Music Streamers

Written by
HTD Staff
May 16, 2024 at 1:03:00 PM PDT May 16, 2024 at 1:03:00 PM PDTth, May 16, 2024 at 1:03:00 PM PDT

A music streamer is a device that can play audio stored in another location. Most streamers can pull content from the internet using services such as Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music, and some can pull audio stored on your phone or a hard drive located on your home network. They are a must-have for today’s whole-house audio systems.

You need one music streamer for each unique “stream” and with an HTD system you can play that stream, in sync, in as many zones as you’d like. Most households use only two or three streamers simultaneously. Still, it's nice knowing HTD systems offer enough source inputs that you could connect a unique music streamer for every zone if desired.

Near the end of this page, we list our currently recommended music streamers.

This list has been edited many times over the past five+ years.

Avoid purchasing an amplifier or whole-house controller with built-in music streamers. Music streamers are widely available and affordable, but their technology evolves rapidly. Streamers from a few years ago differ significantly from today's models, and future improvements are inevitable. Long before you'd replace your amplifier or controller, you'll likely want to upgrade your streamer(s). Building-in a non-replaceable streamer would be doing our customers a disservice.

As an example, with the introduction of Airplay 2 in 2018, no Apple user today would buy a streamer that includes the original AirPlay 1 introduced in 2010. If you purchased an amplifier or controller with Airplay 1 built-in, that system has long been out of date. Alternatively, if your streamer was “separate” and not built-in, replacing it with one that includes Airplay 2 is easy and cost-effective. And does anyone really believe Apple is done iterating with AirPlay 2? Popular streamers from Sonos, Bluesound, Wiim, Amazon, Google, and many others are already on their second or higher generation.

Ever since the dawn of hifi, there has been debate between buying an “all-in-one” device or buying “separates”. Audiophiles (serious listeners) almost exclusively prefer separates, focusing on quality amplifiers, pre-amps, speakers, and yes, source devices like streamers. They know that as technology improves, they can upgrade any one of these components without having to ditch their entire system.

HTD agrees with this approach. Your custom home is a long-term investment. It takes less than a minute to connect (or replace) a separate streamer to your system, and once connected your experience using streaming apps like Spotify, Apple Music, Prime Music, Deezer, and Tidal is the same as if they were built-in. Be careful of systems advertising a “simple” all-in-one solution. Instead, choose a mid-level or advanced Lync system from HTD that can adapt and remain relevant for the life of your home.

The following is our list of currently recommended music streamers. Many of our customers opt for one higher-end streamer for primary use, along with one or more inexpensive streamers dedicated for kids and/or guests.

Wiim Mini AirPlay 2

  • Price: around $80
  • Stream music services through the device, using apps for Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, and others.
  • Stream audio from your iOS device to the Wiim device using AirPlay 2.
  • DAC quality: average

Wiim Pro

  • Price: around $150.
  • Stream music services through the device, using apps for Amazon Music, Spotify, Tidal, and others.
  • Stream audio from your iOS device to the Wiim device using AirPlay 2.
  • Stream audio from your Android device to the Wiim device using Chromecast.
  • DAC quality: average

Sonos Port

  • Price: around $450.
  • Plays in sync with other Sonos devices.
  • Stream music services through the Sonos Port using the Sonos app as well as directly from within many popular streaming services including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Spotify, Pandora, Tunein, and Tidal.
  • Stream audio from your iOS device to the Sonos Port using Airplay 2
  • Access and play media stored on your network
  • DAC quality: above average

Bluesound Node

  • Price: around $600.
  • Stream audio from your iOS device to the Node using Airplay 2
  • Stream music services through the Node using the BluOS Controller app as well as directly from within many popular streaming services.
  • Access and play media stored on your network
  • Dual band Wi-Fi and support for 2-way Bluetooth aptX HD.
  • DAC quality: well above average

Your home theater receiver may have one already built-in

  • Certain home theater receivers include a streamer. If your model offers an ethernet connection and advertises one or more streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, etc.), the chances are good the receiver includes a built-in streamer.
  • Connect the receiver's pre-amp or Zone 2 output to one of the source inputs on your whole-house audio system.
  • On the receiver, select the music streamer as the source for that output.
  • DAC quality: typically average

Music streamers are most often positioned at the central location and controlled by a smart phone over your WiFi network. Certain streamers can be installed throughout the house with the use of one of our Voice Assistant Accessories.

One alternative to a separate streamer is to use your smart phone as the streamer and connect its audio output to your central equipment using our BTX Bluetooth receiver and extension kit.

*There are other music streamers priced as high as several thousand dollars which may or may not be relevant to your needs, but for most people it is difficult to justify the higher cost for the purposes of whole-house-audio.

Please contact us if you discover a mistake with any of the information on this page and/or would like to recommend a model not already mentioned.