon Rhythm, London Jazz Explosion

TIDAL: Cuban Jazz, Icelandic Jazz, Fireside Jazz (festive/winter)

Daymé Arocena: Cuban Music Breakout. Part 1.

Image: Daymé Arocena. Photo credit: Pablo Dewin

In celebration of International Jazz Day, we had the privilege of speaking to the Havana born and raised 28-year-old singer, choir conductor, and composer Daymé Arocena about her music journey. In our Cuban Jazz playlist on TIDAL, we feature Daymé’s Homenaje from her latest album, Sonocardiogram. Daymé chats with us from her home in Toronto, and takes us on a trip through Cuba’s rich music history.

[Editor]: What do you want our readers to know about contemporary Cuban music?

First, to understand music in Cuba, you have to understand Cuba. Before 1959, Cuban musicians were getting influence from everywhere. The music was developing and reinventing, and that’s why we have big ages of movement. The beginning of Cuban music, danzón and contradanza, was inspired by French music from Paris. It was really complicated to dance to. I don’t even know how to dance to it! Then we have bolero. Then cha-cha-cha, created by Enrique Jorrin.

Then we get the big movement filin, which is all of those beautiful songs which people call boleros. People like Louis Miguel brought a lot of those songs back in the 90s.

Then we get mambo, the first big meeting between the United States and Cuba. The big band arrived in Cuba, in a Cuban way, with congas and bongos. It was like swing and New Orleans style, but at the same time it had montuno. It was a huge movement.

There is also the vibe of the music of the Caribbean with more traditional songs from Santiago de Cuba to Havana, coming with the immigration of people to and from Cuba. In the 1990s, the movement of Timba was huge. Timba is not salsa. It’s really complicated to dance to. People didn’t want to travel because Cuba was the place to play Timba.

In 1959, there was the Cuban revolution with no more people coming in and going out. That’s why people around the world are stuck in the idea that Cuban music is that of before 1959. In the 90s, when Buena Vista Social Club was really big, nobody was listening to or playing that music in Cuba, so people felt disrespected. People were bringing this to the world as the Cuban music to listen to, whilst another 40 years of music was being ignored!

It was disappointing for that generation to confuse people around the world with music that is more than 100 years old. We have to respect that tradition, but it was unfair for the development of Cuban music.

After 1959, we had songo, a lot of rhythms and genres. We didn’t stop! What stopped was the industry. We didn’t have industry to publish our music overseas. Everything we were creating was stuck. People don’t know that there are people playing music like me in Cuba. They expect mambo or cha-cha-cha, but that is 70-years-old music.

Image: Daymé Arocena. Photo credit: Pablo Dewin

Daymé speaks to us about her invitation to teach master classes at Berklee College of Music.

Berklee was an impossible dream to reach. As a Cuban I thought I’d never get there. I remember saying to someone “I wish I could study there” and they said “you could teach there”. Those students got the opportunity I didn’t have. I cannot believe that there are students who apply to Berklee singing my music. That’s huge!

Camila Cortina is one of the only students who got to study at Berklee from Cuba. She was my professor in Cuba, and she’s a student there now! Sometimes you don’t believe things that are happening to you, especially because in Cuba there is no opportunity. I wasn’t even allowed to perform in Cuba. 

In Cuba you need the permission of the government to perform, even if you’ve studied music at school. When you finish school you have to apply for permission to perform, and that obligation is a huge nightmare. I wanted to play my own music and have my own band. I applied three times and was denied. I remember the first global tour I did as Daymé Arocena, I was surprised that I didn’t need permission from other governments to perform. I didn’t know that that was just Cuba!

I started travelling the world, but I’d return to Cuba and not be allowed to perform. The government noticed that I was in The New York Times and The Guardian. The Minister of Culture said to me “they stole you from us!”. I said, “I was here! You denied me three times!”. I know people in the same situation. People who are so talented and not allowed to perform in Cuba.

There are a lot of statements to make as a Cuban artist. I need to speak for those who are still waiting for their chance. I believe if I have the good luck to do things, I don’t need to be selfish. Everything is pretty raw in Cuba, there is a lot of talent but people don’t get the opportunity or the information.

I try to speak about my community, my people. They are my biggest supporters. I don’t have many followers on Instagram, because they just got it, they don’t know how to use it! I have to speak for them. If they have a cell phone now, it doesn’t get the internet, it’s pretty old style.

Follow Daymé Arocena on Instagram, and listen to her music on TIDAL and Qobuz. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Women in Music

For International Women’s Day 2021 we created two playlists to celebrate some of the fantastic women in music. For our first playlist, Women Composers on TIDAL, we chose to celebrate women composers in classical music, highlighting a range of composers from 12th century Hildegard von Bingen to 19th century pioneer Louise Farrenc and contemporary composer Dobrinka Tabakova. 

