Introducing Roon 2.0 and Roon ARC

We are delighted to introduce Roon 2.0 and Roon ARC – our biggest release yet and something that will change how you use Roon forever. 

Roon ARC

Roon ARC is a brand new app that gives you the freedom to experience your entire Roon library – and Roon’s most powerful features – without compromise, wherever you are in the world. Right from your mobile device.

Whether you’re working out at the gym, heading into the office, or traveling thousands of miles from home – ARC gives you remote access to your complete library of artists, albums, playlists, tags, and streams. No more settling for second-best from streaming apps. ARC makes everywhere feel like home.

Powered by your Roon core, Roon ARC becomes your very own, custom-built streaming service. Explore and expand your entire music library, immerse yourself in new discoveries, access key Roon features, and listen in the best possible sound quality – all from a single, beautiful mobile app. All free and exclusive to Roon subscribers.

Learn more & download Roon ARC

Experience more with Roon 2.0

Along with additional enhancements, like native support for Apple Silicon, Roon 2.0 brings an amazing music experience to more people, on more platforms. Read all about ARC and Roon 2.0 over on our Community. 

Visit our Community to learn more

Updating to Roon 2.0

When you log in to Roon, you’ll be prompted to update your Roon Core to the new Roon 2.0. Please don’t forget to update your Roon Remote on iOS and Android devices before accepting the update on your Core.

To use Roon outside of your home you will need to download the Roon ARC mobile app and connect it to your Roon Core. Roon ARC is separate to and different from Roon Remote that you use at home, so even if you already have Roon Remote on your mobile device, you’ll need to download Roon ARC to access Roon on the go. More information on getting started with ARC can be found on our Help Center. 

If you have any questions or need some support, you can contact our dedicated Customer Success team via our Community.

Roon Ready Writeups: Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M and Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 Review

Saying it aloud sounds a bit silly… but this truly is a golden era for standalone DAC buyers. Today’s DACs come in every form factor imaginable with expanded connectivity options and future-proof format and resolution support. Whether you’re shopping for your first external DAC or looking to upgrade, chances are there’s an ideal product within your budget that covers your requirements and promises years of enjoyment. La belle epoch du DAC is now!

Chasing DAC magic

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M

In our previous review, we explained how easy it is to integrate Roon and improve the sound quality of a legacy hi-fi system with a carefully chosen DAC. Saying it aloud sounds a bit silly… but this truly is a golden era for standalone DAC buyers. There’s a burgeoning selection of affordable, feature-rich, great-sounding DACs from an ever-growing list of manufacturers. 

Comparing current options in the <$500ish range to that of even a few years ago brings their rapid proliferation into sharp focus. Today’s DACs come in every form factor imaginable with expanded connectivity options and future-proof format and resolution support. Whether you’re shopping for your first external DAC or looking to upgrade, chances are there’s an ideal product within your budget that covers your requirements and promises years of enjoyment. La belle epoch du DAC is now!

We also touched upon adding high-resolution wireless streaming convenience to DACs without networking capabilities with the help of a Roon Ready Bridge or streamer. We’ll cover that in more detail later in this article as we continue our how-to/review theme by pairing two Expert Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) award winners. EISA’s 2021-2022 Best DAC recipient, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M, with the 2022-2023 Best Streamer awardee, the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2.

High-quality sound meets feature-packed value

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M

Brit-gear powerhouse Cambridge Audio has built exemplary audio components for five decades and DACs since the mid-1990s. That pedigree of expertise is reflected in each new product they deliver. The DacMagic 200M is their latest flagship converter and neatly exemplifies the high-quality sound meets feature-packed value mashup we mentioned earlier. The proverbial boxes get a real tickin’ with this one. 

The DacMagic 200M provides:

  • Dual mono ESS Sabre DAC chips.
  • Support for up to 24-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512
  • Full MQA support – Cambridge Audio’s first device to do that. If you’re one of Roon’s many TIDAL subscribers looking for an endpoint that can handle MQA decoding & rendering, the DacMagic 200M takes you there.
  • Two sets of optical/coaxial input connections + USB-B and Bluetooth aptX
  • Balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA outs
  • A capable Class A/B headphone amp
  • Intuitive ease of use and all the front panel LEDs you could want. 
  • All of that is packed into a footprint roughly the size of a cigar box – making it equally at home on a desktop or in an AV cabinet.

The “single device solution” honor is tossed around plenty often in reviews, but the DacMagic 200M legitimately crushes it. It can accommodate three wired digital sources plus Bluetooth while integrated into a system and still handle headphones duties – for just $549. That’s a lot of DAC for the money. If the flexibility and features detailed above are on your must-have list, the DacMagic 200M certainly deserves a look. As expected, build quality, fit, and finish are typical top-tier Cambridge Audio caliber. So is its sound signature.

The DacMagic 200M has a curious reputation among some reviewers for being on the warmer side. I don’t really hear that. Defining “warm sound” is entirely subjective. In my opinion, warm sound involves a more classic tube-driven character, subtly rounded highs, and a pronounced midrange richness. The DacMagic was nearer to that in our test legacy system but not so much with powered monitors. As expected, the Bluetooth sound quality wasn’t as good as direct wired connections. But that’s typical with lossy streaming protocols. However, the DacMagic 200M’s Bluetooth sound was notably better than I’ve heard in some competing devices. In my opinion, Bluetooth connectivity is more of a convenience feature than a sonic one.  

Integrated with my test legacy system (RCA input only Yamaha receiver, B&W LM1 stereo speakers, and budget <$100 sub), the DacMagic 200M delivered clean, balanced, agile, and punchy sound. There was excellent detail and clarity throughout the frequency spectrum. The results were even more shocking when I connected it as a pre-amp to a pair of Klipsch R-15PM powered bookshelf speakers. 

The Klipsch are very efficient, energetic powered monitors – the detail retrieval and crispness of the DacMagic 200M practically exploded from the speakers. The notes seemed to be etched into the air. It wasn’t excessively bright or abrasively aggressive; more articulate and expressive in character. Though admittedly, the bagpipes in AC/DC’s It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock’ n’ Roll) certainly shaved off a few extra ear cilia. 

In headphones, the mids were full and seamlessly balanced with the punchy low-end but not augmented or pushed forward, cramping the highs. Snare drums had a nice snap, and cymbals resolved with crisp detail. Imaging and soundstaging were pleasing with an organic depth and breadth through headphones. Some tracks/headphones pairings exhibited a more pronounced “audiophile” character. But that had more to do with the source material or headphones I selected than a defining quality of the DacMagic 200M. 

Overall, the sound signature was balanced, natural, pleasantly detailed, and thoroughly enjoyable. Just what we expect from Cambridge Audio gear.

Bridges to better sound

Primare Prisma NP5

Another question we frequently see from potential customers concerns Streamers and Bridges, what they do, and whether they need one to use Roon. 

Technically speaking, your phone, tablet, or computer are streamers because they receive and play digital music over the internet or your home network from streaming services or local file storage. The trouble with those devices as streamers is they aren’t designed for optimal music playback. When installed on a device, Roon software takes over streaming responsibilities from the operating system and provides better quality audio. However, depending on your needs, you may still want a standalone streamer whose only tasks are audio-related.

Roon Ready network bridges behave similarly to streamers, but they’re more Rooncentric – any audio hardware attached to one is made immediately available to Roon. They provide plug-and-play readiness from Roon to the digital inputs of your audio gear, whether it’s a standalone DAC, powered speakers, or a legacy system with digital inputs. They’re an instant system game-changer.

Some recent audio hardware has streaming protocols built in that are compatible with Roon, such as Airplay or Chromecast. Those streaming methods have bit-depth and resolution limitations that can be offensive to some Rooners. Limiting a high-resolution FLAC file encoded at 24/192kHz to CD-quality 16/44.1kHz is anathema to many listeners. Nobody wants that, give us all the bits, man! If your feelings are reflected by any of the scenarios I mentioned, we can help. 

The Roon Store has several network bridges to choose from, and our selection is growing. 

Achieving prime sound with the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 streamer

Primare Prisma NP5

Primare of Sweden has applied a uniquely Scandinavian approach to audio manufacturing for nearly forty years – winning them awards and loyal customers. Their components meld premium sound quality with refined, timeless aesthetics. Primare practices the Swedish principle of Lagom (“laah-goam”), which translates to “just the right amount.” It’s an appreciation of harmonious, proportional balance – in all things. 

Fortunately for us, Primare puts that into practice in its components. Their 2022-2023 EISA Best Streamer winning NP5 Primsa MK2 continues their penchant for striking the perfect blend of technology, functionality, and ease of use. “Just the right amount,” as defined by Primare, turns out to be quite generous. 

The NP5 Prisma MK2 is the latest version of their standalone Prisma technology – the feature-rich platform at the heart of Primare’s most prestigious hi-fi components. The app reveals that the NP5 Prisma MK2 is an impressive hub of features, not just a streamer.

Even better, it’s a perfect candidate for this DAC + Streamer pairing how-to. There are a few critical factors to remember when selecting a streamer or bridge. They apply to our scenario as well.

  • Ensure that the connectivity features are consistent with those on the device you’re connecting it to.
  • Similarly, confirm that the streamers’ file format and resolution capabilities match those of the DAC, AVR, or component you’re pairing it with. 
  • Reflect upon whether a DAC is actually needed. If the DAC in your AVR, integrated amp, disc player, or powered speakers is to your liking, then forget the whole external DAC business. Connect a streamer/Roon Ready bridge directly to the device you already have, and you’re set to go.  

The NP5 Prisma MK2 gels perfectly with the DacMagic 200M. Its connection points are simpatico. It can send 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, DoP, and MQA via coaxial to the DAC. Yes, the DacMagic 200M capabilities exceed 24/192kHz PCM but streaming services currently cap resolution at 24/192 FLAC or MQA. Anything above that is still a unicorn format that doesn’t exist.

Primare Prisma NP5

As a bonus, the NP5 Prisma MK2 brings high-quality streaming to any component with a digital input plus all the added benefits of the Prisma platform. Anyone interested in Roon who owns a playback device with digital inputs is all set. One and done. And it’s wee, small enough to sit atop the DacMagic 200M or disappear entirely in an AV rack. It’s about the size of the first generation of Roku boxes.

But what about sound quality; is that a factor with streamers as it is with DACs? Yes, whenever components are being paired they should be as compatible sonically as they are in terms of connectivity and format support. Sending Roon wirelessly through the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 to the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M offered an unexpected surprise.

