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mconnect HD vs Roon - A Brief Overview

terryforsythe

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I am trying out Tidal, thinking of dropping Spotify. Tidal's phone/tablet app is fine for playing Tidal using Airplay, Bluetooth or Chromecast audio. However, I want to access my locally stored music collection and Tidal using one application, and I want to stream via UPnP to my system. mconnect HD and Roon both provide those capabilities (and Roon also provides a lot more features).

My miniDSP SHD came with two months of Roon for free, so I thought I would give it a try. I am also trying out mconnect HD. The following information is useful for comparing mconnect HD and Roon:


PRICE:

mconnect HD:


$5.99 – one-time purchase per phone/tablet/computer on Apple App Store or Android Google Play Store.

(There is a free Lite version, but it displays advertisements. I don't know if it otherwise is the same – I didn't delve that far into it before switching to the paid version – the advertisements were just too annoying to me.)

Roon:

$12.99/month, $119.88/year or $699.99 one-time purchase

(There is a free trial available)


STREAM TYPES SUPPORTED – Both mconnect HD and Roon

Google Chromecast Audio

AirPlay/Bluetooth

UPnP (including MQA)

(There may be other's, but these are the main ones. None of my devices support MQA, so I don't know if there is a difference between how mconnect HD and Roon handle it.)


INSTALLATION

mconnect HD:


Install the app on your phone/tablet.

- If you want to run mconnect HD on a PC or Mac, you need an emulator to run it on a Windows 7-10 PC or Mac, or you need the Player Android App to run it on a Windows 11 PC.


Roon:

1. Install Roon Core Server on a computing device, e.g., a computer that is always on or a NAS; and

2. Install the Roon Remote on your phone/tablet and/or install the Roon desktop app on a Windows PC or Mac.

- I installed the Roon Core Server on my Synology DS718+ NAS (6 GB of RAM), which is where I store my ripped CDs. So far, the performance seems perfectly fine, but the installation was not seamless.

- For both mconnect HD and Roon, to stream music from a NAS, that feature must be enabled and configured in the NAS.


ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES


mconnect HD Advantages:


- Inexpensive (free if you don't mind advertisements)

- Does not require a core server that runs on a separate computing device.

- Runs well – I have not yet had any issues.

- It has detected all of my ripped CDs flawlessly.

- It rescans and refreshes my music collection list each time it connects to my NAS, and does so quickly. I am still in the process of ripping my CDs to my NAS, so this feature is nice for me.


mconnect HD Disadvantages:

- Requires an emulator or another app to run on a PC or Mac.

- Does not include a wealth of features that Roon provides. In my opinion, most notable is Roon's DSP capabilities.


Roon Advantages

- DSP - E.g., filters that provide the ability to apply room correction to the music stream, and for each audio system/zone; Headroom management; and Sample rate conversion. The filters can be generated using Room EQ Wizard (REW), which is available for free.

- Music recommendations.

- Daily music selections.

- Background information about the music and artists.

- Finds information about music that may be missing from the stored metadata. (E.g., I had a couple of CDs ripped to my NAS without cover artwork, and Roon automatically found the artwork and displayed it).

- And there are more features, I just have not yet delved more deeply into it.


Roon Disadvantages

- Very expensive in comparison to mconnect HD.

- You need to run the Roon Core Server on a computing device (e.g., a NAS, a PC or a Raspberry Pi), and that computing device probably should be left on to avoid having to wait for it to boot up every time you want to use Roon to listen to music. If you need to buy a computer to run Roon Core Server, that adds to the cost. If, however, you already have a NAS or spare computing laying around with sufficient power to run Roon, it may be a non-issue.

(My Synology DS718+ has an Intel Celeron J34554 quad core processor - 1.5 GHz/2.3 GHz burst, and is upgraded to 6 GB of RAM, and so far it seems to be running Roon Core Server perfectly fine. However, I am not using Roon for its DSP capabilities. I suspect, but don't know for sure, that a more powerful processor would be necessary for smooth playback if using the DSP.)

