Why Audirvana Sounds Better Than Roon

Hello, audiophiles.

As an audiophile, my loyalty first is to my music enjoyment. To set your expectations, my core objective is sound quality. This is not a criticism to anybody but constructive feedback and sharing of years of experience.

I have used many combinations and dedicated streamers from RPi to the most expensive streams streaming directly or through the streaming providers’ apps and through Roon and some streamers’ own apps (Also many PC based). The top two were always the streamer’s dedicated apps like Aurender or Auralic apps and Roon. So, I have been using Roon for years and recommending it to my friends. I also experimented with and used HQplayer for years. For HQP, I used to use it on and off as I always did not like how it colors the sound. As you may enjoy the first impression of upsampling to DSD, when you turn off upsampling, you do not turn it on again (I once bought a costly PC with the top GPU for that purpose as well).

Recently I noticed when using the HQP NAA endpoint with Roon without any upsampling, I get better resolution and timing. So, I used that happily for a couple of months, assuming HQP NAA is better than Roon Endpoint. (my experiments were using many DACs, including top expensive brands).

Around four months back, I was constantly reading people being impressed with Audirvana’s sound quality. So, I downloaded the studio trial. For four months, I have just been using Audirvana. It is simply better than HQP NAA and Roon. I could not believe that, and after many AB testing, that was the case. So what is the difference:

  1. 10% to 15% more detail that is masked with Roon. NAA does give 5% better but cannot match Audirvana, and not worth the overhead.
  2. Timing seems much better as instruments like Cello and Violins sound much more natural and consistent.
  3. Audio imagining is around 10% improved. With my equipment, I can hear the instruments playing in a 3-d sphere. Depending on the recordings.
  4. You feel slightly less distortion, especially in the bass definition.
  5. Due to the above, most music sounds more musical. You listen to albums that used to sound harsh, but now you enjoy them.

What can be the reason?

The below is just my guess. Please feel free to challenge those assumptions and state yours if you wish.

The core reason behind Roon being behind can be the legacy of the Roon-ready streamers all around. The Roon server needs to stream to all those varieties of legacy Roon-ready streamers that cannot be upgraded. Therefore, the server part that communicates with the streamers and how the streamers communicate with the DAC (PCM or DSD) remained without any ability for improvements for years as any change will break the model and make many Roon-ready streamers not work. The above is my guess as a logical conclusion as to why even HQP NAA is better than Roon Bridge(Endpoint). Sound improvements are rarely mentioned when new Roon versions are launched, as the focus has been mainly on cosmetics and the interface, which is always appreciated.

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Maybe I don’t understand well but … it’s impossible to use HQP NAA with Roon if you don’t have HQPlayer (desktop or embedded) in the chain

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Totally agree but don’t understand but it doesn’t matter to me. I find it sound much better than Roon and even better than Naim native implementation on my older naim platform (NDS).

First, it is impossible for anybody else to qualify your subjective assessments… Too many variables of computer platform hardware, software, network architecture, cognitive-biases, etc, etc… Opinions must be qualified by objective experience and/or measurable evidence…

However, these things play into your experiences, and what we can extrapolate, is that you find tangibly audible differences that suit your perception of the sound-quality appreciation of your system using Audirvana as the player…

I am personally grateful for the dedicated focus on the highest level of digital-audio playback on the MacOS platforms and any given DAC architecture by Damien and the Audrivana team. My wish is that they never compromise the level of sound-quality now imbued in the Audirvana player application as applied on MacOS platforms.

It is very simple… Roon is bloated and it is trying to do do too many things simultaneously, it is trying to please every user and potential user, to it’s detriment… The technical reasons for the differences in sound are not easily explained to the neophyte in the realm of digital-audio systems generally,… However, performance improvements are generally associated to how the given platform operating system API’s (Application Programming Interface) are addressed and implemented, in concert with the efficiency of the fundamental audio-engine code.

Audirvana is an extremely efficient and focused high-performance audio-engine.

:notes: :eye: :headphones: :eye: :notes:


Hi. Yes sure. I have HQPand using it, as you can output to NAA only through HQP.

Yes, no surprise to me. Once the streaming is in two parts (Server and endpoint/client), and the client software is hard to update, vendors may get stuck and unable to improve their software.

Roon respectfully has been promoting the idea of server/endpoint as better than a single software like Auirvana. That could have been the case years back when computers were running relatively slow processors, and the kernel could not sustain a kind of real-time proper streaming to a DAC.

In my case, for the best performance, you need a decent i7 or i9 processor where the Windows ideal running does not take the processor more than 5% with fast RAM above 3000mhz. You hear the difference.

You did not say whether using AS you communicate with the DAC via S/PDIF, USB or UPnP/DLNA; Kernel, ASIO or WASAPI?

I am using USB and mostly Kernal streaming. I am using a Windows PC clocked at 5+ GHZ constant. i7 processor with eight cores. Why this is important is to have the processor utilized less than 10% all the time of use for smooth PCM output.

If you wonder why this is required, USB can be good but is subject to issues. USB is not designed for music streaming but for Data connection. When the USB is in communication with a device like a storage device for copying files, the bandwidth goes up and down, and you may see this if you are copying large files. This is not a problem for data communication because each packet is received, and there is a confirmation mechanism. In PCM, any slight interruption causes a jitter. The sound will not stop or cut, but the timing will be impacted. So, a fast PC, like even an i9 with many cores, is even better. I have an i9 PC also, and when I use that, there are also improvements. The manufacturer of the PC interface, like Asus on some boards, uses ASMedia USB chips which even improves the performance.

I have years of experience using it. SPDIF, AES, … . when it is for the suitable USB has the best potential for the best sound.

When you say us about Roon you are talking about “Roon Endpoint”.
Maybe you haven’t tried to connect your DAC directly to Roon Core using USB, as in the case of AS. Then electrically it would be the most similar configuration - Roon Core and Audirvana, installed on the same PC, download data either from your file on the local disk or from a streaming service then send it via USB to your DAC.
It seems to me that then there should be no SQ difference.
Have you tried to connect your DAC to Roon Core directly, via USB?

Yes, sure, I did. I have years of experience and used it actively for years. I always tried to connect the Roon server to a DAC directly for benchmarking, which does not match the Roon endpoint configuration. Roon does not recommend connecting their server to a DAC for two reasons as I guess. 1. They say it does not sound its best as the server is heavy on the processor and impacts the streaming. 2. Business reasons. The roon entire business model promotes selling roon endpoints/Streamers themselves and through their partners.

The second reason is why I guess Roon was stuck, as those Roon-ready streamers are running many different legacy versions of the Roon endpoint and cannot be upgraded, limiting the company’s ability to make any sound improvements to its client-server communication software. When I came close to this point in their community, I felt someone indirectly telling me to leave.

From the above, I am not saying Roon sounds terrible, but Audirvana Studio sounds better. To hear more the difference, you need sensitive equipment.

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