Hello again and welcome to the third article in our series about how to get started with streaming music at home. In the first two articles we discussed our introduction to streaming audio, and in the second we explained which audio gear is best for using streaming services. Now we’re going to give you three examples of how some people we know have brought music into their lives using streaming.
1. Big Family House
Life has been pretty good to John. He’s got a wife, three kids, two dogs, a big house, and a three car garage that holds the family car and the wife’s SUV. There’s a nice large flat panel TV in the living room, a smaller set in the den downstairs, and assorted counter top music players in the kitchen and bedroom.
John remembers how much he enjoyed the stereo he had in his college dorm, with the old turntable, and shelves full of records, but he knows it really wouldn’t make sense in a big house. He rarely gets to sit down and listen to music these days, his wife and kids could never figure out how to operate a complicated stereo system, and his awesome record collection has long since been donated to charity.
John needed something that would let him listen to music anywhere in the house, without expensive and complicated audio gear, and without the need to purchase, and then keep track of, shelves and shelves full of albums or CDs.
Old and New Music
He wanted to be able to play all his old favorite albums, and try new music now and then, without having to buy a lot of discs. John considers himself to be a music lover rather than an audiophile, so he wanted a system that sounded good, but he was willing to sacrifice the absolute ultimate in sound quality for a system that was convenient, economical, and easy to use.
Sonos Whole Home Audio
John followed our advice and went with a Sonos system. He bought a sound bar, and a pair of the big Sonos speakers for the living room, a pair of smaller speakers for the den, and individual speakers for the master bedroom and the kitchen.
Because Sonos is modular, all of these individual units work seamlessly together, and he can control all of them from his smartphone. John can also expand the system later, by adding speakers in more rooms, by upgrading individual speakers to larger ones, and by upgrading individual speakers to stereo pairs or adding subwoofers.
For example, he’s currently deciding whether to add a second speaker and a subwoofer in the master bedroom, or buy a new set for there, and gift the current one to one of the children.
2. Downtown Apartment Living
Our friend Charlie has very different needs. Charlie is single, lives in a small but very nice apartment in an expensive part of town, and considers himself to be a serious audiophile. Charlie really wishes he had room for a dedicated sound room, with a big audio system, but that will have to wait until he moves into a house.
Portable Digital Music
In the meantime, he wants something that sounds really good, and fits in with his current lifestyle. When he’s on the road, Charlie listens to music on his smartphone, or through high-end headphones. He has a Tidal subscription, which gives him access to streaming music at CD quality and higher, and also has a collection of his own music he’s ripped from rare CDs he’s purchased.
Mix Up Streaming and Vinyl
When he’s working from home, or relaxing after work, Charlie spends a lot of time in his home office, where he listens to both streaming music, and his collection of classic vinyl albums. Charlie needed a system that would sound great with high-quality streaming music, but would also enable him to play vinyl, and that doesn’t take up too much space.
Small But Powerful Speakers
We suggested several options to Charlie, including the wireless B&O A9 speaker system and he finally settled on the Kanto Syd. The Kanto Syd is relatively compact bluetooth speaker system, sounds great, and is one of the few compact modern units that includes a phono input.
3. The Avid Music Lover and Music Trivia Fan
Ethan is a bit of a modern renaissance man. Ethan likes to know everything there is to know about the music he listens to. Ethan subscribes to music magazines, goes to local concerts, and always reads the liner notes.
He’s actually mentioned to us that one of the things he finds disappointing about most streaming services is that all they offer is music – no liner notes, no information, no deep content.
Liner Notes and Deep Information
He really wanted a service or product that would provide him with a supply of high quality music, offer liner notes and other deep content to read, and allow him to customize it just the way he wanted. He was also willing to put a bit of effort into getting it just the way he wanted it.
Ethan is quite comfortable with computers and other modern technology, so he wasn’t averse to spending a little time setting up and configuring an advanced wireless music system that would offer exactly the features he wanted.
We steered Ethan to Roon, which offers all of the features he’s looking for, and he couldn’t be happier. Roon is really what techies would call an architecture. Roon itself is a subscription service, in the form of a software program, which works with the popular Tidal high-quality streaming service and your existing music collection.
You purchase a yearly or lifetime subscription to Roon, install it on a computer or other device, and configure it to work with your existing Tidal subscription and music libraries.
Roon provides advanced management for all of your music, and provides access to all sorts of advanced content associated with the music you choose to play. For example, when you choose an album to play, you’ll see liner notes, online articles about the group, information about other albums and music they’ve done, and even extra information about things like concert dates and other current news.
You can purchase Roon as software, which you can install on your own computer, or you can purchase a dedicated computer with Roon already installed on it. Roon can play music through any device that is configured as a Roon client, which can include a dedicated computer, or any of the growing number of products which are now available with a Roon client already installed (“Roon ready”).
For folks who want to use Roon with several different clients, it is usually recommended to set up a computer as a dedicated Roon server. However, at least for now, our friend
Ethan only needs a single player, so he’s installed all of the Roon software, including the server and client, on a single powerful Windows laptop computer. Later, if he decides to expand his system to more clients, he may decide to use the laptop as a server for his other clients.
The well thought out Roon interface allows Ethan to access all of his music from one place, organizes it all for him, and provides links to a wide variety of deep content to go with everything he plays. He can use any number of the best, high-end wireless audio speakers with this system.
Roon and Tidal
Roon currently only works with one major streaming service – Tidal – who is the largest source of high quality streaming content in the US. However, Roon is continually being updated and improved, and there are plans to add support for other streaming services eventually.