- Getting the Roon Core Server setup on some NAS's is not so straight forward. My NAS, running DMS vers. 7.1, would not let me install the first two versions of Roon Core Server I tried. I ended up installing Docker on the NAS and installing a Roon Core Server image somebody had created and made publicly available.

- Roon sometimes shows individual tracks of a ripped CD as separate CDs. This typically occurs on CDs that list different artists for different tracks, e.g., compilation CDs and some classical CDs. Roon does have a feature to allow you to manually select the different tracks and merge them into a single CD, but there have been a couple of times where the tracks were widely dispersed throughout my CD collection, and so I had to search for them. This issue has not happened to me in mconnect HD.

- The Roon Core Server re-scans the locally stored music collection on a schedule, which is set to 4 hours by default. If you want to detect newly added music between re-scans, you need to manually initiate a re-scan.

- The Roon re-scan does not detect music removed from the stored collection. If a CD is removed, it still shows up in Roon, unplayable, until the Roon Core Server is restarted. For me, that means logging into my NAS and restarting the Docker image.


SUMMARY

mconnect HD, at $5.99, is a really good value if you want a single application to access your locally stored music collection and Tidal and/or Qobuz, or if you want to stream via UPnP. If you want it for free and don't mind advertisements, try the mconnect Lite version.

Roon is expensive. Its DSP capabilities really take it to the next level, though. The information Roon provides about music/artists, and customized music recommendations, also are nice.

My miniDSP SHD on my main system has Dirac Live, and my Yamaha receiver in my game room also has built-in room correction. So, I likely will not be using Roon for DSP. Roon's other features, though nice, to me are not worth Roon's price. So, unless I discover some other really neat features in Roon that are valuable to me, at the end of my free trial period I may drop Roon and exclusively use mconnect HD.
 
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terryforsythe

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UPDATE - further observations:

1. The volume controls from my tablet and phone work quite a bit better with Roon than with mconnect HD. Roon provides much more granular volume control, and the volume shown on the display stays in sync with the actual volume better than with mconnect HD. With mconnect HD, if I use the volume displayed in the app as a guide for adjustment, I overshoot and get way to quiet or loud, so I have to baby step it or just use the remotes for my systems.

2. mconnect HD keeps my locally stored music collection and Tidal music in different categories - I can select my NAS or select Tidal, then choose my music from there. Roon merges my Tidal favorites and my personal music collection into a single list. Whether you like the way mconnect HD does it or the way Roon does it will come down to personal preference. I prefer the way mconnect HD does it.

3. Roon will let you group multiple devices into a zone to let you simultaneously play the same music on the multiple devices, but only if those devices use the same communication protocol. For example, my miniDSP SHD uses UPnP, my Yamaha receiver uses Airplay, and I use Chromecast Audio for my patio system. I cannot group any of these together in a single zone using Roon. There is a work around, though - I have a 4 input/4 output Toslink audio matrix to which I have Chromecast Audio connected. I can play the same music to each of the devices using Chromecast Audio through the audio matrix.
 
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terryforsythe

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UPDATE 2 - More Observations

1. Roon has gapless playback, mconnect HD does not. Usually this is not a big deal to me, but sometimes it is. For example, on Andreas Vollenweider’s White Winds album there should be a seamless transition between tracks 1and 2, and the same goes for tracks 8 and 9 on The Cars’ debut album (both streamed from my NAS). mconnect HD’s roughly 4 second gap between tracks on those recordings is especially annoying.

2. Although Roon allows me to access and listen to my Tidal playlists, it does not allow me to add tracks to them. When I choose to add a track from Tidal to a playlist, Roon only lists my Roon playlists to select for the addition, with an option to create a new Roon playlist. This is a annoying. To be able to access my Roon playlists when I am away from home, I may need to enable Roon access from outside my local area network (LAN), which I wanted to avoid for security reasons. I have not tried Roon outside my LAN, so I don’t know whether that already is enabled anyway.

