Choosing the Right Music Streamer for Your System Part 1

 

Choosing the Right Music Streamer for Your System Part 1

Music systems used to be based on physical sources such as records, tapes, and CDs. Twenty years ago the paradigm began to change, as digital files could be stored on your computer for download to an iPod or other digital music player. Today, even though vinyl has made a resurgence and many people still enjoy their CD and downloaded collections, it’s really a streaming world, as all you have to do is sign up for the subscription service(s) of your choice and you have access to millions of songs.

In the beginning, streaming music didn’t offer such great sound quality. Now, however, services such as Amazon Music HD, Qobuz and Tidal stream in CD quality and even Hi-Res, giving you the convenience of millions of songs at your fingertips and high-performance sound. In short, no modern music system is complete without streaming — but what’s the best way to get streaming capability into your entertainment system? Well, it depends on what equipment you already have and what your goal is. In this post we’ll talk about the basics of streaming and some easy ways to get it; next time we will delve into some of the alternatives for higher performance systems.

Three of our favorite streaming solutions

If you’re looking to stream music to your existing system and/or in multiple rooms, three streaming infrastructures we highly recommend are Sonos, Bluesound and HEOS.

Sonos was one of the first systems that allowed you to wirelessly stream music throughout your home, and it’s still one of the most popular. Sonos works with all the services you know and love, including Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, Deezer, Pandora, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, and many more. Sonos works seamlessly with Apple Air Play 2 and is compatible with voice commands, including Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant.

We have a variety of Sonos all-in-one speakers that let you enjoy music, podcasts, audiobooks, and internet radio, and you can also stream vinyl, CDs, and stored audio files. The portable Move and Roam models are even weather-resistant so they can be used outdoors. Sonos also offers soundbars (including Beam and the new Arc) which bring better sound quality and music streaming to your TV.

To easily add streaming to your existing audio system, just set up the Sonos Port with your network via Ethernet or WiFi, then connect it to your system via the digital coax connection (if your receiver or pre-amp has a Digital-to-Analog Converter) or through the RCA connection if it doesn’t. The new Sonos S2 infrastructure has increased bandwidth for higher sound quality than its original system. In fact, Qobuz just announced that it’s the first music service to offer Hi-Res 24-bit audio streaming on Sonos, so you can stream 70 million tracks in CD lossless and Hi-Res knowing that you are hearing your music in the best sound quality available for your device.

Bluesound (BluOS) was the first wireless multiroom system to let you play Hi-Res music in any and every room of your home, delivering the kind of detailed sound only an audiophile-grade system can deliver. The Bluesound ecosystem uses your home wireless network to stream music and communicate with other BluOS-enabled players on your network. It can connect up to 64 players and through the BluOS Controller App for your smart device you can play your music in perfect sync or play different music simultaneously. To get streaming music in any room, choose from three different Bluesound all-in-one-speakers, and the new Pulse Soundbar 2i brings streaming capabilities and upgraded sound to any TV. 

Designed to connect traditional HiFi systems — including powered speakers — to the expanding world of streaming audio and internet radio, the Bluesound NODE 2i breathes new life into your decades-old stereo equipment. Whether it be an aging amplifier or a long-forgotten receiver, the NODE 2i will have your favorite components sounding better than the day you brought them home. It comes complete with Apple AirPlay 2, two-way Bluetooth, a 32-bit/192kHz DAC, and dual-band Wi-Fi to name but a few. The high-performance DAC allows the NODE 2i to decode and stream Hi-Res music files, including MQA files (used by Tidal), in all their lossless glory.

Bluesound Hi-Res wireless streaming functionality also comes built-in to many NAD products, including the C 658 Preamp/DAC and the flagship M33 Streaming DAC Amplifier, giving you an instant high quality source.

HEOS is another wireless music system that allows you to easily control all your music — including your favorite streaming music services, Internet radio or your own music collection — from anywhere in your home. All you need is one or more HEOS-enabled AV receivers or Denon Home speakers and the free app. HEOS can play Hi-Res files from Amazon Music HD and uncompressed WAV, ALAC (Apple Lossless) and FLAC music files up to 24-bit/192kHz over your wireless network, and works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. Denon also makes a line of HEOS-enable soundbars that bring music streaming capabilities to any TV system. And one of the really convenient things about HEOS is that it comes built-in to all Denon and Marantz receivers, so you don’t need another outboard box. 

Next time we’ll take a look at high-performance streaming solutions from Aurender, Cambridge Audio, MOON and Naim.