Roon Ready Writeups: Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X Headphones Review

These are a few of my favorite things

We’re back and super excited to get right down to business because, this time, we get to knock out three of our favorite things in a single article.   

  1. Answer your questions.
  2. Discuss the two legends of head-fi from a Roon partner, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X headphones.
  3. And, share a how-to for a great Roon feature that helps any Audeze headphones sound their very best.

If you’re thinking, “more headphones? How can headphones be that different… ?” You’re not alone. Many Roon subscribers have returned to headphones or explored them for the first time, thanks to Roon ARC. They’ve also asked why anyone would have multiple pairs of headphones and wondered why not get one pair that works for everything?

Audeze lcd 2 classic review

Well, if I were to reveal secrets, the real reason why many of us own multiple pairs of headphones is that they’re an exotic gear landscape custom-made for audio obsessives. The chase for that magic sound is reinforced and enabled by everyone involved. It’s incredible, you should try it!

A slightly more reserved answer is that headphones help us play to the strengths of our favorite music and listening environment. They can satisfy multiple listening experiences, from laid-back immersive listening to focused detail exploration and anything in between. They’re perfect for creating an ideal personalized listening space immune to room coloration, one that can be transformed tonally just by swapping out headphones and is mobile by design.

They’re unquestionably the easiest way to do all that… unless you’re willing to change or add an entire system to your listening room whenever you have the inkling to experiment with sound. And, with the release of Roon ARC, many listeners have realized that headphones are ideal complements to any Roon system. All perfect reasons to discuss and listen to two head-fi legends that just landed in the Roon Store, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X.

And as a bonus, we’ll show you how to use the Audeze headphone DSP plug-ins, included free in Roon, to get the best sound from any pair of Audeze monitors you decide on or already own.

audeze lcd 2 classic review

LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X: the legend and the gold standard

Technical overview

The LCD-2 is the headphone that established Audeze’s bona fides when it was released in 2009. Since then, it has evolved and benefitted from numerous advancements in audio technology. But in doing so, some felt it had traded one type of sonic magic for another. And being the music listeners we are, many of us wished we could have both – the classic and the new LCD-2 sound. So Audeze, being the gracious folks they are, kindly obliged us. The result is the LCD-2 Classic which dials the LCD-2 back to its original tuning by adding a dash of additional sweetening and removing the Fazor phase management technology of the current LCD-2.

The LCD-X is Audeze’s studio workhorse and their most popular headphone among audio recording, mixing, and mastering professionals. Its accurate presentation provides realistic transparent playback that closely resembles the neutrality of an acoustically treated studio. The LCD-X was updated slightly in 2021, lending enhanced mid-range linearity, a restructured magnetic array, reduced weight, and fit improvements, making it an even more attractive contender in Audeze’s model lineup. 

Both models are open-back planar magnetic designs that feature 106mm diaphragms! That’s a glorious four inches plus of bookshelf speaker-sized driver for each side of your head! Both models are exceptionally easy to drive. The LCD-2C has an impedance rating of 70 ohms. The LCD-X is rated at just 20 ohms and can be powered by any portable device.

Planar magnetic designs have a lot of advantages over dynamic dome drivers. They’re much more efficient and push larger volumes of air with a more fluid range of motion. Planar magnetic transducers use an ultra-thin polymer film for a highly flexible driver assembly, and the voice coil is printed directly upon it. The entire mechanism is then sandwiched between two staggered magnet arrays. Resulting in nimble dynamics, wide frequency response, lightning-fast transients, greater transparency, excellent control, immersive detail, more realistic imaging, lifelike musicality, and better sound – free of distortion and other driver-introduced artifacts. Which translates roughly to “all good and nothing bad” We’ll dig into their sound signatures more in just a moment.

Bomb-proof design and build quality

At first glance, the LCD-2C and LCD-X appear nearly identical; but upon closer examination, slight differences emerge. Both models feature an overbuilt modern black industrial design with a flash of chrome courtesy of the yokes and screw heads. 

audeze lcd x review

The LCD-2C utilizes crystal-infused nylon for a nearly indestructible earcup. LCD-X features understated polished black aluminum rings. Audeze logo grill guards, the standard textured matte black spring steel headband, and synthetic leather head strap are employed on both.

Audeze’s improved contoured earpads provide a perfect seal around the ear for better sound and comfort. The plush molded memory foam is covered in soft vegan leather on the Classic. The LCD-X offers buyers a choice of vegan or genuine leather.

Regarding comfort, the LCD-2C and LCD-X aren’t lightweight headphones; they’re both over a pound. But they’re not uncomfortable. The headband and strap balance the weight nicely, and the clamping pressure is reasonable. I’ve worn them for several hours over many days without any discomfort. Aside from that, it kinda feels rude to complain about headphones that sound this good being uncomfortable. They weren’t such a problem that they distracted me from enjoying the music, not for an instant. If clamping pressure and weight are a concern, give them a chance, their sound is absolutely worth it! Speaking of…

Audeze lcd x review

Sound impressions

As the ancient audio texts advise: Listen ye first, then charts read.

Ancient Audio Texts

LCD-2 Classic

Reviewing the LCD-2 Classic’s sound is somewhat challenging because they’re cleverly hypnotizing! They’re headphones for disappearing inside the music, not so much for analyzing it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an attractive praise-worthy trait that some reviewers have puzzlingly chosen to fault rather than recognize.

The LCD-2C shines in its balance of frequencies and classic hi-fi presentation. Bass is wonderfully rich, full-bodied, natural, and energetic. These kick plenty large on bass-heavy tracks with exceptional, smooth extension. And lows ease effortlessly into the mids like honey. My classic roots rock reggae tracks sound like they were made for these headphones.  

Audeze lcd 2 classic review

Mids are balanced but wonderfully full and warm, enveloping the listener. Acoustic instruments are rendered with sumptuously saturated tonal color. Male and female vocals are intimate, vivid, and lifelike. Allegedly some frequency response charts say the LCD-2 Classic lacks vocal presence, but I never felt them insufficient in that area. Presence is subtle when unaltered, and the LCD-2C feels natural in this range to me. Further proving that the best measurement tool is our ears. As the ancient audio texts advise: Listen ye first, then charts read.

The LCD-2 Classic’s upper mids and treble are slightly rounded and softer sounding by design. The original LCD-2 was a warm, pleasing, laid-back headphone – and that’s the LCD-2C’s tuning target. Listeners who admire an audiophile presentation with crisp detail and abundant air may not initially gel with the LCD-2 Classic. But for relaxed immersive listening, it’s a beautiful match for most musical styles and unbeatable for some. 

The soundstage is wide, close, and enveloping but with less distinct imaging. That results from LCD-2C’s ability to place the listener inside the music. It’s a supremely enjoyable headphone that hung well with my review tracks and was perfect for casual listening.      


Coming from Audeze’s Reference Series, LCD-X sits at the other side of the tuning spectrum and welcomes more technical detailed inspection. As the preferred reference headphone of audio engineers and musicians, it provides the neutral yet wonderfully musical presentation necessary for creating accurate recordings. Mastering and mixing engineers rely on LCD-X to ensure tracks translate transparently to the real world. Their ability to mimic a perfectly acoustically treated studio gives recording professionals a reliable mobile reference tool and rewards close listening enthusiasts with music delivery that reflects the artist’s original creative intent.

Here again, we’re treated to decadent bass response. Some planar magnetic, open-back cans are a bit bass anemic, but Audeze isn’t your typical headphone. LCD-X delivers remarkable slam and weighty body that approaches full-size dynamic speaker drivers. It’s immense and rich but well-controlled – never flabby or bloated. Bass energy is punchy, and extension is excellent, effortlessly plumming sub-bass. This is, without question, the most satisfying bass I’ve heard from a planar magnetic design for the price.

The LCD-X’s midrange underwent mild precision adjustments in the 2021 version making it one of the most neutral and natural-sounding Audeze models to date. The re-tuning corrected mild shortcomings in the previous version but didn’t undo any of its musicality or flair. There’s still lush mids saturation, but the changes deliver better definition and balance overall with an expressive vocal presentation that doesn’t resort to excessive artificiality. Instruments are vivid, detail reproduction is precise, and resolution is pristine. Overall, the mids are shamelessly beautiful, balanced, and fully enjoyable, leaving nothing wanting.

The treble of the LCD-X is exceptional and technically capable – exhibiting a silky organic quality. Air and detail are dialed in impeccably. Sizzle and brilliance are spot-on. Some reviews I’ve seen call the LCD-X’s highs “soft.” Soft certainly wouldn’t have been the first adjective that sprung to my mind. I’d call them not overdone. That’s not a fault; they’re faithful and realistic to my ears. Pushing a tuning to create qualities in music that aren’t there doesn’t jive with the transparency needed in a reference tool like the LCD-X.

Sadly, one of the most unfortunate lasting side effects of “audiophile” tuning is its disdain for natural treble balance. This may be one of the most assiduous afflictions to assail recorded music after over-compression. The LCD-X avoids it by pegging its highs perfectly, delivering lifelike treble that’s dynamic, snappy, and articulate. Subtle details like reverb tails and natural instrument decay are wonderfully displayed and true to form.

This could be one of the best headphone treble presentations out there. It certainly is at this price point. It’s authentic and detailed with outstanding resolution and texture, yet never grainy, exaggerated, or strident. LCD-X is entirely capable of providing forensic insight into mixes or fulfilling engaged listening sessions for detail junkies. 

The soundstage of the LCD-X is narrower when compared to the LCD-2C, as we’d expect from a reference headphone. The rendering is decidedly less forward. It’s still close and intimate, but where the LCD-2C places the listener directly inside the music with hard center, left, and right staging, LCD-X evokes the optimized listening depth provided by near-field desk monitors – a more convincing and true-to-life presentation. The professional capabilities of the LCD-X are overtly baked into every aspect of its character. Stereo imaging and separation are vivid and pinpoint accurate, communicating its studio pedigree and reference dependability. Those traits also mean that it suits pure detailed listening enjoyment exceptionally well. 

The LCD-X easily outshines headphones several times their cost and leaves nothing wanting for listeners who admire accuracy, rich presentation, natural detail, and musical realism that perfectly balances professional applications with incisive music appreciation. They assume either role effortlessly.  I’m confident in naming the LCD-X the most musically enjoyable and technically capable headphones available at this price point.

Listening notes

For close listening, I drove the LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X with the Roon Ready iFi NEO Stream feeding a Mytek THX AAA HPA amp with tracks from Qobuz and TIDAL. 

All tracks were rendered at their native sample rates, indicated for each track below. We’ve chosen one of them for a before and after using Audeze’s integrated DSP presets in Roon – including a step-by-step so you can try them out. 

Arthur Rubenstein – Chopin: Nocturne No. 19 in E Minor from Chopin: The Nocturnes on RCA Red Seal (24-bit/96 kHz PCM)

Our selection of later-era Rubenstein doesn’t coyly indicate taking a side in the quiet war over which of his periods is definitive. This performance is so utterly lyrical, assured, relaxed yet percussive and absurdly enjoyable through these headphones that the decision was essentially made for us.

LCD-2 Classic

Duke Ellington once said, “The piano is an orchestra…” This performance illuminates Duke’s statement brilliantly. Rubenstein’s performance of Chopin’s Nocturnes in later life is decidedly less technical but more romantic and truer to their essence of longing and melancholy. 

The LCD-2 Classic delivers this piece with intoxicating luxurious beauty. Its’ lows and mid-range, combined with the staging intimacy, impart Rubenstein’s percussive left-hand attack deep in the chest as delicate right-hand motifs dance fluidly inside the body of the instrument. 

When his reading of the high register becomes more insistent, the notes are crisp and textured yet sublimely controlled and passionate. This piece proves that the LCD-2C retains technical listening capabilities; notes and piano body resonance resolve distinctly, but the LCD-2C truly shines at immersive listening. Rubenstein’s performance is beguiling and effortlessly draws the listener deep inside its embrace.


Inviting the performance to inhabit the LCD-X reveals even greater spirit and ardor tucked within Rubenstein’s interpretation. The performance is no less beautiful with the added detail and transparency. It retains all its romanticism while bringing crisper resolution to subtleties. 

The highs command an evener balance with the low-end and mid-frequency ranges. This piece singlehandedly dismisses claims of LCD-X being marred by soft highs. This is an exceptionally refined yet fervent listening experience. Hearing Nocturne No. 19’s final notes fade inside the body vibration of the piano is a treat. The LCD-X’s treatment of classical solo piano is simply lovely and not to be missed. 

Fred Neil – I’ve Got a Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree) from Fred Neil (16-bit/44 kHz PCM)

Fred Neil was an eccentric troubadour that gregariously reigned over the late 50s/early 60s Greenwich Village scene with a near-mystical presence, taking young arrivals like Bob Dylan and David Crosby under his wing. His second album Fred Neil is a stone classic containing two of his most prolific compositions, The Dolphins and Everybody’s Talkin’, but it’s his incredibly soulful revision of this Elizabeth Cotton folky that knocks us sideways and exhibits all of Neil’s most majestic superpowers.

LCD-2 Classic

Neil’s reverb-laden guitar, a submerged acoustic, and looping jazz bass kick the song off and are quickly joined by a silky whistled melody line. Fred’s vocals drop right into the pocket, cradled in the mother of all reverb. The others lay out reverently until Fred’s through the buttery opening chorus. A second electric leans in, pulling rubbery tremolo behind it. The snare picks up, and another acoustic guitar slides in. The track floats along on rich mids and bass with a softened but lovely high end. 

The star player is Fred’s vocal, and LCD-2C’s staging pulls the listener completely inside it as he massages the plate reverb and plums bass notes from a well of smokey vibrato. It feels like we’re hearing his heavenly polished mahogany baritone from inside his head. The instrumental layering is dense and somewhat amorphous, which may not be to every taste. But the track was born for the tonal capabilities of the LCD-2C. 

Its hypnotic quality meshes brilliantly with these headphones, and it’s challenging to pull away from immersive enjoyment into technical listening. Those who relish airy separation may feel they’re trading detail for the lush presentation. 


Immediately we’re treated to finer details when switching to the LCD-X. The recessed acoustic hiding in the previous intro has shimmer, space, and greater clarity. The upright bass is full and rounded. Reverb tails in Fred’s vocals are clear and resolve smoothly. The effortless rhythmic flow produces a shiver when the full band drops in. 

The track still presents a warming organic quality with layered richness, but everything is more distinct. The nicotine tar on Fred’s voice peeks through in places, and the guitars exhibit more nuance. Slight subtle variations on the pulsing rhythm break the surface conspicuously. The vast reverb adds excellent top end, and the snare, while still laid back, has light snap and spring resonance. The overall presentation is detailed, tonally balanced, and yet moderately classic hi-fi, probably from the outstanding mid and bass performance. 

My pick between the LCD-2C and LCD-X for this one is the LCD-X. Everything I liked about the LCD-2C is still here, but the added transparency lends clarity for hearing further into the track without diminishing its captivating allure.   

Roon’s Audeze DSP plug-in feature

The plug-ins from Audeze’s Reveal+ headphone software are included with Roon free of charge and are super easy to use. Our video below contains an easy step-by-step on finding and applying them in Roon. We’ll discuss their audible difference and see if they affect an artifact heard in this track. 

We should clarify that the plug-ins aren’t intended to be audio correction tools. But, by using the plug-in to optimize the EQ curve of the headphones, it will reveal whether it’s caused by the LCD-2C’s default tuning. 

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ from Moanin’ (24-bit/192 kHZ PCM)

Art Blakey’s 1958 return to Blue Note Records resulted in one hard bop’s archetypal classics, Moanin’. Its title track embodies the sub-genre’s funky, back-to-the-roots embrace of blues, gospel, and R&B fueled by a driving modern jazz engine room. Despite being recorded by what may be the shortest-lived Jazz Messengers lineup, the album epitomizes the form and remains essential listening for the telepathic musical interplay and soulful intensity on display from the entire ensemble. 

