Keep in mind that I’m using Roon installed on a Windows computer, so it may look a bit different on a Macintosh or a tablet. Roon starts up pretty fast, comparable to most computer programs. And it’s as easy to use as it was to set up—maybe easier!
Roon plays the following audio formats: WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, and OGG. It also plays DSF but not DFF files, either by using the DSD over PCM process, or by converting them to PCM. So if your DAC won’t play DSD, Roon can still play DSD files by converting them to PCM on the fly. According to the Roon Forum, it will also play MP3 and AAC files (Roon requires that the supported operating systems provide the codecs).
The first screen you’ll see is the Overview screen, which shows some information about your library and albums that you’ve recently installed in the library. The specific album art is from my Roon Server; unless we have the exact same albums in our libraries, the albums Roon displays on your computer will be different.
If you’ve just loaded some new albums onto your storage medium, that’s probably just what you’d want to play as soon as you start Roon, so that’s what the program shows you first. After the greeting at the top of the Overview Screen, there appears a line of information about your library: 1) number of albums in the library, 2) number of tracks in the library, 3) number of individual artists in the library, 4) number of songs in the library for which lyrics are available, 5) number of albums in the library for which there are reviews or biographies of the artists, and 6) number of albums with either cover art images or for which there are pictures of the artists.
Under the library summary row, you’ll see a row of the most recently installed albums. There’s a lot of information displayed here: 1) the cover art (if there is no cover art, a thumbnail of a microphone or a violin is displayed), 2) the name of the album, and 3) the artist on the album. For a classical performance, you’ll see the conductor and the orchestra, or the soloist if there is one. There is also a note telling you how long ago the album was added to the library. To view your entire library, just click the text View All at the end of the line of cover art, and Roon will display all the albums in your library, sorted by date added. In other words, the latest album you added will appear on the top row on the left end. Finally, there’s a line of five stars, which represent album ratings. You have to insert a rating, unless there is a rating in a professional magazine. Half-star ratings can also be assigned.
If you don’t want to listen to a newly installed album, click the View All button to display all your albums. When you do that, additional albums will be displayed. Again, these are the albums in my library—yours will look different.
OK, for purposes of illustration, let’s say I want to play the album Girl Talk by the Holly Cole Trio. I first click on the album cover on the View All screen.
When I click on the Girl Talk cover art, Roon takes me to the playback screen for that album.
You’ll notice that Roon presents you with an abbreviated version of the album’s liner notes to the right of its cover art. Underneath the cover art is a line telling you the digital format (AIFF), the sampling rate and bit depth of the recording (88.2 kHz/24 bits), and whether the recording is two-channel or multichannel. Then, at the lower right corner of the cover art, you’ll see the total length of the recording (45 minutes).
Beneath all that, you see a track list, which includes the track name and the composer for each song. On the right, you see other albums by the artist that are in your library. To my eye, all this information looks far more like the liner notes for an album than any other playback program I’ve seen. That makes it much easier to read.
To play the album, click the button that says “Play Album” and then the button that pops up and says “Play Now.” A symbol that looks a bit like a spectrum analyzer appears next to the first song, and that song begins to play. Each song plays in order. If you want to stop playback, click the “Pause” button at the bottom of the screen and the song stops. Click the button again to start playing exactly where you left off. Easy, huh? If you want to play a single song, click the name of the song on the list, then click the “Play Now” button. You can use the buttons beside the “Play Now” button to compile a playlist. Using Roon is simple and intuitive.
Although my DAC doesn’t play DSD256, I carelessly selected a DSD256 album, If You Love for Beauty Vol. II, music of Chausson performed by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, with Yehuda Gilad leading The Colburn Orchestra (DSD256, Yarlung Records/NativeDSD Music), and much to my surprise, music issued from my speakers. A glance at the DAC’s front panel showed that Roon was converting the files to 352.8/24 PCM on the fly.