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Best music streamers 2021: upgrade to a wireless system

Included in this guide:

Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best music streamers for every budget. If you're looking to add wireless music to your hi-fi, then you've come to the right place.

There's no question that streaming is now a big part of our listening habits, even if your disposition is more inclined towards physical formats. To sure that your music sounds the best it can, a dedicated streamer is a must-have for your digital hi-fi needs. Whether you're looking to play locally stored lossless files or access CD-quality tracks from top-tier music subscription services, choosing one of the best music streamers is the best way to do them justice. 

Whether you get your tunes from Spotify or Tidal, or have them stored on a hard drive, we've found the best music streamers to take the hassle out of the hunt.

Most of the selection below support the vast majority of hi-res music formats. Some also boast AirPlay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, UPnP compatibility and USB connections. This being the 21st century, internet radio comes as standard – as do smartphone and/or tablet control apps. All the music streamers on this list are five-star products and many are What Hi-Fi? Award-winners, some with more than one to their names.

Even the cheapest budget models now boast excellent performance, so the question is: can you really afford not to add streaming to your system?

Best music streamers 2021: Bluesound Node 21

(Image credit: Bluesound)

1. Bluesound Node (2021)

Bluesound reasserts its authority in the budget music streamer market

Specifications
Inputs : Mini TOSLINK/3.5mm Stereo combo, HDMI eARC
Outputs: RCA, coaxial, optical, subwoofer, 3.5mm
Bluetooth : aptX HD
AirPlay 2: Yes
Dimensions: 22 x 4.6 x 14.6cm
Weight : 1.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Infectious sense of rhythm+Dynamically expressive+Generous wireless and wired connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-No supplied physical remote

Bluesound has opted to return to its original ‘Node’ moniker for this, its third-generation music streamer (not to be confused with its second-gen model below - the ‘Node 2i’ ). Despite the recycled name, the Canadian brand has given its streamer a thorough refresh, bringing it right to date as far as feature-set and value are concerned, bagging a 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award in the process.

Running BluOS – Bluesound’s proprietary multi-room wireless streaming platform – the Node (2021) gives you easy access to local and networked libraries, streaming services and internet radio stations. It also steps in for general playback controls for those who don’t want to splash out on the optional Bluesound RC1 remote control (£49, $59, AU$99).

There's a healthy offering of physical inputs, comprising mini optical/3.5mm combo and HDMI eARC inputs for connecting audio sources or a TV, plus a range of outputs that includes RCA, coaxial, optical and subwoofer. There's Bluetooth aptX HD and Apple AirPlay2 on board as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and the option to listen to wireless headphones via the BluOS 3.0 app.

The digital connections are fed by an all-new DAC that supports both hi-res 24-bit/192kHz and MQA files and Bluesound has also brought the Node into the third generation by packing in more powerful processors.

Sonically it retains Bluesound's entertaining character presented with greater refinement and detail than in previous iterations. At this money, it represents one of the most enjoyable and comprehensive ways of adding music streaming to your hi-fi system.

Read the full review Bluesound Node (2021) 

Best music streamers 2021: Arcam ST60

(Image credit: Arcam)

2. Arcam ST60

Arcam’s first-ever dedicated music streamer sets a new benchmark

Specifications
Inputs : 4 x digital inputs (coax, optical, USB)
Outputs : Balanced XLR and RCA analogue; optical and coaxial
Playback: GoogleCast, Airplay2, uPnP; Roon Ready certified; MQA
Dimensions (hwd) : 10 x 43 x 31 cm
Weight: 5.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Clear, full-bodied sound+Detailed and dynamically expressive+Strong streaming support
Reasons to avoid
-Not the last word in fun-App isn’t very sophisticated

If you’re happy with your hi-fi system but simply want to smarten it up by slotting a streamer next to your separates, the Arcam ST60 is a strong choice. Arcam has seamlessly carried its decades of sonic expertise into the streaming segment, entering the market with an impressively talented performer. The ST60 is self-assured in its delivery – big, full, solid and expressive. 

This may be the debut music streamer from the British company, but the ST609 uses the same streaming architecture as the more premium amplified model, the SA30. As a result, users get AirPlay 2, Google Cast, uPnP playback and internet radio at their fingertips, as well as analogue and digital connections and support for MQA and Roon. A comprehensive offering in today’s music streamer market.