LCD-2 Classic

Without the LCD-2C DSP preset plug-in:

Moanin’ bolts from the gate, setting up a classic hybrid gospel/blues call-and-response groove from writer Bobby Timmons’s percussive piano figures and the Morgan/Golson horn team. Benny Golson’s sax reed sizzles with fuzzy warmth as The Messengers lock in underneath the swinging motif. 

Lee Morgan’s trumpet bars crackle with brash energy, half-valve slurs, and peppery staccato riffs, but the plosive power at the leading edge of his breaks literally pops the LCD-2C’s planar magnetic element detracting from the piece’s renowned perfection. Golson’s two choruses add strut, shuffle, and sass with a rounded body over the rhythm sections’ foundational groove. Jymie Merrit’s bass bops along with Blakey’s effortless swing as he adds tight press rolls and crash cymbal punctuation between solo choruses. 

When Timmons takes his helpings, Merritt digs in on the stand-up, offering up lovely interplay. The piano is a delight, expansive with nice heft, depth, and punchy bite with someone, likely Blakey, grunting approval in the background. The bass leans in with voice-like huskiness as the rhythm section saunters with Swiss precision. The piece closes with that classic call-and-response motif, building in power before ending in a flourish of rolling piano figures. It’s an unimpeachable masterpiece that’s mildly blemished by Lee Morgan’s atomic trumpet leads. 

With the LCD-2C DSP preset plug-in:

To apply Audeze’s custom presets in Roon, press the volume icon in the footer of Roon, then click DSP. Toggle on the Audeze presets on the DSP page and select the corresponding headphone model. It’s that easy; see our video below for a step-by-step. 

From the go, there’s more clarity, detail, and air in the mix. Jymie Merritt’s finger can be heard tracing a bass string before playing. The rafters of Rudy Van Gelder’s studio carcasses the music with airy goodness and natural room ambiance. The plug-in opens the mix noticeably but not excessively. The staging doesn’t feel more expansive, but the foreground seems deeper – set back a few feet for more detailed study. 

When Lee Morgan takes his break, the blistering lead ruffles the element again. There’s perhaps the slightest bit less grain but not much. And that’s reassuring to observe. Using the optimized plug-in adjustments tells us that the LCD-2C’s default tuning isn’t what’s causing the pop and grain. 

What’s even more impressive though, is the lively top end that’s on display with the addition of the Audeze LCD-2 plug-in. Subtle details break the surface everywhere. There’s more nuance, richness, and character throughout the song. It lends the hard bop classic additional deference. Everything feels more lively and musical but not in the least bit exaggerated. 

It’s a remarkable difference. The LCD-2C doesn’t suddenly become the LCD-X by adding the preset, but they’re much closer to them now. The signature warmth and mid-range richness get a resolving dash of high-end for surprisingly transformative resolution. Roon’s Audeze DSP plug-ins make these classic headphones sound even sweeter. It’s like buying the next better model just by using the DSP feature. 

To conclude the artifact test, I ran another set of headphones using the same setup to demo the track. The dynamic driver phones I tested also broke up but sounded harsher with more abrasive distortion. That tells me that Audeze’s planar magnetic design’s swift responsiveness and dynamics grab the transient so quickly that it catches the lead plosive and resolves it smoothly without the crunching distortion heard in the dynamic driver design. That’s genuinely astounding.


I’m confident in naming the LCD-X the most musically enjoyable and technically capable headphones available at this price point.

The LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X are stunning headphones that cover the waterfront sonically and balance each other’s strengths perfectly: LCD-2C for immersive relaxed listening, LCD-X for hunting audio easter eggs, detail exploration, or professional transparency. Owning them both would immediately satisfy most listening desires. 

Both models feature exceptional build quality, thoroughly beautiful sound, and impressive technical performance – especially at their respective price points, making them excellent choices for first-time high-end headphone buyers or those wanting to upgrade. 

Audeze lcd x review

Additionally, Audeze is the undisputed champion of planar magnetic headphone manufacturers. Their headphones spoil listeners with nimble dynamics, wide frequency response, lightning-fast transients, greater transparency, excellent control, immersive detail, more realistic imaging, lifelike musicality, better sound, and lovely tonal balance. 

They’re equally perfect for music enthusiasts and audio professionals. Their easy compatibility with reference tracks and casual listening sessions earns them my unreserved and entirely enthusiastic recommendation. The LCD-X commands a spot in my best headphones list for its all-encompassing musicality and performance. 

And, if you already own a pair of Audeze headphones but don’t subscribe to Roon, trust me on this… do a free 14-day trial. Roon’s seamless integration of Audeze’s headphone presets are audio icing on top of all their other winning qualities. 

The LCD-2 Classic was impressively transformed with a few mouse clicks. As a fellow music lover, I encourage you to hear what you’re missing. Roon + Audeze + all your favorite music, free for two weeks. It’s risk-free; why pass it up?! 

Click here to check out the Roon Store’s full line of Audeze headphones.

And click here for a free 14-day Roon Trial!

Additional observations

  • If you’re into classic rock or soul, pop, live recordings, singer-songwriters, or reggae, hear me when I say try these headphones. They have incredible synergy with those genres. You will thank me.
  • The included stock cables are lovely, tangle-free, flexible, comfortable, and sturdy. They don’t transmit noise into the earcup, which is more than I can say for some premium cables I’ve demoed. 
  • The LCD-X provided for the review was the Creator Package with the standard case and cable. Both are of fine quality. Buyers concerned about the standard case and cable can put those worries away. I don’t see a risk of disappointment. 
  • Before letting concerns about the weight of the LCD-2C or LCD-X, please give them a listen. Given what I had read, I expected them to be very uncomfortable, but both models were totally agreeable when worn, even for long hours.

Tech Specs:


  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
  • Ear Cup Design: Open back
  • Phase Management: Non-fazor
  • Transducer Size: 106mm
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Sensitivity: 101 dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 70 Ω
  • Weight: 1 lb, 2 ounces
  • Materials: Steel, nylon, synthetic leather, memory foam 
  • Warranty period: 1-3 years


  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
  • Ear Cup Design: Open back
  • Phase Management: Fazor
  • Transducer Size: 106mm
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 20 Ω
  • Weight: 1 lb, 3 ounces
  • Materials: Steel, aluminum, nylon, synthetic leather, memory foam 
  • Warranty period: 1-3 years

What comes in the box:


  • LCD-2C headphones
  • Audeze LCD hard carrying case
  • 1.9m 1/4″ to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
  • Product paperwork
  • 2 keys

LCD-X (varies based on Creator or Premium package type)

Creator edition

  • LCD-X headphones
  • Audeze hard carrying case
  • Single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable
  • Product paperwork
  • 2 keys

Premium edition

  • LCD-X headphones
  • Premium travel case
  • 4-pin balanced XLR cable
  • Single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable
  • 1/4″ to 1/8″ stereo adapter

Roon Ready Writeups: Meze Audio 109 PRO headphones review

Since the release of Roon ARC, the mobile app that transforms your personal Roon library into a bespoke streaming service, many of you have asked the Roon Store what you need to get the most out of the surprise bonus bundled with Roon 2.0. 

As a result, there are many more Roon customers with AudioQuest DragonFlys and Meze 99 series headphones than there were in the summer! Nothing compares to the intimate listening space created by pairing quality headphones with a worthy DAC/Amp. They reconnect us with our most loved artists, albums, and recordings and make recent musical discoveries more engaging. 

The 99 Classics are affordable entry points into primo portable audio that gained Meze troves of admirers. Immediately upon their release seven years ago, requests for an open-back version began pouring in. So when early prototypes of a new open-back, walnut-trimmed Meze headphone were spotted at audio shows, feverish excitement and anticipation broke out among the open-back Classics petitioners and headphone intelligentsia.

But there’s just one thing…

The 109 PRO isn’t simply a 99 Classic in disguise

And that’s great news! Yes, an open-back 99 would have been cool. But we know it’s not Meze’s style to rest on prior success; they weren’t going to repeat themselves – no matter how much people would have loved them for it. I mean, we’re talking about the same folks that released the revolutionary closed-back Liric model right on the heels of their incredible new flagship Elite. They’re not going to follow trends or do what’s expected.

The only thing anyone can reliably predict from Meze is that during waking hours in Romania, they’re busy figuring out new ways to make music listening more engaging and emotionally resonant. The rest will be a surprise and delight – just like the 109 PRO.

meze audio 109 pro design review

Technical Design

Technical engineering for 109 PRO began by returning to the basics: carefully selected materials, exacting craftsmanship, and precision assembly. The result is an in-house designed and produced 50mm dynamic driver assembly featuring a dual membrane diaphragm made from a cellulose-carbon fiber composite dome surrounded by a Beryllium-coated polymer torus. Circling that is a copper-zinc stabilizer ring alongside an efficient neodymium magnet encased inside a precision machined aluminum frame.

That tech translates to music like so… the cellulose composite W-shaped dome produces highs with incredible detail, clarity, and definition, while the Beryllium-coated torus contributes to faster transient response and greater dynamic range. It pairs with the ring-shaped stabilizer to suppress unwanted resonance and vibration, reducing harmonic distortion. The precision-machined aluminum frame guarantees a perfectly flat surface to affix the magnet and diaphragm assembly improving stability and performance. The completed transducer is placed at a precise angle and distance from the ear inside the open earcup housing.

It’s an entirely different headphone with innovative technology and engineering that sets it apart from other Meze offerings. And even more impressively, its 40 Ω impedance rating and high sensitivity mean it can be driven using the headphone out of most devices.

meze audio 109 pro design review


At first glance, the 109 PRO exudes a strong visual resemblance to the 99 Classics. That similarity undoubtedly contributed to the notion that the headphone gods had smiled on us and an open-back 99 series headphone had descended from the clouds. But upon closer inspection, the 109 PRO’s unique traits, technical characteristics, and singular beauty are revealed.

Old-growth black walnut reappears for an elegant second life as Meze earcups. The 109’s are scaled up to accommodate and reveal the larger dynamic driver, producing one of Meze’s most open patterns. The ornate grill design inside the earcup and matching rose gold hardware create a striking contrast against the jet-black lightweight spring steel frame, earcup grill insert, and accompanying noir appointments. The self-adjusting vegan leather headband distributes weight evenly to relieve pressure for a better fit. Memory foam and soft, breathable velour earpads envelop the ears, creating a luxurious listening space.

Comfort is exactly what you’d expect from Meze, which is to say the 109 PRO is absurdly comfy. In fact, it’s even more comfortable than the 99 Classics – that’s something I didn’t expect to say about any headphones. They feel nearly weightless, are pleasantly snug, and hug the head perfectly, requiring no adjustment. Meze should think about branching out into making earmuffs for fans of their headphones that live in cold environments. It doesn’t even get that cold where I live, but I don’t think I could resist them. 

The 109 PRO continues Meze Audio’s unmistakable artistic expression with stunning visual appeal that’s equaled only by its musical voice.

meze audio 109 pro design review


When Meze sets out to produce a new headphone, they focus on what they’d like the wearer to experience when listening to music and proceed with a tuning informed by the heart, emotion, and immersive musical connection. It’s one of the things that set Meze apart. The 109 PRO nails that sonically; it’s tastefully tuned for enjoyable engaged listening over strict technical neutrality. 

Lower bass frequencies offer excellent extension with a slight shelf in the low and mid-bass range. That tuning adds nice fullness and warmth to the lows and compensates wonderfully for the typical thinner bass response of open-back designs. The dynamic driver produces great punch and adds a muscular body to the lows, while the open-back design eliminates any possibility of bass loading. 

The midrange is very smooth and linear, up to around 3-5kHz. Precisely tuned presence provides shimmer to vocals and instruments, plus a wonderful sense of space and headroom. I’m unsure if it’s a light boost or a subtle cut to the preceding frequencies – but it’s very tastefully done. I didn’t detect any resulting vocal sibilance or sharpness to instrumentation.

Highs also have some air adjustment around 10-12kHz, adding a brilliant, lively top-end. How well the 109’s upper mid and treble tuning works will vary depending on what you’re listening to. Early 60s pop mixed for transistor and car speakers, thinner lively mixes of the 80s, and lo-fi punk or indie tracks may feel slightly aggressive depending on their individual production traits.

We poured our soul into every aspect of its design, and it always brings a smile to my face. I think right now this is, of all our headphones, the one I listen to most.

Antonio Meze on the 109 PRO

However, after letting the 109 PROs play for about 10 hours over three consecutive nights, the top end became silky smooth and vivid. Buyers who feel tentative about the 109’s highs should give them about 40 hours of playtime before judging the tuning. After that, you’ll be hooked and won’t dream of letting them go.

Meze’s tuning decisions have a proven track record and are well-received; the same holds true here. Overall, the 109 PRO exhibits a wonderfully pleasant and smooth voice with lush, tastefully warm lows and linear mids, giving way to lovely presence and shimmer in the upper mids and treble for incredible detail, clarity, and definition. They deliver great punch and astounding dynamics, the soundstage is spacious, even three-dimensional on some tracks, the resolution is top-notch, and the imaging is genuinely mesmerizing.

To my ears, the 109 PRO blends traits of the 99 Classics, Liric, and Elite – which packs a lot of character and performance into a single set of cans and makes their price point tremendously appealing.

Meze’s passion-driven approach to design and conception underpins everything they do; over 30 different prototypes of the 109 PRO were produced before they felt they’d achieved the perfect harmony of sound, comfort, and materials. That dedication shines through in the final version.

At The Munich High-End show, Antonio Meze said, “We poured our soul into every aspect of its design, and it always brings a smile to my face. I think right now this is, of all our headphones, the one I listen to most.”

Listening Notes

For focused listening, I drove the 109 PROs with the headphone output of MacBook Air, then added the DragonFly Black and later Mytek’s exquisite Liberty DAC II to get a sense of how well 109 played with a range of devices. Their 40 Ω impedance rating and high sensitivity delivered engaging listening across everything I used for testing.

Brian EnoApollo/FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE (MacBook Air laptop out, DragonFly Black, Mytek Liberty DAC II)

I was thoroughly stunned by the detail retrieval and soundstage I experienced when I queued up Under Stars from Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks using the headphone out of my MacBook Air. The 109’s presentation captured the vastness and sensation of drifting weightlessly through space much more convincingly than I expected and proved how easy the 109s are to drive. 

Then Roon served up Eno’s new record FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE as a follow-up. Even with this simple setup, the results were captivating, drawing me into the atmospheric performances. Vocals exhibited fabulous presence and clarity.

Eager to entice even more detail from the 109s, I plugged into the Dragonfly Black and found a quiet space to pull up ARC for a second listening. The soundstage shifted to an immense dark background that completely enveloped me in sound. The music formed a dome above and even slightly behind my head. The 109s skillful enhancement in the upper mids and treble worked exceptionally well with these selections. If I had been in a blind listening test, I would have easily believed I was plugged into a high-end tube DAC/amp rather than the entry-level offering of the DragonFly line.

After the DragonFly Black, I excitedly plugged the 109s into the Mytek Liberty DAC II. I eagerly pulled and reconnected connections like an over-caffeinated switchboard operator. Listening through the Mytek is as close as I’ll ever come to being inside the lunar modules in the documentary. The jump in detail, imaging, resolution, soundstage, and character of Under Stars was positively revelatory. The extra amperage the Mytek provided revealed a landscape of subtleties. I’ve listened to Apollo numerous times; it’s a go-to ambient favorite. But hearing it this way provided a fresh perspective that was immensely enjoyable. 

On I’m Hardly Me from FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, Darla Eno‘s delicate vocals were layered with effects. The instrumental separation was so transparent that the brief pause between the clean vocal and its drapery was clearly detectable. The free-flowing synthesizer bed was as organic as wind through trees. Brian Eno’s vocals oozed like warmed honey in a cup of tea. It felt telepathic, a voice painting images in the mind as exotic electronic birds sailed through the space behind the listener. I can’t imagine a better way to experience this album for the first time.

