Roon 1.8 Music Management Software Review
Just prior to its official release, Jay Garrett brings you a sneak preview of the latest version of this cult music management software…
Roon 1.8 arrives on February 9th and promises a better way to discover music, as well as an even friendlier interface. I have been running the Beta versions on my QNAP NAS core as well as Surface Go and Huawei P30 Pro controllers for the past few weeks and feel the developers have done a great job.
For those with music stored on a network-connected drive who also subscribe to one or more of the hi-res streaming services, Roon should be seriously considered. I signed up to it in 2018 and have never looked back. A single search will not only check what I have on my NAS but will also simultaneously interrogate the hefty databases of Tidal and Qobuz to which I also subscribe. It then shows the results for all the places that track, artist or album can be found.
The first thing that strikes you with the new version is the modern look that Roon has now adopted. For me, it feels much more like an online music magazine, thanks to the choice of typography and layout. Indeed it mirrors the latest web design aesthetics, and so should feel a lot more familiar to new users if they spend any time on the internet at all. Roon also feels more personalised than before.
Furthermore, we now have vertical scrolling. This makes it more intuitive and easier to find what you're looking for, no matter what kind of device you’re using. The result is that your Roon experience is consistent and seamless across desktop and mobile devices.
Roon has updated the Home screen that now features an all-new dashboard of what you have been listening to over time, broken down by top artists, albums and genres. This can be switched to show data for the last week, month, year or from when you signed up. Time to move away from your Bucks Fizz collection for a little while, perhaps? You also get a calendar view of what music you've been listening to over the last four weeks, and clicking on each section offers even more insight into your listening habits down to the minute.
Discography is a neat addition and makes it easier to flick through even the most prolific artist’s catalogue. Another nice touch is if you search for an artist, the result displays a quick Overview biography, the most popular tracks and then the Discography where the albums are listed by Popularity – a great way to discover a new artist. Naturally, you can list the albums by release date, but having their most popular works listed in order is the way to go for discovering new artists. Another neat way is to check out the In Their Prime sections for longer-established artists.
I hadn’t used Roon's Focus tool much until testing 1.8, which is a shame as it had the potential to be a useful way of rediscovering music in my own library that’s been overlooked. However, I generally dismissed it as Focus was a little hidden out of the way, but, more to the point, it seemed to act differently depending on where your search started. Well, Roon has taken note, and the new Focus tool is not only more accessible but also looks through your subscribed services as well as your own library. This means that, when you filter by one of your favourite artists and start looking at their collaborations, the results are also pulled from Qobuz and Tidal.
Alternatively, you can start following the path that unfolds by focusing on their writing partners. Focus also lets you filter by source (Qobuz, Tidal, local) or by format (CD quality, lossless, etc.), and becomes even more useful when looking into Classical/ Orchestral music. With Discography and Focus working in concert, so to speak, you can drill down to a Performances view, where you can use Focus to find the exact performance you're looking for. Roon also lists all the recorded performances of a composition available from your library and your subscribed services. Powerful stuff!
Classical is always a tricky one for streaming services and the likes of Roon. Still, this latest update makes taking on this vast genre – and all the intricacies, and variables involved – less daunting. This is at least in part thanks to a combination of Roon's deep metadata and data taken from how I, and Roon's community of 100,000 expert listeners, use the platform.
Roon 1.7 Vālence was a move in the right direction, but 1.8 has made what was already a useable and slick interface into a more vital and immersive way of discovering music. It goes live on February 9th, 2021 – don’t miss it.