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Article: Roon Vs. JRiver | Clash of the Titans

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What a superb review,thanks. For all the reasons presented, compared and contrasted, I will be staying with MC (JRMC).

I have been a longterm fan of JRiver but also outspoken critic at times.

 

It comes with massive configurability which is superb especially if you get into the back-end coding.Its not that hard and JRiver folks on the Interact forum have literal wizards ever willing to help you.There is of course lots of configurabilty without having to use code. IMO however it lends itself more to folks inclined to fiddle with computers which leads to my next point.

 

Intuitive user friendliness IMO has always been an issue, improving steadily with each new iteration. As a HTPC (plus music player) it has always failed in my household as my wife and daughter just can't be bothered with it. Kodi is far easier, Roku easier still and Samsung Smart TV etc also just easier which brings me to my next point.

 

I have said if JRMC could produce a dedicated hardware remote control they would rock. It would make navigating around much easier than web interfaces or mobile devices or air mouse controls.

 

Still, I love JRMC. Although historically getting off to a slow start with audiophiles back in the old days they have listened and responded to the wishes of their customers. I may have missed it but when you did the listening comparisons did you employ the memory playback feature in JRMC? It was requested and provided some years back and does seem to make a difference. I won't even go into why that might be. For those that haven't tried it, its free to give it a go.

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For my work laptop, I use JRMC, cause I'm too stingy to buy another Roon license. Tried to stream mp3 across the net with JRMC, works fine, but bandwidth in remote sites of our country severely restricts the quality. For mobile use, Onkyo Player works in cars and on planes where internet access can be problematic or non existent.

 

For home Roon is used and my wife didn't need any hints on playing music on her iPhone, she's quite at home with the intuitive style, the hard part is what to choose 😊 With JRMC it wasn't that great, far too much info and thousands of places to look, no go Joe. My main gripe is with the abrasive management attitude and the lack of a proper remote control app. JRMC bought out Jremote from the developer then neglected its upkeep, which was probably what JRMC wanted to achieve all along and annoy customers. Metadata with Roon behaves itself 98% of the time, whereas with JRMC, there's often the need to fiddle, especially for multi disc sets and Various Artists tags which JRMC labels as Multiple Artists (when it likes). Rather than adjust its database, JRMC alters the metadata in the the file which I thought programmed not to do so, but backup software detects the changes.

 

Reliance on the uPnP/DLNA hit and miss protocol that JRMC adopts is a problem, RAAT is above that drama, just works out of the box. In summary the 'in use' features of Roon, such as networkable end points and the music management win it for me.

 


AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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12 hours ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

I may have missed it but when you did the listening comparisons did you employ the memory playback feature in JRMC? It was requested and provided some years back and does seem to make a difference.

Thanks so much for the kind words!  I never tried memory playback, based initially on JRiver's statement that they are "... unaware of any test that shows a sound quality advantage to memory playback".  When it was only 32 bit, JRMC couldn't put more than a gig in memory and reportedly stopped playing when the file reached its truncated end.  Now that it's 64 bit, more memory is usable - but it's still not able to process and cache large, hi res files.  It has a theoretical advantage if your network carries a lot of traffic alongside your audio, but mine does not.  Here's a current thread on Interact about memory playback that has some interesting and useful detail.  For those who haven't seen it, memory playback is in the audio options under the tools menu. 

 

Best regards for low noise and distortion in the new year! 😀

 

David

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10 hours ago, One and a half said:

For my work laptop, I use JRMC, cause I'm too stingy to buy another Roon license. Tried to stream mp3 across the net with JRMC, works fine, but bandwidth in remote sites of our country severely restricts the quality. For mobile use, Onkyo Player works in cars and on planes where internet access can be problematic or non existent...In summary the 'in use' features of Roon, such as networkable end points and the music management win it for me.

 

I agree with your keen observations and insights!  Unless I'm missing something, the only reason to consider buying additional Roon seats would be for use at additional sites outside your LAN at which you'd use the features.  I got along fine with Foobar in my office before I got JRMC, and I still stream via JRMC outside my LAN. 