Jackie McLeanLove and Hate from Destination Out (DragonFly Black)

Destination Out is a stand-out favorite among several stellar albums by Jackie McLean. I often played this lead-off track, Love and Hate, when I hosted a jazz radio show years ago. Like nearly all Blue Note albums, the lineup is perfectly honed to the vibe of the material. 

Larry Ridley and Roy Haynes provide a sparse yet ample rhythmic foundation with plenty of room for Grachan Moncur III’s soulful trombone breaks. The star performance on this piece for me is Bobby Hutcherson’s vibraphone fills. The 109 PRO showcases their resonance and decay lusciously. Each percussive mallet strike is rendered with snappy attack before resolving completely. Jackie’s expressive alto lines are simultaneously soulful and searching, weaving laid-back lines with brisk flurries of cascading notes.

McLean’s playing was always just a touch sharp. Miles Davis once hilariously commented, “Jackie McLean plays like somebody’s standing on his foot!” The presence and air of the 109s walk the line perfectly here, exhibiting great control while showing off the texture in McLean’s tone without becoming strident. 

Even more impressive was the overall grandeur the track acquired. Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs is an immense cathedral-like space with open rafters and a 39-foot ceiling built to evoke a spiritual response from artists who recorded there. The DragonFly Black/109 PRO combination thoroughly conveyed the room’s contribution to the recording and performance.

The BeatlesWithin You Without You/Tomorrow Never Knows from Love (Mytek Liberty DAC II)

For some Beatles fans, the song mashups of the Love album, crafted to accompany the Cirque du Soleil production of the same name, were a near heretical misuse of the coveted original recordings when the album was released. Now several deluxe edition boxsets and outsourced album remixes later, the versions are far less controversial. Love’s results feel consistent with The Fab Four’s technical curiosity, openness to studio experimentation, and recording innovation. This selection deftly welds John Lennon’s avant-garde Revolver closer to George Harrison’s eastern spirituality, and mysticism informed Sgt. Pepper centerpiece. 

The track shows off the finesse of the 109s sub-bass extension as the song plunges to the center of cosmic consciousness at 1:03 in – whisking us into the technicolor spiral as the floor drops out from under us. The originals were an intoxicating blend of exotic instrumentation in their own right; when conjoined, they’re a captivating tapestry of swirling sound layers. The 109s make pursuing them through the mix deliriously fun and exciting. The thundering synergy of bass and drums is thick and rollicking in places, but the 109’s expert low-end tuning contains it well and keeps everything out of the mud.

John’s opening lines from the demo version of Tomorrow Never Knows drift diaphanously toward the listener before George’s ethereal vocals levitate just above the center of the forehead. Tape loops, strings, Indian hand drums, and mellotron weave a sonic kaleidoscope before an array of soft effects and detached elements from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds ushers the dreamy arrangement to a close. The 109 PRO joined the spellbinding dance effortlessly. It was all too groovy, man.


The 109 PRO melds a delightfully pleasant and smooth voice with warm, tasteful lows and linear mids that give way to lovely presence and shimmer in the upper mids. Highs are tuned for incredible detail, clarity, and definition. The revolutionary in-house driver assembly delivers great punch and astounding dynamics with a spacious soundstage, top-notch resolution, and genuinely mesmerizing imaging in an acoustically open design that conveys breathtaking musicality.

Meze’s dedication to achieving the ideal harmony of sound, comfort, and timeless design is embodied fully within the 109 PRO. Like all Meze headphones, it is a beautiful piece of sound art that expertly fuses visual beauty with an equally alluring sound signature and maximum comfort for fully immersive, engaging listening without distractions. Loads of character, performance, and value is packed into the 109 PRO for the price.  I encourage anyone looking for high-quality open-back headphones with premium appointments and unmatched sound to give it a close listen.

Click here to visit the Meze Audio 109 PRO at the Roon Store

Additional observations of Note

  • Aftermarket cables may not be compatible with the narrow cable input canal of the 109 PRO. 
  • The 109 PRO’s out-of-box driver tightness dissipates rather quickly. To hasten the process, allow them to play overnight for a few consecutive nights. They’ll sound magnificent.
  • If the fit of the spring steel headband is too snug, grasp the earcups and gently pull them outward a few times before putting them on.
  • Check out the 109’s included brochure for a closer look at the innovative technology inside the model.
  • The 109 PRO is a highly easy-to-drive headphone, but pairing it with a quality DAC/amp will result in even more musical character and enjoyment and bring its full potential to life.

Tech Specs

  • Driver Type: Meze in-house dynamic
  • Diaphragm Type: Dual Membrane Diaphragm – combination of Beryllium-coated polymer and cellulose + carbon fiber composite
  • Transducer Size: 50mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 30KHz
  • Sensitivity: 112dB SPL at 1KHz, 1mW
  • Impedance: 40 Ω
  • Weight: 13 oz without cables
  • Materials: Black walnut wood, zinc, manganese steel, vegan leather, velour, and memory foam. 
  • Warranty period: 2 years

What’s in the Box

  • Meze 109 PRO open-back headphones
  • Case: Hard EVA pouch
  • 1.5 m dual mono to single-ended 3.5mm soft TPE cable
  • 3 m dual mono to single-ended 3.5mm soft TPE cable
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapter
  • Cable pouch
  • 109 PRO brochure

Visit The Roon Store to see our full line of products.

18 Ways to Love the AudioQuest DragonFly

Don’t worry; a new DragonFly DAC hasn’t slipped in under your radar undetected. That’s news that would be difficult to miss considering their popularity. Instead, we’re highlighting an amusing paradox that sometimes affects gear reviews. Some devices continue to excite and spark revelations long after the review is written and published. 

It’s most common when discussing feature-rich equipment with app-based controls and functionality. But this time is quite different. The AudioQuest Dragonfly Red has no buttons, no settings to navigate… not even a power cord. Despite its simplicity, its full potential is only revealed over time – like a lotus blossom opening in slow motion. 

Examining specs is helpful for understanding gears’ technical nature, but commenting on their personality requires a relationship with the devices. That personal connection uncovers more significant insights and appreciation. Complexity isn’t a requirement for excellence. Here are 18 remarkable qualities and use possibilities for the AudioQuest DragonFly Red – 9 things to know and 9 ways you can use it.

9 essential AudioQuest DragonFly character traits

  1. It’s one of the easiest, and most affordable audio upgrades you can make: DragonFly is reasonably priced, simple to integrate into your system, and the difference it makes is instantly audible. That’s not always a given when upgrading audio gear, especially with low-cost equipment. If we’re being honest, we occasionally have to convince ourselves the “improvement” was worth it. That’s never the case when adding DragonFly Red; the jump in audio quality over using a mobile device’s built-in DAC is instant music to our ears.
  2. AudioQuest does the work for you. Unlike some newer portable DACS, there aren’t a bunch of settings to fiddle with – that’s not a downside. Sometimes trivial features disguise mediocre sound quality. In DragonFly, AudioQuest did everything we could want. They paired the correct circuitry, added a digital filter, and tuned the audio tastefully. All we have to do is enjoy how good music sounds when using it. That’s a gift.
  3. It’s not a disposable gadget: The DragonFly Red isn’t a short-lived gizmo. The entire DragonFly line is firmware upgradeable using the intuitive device manager software. There’s no planned obsolescence here. The performance and functionality of your DragonFly will continue to improve with new updates.
  4. It works with almost everything: DragonFly offers plug-and-play ease of use with any playback software and is fully compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. AudioQuest’s reasonably priced adapters provide greater connectivity with a broader range of devices.
  5. Premium audio circuitry courtesy of Sabre: Sabre two-channel DACs are specifically designed for low-power applications that still demand audiophile performance. DragonFly Red sports the ESS9016 DAC chipset with an ES9601 headphone amp – circuits found in top-tier disc players and AudioQuest’s flagship DAC. The combination delivers perfect synergy and outstanding audio quality from an incredibly portable platform.
  6. Maximum efficiency means more play time: DragonFly Red’s upgraded high-performance microprocessor is 77% more efficient than previous version’s. Meaning several hours more playtime with minimal mobile battery impact.
  7. Increased output power means more use flexibility: DragonFly Red provides 2.1 volts of output power; that’s plenty enough punch to drive less sensitive power-hungry headphones or use it as a preamp for a power amp or active speakers.
  8. Seamless integration with your OS volume control: DragonFly Red uses highly sophisticated 64-step, 64-bit, bit-perfect digital volume control that automatically syncs with your device’s OS. It becomes one with your device as soon as it’s connected.
  9. Driverless simplicity: Some reviewers have complained that AudioQuest capped DragonFly resolution support at 24-bit/96kHz. But it makes driverless device compatibility possible resulting in better audio quality with greater ease of use – that’s a sweet deal!
audioquest dragonfly red

9 more ways to enjoy better sound quality with DragonFly Red

As inveterate music hounds, the primary use scenario discussed in our DragonFly review focused on getting the best sound from our new on-the-go streaming app, Roon Arc. With daily use, we discovered more ways DragonFly Red can improve everything we listen to. Here are a few that came to mind.

  1. A perfect companion for Nucleus and Nucleus Plus: our Roon Core music servers are controlled with Roon Software installed on a computer, mobile phone, or tablet. The DragonFly Red is a perfect companion device because it dramatically improves the audio quality of those control devices compared to their merely adequate onboard DACs. DragonFly’s near universal compatibility means they work with all the most frequently used devices.
  2. High-Quality car audio: Since the release of ARC, I connect my iPhone to Dragonfly Red, then use a 3.5mm cable for the AUX input in my car. The improvement over using a Bluetooth connection is instantly apparent. Radio apps sound better as well.
  3. Create a DIY Roon Ready Streamer/DAC/Amp: I have an iFi Zen Stream here for review. One afternoon I connected the DragonFly Red to its USB output, then ran a 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable to a set of powered Klipsch speakers. It sounded much better than I expected. The superior audio quality of the streamer and DAC fed the speakers a solid signal that improved their usual performance making them more enjoyable – and Roon Ready!
  4. Instant Zone Expansion: DragonFly Red makes it so easy to add another Roon Zone. Connect it to your phone for an around-the-house or bedside headphones DAC/amp endpoint. If you aren’t a headphones listener but are interested, this is the quickest way in!
  5. A reference DAC you can drop in your pocket: The DragonFly Red has an appealing memorable sonic signature. It’s a perfect portable reference DAC for auditioning headphones, powered speakers, or power amps. There’s no audible noise or distortion, and it’s dead quiet, rendering a blank slate ideal for testing gear. 
  6. More realistic gaming: Our senior support tech uses his DragonFly Red to enjoy more immersive video game audio. The driverless connectivity makes it effortlessly compatible with various gaming platforms. 
  7. A taste of vinyl fever: You can use DragonFly to connect a USB turntable to a pair of powered monitors for an instant hi-fi system with much better sound quality than the built-in phono preamp.
  8. Bring movie effects to life: DragonFly doesn’t just make music sound better when using a computer, phone, or tablet. It makes everything sound better. Say goodbye to mediocre audio from YouTube, Netflix, and Prime Video with DragonFly Red’s superior audio processing power.
  9. There’s still lots of net left: We’ve named a handful more things you can do with DragonFly Red. Some are Rooncentric, and many are not. But there’s still enough net left to scoop up less obvious use scenarios – like improved sound quality for video meetings or any of the numerous digital communication tools we’ve adopted in the last few years. Or something for self-reflection, like enjoying a podcast or audiobook. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination.

That’s the great thing about gear that’s elegant in its simplicity and just works. It improves our experience with sound in an effortless, intuitive, and uncluttered way. DragonFly Red is a beautiful little converter that does its job so well that we forget it’s there. It’s honest and unbothered, giving us a more direct and immersive connection with the media we enjoy, whether it’s music or any of the examples above. The fact that it’s one of the most accessible, easily affordable, future-proofed, and highly portable sound improvements you can make is all the more reason to climb aboard a DragonFly!

Visit The Roon Store to see our full line of products.

22 Best Gifts for a Music Lover 2022

Gift buying can be overwhelming… Black Friday this, Cyber Monday that, products that all seem the same with features that sound like algebraic equations. With so many what to buy and when to buy options, it’s no wonder we close those tabs and shove cash into an envelope. But money isn’t personal, and you want to give a gift they will love. The Roon Store is here to help. Put those gift cards away and check out our guide featuring the best gifts for music lovers.

Let’s get started!

Meze Neo 99 headphones

Meze 99 NEO Headphones


A fresh take on the 99 series for the uptown audiophile, 99 NEO brings together Meze Audio’s signature sound quality with cutting edge style. They’re the perfect over-the-ear headphones. The ear cups are large and comfortable making them ideal for all-day listening. Plush memory foam padding provides noise cancellation for those times we need to block out distractions and focus. 99 NEO is the perfect music-lover gift at a great price. For more information please read our Meze 99 NEO Review.

AudioQuest DragonFly Portable DAC

$119.95 – $249.95

Whatever music turns you on, wherever you are, an AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC delivers inspiring, dynamic, and beautiful sound to earbuds, headphones, powered speakers, or complete audio systems. Simply plug DragonFly into any mobile or desktop setup to create an instant Hi-Res music listening system. These compact DACs feature integrated volume control, built-in MQA support and powerful headphone amps, making them the perfect starting point for any audiophile. At home or on the go, DragonFly has you covered for just about every need. Available in Black, Red, and Cobalt. For more information please read our AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt Review.

ifi go blu review

iFi GO blu Portable DAC


The GO blu portable HD DAC/amp is diminutive enough to take with you wherever you go. It gives best sound from wired but the convenience of wireless as you no longer need to have a cable connection to your smartphone. This HD Bluetooth DAC allows lets you take any Roon ARC, Apple Music, or Spotify song on the go. It even features a built-in microphone for calls and voice commands. All of this – and a 10 hour battery! For more information please read our iFi GO blu review.

ifi zen stream digital streamer

iFi Zen Stream


Beneath its classy exterior, the ZEN Stream is a technological streamer-de-force. It has one purpose – to send music simply from the Internet to your DAC with no loss of quality. The iFi Zen Stream is a Roon Ready bridge that provides instant wireless connectivity to any device with USB or S/PDIF inputs. It handles everything from MP3 to MQA, High-Res music up to 32/384 PCM plus DSD256, and takes just minutes to set up. That’s not all! It’s packed with iFi’s cutting-edge audio technology and a full range of streaming options, including TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, Spotify, YouTube Music, AirPlay, and Chromecast.

elac discovery z3 speaker

ELAC Discovery Z3 speaker


ELAC Discovery Z3 Wireless Speaker with 140 watts of powerful built-in amplification means all you do is plug it in and listen! The Z3 all-in-one speaker delivers huge sound in a small package, making it an ideal gift for music lovers. It’s the perfect upgrade for a kitchen, bedroom, or anywhere you want to enjoy music. Simply plug it in, connect it to the network, and start enjoying your music using Roon, Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Bluetooth, or 3.5mm AUX inputs.

bluesound pulse mini review audiophile gift for music lover

Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i Speaker


The Pulse Mini 2i is a powerful all-in-one speaker that produces more detailed audio than many rival players twice its size. Featuring freshly redesigned tweeters that expand the listening sweet spot, the Pulse Mini 2i has double the bass drivers and amp power, resulting in a true stereo performance. Compatible with almost every streaming service and high-resolution file format, the PULSE Mini 2i redefines what compact speakers can do by delivering a rich, dynamic performance no matter where you put it. An incredibly easy plug-and-play gift for the music lover in your life! For more information read our Bluesound Pulse Mini review.

