Shootout: Roon versus Plex, Qobuz versus Tidal: Who Won?

After a good bit of up front reading and preparation, a first ever (for me) digital streaming competition took place this weekend at home involving the contenders above. It put many of my preconceived notions about digital streaming these days to the test and was quite the eye opener!

I started with Plex and my personal music library of mostly CD resolution FLAC files. Then I added Roon, Tidal and Qobuz and had it out.

It’s mostly over now. The results were clear.

How did it end? Roon soundly thrashed the spunky upstart Plex. Then Qobuz beat out Tidal mainly based on cost.

Lots to talk about.

Key Findings:

  1. Plex could not match Roon for overall sound quality or overall listener experience.
  2. Sound quality to my ears was a wash between Qobuz and Tidal so Qobuz wins mainly based on cost (and no need for MQA though my streamer delivers full MQA compatibility).

I enjoy and tested all genres of music.

​​​Test system was Cambridge Evo 150 to Ohm Walsh F5 speakers in larger main listening room and to KEF ls50 meta speakers + sub in smaller 12x12 room.


Thank you for sharing.  I am always in need of validation to keep my audio neurosis at bay.

Thanks for sharing!  

  • I have Plex and its how I get Tidal
  • also have Roon so plex is just my backup file

My pleasure.

I tested with only CD res files and above.

Roon sounded clearer and delivered with more authority than Plex regardless of source. Like a layer of haze removed and more to hear now. Yay!

Plex is also limited to CD resolution.

I need more time with Roon ARC still.

Plexamp is very good with Carplay.

I would account the high grade for Roon sound quality to its keen focus on music and a customer base of music lovers who want to get the most they can out of the music.

Whereas music is just a part of Plex. It’s focus is more audio/video with the prime focus on video.

Also Roon cost a good bit more than Plex. Don’t let that deter you if you are true music lover/audio enthusiast. It’s a very affordable high end audio component. You will be shocked to learn what you have been missing without it.

The Roon user experience is simply awesome It is like you are turned loose and can listen to anything in the world’s largest record store with plenty of tools provided to find your way around and discover new things about the music and the artists who make it. A music lovers paradise!


thanks for sharing the info @mapman 

i too run roon (love it) and to me tidal masters and qobuz sound equally good, both really excellent

I think Roon and Qobuz are fantastic.  I definitely get my money's worth out of both.  The sound quality and selection of music is outstanding.  I have had maybe two search results come up empty in two years of use.  

Having a universe of music at my fingertips is something I never imagined just a few years ago.  

Only certain artists/albums streamed with good quality the rest of 99% just about same low-quality compressed stream that is maximum MP96.

The cheaper you go the less disappointed you will be. I use add-free YouTube and switch between YouTube cast and YouTube Music. 

Having a universe of music at my fingertips is something I never imagined just a few years ago.  

It's truly a wonderful thing!  What more could you ask for?

For those who already have a music library, digital or vinyl or both, and have any desire to expand effectively from there, Roon + Qobuz is the key.

Or if you are starting from scratch, you get a huge head start on people like me who have been collecting music of their own pretty much since the 33 1/3 lp first became available.


Only certain artists/albums streamed with good quality the rest of 99% just about same low-quality compressed stream that is maximum MP96.

The cheaper you go the less disappointed you will be. I use add-free YouTube and switch between YouTube cast and YouTube Music.

IF you only listen to newer popular music or do not care about having the best sound quality you can at all times, maybe so.

My experience to date is that CD resolution is as designed suitable for most all cases.

The verdict on value of higher than CD res recordings at best varies case by case. I might still be able to do without higher than CD resolution but I don’t mind having that capability for teh price of Qobuz, which is ballpark no different than Spotify.

BTW I have access to Spotify as well and to-date have used that to stream when looking to discover new music.

But its Roon that provides the ultimate user experience, sound quality aside. YOu can add Qobuz to that for ~ the same cost of Spotify, if I am not mistaken.

Spotify in most all cases falls short on sound quality compared to streaming my own CD resolution FLAC files using most any streaming technology at my disposal for Spotify: Airplay, Google Cast, USB 2 wired connection.

Roon’s built in streaming engine to me sounds like it is a cut above the others and consistently delivers the better sound with same thing playing via Roon than those other 3 I compared it with.

I have read many others also report that Roon seems to consistently deliver better sound than other comparable streaming technologies.