But not solely a streaming product, the ST60 also accommodates external sources through its twin coaxial and optical inputs. A USB drive can be plugged into its USB socket, which is also onboard for software updates. Much more of a necessity for a music streamer is its outputs, and the Arcam has a fine selection – coaxial, optical, RCA and balanced XLR as well as an ethernet connection.

Its proprietary software may not be exemplary, and its chassis design may not win a best-dressed award, but if you can get over that, you will be rewarded with the best-sounding performer available for this money, which is why it won a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2021 for best streamer priced between £1000-£1500.

Read the full review: Arcam ST60

Best music streamers 2021: Cambridge Audio CXN (V2)

3. Cambridge Audio CXN (V2)

The CXN (V2) is the best music streamer out there at this price point.

Specifications
Outputs: XLR and RCA analogue, digital coaxial and optical
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 9 x 43 x 31cm
Weight: 3.5kg
Reasons to buy
+Impressive, enjoyable sound quality+Sleek design and high quality build+Excellent features and file support
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing at this price

If you want a stylish way to stream your music wirelessly, then the Cambridge Audio CXN could be for you with its brushed metal finish and intuitive menus. 

But it's not just a looker - it has it where it counts, too. The sound quality is fantastic, with an enthusiastic, driven delivery that combines snappy timing with subtle levels of detail. We described the original CXN as "wonderfully entertaining", and it's heartening to see this second-generation model retaining that character.

So what sets it apart from its predecessor? The main new skill is Chromecast Built-In, which lets you stream content from compatible apps. It works very well - we were up and running in a matter of moments.

But that's far from the only feature available. It also boasts Apple AirPlay, Tidal and Spotify Connect. All of these can be controlled through Cambridge's Connect app for iOS and Android.

So, the same winning sound quality as the original with even more features to play with. It's no wonder that its retained the What Hi-Fi? Award for best music streamer priced between £750-£1000.
 

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXN (V2)

Best music streamers 2021: Naim ND5 XS 2

4. Naim ND5 XS 2

Not the prettiest of music streamers, but you can't argue with the class-leading sound.

Specifications
Outputs: Coaxial digital, stereo analogue, 5-pin DIN
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: 2 x USB
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: N/A
Reasons to buy
+Extracts loads of detail+Awesome timing and dynamic+Wide range of features/connections
Reasons to avoid
-No display

Although the 2021 What Hi-Fi? Award-winning ND5 XS 2 might be entry-level by Naim's standards, the sound it produces most definitely isn't. Given a decent amount of time to bed in (Naim products can take a couple of months to really hit their stride), its expressive, detailed and honest delivery makes it a joy to listen to. 

But it's not all sound, sound, sound. It's packed with features and functionality, too, to cater for all your streaming needs. These include Chromecast, Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Tidal. It also supports files up to 32-bit/384kHz stored on an outboard NAS or computer. 

The only thing missing is a display, but it's not vital - you use Naim's own control app to navigate your way around on your smartphone. Doing so is a breeze - the app really is as straightforward a piece of software as you could hope for, which is quite a feat, given the vast array of features it puts at your fingertips.

Read the full review: Naim ND5 XS 2

Best music streamers 2021: Audiolab 6000N Play

(Image credit: Audiolab)

5. Audiolab 6000N Play

Proof that great sounding streaming solutions needn’t cost a lot.

Specifications
Outputs: Optical, coaxial, RCA
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 7 x 45 x 31cm
Weight: 4.9kg
Reasons to buy
+Clear, articulate performance+Well equipped streaming platform+Intuitive app
Reasons to avoid
-No display-Imperfect presets integration

Audiolab's first standalone music streamer is the third component in the company's mid-range 6000 Series, following the 6000A integrated amplifier and the 6000CDT CD transport. And it borrows tech and features from both. With the same DAC chip from the amp and circuit design from the transport, it presents a capable and composed sound with an inviting openness and a good honest, down-the-middle tonal balance.

The Play can access services such as Spotify Connect, Tidal, HDtracks, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Napster, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and SiriusXM, and it can stream at up to 24-bit/192kHz from networked servers. So even the most discerning listeners should find plenty to love.