Meze 99 classics

Meze 99 Classics Headphones


The Meze 99 Classics delivers perfect natural sound even to the pickiest of audio lovers. The walnut wood earcups, soft earpads, and the spring steel headband make the 99 Classics an audio heirloom rather than just a pair of headphones. What better gift for the music lover in your life? For more information read our Meze 99 Classics review

Cambridge Audio dacmagic dac

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M DAC


DacMagic 200M is Cambridge Audio’s first product to support MQA. MQA is an award-winning British technology that delivers studio-quality sound in a file small enough to stream. The DacMagic can accommodate three wired digital sources plus Bluetooth while integrated into a system and still handle headphone duties. Build quality, fit, and finish are all typical top-tier Cambridge Audio caliber, as expected. For more information read our Cambridge Audio DacMagic Review

ifi xdsd gryphon review audiophile gift

iFi xDSD Gryphon Portable DAC


iFi xDSD Gryphon is an ultra-res portable balanced DAC & headphone amplifier. See the iFi option EISA named “Best Mobile DAC” for 2022-2023. The Gryphon is, to put it simply, a fantastic beast. With massive support for audio resolutions from 32 bit/768kHz PCM and MQA to DSD512, integrated Bluetooth streaming, and both balanced and unbalanced headphone outputs – this is a portable DAC that can do just about everything. From quiet, focused HiFi listening at home, to easy streaming during a commute, this the perfect gift for just about every music lover out there. For more information read our iFi xDSD Gryphon review

meze advar in ear monitors review audiophile gift for a music lover

Meze Advar Earbuds


High-quality earbuds are the best gift for the music lover on the go. Their size provides portability, comfort and performance. Reminiscent of a lustrous gem that transports you through a mystical folktale, ADVAR hides a powerful, detailed, lifelike sound behind a uniquely designed stainless steel chassis. A balanced blend of function and beauty, ADVAR is an IEM like no other. For more information read our Meze Advar review

BLuesound NODE hi res streamer black

Bluesound NODE hi res music streamer


Renowned for exceptional performance and value, the NODE is the ultimate HiFi streamer that easily connects to any stereo system to help you discover a universe of audio streaming. With all the inputs and outputs to please the most ardent audiophile, the NODE connects your gear to all the music ever recorded. With built-in premium hi-res music services like Tidal®, Spotify®, and Qobuz®, as well as virtually all other popular music services, internet radio and even your own digital music library held on a computer or Roon Nucleus – the NODE brings infinite playback choices into your very own high fidelity sonic domain.

escape p6 air outdoor speaker review audiophile gift for music lover

Escape P6 Air Outdoor Speaker


The Escape P6 Air features a timeless weatherproof design combined with wireless capability to enjoy your favorite music anywhere you go. With a built-in carry handle and a rechargeable battery with up to 16 hours playback, every aspect of the P6 Air was purpose built for outdoor use. And thanks to the built-in Bluetooth receiver the P6 Air can be used in places without WI-FI reception. Available in tan, white, or black. For more information read our Escape P6 Air review

bluesound pulse review audiophile gift for music lover

Bluesound Pulse Speaker


Designed to complement any décor, Bluesound’s Pulse speakers can easily fit into large or small living spaces, all the while providing outstanding musicality and bass output. Compatible with almost every streaming service and high-resolution file format, the Pulse 2i redefines what compact speakers can do by delivering rich, dynamic performance no matter where you put it. Available in black and white. For more information please read our Bluesound Pulse review

chord mojo 2 review audiophile gift for music lover

Chord Electronics Mojo 2 Portable DAC


Mojo 2 is the most advanced pocket-sized DAC/headphone amplifier in the world. It plays your favorite music with class-leading detail and clarity up to studio-grade levels. The Mojo 2 can connect to systems of all sizes via optical, coaxial, Micro USB, and USB-C connections. And, when paired with Chord’s Poly streamer, it gains network streaming capability as well! For more information please read our Chord Mojo 2 review

chord electronics poly portable streamer

Chord Electronics Poly Streamer


Poly is a portable music streamer/player that combines with Mojo to wirelessly stream from connected devices. Poly gives you the flexibility to use your Mojo 2 around your home free of wires and can adapt for out-of-home use with 9 hours of battery life. It’s the perfect combination gift for music lovers looking for just a little bit more from their Chord Mojo experience. For more information please read our Chord Poly review

primare np5 prisma mk2

Primare NP5 Primsa MK2


Primare’s NP5 Prisma MK2 makes it easy to introduce streaming capabilities to any outboard DAC or other component with a digital input. Ready to integrate your Legacy gear into your setup; the NP5 Prisma MK2 makes it easy! It’s more than just a streamer; Prisma is a full suite of features reserved for Primare’s premium gear – at a fraction of the price. For more information, please read our Primare NP5 Prisma review.

Roon nucleus music server review audiophile gift for music lover

Roon Nucleus Music Server


The Nucleus music server is simply the best way to experience Roon. Store up to 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks) with multi-room streaming and up to 4TB SSD. Nucleus is built to provide a worry-free, turn-key, and highly reliable whole-home music system. This gift will be used daily for many years to come and guarantees top Roon performance. For more information please read our Roon Nucleus review.

Chord Hugo 2 silver and chord hugo 2 black

Chord Hugo 2 portable DAC


Hugo 2 is a powerful DAC and headphone amp that builds on the ground-breaking original. Designed for both home and mobile use, Hugo 2 transforms headphones and audio systems’ sound quality with its cutting-edge proprietary DAC technology and a host of other impressive sound processing features.

Chord hugo 2 portable dac and chord 2go streamer

Chord 2go streamer


2go is a high-performance streamer/server that transforms the Hugo 2 DAC into a fully featured Wi-Fi and Ethernet-enabled device with up to 4 TB of onboard music storage. Adding 2go to Hugo 2, creates the most sonically advanced compact music streamer available today. It’s internal battery delivers 10 hours of wireless music playback via Roon, Bluetooth, or Airplay. It’s the pinnacle on-the-go HiFi experience and a perfect gift for every music lover.

burson coductor 3xr reference dac

Burson Audio Conductor 3XR Reference DAC


Burson’s Conductor 3XR Reference is a fully balanced DAC, Pre-Amp, and Class-A headphone amp with a whopping 7.5 Watts of power. It features top-of-class audio components, dual mono DAC circuitry, future-proof audio format support, analog and digital inputs, plus multiple headphone output options for exceptional flexibility and premium sound quality in a compact package. The 3XR makes an ideal gift for the music lover who has everything! For more information, please read our Burson Audio review.

pair of devialet phantom 103db with treepod

Devialet Phantom I 103db

$2,300.00 single / $4,600 pair

Devialet’s Phantom I 103dB offers rich and clear sound in an elegant, compact performance-driven design. This striking setup shows a pair of Devialet Phantom I 103db on matching Treepod stands ($350 each). Phantom I 103dB may be the starting point in the Phantom I series, but don’t let that deceive you. Its detail, range, and impact are staggering for a speaker of its size. It works brilliantly as a standalone speaker, in stereo, or as part of a multiroom system. Available in White or Black; supports Wi-Fi, Airplay2 & Bluetooth.

dutch & dutch 8c

Dutch & Dutch 8c

$14,950.00 (pair)

The Dutch & Dutch 8c is an innovative active speaker handcrafted in the Netherlands. Fast becoming a top choice for mastering studios, the 8c uses a variety of new technologies that work together with the acoustics of your listening room to deliver extremely natural, detailed sound. These will quite possibly be the best speakers you have ever heard, even compared with full systems costing four times the price.

Roon Partner Update: November 2022

A bumper round up of new Roon Ready products in this month’s partner update – from compact streaming speakers to elite level DACs. Check it!

We’ve got an absolutely bumper partner round up for you in November – with some seriously exciting new additions to welcome into the Roon Ready family.

There’s something for everyone this month –  from compact streaming speakers that pack a punch, to an elite-level streamer DAC running Roon OS built-in. Let’s dive in.

Bluesound Pulse M

Roon Ready

If you’re in the market for a compact streaming speaker that pairs slick design with great sound quality, the new Pulse M from Bluesound is a great bet. The Pulse M delivers clear, lush, room-filling audio from its pint sized chassis – giving you foot-tapping music streaming wherever it’s placed within your home.

It looks great, too. The subtle design and simple touch controls allow the Bluesound Pulse M to blend seamlessly into any room decor.

Metronome DSS 2

Roon Ready

From one aesthetically pleasing piece of kit to another – The Metronome DSS 2adds Roon Ready streaming to your HiFi system, and looks good while doing it.

Built in France, this sleek looking network streamer features an I2S output supporting rates up to DSD256. It comes featuring analog and digital connections for plenty of flexibility, and cutting-edge power supply circuitry for a cleaner sound. The DDS 2 now offers integrated WIFI and supports MQA playback.

Musical Fidelity M6x

Roon Tested

The Musical Fidelity M6x DAC bears impressive heritage. Going all the way back, the M6x is the proud successor to the Digilog model that started it all in 1988. The M6x USB DAC continues to build on Musical Fidelity’s rich legacy of world-class audio devices – providing superb build quality at great value.

Its Roon Tested USB input supports PCM playback up to 768 kHz, native DSD playback up to DSD512, and MQA Full Decoder functionality. It features the latest ESS DAC chips to deliver superb signal-to-noise performance. The built-in headphone amplifier delivers high bandwidth, extremely low noise, and up to 128dB of dynamic range.

Mytek Empire

Roon Ready

The Mytek Empire Streamer DAC is a seriously powerful streamer designed to challenge the most elite DACs on the market. The Mytek Empire comes with Roon OS built-in, brilliantly combining the power of a Roon core with Mytek’s legendary digital and analog audio designs. 

It features two ultra-high performance ESS 9038PRO Sabre DAC chipsets in dual mono mode, powered by dedicated linear power supplies for each channel. The Roon OS and Mytek OS computer boards are fully isolated from the DAC and analog components with a faraday cage design and separate linear power supply. 

For control, the Empire has multiple options available. On the device itself, there’s a neat little five-and-a-half inch touch screen that offers full control and browsing of Roon. Additionally, the Mytek Empire comes shipped with an iPad for control from anywhere around the home. It all adds up to make the Mytek Empire one of the most technologically advanced and best sounding hi-res music streamers available today. And it’s designed to be upgradeable, so you’ll be set for years to come.

AVM Inspiration AS 2.3

Roon Ready

Since the 1990s, AVM has cultivated something of a legacy for developing compact all-in-one devices that don’t compromise on sound quality. The AVM Inspiration AS 2.3 integrated amplifier confidently continues this legacy.

The customized AVM X-STREAM engine supports Roon Ready playback up to PCM 384 kHz and DSD256. The AS 2.3 makes a huge leap in sound quality from its predecessors – carrying a powerful 140 W amplifier based on the full-sized OVATION CS 8.3 design.

KEF LS60 Wireless

Roon Ready

Looking for a high-end, Roon Ready speaker solution that looks as beautiful as it sounds? Then the KEF LS60 Wireless is about to jump right to the top of your Christmas list. The LS60 Wireless takes KEFs reputation for forward-thinking design with a classic grounding to a whole new level. It’s a celebration of 60 years of sound innovation – with a clear eye on the future of high fidelity experience and design.

In terms of aesthetic, the LS60 Wireless really stands apart from the crowd. Its iconic slim structure makes for a beautifully contemporary addition to your living or listening room. But the LS60 doesn’t just look the part – it sounds sublime, too. 

It supports high-resolution playback via Roon Ready streaming and includes flexible input options such as HDMI eARC, optical, and analog RCA connections. The LS60’s Single Apparent Source technology is adapted from the flagship KEF Blade loudspeaker. It aims to achieve the acoustic ideal of a point source. Where low, mid, and high frequencies radiate from a single point which enables coherent, precise, and clear sound across the whole audio bandwidth. The LS60 is a beautifully designed, no-compromise speaker solution for discerning audiophiles with a real eye for internal design.


Roon Ready

If you’re looking for KEF sound quality and performance in a smaller package, KEF has a compact, budget-friendly Roon Ready option available to you. The KEF LSX II – a beautifully designed small-scale WiFi speaker – reflects KEF’s continued commitment to top-end listening regardless of speaker size or budget. Under the hood, there’s plenty packed into these bookshelf speakers. The LSX II comes with built-in support for Roon Ready streaming up to 24-bit/384kHz and dedicated amplifiers inside each speaker for added punch.

The KEF LSX II is super flexible, too. It can connect to your TV via HDMI ARC, your laptop via USB-C, and even a turntable, CD player or games console. And if you want your movies, music, or gaming to come with extra bass, there’s a dedicated output to connect a subwoofer. This comprehensive compatibility is backed up by an unquestionably reasonable price point. The LSX II is all you’d need to assemble a truly world-class sound system. 

Roon Ready Writeups: Roon Nucleus Music Server Review

Bringing it all back home

Since the release of Roon 2.0, we’ve presented a selection of mobile audio gear dedicated to helping us get the most from Roon ARC. If you’ve missed our recent notifications, ARC is a new app that transforms your Roon library into a bespoke streaming service with all your favorite Roon features. We’re pretty excited about the reception it’s received. This time out, we’re taking a different path to an enhanced ARC experience and optimal overall Roon performance by bringing it all back home to the most critical piece of any Roon system, your Core. 

Before we continue, let’s briefly describe the three components that make up a Roon setup; Roon Core, Roon apps, and audio devices. Those parts can be separate devices or bundled all in one. An example of the all-in-one approach is a laptop that functions as the Core, software control interface, and audio device – perhaps in the form of a headphone out. This is how the majority of people start using Roon. 

The separates method offers greater flexibility and limitless device possibilities. An example setup might consist of a Roon Nucleus Core, an Android or iOS tablet with the Roon app as remote, and Devialet Phantom I speakers running as a stereo pair as audio devices. Our How Roon Works video provides an excellent overview by our CEO, Enno Vandermeer. You can also check out the Show (off) your Roon Setup thread on our Roon Community for more ideas and inspiration.

In essence, your Core is the musical superbrain of the entire Roon operation. It manages your Roon library, handles signal processing, and oversees music playback. It’s home to your Roon software, it’s superior audio engine, database, playlists, local music storage locations, and all the customizations and preference settings you’ve made to Roon. Whether you’re listening at home or with Roon ARC on the go, it’s the first link of your signal chain. Accordingly, it’s super important that you ensure your Core is parked on a machine that’s appropriately up to scratch. 

In this review, we’ll explain why Roon Nucleus and Nucleus Plus represent the best choices you can make for your Roon Core. The Roon Store’s exclusive promotional offers means there’s no better place to purchase your Nucleus. But first, this important message.

roon nucleus plus music server

Friends don’t let friends run Roon Core on NAS.

This has been a public service announcement from your friendly Roon Technical Support team. Yes, it’s only said in jest… mostly. It’s also a genuine plea to help you help yourself. The most compelling argument for choosing a purpose-driven core machine is the mountain of support requests from customers with Celeron and Atom-based NAS cores or similar boxes with prohibitive native software that does nothing but fight with Roon. The same can be said for nine-year-old laptops with badly outdated operating systems. 

For the love of all things music, don’t do that to yourself. An underpowered core machine is the quickest possible route to a bad Roon experience, with a shaky home network coming in as a close second. If you’d like to start corresponding with Roon Tech Support regularly, though, then it’s a great strategy.

Let me clarify: there’s no judgment or snarky attitude in this advice. We totally get your thinking – you have an older machine sitting unused; why not make it a Roon Core. That’s all it’ll be used for; it should be fine, right? In our experience, no, not always. Ideally, you want each device in your system to perform at its best. Starting with an unstable foundation will have ripple effects further downstream. That’s not what we want for you. Nucleus and Nucleus Plus provide the most solid platform possible for Roon because we built them that way. 

roon nucleus music server

The only Roon Core designed specifically for Roon, by Roon.   

Before you wag your finger and turn red, we’re not saying you must have a Nucleus to use Roon. That’s not at all the case. 

We’re saying that Roon Nucleus is the best way to experience Roon. Here’s why – it’s the only music server on the market explicitly designed to showcase Roon’s full performance potential by the same team that created Roon. It immediately plants Roon on terra firma, and it’s the fastest way to upgrade the performance of an existing setup.

Alternatively, you can run Roon on a recent laptop or small form factor desktop that meets our recommendations and have great results – many of our customers do. My first Roon Core was a Mac laptop; it’s the easiest, most immediate point of entry for many of us. But much like the onboard DACs in our mobile devices, the problem is that most computers aren’t built to be high-quality audio transports. And, to make things worse, they’re distracted by a slew of behind-the-scenes activity and house circuitry that produces noise and deteriorates sound quality.