I find that to be true out of the can.....I have not even attempted to tweak the sound in a room using the DSP tools Roon provides users. I will be trying that soon in a different room in my home that could really benefit from some custom DSP.

Stay tuned in upcoming days for more on that.





For my set up I found Roon sounds best when I just go straight through with PCM to my DAC via USB.  I tried conversion to DSD and different types of filters but it smooths out the sound- that’s the best way I can describe it.  Straight through PCM sounds crisper, faster, cleaner and that goes for my FLAC files on the streamer’s SSD as well as for streaming all versions of hi res files such as 44.1/24 to 96/24.  (I think I have seen some 128/24 files too). Native DSD files sound fine.

Thing is I don't listen to much of the mainstream neither today's mainstream or past. I listen to obscure artists of today and yesterday. Those will be there in the worst format you can imagine while on YouTube Premium they sound a lot better 


Roon + Qobuz all day ( and night ) long.  Sounds great, giant selection, excellent recommendations ( with Roon Radio ) and lots of info about the artist and albums.  Well worth the money.  Tidal was also good with Roon but couldn’t justify having both services.  If I didn’t have Roon or could only afford Tidal or Qobuz, I probably would have gone with Tidal. Tidal Connect is very good and their user interface and info is just better than Qobuz.

Qobuz and the Sense software over Roon for SQ if you use Innuos gear.  Sense is the Innuos music software and sounds much better than Roon on Innuos servers/streamers.  I am a Roon lifetime member, but Sense is all I use now. 

I did some remote LAN listening testing with Roon Arc.

Results were mixed. When the connection worked the sound was good. That was in the am. In the afternoon Roon arc indicated a weak connection and nothing much would stream. Meanwhile Plexamp worked perfectly as usual the whole time.

So looks like Roon still has work to do for remote streaming. The problem seems to be Roon Arc does not appear to downsample the music to match the bandwidth of a slower remote connection Plex does this well and delivers good sound via headphones at lower res with no problem. Plex is just better designed to deal with lower bandwidth network connections than Roon it seems. But at home, on the local LAN Roon sound quality rules.


Plexamp is also still more versatile when it comes to downloading music files so no network connection is needed. It handles downloads of playlists as well as albums . Roon Arc does not appear to handle download of playlists yet.

I use remote streaming from work quite a bit so looks like I will hold on to both Plex and Roon for now. Plex is inexpensive compared to Roon and still represents a good lower cost option overall or a good complement to Roon for remote streaming .



Just to add from my own experience…there are albums on Tidal that aren’t available on Qobuz. Some albums also sound better on Tidal. I always compare both and add to favorite the version that sounds best to me. 
I also use Roon. One of my favorite features is Roon radio. It allows you to discover tons of new great music. 


Thanks for the comparison’s. I have done the same, with my EVO 150, between Tidal and Qobuz and came to the same conclusion as you have....sound wise it’s a wash so Qobuz wins on being the cheaper option, although, from what I’v read, I think Tidal may have the larger catalog

The MQA makes it a difficult choice though as it is an easier load on the/my network even though my provider is fi-optic.

Curious as to what Roon input settings you used, did you bi-pass MQA in comparison, as I did? If so did you stream using DSD up-sampling settings, which is what causes clipping and freezing on my network? I seem to gravitate to the DSD settings when available. It seems as if MQA diminishes the choices of Roon upsampling to no choice?? Do you agree, about MQA diminishing the choices, or am I missing something, which is entirely possible.

I recently, after the comparison, got new speakers LSR+ replacing the older LSR. I have now discovered that much of my fiddling was due to the hi-mid frequency roughness of the LSRs. Plus my room has 16 windows so that roughness was exaggerated 4 fold. Now I care much less about settings but I am still curious what settings you and others use with the EVO or any equipment that has a MQA upsampling DAC.


I've tried all of those services and stayed with Tidal. Roon shouldn't be in the mix since it isn't really a streaming service like the others. They can't improve the sound unless you possibly use convolution filters.

Since Lumin has announced support for Plex, I did a casual comparison. My results were very different to yours. Plex(amp) did not sound worse than Roon. And that was a bit of a disappointment to be honest. I expected Roon to sound better (being a Roon lifetime sub), but it just didn't.  It was too close to call if either sounded different, let alone better. I'll be doing several more comparisons in the future though. 