Hildegard composed many liturgical songs along with academic writings, and is one of the first identifiable composers in western music. Here we feature her song O pastor animarum (O shepherd of our souls). 19th century pianist, composer, and teacher Louise Farrenc deserves a special mention as a pioneer of music scholarship and equal pay. Farrenc was the only woman to become a professor at the Paris Conservatory in the 19th century. Until 1870, women could not enroll in composition classes at the conservatory, and Farrenc was only allowed to teach piano, not composition. Despite this, Farrenc persevered with composition, producing a variety of orchestral, chamber, and piano works. Farrenc fought hard for equality, demanding equal pay to her male contemporaries. In her day, Farrenc was more famous for her piano playing than her composing, with her compositions becoming more well-known in the 21st century. Despite the barriers to women working in composition and creative arts, Farrenc received praise by Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann in her time. In this playlist we feature Farrenc’s lyrical Cello Sonata in B-Flat Major, Op.46 – II. Andante sostenuto

Another French composer to study at the Paris Conservatory was 20th century Lili Boulanger. Boulanger was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in 1913 for musical composition at the age of 19. She came from a musical family, and her sister Nadia Boulanger was a composer and conductor best known for teaching leading 20th century composers including Quincy Jones, Aaron Copland, and Philip Glass. Lili Boulanger also sang and played piano, violin, cello and harp, and studied with family friend Gabriel Fauré. Her catalogue includes orchestral, chamber, vocal, and choral works. Boulanger’s compositions are noted for the use of harmonies and text setting. In this playlist we feature Nocturne performed by Janine Jansen. 

Another pioneer of women’s rights in music was Amy Beach, an American pianist and composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries who wrote the first symphony composed by an American woman. Beach was a symbol of women’s rights during the suffrage movement, fighting hard for a woman’s place in the musical world. Beach famously expressed that “music is the superlative expression of life experience, and woman by the very nature of her position is denied many of the experiences that colour the life of man.” Another important woman composer of the early 20th century was Croatian countess Dora Pejačević. Pejačević, another composer born into a musical family, was the daughter of singer and pianist Baroness Lilli Vay de Vaya. Pejačević studied in Zagreb, Dresden and Munich and produced a wide catalogue of piano pieces, orchestral works, chamber music and songs.

Other composers included are Pauline Viardot, Clara Schumann, Teresa Carreño, Rebecca Clarke, Florence Price, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Poldowski, Ethyl Smyth, Margaret Bonds, Ruth Gipps, and contemporary composers Anna Clyne, Thea Musgrave, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Dobrinka Tabakova and Meredith Monk.

Our second playlist, Inspiring Women on Qobuz, features a mixture of iconic and contemporary female artists. We feature iconic artists such as Madonna, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, Carole King, Dolly Parton and Joni Mitchell. Contemporary highlights include the unique sounds of Norwegian jazz bassist and singer Ellen Andrea Wang and London-based jazz saxophonist Nubya Garcia. We feature Garcia’s Stand With Each Other from her pan-global album Source. Contemporary vocal highlights include Ane Brun, Joy Denalane, Kandace Springs, Kimberose, Lianna La Havas, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Celeste, and Jazzmeia Horn.

Sarah works on music editorial and research as part of Roon’s Music Team. Artists pictured from top to bottom: Jazzmeia Horn, Dominique Fils-Aimé.

🎶 Happy Holidays from Roon

We want to thank our subscribers  for everything you have done to help us improve Roon and grow our amazing community this year – we couldn’t have done it without you. 

We have lots of exciting plans for 2021 that we can’t wait to share with you, including new updates to our software  and making Roon compatible with even more fantastic audio products. 

If you need any support over the holidays, visit our new Help Center or head over to our Community and join in the discussions with thousands of other Roon subscribers.

To make your holiday season more musical, we’ve curated some festive playlists on TIDAL and Qobuz, including Christmas Carols, Fireside Jazz and Winter Warmers

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! 

All our thanks,
The Roon Team

The end of the walled garden

In January 2015, I wrote a deck to help me talk to the music and audio industries about Roon, which was still months or more from launching. Depending on how you looked at it, the presentation was either a cool product vision or (as Danny complained) it was “full of lies.”

The problem was a pair of slides that (I thought) handily summarized how Roon was going to work. The first stated that “Roon understands all your content,” meaning that it would find and identify music in various file formats on your hard drives, your iTunes library, and on your NAS, as well as importing your playlists and favorites from your streaming service. All of that was true enough (sort of). The second slide more boldly claimed that “Roon plays with all your hardware” which was – there’s no nice way to dress this up – just completely untrue at that point.