3. The poor integration of mconnect HD’s volume control with my miniDSP SHD is getting to be very annoying. I find myself searching for the SHD’s remote when using mconnect HD. So far, adjusting the volume using my tablet’s or phone’s volume buttons when using Roon has been flawless.

4. Roon’s gapless playback and superior volume control integration with my SHD MAY be enough to sway me into keeping it around after my trial period is over. The case will be even stronger if I can figure out a way to add tracks to my Tidal playlists when listening to Tidal from Roon.
 
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terryforsythe

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UPDATE 3 - More Observations

1. When increasing the volume using mconnect HD this morning with one quick tap on my tablets volume control, the volume jumped up significantly - so much so that I felt compelled to check my tweeters to make sure they weren't blown. I won't be using mconnect HD to adjust volume anymore - when using mconnect HD I will only use the remote from now on. This is a little annoying.

2. Roon's Tidal integration needs some work. As I previously noted, Roon will not let me add tracks to my Tidal playlists. Instead, it only lets me add tracks to my Roon playlists. This morning I added some tracks to my Tidal playlist using mconnect HD, but when I opened Roon a bit later, in Roon the newly added songs were missing from the playlist. I then tried adding tracks to the Tidal playlist using the Tidal app. Again, in Roon the newly added songs were missing from the playlist (maybe they will show up later - it may take a while to sync). In contrast, the tracks I added using the Tidal app showed up right away in mconnect HD.
 

Jimbob54

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UPDATE 3 - More Observations

1. When increasing the volume using mconnect HD this morning with one quick tap on my tablets volume control, the volume jumped up significantly - so much so that I felt compelled to check my tweeters to make sure they weren't blown. I won't be using mconnect HD to adjust volume anymore - when using mconnect HD I will only use the remote from now on. This is a little annoying.

2. Roon's Tidal integration needs some work. As I previously noted, Roon will not let me add tracks to my Tidal playlists. Instead, it only lets me add tracks to my Roon playlists. This morning I added some tracks to my Tidal playlist using mconnect HD, but when I opened Roon a bit later, in Roon the newly added songs were missing from the playlist. I then tried adding tracks to the Tidal playlist using the Tidal app. Again, in Roon the newly added songs were missing from the playlist (maybe they will show up later - it may take a while to sync). In contrast, the tracks I added using the Tidal app showed up right away in mconnect HD.
Large playlists take a long time to sync from tidal to roon. A few years ago when I used roon some of my 000s of tracks playlists never synced at all.
 
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terryforsythe

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Large playlists take a long time to sync from tidal to roon. A few years ago when I used roon some of my 000s of tracks playlists never synced at all.
So far, Roon's flawed Tidal playlist integration seems to be its most significant weak point. Given Roon's price and its target audience, Tidal integration should be flawless, especially considering how long Roon has had to tweak the software. mconnect HD proves that Tidal playlist integration can be implemented well. This is my first time using Roon, so I don't know the pace at which it is improving with time. Maybe Roon's management are continually improving it and Tidal playlist integration will be fixed, or maybe they are just sitting back and collecting money, I don't know.

mconnect HD's volume control is its biggest flaw, followed by its lack of gapless playback when streaming from my locally stored music collection. Given mconnect HD's super low price, though, these flaws are more forgivable. I would be willing to spend quite a bit more money on mconnect HD if they fixed those two issues. Indeed, if those two issues are fixed, I would not see any reason to use Roon except by those who want to use it for DSP and have the processing horsepower to do so.
 

mglobe

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My understanding is that Roon streams to Roon ready products using their own protocol, not using airplay. That matters when you are streaming hi-res files (>= 96khz). Airplay doesn’t support those resolutions.
 

