Roon Does DSD (Now)

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Music servers and computer audio
Roon Does DSD (Now)

Roon software was recently released for audiophiles to use in playing back computer audio music files. Evolved from Meridian’s Sooloos software, Roon’s interface is refreshingly different from the iTunes-inspired model that’s so popular for digitally-encoded music playback. The initial release of Roon lacked the ability to play DSD-encoded music files, although it would play PCM files up to DXD level (384 kHz/24 bit).

A couple of days ago, when I started up Roon, a message notified me an update to the program was available, and asked if I wanted to make the update. When I told Roon to proceed with the update, there was the usual pause while new program code was downloaded, and then I was asked to restart Roon. When the updated program was started up, I was surprised to see a number of cover art icons I hadn’t seen before, all labeled as New albums. I knew those albums had been around for months, so I wondered why their cover art icons had just showed up. When I scrutinized the cover art, it dawned on me: those were all from DSD albums, which heretofore would not play on Roon. But now, they will; the latest program update added that capability.

Of course, I had to try several DSD-encoded albums, and they all played. However, on the two dongle-DACs I used (LH Labs Geek Out 450 and iFi nano DSD), Roon’s default setting converted the DSD files to PCM before playing them. After checking Roon’s support forum (https://community.roonlabs.com/t/my-dac-supports-dsd-so-why-is-roon-converting-to-pcm/1657), I discovered that although Roon’s standard settings do indeed convert DSD files to PCM, you can go into the Speaker Settings and change DSD Playback Strategy to DSD over PCM, which will play DSD files without PCM conversion. I did notice that when I played a DSD256 file, the music files were transcoded to 352.8 kHz/24 bit PCM files. The album If You Love for Beauty Volume II, with Chausson’s “Poeme de l'Amour et de la Mer” sung by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cohen with the Colburn Orchestra conducted by Yehuda Gilad is a newish DSD256 recording on Yarlung Records (NativeDSD.com). Played through Roon on a very modest desktop system consisting of a Dell Inspiron 530 computer and either the iFi nano DSD DAC/amplifier or the LH Labs Geek Out 450 DAC/amplifier driving NAD Viso HP50 headphones, it sounded extremely rich, even lush. Roon’s screen correctly identified files as DSD256, but the status lights on the DACs showed DXD. Regardless of the correct format, the music was ravishingly beautiful-as were the DSD64 and DSD128 music files I played. Now there’s even more reason to try Roon. https://roonlabs.com/