The DacMagic 200M suddenly exhibited a sumptuous warmth. I pulled up the Great British Sound playlist Cambridge Audio shared with us (now available on the Home page in Roon) and hit shuffle. 

I played the first three tracks it kicked out through the DacMagic 200M on its own, then again with the NP5 MK2/DacMagic 200M pairing. Each time the crisp detail of the DacMagic 200M was slightly rounded, the mid-range tonality more decadent, the bass meatier and more responsive. Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good crackled with added soul, energy, and attitude when fed through the NP5 MK2/DacMagic 200M combo.

The Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M by itself was plenty sweet. Teamed with the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2, it was absolutely divine. For my sonic tastes, they offer a perfect blend.


The award-winning Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M and Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 perfectly demonstrate the improved sound and convenience that can be had by carefully matching quality externals. It also demonstrates just how painlessly and affordably adding Roon Readiness to your setup can be with the help of The Roon Store. Whether you’re shopping for your first DAC or Streamer, or looking to upgrade, chances are there’s an ideal product within your budget that fulfills your needs and promises years of enjoyment.

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

Additional observations of note:

  • Some DacMagic 200M reviews I’ve read incorrectly state that it can’t be switched between variable and fixed output mode. The instructions are cleverly hidden under the heading Toggle between fixed and variable output modes in the owner’s manual.
  • The volume knob on the DacMagic 200M has a bit more resistance than most. If you have difficulty turning knobs, the DacMagic may provide a workout. I also noticed a bit of play in the knob but realized it facilitates the mute function achieved by pushing the knob inward.
  • The DacMagic 200M is set to turn off after 20 minutes of inactivity by default. That seems to make some folks dyspeptic. Thankfully it’s easy enough to turn off. See the manual for more details.  
  • For Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 MQA passthrough, use the Primare app to set the digital output to Native and sample rate to 192 kHz when connecting it to an MQA compatible DAC.
  • The Primare Prisma app is a treasure chest of features and incredibly easy to use. Peak around it there and enjoy it in addition to Roon.

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M and Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 FAQs

Are these devices Roon Certified?

Yes, the Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M is Roon Tested and requires a wired USB connection. For wireless Roon RAAT streaming, simply connect the DAC to the Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 Roon Ready streamer or any other Roon Ready bridge. 

What file formats and resolutions do these devices support?

  • Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M supports up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM, DoP64 (optical) up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, DoP64 (coaxial) support up to 24-bit/762 kHz PCM, Native DSD512, DoP DSD256 (USB) Full MQA core and renderer
  • Primare NP5 Prisma MK2 supports up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, DoP128. WAV, FLAC, LPCM, MQA, AIFF, ALAC, MP3, MP4 (AAC), WMA, OGG

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M: Inputs are 2 x Optical/Toslink, 2 x SPIDF, 1 x USB Type B, Bluetooth 4.2 SBC and AptX. Outputs include 1 x 6.35 mm headphone output, 1 x unbalanced RCA, 1 x balanced XLR
  •  Primare NP5 Prisma MK2: inputs are 1 x USB Type-A input for connecting digital storage devices. Outputs include 1 x Optical/Toslink, 1 x Coaxial RCA. Connectivity for Roon Ready, Airplay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, UPnP, and more with the Primare Prisma App.

Tech specs:

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M:

  • DAC Chip Set: Dual ESS9038 DAC chips, one per channel
  • Frequency response: 10Hz – 58kHz (± 1 dB) 
  • Total Hamonic Distortion (THD): @ 1KHz, 0dBFS
  • Audio inputs: 2 x Optical/Toslink, 2 x SPIDF, 1 x USB Type B, Bluetooth 4.2 SBC and AptX 
  • Audio outputs: 1 x 6.35 mm headphone output, 1 x unbalanced RCA, 1 x balanced XLR
  • Output Impedance: <50 Ohms unbalanced, <100 Ohm balanced 
  • Max Output Level: 2.1V RMS unbalanced, 4.2V RMS balanced
  • Headphone Output Power: >300mW at 32Ω, >65mW at 150Ω 
  • Supported File Formats: support up to 24-bit/96 kHz PCM, DoP64 (optical) up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, DoP64 (coaxial) support up to 24-bit/762 kHz PCM, Native DSD512, DoP DSD256 (USB) Full MQA core and renderer
  • Power supply: 100-240V AC
  • Dimensions: 8.6″ (W) x 2.0″ (H) x 7.6″ (D)
  • Weight: 2.6 lbs
  • Warranty: 2 years

Primare NP5 Prisma MK2:

  • Connectivity: Roon Ready, Primare Prisma App, Airplay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, WiFi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, UPnP
  • Audio Inputs: 1 x USB Type-A input for connecting digital storage devices
  • Audio outputs: 1 x Optical/Toslink, 1 x Coaxial RCA
  • Supported File Formats: support up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM, DoP128. WAV, FLAC, LPCM, MQA, AIFF, ALAC, MP3, MP4 (AAC), WMA, OGG
  • Power supply: 100-240V AC
  • Dimensions: 5.6″ (W) x 1.4″ (H) x 4.9″ (D)
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs.
  • Warranty: 3 years

What comes in the box?

Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M:

  • Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M
  • AC power supply
  • 3 AC power plug adapters (US/Euro/UK)
  • 1-7/8″ Bluetooth antenna
  • Quick Start Manual
  • Important Safety Instructions

Primare NP5 Prisma MK2:

  • Primare NP5 Prisma MK2
  • AC power supply
  • 4 AC power plug adapters (US/UK/EU/AU)
  • RS232 cable
  • User Guide
  • Chromecast Built-in Quick Start Guide

See the Roon Stores’ complete line of products!

Recording Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1

Ulrike Schwarz, Skywalker, photo by Jim Anderson

In our previous blog post A conversation about sound with Ulrike Schwarz and Jane Ira Bloom, we spoke to recording engineer Ulrike Schwarz and Jane Ira Bloom about their relationship with sound and music, and the inspiration behind their new album Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1. Here, we discuss the extraordinary recording story behind this album which was recorded remotely during the pandemic. 

The album was recorded remotely in Stereo and 5.1 Surround Ultra High Resolution (384kHz/32bit) using Merging Technology Horus/Pyramix recording systems and the Merging+Clock U by grammy-nominated recording engineer Ulrike Schwarz with mixing engineer Jim Anderson, and mastering engineers Ulrike Schwarz and Morten Lindberg (immersive). The album was co-produced by Jane Ira Bloom and Ulrike Schwarz.

Mobile control room at Miya Masaoka’s home, Sonobus on the iPad Pro and Pyramix on a PC Audio Labs laptop with Acousta LE03 interface. Photo by Ulrike Schwarz.

Editor: This album was performed in real time connected remotely from your homes in NYC. Please can you tell us about the recording process? It seems to have been very successful. If there were elements of improvisation, how did you manage this unique process remotely? 

Ulrike: Once we had decided that this should be done in the highest possible recording quality that we could get, I set up my Merging Technologies Pyramix v12 recording system at Jane’s apartment. We set up the Neumann TLM 170 and Sanken CU-41 microphones in her office. Then I went to Alison’s house and set up my Pyramix v14. Through my main recording system at Alison’s I could run Jane’s remotely and connect them.

For the musicians to hear each other I had a second set of computers and interfaces. The microphone signals were split analog after the mic preamplifiers and went to the Pyramix systems (in 384kHz) and the Acousta LE03 interfaces (in 192kHz). The LE03 works in a very ‘broadcasty’ and analog way by providing an n-1 where each musician gets their own microphone signal analog (that means without any latency) and the other musicians feed with only the delay that the transmission and the communication program provides. As latency is created in samples a higher sampling frequency will effectively cut down latency. However, one needs a higher data transmission rate (better internet connection).

For communication we used the program Sonobus which Jane recorded her first album with Alison and Mark with. Jane was used to it, I wasn’t. I had to run a lot of tests to make this as fast, and with as little latency, as we could. In order to do this, I brought in high speed gaming routers. Jane and Alison had very good internet, however the weakest was Mark’s. Jane and Mark were so used to playing with each other that even a bigger latency works.

The experimental part of it was matching the internet to the speed that all the devices could take for the communication lines. The interesting part was to establish communication between the musicians and to get the latency down.

Jane: If you think about it, less on a technical level, just how many platforms we’re trying to use to communicate with each other. The musicians are using zoom with no sounds, just looking at each other to feel each other. Then we’re using this Sonobus platform to actually communicate sound and improvise with each other. 

Ulrike is trying to keep the latency as low as possible, but when you think about it you’re playing with jazz musicians who you’ve improvised with for a long time, there’s a lot of mysterious anticipation that you use. You almost make decisions before you hear them, people in sport know all about this. You make split second decisions, it’s a marvelous thing that your mind does when you make things up. 

So that’s all going on with all the technical clarity. At the other end of it is Ulrike’s recording, which is separate, which is another platform and time relationship. It is interesting all these different ways our ears are trying to reach out to try and find one another.

Ulrike: There were different computers for everything so that things wouldn’t slow down the oral communication. Zoom, although it was very out of time, was so important just to see that the other person was still there. I’ve done fifteen years in broadcasting, the process wasn’t new for me, but what was new was that I couldn’t demand a fixed analog line. The costs for booking a fixed internet rate were too much so we had to be more adventurous.

Allison Miller in her basement practice studio, photo by Ulrike Schwarz.

Editor: How did you manage the acoustics? Did you make any changes to the room?

Jane: Yes, I put a towel on my desk! 

Ulrike: We put jackets on the sofa! I am really amazed at Jane’s office. It is a very small room equipped with several microphones. That could have created some unwanted effects. But at Skywalker we spread the microphones fully and had wonderful results. It is fascinating how we were able to shut out that room and replace it with the big sound stage of Skywalker. Jane lives in a quiet apartment building. At Mark’s it was a little louder. He has some acoustic treatment in his room, but the bass is not as loud as the saxophone or drums, so his recording was the most difficult. Alison has her drum set setup in her basement room. The great thing was that she got to play her drums, they are so well tuned and set exactly how she wanted. 

Jane: When you asked what is special about these musicians, and why this recording, these musicians have a sound, a voice, on their instruments that is extraordinary. It is a testament to all the audio engineering that it captures it, however, try to remember that in the craziest space in the world if you don’t have a sound what’s the point. 