Nucleus has an advantage over other platforms because it was engineered to provide the most reliable and problem-free Roon experience. It’s designed to do one thing and do it unerringly: host your Roon Core. All that Windows and Mac busy-work jive is eliminated. Nucleus isn’t checking emails, looking for driver updates, juggling dozens of other unessential processes, or flexing your firewall against overly curious apps. Its only concern is Roon. 

It’s a gateway to plug-and-play Roon enjoyment that provides silent, high-performance, power-efficient reliability and superior audio quality in a visually striking modern enclosure. And it’s an unrivaled, dead simple to use, purpose-driven home for Roon Core! Why deny yourself that kind of luxury? 

roon nucleus music server plus

Inside the mysterious finned black box

When designing Nucleus, we ultimately decided to produce two models. They’re identical in all respects except for raw computing horsepower. We wanted to provide options based on specific needs and adjust device costs around the use scenario. A few other goals were for:

  • A turn-key Roon Core that does not require a Mac, PC, or NAS
  • Computing power to support Roon’s requirements now and in the future
  • Ease of use – little to no customer support needed after installation
  • Software and firmware updates downloaded “over the air” and managed by the end-user
  • Reliable and robust operation – tamper-resistant and nothing to service
  • Audiophile-friendly – no fans or moving parts

Nucleus is perfect for the majority of our subscribers. Nucleus Plus is for those with more rigorous processing requirements due to library size, more simultaneous playback streams, DSP, convolution, and high-rate DSD playback. Their differences and details are below.


  • Built on an optimized Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of RAM
  • Library capacity: Up to 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Pre-installed internal storage is available. 
  • Multi-room streaming: Up to 6 simultaneous zones
  • DSP capability: All DSP functions available in the PCM domain, certain combinations of functions using DSD, upsampling, or multi-channel processing may not be possible. 


  • Built on an optimized Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB RAM
  • Library capacity: Over 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Pre-installed internal storage is available. 
  • Multi-room streaming: Over 6 simultaneous zones
  • DSP capability: All DSP functions available
  • Compatible with Crestron and Control 4 control modules
roon nucleus music server plus

Connection points are identical in both models:

  • Inputs are 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage, and Gigabit LAN connection.
  • Outputs include 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 

They embody Roon Core, bold yet simple, functional and durable yet visually stimulating – just like Roon. Both models are housed in a striking winged heat-dissipating aluminum chassis finished in automotive-grade off-black satin paint. A low-profile Roon logo is stamped on its face. 

The connection points listed above, the power supply connection, and the power button are on the rear panel inside a port inspired by the hanger bays of the Death Star. Nucleus measures 10.5in (W) x 10.5in (D) x 2.5in (H). The device itself weighs about 7lbs, depending on internal storage. Nucleus can accommodate 2.5-inch HDD or SSD drives with a maximum height of 15mm.

Setup and software updates are done via an easily accessible, intuitively simple web interface. Control of Roon is handled with the Roon Remote app. On-the-go access to your Roon Library with ARC is guaranteed by Nucleus’ always-on design. You can also connect an external disc drive to rip CDs directly to the Nucleus. 

Nucleus and Nucleus Plus are identical sonically. While reviewing our recent parade of DACs, I’ve discovered that a direct wired or wireless Roon Ready connection to the Nucleus is always sonically superior to connecting to the USB port of a computer remote. It’s a darker achromatic slate that feeds an entirely transparent signal to Roon’s audio engine. That neutral background allows you to shape your system’s sound signature with DACS, playback devices, amps, and speakers. Nucleus provides the optimal platform for sonic sculpting; simply choose from any of our 1000+ Roon Certified partner devices to customize your sound.

If you’re looking for the quickest, easiest, most reliable, problem-free, best-sounding, sweetest smelling, and immediately excellent Roon-designed Roon Core experience… Ok, not the sweetest smelling; I was just making sure you were listening. If you’d like all that other good stuff, then Nucleus is for you! A personal bonus feature is that it’s provided snappier Roon performance and 100% problem-free operation since I added one to my setup. Now let’s look at some other benefits.

tidal for roon nucleus music server

Plug yourself into the web of sound

Ok, your Roon Core is sorted; now what? Now it’s all about the music. If you have a library of local music files, connect an external hard drive directly to the Nucleus, point Roon toward your network storage location, or simply drag and drop your music to the internal storage drive. Roon immediately flexes its metadata superpowers on your collection – to bring its hidden relationships and stories to life. You can tap into an even more spectacular sound repository if you don’t have many music files. Or…you can have both! Upload your music and add streaming; that’s our favorite!

As music lovers, we’re fortunate to live in a time when music is so plentiful and easily accessible. Syncing a streaming service in Roon immediately plugs you into what I call the vast web of sound. Adding TIDAL HiFi to Roon lets you explore and stream over 90 million lossless and Hi-Res tracks.​ It also means 24/7 access to an unrivaled array of high-res recordings when using Roon ARC. 

TIDAL membership places a practically limitless all-encompassing palette of sound at your fingertips, including their exclusive selection of Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) albums. Once synced, Roon’s rich features are applied to TIDAL’s catalog delivering effortless discovery of new and forgotten favorites informed by an intimate understanding of the interconnected storylines of the music we already love. 

tidal for roon nucleus music server

Using the TIDAL browse tab in Roon thoroughly unlocks an exclusive set of personalized mixes, new album recommendations based on popularity and your listening history, and the keys to exploring new genres. TIDAL’s selection of curated playlists is easy to find and even easier to spin. Roon uses your streaming subscription to augment those features with even more recommendations, featured albums, daily mixes, and a Roon Radio experience tailored to your specific tastes. Roon accentuates the treasure hunt while its superior audio engine deliver a pristine, uncolored, bit-perfect listening experience.

Try to imagine another way you can have all of the above with such ease. You cannot; Roon is the only way to experience what I’ve described. And Nucleus + Roon + TIDAL is undoubtedly the very best way to enjoy it. 


Nucleus is an unrivaled, dead simple to use, purpose-driven home for Roon Core and an immediate gateway to plug-and-play Roon enjoyment. 

Its high performance, power-efficient reliability, and fanless solid-state design guarantee superior audio quality. An intuitive user interface provides effortless ease of use and support-free operation, allowing you to focus on what Roon is all about – unparalleled exploration and discovery of bit-perfect high-resolution music delivered to your listening space – wherever that may be. 

If that sounds appealing to you, we’re confident you will love Nucleus. 

Click here to customize your Nucleus at The Roon Store!

roon nuclues music server plus

Roon Nucleus FAQs

Are these devices Roon Certified?

They’re beyond certified; Nucleus and Nucleus Plus are Roon bona fide! This is the only music server explicitly designed for Roon by the same team that created Roon. 

What does a Roon Nucleus do?

Nucleus is a Music Server that acts as your Roon Core – it’s the foundation and the most critical piece of your system. It’s where everything begins and the best way to experience Roon. It’s also dead simple to use and a perfect purpose-driven home for your Core.

Do I need a streamer with Roon Nucleus?

You don’t have to have a streamer; Nucleus will handle all that. But you may still want one, depending on your use scenario and where you place Nucleus in your listening environment. Nucleus is your mothership; you can connect it to your audio devices using a wired or wireless connection. 

Does Roon Nucleus sound better?

Yes, I’ve discovered that a direct wired or Roon Ready connection to the Nucleus is always sonically superior to connecting to the USB port of a computer remote. It’s a neutral palette for Roon’s advanced audio engine that allows you to shape your system’s sound signature with any of our 1000+ Roon Certified partner devices.

In Roon Nucleus an endpoint?

No, it’s not an audio device; its job is more important. It’s your Roon Core – the origin of all things Roon, the gatekeeper of in-home listening and on-the-go Roon ARC enjoyment. Nucleus provides the most stable, quickest, easiest, utterly reliable, problem-free, best-sounding, and immediately excellent Roon-designed Roon Core experience. Get one; you’ll see what we mean.

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • Inputs are 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage.
  • Outputs include 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 

Tech specs: 

Roon Nucleus

  • Audio inputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage (NAS)
  • Audio outputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 
  • Zones: up to six simultaneous zones
  • Digital signal processing (DSP): complete DSP functionality in the PCM audio domain. Some DSP functions and combinations may be limited by the DSD and MQA formats to ensure format integrity.
  • Internal storage: 2.5″ SATA SSD or HDD up to 15mm drive height (drive not included)
  • External storage: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting external storage drives, network attached storage (NAS)
  • Library capacity: up to 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Network: gigabit network LAN
  • APP: Roon Remote (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android) and Roon ARC (iOS and Android)
  • Control systems: Roon API, Crestron, Control4
  • Power supply: DC Power Supply (19V, 60W); Barrel length: 2.5mm ID, 5.5mm OD, 11mm L; Cord length: 4 feet
  • Enclosure: heat-dissipating one-piece die-cast aluminum chassis.
  • Finish: automotive grade satin off-black
  • Dimensions: 10.5in (W) x 10.5in (D) x 2.5in (H)
  • Weight: 7lbs (product only)
  • Warranty: 2 years

Roon Nucleus Plus:

  • Audio inputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting an external storage drive, network attached storage.
  • Audio outputs: 2 x USB-A 3.0, 2 x HDMI audio-only stereo and multi-channel, networked Roon Ready, Apple Airplay, and Google Chromecast devices. 
  • Zones: unlimited simultaneous zones
  • Digital signal processing (DSP): complete DSP functionality. Some DSP functions and combinations may be limited by the DSD and MQA formats to ensure format integrity.
  • Internal storage: 2.5″ SATA SSD or HDD up to 15mm drive height (drive not included)
  • External storage: 2 x USB-A 3.0 for connecting external storage drives, network attached storage (NAS)
  • Library capacity: More than 10,000 albums (100,000 tracks)
  • Network: Gigabit network LAN
  • APP: Roon Remote (Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android) and Roon ARC (iOS and Android)
  • Control systems: Roon API, Crestron, Control4
  • Power supply: DC Power Supply (19V, 60W); Barrel length: 2.5mm ID, 5.5mm OD, 11mm L; Cord length: 4 feet
  • Enclosure: Heat-dissipating one-piece die-cast aluminum chassis.
  • Finish: automotive grade satin off-black
  • Dimensions: 10.5in (W) x 10.5in (D) x 2.5in (H)
  • Weight: 7lbs (product only)
  • Warranty: 2 years

What comes in the box?

Roon Nucleus/Nucleus Plus:

  • Roon Nucleus Server
  • Universal DC Power Supply with US/UK/EU/AU plug adapters
  • Quick Start Guide
  • One year of Roon promo subscription code
  • Four screws for mounting an internal storage drive (drive not included) 

Click here to see The Roon Store’s full line of products.

Roon Ready Writeups: iFi GO bar, GO blu, and xDSD Gryphon Review

A bold, and better-sounding, new world

The release of Roon 2.0 has revolutionized our connection to the music we love, thanks to the Roon ARC app. Roon ARC hands us the keys to a custom-built streaming service – powered by the very same music library and rich trove of Roon features we enjoy at home. Now that ARC is our mutual music obsession, we’re continuing our exploration of specialized portable DACs perfect for getting the most out of our on-the-go music listening.

Some folks may wonder why even bother with it – it’s just a mobile device. And that’s a reasonable question. Rather than fall back on a reflexive music obsessive’s “because music, dude.” answer, let’s consider why. One reason is that Roon ARC uses the same superior audio engine as your Roon setup at home. Another is that we frequently don’t realize what we’re missing until we hear the difference that a good DAC can make. Returning to mediocre sound afterward presents a real challenge – and potential suffering. We don’t want you to go through all that, which is reason enough.

Fortunately, audio manufacturers have stepped up to make the task more effortless than ever before. They’re locked in a feverish race to churn out value and feature-packed, small-form-factor DACs with impressive sound quality and plummeting prices. It’s a surprisingly competitive market that music lovers benefit from. The Roon Store is here to help you choose with a growing selection of portable converters featuring flagship DAC chipsets and inclusive format support in every price range – and in increasingly undersized packages. 

The iFi Audio products in this review are examples of that. The iFi GO blu is so tiny it could be a HiFi system for a fairy house – the GO bar resembles a lighter. They’re small small, but both earned a “though she be but little, she is fierce” rating on our scale of sonic subjectivity. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to offer. 

iFi Audio, specialists in affordable feature-packed on-the-go DACs

The GO blu, GO bar, and xDSD Gryphon aren’t iFi’s first foray into portable or desktop DACs. The retired micro and nano series devices were Roon Tested customer favorites and offered considerable value to feature benefits. Their new lineup retains many of the previous models’ connectivity and file format strengths while adding performance, sound, and circuitry implementation improvements in all-new, incredibly downsized enclosures. 

All three models feature balanced and single-ended headphone outs, impressive amp output power, multiple digital filters, and sound processing modes, plus bespoke device-tailored circuitry implementation to ensure winning performance before their individual character traits are dialed in. 

ifi go blu review

GO blu (seen above through a magnifying glass) is iFi’s most portable DAC and headphone amplifier. It supports every current Bluetooth codec plus high-resolution streaming up to 24-bit/96 PCM over USB-C. It’s sparse on LEDs and controls to maintain its size, and each button is multi-function. It also features a built-in microphone for calls and voice commands.

ifi go bar review

GO bar is a remarkably feature-packed DAC that offers uncompromised file support for up to 32- bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256, DXD, and full MQA playback. It packs a whopping 7.5 volts of balanced output power that outpunches every other DAC in this weight class. iEMatch allows the GO bar to push sensitive in-ears without associated hiss or noise. 

ifi audio xdsd gryphon review

The 2022-2023 EISA Best Portable DAC award-winning xDSD Gryphon provides unmatched connectivity with dual USB-C, Bluetooth, mini S/PDIF, and analog inputs with support for up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM; DSD512, DXD768, full MQA decoding and every Bluetooth codec in their familiar flask-shaped design. The OLED screen displays input, format, bitrate, and filter mode. iFi’s full suite of bespoke circuitry integration is tucked inside. Navigation is intuitive, and Gryphon is pleasantly easy to use. Full specs for each iFi model are listed further below.  

The iFi portable DACs paired exceptionally well with my headphone choices, powering them easily. We’ll cover general sound characteristics first and expand below with detailed listening notes. 

The devices have a slightly warm tuning consistent with iFi’s other models, but it isn’t overdone. There’s quick, realistic bass response; full, rich natural mids resulting in good upper mid presence. Imaging and detail are pretty impressive across all models. Staging is natural. Highs are clear and detailed, only bright or grainy on test tracks with those qualities. The Gryphon steps well forward of the other two DACs, but that’s expected given its price and award-winning status. 

Listening Notes

For close listening, I used Roon ARC and Roon to push Hi-Res FLAC and MQA from Qobuz and TIDAL directly to the headphone output of my iPhone, iPad, or Apple Silicon MacBook Air. Immediately afterward, I listened to each selection a second time with an iFi DAC taking the place of the system headphone out.

Then I activated the audio filters to assess their impact on each track and the headphone pairings I used. Headphone choices were the Meze 99 Classics and its new open-back look-alike – the Meze 109 PRO. I also used the Sennheiser Drop 6XX to test their output power.

The reference tracks came from my New Releases For You section in Roon and Community member recommendations from What We Are Listening To [2022-10].

John Coltrane – Blue Train – from Blue Train: The Complete Masters using the iFi GO blu with the Meze 99 Classics.

iPad headphones out:

Those landmark opening horn lines feel mournful! Paul Chambers’ loping bass is rubbery in the right channel. Coltrane’s horn soars in the center upper left, but there’s not a lot of detail to engage with. The piano and cymbals are lost, not much character in the drums. Backing horn parts aren’t very distinct. It almost feels like listening to an MP3. There’s good energy during Lee Morgan’s break, but that’s all coming from him. There’s heaps of nuance missing. 

iFi GO blu:

ifi go blu review

The legendary three-horn intro has returned to its full glory! Rhythm section synergy is on full display from the first few bars, and the bop lines from the piano cut through the mix better. Trane’s horn is rounded and warm, with sumptuous tonal color and mild grain when he digs into the body – but there’s also excellent air. 