 

I need a stand-alone player so rarely that I still use my iPod Nano when necessary. If it ever dies, I'll probably just put some files on my phone or tablet & use those in a pinch.

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Thanks for your efforts and for the clear descriptions and caveats.  It is an impressive and useful report.  Since there are utilities which will monitor and report CPU load and other hardware functions, it would have been nice to see some of those numbers used to compare the two programs.

 

I also note that the analysis does not mention DSD, format conversions, upsampling/downsampling, DSP or multichannel.  


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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2 hours ago, Kal Rubinson said:

Thanks for your efforts and for the clear descriptions and caveats.  It is an impressive and useful report.  Since there are utilities which will monitor and report CPU load and other hardware functions, it would have been nice to see some of those numbers used to compare the two programs.

 

I also note that the analysis does not mention DSD, format conversions, upsampling/downsampling, DSP or multichannel.  

Thanks for your thoughts, Kal - I really appreciate any and all input from you!  As you can see, this ended up being a lengthy piece.  So I tried to focus content more toward entry level users, both current and potential.  In my experience, most who are already into DSD have fair familiarity with JRMC &/or Roon.  Most who've continued to mod an open source approach that far have used Foobar etc for years and rejected JRMC, Roon etc long ago.  And the other major group of ultrahigh res listeners uses high end hardware that obviates (at least in their minds 😉) these simple software solutions, and it'd take a higher level of comparison than I could have added for them to derive much benefit from it.  And as my own equipment is far from state of the art, I couldn't provide observations relevant to users of better stuff.  So I and I alone decided to limit the scope to what you see, knowing that (at most) it'd provide about 80% of what 80% of readers might want.  I may have been wrong, but I tried to think it out clearly and make an intelligent decision.

 

For the same reason, I also kept the evals to basics: bit perfect, no DSP, no sampling morphs etc.  The spectrum of "bit nudging" is endless, and it'd sure make an excellent sequel of similar size.  And I don't have the knowledge or hardware to do multichannel well.  The best I could have cobbled together would be a modern interpretation of my college dorm room systems, in which you could find various guitar and PA amps and speakers driven by an Eico preamp and a few items I built from magazine plans.  I simply have no experience with more than 2 channels.

 

Best regards -

 

David

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5 hours ago, bluesman said:

Thanks so much for the kind words!  I never tried memory playback, based initially on JRiver's statement that they are "... unaware of any test that shows a sound quality advantage to memory playback".  When it was only 32 bit, JRMC couldn't put more than a gig in memory and reportedly stopped playing when the file reached its truncated end.  Now that it's 64 bit, more memory is usable - but it's still not able to process and cache large, hi res files.  It has a theoretical advantage if your network carries a lot of traffic alongside your audio, but mine does not.  Here's a current thread on Interact about memory playback that has some interesting and useful detail.  For those who haven't seen it, memory playback is in the audio options under the tools menu. 

 

Best regards for low noise and distortion in the new year! 😀

 

David

 

Hi David,

thanks I'll have a look at the link.

I do play hirez large files frequently and only rarely get an issue with buffering using memory playback.Typically on initial start up and then it plays fine for all subsequent songs.

Yes I am aware of JR policy statement. Many years ago I collected many of those stars alongside my name at Interact and witnessed similar S/O arguments to here at AS.I think Jim eventually softened and figured it was better to give customers what they wanted even if they didn't believe in its premise.

Anyway, its free to try, and would be interested to see if you thought it made a difference.

All the best and thanks again for a stellar and comprehensive review.

Cheers and Happy New Year

David

 

 

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1 minute ago, Audiophile Neuroscience said:

its free to try, and would be interested to see if you thought it made a difference.

 

 

Thanks! I'll give it a try & report back.

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Fantastic article!