Mark has an extraordinary bass sound, Miya will make you want to cry when she’s expressing a single note on the koto, and Alison has an extraordinary sound on her own drums. Usually a drummer has to go to a studio and play somebody else’s drums, instead she is playing her own set and her own percussion instruments. 

Ulrike: Anything Alison wanted to pick up was there. With Mark we selected basses for a while, there was a freedom in the choice of weapons you usually don’t have in a studio. 

Jane: When you think about the strange concept of taking something from a small room and putting it into a palatial sound space, the core of what is at the center of that is a musician with a sound, and how important that is. That’s what is at the center of a recording, and that is what translates into the microphone that Ulrike is capturing with great technique and great skill, to then amplify in terms of its sonic space and how it’s perceived.

Miya Masaoka’s koto in Miya’s home, photo by Ulrike Schwarz.

Editor: This album was all mixed at Skywalker studios. Can you tell us why you chose that studio and the recording system used? Were there specific techniques in the mix to prepare the album for mastering?

Yes, we flew our Merging Technologies Pyramix v14, Horus system, and Clock U to Skywalker. We used my recording system not theirs. Jim and I love to work at Skywalker. The control room is set up in a way that whatever we mix we know it works. If it sounds good in there it will translate to every other system in the world. 

The most important thing with all these recordings in small single spaces is that Skywalker has this fantastic sound stage. We turned the big sound stage into a live chamber, and this is how all these instruments get this enormous space. They are fed into the live chamber, and re-recorded in some ways and then mixed with the original instruments, and that’s how they become so big and free. The room at Skywalker is where the silence comes from and the space that everybody lives in. 

Jane: We wish we could have played in that chamber so we did the next best thing.

Ulrike: We (Jim) mixed in stereo, 5.1 and 3D. I mastered stereo and 5.1, Morten Lindberg brought all masters together with his 3D mastering in order to make them correlate on all platforms. 

Coming back to the recording and the latencies, I had two systems running that had to be synced. I had Jane record her side of the Sonobus system, and I recorded the other side. I always knew what the latency was by comparing those two, and if any corrections needed to be made. Sometimes even they locked in to their latency and it sounds like they were standing together. This is because of their anticipation. So I only had changes for a few milliseconds to make it totally lock in, and only in very few places.

Jane: It still amazes me how we do it, it’s mysterious even to us. We are playing as if we are together.

Ulrike: Even on stage you don’t know. We had 8 milliseconds latency at our best. If you translate that into distance, 3 milliseconds is about a meter. On stage it is very easy to have ten feet distance, and bad monitoring, so in certain ways you heard more of each other than on stage, with less latency. So once we had a stable delay, it’s just like playing with someone on a bigger stage, but with a clean headphone system. 

Jane: There are two of us, there’s no place to hide in a duet, you either have a sound and an idea or you don’t. A lot is exposed. 

Ulrike: The same for recording techniques, if something went wrong it would be very exposed. Something either takes or it doesn’t. Some things were actually better than on stage, but without the feeling you’re in the same place. We tried to create that with the headphones and zoom, but in many ways it wasn’t that bad.

Jane: If you think about the absence of the other during the pandemic, we haven’t been able to physically be with one another. Something happens, I’ve found over several years with remote recording – you find that your ears reach out even more to the person you’re playing with. It’s almost like hyper ultra-hearing. You’re so wanting to connect that it’s like your ears go into overdrive. 

There is something really interesting, neurologically, and emotionally going on about how tuned in you are to listening and responding this way.

Ulrike: It will be great when you get back together with them on stage, but there is still something in when you first played with Mark with bad zoom with bad delays, just the possibility to make music again was so overreaching. 

Jane: We were euphoric to play together again. 

Ulrike: It was a very interesting time, and thankfully music could still exist.

Merging Technology mobile Horus/Hapi AoIP setup with MT Clock – U. Powered by Essential Sound Products Eloquence Power chords.

In our previous blog post A conversation about sound with Ulrike Schwarz and Jane Ira Bloom we discussed Jane and Ulrike’s relationship with music and sound.

Listen to Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1 on TIDAL or Qobuz.

Listen to our playlist Jane Ira Bloom in Playlists by Roon on your Roon Home Screen.

A conversation about sound with Ulrike Schwarz and Jane Ira Bloom

Jane Ira Bloom, picture by Brigitte Lacombe.

We had the pleasure of speaking to recording engineer Ulrike Schwarz and Jane Ira Bloom about their relationship with sound and music, and the inspiration behind their new album Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1. This album features award-winning saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom, percussionist Allison Miller, koto player Miya Masaoka, and bassist Mark Helias. 

Editor: The music on Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1 was inspired by the science photography of Berenice Abbott. Please can you tell us more about this inspiration and how it is reflected in the music? 

Jane: If you look at the photographs, even though they’re about scientific subjects, they are beautiful. Probably one of the biggest influences I had from looking at these images was the stark contrast of dark and light. If that translates to your ear to the idea of sound and silence having equal weight in your audio field, then that’s the music that I honed in on for this project. The other thing is, if you look at the images, they’re all about momentum and physics, and light waves and patterns of sound waves being visualized. Motion and flow of melodic lines is something that I’ve always been interested in. You’ll hear a little bit of that influence as a composer, translating the visual motion and flow into audio motion and flow.

Ulrike: I always thought that these patterns are usually in science books, or books we studied for acoustics, they look like interferences. Like the water drops and filters. They can also be interpreted like audio phenomenon. So that’s also an image I had in my head. That’s also why I thought that going at the highest possible recording resolution that we had would probably display this best.

Miya Masaoka, photo by Heike Liss

Editor: Did this particular music inspire your choice in musicians? Can you tell us more about your choice to use the traditional Japanese instrument Koto?

Jane: It’s really about the koto player Miya. Miya could play anything, and I’d be interested in playing duets with her. She happens to be a master performer on the koto, but it’s really the musicians and their improvisational minds. These are people I’ve collaborated with in the past, so I have a history with them. I know how they feel about improvising music together. Alison Miller is an amazing creative mind for creating sounds spontaneously. Miya is a master on her instrument so when I talk about sound and silence – that’s her thing. It’s all a part not only of the instruments they play, but also their musical imagination. 

Ulrike: I would say that none of the musicians played traditionally. Miya is not only playing Koto, she was doing things to her Koto I’d never heard before, and that were a little difficult to capture. Alison doesn’t just play drums, it was more percussion – it was really creating these sounds that go so far beyond traditional playing of the instrument, as Jane does. They didn’t just play their instruments – it went far beyond that.

Ulrike Schwarz

Editor: Sound quality is clearly important to you, and you have had the album encoded in MQA. Can you tell us more about this? 

Ulrike: The sheer data rate of what we recorded is not very consumer friendly. There are some people who buy native DSD and want an incredible data rate that doesn’t even get them anything. 

I’ve found that with encoding it into MQA when the consumer has an MQA ready system, it will unfold back into the 384khz in this case. But it is a file of 48kHz which is of course much more manageable which can be streamed and downloaded easily. For me it is a great way of transporting super high audio quality in a manageable means. 

I was acquainted with it when we mastered some other albums with Bob Ludwig – he always sent it over as MQA. Since we purchased this enormous clock, the Merging Technologies Clock U, which is true to ten parts of a billion, our clocking has improved, and I find the MQA works really well. Since then, every album I’ve done has been MQA and I really like it a lot.

Jane: From a listener’s perspective, listening to sound at this level of quality has a richness and a depth that’s so extraordinary for the ear. You don’t have to play a lot of notes when you have this kind of quality of sound to your ear, to listen and luxuriate in. It’s almost like a single note becomes a whole full course dinner. It’s like one note sounds absolutely breathtaking, and it’s because of this quality of sound. 

When people listen, they don’t even know why they feel the way they feel when they hear it, but there’s a whole emotional response to hearing music this way in this type of quality. People don’t even understand what they’re hearing, it’s just this incredible breadth of sound that can make a single note sound like a symphony. 

Ulrike: I think the emotional response is actually very interesting. As with the super high quality, you also respond well to the immersive sound when it comes at you in 3D. When you add the next level to surround, it becomes a very different story emotionally. 

Jane: For the artist, it is so euphoric. We’re used to hearing sound around us on stage, but for an artist to hear themselves in relation to other musicians coming back at them in a completely immersive way, that’s completely new and very intoxicating. That’s why it’s so emotional to hear music that you’ve made come back at you in this way.

Picturing The Invisible, cover art by Assen Semov

Editor: Sound is important, how do you view the link between sound quality and the music? Is it about communication, nuance or helping listeners understand or get involved in the music? Or something else?

Jane: It’s a wonderful collaboration of these two things that are operating at an extremely high level and ultimately become indistinguishable. It’s such a joy, and this is the essence of my collaboration with Ulrike. We’re trying to combine art and science together to create a unique emotional experience for the listener.

Ulrike: It’s so much joy when you get the chance to record people on that level. You think, this is what they can do musically, and I think about what I can do to capture this and bring all of this across. The joy of it is to get the chance to work with people on this level and then think about what I can do to make them communicate even better and create those soundscapes that I’m hearing, and then turn this into something that everyone just loves to listen to. 

Jane: This is the essence of producing, we’re imagining taking the music and its audio capture to the highest level we can imagine, and then some. That’s a creative decision. 

Ulrike: A recorded product is always different from a live performance. Jane is very good at cutting things down, which means it is good quality music. That makes the whole thing so joyful.

They are seasoned musicians who know what to do. They command the room, and don’t wait for me to say whether it’s a great take. In the end, the musicians make the composition come alive or not. We do not keep a take that is not special. 

Improvisers are spontaneous composers, it’s very different to interpreting in an orchestral sense. When you get used to having a sphere where you make things up, you wind up collaborating with people who have a feeling for this process – who make composition come out of the air. You make it up right in the moment, but it feels like you composed it. The lines between improvisation and composition get blurred, and that’s a skill that improvisers in the jazz tradition spend a whole lifetime and career developing. Alison, Miya, Mark, these are pros at the highest level at this process.

Allison Miller

Editor: You received a grant from the New York City Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theater for this project, can you tell us more about how this came about and any personal significance of this particular grant.

Jane: There’s no question in my mind that the ‘Women’s Fund’ was the key inspiration. Look at the powerful women involved in this project: Ulrike on the audio engineering side, Berenice Abbot legend in the photographic world as the inspiration, Alison an unbelievable improviser on drums and percussion, and Miya, a complete contemporary musician. These are women who really excel in their worlds. When Ulrike and I first talked about this, it just started making so much sense. Look at all this girl power, let’s face it! 

