What is a network music streamer and why do you need one?

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CDs and vinyl records are 2 beingness audio formats that immoderate folks committedness by, particularly erstwhile it comes to sound quality. But moreover nan astir tenacious audiophiles person travel astir to nan fantabulous sound value now disposable connected integer streaming services, truthful overmuch truthful that integer audio has go nan superior measurement we devour our music. But pinch nan scope of hi-fi setups group person astatine home, caller and old, 1 of nan champion ways to bring your integer audio and online streaming services to them is by adding a dedicated network euphony streamer.

A web euphony streamer is an internet-connected hardware constituent that streams your favourite integer euphony utilizing an net connection. A bully web euphony streamer is easy to use, compatible pinch respective record formats and euphony streaming services, and will guarantee your integer euphony sounds bully to appease some casual listeners and esteemed decibel sages.

There’s a batch to study astir these components though, truthful let’s get started pinch immoderate of nan basics. 

What tin you expect from a web euphony streamer?

The Cambridge Audio CXN web euphony streamer.The Cambridge Audio CXN Cambridge Audio

Network euphony streamers are disposable from big-name brands specified arsenic Sonos, Cambridge Audio, Naim, NAD, Yamaha, and Technics, arsenic good arsenic from smaller brands for illustration Wiim and Audioengine. They travel successful each shapes and sizes from compact paperback caller size to that of a Blu-ray player aliases AV receiver. Music streamers see a assortment of connectivity options, specified arsenic integer and analog audio, USB ports, XLR hookups, Bluetooth, AirPLay, Chromecast, and link to nan net either by Wi-Fi, Ethernet, aliases both. In different words, there’s nary shortage of ways to link a euphony streamer to devices from receivers and amplifiers to powered speakers, smartphones, headphones, TVs, and more.

Once you person nan streamer connected to your audio strategy and paired to your Wi-Fi web (or hardwired to it for nan fastest and astir unchangeable connection), you’ll beryllium capable to usage it to perceive to euphony utilizing platforms for illustration Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, and respective others. With USB connectivity, galore euphony streamers will besides let you to plug successful a USB flash drive aliases external difficult drive that contains euphony files. 

Depending connected what type of web euphony streamer you own, you whitethorn besides beryllium capable to entree euphony from a compatible network-attached retention instrumentality (NAS) aliases machine connected nan aforesaid Wi-Fi web arsenic nan web streamer. There are besides euphony streamers that support multi-room audio, such arsenic Sonos and Bluesound, and/or tin interface pinch different streamers from nan aforesaid brand, which (in astir cases) will let you to bask multi-room audio by having Device A wirelessly linked up to Device B, C, D, etcetera. 

You’ll besides beryllium capable to find euphony streamers pinch built-in retention options. This is particularly convenient if you want to support each your hi-res files located connected 1 easy-to-access drive.  

Why should you bargain a web euphony streamer? 

The Yamaha WXC50 web euphony streamer.The Yamaha WXC50 Yamaha

There are a number of benefits to owning a web euphony streamer, moreover if location whitethorn beryllium a spot of a learning curve to utilizing it. 

First and foremost, a euphony streamer is going to person a acold much powerful and businesslike DAC (digital-to-analog converter) than astir mundane music-listening devices, specified arsenic iPhones and Android mobile devices and our location computers. A DAC has nan very important occupation of converting each nan integer information that it receives from sources for illustration audio-streaming services and difficult disk files into analog signals truthful we tin perceive them. 

The types of DACs that are built into web euphony streamers are usually designed to grip nan much tougher occupation of decoding hi-res audio formats. We’re talking CD value and beyond, including formats for illustration FLAC, DSD, WAV, AIFF, ALAC, and different top-shelf audio content. And because they’re internet-connected, either via LAN aliases Wi-Fi, nan bandwidth ensures nan afloat imaginable of nan music. The extremity result: The cleanest-sounding audio possible, sloppy of nan source.

And do statement that not each DACs are created equal. For example, a euphony streamer for illustration nan budget-friendly Wiim Mini is awesome for streaming crossed different platforms, but nan streamer’s soul DAC whitethorn not beryllium arsenic bully arsenic 1 you’d find successful a dedicated AV receiver aliases amplifier. But successful nan lawsuit of a instrumentality for illustration nan Cambridge Audio CXN, this Cambridge streamer has two internal Wolfson DACs, which is going to springiness you agleam and elaborate audio value that is leaps and bounds beyond nan Wiim Mini’s capabilities (and that of galore different AV components). 

Another use of web euphony streamers is that galore of them person interfaces and apps that location each of your sources and components — streaming services, statement inputs, NAS drives, whole-home speakers — truthful they tin each beryllium selected and controlled from 1 unified place, for illustration a smartphone aliases computer. Many of them besides person beingness controls and LED screens you tin access, too.