 

I have been using JRMC for a few years after looking at a few others.  Roon was new to the scene at the time.  JRMC was attractive for the reasons stated... but there was one feature that continues to make me a staunch user that was not mentioned - Smartlists.  I hate to build playlists but really enjoy when friends pick songs from my collection.  Smartlists can auto-generate a list from your collection based on the specific criteria you create.  For example, my core "Smartlist" is music that is rated 3 or more stars (most tools only let you "favorite" something), from 7 specific genre types, songs must be shorter than 8 minutes and that have not been played in two days min.  One button push and I have a playlist with 1,400 songs that will play only great songs from my collection for days - like my personal Pandora!  I know that Roon can try to do something similar by using the sonic finger print of your music (similar to Roon), but Roon is just guessing what you may like or not. 

 

Because you can rank songs on a 5-point scale with JRMC (vs just "favorite" for example), you can really tune your collection AND determine what songs are bad/good/better/best on an album at a glace.  I don't know of another player that does this. 

 

I do love the metadata pull that Roon does.  JRMC does this as well, but it is much more restricted to last.fm articles - no liner notes / graphics / lyrics.

 

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3 hours ago, bluesman said:

Thanks for your thoughts, Kal - I really appreciate any and all input from you!  As you can see, this ended up being a lengthy piece.  So I tried to focus content more toward entry level users, both current and potential............................................  So I and I alone decided to limit the scope to what you see, knowing that (at most) it'd provide about 80% of what 80% of readers might want.  I may have been wrong, but I tried to think it out clearly and make an intelligent decision.

I think that is a reasonable choice and you did a great job.

3 hours ago, bluesman said:

For the same reason, I also kept the evals to basics: bit perfect, no DSP, no sampling morphs etc. ...............And I don't have the knowledge or hardware to do multichannel well. 

Yes and I was pointing it out in the hope that it might prod you or someone else to consider going in this direction.  My experience suggests that these more stressful tasks might reveal some significant differences.


Kal Rubinson

Music in the Round

Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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Excellent comparision!  I am hoping that one point you made is correct, but I believe that it is in error.  When discussing Roon and zones, you state that:

 

"Linking Chromecast zones to RAAT zones can be done using Google Home"

 

I do not think this is correct.  I wish it was, but I have not been able to find anything over at the Roon forums or doc that says that you can do this.  I posted the question over there and one response says you can't do it.

 

Here is a link to the question, posted on the Roon forums:

https://community.roonlabs.com/t/raat-endpoint-and-chromecast-audio-grouping-in-google-home/56963

Edited by kmp14
Improve specificity

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58 minutes ago, kmp14 said:

Excellent comparision!  I am hoping that one point you made is correct, but I believe that it is in error.  When discussing Roon and zones, you state that:

 

"Linking Chromecast zones to RAAT zones can be done using Google Home"

 

I do not think this is correct.  I wish it was, but I have not been able to find anything over at the Roon forums or doc that says that you can do this.  I posted the question over there and one response says you can't do it.

 

Here is a link to the question, posted on the Roon forums:

https://community.roonlabs.com/t/raat-endpoint-and-chromecast-audio-grouping-in-google-home/56963

Yes, I saw your post and the responses.  But here's a link to my Roon source which says: "Due to hardware limitations, Chromecast devices can not be grouped with other, non-Chromecast devices outside of the Google Home app".  I haven't tried it because we don't use Google Home, so I can't confirm that it's correct.  But it is in the Roon knowledge base, so I assume(d) it was good information - and maybe it is.  I'll try to find out.

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3 minutes ago, Kal Rubinson said:

You probably need a 6-8 channel DAC and 3 more speakers and a sub if you choose to go down the rabbit hole.

I lack the DAC, but I have a great sub.  And I love rabbit, especially in a mustard cream sauce......

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27 minutes ago, Mayfair said:

The article says that ...' JRemote was an aftermarket remote controller and renderer that still works well but is no longer available from the iTunes App Store. ..."

 

According to JRiver, this is incorrect, and JRemote is still available from the Itunes App Store

 

https://yabb.jriver.com/interact/index.php/topic,118802.0.html

You are correct. It was not available for a while after JRiver bought it, and there were some web posts about this.  They added Panel in what I assumed was an attempt to obviate the need for JRemote - but Panel's a very poor substitute, in my opinion. I bought JRemote for my iPhone when it was still an aftermarket app.  But when I tried to put it on my iPad, it wasn't in the App Store. I'm glad to see that it's there now, because it's really great and I use it daily. I see that it's now available for Android, too. Good on 'em!! 