Ulrike: We did accept Jim Anderson, the mixing engineer, and Mark into our world as honorary members of our group. Morten Lindberg was also involved in turning it into Dolby. The fund was about the combination of all these wonderful women and our original plan to bring in the media aspect – before the pandemic hit it was all supposed to take place in a great room.

Jane: The music was originally written for 5, 6, 7 instrumentalists. We didn’t record a lot of the music that I composed and we had to hone down our ideas a lot.

Ulrike: There might be Picturing the Invisible: Focus 2 at some point!

Editor: How did you form your taste in sounds and music? Did anything change or influence your taste in music during childhood or since, such as music played in the home on hi-fi or a piano, starting a musical instrument, friends at Yale University, or training at Yale College of Music?

Jane: I can remember from my earliest moments of consciousness loving musical instruments. I was just fascinated with them, with sound and what they looked like, I don’t know why. In terms of my journey as a musician, I think the most interesting aspect of how I’ve shaped a sonic identity is that I’ve been very interested in the sounds of other instruments other than soprano saxophone. I’ve learnt a lot from vocalists, trumpet players, violin players, shakuhachi players. I’ve gotten inspiration for my ideas about sound from places other than my instrument, and I think that’s affected how I come up with the sound that I do. 

Editor: What system do you use for playback of music?

Jane: You’re going to laugh because I don’t have any of the high-end equipment Ulrike uses. I have a set of AKG headphones I’ve been using for years. I listen on my headphones. They are not the greatest, but when you get used to listening on something it’s like a standard of listening that you get used to.

Ulrike: We got her a really nice headphone amp! [I have old AKG headphones, I know them, they’re honest. I use them in the studio and at home.]

Ulrike: In my editing suite I have Wilson speakers, Wilson CUBs, and an Eclipse TD725sw subwoofer. When I’m working, I’m listening through the Pyramix and sometimes have our clock there as well to really see what’s going on. I have a selection of headphones. The amps are Benchmark ABH2 Mono blocks and HPA4 pre amplifier. My favorite headphones are actually B&W P5s, the small ones. I took them with me to the recordings, I like them very much for work. I have a selection of Sennheiser’s but in the field I prefer the P5. 

Downstairs we have set up our other studio. For work Jim prefers to have his old Meyer HD1s. He’s had them for 30 years and these are the speakers he trusts for mixing. For listening we have Wilson WATT Puppies, and a Mark Levinson system with a 23.5 amplifier and 26S pre amplifier. In the dining room we have the surround 7.1 system of Eclipse TD712z MK2 speakers, the TD725sw and a Marantz A/V unit. For our wedding party we dragged a couple of those speakers out on the deck and entertained. We exclusively power all units – remote or at home – with Essential Sound Products MusicCord cables and Power Distributors.

In our next blog post Recording Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1, we discuss the extraordinary recording story behind the album, recorded remotely during the pandemic. 

Listen to Picturing the Invisible: Focus 1 on TIDAL or Qobuz.

Listen to our playlist Jane Ira Bloom in Playlists by Roon on your Roon Home Screen.

Roon Ready Writeups: Burson Audio Conductor 3 Reference, Conductor 3X Performance, and Playmate 2 Review

Creating a Rooniverse of your own

The audio gear-o-sphere is absolutely bursting at its seams with devices and confusing terminology – especially when viewed from the perspective of the casual observer, budding audiophile, or veteran Hi-Fi enthusiast. Buyers begin to feel like they need an electrical engineering degree just to purchase new gear. That can be offputting; we know because you’ve told us so.

Every few days, The Roon Store gets questions like this one recently sent in by Terry.

Greetings, Roon Labs! I’m interested in Roon, my friend uses it and raves about it! He told me to find a good DAC and maybe a streamer, but I’m not sure what that is. I have a recent Mac laptop and was into stereo gear in college, but that was nearly 50 years ago. I’d like to try Roon, but I don’t want to replace everything I use now. Can you help me figure out what I need?

p.s. I’m also interested in a pair of headphones. Thanks!

Terry R.

Yes, we can! And thank you, Terry, for allowing me to use your question and requirements as the foundation for this combination Roon “how-to” and gear review! 

The Roon Store is all about helping our customers get the most out of their systems. Our new line of products from Burson Audio provides an ideal solution for anyone looking to modernize legacy equipment, get CD quality or better wireless playback, and add quality headphone capabilities to their current setup. For this installment of Roon Ready Writeups I built a legacy system similar to Terry’s to demonstrate how easily it can be done.

Burson Audio headphone amp/DACs – a single box solution.

Burson Audio Playmate 2 DAC

First, let’s start with a common question; “What’s a DAC?” Simply put, DAC is an acronym for digital to analog converter. A DAC is involved whenever digital audio is played from computers, tablets, or smartphones. Its job is to convert digitally encoded audio files, like those from streaming services, to an analog signal that can be understood by your amplifier, speakers, and ears. This helps illustrate a DAC’s critical role and why selecting a quality device when upgrading a legacy audio system is of paramount importance. A bad DAC is a fast track to tarnishing the sound of a classic Hi-Fi system with a single device. An underperformer will negatively impact every digital source it plays.

Fortunately, Burson Audio has several sonically advanced, sturdily built, and value-packed DACs to choose from. The Playmate 2, Conductor 3X Performance, and Conductor 3 Reference DACs cover our needs. Burson Audio’s value to cost reputation was established through building enthusiastic word-of-mouth appreciation from customers, reviewers, and select dealers rather than through marketing teams, advertising budgets, and trade-show attendance. It’s been a winning strategy for Burson for nearly thirty years.

Burson Audio DACs cut an attractive, minimalist profile in their high-density aluminum enclosures. The ridged “cool case” design acts as a heat-sink to offset the internal temperature generated by their Class A solid-state circuitry. The brushed space grey face plates are wonderfully clean, featuring a single OLED display, microphone and headphone connections, and a knurled knob for making volume and menu adjustments. Multiple or single menu buttons are provided on the front panel, depending on the model. The Performance and Reference series models include a remote. The Playmate 2 does not, but it can be purchased separately – which I highly recommend for added operating convenience. 

The menu and settings are intuitive and easy to use. Press the menu button to access options, turn the knob to your preferred setting, press the knob to navigate it, and save preferences. I left the more granular settings on the default settings for this review and only adjusted the input, output, and gain. 

Burson Audio’s research and development notoriety is well established. Their custom-designed op-amps, advocacy of “op-amp rolling,” and max current power supply circuitry are the most visible hallmarks of their innovative approach. But their tech sensibilities extend well beyond that. For proof, grab the included hex key and look inside one of their devices. You’re greeted with the same clean design aesthetic found on their exterior. You’ll see Burson Audio’s signature OP-amps alongside top-of-the-line components from Neutrik, specially tuned Qualcomm CSR8675 Bluetooth 5.0 receivers (in the Reference and Performance models), and Sabre 32-bit ESS9038Q2M DAC chips. A more complete breakdown of the specs for the discussed models can be found at the end of this review. 

Suffice it to say these are expertly designed, speced, and assembled devices. There’s nothing of merit to fuss about when inspecting the physical or technical build quality.

Supercharging a legacy Hi-Fi system

Burson Audio 3XP

To review the Burson DACs, I considered the questions Terry sent us: “How can I add Roon and headphones listening to my setup without having to replace everything else I’m using.” 

I’m happy to say it’s much easier than many new Roon customers think! The first step involves installing Roon software on a Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. That machine serves as the Roon Core, the central nervous system of your Roon ecosystem. Terry already owns a compatible Mac laptop, so his Core requirements are taken care of. On to step two…

He’ll need a device that’s recognized by Roon software and capable of talking to his current setup. The Burson Conductor 3 Reference, 3X Performance, and Playmate 2 are perfect solutions for that! They’re all certified by Roon to work seamlessly with our software. And I can tell you, as a former member of Roon’s tech support team, that I can’t remember receiving a single support request for a Burson Audio DAC. They worked absolutely flawlessly for me with Roon. 

They paired exceptionally well with the legacy test system I built using a late 1990s Yamaha receiver, B&W LM1 bookshelf speakers, and a budget subwoofer. I connected the Burson DACs to the Yamaha using inexpensive Monoprice Monolith RCA cables. And to further simulate Terry’s setup, I migrated my Roon Core to a Macbook Air, connected it to the Burson DACs with a 15′ USB-C cable, and then used my iPad as a Roon Remote.

Fulfilling the last requirement, the Burson DACs feed muscular Class A wattage to their headphone connections, plenty enough to drive even the most power-hungry headphones. They effortlessly pushed the Meze 99 NEO‘s, Empyrean, Liric, and my Massdrop 6XX cans. 

Sound Quality

I demoed each DAC with the legacy setup by randomly shuffling my Roon library to simulate laid-back weekend background music, then switched to headphones for a close listening session. As previously mentioned, all the sound shaping filter settings were left on the factory defaults. 

When integrated with the system setup, the Burson DACs sounded wondrously lush, exhibiting an exquisitely balanced, pleasing, natural sound signature across the entire frequency range. Their voice is full and dynamic; with stellar resolution and responsiveness. Detail, transparency, instrumental realism, imaging, space, and soundstage were at the level of quality powered stand mount speakers. I caught myself comparing their imaging and sweet spot to KEF’s several times.

Lows were full-bodied with excellent depth and chest-thumping energy. Charles Mingus‘s double bass literally made the walls vibrate. Impressive, especially when they were produced by <$100 budget sub that had never dreamed of sounding that good. 

Mids were rich, detailed, and wonderfully expressive. Unexpected song elements revealed deeper character – Fu Manchu’s fuzz-drenched guitars showcased molten texture as their amps unleashed waves of titan-slaying distortion. On the other end of the spectrum, Acoustic guitar strings were silky and articulate, and vocal presence was remarkably vivid and lively. 

Mid-Highs and Highs were airy and detailed but with a pleasant smoothness. There was copious transparency, excitement, and shimmer, but it was exceptionally musical and proportionate to the mids and lows. Gregor Piatigorsky, Charles Munch, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Dvorak‘s Cello Concerto in B minor (Op.104) danced in the high ceilings of my living room like it had been written for the space. The room is nearly entirely reflective surfaces and glass that sometimes cause problems for higher frequencies. But it accommodated the crushing volume I pushed through the Burson DACs without generating harsh harmonics or flutter echo. 