@willywonka Part of Roon is it’s digital streaming engine. The details of how the digital streaming is done certainly can and does determine the resulting sound. Roon’s DSP user functionality is simply an extension of that,  the part  that Roon Gives users control of. 

@audiom3 thats neat that lumin now natively supports Plex.  In my case I was running Plexamp on various devices and connecting to Cambridge Evo via USB2, Airplay and Chromecast.   I’m sure each case can be different.  

Also what sounds “best” is often a culmination of many factors some technical and some mere personal preference or both.  I preferred Roon over Plex on my setup. Speakers were mainly KEF ls50 meta + sub which is a very revealing setup.  Others could draw a different conclusion.  Plex is no slouch, especially when listening remotely via headphones. 

@soarnatti Roon indicates upsampling is used and The Evo indicates Roon is streaming my CD res flac files to it at 44.1 kHz 32 bit PCM. I have strong WiFi connections and higher res steaming resolution has not been a problem.


I did not bypass MQA when streaming Tidal.


Also so far I have been very happy with the selection on Qobuz and the ability to buy and download is a bonus.


Roon handling of metadata relating to classical music in particular but overall as well is a major leap forward for me and greatly adds  to my enjoyment of the service overall.  




at the tip top of the hardware/software food chain (Wadax Ref dac and Ref server) hard to beat Roon and Quboz as of today. but Roon is hard baked into Wadax.

as higher rez files are more common maybe Qudoz will get more competition. Tidal is quite close, but head to head slightly prefer Quboz.

the overall Roon experience makes the equation for it strong. i’m certainly very happy with it.

have not heard the latest Taiko Extreme software package, so there is that one too.

@mikelavigne I have 2 Roon ready devices now the Cambridge Evo 150 which has been a revelation in my main system and the new MXN10 in another.

My understanding from what I read is Roon certifies devices that are “Roon Ready” which probably involves meeting certain performance criteria one would think but I have no doubt each case of vendor Roon integration might vary with some heads and tails above others perhaps still on the grand scale of things.



Great post. I’ll add my experience/experiment from 2 years ago. So, things may have changed.

I subscribed to Tidal. When Qobuz became widely available, I subscribed to it, too. A few months in, I decided to listen to the same music on both services. I checked to be sure it was the same resolution, etc. On my system, Qobuz consistently sounded better than Tidal. While there were tracks on Tidal I enjoyed that were not available on Qobuz, I dropped it anyway as there was more than enough overlap.

I feel it’s relevant to note that I also dropped Roon because Qobuz through my streamers native operating system was clearly superior to listening to the same track through Roon, even though I had an optimized Mac mini running core and my streamer is a certified Roon endpoint.  YMMV. 

Streaming is wonderful and the quality of sound I now achieve on my system rivals my local files. I’ve spent a lot of effort to get there, but now enjoy exceptional sound, variety and convenience.  But the underpinnings of all of this are complex. None of us should be surprised that almost everything has an impact on the end result. 40 years ago, digital promised perfect sound forever.  Turns out it is as variable as analog is.  But, the rewards are worth it.

I subscribe to Spotify and Qobuz. Spotify for whole house system; family convenience (playlists, deep catalog) and Qobuz for the ol' two channel setup. I tried Tidal but Qobuz just sounded closer to my vinyl rig, which I prefer to any digital source (so far anyway, still chasing that binary dragon!). Roon didn't provide any benefit that I could discern, and it paused/hiccuped/crashed regularly enough to make me ditch it after a couple of months. No matter which choice anyone makes, it's pretty cool when you consider how many different options there are for enjoying music - truly a golden age (I say the same about the current state of television).

I agree with the OP that it's pretty much a wash as far as sound quality is concerned with Tidal and Qobuz. I stayed with Tidal since its cheaper for me. Being retired military, I get a discount and only pay $11.99/Month compared to $12.99/month for Qobuz. Also, I hear Tidal has more titles available.

Another vote for Qobuz as being the overall superior choice, for me anyway. I did a lot of comparisons with the same track same sample and bitrate between Qobuz and Tidal and found Qobuz more consistently matched CDs and local FLACs.


That said, I don’t think Tidal/MQA sounds bad. In fact it sounds great, and sometimes MQA versions of songs sound better. I still have both but in all honesty 99% of my listening is Qobuz if I had to add it all up. For casual listening at the gym, car, etc, I usually default to Spotify.