The entire soundstage has improved depth. The backing horn lines are distinct, with more precise imaging now. Morgan’s break absolutely crackles with his signature fire. Curtis Fuller’s trombone lays in with some cool blue riffs. When the horns lay out, Kenny Drew kicks the piano up a gear as Philly Joe and Paul Chambers lock in perfectly. The GO blu presents the trio segment splendidly. This is what several constituents of the Miles Davis Quintet at work are supposed to sound like! The GO blu and the 99 Classics pair well here and do this track justice.

Filters review:

XBass: This filter doesn’t work too well here. The bass is placed pretty far right in the mix, and with the filter activated, the track feels lopsided. 

XSpace: This scoops out the bass a bit too much and also takes away from the piano, creating an unnaturally thin sound. Spatial shaping is just more EQ. 

XBass+XSpace: This added watery depth to the soundstage during Curtis Fuller’s break due to the splashy plate reverb. During the piano trio segment of the track, this filter played really nicely.  

No Filters: Returning to an unprocessed signal demonstrated that while the filter settings were agreeable in places, they’re not necessary on this particular track because the interplay and musicianship outstrip any need for sound fiddling. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River – from At the Royal Albert Hall using the iFi GO bar with the Drop/Sennheiser 6XXs.

MacBook Air headphones out: 

This is another excellent example of how a carefully chosen DAC improves music listening. The laptop headphones out doesn’t generate enough power to adequately run these headphones. This is something that many of us have encountered: we take tentative steps into quality headphones only to realize they need more than our stock devices can provide to sound their best. And that’s precisely what I experienced when I tried to run these moderately power-hungry Sennheiser 6XXs. 

Consequently, there’s not much going on here other than volume. The track is a live rocker, so it suffers considerably less than some other selections might have. The bass throbs shapelessly, cymbals are lifeless, anemic snare snap, boxy drums, and guitars are scratchy and mildly abrasive. These are relatively warm headphones, but some highs are sharp and brittle.   

iFi GO bar:

ifi go bar review

Here’s where the GO bar revealed CCR’s true colors. GO bar powered the Sennheiser 6XXs effortlessly. 

Green River exploded to life with driving bass lines that exhibit thunderous heft. The snare leaps to the fore tucking itself between the vocal and just below the bass. Fogerty’s vocal is filled out and soulful. His melismatic lyrics fold themself into Stu Cook and Doug Clifford’s heavy groove like broken-in chambray. Tom Fogerty’s guitar, practically inaudible before, provides extra color with Byrds-like chiming rhythm lines. John’s stinging guitar leads were so gritty and distinctive that they pulled me into an unplanned bonus lap. 

I loaded up the new Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall documentary on Netflix to see them crank this one out on archival film. Another benefit was immediately highlighted, portable DACs make everything sound better. They’re not just for music. It’s difficult to fully articulate how much detail was missing when using the laptop’s headphones out when compared to the GO bar. It’s something that has to be heard to fully understand.

Filters review:

XBass: the low bass region is heavier and has a rounder depth. There may be a slight heft for definition trade-off. But still, a decent enough filter when applied to this track.

XSpace: this filter has more of an upper mids/low highs focus, drawing out the airy frequencies. It saps the groove and doesn’t work on this track. 

XBass+XSpace: The added punch in the lows is balanced by the presence boost providing equal helpings of drive and space. This setting really works for this track and headphone pairing. 

No filters: returning to an unprocessed sound wasn’t a big jolt. That’s always a good indicator that the filters were well-implemented and designed. 

Abel Selaocoe – Ibuyile l’Africa / (Africa is Back) from Where is Home (Hae Ke Kae)  using the iFi xDSD Gryphon with the Meze 109 PRO

iPhone headphones out

This performance really drove home the point of our portable DAC testing exercises. Ibuyile l’Africa (Africa is Back) is a traditional South African hymn sung during the apartheid era that encourages African youth to shape their future and cherish their traditions. It provides a taste of South African cellist Selaocoe’s distinctive and diverse talents by blending isiZulu vocals with an ethereal cello solo contributed by Yo-Yo Ma. 

It’s also a demonstration of the eclectic range of recommendations you’ll encounter in the Music threads of Roon Community. Even the iPhone’s paltry headphones and its difficulty pushing Meze Audio’s 109 PRO couldn’t entirely strip it of its beauty and emotional depth. Still, it’s overtly apparent that instrumentation and musicianship of this caliber are painfully underserved by the iPhone’s onboard DAC. And in many more ways than just the downsampling of the original 24/96 Hi-Res track. I felt rude listening to the piece in this way.

iFi xDSD Gryphon

ifi xdsd gryphon review

When heard through the xDSD Gryphon, entire landscapes of previously absent tonal color, gentle dynamics, and acoustic space are revealed. The interplay of instruments and voices is intoxicating and captivating in equal measure. The violins swell among the warmer cello, and beautifully expressive vocal lines rise and fall with the melodic string accompaniment as the piano adds light punctuation and delicately flowing motifs. To enjoy a composition this beautiful with coffee and quality open-back headphones under a giant oak tree in the park on a golden autumn morning is audio-decadence-defined. One I never would have had without Roon ARC, iFi Gryphon, and the Meze 109 PRO’s similarly spellbinding contributions to the experience. 

Filters review:

XBass: Ouch! When activating the XBass filter, I was assailed by an unexpected loud snap. It’s the first time I’ve encountered that when using the filter options on one of these devices. That was quite unpleasant. In this piece, XBass has less of an effect. There’s some marginal added depth when the cello and piano are present, but they’re superfluous and unneeded.

XSpace: Again, not much benefit. The piece already enjoys a lovely recording space and remarkable dynamics.

XBass+XSpace: Another loud pop. The experiment is concluded until I figure out the cause.

No filters: The composition and performance are masterful in their own right. There’s no need at all for any menial improvements. The sudden, painful spikes caused by activating the filter have made me cautious about playing with the settings further.  


iFi’s commitment to making high-quality audio accessible to everyone continues. Their new lineup of versatile High-Res portable DACs is perfect for enjoying the benefits of Roon ARC, Roon, or any other media you consume on your mobile device or laptop. Portable DACs make everything sound better. They’re not just for music. Gaming, movie streaming, podcasts, radio… all your better sound wishes are granted.

All three models are flexible feature and connectivity-rich DACs with bespoke device-tailored feature implementation and impressive output power capable of driving demanding headphones. The iFi xDSD Gryphon is an award-winning portable DAC with support for up 32-bit/768kHz PCM; DSD512, DXD768, full MQA, and Bluetooth codec decoding overachiever with excellent sound and features. GO blu and GO bar were equally impressive by packing pristine audio quality into pixie-sized packaging. I can’t envision more portable on-the-go audio than iFi’s GO blu and GO bar.

They provided an immediate and obvious improvement over the onboard DACs we pitted them against, and they’re some of the most affordable inroads to high-quality audio that can be found. Even better, they were foolproof when integrated with Roon! Paired with our headphones and song selections, they were thoroughly exceptional sonically. iFi Audio makes it easy to enjoy high-quality audio wherever you go. Simply match them with any of the headphone options in The Roon Store to rediscover and reconnect with your favorite music.

Their winning streak in on-the-go value-for-price audio makes it a strong candidate for consideration whether you’re looking to take ARC to the next level or optimize your desktop setup. Any choice you make is guaranteed to reap Roon ARC rewards – and your ears will thank you!

See our full line of iFi Dacs in The Roon Store.

Additional observations of note:

  • If your iOS devices are older models, you’ll want to ensure they’re compatible with iFi’s portable devices. I use an older iPhone (iPhone 7 on iOS 15.6.1) that wouldn’t send audio via USB to the iFi devices if my battery was below a certain charge level. My newer iPad worked without any problems. 
  • The text on the GO blu and GO bar is nearly invisible due to its low contrast. GO bars LEDs are on the small side also, making them difficult to read.
  • The Gryphon’s analog inputs become line outputs when USB, Bluetooth, or S/PDIF are selected as input. 
  • The Gryphon USB-C input has priority over the S/PDIF input. To use the S/PDIF input of the Gryphon, you must disconnect the USB-C input.
  • On two occasions, Gryphon emitted a loud pop from the headphone out when activating the audio filters. I couldn’t determine a cause, but the unexpected jolt was unpleasant. Other iFi owners have mentioned similar behavior in online forums. I recommend caution when applying the filters. Hopefully, iFi will investigate and fix the issue. It was the only less-than-stellar impression I had of the Gryphon.

iFi portable DAC FAQs

Are these devices Roon Certified?

  • Yes, each of these iFi portable DACs is Roon Tested. Simply plug them into a USB port or compatible adapter, then enable the device (or select the Zone connected to the iFi DAC) in Roon to enjoy better sound quality!

What file formats and resolutions do they support?

  • iFi GO blu: up to 24-bit/96kHz PCM via USB. Bluetooth 5.1 codecs: SBC (standard Bluetooth), AAC (Apple iOS), Qualcomm’s aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, and aptX LL (low latency), Sony’s LDAC, and LHDC/HWA Adaptive, aptX HD, and LDAC
  • iFi GO bar: up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256 native, and MQA via USB.
  • iFi xDSD Gryphon: up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512, DXD768, and MQA. Up to 24-bit/192KHz PCM and DoP (S/PDIF) 

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • iFi GO blu: 
  • Inputs are USB-C and Bluetooth 5.1. 
  • Outputs include 1 x unbalanced 3.5mm, and 1 x balanced 4.4mm headphone outs.
  • iFi GO bar: 
  • Inputs are 1 x USB-C. 
  • Outputs include 1 x unbalanced 3.5mm, and 1 x balanced 4.4mm headphone outs. 
  • iFi xDSD Gryphon: 
  • Inputs are 2 x USB-C, (one for audio, and one for charging) Bluetooth 5.1, 1 x 3.5mm S/PDIF, 1 x 3.5mm analog, and 1 x analog. 
  • Outputs include 1 x unbalanced 3.5 mm and 1 x balanced 4.4mm headphone outs. 
  • The Gryphon’s analog inputs become line outputs when USB, Bluetooth, or S/PDIF are selected as input. 
  • The USB-C input has priority over the S/PDIF input. To use the S/PDIF input, you must disconnect the USB-C input.

Tech specs: 

iFi GO blu:

  • DAC Chip-set: Cirrus Logic 43131
  • Bluetooth Chip-set: Qualcomm QCC5100
  • Compatibility: Roon Tested, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Audio inputs: 1 x USB-C, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Audio outputs: 1 x unbalanced 3.5 and 1 balanced headphone outputs
  • Supported File Formats: up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM and Bluetooth 5.1 codecs: SBC (standard Bluetooth), AAC (Apple iOS), Qualcomm’s aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, and aptX LL (low latency), Sony’s LDAC, and LHDC/HWA Adaptive, aptX HD, and LDAC
  • Dynamic Range: > 120dB(A)
  • Output Impedance: < 1Ω
  • THD+N: Balanced: < 0.009% @ (6.5mW/2.0v@600Ω); Single-ended: < 0.03% @ (100mW/1.27v@16Ω)
  • Power Output: Balanced: 245mW @ 32Ω, 5.6v @ 600Ω; Single-ended : 165mW @ 32Ω, 2.8v @ 600Ω
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB)
  • Battery Life: 8-10 hours
  • Weight: 0 lbs, 0.95 oz.
  • Dimensions: 2.1″ (W) x 1.3″ (H) x 0.5″ (D)

iFi GO bar:

  • DAC Chip-set: Cirrus Logic 43131
  • Compatibility: Roon Tested
  • Audio inputs: 1 x USB-C
  • Audio outputs: 1 x unbalanced 3.5 and 1 balanced headphone outputs
  • Supported File Formats: up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256 native, and MQA via USB.
  • Dynamic Range: 109dB(A) Balanced; 108dB(A) Single-ended
  • Output Impedance: < 1Ω
  • THD+N: Balanced: <0.002% (6.5mW/2.0V @ 600Ω); Single-ended: <0.09% (100mW/1.27V @ 16Ω) 
  • Power Output: Balanced: 475mW @ 32Ω; 7.5V @ 600Ω; Single-ended: 300mW @ 32Ω; 3.8V @ 600Ω
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB)
  • Weight: 0 lbs, 0.1 oz.
  • Dimensions: 2.6″ (W) x 0.9″ (H) x 0.5″ (D)

iFi xDSD Gryphon:

  • DAC Chip-set: Cirrus Logic 43131
  • Bluetooth Chip-set: Qualcomm QCC5100
  • Compatibility: Roon Tested, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Audio inputs: 1 x USB-C, Bluetooth 5.1
  • Audio outputs: 1 x unbalanced 3.5 and 1 balanced headphone outputs
  • Supported File Formats: up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM and Bluetooth 5.1 codecs: SBC (standard Bluetooth), AAC (Apple iOS), Qualcomm’s aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, and aptX LL (low latency), Sony’s LDAC, and LHDC/HWA Adaptive, aptX HD, and LDAC
  • Dynamic Range: > 120dB(A)
  • Output Impedance: < 1Ω
  • THD+N: Balanced: < 0.009% @ (6.5mW/2.0v@600Ω); Single-ended: < 0.03% @ (100mW/1.27v@16Ω)
  • Power Output: Balanced: 245mW @ 32Ω, 5.6v @ 600Ω; Single-ended: 165mW @ 32Ω, 2.8v @ 600Ω
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 45kHz (-3dB)
  • Battery Life: 8-10 hours
  • Weight: 0 lbs, 0.95 oz.
  • Dimensions: 2.1″ (W) x 1.3″ (H) x 0.5″ (D)

What comes in the box?

iFi GO blu:

  • iFi GO blu
  • User manual
  • Warranty card
  • iFi decal
  • Soft travel case
  • USB-A to USB-C cable

iFi GO bar:

  • iFi GO bar
  • User manual
  • Warranty card
  • iFi decal
  • Leather travel case
  • Lightning to USB-C cable
  • USB-C cable
  • USB-A to USB-C adapter.

iFi xDSD Gryphon:

  • iFi Gryphon
  • User manual
  • Setup guide
  • Warranty card
  • iFi decal
  • Soft travel case
  • Lightning to USB-C cable
  • USB-C cable
  • USB-A to USB-C cable

See The Roon Store’s full line of portable DACs.

Roon Partner Update: September 2022

It’s been another busy month of partner launches at Roon! We’ve welcomed a brand new partner – Dynaudio – as well as new devices from Musical Fidelity, Astell&Kern, Denon, iFi, Wattson Audio, and Atoll Electronique.  

You can read all about them in our latest partner update below. For a full list of our partner brands – and every device that works with Roon – visit our Partners page on the Roon website.

Dynaudio Focus 10, 30, and 50

Roon Ready

We’re thrilled to announce that renowned Danish speaker manufacturer Dynaudio has joined the Roon Ready family! 

Celebrating the debut of this partnership are three all-new active speaker designs in the Focus 10, Focus 30, and Focus 50. Each speaker features custom-tuned DSP built-in, allowing the speakers to intelligently adapt to your room and listening needs.

The bookshelf Focus 10 is perfect for elevating the acoustic experience in smaller spaces, and the larger floorstanding Focus 30 and Focus 50 assert a powerful presence in just about any space. All in, Dynaudio offers a winning formula for your whole home. 

Musical Fidelity MX Stream

Roon Ready

The MX Stream from Musical Fidelity has been added to the Roon Ready family – a capable network bridge featuring unique connectivity and thoughtful, HiFi-focused design touches throughout.

Thanks to its built-in WiFi and Ethernet networking capabilities, adding the MX Stream to your system is a cinch. Meanwhile, the HDMI video output, ability to rip CD’s to connected hard drives, and broad support for resolutions  (up to 32bit/384kHz and DSD256) all make for a unique music streamer for any audiophile.