The sound signature of all three units was pretty consistent. The Conductor 3 Reference and Conductor 3X Performance benefitted in terms of transparency, resolution, and detail – advantages provided by Burson’s flagship V6 Vivid op-amp circuits. I also connected to those models using the enhanced Qualcomm Bluetooth 5.0 receivers and noticed the benefits of the upgraded circuitry. The Playmate 2 performed so admirably with the stock op-amps that I’ve decided to plug in the V6 Vivids for a test drive before returning it. All said it would take considerable effort and an active imagination to fault the sound quality of these units. They easily outperform devices several times their price.  

Headphones listening notes

My recent headphone listening has paired Meze models with the Chord Hugo 2 and Mojo 2. It’s a solid combination and one I’ve really enjoyed. My appreciation of Burson DACs was clinched after their test system performance, but their synergy was positively transcendent when partnered with the Meze 99 NEO, Liric, and Empyrean headphones.

Bob Marley and The Wailers – Positive Vibration from Rastaman Vibration

Pairing the 99 NEOs with the Conductor 3X Performance made them sing like open-back models. Heavy bottom end is synonymous with Roots Reggae, but it’s a very musical low end. Through an inferior DAC and poorly paired headphones, it often sounds muddled and flabby. I was floored by the depth of the bass extension and how well the Meze’s balanced them with the mids and highs on this classic track. Heavy detailed bass will reveal weaknesses quickly. But there were none present with this pairing.

Miles Davis Quintet – Shhh/Peaceful from In a Silent Way

For this incredibly funky, heavily textured Electric-Miles era jam, I broke out the Meze Liric and wired up the Playmate 2. The diminutive desktop Headphone Amp went straight to work, revealing tons of detail, luxurious mid-range wetness, and low-end groove. Miles’ trumpet fearlessly reaches far into the more challenging outer limits of its range a couple of times in this number. Those notes tend to sound sharp and brittle on most systems, but they were slightly rounded with the Playmate 2 and Liric. It’s a dense, energetic arrangement (three keyboards??!!), but with this combination, there was ample room to step inside, get comfortable, and look around.

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here from Wish You Were Here

The Floyd’s moving ode to Syd Barrett, their lost founder, and friend, was perfectly showcased by the Empyrean and Conductor 3 Reference marriage. David Gilmore‘s Martin acoustic and expressive vocal are the perfect vehicles for Roger Waters‘ stirring heartfelt lyrics to his erstwhile, broken bandmate. The BBC radio audio collage intro possessed surprising ambient detail. The whistling heterodyne signal haunts the corners of the soundstage like a phantom. After this, I hopscotched through the classic album rock in my library, playing one well-worn track after another, soaking up freshly revealed nuances with each new selection. 


Burson Audio manufactures sonically advanced, sturdily built, value-packed DACs that outperform units several times their price. The Playmate 2, Conductor 3X Performance, and Conductor 3 Reference DACs paired phenomenally well with our legacy test system.

Their sonics are wondrously lush, exhibiting an exquisitely balanced, pleasing, natural sound signature across the entire frequency range. Their voicing is full and dynamic. Detail, transparency, instrumental realism, imaging, space, resolution, responsiveness, and soundstage thoroughly exceeded expectations. Headphone listening was transcendent when paired with the Meze 99 NEO, Liric, and Empyrean.

Discovering previously missed details in my reference tracks and favorite songs is one of many rewards gleaned from testing and reviewing new gear. These Burson DACs scattered easter eggs throughout my most treasured go-to albums and performances to such a degree that finding them became a sonic fever dream of rediscovery.

The Playmate 2, Conductor 3X Performance, and Conductor 3 Reference DACs are ideal solutions for anyone looking to modernize, add quality headphone capabilities to their current setup, or affordably upgrade their existing DAC. I highly and enthusiastically recommend them!

To see the full line of Burson Audio DACS at the Roon Store

Additional observations of note

  • The Burson Audio Performance and Reference models run a bit hot after a few hours of use, even with the Cool Case design. Burson offers an optional Cool Stand to help alleviate that.
  • Like a Class A guitar amp, unplugging headphones or connection cables while the DAC is in use isn’t recommended. Doing so could damage the unit. Press pause before disconnecting cables. Power down by turning off the Amp, then the DAC to avoid speaker or headphone pops. Power up sequence is the reverse, DAC then the Amp.
  • Burson Audio provides specially designed XLR to RCA connectors for pairing the Conductor 3X Performance to receivers with RCA jacks. Failure to use them can damage the units. They’re quality connectors, use them. Burson has done the work for you, there’s no need to overthink things.
  • The fixed line-out signal of these DACs is pretty hot. Changing the output to Pre-Out and lowering the output level helped provide a wider range of volume adjustment for the Yamaha. Legacy receivers with adjustable input gain could use the fixed DAC line-out signal with minor input level attenuation.
  • The volume knob on the DACs is a little fussy. Volume units may jump up or down in the opposite direction of manipulation. 
  • The icon for Audio File Type and Resolution flickered slightly on the Performance and Playmate models I reviewed, a minor quibble – yet potentially annoying to some buyers.

Burson Audio DAC FAQs

Are Burson Audio DACs Roon Certified?

  • Yes, these DACs are Roon Tested and work flawlessly with a wired USB connection. For wireless Roon RAAT streaming, simply connect the DAC to a Roon Ready bridge of your choice.

What file formats and resolutions do Burson DACs support?

  • All three Burson Audio DACs we reviewed support up to 24-bit/192 kHz PCM via their Toslink/Co-axial input. Connected via USB support extends to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and Native DSD512. The Reference and Conductor models support DSD via PCM up to DSD512. Playmate 2 DSD via PCM support up to DSD256.  

What type of input and output connections do they have?

  • Conductor 3 Reference: inputs include 2 x RCA line-level, USB C, Optical Toslink, Coaxial, BlueTooth 5.0, and gaming microphone. Outputs are 1 x RCA Pre Amp, 1 x RCA Line Level DAC Out, and 2 x 6.3mm headphone jacks.
  • Conductor 3X Performance: inputs include USB C, Optical Toslink, Coaxial, BlueTooth 5.0, and gaming microphone. Outputs are 1 x XLR Preamp/DAC, 1 x RCA Preamp/DAC, 1 x 6.3mm headphone jack, 1 x XLR headphone jack.
  • Playmate 2: inputs include USB C, Toslink, and gaming microphone. Outputs are 1 x RCA Pre-Amp and 1 x 6.3mm headphone jack.

Tech specs:

Burson Audio Conductor 3 Reference:

  • DAC Chip Set: 2 x ESS9038 DAC chips, one per channel
  • Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 – 58Khz
  • Total Hamonic Distortion (THD): <0.0015%
  • Inputs: 2 x RCA line-level input, USB C, Optical Toslink, Coaxial, BlueTooth 5.0, Microphone
  • Outputs: 1 x RCA Pre Amp, 1 X RCA Line Level DAC Out, 2 x 6.3mm Headphone
  • Headphone Amp Wattage Rating: 7.5 Watts SE
  • Dimensions: 10″ (W) x 12.125″ (L) x 2.75″ (H)
  • Weight: 6 lbs, 9.75 oz
  • Warranty: 2+1 Years 

Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance:

  • DAC Chip Set: 1 x ESS9038Q2M DAC chip
  • Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 – 58Khz
  • Total Hamonic Distortion (THD): <0.0015%
  • Inputs: USB C, Optical Toslink, Coaxial, BlueTooth 5.0, Microphone
  • Outputs: 1 x XLR Preamp/DAC, 1 x RCA Preamp/DAC, 1 x 6.3mm Headphone, 1 x XLR Headphone
  • Headphone Amp Wattage Rating: 6 Watts XLR / 3 Watts SE
  • Dimensions: 7.688″ (W) x 9.72″ (L) x 2.25″ (H)
  • Weight: 3 lbs, 15.125 oz 
  • Warranty: 2+1 Years 

Burson Audio Playmate 2 DAC: 

  • DAC Chip Set: 1 x ESS9038Q2M DAC Chip
  • Frequency response: ± 1 dB 0 – 35Khz
  • Total Hamonic Distortion (THD): <0.002%
  • Inputs: USB C, Toslink, Microphone
  • Outputs: RCA Pre-Amp, 6.3mm Headphone 
  • Headphone Amp Wattage Rating: 3.5 Watts SE
  • Dimensions: 6″ (W) x 8.375″ (L) x 2.25″ (H)
  • Weight: 2 lbs, 4.5 oz
  • Warranty: 2+1 Years 

What’s in the box?

Burson Audio Conductor 3 Reference:

  • Conductor 3R DAC
  • Power cable and supply
  • Four spare OPamps
  • USB C cable
  • Allen wrench
  • Extra fuse
  • Remote

Burson Audio Conductor 3X Performance:

  • Conductor 3XP DAC
  • Power cable and supply
  • XLR to RCA adapters
  • Four spare OPamps
  • USB C cable
  • Allen wrench
  • Extra fuse
  • Remote

Burson Audio Playmate 2:

  • Playmate 2 DAC
  • Power cable and supply
  • USB C cable
  • Extra fuse
  • Gaming headphones adapter
  • Allen wrench

Visit the Roon Store to see our full line of DACs!

Roon Ready Writeups: Bluesound Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i Review

Premium wireless streaming speakers

Roon Ready Writeups returns with a look at the Roon Store’s most popular product category: All-in-One Speakers. Due to their popularity, we receive a lot of speaker questions from our customers. Most frequently asked is “which is the best speaker if I want to ….?”

Fortunately, our store has several stellar options that satisfy the dizzying range of possibilities represented by the ellipsis in the previous sentence. Let’s start with two Bluesound speakers that are staff and customer Roon Ready favorites – the Pulse 2i and its smaller sibling, the Pulse Mini 2i.

White Bluesound Pulse 2i

The Pulse 2i is Bluesound’s premium all-in-one stereo speaker. It delivers 150 watts of NAD Electronics bi-amplified, room-filling sound to two 5.25″ woofers and two 1″ dome tweeters by PSB. The Pulse 2i produces stunning full-range audio from an enclosure that’s roughly the size of a shoebox. Everything I played through this speaker was nicely detailed and deeply satisfying; it shines with symphonies, saxophones, and singer-songwriters. 

black bluesound pulse speaker on the kitchen counter with breakfast

The Pulse Mini 2i is its downsized sibling. It’s small but punches above its weight, delivering 100 watts of lovely NAD bi-amped audio via 4 PSB drivers, two 4″ mid-bass woofers, and two 0.75″ dome tweeters. The sound quality belies its miniature footprint. If you’re like me, you’ll catch yourself looking at this speaker in disbelief while putting together ingredients in the kitchen. 