The lack of a display is a bit of a bugbear, and the presets integration could do with some work. But those minor quibbles aside, this is a superb and affordable way to implement streaming into your system without compromising on sonic quality.

Read the full review: Audiolab 6000N Play

Best music streamers 2021: Cambridge Audio Evo 75

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

6. Cambridge Audio Evo 75

This premium just-add-speakers streaming system is a beauty

Specifications
Outputs: 3.5mm, preamp, sub
Inputs: Coaxial, optical, RCA, USB, HDMI ARC, ethernet
Hi-res support: 32-bit / 384kHz (PCM)
File formats: Most, including MQA, Tidal Masters
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 9 x 32 x 35cm
Weight: 5kg
Reasons to buy
+Open, articulate, punchy performance+Exhaustively featured+Seamless operation
Reasons to avoid
-Awkward remote buttons-No phono input

Whether your taste veers towards classic traditionalism or sleek modernity, the Evo deserves to be seen and not just heard. We’re particularly fond of the 6.8in LCD panel, which prioritises album artwork – a design element reminiscent of the company’s flagship Edge products. Cambridge has a rich history in stereo amplification, as well as an established streaming platform on which its successful line of music streamers are based, and the stars align when the two come together in this one machine. 

The Evo 75 is determined not to be out-featured at this level. Cambridge’s StreamMagic platform is an inviting gateway into streaming from TidalQobuz and, via DLNA, any network-stored music drives. Spotify Connect and the new Tidal Connect (complete with MQA support for streaming hi-res Tidal Masters) are onboard to allow subscribers to play and control those services’ libraries from the native apps, while Google Chromecast offers native app playback for the likes of DeezerYouTube MusicApple Music and TuneIn Radio, too. AirPlay 2 allows one-touch casting from Apple devices, aptX HD Bluetooth offers an ‘offline’ streaming method, while support for Roon Ready completes a comprehensive streaming connectivity list.

Turntable owners take note: there is no built-in phono stage here. For that, you'll need the step-up Evo 150, which also bags you double the power output, a different ESS Sabre DAC chip, asynchronous USB and balanced XLR inputs, a second optical input, plus two sets of speaker terminals for running two pairs of speakers simultaneously. Vinyl-loving Evo 75 owners will have to connect a deck with a phono stage to the RCA input or buy a separate phono stage.

But the Evo 75 is emphatically the sonic success its spec sheet deserves. Clarity and breadth are instantly apparent. In the premium one-box streaming system market, nothing has before come this close to Naim’s Uniti range in offering the complete package.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Evo 75

Best music streamers 2021: NAD C 658

(Image credit: NAD)

7. NAD C 658

Ticks most of the boxes that a good music streamer should.

Specifications
Outputs: Unbalanced and balanced RCA outputs
Hi-res support: 32-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 10 x 44 x 41cm
Weight: 10.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Musical, transparent performer+Complete streaming solution+Effective room correction+Intuitive, robust app
Reasons to avoid
-Looks don’t match the price tag

A streamer, DAC and preamplifier combination, this NAD is a real Swiss Army knife of a hi-fi component. It uses Bluesound's BluOS streaming platform and app, which brings access to Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, HDTracks and more, as well as local and networked music. It supports files up to 32-bit/192kHz, including MQA, of which over 250,000 tracks can be indexed, and there's Bluetooth aptX HD and Apple AirPlay 2.

Phew. So as you can see, you get plenty of music source options, and they stream at a high bitrate, which is exactly what we like to see.

So how does it sound? Very good indeed. It's impressively expressive and really involves you in the music, while dynamics have a natural fluidity. As the hub of a system, it's all-encompassing.

All in all, it's one of the most fully furnished, future-proofed and intuitive streamers we’ve come across—first class.

Read the full review: NAD C 658

Best music streamers 2021: Naim ND 555/555 PS DR

(Image credit: Naim)

8. Naim ND 555/555 PS DR

It’s expensive, but this music streamer sets new sonic standards.

