I had a chance to catch up with one of the Roon Labs power brokers this week, namely Rob Darling, on what was happening with the software company’s latest release, and how it addresses MQA files. Roon users across the globe should welcome the new architecture updates to transition to full MQA integration being employed in this build (242).
From Roon Labs:
This release also includes improved detection of MQA files. Up until now, we relied on file tags to identify MQA content, which was susceptible to incorrectly tagged files, and didn’t work with TIDAL streams. Starting with Build 242 MQA content will be identified by looking at the audio stream itself.
Secondly, we can now sniff for MQA during audio analysis. This means that Roon can now identify improperly tagged MQA files as MQA and determine the original Sample Rate. While we’re not going to automatically re-analyze every track in every library, you can manually re-analyze any tracks in your library that might have been missed previously due to improper file tagging.
Finally, Roon will now detect MQA during playback and display it in Signal Path. This works for TIDAL content as well as local files, meaning you’ll be able to tell if a track is MQA and see its original sample rate by looking at the signal path in Roon, just as you would on an MQA-capable DAC like Mytek’s Brooklyn.
What it means for users in Roon:
Rob Darling: “When a network DAC starts getting an audio stream, it wants to start playing it pretty quickly so its buffer doesn’t overload. In order to play, it quickly has to evaluate the incoming stream and set its sample rate appropriately. But when an MQA file comes down the pipe from Roon, the device does not yet know what sample rate to be set up for, because what it initially sees is a 24/48 stream that will subsequently be unfolded and played at some other, as yet unknown, sample rate. So for things to work well, it should be sent a flag that it is about to get an MQA stream and the sample rate it wants to be at, before it gets the stream.
“We COULD just read the file tags to see if there is an MQA file being sent, but often they are wrong. So we implemented an inline MQA “sniffer” that MQA designed, which tells us for certain that this is an MQA file and its final bit depth/sample rate. Then we can pass on the info to the network DAC and it can be prepared to play the unfolded stream. First, and most importantly, this means that we can now relay information about MQA streams to Roon Ready devices, which will enable partners to begin making MQA + RAAT work together.”
More from Roon Labs on the 242 Update:
This release also contains a change to our default stereo/mono playback behaviour when talking to multi-channel devices. Previously, the full channel layout was always sent, with silence sent to unused channels. Now, stereo/mono content is sent using the “2.0” layout, and only multi-channel content uses the selected layout. There is a new setting that allows users to revert to the old behaviour if desired, but we expect that the new default will work for the great majority of use cases.
We’ve also made some changes to our implementation of Airplay’s new security model, so entering passwords should be required less often in some cases.
A number of other bugs were also fixed over the last few weeks, and the full list of changes is below.
Roon 1.3 (Build 242) Release Notes
Roon Build 242is now rolling out for OSX, Windows, Windows (64 Bit), and Linux. Updated versions of Roon for Android and iOS have been submitted to their respective App Stores and will be available upon approval.
Build 102 of Roon Bridge is also live for all platforms.
All platforms and apps should update automatically.