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In this wonderful hobby of ours, timing is everything. Even down to the femtosecond. In most situations, we have a bit more leeway than a femtosecond, but timing is still critical. Such was the case with my previous experience using Roon ARC. I'd decided make Roon ARC my go-to music application while on vacation in Kauai. As I documented in an article, I loved it, I hated it, and ended up being indifferent to the app. After the dust settled, it became clear to me that my entire ARC experience and subsequent article we part of a perfectly mistimed storm.
Unbeknownst to me as I started testing Roon ARC prior to my vacation, and until the day I published the article, Roon Labs was working on a connectivity issue with ARC, according to Roon's CEO Eno Vandermeer. In addition to this, I didn't publish anything here on Audiophile Style while on vacation, and had a self-imposed publishing deadline to get my ARC article up on the site as soon as possible, upon my return home. Because of this, I skipped my usual step of sending articles to manufacturers prior to publication for fact checking and comments. It was the perfect storm of a software issue at the exact time of my testing, combined with an unforced error / missed step on my part that would've alerted me to the issue.
On the bright side, this situation was also timed perfectly with two other previously scheduled trips that enabled me to test ARC after Roon's fix had been released. I figured it was in everyone's best interest for me to use ARC on these trips and report my findings.
I was invited out to Los Angeles to visit Jonathan Morrison at his new Atmos mixing studio. Jonathan engineered the immersive mix of one of my favorite pop albums of the year, Julia Wolf's Good Thing We Stayed. I'll get more into that experience at a later date.
Prior to leaving for LA, I ran through the same ARC testing procedure that I'd done prior to leaving for Kauai. I synchronized ARC with my entire library of 22,691 albums / 339,869 tracks, and headed to pickup my daughter at school on Eat Street in Minneapolis. I got into my car, connected my phone via CarPlay, and started the music.
ARC worked immediately, while sitting in my drive way connected to WiFi. ARC worked perfectly as my connection transitioned from WiFi to 5G. As I got further from home, I switched from a Roon generated playlist to John Martyn's Grace & Danger, stored on my Roon server at home. The switch was seamless. I tapped the bass line to Some People Are Crazy on my steering wheel as if I was Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers playing slap-bass. Life is good when things just work.
I arrived at school early, just as I had for my previous pre-trip testing. This is when I noticed a theme with the freshly updated Roon ARC. No matter what I did, I couldn't get it to fail. Sure, I started using it as any music lover would, but then I actually tried to cause problems. When products work great, I take that as a challenge to find weak points. Switching tracks very quickly, between streaming, downloaded / offline, and stored on my NAS at home was like child's play to Roon ARC. Connecting, disconnecting, and just being a purposeful idiot also didn't phase ARC version 1.0.35 build 170.
That was all well and good, but it was also only the beginning of my travels. The next morning, I headed to the airport with ARC providing the soundtrack to my early morning drive. In my seat on the way to LA, I placed ARC in offline mode, and played my previously downloaded collection of Pearl Jam albums without a hitch. I jumped in a Tesla Uber at LAX, put on my headphones while ARC streamed Lana Del Ray's new album Did You Know that there's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. As I headed to Santa Monica, the album was only fitting.
Throughout the trip to LA I actively used ARC, spot tested ARC, and left ARC playing for hours while I was sleeping. On matter what I did, I couldn't get it to blink. It was flawless. Even when I had a terrible cellular signal, with ARC set to play the original file format/sample rate without conversion, it just worked!
I arrived home from Los Angeles in time to see my daughter play Aithra, the mother of Theseus, in her class play. The next day we headed to San Francisco for a family spring break.
San Francisco for spring break? I know, the temperature was only in the 50s-60s much of the time, but at home in Minneapolis there was a blizzard. I watched the snow fall and burry my car at home, from the comfort of Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco's Japantown, via the Nest iOS app. Plus, the Bay Area is about much more than weather for us.
Over the week in San Francisco, we drove around town, headed to some favorite places in Berkeley, visited friends near Sea Cliff, walked to China Beach, looked in tide pools at Moss Beach, drove to Muir Woods to enjoy the old growth coast redwoods, and also did a bunch of relaxing. I likely annoyed my family when taking out my phone to test Roon ARC on each of these adventures, but that's me. I had to put ARC through normal and not so normal use cases.
As we approached Muir Woods, my cell reception was mostly nonexistent. Transitioning Arc to offline mode was smooth. Reemerging from the woods, coming back across the Golden Gate Bridge, I put ARC back into normal mode and fired up the Foo Fighters Saint Cecilia EP. A 24/192 collection of FLAC files stored on my Roon core at home. Playback was so perfect, it was like I had a Roon core with local SSD storage in the trunk of the car.
Whether walking around the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, showing my daughter Lombard Street, heading across the bay bridge to Chez Panisse, or even the Taco Bell on the beach in Pacifica, Roon ARC was absolutely rock solid. I couldn't be more pleased with the ARC experience over the last couple weeks. In a way, I expected it because the Roon team is incredibly talented, but I also expected to find at least a couple pain points. I'm very happy to say that I couldn't break ARC or find a single issue when I tried, let alone the countless hours of regular usage on my trips.
Timing is everything.
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