Specifications
Outputs: 1 x RCA pair, 1 x 5-pin DIN
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz and DSD128 streams
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 8.7 x 43 x 31.4cm
Weight: 12.25kg
Reasons to buy
+Impressive clarity and dynamics+Exceptional rhythmic coherence+Fine build
Reasons to avoid
-Price out of reach for most

The ND 555/555 PS combination isn’t cheap, but it is the best-sounding digital streaming source we’ve heard. Its presentation is direct, punchy and organised with a musical cohesion few rivals can match.

But it's not just impressive sonically - it's packed with features, too. It’ll happily handle up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM files and play up to DSD128 streams. Bluetooth in higher quality aptX HD form is included, as is Chromecast. Tidal and Spotify Connect are embedded, and Apple Airplay, Roon compatibility and the ability to work as part of a Naim-based multiroom set-up are also on the menu.

Just remember - you'll need a separate power supply, which will cost you another few thousand. So it'll certainly cost you a pretty penny. But then you're paying for quality - everything from the structural design to the sophisticated power supply arrangement and purist analogue audio circuitry helps to get the very best sound possible.

If this happens to be within your budget, then don't hesitate to bag this historic double.

Read the full review: Naim ND 555/555 PS DR

Best music streamers 2021: Bluesound Node 2i

9. Bluesound Node 2i

Extensive specs and excellent sound at a fantastic price.

Specifications
Outputs: RAC, coaxial, optical
Hi-res support: 32-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 4.6 x 22 x 14.6cm
Weight: 1.72kg
Reasons to buy
+Superb sense of scale+Impressive timing and dynamics+32-bit/192kHz support
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing at this price

If your budget is a little (read: a lot) tighter than the Naim above, maybe the Node 2i is more up your street. In fact, at this price, you'll be hard-pressed to find a wireless music streamer with the same amount of talent. 

It boasts a strong set of features, like Apple AirPlay 2, two-way Bluetooth, dual-band Wi-Fi, 32-bit/192kHz DAC and a raft of analogue and digital outputs. And when it comes to sound quality, the Node 2i shows plenty of skill, from impressive detail to slick timing. It's an enthusiastic-sounding piece of kit, capable of breathing life into any audio you send its way. 

It is in the subtleties of a composition that the Node 2i really thrives, showing its ability to pick out the varying intensities of a fingerpicked guitar, arpeggiated piano line or call-and-answer arrangement that may provide rhythm as much as hold a melody.

As far as music streamers go, you won't find many that offer such amazing value for money.

Read the full review: Bluesound Node 2i

Best music streamers 2021: Melco N100

(Image credit: Melco)

10. Melco N100

A high-quality music server from a network computer specialist

Specifications
Inputs: USB x 3, Ethernet x 2
Hi-res support: up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM/DSD512
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: No. Tidal & Qoboz
Storage: 2TB
Dimensions: 6.1 x 21.5 x 27cm
Weight: 3kg
Reasons to buy
+Slick operation+Clean, precise and expressive sound+Plenty of storage
Reasons to avoid
-Needs external DAC for streaming

The Melco N100 is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a high-quality streamer with storage built-in and already have a capable DAC. Essentially the hi-fi wing of Buffalo, Melco has the slickest music filing software we've used with a brilliance in categorisation through file metadata.

It packs 2TB worth of storage (around 3000 CDs, less with higher-res recordings) and includes both the MinimServer and TwonkyMedia server software. Connectivity is limited but it covers all the essentials.

The files from the Melco are crisp and clean. There’s plenty of detail, the sound is well organised and there's a good amount of drive to basslines. Leading edges are precise and the overall presentation is nice and stable. There's also enough dynamic expression, punch and drive to prevent things sounding too analytical, while tonally it's even and open, with a satisfying level of natural warmth. 

Overall it sounds very well refined, and never veers towards undue aggression or harshness. Highly recommended.

Read the full review: Melco N100

Best music streamers 2021: Cambridge Audio Edge NQ

11. Cambridge Audio Edge NQ

A truly fantastic streaming preamp.