Aside from their power and physical differences, Bluesound has designed both speakers with the same core feature set. Both support Roon’s most utilized formats: FLAC (up to 24/192kHz), WAV (up to 24/96kHz) MQA, and MP3. As well as AAC, WMA, WMA-L, OGG, ALAC, and AIFF. Rear-mounted connection points include:

  • 1 USB Type-A port for connecting a flash drive 
  • 1 USB Mini B for servicing
  • 1 combination mini-stereo/optical audio input (adapter included) 
  • 1 mini-stereo headphone out
  • 1 RJ45 gigabit ethernet port 

While we always recommend using a wired ethernet connection when possible, both speakers feature robust dual-band WiFi connectivity for when you want to grab your speaker and head for the patio, garage, or pool. Both provide rock-solid and hassle-free Roon Ready connectivity in addition to TIDAL Connect, Airplay 2, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth 5.0 aptX HD. Setting up with Bluesound’s BluOS app is intuitive and effortless; see the how-to video below.

The speakers have a moisture-resistant, sealed, wedge-like design with top-mounted touchpad controls. Roon Advanced Audio Transport (RAAT) implementation guarantees that those controls are fully integrated with Roon. Raise or lower the volume, pause, or change tracks from the speaker controls and Roon responds just as if you were in the app. Their unique shape and lack of rear bass porting make them perfect for corner placement. Both speaker enclosures accept a custom bracket from BlueSound for clean wall mounting. 

Ideal customer use scenarios

Another strength of Bluesound speakers is their ability to satisfy a wide range of customer needs: 

  • If you’re an aspiring audiophile or someone who’s looking to add another Roon Zone, these are a great choice. 
  • Both are great-sounding options for the patio, bathroom, office, or kitchen. The Roon/Pulse Mini 2i combo has certainly made family meal prep more enjoyable at my home. 
Bluesound pulse 2i home zones

And, with a few easy clicks in the Blu-OS app, any of the following configurations are possible:

  • A sleek all-in-one, Roon Ready stereo setup for a small apartment or larger room. 
  • A multichannel wireless surround system. 
  • A fixed, multi-speaker group that’s easily synced in Roon.

Problem-free enjoyment

More impressive than all of the qualities detailed above, however, is that they’re 100% reliable in Roon. I haven’t experienced any problems with these speakers since adding them to my Roon setup – not a single audio dropout or disappearing zone. A sum total of zero issues… that’s another sweet spot our customers seek in equal measure to sound quality. And Bluesound truly delivers when it comes to convenience. Roon customers’ feedback is completely consistent with my experience: they’re a pleasure when paired with Roon. There’s no fuss; it’s just you and your favorite music.

Our conclusion

The qualities described above are more than enough to earn our enthusiastic recommendation. But Bluesound’s crowning achievement is that they build wonderfully sounding speakers for an unbeatable price. The Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i deliver rich, detailed, dynamic sound across their full frequency range. They’re exceptionally balanced in their voicing, there’s no artificial EQ enhancement to cause hearing fatigue. Bluesound delivers a natural sound stage that invites and rewards extended listening sessions. This is just exactly what you expect from a premium speaker; transparency, balance, and detail that brings you closer to your favorite music. 

bluesound pulse speakers back to back

The Bluesound Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i excel in that respect while adding a wealth of convenience and reliability. Visit the Roon Store today to add the Bluesound Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i to your setup and enjoy Roon/Bluesound sound and convenience for yourself!

See our full line of All-in-one Speakers at the Roon Store.

Bluesound Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i FAQs

Are the Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i Roon Ready?

  • Yes! The Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i support wireless Roon streaming over your home network making them perfect options for adding additional music anywhere in your home.

Which file formats, and resolutions, are compatible with the Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i ?

  • Roon’s most utilized formats are supported! FLAC (up to 24/192kHz), WAV (up to 24/96kHz), MQA, and MP3 – in addition to AAC, WMA, WMA-L, OGG, ALAC, and AIFF.

What types of input and output connections are provided on the Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i? 

Physical connections include:

  • 1 USB Type-A port for connecting a flash drive
  • 1 USB Mini B for servicing
  • 1 combination mini-stereo/optical audio input (adapter included)
  • 1 mini-stereo headphone out
  • 1 RJ45 gigabit ethernet port 

Wireless connectivity support for:

  • Roon Ready connectivity plus dual-channel Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 aptX HD
  • TIDAL Connect, Airplay 2, Google Assistant, Spotify Connect, Live Radio, and others via Bluesound’s BluOS app

Tech specs:

Pulse 2i

  • Loudspeakers: 2 x 5.25″ PSB woofers; 2 x 1″ PSB tweeters
  • Total amplification power: 150 watts bi-amplified (65W x 2 woofers; 10W x 2 tweeters)
  • Frequency response: 45-20,000 Hz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: THD+N 0.030%
  • Dimensions: 16.5″ (W) x 7.8″ (H) x 7.55″ (D)
  • Weight: 11 lbs, 2 ozs
  • Warranty: 1 year

Pulse Mini 2i

  • Loudspeakers: 2 x 4″ PSB woofers; 2 x .75″ PSB tweeters
  • Total amplification power: 100 watts bi-amplified (40W x 2 woofers; 10W x 2 tweeters)
  • Frequency response: 50-20,000 Hz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: THD+N 0.030%
  • Dimensions: 13.2″ (W) x 6.8″ (H) x 6.1″ (D)
  • Weight: 7 lbs, 15 ozs
  • Warranty: 1 year

What’s in the box?

Pulse 2i and Pulse Mini 2i come with:

  • Bluesound wireless speaker
  • 2 AC power cables (US and European)
  • Optical to 3.5mm adapter
  • Ethernet cable
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty/Safety Guide

Roon Community Reviews: The Escape P6 Air as a Garden System

The following review was graciously contributed by Roon Community contributor, Thomas. Layout and editing were added by the Roon Editorial staff to convert the forum posts to a review format.

Discovering the Escape P6 Air

I had read about the P6 Air before, but it was not clear to me if and how stereo pairing would be possible. By accident, I discovered the Escape booth at the Munich High End show in May. Unfortunately, it was not possible to listen to the speakers. But, I had a talk there, where I learned how to configure the stereo pairing with Roon. More on that is below.

A week later, I listened to the speaker at a local dealer in Germany and ordered a pair at once. I have been enjoying my Escapes for three weeks now, mainly as a garden sound system.

Sure, you can find good speakers for this price. But, it’s hard to find portable WiFi enabled speakers with the sound quality of an Escape P6 Air stereo pair.

Thomas, Roon Community Contributor

Sound Quality

There was a huge difference in sound quality with the Escape P6 Air compared to my older pair of not much cheaper SAXX-Audio AS 50 speakers I used with a Chromecast Audio dongle – and with no grouping option to my other Roon zones.

I am fortunate, because my son is grown up, and most of my neighbours are of advanced retirement age and therefore mostly hard of hearing. I love being able to listen to good-quality music at an appropriate volume outside on a warm spring/summer evening in a quiet suburb in my region. To be able to perceive something like a soundstage, or to locate instruments in a stereo setup, on the terrace in good weather with a glass of delicious wine is, for me, real quality of life!

It’s simply different than in a closed living room or listening room; even though my systems are objectively considerably better in those spaces. I’m just glad, after a long search, to have finally found outdoor speakers that largely meet my requirements.

Of course like all digital active speakers, the Escapes are DSP sounded. But there are a few options to choose from, and fewer still that can be adapted to one’s own requirements and tastes.

Creating an Escape P6 Air stereo pair in Roon

The Escape P6s were originally designed as a stand-alone solution and, in order to create a stereo effect as such, have two opposing full-range drivers in addition to the subwoofer.

Escape gave me a solution to my stereo pair requirements that uses Roon’s Procedural EQ mix filter and is better suited for outdoor use. Due to the P6 Air’s additional sound radiation to the rear a “fuller” sound image is created.

Provided by Thomas
Provided by Thomas

Reliable outdoor connectivity

Most of the time the connection is very stable, but it sometimes depends where on the terrace I set up the speakers. I have mesh WiFi with a router and two repeaters connected via LAN.

On one terrace, the connection runs via only one repeater – and it always works. On another terrace, my source device sometimes switches between the router and a repeater. I occasionally have problems because of this, i.e. it takes longer for a connection to become stable. The speaker connection sometimes breaks, or the signals from both speakers are not exactly synchronised. At the same time, a message appears that Roon is looking for the server. This is usually easily solved by restarting the album, radio station, or playlist.


With a few more days of user experience, I would add the following: Radio Paradise is usually my favourite source for daily “music consumption” when outside. But with the Escape P6 Air I can now enjoy well-produced jazz, classical, and opera – in really good quality.

20 hours on one battery charge is rarely possible in my experience, but at least 12 hours at moderate volume is absolutely feasible. Although I’ve noticed that the Escape Remote app sometimes displays my two speakers at 30% and 70 % battery capacity, respectively, at the same runtime.

Nevertheless, for me, the sound quality of the P6 Air is exceptional, even for this price point – especially in stereo pairing. They are, for me, the best sounding truly mobile outdoor speakers that I could hear so far. And, with Roon Ready as the icing on the cake that makes pairing the two zones possible.

The Roon Store only serves North America. In my particular case, being in Germany, I bought my Escape P6 Airs from an established Munich HiFi dealer. But, I hope my experience helps you in the decision-making process. I definitely recommend the Escape P6 Air!

See the Escape P6 Air at the Roon Store.

Tech specs:

  • Connectivity: Roon Ready, Airplay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 5
  • Loudspeakers: 2 x 3″mid-range drivers; 1 x 6 1/2″ woofer
  • Total amplification power: 60 watts RMS total system power
  • Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
  • DSP: Soundstage width adjustment, user adjustable EQ
  • Control interface: Top panel touch controls, Escape Remote App for iOS and Android, Google Home app
  • Battery: lithium iron phosphate (LiFePo4) provides 16 hours at background volume / 8 hours at typical listening volume
  • Dimensions: 7.8″ (W) x 21.6″ (H) x 7.8″ (D)
  • Weight: 16 lbs, 8 ozs

What’s in the box

  • P6 Air Wireless Speaker
  • Power cord
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Warranty/Safety Guide

See the full line of All-in-one Speakers at the Roon Store.

