Nucleus server Titan. Really, Roon, really?

This opinion article wrongly classified as News represents solely the author’s opinion and does not imply any official statement of the platform.

In the wake of the Harman acquisition of Roon, I already had a bad feeling. I had the same feeling when Adobe tried to buy Figma. For those of you who are not familiar with those two companies, why should you? – in short, Adobe is “The Giant” in digital design software, and Figma is a young, innovative, and bold new startup that stepped on Adobe’s toes. Figma grew extremely fast and became more than an alternative to Adobe XD solutions for UI/UX design, prototype, and animation for digital platforms in just a few years. The hot new kid got everyone’s attention and money for this new software-as-a-service model that dominates the market and probably the future. It turns out that the proposed 20 billion (no spelling mistake here) acquisition failed with flying colors under the scrutiny of European regulators and was declared an antitrust case study. In my humble opinion, from the beginning and later of the European Union, the merger of those two companies will have obliterated any real competition from the digital design software industry. But there is still hope as the proposed huge acquisition does not pass, and it is now canceled.

This is where the analogy ends. The proportions are quite different, and there is no antitrust issue with Roon. It is just the same feeling for the insatiable appetite of the big boys to get everything that moves under their eyes with the sole purpose of domination and control. Bold statement?

Of course, you will read glorifying press releases associated with those merging/acquisition events.
For example:

By combining forces with HARMAN, Roon gains the incredible scale, resources, and reach of a global technology leader, while maintaining our independence to invest in the business’s growth and future. We look forward to continuing to bring our advanced data management, SaaS expertise, and consumer engagement capabilities to our broad ecosystem of partners, as we join forces with HARMAN to deliver even greater audio experiences to our customers.

HARMAN Acquires Roon, a popular Multi-Device, Multi-Room Audio Technology Platform – press release

Unfortunately, 99% of the time, this is, pardon my French, total nonsense and a lie. Most of the time, the whole reason for such an acquisition is to crush the competition, incorporate the technology, and acquire intellectual property and patents as cheaply as possible. This is all that it is. Nothing will be left of the original brand/product in a short time, or some will continue to carry the brand only for pure marketing purposes.

I Love Roon!

Let’s make no mistake! I Love Roon! I love it so much that I have a twitch whenever someone dares to tell me something else sounds better. Roon’s user interface and experience are brilliant, and that, combined with their proprietary protocol of bit-perfect transport, makes Roon such a successful product as it is. And because I feel so strongly about it, I am very passionate, so please excuse me for the lack of a middle ground here.

Roon Nucleus
Nucleus is Roon’s server hardware platform. Nucleus is a NOOK in two versions, an i5 and i7 (Nucleus+) Intel processor-based computer. Priced at 1,459 USD and 2,559 USD, respectively, it can be considered pricey for what it is from the perspective of pure hardware. But then, Nucleus is more than that. You have a nice aluminum machined housing that will not just look good but will cool the whole package passively, and it comes loaded with the Roon server Nucleus version and the desired storage. It can be powered externally by a 19V source power, which alone pushed the community to develop better power supplies and a lot of enhancements for Nucleus. It is a fun endeavor.

Also, Roon will not restrict the users to their hardware. A Roon Rock server can be installed on many hardware platforms; the sky is the limit. One can build their own Roon server by choosing the desired hardware and loading the Rock server version. Pretty sweet. You can imagine the community going the whole way to the extremes and building some spectacular streamers and servers.

Roon is incorporated in an immensely growing manufacturer’s list of streamers/servers. The offer is huge and has grown a lot in recent years. Roon has gone the whole way, developing a solution for your mobile phone – ARK that will transform your home server into a complete streaming machine while you are on the road. You can now listen to the whole home music library on your mobile or in your car or stream Tidal/Qubuz at very high quality using the beautiful Roon interface, bit-perfect protocol, and their innovative, extremely simple-to-use equalizer and sound optimization platform called MUSE.

CES & Roon Nucleus Titan
And here comes the first big announcement for Roon after Harman’s takeover. The “teaser” of a new hardware platform for the Roon server called Titan, presented at CES (2023):

Nucleus Titan continues our long-standing goal of providing customers with Roon server options that correspond with their specific needs and desires. CPU and SSD technology has evolved significantly since we first released Nucleus, and we’ve taken advantage of those innovations. With Titan, we’ve created a high-performance device that fuses precision manufacturing with aesthetics that evoke the interwoven nature of our music collections and Roon’s finesse for music exploration. We’re very excited with the results and our ability to provide our customers with the ultimate Roon software platform.

Enno Vandermeer, Roon Co-Founder.

Wow! I was eager to learn more and see what new hardware that will officially run Roon is all about. Because, despite all that marketing bla, bla, I had high hopes. Well, The only thing one can find is more marketing crap, but with a price already settled 🙂 – starts at 3,699 USD, more than double of a Nucleus base system with a fair and square i5:

  • “Precision-machined billet aluminum enclosure crafted from a solid block of premium metal.”
  • “Stunning aesthetics, designed for display and admiration.”
  • “Available in three elemental shell finishes: metal, stone* (composite), and wood.
  • “Exterior design echoes Roon’s music discovery features and the eclectic nature of music collections.”

How does all that sound to you?
It is like a well-oiled marketing machine in a pole position to sell you something “new” at double the cost, despite the fact there is only 1 (one) picture available of the product at the CES launch. This picture tells you nothing about the significant updates to our beloved Roon Nucleus hardware machine. One can not find anything about the new hardware or high-end audio optimizations and specs.

There is no info about the new processor, memory, output ports, or audio enhancements: nothing, nada. What about the Roon supportive community? – Roon sold premium lifetime subscriptions to their users as a very clever and pretty honest way of supporting investment and continuous software development, a way to relate to the community and finance future growth. Well, Roon is no longer a beautiful startup that conquered the audiophile world; it is now just another product of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate. And that is obvious from their first product launch under the Harman umbrella.

I hope I am wrong. I do. With all my heart, I hope the Roon will continue to be a beautiful piece of software developed from a passion for music deeply rooted in the audiophile community. I hope their new Titan platform is much more than just the latest NUC generation with a piece of metal, stone (composite…), or wood on top of it. I hope Roon will remain Roon and try to avoid these marketing flip-flops. In the meantime, if you want a piece of honest hardware running beautiful software centered on an audiophile’s passion for music and sound, involved in the community, and deeply caring for the user experience and support of the customers, get the existing Nucleus. Get it now, as it is still reasonably priced.

If you live in Romania, you can always trust the local Roon representative – AV Store. They will help you in any way possible with demos, advice, honest and educated opinions.

For the rest of the world, follow the Roon Store:

Time will show if this is just another 99% failure or a new beginning. Let’s hear only for the best.

Catalin Cristescu

I’m a Graphic/UI designer, user experience specialist, a tech addict, an enthusiastic entrepreneur and last but not least – a passionate music lover. I love art in any shape or form, transforming my music collection into an essential part of my entire life. I’m not your typical hardcode audiophile, but it’s still the dominant hobby that drives me forward.

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