If you're a serious music lover who has (or is building) a modern hi-fi system, you most definitely know (or are learning) about Roon. It's an audio server and platform that combines all of your music — from the digital audio files you own (like from CDs and digital purchases) to the music services that you subscribe to (like Tidal, Qobuz and Apple Music) — into one unified library. It then organizes it into an intuitive interphase, so you can easily find, search and discover new and older music.
The other cool thing about Roon is that it's compatible with a lot of different hi-fi components and speakers, so it doesn't tie you into any one ecosystem — you can build and customize the home hi-fi system that you want.
A Roon system is comprised of three components. First, there's the Roon app and subscription services (starting at $10/month), which you need to control all the music. Second, is the Roon core, which is the server (hardware) that is needed to store all your music; you can turn a old computer into a Roon core or buy dedicated streamer like a Roon Nucleus ($1,459). And third, you need speakers or playback devices that are "Roon Ready."
If you're interested in trying Roon for yourself, you can do so for free by signing up for Roon's 30-day free trial.
What is "Roon Ready"?
If you have a subscription to Roon along with a Roon core, the final piece of the puzzle is music playback device, like a wireless speaker or network streamer, that is "Roon Ready. " You'll see this labeled alongside support for Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth, and if a speaker or audio component is "Roon Ready," it simply means that's been certified by Roon and, thus, it's discoverable using Roon's app and platform (the same way a Sonos speaker is discoverable in the Sonos app, for example) and it can stream high bitrate audio (up to 32-bit/768kHz).
The other cool thing is that, like with Sonos, you can use Roon to stream multi-room audio throughout your house; you can have the same audio playing or multiple different streams (up to six, depending on which Roon core you have) playing on various Roon Ready systems throughout your house.
"Roon Ready" vs "Roon Tested": What's the Difference?
When researching speakers and components that work with your Roon system, there's a good chance you'll come across a new term, "Roon Tested," and the important thing to note is that it's not quite the same thing as "Roon Ready."
A speaker or audio component that is "Roon Ready" means that it supports Roon's audio distribution technology (RAAT), allowing it to play the highest quality audio as well as work really well with Roon's software. This means that all the buttons, displays and inputs are all fully compatible with Roon's software, so if you do something on the speaker or audio component, such as change the volume, you'll see the change in your Roon app (and it'll effect the other components in the Roon system.
A speaker or audio component that "Roon Tested" but not "Roon Ready" means that it will still work with Roon. The wireless speaker or audio component will be discoverable in the Roon app and you'll be able to control playback. However, it likely doesn't support RAAT, so it's not going to stream the highest possible audio quality that Roon is able to deliver, nor will the buttons and interphases on the hardware work with all the Roon Ready devices in your system. Basically, the experience of a "Roon Tested" isn't quite as great as "Roon Ready."
You can learn more about all the different Roon Ready and Roon Tested speakers and audio devices on Roon's partnership page.
3 Roon Ready Wireless Speakers