Astell&Kern SP3000

Roon Ready

The all-new A&ultima SP3000 from Astell&Kern is a remarkable, performance-driven Digital Audio Player – featuring the craftsmanship and attention to detail that Astell&Kern is known for alongside full Roon Ready integration inside.

Thanks to A&K’s custom-built music engine, TERATON ALPHA, and a Quad-DAC chip from AKM, you’ll never miss a detail in any song that you play.

Denon S660H, S760H, AVR X1700H

Roon Tested

The latest Denon models to join the Roon Tested family are the duo of S660H and S760H receivers, alongside the high-end AVR X1700H.

The S660H offers robust audio delivery for both music and movies to any full 5.1 system, alongside support for 8K video, HDR, and much more. The S760H integrates many of the capabilities of its sibling, with an increased channel count of 7.2 at 75 watts each.

The AVR X1700 shares much with its fellow Denon counterparts, however, it also boasts an output of 80 watts per channel, with 7.2 channel Dolby ATMOS support, and a myriad of audio and video inputs ready for any home theater system.

iFi Neo Stream

Roon Ready

The iFi Neo Stream is a unique solution to a familiar equation – home music streaming, simplified to its very essentials. The Neo Stream makes HiRes streaming as fluid and hassle-free as possible, with no need for specific app control, and integrations with full-featured Roon Ready streaming, Spotify Connect and TIDAL Connect – as well as AirPlay and other streaming integrations.

Simply set up your favorite music listening app and you’re ready to enjoy the symphony of high-end HiFi components that make this network bridge the fantastic audio component it is.

Watson Audio Madison

Roon Ready

The Wattson Audio Madison is a compact desktop streaming DAC that can easily integrate into your full HiFi system, serve as a powerful HeadFi centerpiece or possibly do dual duty! Precision Swiss engineering defines the character of this DAC, with carefully considered circuitry, Roon Ready streaming, and a collection of inputs and outputs that easily complement any system. 

Atoll Electronique SDA 300 Signature

Roon Ready

The SD300 Signature all-in-one integrated amplifier from Atoll Electronique gives you everything needed for your HiFi listening setup in a single enclosure. This integrated amplifier is ready to be the centerpiece of your main listening system – featuring a powerful 150W 2 channel amplifier, and full-featured Hi-Res Roon Ready streaming built in. From MQA to DSD, S/PDIF to RCA inputs, anything is possible – all you’ll need to add is speakers.  

Roon Ready Writeups: The AudioQuest DragonFly meets Roon ARC Review

The arc of Roon: A continuous line of progression

I’m going to start by giving you a peek behind the curtain. The last few weeks have been absolutely incredible at Roon. The reason is the recent unveiling of Roon 2.0, our most exciting release yet. It’s packed with new features and delivers significant performance improvements on more hardware platforms than ever before. 

Even better, it includes something our customers have requested for a long time – something that forever changes how we use Roon. It’s called Roon ARC – think of it as your own custom-built streaming service powered by your Roon Library at home. It’s now included free of charge with every new and existing Roon subscription. With ARC, staying connected to Roon and the music we love is easier than ever! We’re genuinely humbled by your enthusiasm for ARC and delighted to hear how much you’re enjoying it. 

We’ve been surprised by how many of you have asked about the name, “Why Roon ARC? What does ARC stand for?” Roon ARC isn’t an acronym for anything. Roon ARC just felt right – it named itself after what it wanted to be. 

ARC: a curved structure spanning space that forms a bridge and connects two points.  

roon ARC

And that’s precisely what Roon ARC does. It’s a beautifully designed, intuitive mobile app that creates a bridge to your entire Roon collection of local files and streaming favorites at home – no matter where you are. It includes Roon’s goldmine of music information, Roon Radio, Daily Mixes, New Releases For You, and Roon’s Valence discovery engine – all on your mobile device. 

Just as Roon Bridge creates a bridge between your audio devices, Roon ARC provides a connection across space to your Roon Library. And it utilizes the same audio engine as your Roon setup at home. Now you can explore, rediscover, and expand your music collection with great sound – no matter where you are. 

Wait, great sound on mobile devices? That’s not a thing… is that a thing?! 

We get it. Some of you may wonder if you read that correctly. High-resolution audio wherever you are… on mobile devices? Can you do that? Aren’t mobile devices solidly MP3 territory? We’re excited to say no, they are not, and yes, you can totally do that. As always, The Roon Store is happy to help.

We’ll show you how to get high-quality sound from Roon ARC on your mobile device using the AudioQuest DragonFly – a tiny DAC/headphone amp powerhouse disguised as a magic iridescent USB stick. Best of all, it’s one of the most affordable and enjoyable audio upgrades you can make. 

AudioQuest DragonFly red black and cobalt

Flight of the DragonFlys, a flash of sonic color 

Even the most conscientious and committed screen agnostics must admit that they spend a great deal of time with their mobile devices. As a music lover, that means the sound you’re getting from music apps probably isn’t all that it could be. More than that, none of the sound you’re getting is that good. That’s because our device’s DAC falls into the “just good enough” performance bracket, even on laptops. 

But it’s only a mobile device, right? So we deal with it. Our real listening happens on our music systems at home – we say to ourselves. But there doesn’t have to be such a vast disparity in sound quality on mobile if you take flight with a DragonFly.

They’re powered when plugged into the port of your mobile with an adapter and take over decoding from the integrated device DAC. They’ll work with tablets and nearly any Windows or Mac machine. Or you can use them as a pre-amp, plug DragonFly into the USB from a turntable, or your laptop, then connect a pair of powered speakers. Bam, instant hi-fi system.

AudioQuest’s first DragonFly appeared in 2012. Over the last 10 years, the squadron has grown to three wings. The DragonFly Black, DragonFly Red, and flight leader – DragonFly Cobalt. Three impressive DAC/headphone amps that deliver a significant upgrade in sound quality over each other and absolutely smoke the mobile’s onboard DAC. They’re USB sticks dressed in automotive-grade iridescent paint (except for Black) with a 3.5mm headphone out on the other end. Small enough to stick in your pocket or drop into a backpack. They even come with a travel case. So how do they work, you ask?

Each DragonFly model features an ESS Sabre DAC chip, advanced power circuitry, filtering, and signal implementation, producing exceptionally detailed playback of up to 24-bit/96kHz PCM and MQA audio. They have minimal impact on mobile battery life and are firmware upgradeable. The Dragonfly on the sticks lights up to indicate the resolution of the track being played: standby (Red), 44.1kHz (Green), 48kHz (Blue), 88.2kHz (Yellow), 96kHz (Light Blue), and MQA (Purple). Pretty. It reminds me of Chord’s use of color. We’ll discuss audio details a bit more when we talk about their sound using some excellent tracks AudioQuest shared with us. 

audioquest dragonfly for arc playlist

Listening Notes

I used Roon ARC to push High-Res FLAC from Qobuz and TIDAL to the DragonFlys using my iOS phone while out and about. Then used them with Roon 2.0 on an Apple Silicon MacBook Air. My headphone pairings were the Meze 99 Classics and its new open-back look-alike – the Meze 109 PRO (review coming soon). I also used the Sennheiser Drop 6XX to test their output power. I queued up the playlist AudioQuest shared with us (see the DragonFly for ARC playlist on your home page in Roon.) and let it throw songs at me. I’d pause and play tracks while swapping out DragonFlys, eager and amazed to hear their differences in real time. 

I started with the headphone output of my iPhone by shuffling the playlist. Then I free-played ARC and Roon for an hour to note the differences between the DragonFly models.

Bobby Hutcherson – Love Song from Montara

Love Song is a percolating electric piano, vibes, horns, and hand percussion track that fuses soulful jazz with 70s R&B and features the heaviest players Blue Note Records had in their roster at the time. The track is off Hutcherson’s simmering soul jazz groove-fest meets Latin rhythm 1975 album, Montara. A bit of a sleeper in the soul jazz lineage. All Blue Note albums seem to project a deeply individual groove, and this one excels at it. Its active arrangement and mix of instrumentation fit our needs perfectly.

iOS out:

With the headphone out of the iPhone, all I got was more volume. There wasn’t any degree of detail, which really robbed the track of life. It felt suffocated and flat. Still an interesting piece but obviously underserved with the OS DAC. There was clearly a lot missing.

Audioquest Dragonfly black

DragonFly Black: 

Immediately there’s a night and day difference in sound quality. It doesn’t even feel like the same song. It’s wholly alive and awash with detail. The vibes and Fender Rhodes piano resonate over each other as Afro-Cuban percussion and hand drums add depth and texture. When the horns come in, their timbre and tonal differences are vivid, finding space to breathe. The increased output power rendered greater imaging and clarity from the Meze 109 PRO.

audioquest dragonfly red

DragonFly Red: 

Just as the Black surpassed the iOS output, Red is a giant step up from the Black. The detail is much sharper but not bright or grainy. The bass extension is nice and full. The horns are incredible. There’s more space to the soundstage and depth to the recording. Everything sounds more filled out; the AudioQuest headphone amp in the Red delivers nicely. There was wonderful synergy on this track when paired with the Meze 109 PRO and enough wow factor to impress jaded gear heads.

AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt

DragonFly Cobalt:

This was another startling jump in sound quality. I only expected a subtle improvement, but there were remarkable differences between Red and Cobalt. The pulsing ringing current from the vibes and sparkle of the piano are soulfully articulate, the musical interplay feels more fluid with the improved resolution, and the bass has a richer depth. Horns have lovely detail and presence. All the percussion exhibits finer granular character. There’s beautiful organic density to the music, increased dynamic response, and excellent output power. The soundstage is wide but natural. Imaging is a bit more speaker-like. It’s genuinely impressive – enough so to make the listener study the specs. And I’m a sound guy, not a specs guy.

The ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip is here. That’s the same DAC chip I’ve seen in the best-sounding DACs I’ve reviewed. But we know there’s more to a DAC than just its chip. Looking further… there’s also an AudioQuest headphone amp, improved microprocessor, mono-clock with jitter control, improved power circuitry, noise filtering, and an integrated minimum-phase slow roll-off filter. All of that results in impressively natural and thoroughly enjoyable sound. It’s truly awe-inspiring performance, especially considering the Cobalt provides sound quality of this level from a USB stick that slips into your pocket.  

The sound character observations above held when free listening on ARC and Roon Remote across the tracks on the AudioQuest Playlist and my Roon library favorites. 

audioquest dragonfly red with roon nucleus

Conclusion: Climb aboard the DragonFly.

Each move up the DragonFly color scheme resulted in an immediately detectable jump in fidelity. With the DragonFly Cobalt ultimately glowing the brightest. As it should be, it’s their flagship DAC. I can’t emphasize enough how surprised I was by what I heard. If you’re seeking a no-compromise experience that’s on par with your at-home Roon listening, Cobalt provides astounding performance in an unbelievably small package. 

But Cobalt’s excellence in no way suggests that the others aren’t star players. The entry-level Black is a vast improvement over the iOS and Mac system output. It perfectly demonstrates what adding the correct external DAC can do. Compared to Black, DragonFly Red is aflame with detail and dynamics, providing an instantly perceived leap in sound quality that had already been greatly improved. They easily drove the Meze 99 Classics, Meze 109 PRO, and even the 300Ω Sennheiser 6XX.  

They’re versatile and can be used for a range of scenarios beyond music listening. Here’s a testimonial from Noris, our Tech-Support team lead:

AudioQuest’s DragonFly DAC and headphone amps are perfect companions to Roon ARC or any listening that could benefit from improved sound quality. They remove all roadblocks to high-resolution audio on the go and on your desktop – and the entry price is unbeatable, no matter which one you choose. Grab a DragonFly, your favorite headphones, and your mobile for travel-friendly, superior sound quality wherever Roon ARC takes you. 

Visit The Roon Store to see the full AudioQuest DragonFly line.

Additional observations of note:

  • For mobile device connection, use an Apple camera adapter for iOS. The AudioQuest Dragon-Tail USB-C adapter can be used for Android.
  • Each DragonFly was rock solid with Roon ARC and Roon Remote. When using them, I didn’t have a single sync, volume, or responsiveness issue. 
  • There’s an entire DragonFly flight detachment at the ready across Roon. It’s one of the most used DACs among Roon staff. 
  • Updating the firmware of the DragonFly is as easy as downloading the AudioQuest device manager and accepting the update. 

AudioQuest DragonFly FAQs

Are these devices Roon Certified?

  • Yes, all three AudioQuest DragonFly models are Roon Tested. Simply plug them into a USB port or compatible adapter, then enable the DragonFly (or select the Zone connected to the DragonFly) in Roon to enjoy better sound!

What file formats and resolutions do they support?

  • AudioQuest DragonFlys support up to 24-bit/96KHz PCM and MQA rendering.

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • All AudioQuest DragonFly models feature a single USB-A input
  • All AudioQuest DragonFly models feature a single 3.5mm headphone output

Tech specs: 

DragonFly Black:

  • DAC Chip-set: ESS ES9010 DAC chip with integrated minimum-phase fast roll-off filter
  • Compatibility: Roon Tested, MQA renderer
  • Audio inputs: 1 x USB-A
  • Audio outputs: 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output
  • Supported File Formats: up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM and MQA
  • Headphone Amp: Texas Instruments TPA6130
  • Output power: 1.2V
  • Dimensions: 0.74″ (W) x 0.47″ (H) x 2.44″ (L)
  • Weight: 0lb 3.5oz

DragonFly Red:

  • DAC Chip-set: ESS ES9016 DAC chip with integrated minimum-phase fast roll-off filter
  • Compatibility: Roon Tested, MQA renderer
  • Audio inputs: 1 x USB-A
  • Audio outputs: 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output
  • Supported File Formats: up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM and MQA
  • Headphone Amp: ESS Sabre 9601
  • Output power: 2.1V
  • Dimensions: 0.74″ (W) x 0.47″ (H) x 2.44″ (L)
  • Weight: 0lb 3.5oz

DragonFly Cobalt:

  • DAC Chip-set: ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with an integrated minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound.
  • Compatibility: Roon Tested, MQA renderer
  • Audio inputs: 1 x USB-A
  • Audio outputs: 1 x 3.5 mm headphone output
  • Supported File Formats: up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM and MQA
  • Headphone Amp: ESS Sabre 9601
  • Output power: 2.1V
  • Output Impedance: 10k ohms
  • Dimensions: 0.74″ (W) x 0.47″ (H) x 2.44″ (L)
  • Weight: 0lb 4.2oz

What comes in the box?

DragonFly Black/DragonFly Red:

  • DragonFly Black or DragonFly Red
  • DragonFly Flight (owners) Manual
  • 60-Day Roon subscription code (included with DragonFly Red only) 
  • DragonFly travel pouch. 

DragonFly Cobalt:

  • DragonFly Cobalt
  • 6″ AudioQuest Dragon-Tail (USB-C male to USB-A female adapter)
  • DragonFly Flight (owners) Manual
  • 60-Day Roon subscription code
  • DragonFly travel pouch. 

Visit The Roon Store to see our full line of products.

Roon Ready Writeups: Mytek Liberty DAC II and Mytek THX AAA Headphone Amp Review

The parade of DACs, and a word of thanks!

Before launching into our review on the Mytek Liberty DAC II and Liberty THX AAA Headphone Amp, we want to thank you for your support and kind feedback. It’s what The Roon Store is here for, to make these choices easier for you. We’re excited to hear that these articles are helpful and welcome your questions.

A few of you have asked us why there are so many DAC models and what makes them different. We completely understand your curiosity. You’ve seen reviews on DACs, including ours, that mention the chips used in a device, and the same chips keep popping up repeatedly. If that’s the case, how can all these DACs sound different?

It’s important to remember that there’s more to a DAC than just the chip that converts the digital signal to an analog one our ears can understand. Implementing the chip into the surrounding circuitry, the power supply, the analog output section, and other factors make a big difference.