NiagaraPete

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by its lack of gapless playback when streaming from my locally stored music collection. Given mconnect HD'
I use mconnect and it has gapless to app and gapless to renderer
 

NiagaraPete

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NiagaraPete

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amirm

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My understanding is that Roon streams to Roon ready products using their own protocol, not using airplay. That matters when you are streaming hi-res files (>= 96khz). Airplay doesn’t support those resolutions.
Roon supports airplay and chromecast in addition to its own protocol.
 

mglobe

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Roon supports airplay and chromecast in addition to its own protocol.
Yes thanks for clearing up my misleading comment. The point I was trying to make was that Roon (if I understand correctly) offers a wireless protocol which is arguably superior to airplay. I didn’t mean to imply that it did not offer airplay.
 

NiagaraPete

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Yes thanks for clearing up my misleading comment. The point I was trying to make was that Roon (if I understand correctly) offers a wireless protocol which is arguably superior to airplay. I didn’t mean to imply that it did not offer airplay.
Though audibly what is really better than Airplay2?
 
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terryforsythe

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Yes thanks for clearing up my misleading comment. The point I was trying to make was that Roon (if I understand correctly) offers a wireless protocol which is arguably superior to airplay. I didn’t mean to imply that it did not offer airplay.
mconnect HD also supports UPnP and MQA, which is superior to Airplay. EDIT: I see Roon does have its own protocol for Roon ready devices. I have not heard a difference between that and mconnect HD's UPnP implementation. In either case, whether using Roon or mconnect HD to play Tidal, the tracks sound notacably better than the same tracks streamed from Spotify.
 
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terryforsythe

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I use mconnect and it has gapless to app and gapless to renderer
Thanks for the information. On my Android phone the only setting is for Gapless to Renderer, it does not have a setting for Gappless to App. On my iPad I have both the Gabpless to Renderer and Gapless to App settings. On both devices I set them to on. The gap still persists when streaming from my NAS, but is much shorter - less than a second vs. more than 4 seconds. Still, it is much less irritating.
 

Apesbrain

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It looks interesting. Can provide your thoughts/experience on Logitech Media Server vs Roon and vs mconnect HD?
Like Roon, LMS uses its own protocol for streaming. It was designed specifically for music: it's gapless and compatible with lossy, FLAC, MQA, and DSD64. It was originally called Slimserver and was developed by Slim Devices whose Squeezebox players were among the first commercially available streamers. Although Logitech no longer sells the product, they do continue to develop and support the server. When you need help, there is a robust online user group.

Latest Beta: http://downloads.slimdevices.com/nightly/index.php?ver=8.3
Latest Release: https://mysqueezebox.com/download
piCorePlayer: https://www.picoreplayer.org/
Free clients: https://sourceforge.net/projects/lmsclients/files/squeezeplay/windows/ or headless https://sourceforge.net/projects/lmsclients/files/squeezelite/
Online forum: https://forums.slimdevices.com/
Control via browser, or controller and player apps are available for Android and iOS
Suggested plugins once you have things running: Material Skin (a modern UI for desktop and mobile), Music And Artist Information (a "Roon-lite" experience)

The beta release is very solid and has support for Spotify and Tidal integration. I don't subscribe so I don't know if it will do things the way you want. The server runs very reliably on a Core i3 or better with 4GB RAM. A Celeron-class CPU is adequate if your library isn't too large. Some people are happy running LMS on a RPi.

I've not used Roon as what I need I already get free from LMS. I don't like solutions based on DLNA such as mConnect.
 
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terryforsythe

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Lastly my 5.99 license works on 3 devices.
Good to know. Thank you. On my phone I installed mconnect HD from the Android Play Store. On my tablet I installed it from Apple's App Store. That probably is why I was charged for each instance.
 

NiagaraPete

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Good to know. Thank you. On my phone I installed mconnect HD from the Android Play Store. On my tablet I installed it from Apple's App Store. That probably is why I was charged for each instance.
That makes sense. Mine are all Apple
 
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