A fresh start with a new vision

After years of building closed hardware systems at Sooloos and Meridian, we learned that our place in the world is designing user experiences, not audio hardware. To reach all the enthusiasts and audiophiles out there, Roon had to work with absolutely everything.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. Roon 1.0 worked, to varying degrees, with USB, AirPlay, and Meridian devices. It was a good start, but hardly “all your hardware.” Over the next few releases, we added support for Squeezebox, Google Cast, Sonos, HDMI, and a handful of proprietary integrations like Devialet AIR, Linn, and KEF. The Roon Remote apps on iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows also play audio, so the dream of playing music everywhere was ever closer to becoming reality.

As we expanded Roon’s support of audio devices, though, two issues emerged as show-stoppers: (a) there was uncertainty about whether a device would work with Roon, and (b) there was no simple, reliable way to play high-resolution audio over your network.

To solve the first issue, we created the Roon Tested program, which lets us collaborate with audio brands on testing and quality assurance. Manufacturers send us their products, and we confirm that Roon identifies them correctly and has their features and specifications in its database. It turns out that seeing your device pop up in Roon – fully identified and working as expected – goes a long way to building confidence.

The second issue was a bigger challenge. The broadly accepted standard for high-resolution streaming at the time was UPnP, which we actively chose not to support. While promising in principle, the UPnP standard (and its derivative, DLNA) makes sacrifices in user experience (specifically audio format support and rich metadata) that run contrary to our goals for Roon. Also, because there’s no certification mechanism for UPnP devices, implementations vary widely and the experience of using them is… variable.

Build it and they will come

As an alternative, we chose to develop a high-resolution streaming protocol (RAAT) that addressed the shortcomings of existing systems, and we built an SDK for hardware manufacturers to integrate into their devices. Armed with a data sheet and a dream, we set out to convince an industry that we had built something better.

That was December 2015. To our surprise and delight, it was only 30 days later that the world’s first Roon Ready device was unveiled at CES in Las Vegas – the Auralic Aries. Since then, over 80 brands have signed on to the program, making it the most widely-used high-resolution streaming protocol in the world.

Together, the Roon Ready and Roon Tested programs have changed the audio industry. By collaborating with manufacturers, we’ve created a new kind of experience, in which hardware from one company and software from another genuinely work together flawlessly. Roon subscribers can readily get support from a team that has access to the products they’re using, so both our subscribers and our partners are happy.

Which brings me back to my infamous deck. This week, five years since we launched Roon, we can finally say with a straight face that Roon plays with all your hardware.

Roon in the time of coronavirus

In the last century, there have been more than a few events that have shaken the world. It’s hard to think of another one, though, that has touched the lives of every person on the planet simultaneously. We’ve each had a unique and deeply personal experience to navigate, but as I reflect, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude – for the Roon team, our community of subscribers, our family of partners, and the very nature of our business.

New York City is Roon’s spiritual home – it’s where the founding crew met and first collaborated back in ancient times – and we feel deeply connected to the city as it struggles. But we’ve always worked remotely. Our Slack workspace is our office, and the company is now spread over four continents. Fortunately for us, that means that as we grow our team, we’ve been able to prioritize domain expertise and product passion over geography. From Bangkok to Paris and Toronto to Montevideo, we’ve always been a “pants optional” operation, meeting on Skype, and passing the baton from time zone to time zone in a kind of global relay.

For most of our team, the biggest change we’ve had to handle is having significant others and kids at home. That hasn’t always been easy, but it’s a cakewalk compared to the challenges faced by our friends and colleagues in other sectors. The last few months have felt largely like business as usual for us, which seems surreal because we’re growing even as startups are closing their doors. If you know a developer with a passion for music who has been affected by the downturn, please ask them to check out our jobs page.

All of this is to say that we feel extremely fortunate for the opportunities we have today. In these times of social distancing, there has been a surge in the consumption of streaming content; music and movies have had to stand in for the social activities of simpler times. Roon is a product that people enjoy in their homes, and we’re happy to find that our subscribers seem to be doing more of that than ever. We’ve actually seen a sharp increase in people trying Roon for the first time, and an uptick in the number of listening hours per week among all users.

We’d like to thank every subscriber, every contributor to our community site, and everyone who engages in the always-lively debate about what could make Roon a better product. We’re grateful to be able to sustain our growth plans and we look forward to smoother sailing ahead.

What Makes Nucleus So Special?

We’ve been asked this question about a million times since we announced Nucleus – our first hardware product – last year, so we’ve put together a comprehensive white paper that discusses the concept behind the product, the design decisions that were made during the development process, and the nitty-gritty of the hardware and software technologies we ended up using. This post is an overview of some of that information; if you want the whole story, go read the paper!

Continue reading “What Makes Nucleus So Special?”