Think of it this way; many guitarists have played Fender Stratocasters, but they didn’t all sound the same. There was only one Jimi Hendrix. If the guitar were the determining factor, they would have all been Hendrixes, stylistically. How the chip (guitar) is plugged into the circuitry (an individual player) makes it unique.

Mytek Liberty DAC II and Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA

The origins of DACs, and their shared DNA with Mytek

A curious paradox about DACs is that they shouldn’t sound like anything. A DAC should be a ghost, present yet transparent. Stopping to consider the original purpose of convertors explains why. They began as ADACs – analog to digital to analog converters in mastering and recording studios. Their goal was to encode analog material to a digital signal and reproduce the analog original as accurately as possible. To achieve that conversion without introducing unintentional coloration was sonic Olympia. But it’s exceptionally challenging to do. There are innumerable ways to alter the sound unintentionally. Noise, harmonic distortion, inconsistent current, poor power… more than we could list. 

Fully grasping the importance of passing a musical signal through that conversion loop unadulterated is inherent in people with experience in the spaces where music is made. That understanding is at the foundation of every Mytek product. 

Mytek was born in the studio. And it’s a significant factor why their DACs and Amps are highly esteemed for their accuracy and musical purity. Mytek founder, Michal Jurewicz, worked in some of New York City’s most prolific studios just as recording technology transitioned from analog to digital. He knew what a well-recorded analog track sounded like. His understanding of audio circuitry, technical acumen, and passion for sonic transparency inspired him to improve the sound quality of the first digital recording systems utilized at Skyline Studio. Artists and producers praised the accuracy and sound quality of Mytek equipment, and soon Mytek gear was found in most of the top-tier recording studios in Manhattan.  

That spirit of innovation continued with Mytek’s desire to make the same musical playback equipment available to music lovers, which led to several award-winning home audio DACs that exude the same sound quality as their studio-based siblings. We’ll listen to, and share our thoughts on, the Liberty DAC II and Liberty THX AAA Headphone Amp – two stunning desktop units that place great sound and captivating close listening within a headphone cable’s reach. 

Stacked Mytek Liberty DAC II and Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA with Meze 99 Classics on a bookshelf

Mytek’s Liberty series, quality transparency wunderkinds

The Liberty product line was envisioned as a series of affordable, high-quality single-purpose boxes. Each is designed to perform one dedicated function exceptionally well. The Liberty DAC II had to have missed its “you have one job!” email – because it does three quite remarkably. There’s always a show-off…

The Liberty DAC II is a DAC, Pre-Amp, and Headphone Amp all in one – and it is phenomenally adept at each task. Readers familiar with the original Liberty DAC will recognize external similarities in the Liberty DAC II. The machine-stamped enclosure with Mytek logo venting is nearly the same size and design. The subtlety scaled face plate, LEDs, and rear-mounted connections orientation differ only slightly, and inputs remain plentiful. The Liberty DAC II has a remote for added convenience; the original had none. The most significant changes are tucked away inside the enclosure, unseen – but immediately heard and felt. What are they? Off we go… 

A substantial improvement comes via the new overspeced linear power supply and accompanying toroidal transformer. The analog outputs and headphone section have also received enhanced linear power circuitry. The converter chip-set was upgraded to an ES9038Q2M, the junior version of the ES9038PRO used in Mytek’s flagship product lines. These aren’t the only changes that were made, but the presence of all three is rare in a DAC of this price and size! Remember earlier when we mentioned the importance of the power and analog output stages? They’re proven in this Mytek’s pudding. 

Those power sections push up to 3 watts from the headphone jack and easily drive most high-impedance headphones. The Meze Liric and Meze Empyrean headphones paired with it very well. And it’ll decode up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256, and MQA – that covers the waterfront, and then some format-wise, with Roon streaming partners.

Wiring it up to the legacy system we’ve used the last few weeks provided stellar results. Then we connected the Liberty DAC II to a Primare Prisma MK2 Roon Ready bridge and instantly had a Roon Ready wireless legacy system. But this box sounds incredibly good no matter how you integrate it into your system – we’ll dig into the sound more deeply in our listening notes.

If you’re new to Liberty DAC II, you appreciate its finer features as much as its sound. The feeling of the 1/2dB stepped volume pot, the snap of the headphone jack when the plug seats, and how perfectly cabling locks into the rear connections. Its tactile feel is beyond satisfying.

Personally, its look and feel were pleasantly reminiscent of the studio gear of my past. It’s the first time I can say that a consumer audio desktop unit felt like studio hardware since I last had production gear on my desk daily.

Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA

The Liberty THX AAA HPA, audio purity – not morse code

The Liberty THX AAA HPA is another impressive sonic wonder in the Liberty product line. Let’s start by decoding its name. AAA is an acronym for the Achromatic Audio Amplifier technology developed by George Lucas’ THX production company. HPA stands for Headphone Amp. 

The Liberty HPA utilizes THX AAA 888 circuitry, the most linear amplifier technology available today. Its goal is hidden in the name, achromatic means “without color.” AAA technology was developed to deliver completely transparent musical accuracy with unprecedented dynamic range while maintaining extraordinarily low levels of noise and distortion – even at -1dB from the maximum output level.

The Liberty THX AAA™ HPA is a reference-grade desktop headphone device nearly identical to the Liberty DAC and equally suited for dedicated HeadFi enthusiasts or professional sound engineers. The Liberty HPA features controls for input, gain levels, and crossfeed mode on its face and four sets of analog inputs on the back. (Full tech specs for both devices can be found below)  

The Liberty HPA reinforces Mytek’s technical expertise and commitment to developing equipment capable of pristine music reproduction. Its genetics continue the legacy of the legendary Mytek Private Q headphone monitoring systems used in almost every New York City recording studio in the 1990s. Headphone cue systems are critical in music studios. Creativity instantly craters when artists and engineers can’t trust the accuracy of their headphone feeds.

The technology inside the Liberty HPA cranks out up to 6 watts of rich analog sound to four headphone outs; balanced XLR 4pin and 4.4mm, and unbalanced 1/4” and 3.5mm. That’s enough muscle to drive any pair of headphones available today with reference-grade audio transparency. Whether you’re using the Liberty HPA for studio monitoring or music immersion, you can trust that you’re hearing exactly what’s in the mix or Final Master. 

And, for those who use another DAC for reference decoding, there’s good news. The Liberty HPA can be paired with any DAC or device with analog outs. Connect it to your current DAC and feel confident that you’re hearing it at its best. The Liberty HPA dishes out power and accuracy anywhere you tie it into your signal chain.

Mytek’s Liberty DAC II and Liberty THX AAA HPA demonstrate the sonic benefits of the company’s studio heritage, delivering decoding precision and sound reproduction with astonishing musical accuracy. The only way to get closer to the original recording would be to hear it in the studio, where it was tracked and mixed.

Listening Notes

I auditioned the Liberty DAC II and Liberty THX AAA HPA in various configurations. First, using the DAC and its integrated headphone amp out, then the Liberty DAC II paired with the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 Roon Ready bridge for wireless networked streaming. Then with both of them wired to the THX AAA Headphone amp. I left the Liberty HPA gain settings on normal with crossfeed deactivated. I used the Meze Liric and Meze Empyrean for reference.

I found the sound of these devices to be absolutely stellar in their transparency and musical nature. I don’t mean a bright “audiophile” sound signature when I say transparent. That kind of presentation isn’t generally accurate because it’s been tuned to enhance higher frequencies. Both Liberty devices presented my reference albums with an exceptionally natural, lifelike sound signature. What you hear is more of the genuine character of the original recording. I wondered if that may be undesirable with genres and records with lesser production quality. I decided to test that possibility with one of Rock music’s undisputed classics.  

Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street

This is an album I know like sugar knows ice cream. I’ve played it thousands of times on more systems than I can remember. It was recorded by The Stones while they were in the throes of legal and tax problems in England. Recording began in London before they decamped to an improvised dank basement studio in the South of France. It’s a legendary rock record, but it typically sounds murky when played by inferior devices because of its thick, humid mix. 

I demoed a few tracks from this album on the Chord Hugo 22go combo a month ago and was surprised by how wide the soundstage sounded – I’d never heard it open up so much. With the Liberty DAC II receiving wireless 24/192 kHz FLAC from the Primare streaming from Qobuz, the album crackled with wiry energy, displaying hypnotic rhythmic currents. The staging was narrower than it was with the Hugo, but it felt more natural. The sound was unbelievably analog in character. Like I was listening to a stereo mixdown on reel-to-reel tape at Sunset Sound circa the early summer of 1972.

The bass was full and had great punch. The depth of the kick drum cut through with lovely heft. The stacked guitars and organ felt less claustrophobic in the mids, and the horns, piano, and harmonica had wonderfully organic timbre and texture. The album sank wonderfully into my marrow when played through Meze Liric headphones. It was a transcendent listening session, one of those brief periods when you’re entirely engrossed in the music. It’s inspiring when music you’ve lived in feels this fresh again.

Sleep – Dopesmoker

This album just returned to streaming, thanks to renewed licensing from Third Man Records. The original album title has been restored. Dopesmoker evolved into Jerusalem upon release under the influence of eastern mysticism and cannabinoids. When I bought a copy on disc in 1999, it had a sticker on the front that read, “Threatens to eclipse the first four Sabbath albums in a wall of pot smoke and despair.” How could you not buy that?! 

For this one, I added the Mytek THX AAA HPA to the Liberty DAC II and Primare NP5 Prisma MK2, then seated the Meze Empyrean on my head. Now, admittedly, a stoner rock cult album may seem like a strange choice of demo music. But it contains one of the most unique untameable, and idiosyncratic organic signals you can throw at a converter – distortion-soaked layered guitar riffs.

For anyone schooled in fuzzology, Dopesmoker’s hour-long primordial riff swamp is ideal fuel for DAC study. The track’s chugging intro builds slowly in volume and instrumental intensity before an avalanche of Sovtek fuzz-fueled Orange Amplification crashes down upon the listener at 2:47 seconds in. It’s incredibly heavy, but its undulating oceans of woolly fuzz sounds remarkably musical. If ever there was an album that would suffer from enhanced analytical decoding, it would be this one. Instead, the waves of sonic magma are astoundingly controlled and detailed – oozing from the Liberty boxes with every watt of their pulverizing intensity perfectly delivered for maximum crushing impact.

It’s the first time I’ve played it in its entirety in a while, and I quickly realized just how poorly it’s been treated by Bluetooth streaming and the DACs on my laptop or phone. Follow the smoke to the riff-filled land? Can do, dude!

Conclusion, I have discovered my new go-to reference playback gear 

Mytek’s studio origins shine through in all their products; they exude a confident understanding of digital encoding, reference-grade playback purity, and studio-grade reliability. It’s a significant factor why their DACs and Amps are so highly esteemed. These products are perfection, unerringly reliable in Roon, and built to sustain years of heavy use – and, they make the same equipment used to create timeless music available to music lovers. 

The Liberty DAC II and Liberty THX AAA Headphone Amp have become my new reference DAC and HeadAmp. Their transparency and accuracy resonate with my studio and production background like no other prosumer DAC/Headphone Amp combination I’ve used previously has. They deliver phenomenally pristine sound and allow me to hear my favorite music exactly as the artist intended. 

If you’re looking for a DAC/AMP or Headphone Amp that shares DNA with studio-grade gear – your search is over. That legacy is at the heart of everything Mytek does. My Liberty DAC II order has been placed. 

Visit The Roon Store to see our full line of Mytek products.

Additional observations of note:

  • Mytek Liberty Series devices have a combination input/power button. Press and hold the button for a few seconds to power up the units.  
  • The Liberty DAC II’s remote is fully integrated with Roon. Adjust volume, pause and resume play, or change tracks with the remote, and Roon responds just as if you were in the app. 
  • The Liberty DAC II remembers your last volume setting when powered back up. 
  • Exercise Caution: fixed output on the Liberty DAC II is achieved by turning the volume up to full. That would be an unpleasant surprise if one were to return to headphone listening after using fixed output. We’ll update these notes if an alternative fixed output mode is revealed. 
  • Connecting the Mytek THX AAA to the Liberty DAC II, I used inexpensive RCA, and XLR interconnects and found the sound quality exceptionally good. 
  • My preferred settings for the Mytek THX AAA HPA were with normal gain and without crossfeed activated.
  • The Liberty THX AAA HPA can drive the most demanding headphones with complete ease, purchase with confidence.

Mytek Liberty DAC II and Liberty THX AAA Headphone AMP FAQs

Are these devices Roon Certified?

  • Yes, the Liberty DAC II is Roon Tested and requires a wired USB connection. For wireless Roon RAAT streaming, simply connect the Liberty DAC II to a Roon Ready bridge. I used the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 in my tests with excellent results. 
  • Roon Certification doesn’t apply to the Liberty THX AAA HPA. It’s a standalone headphone amp that can be connected to a DAC, Pre-amp, or any similar device with analog outs.   

What file formats and resolutions do these devices support?

  • Mytek Liberty DAC II up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256 native, MQA™, DXD (USB); up to 24-bit/192KHz PCM, DSD64 DoP and MQA (EBU, S/PDIF, Toslink)
  • Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA is a reference-grade headphone amp. It can handle any signal you send to it. 
Mytek Liberty DAC II

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • Mytek Liberty DAC II: 
  • Inputs are 2 x SPDIF, 1 x optical, 1 x AES/EBU, and 1 x USB-B (USB2 Class2 driver-less)
  • Outputs include 1 x 6.35 mm headphone output, 1 x unbalanced RCA, and 1 x balanced XLR
  • Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA: 
  • Inputs are 3 x RCA, 1 x balanced combination XLR / 1/4” TRS
  • Outputs include 1 x balanced XLR 4pin, 1 x balanced 4.4mm, 1 x unbalanced 6.35mm, 1 x unbalanced 3.5mm headphone outs, and 1 x Pre-amp RCA

Tech specs: 

Mytek Liberty DAC II:

  • Compatibility: Roon Tested, MQA decoder/renderer
  • DAC Chip Set: ESS SABRE ES9038Q2M DAC chip
  • Inputs are 2 x SPDIF, 1 x optical, 1 x AES/EBU, and 1 x USB-B (USB2 Class2 driver-less)
  • Outputs include 1 x 6.35 mm headphone output, 1 x unbalanced RCA, and 1 x balanced XLR
  • Dynamic Range: 127dB DR
  • Sample File Formats: up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM, DSD256 native, MQA™, DXD (USB); up to 24-bit/192KHz PCM, DSD64 DoP and MQA (EBU, S/PDIF, Toslink)
  • Headphone Output Power: 300mA, 3 Watts, designed for hard-to-drive headphones, 
  • Headphone output impedance: 0.1 Ohm
  • Power Supply: Linear with automatic voltage switching 
  • Dimensions: 1/3rd Rack Mounting – 5.5″ (W) x 1.740″ (H) x 8.8″ (D)
  • Weight: 4lbs.

Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA:

  • Amplifier Technology: THX AAA certified
  • Inputs are 3 x RCA, 1 x balanced combination XLR / 1/4” TRS
  • Outputs include 1 x balanced XLR 4pin, 1 x balanced 4.4mm, 1 x unbalanced 6.35mm, 1 x unbalanced 3.5mm headphone outs, and 1 x Pre-amp RCA
  • Dynamic Range: 147dB (A-weighted)
  • Volume Control: Premium 27mm analog ALPS attenuator
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: -150dB min
  • Headphone output power: 6 watts
  • Power Supply: Built-in oversized 60W linear toroid with automatic voltage switching
  • Dimensions: 1/3rd Rack Sizing – 5.5″ (W) x 1.740″ (H) x 8.8″ (D)
  • Weight: 4lbs.

What comes in the box?

Mytek Liberty DAC II:

  • Mytek Liberty DAC II
  • USB 2.0 Cable
  • Aluminum Apple remote
  • Power cord
  • Owner’s manual

Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA:

  • Mytek Liberty THX AAA HPA
  • AC power supply

Visit The Roon Store to see our full line of products.