 

One of the things I love about JRemote is that it looks and feels more like Roon than like the JRMC GUI.

 

Thanks for catching this!  I should have double-checked and apologize for my error.

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Thanks for the reply.  AFAIK, JRemote's been continuously available as an IOS app since I've been a JRMC user (more than half a decade).  I agree - it's a terrific app.

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Perhaps worth noting that, in addition to Chromecast, Roon also supports Airplay, which is integrated into many devices--e.g., Devialet Phantoms. That said, the ease of adding another endpoint with a Chromecast Audio or Raspberry Pi is just killer. For less than $100, any DAC becomes a superb streamer. 

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Great review, I started with Jriver, but ended up at Roon. I still use both, and keep the latest version of Jriver, but hardly use it anymore. I find it difficult/not intuitive to configure. 

 

On a sidenote, your mention of Nancy Wilson was spot on. I grew up listening to a lot of her music. My dad dated her when they were in college together, and she recently passed away which rekindled my interest... good memories!

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9 hours ago, bluesman said:

Yes, I saw your post and the responses.  But here's a link to my Roon source which says: "Due to hardware limitations, Chromecast devices can not be grouped with other, non-Chromecast devices outside of the Google Home app".  I haven't tried it because we don't use Google Home, so I can't confirm that it's correct.  But it is in the Roon knowledge base, so I assume(d) it was good information - and maybe it is.  I'll try to find out.

 

The information is correct - but it's open to misinterpretation because of the way it is worded.

 

Roon cannot group together Chromecast audio devices within Roon - Chromecast audio devices can only be grouped together by using Google Home. However, while Roon supports Zone Grouping, or synchronizing audio playback in several zones within your house, zones can only be grouped with other zones of the same type, meaning Squeezebox zones cannot be grouped with RAAT zones, Meridian zones can't be grouped with Airplay zones, etc. And a group of Chromecast Audio devices cannot be grouped with zones that use non-Chromecast technology... See this entry in the Roon Knowledge Base on zones for full information.

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9 hours ago, gcoupe said:

 

The information is correct - but it's open to misinterpretation because of the way it is worded.  Roon cannot group together Chromecast audio devices within Roon - Chromecast audio devices can only be grouped together by using Google Home...See this entry in the Roon Knowledge Base on zones for full information.

The more we look into this, the fuzzier it gets.  It's becoming clear to me that we're all unaware of a lot of information that would make our lives much easier.  What we need is a checksum for the stuff we read and hear, because a lot of it is less than completely accurate regardless of the source - obviously including me! 😵

 

You can indeed group Chromecast Audios from within the Roon GUI using "Group zones" - that's how I did it. And Roon is very good about letting you know which zones you can group.  It also identifies the zones you can't group with the one you've selected, and it offers an explanation if you click "Why?"  The 6 zones identified in the screen shot below are my 5 Chromecast Audios and their grouping.

 

group_alert.thumb.jpg.99139047ce27d3ea2ef415d1758eacec.jpg

 

I actually forgot that I had the Google Home app on my iPad because I only downloaded it to set up the Chromecasts and never used it again - I went to the App Store to download it last night and found the "open" button instead of the download symbol.  When I opened it, I discovered that my "whole house" group of Chromecasts was listed there along with the individual devices!  So linking Chromecast zones in Roon apparently links them in Google Home and creates a proxy Chromecast "device" recognized by Roon. But you are correct that no non-Chromecast device or zone is recognized by Google Home (or, to be as accurate as possible, none of mine is recognized). So I have absolutely no idea what the statement in the Roon knowledge base means about grouping Chromecasts with other devices in GHome. Had I tried to do it myself before repeating what's in the Roon KB, I would have known that.  I promise faithfully not to make that mistake again!

 

I'd also already been to that RKB page on zones.  Strangely enough, despite its most recent updating on Wed May 2, 2018, it makes no mention at all of Chromecast.  This strikes me as a serious oversight, given both the popularity of the devices and their fine integration into Roon.

 

The older I get, the more I find out how little I know. 

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