Roon Ready Writeups: Open-back Planar Magnetic Headphones – Meze Empyrean and Elite Review

In their essence, Empyrean and Elite are sound-emitting art objects for the head that transport their wearer to a mystical parallel universe where music has retained all the supernatural attributes regaled upon it in the tales of yore. Or something very close to that… anyway. 

Roon Ready Writeups returns with part three of our Meze earphones and headphones series. Part one highlighted the Rai Penta and Advar in-ear monitors, while Part two featured their closed-back models, the Liric99 Neo, and 99 Classics. In this segment, we’ll explore their flagship open-back models – the revolutionary Empyrean and Elite.

Meze’s Hypnotic Allure

meze empyrean black copper

In the lead-up to this review, I wondered if it was possible to discuss these models without unwittingly stepping in a pile of hyperbole. Meze’s Empyrean and Elite headphones are some of the most innovative planar magnetic headphone designs the world has to offer. But for all its accuracy, that statement utterly fails to communicate the euphoria of handling and listening to them. These products practically beg the beholder to go off the deep end descriptively. It’s as if some secret hypnotic force within their enclosures urges the writer on. In their essence, Empyrean and Elite are sound-emitting art objects for the head that transport their wearer to a mystical parallel universe where music has retained all the supernatural attributes regaled upon it in the tales of yore. Or something very close to that… anyway. 

Beauty and innovation, in every detail

If Meze Audio needed to communicate its aesthetic and acoustic ethos with a single product, either of these headphones would exceed the requirements. Both result from their ongoing success in teaming up with Rinaro Isodynamics of Ukraine. Rinaro has been a fixture at the forefront of planar magnetic research and development since the 1980s. It’s a partnership built on curiosity, experimentation, and daring. The Empyrean and Elite exemplify the culmination of 30 years of intense acoustic research packed into designs that check every box, sonically and stylistically. 

Every element of these headphones is purpose-built for unparalleled performance. Meze’s characteristic attention to detail is on full display here. Empyrean and Elite come housed in a striking aluminum flight case with high-quality accessories. Not surprisingly, the stock OFC cables that accompanied the headphones were of exceptional quality. Unlike other audio companies that skimp on trimmings, Meze’s presentation is elegant, tacitly conveying respect and appreciation for their customers.

Meze Empyrean jet black

The chassis of these headphones are ingeniously milled from a single piece of precision aluminum. The skeletal grillwork isn’t just beautiful; it increases airflow and driver performance. The exceptionally lightweight carbon steel frame and unique pressure distribution headband design balance weight evenly, ensuring maximum comfort. The hybrid Alcantara and leather pads provide a cozy luxurious musical space that invites hours of relaxed listening. The ultra-thick earpads are held firmly in place by the driver’s magnetic system, making changing out ear pads an effortless task. There’s nothing left to improve in terms of form and fit.

Empyrean and Elite represent the absolute apex of planar magnetic technology. Both feature first-of-their-kind hybrid dual driver arrays that are hand assembled by Rinaro exclusively for Meze. The dual voice coil configuration improves the sound intensity distribution and creates a balanced response across the entire frequency spectrum. 

The larger switchback coil generates the low-end frequencies and is positioned in the upper part of the driver. The spiral coil delivers middle-high frequencies and is set directly in front of the ear canal, improving auditory perception in those ranges. The ovoid earcups conform to the ear’s natural anatomy and sound processing, enabling sound waves to enter the ear without any time delays or image slurring. 

meze elite

The soundstage of both headphones is quite copious; their ample breadth lends additional dimension to the sound, much like listening to high-end speakers in a room but without the environmental tone coloring. 

Empyrean and Elite feature captivating, vivid sound. There’s great heft and body to the voicing, but it maintains an exceptionally even balance that provides plenty of instrumental space across a wide frequency range. High-range extension feels airy yet natural and balanced. The same holds true for the mids and the low end making them perfect for reproducing complexly layered music and critical listening – no matter your choice of music. 

Listening Notes

I demoed each track with the Empyrean, followed by the Elite, to closely examine the sonic differences between the models. Selections were played through Chord’s Hugo 2 portable DAC with the EQ and Crossfeed features set to “off.”

Simon & Garfunkel – Scarborough Fair/Canticle from Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, And Thyme

Roon software screen share

Empyrean: Roon attracts fans of every genre of music. I chose this song because it’s folk-pop music with distinctive classical attributes. The soundstage created a wide vista for examining each instrument’s voice. Notes from Simon’s acoustic bloom below the delicate ring of the chimes. The harpsichord dances behind fully resolving descending bass lines. The multitracked vocals comprise a symphony of textures. Listening to the track through the Emypreans was genuinely like hearing it for the first time. I played it five or six times in a row, attempting to focus on each instrumental element individually but got swept away in the intoxicating music every time. 

Elite: I admit to thinking that there couldn’t possibly be anything Elite could add to what I heard in the Empyrean, but I was wrong. Texture, timbre, and space are complex elements to capture in text. In the intro, Simon’s guitar has a slightly warmer mid-range resonance on the plucked strings. Air on the layered vocals feels slightly more pronounced. The harpsichord is crystalline and holographic in the far right channel. The descending bass line is fuller and authoritative but with less crispness than heard in the Empyrean. It feels foundational and broader through the Elites.  

Charles Earland – Black Talk from Black Talk

Roon software screen share

Empyrean: Black Talk is a stunning reinterpretation of The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby with an exhilarating drive. This one perfectly demonstrates the Empyrean’s skill at bringing a song’s essence to life. The instrumentation simmers deliciously. Melvin Spark’s hollow body jazz guitar is spunky and funky. Earland digs in, and man, let me tell you – this is what the Hammond is supposed to sound like! The trumpet and tenor and perfectly articulated. The fuzzy vibration from Person’s reed tells you everything you need to know about Meze’s detailed presentation. Idris Muhammad keeps things cooking on drums. They’re back in the mix and boxy, but that’s a characteristic of the mix – not the headphones.

Elite: The Elite added a bit of overall pop to the track, and the trumpet and tenor stepped forward in the mix. My Hammond love was further accentuated here – what a lush groove! The texture on the trumpet was more apparent. The guitar picked up some heft as well. But all of this was accomplished without artificial thickening or muddying of detail. 

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – All Along the Watchtower from Electric Ladyland

Roon software screen share

Empyrean: Ok, but how do they handle Jimi’s apocalyptic take on Dylan’s pastoral original? Well, with all the detail and excitement I’d expect based on the previous selections. This track retains Jimi’s dense orchestration, but there’s more space, thanks to the Empyrean’s staging and detail. I heard either scratch or buried vocal tracks I’ve never noticed hiding in the right rear of the mix. When I consider the number of times I’ve spun Electric Ladyland, that’s an awe-inspiring feat. Jimi’s guitar multitracking brilliance is illustrated in full psychedelic technicolor, thanks to Meze!

Elite: The models’ differences were less noticeable here. Perhaps I’m still reeling from what I heard in the Empyrean, but the presentation is very similar, going from one to the other on this particular track. There may be a subtle degree of added depth in the mid-range with Elite that better showcases Jimi’s guitar prowess but it’s a very nominal difference.

Our Conclusion: The quest for perfect sound has reached its end.

Meze has carved out a unique niche among audio manufacturers, where daring and timeless artistic expression intersect with passionate innovation that exceeds all expectations. Empyrean and Elite establish a new standard, not just among audiophile headphones but in natural, accurate, life-like sound reproduction. These aren’t only the best-sounding and most comfortable headphones I’ve ever heard or worn. – they’re products of heirloom quality destined to amaze and inspire generations of music listeners. If you’re seeking headphones with unrivaled aesthetics and an accurate yet vivid and uniquely engaging sound signature, Meze should be on your shortlist. Pure magic awaits you in the Empyrean and Elite. 

See the full line of Meze products at the Roon Store.

Tech Specs:


  • Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array MZ3
  • Ear Cup Design: Open Back
  • Frequency Range: 4Hz – 110kHz
  • Impedance: 31,6 Ω
  • Sensitivity: 100 dB/1 mW
  • Maximum SPL: > 130 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): < 0.1% at 1kHz
  • Materials: Black Leather, Magnesium Frame
  • Weight: 15.1 ounces
  • Warranty period: 2 years


  • Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array MZ3SE
  • Ear Cup Design: Open Back
  • Frequency Range: 3Hz – 113kHz
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Sensitivity: 101 dB/1 mW
  • Maximum SPL: > 130 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): < 0.05% at 1kHz
  • Materials: Black Leather, Magnesium Frame
  • Weight: 15.1 ounces
  • Warranty period: 2 years

What’s in the Box


  • Meze Empyrean Open-Back Headphones
  • High-strength aluminum suitcase with foam inserts
  • Two sets of earpads: one Alcantara, one Real Leather
  • Serial number and Inspection certificate
  • Owners Manual
  • Cable options: 
    • 2.5m OFC Cable, 4 pin mini XLR to 6.5mm jack or
    • 1.2m OFC Cable, 4 pin mini XLR to 3.5mm or
    • 2.5m OFC Cable, 4 pin mini XLR to XLR


  • Meze Elite Open-Back Headphones
  • High-strength aluminum suitcase with foam inserts
  • Two sets of earpads: one Alcantara, one HYBRID Perforated Alcantara Interior + Real Leather Exterior
  • Serial number and Inspection certificate
  • Owners Manual
  • Cable options: 
    • 2.5m OFC Cable, 4 pin mini XLR to 6.5mm jack or
    • 1.2m OFC Cable, 4 pin mini XLR to 3.5mm or
    • 2.5m OFC Cable, 4 pin mini XLR to XLR

See the full line of Meze products at the Roon Store.

Roon Ready Writeups: Closed-back Headphones – Meze 99 Neo, 99 Classics, and Liric Review

Any audio product that inspires us to spend more time listening to music is a winner. Naturally, that makes us big fans of Meze headphones… they place high-quality audio within easy reach of most buyers’ budgets.