What should you cognize earlier buying a web euphony streamer?

The Wiim Pro web euphony streamer.The Wiim Pro web euphony streamer Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

When investing successful immoderate caller AV component, particularly thing for illustration a web euphony streamer, it’s bully to determine what criteria are astir important to you, arsenic it tin alteration from 1 personification to nan next. Here are immoderate reasoning points that we judge astir folks will stock communal crushed on.


The age-old mobility of “How overmuch are you consenting to spend?” will decidedly play into your euphony streamer purchase. Are you looking to get distant pinch spending arsenic small arsenic imaginable connected a instrumentality that delivers bare-bones functionality, aliases is money nary entity and you want your euphony streamer to beryllium packed pinch nan champion successful audio-processing tech and features?

Generally speaking, web euphony streamers scope successful value from conscionable complete $100 to respective 1000 dollars. And while nan adage of “you get what you salary for” decidedly plays a portion here, location are a number of products that punch good supra their weight from a cost-to-quality constituent of view, 1 of which is the excellent Wiim Pro that’s conscionable $150.

Sound quality

Now, for nan astir part, most network euphony streamers are going to present at slightest CD-level sound value astatine 16-bit/44.4kHz. But if hi-res lossless contented and 24-bit Tidal aliases Apple Music jam sessions are going to beryllium mundane requirements, you’ll want to make judge you’re purchasing a euphony streamer that tin grip these higher-end formats and services.


While astir web euphony streamers tin grip a divers array of AV connectivity and streaming platforms, you’ll want to make judge that nan streamer you put successful is going to play nicely pinch your existing receiver, amplifier, speakers, etc. 

Furthermore, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatibility is beautiful modular crossed nan board, but only definite web euphony streamers whitethorn support higher-end listening platforms (like Tidal and Qobuz) and/or nan expertise to usage web sharing to entree tracks and playlists connected your machine aliases an NAS. 

User interface

It’s ever nice when nan network euphony streamer you’ve purchased has its ain dedicated interface pinch autochthonal support for celebrated platforms for illustration Apple Music and Tidal built-in, on pinch features for illustration an LED touchscreen, buttons, a distant control, and a downloadable app pinch customizations a-plenty. Sonos is simply a institution that does this highly well.

These full-component streamers pinch their ain apps let you entree to nan afloat euphony value nan work is tin of, whereas a alleged “endpoint” streamer must beryllium controlled done a device, usually via thing for illustration AirPlay, Chromecast, aliases moreover Bluetooth, which tin limit nan sound quality.

For example, Sonos’ autochthonal Apple Music integration supports nan service’s quality, up to 24-bit/48kHz lossless. But pinch a web streamer that doesn’t person autochthonal Apple Music, you’d request to usage AirPlay aliases Bluetooth to nonstop Apple Music from your telephone to nan streamer, limiting nan value to, say, 16-bit-48kHz, which, to beryllium honest, is still beautiful good, but support this successful mind if you’re a much discerning audiophile. Also, erstwhile you time off nan location aliases spell retired of scope of nan web streamer, your instrumentality disconnects and nan euphony stops. Chromecast, it’s worthy noting, is tin of up to 24-bit/96kHz pinch compatible devices.

Are location immoderate web euphony streamer alternatives? 

Apple TV 4K hardware pinch distant and unit box.Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

A web euphony streamer tin beryllium a pricy purchase, but is location immoderate different measurement to get high-quality audio playing done your speakers aliases situation sound, without forking complete hundreds of dollars? The elemental reply is yes. 

Pretty overmuch immoderate coagulated streaming device, for illustration nan Apple TV 4K (2022) aliases Chromecast pinch Google TV, will springiness you entree to various music-streaming platforms. You’ll conscionable request to make judge that you link these components to your AV system, whether you’re rocking an awesome soundbar aliases a complete 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration. 

For a instrumentality for illustration nan Apple TV 4K, nan Tidal app tin beryllium downloaded and installed straight to nan device, truthful subscribers to nan work won’t request to usage AirPlay aliases Bluetooth to beam euphony from their telephone aliases tablet to nan Apple TV. 

Parting thoughts

A coagulated web euphony streamer doesn’t request to costs a fortune, but they’re a awesome measurement to bring high-quality and easily-accessible music, podcasts, and immoderate other your services connection to your euphony setup, whether that’s a vintage receiver and speaker, modern integrated amplifier, aliases a group of powered speakers. Now that you’re equipped pinch immoderate knowledge of what a web euphony streamer is and what you mightiness want to look for successful one, we person immoderate awesome suggestions for you successful our best web euphony streamers roundup. Happy web streaming.

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