Specifications
Outputs: USB, optical, balanced XLR, unbalanced RCA, HDMI, Ethernet
Hi-res support: up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM/DSD256
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 12 x 46 x 40.5
Weight: 10.2kg
Reasons to buy
+Clear, bold, spacious sound+Character unchanged across sources+Attractive design
Reasons to avoid
-Volume dial could be tauter

The Edge NQ performs as well as hi-fi separates, costing the same amount, which is high praise indeed. It handles any digital content up to 32-bit/384kHz and DSD256 via its USB Audio Class 2.0 input or up to 24-bit/192kHz via S/PDIF. And there's Chromecast compatibility for streaming services such as Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz, adding to the already included Spotify Connect, AirPlay and internet radio.

By any measure, that's an impressive feature list.

Sonically, it sounds insightful and impressively clean. You can run your finger over textures, and instruments are well organised with plenty of space between them to let them breathe and express themselves. 

So what about the downsides? Just about the only niggle we have is that the volume dial could be a little tauter. But that's about it.

If you want a serious one-box system replacement, look no further.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Edge NQ

Best music streamers 2021: Cambridge Audio Evo 150

(Image credit: Cambridge Audio)

12. Cambridge Audio Evo 150

A well-equipped top-of-the-line streaming system

Specifications
Outputs: 3.5mm, preamp, sub
Inputs : phono, coaxial, optical, RCA, USB, HDMI ARC
Max power : 150W per channel
Bluetooth : aptX HD
AirPlay 2 : Yes
Google Chromecast : Yes
MQA : Yes
Dimensions : (hwd) 9 x 32 x 35cm
Reasons to buy
+Beautifully open and articulate+Exhaustively featured+Pleasant to use
Reasons to avoid
-Up against some tough competition

While streamers often offer a few inputs to serve physical formats, there’s little you can't plug into the Evo 150. Like the entry-level Evo 75, it packs line-level RCA, USB, coaxial, optical and HDMI ARC connections, but also expands on that with phono (MM), asynchronous USB and balanced XLR inputs, a second optical input, plus two sets of speaker terminals for running two pairs simultaneously. 

The built-in phono stage makes it ideal for vinyl junkies, and because of its high output (150W per channel) and superior ESS Sabre DAC chip,  it’s also perfect for anyone with demanding speakers, a second pair in a nearby room, or a laptop full of music they wish to hook up.

But what about the actual streaming? The Evo 150 has Cambridge's built-in StreamMagic platform, which comes with its StreamMagic control app, hosts TidalQobuz and any network-stored music drives (via DLNA). There's also Google Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect on board, as is aptX HD Bluetooth for ‘offline’ wireless playback.

Sonically it's beautifully open and articulate, with a wide soundstage and a broad canvas on which dynamic peaks can bask in. While it's pricey, the Evo 150 makes a compelling case for choosing a simple, convenient system over a set-up of separates.

Read the full review Cambridge Audio Evo 150

Best music streamers 2021: Naim NDX 2

13. Naim NDX 2

Another superb music streamer from Naim.

Specifications
Outputs: Optical and two coaxial
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: 2 x USB
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 9 x 43 x 31 cm
Weight: 10kg
Reasons to buy
+Cohesive and entertaining sound+Expressive dynamics+Upgrade potential
Reasons to avoid
-Upgrades aren’t cheap

The NDX 2 sits in the middle of the company’s three-strong hi-fi streamer line-up and is about as well equipped as they come. There are no obvious holes in file compatibility and it can play up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128. There’s aptX HD Bluetooth alongside Apple Airplay, Spotify Connect and Chromecast. Tidal is also embedded and, as is increasingly common, it’s Roon-ready.

Sonically, it's as impressive as you would expect from a company that's so dominant in the streaming space. This is an organised, entertaining sound, that moves seamlessly between feeds - it's very responsive, with changes of source made without issue or delay. 

For most, a stand-alone Naim NDX 2 will be all the streamer they could ever want. It is well made, carefully conceived and sounds excellent for the money. If your budget stretches to it, we recommend it without hesitation.

Read the full review: Naim NDX 2

Best music streamers 2021: Cambridge Azur 851N

14. Cambridge Azur 851N

A premium music streamer with the performance to match.

Specifications
Outputs: XLR, RCA analogue, digital optical, coaxial
Inputs: Digital, coaxial, optical, AES/EBU, USB
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 43 x 36 x 11.5 cm
Weight: 8.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Full-bodied, balanced and rhythmic+Open and spacious+Vast file support
Reasons to avoid
-Bluetooth only optional-No analogue inputs

The Award-winning Cambridge Azur 851N is Cambridge's top-of-the-range model and the ideal premium music server if you want a machine that doubles as a digital pre-amp or you want something to slot straight into your system. 