Roon Ready Writeups is back with part two of a three-part series on Meze earphones and headphones. In part one, we checked out their stellar Rai Penta and Advar in-ear monitors and were excited by what we heard and saw – you can find that review here if you missed it. In this installment, Meze’s closed-back models take the spotlight as we discuss their planar magnetic Liric, 99 Neo, and the 99 Classics – the model that secured them a trove of coveted awards and an equal measure of brand loyalty upon their release in 2015.

Any audio product that inspires us to spend more time listening to music is a winner, in our opinion. Naturally, that makes us big fans of Meze headphones. Not simply because they achieve that goal in addition to looking and sounding great, but more importantly – they place high-quality audio within easy reach of most buyers’ budgets. Another advantage of quality headphones is that they create a personal listening space that’s free of room coloration and that can be enjoyed anywhere.

Some owners may initially hesitate to take their Mezes on the go, but they’re certainly up to the challenge. The 99 Neo and 99 Classics cost much less than many of the more pervasive popular brands saturating the market, have far better sound, and feature superior build quality. Every component of the 99 series is manufactured in-house by Meze and is owner replaceable in the unlikely event that they should ever require repair. I can’t think of another headphone in this price range that can make that claim.

Meze 99 Neo

Old school cool

When I opened the 99 Neo for the first time, I was immediately smitten by its vintage vibe. Their textured black earcups evoke the retro cool of classic 1970s cans by Pioneer, Kenwood, and the Koss Pro 4AAs I wore for many years while working in radio. 

The craftsmanship of the 99 Classics is even more striking. Each pair is fitted with solid walnut earcups featuring unique grain figuration. Like a fine acoustic instrument, the patina of daily use imbues the eye-catching tonewood with additional character. The earcup shaping and finishing process takes 45 days, about the same amount of time required to build a top-of-the-line Martin Guitar. That’s an impressive commitment to quality.

Meze Audio founder, Antonio Meze, has stated that considerable effort went into achieving a uniform sound signature between the Neo and Classics, making the Neo an absolute steal for the price. The tonal presentation of the 99 Series is similar to those vintage brands mentioned earlier. I’d describe its voice as “classic hi-fi” rather than “audiophile.” Like many fellow reviewers, I couldn’t be more pleased with that as they sound perfectly lovely with a rich, soulful, naturally engaging articulation. The highs could feel slightly rolled off to some listeners, but I find them nicely detailed and authentic, without any artificially augmented coloring.

All resemblance to vintage audio headphones evaporates when it comes to comfort. Rather than the vice-like grip of those vintage models I mentioned, the 99 series are unbelievably lightweight. The spring steel frame eliminates fatigue, while the self-adjusting padded leather headband ensures maximum comfort. The medium firm, comfy earpads and snug fit provide excellent isolation inviting hours of relaxed listening. Simply put: they are the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. I’ve actually fallen asleep wearing them.

Meze Liric

Liric is Meze’s first closed-back planar magnetic headphone for audiophiles on the go. Like the 99 models, it has a somewhat vintage appeal, but sonic gold awaits inside its elegant, understated exterior. It’s a bold marriage of cutting-edge acoustic engineering and Meze’s unmistakable artistic expression, featuring the same revolutionary hand-assembled isodynamic hybrid array technology found in their flagship Emyprean and Elite models – for a fraction of the cost. In fact, Liric caught many Meze observers off-guard with its wealth of new features and by how quickly it followed the unveiling of the Elite.

The newly designed Phase-X system eliminates phase distortion while creating three-dimensional spatial imaging for immersive listening. The advanced ovoid earcup maximizes acoustic space and sonic delivery. Meze’s precisely tuned pressure equalization system enhances earcup energy release resulting in vividly detailed, life-like enveloping sound. Liric also introduces Meze’s new Ear Pad Air Flow system, combined with an advanced skeletal frame, soft touch leather headband, adjustable fit, and vented cushion for fantastic comfort with prolonged listening. 

Liric’s sound signature is abundantly pleasing – featuring buttery mids and detailed, airy highs with robust, natural deep bass. The sound staging is astoundingly three-dimensional for a closed-back headphone.

Listening notes

I demoed each track with the 99 Series, followed by Liric, to examine the sonic differences between these models. Selections were played through Chord’s Mojo 2 portable DAC with the EQ and Crossfeed features set to “off.”

Gordon LightfootThe Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald from Summertime Dream

99 Series: Lightfoot’s haunting ode to men who went down with the SS Edmund Fitzgerald is lush and warm through the 99s. The drum and guitar bass response is robust but not exaggerated. When the toms kick in at 1:34, the sense of depth is intoxicating. The layered guitars land right in the 99s’ mid-range sweet spot. The steel guitar has nice sparkle, with a slight roll-off of its brighter edges. Closer listening reveals nice air between Lightfoot’s vocal and the instruments’ interaction with the plate reverb. 

Liric: Through Liric, you’re placed on the ship’s deck, fully immersed in an unfolding cinematic drama relayed in the song. Liric’s presentation is remarkably organic and pleasing. They required a slight bump in volume to match the gain of the 99s. Bass extension was more pronounced yet remained natural. The warmish snare of the 99 is snappy here. The toms acquire additional heft, and instrumental detail is sharper overall as is expected, given the advanced tech packed into this model.

Bob Marley & the WailersNatural Mystic from Exodus

99 Series: The opening from Exodus perfectly showcases the 99s bass chops. This is my go-to for bass reference, thanks to the heavy foundation laid down by the Barrett Brothers. This track swamps out underachievers, and the 99s sail through it with finesse. The up-stroke of the guitars is clear and articulate. Bob’s vocal takes center stage and is presented with lovely detail. Like the previous track, the reverb on the voice and instrumentation has an airy warmth. This one really demonstrates the musicality and bass extension of the 99 series.

Liric: The take-away on this track is mirrored in the previous description. Liric handles the bass lines admirably, adding depth and texture without artificial coloring. The guitars demonstrate additional detail and clarity. The steel drums pop aggressively. Interestingly, Bob’s vocal feels slightly softer in some passages compared to the 99s. 

Billie HolidayI’m a Fool to Want You from Lady in Satin

99 Series: By the time Billie recorded Lady in Satin, the turmoil of her life was fully imprinted on her voice. Her cracked, broken instrument is a startling juxtaposition against Ray Ellis’ shimmering orchestral backing. This piece dismisses charges from critics who claim that the 99 series lacks high-end definition. The soundstage here is spacious and lovely. Billie’s melancholy melismatic vocal tugs at the heart, cushioned by soaring violin accompaniment. Every instrument in the mix has plenty of room for individual examination. 

Liric: Wow, just wow! The lush presentation of the 99s is taken to an entirely new level through the Liric. The Liric feels more like an open-back design when showcasing this piece. The instrumentation exhibits increased detail, revealing previously missed call and response between Billie’s vocal and the trombone. Holiday’s delivery here is shockingly frail and intimate. The song’s storyline is one she’s lived, lending authenticity and emotional resonance to her reading.

Our Conclusion: Unbeatable audio for the price.

The Meze 99 Neo and Classics are incredibly comfortable and offer unbeatable sound quality at their price point. Build quality is on-par with models that are far more expensive. Attention to detail is top-notch; all components are replaceable if needed, and they’re easily driven by ordinary mobile devices without any significant loss in fidelity. Meze’s 99 Neo and Classics could represent the best value on the market for sound quality this impressive.  

Liric, while more expensive, offers a substantial accomplishment in planar magnetic audio. By completely reimagining the sonic advancements of their flagship Emyprean and Elite models for a closed-back design, Meze demonstrates that they’re not content to rest on past achievements. I feel confident that we’re sure to see and hear many more surprises from Meze in the future. 

Their passion for innovation and pushing boundaries is inherent across their entire product line. Whether you’re in the market for your first set of quality affordable headphones or poised to explore a planar magnetic option, Meze’s closed-back models are no-risk choices featuring sublime sound and unmatched design traits.
See the full line of Meze products at the Roon Store.

Tech specs

99 Neo

  • Transducer size: 40mm
  • Frequency response: 15Hz – 25KHz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
  • Impedance: 26 Ω
  • Rated input power: 30mW
  • Maximum input power: 50mW
  • Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
  • Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
  • Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
  • Ear-cups: ABS Plastic

99 Classics

  • Transducer size: 40mm
  • Frequency response: 15Hz – 25KHz
  • Sensitivity: 103dB at 1KHz, 1mW
  • Impedance: 32 Ω
  • Rated input power: 30mW
  • Maximum input power: 50mW
  • Detachable Kevlar OFC cable
  • Plug: 3.5mm gold plated
  • Weight: 260 gr (9.2 ounces) without cables
  • Ear-cups: Walnut hardwood


  • Driver Type: Rinaro Isodynamic Hybrid Array® MZ4
  • Operating Principle: Closed
  • Ear Coupling: Circumaural
  • Frequency Response: 4-92,000 Hz
  • Impedance: 30 Ω
  • Nominal SPL: 100 dB (1 mW / 1 kHz)
  • Maximum SPL: > 130 dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.15%
  • Weight: 391 g

What’s in the Box

99 Neo

  • 99 Neo in Black/Silver or Black/Gold
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • 59″ braided Kevlar cable with mic/remote terminated in straight 3.5mm plug
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapter
  • Airline jack adapter
  • Soft zippered cable and accessories pouch
  • Manual
  • 2 Meze Audio decals

99 Classics

  • 99 Classics in Walnut/Silver or Walnut/Gold
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • 9.9′ Cable (straight 3.5mm plug)
  • 59″ braided Kevlar cable with mic/remote (straight 3.5mm plug)
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapter
  • Airline jack adapter
  • Soft zippered cable and accessories pouch
  • Manual
  • 2 Meze Audio decals


  • Presentation Box
  • Liric planar magnetic headphones
  • Hard Case: protective EVA case with Meze Audio metal logo
  • 122″ audio cable (straight 3.5mm plugs)
  • 56″ audio cable (straight 3.5mm plugs)
  • 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapter
  • Airline jack adapter
  • Accessory cables pouch
  • Large format full-color brochure

See the full line of Meze products at the Roon Store

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

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

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

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

Meze Audio Advar

Musical Mysticism:

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

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

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

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

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

Kick Out the Jams 

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

Fleetwood Mac – Gold Dust Woman from Rumours

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

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

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

Gábor Szabó – Mizrab from The Socerer

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

The Verdict:

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

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

See our full Meze headphone offerings at the Roon Store. 

Additional Observations of Note:

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

Tech Specs:


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


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

What’s in the Box


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


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