The sound is full-bodied and muscular, with punchy bass and a great sense of dynamic reach. It has Cambridge's typical bone-rattling punch and class-leading insight, but with extra helpings of expression and dynamic skill. There's also a great sense of space and openness that really gives instruments room to breathe.

The Cambridge connects to your network via ethernet or by plugging in the supplied USB adapter. File support extends all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz, and the Cambridge upsamples this to 24-bit/384kHz.

It looks and feels suitably premium, too, with a chunky design aesthetic that screams quality. And you can control it either with the on-unit dial, the remote, or the Cambridge Connect smartphone app.

Read the full review: Cambridge Azur 851N

Best music streamers 2021: Naim Uniti Atom

(Image credit: Naim)

15. Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition

A desktop system ideal for discerning headphone users

Specifications
Outputs : preamp RCA and XLR, Pentaconn, XLR, 6.3mm
Inputs : Coaxial, optical x2, RCA x2, USB, ethernet
Bluetooth : Yes, aptX HD
AirPlay 2 : Yes
Google Chromecast : Yes
Dimensions (hwd) : 9.5 x 24.5 x 26.5cm
Reasons to buy
+Several headphone outputs+Excellent detail levels+Innately musical
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing of note

The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a headphones-based version of the Uniti Atom, the entry-level machine in Naim’s What Hi-Fi? Award-winning Uniti just-add-speakers streaming system range, and like its forebear, this is a fully formed music system with built-in streaming smarts and connections aplenty.

While the new Atom has been designed with headphones users in mind, it can, of course, also be used as a streaming preamplifier, either connected to a power amp or a pair of active speakers.

At its core is Naim’s streaming platform, a gateway to streaming services (such as Qobuz, Tidal and Spotify), internet radio and DLNA playback. Support for AirPlay 2, built-in Chromecast and Roon builds on that streaming savviness. Analogue and digital connections, including USB, coaxial, optical, RCA and phono, are also onboard for connecting additional sources.

Sonically the Atom HE  has all the traits we'd expect from the Atom, characterised by impressive insight, dynamism and musicality. But its presentation is even more sophisticated and open with greater separation of instruments and superb levels of detail. 

It's a bit more niche than most of the streamers on this list, but for anyone looking to unleash the potential of a premium pair of headphones with a multifaceted streaming system, either to use purely as a desktop centrepiece or to also slip into an existing hi-fi system, then this could be ideal.

Read the full review Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition

Best music streamers 2021: Linn Selekt DSM

(Image credit: Future)

16. Linn Selekt DSM

A modular approach to high quality sound

Specifications
Outputs: SPDIF, Exakt Link, RCA, Balanced XLR
Hi-res support: 24-bit/1924kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: USB
Features: Spotify Connect, Tidal, Qobuz, AirPlay, Internet radio
Dimensions: 11 x 35 x 35 cm
Weight: 7.2kg
Reasons to buy
+Crisp, agile presentation+Fine MM/MC phonostage+Room equalisation software
Reasons to avoid
-USB input could sound better

Selekt DSM is Linn's modular product that can be tailored to taste. The basic version is a high-end steamer and digital preamp in a single box. Features include embedded SpotifyTidal and Qobuz streaming services, and even the option of Apple AirPlay. It’s compatible with Roon, too, and a more recent update has added Bluetooth and wi-fi since we last tested it.

There are five digital inputs – including an HDMI ARC for connection to a television and USB for a computer – and analogue too with a single line-level input and dedicated sockets for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges.

Physically, it's a very smart unit; well made and neatly finished. It's very easy to use as well with the Kazoo app to control it or the physical remote if you prefer.

Sonically, its presentation is crisp and taut, trading the last ounce of sonic richness for an enviable sense of control. It's agile and can track complex musical strands with ease and composure. There’s plenty of punch too. The USB input and Apple AirPlay audio quality isn't quite to that same high level, but there's no denying that this is a great sounding, top-end integrated box of electronics with plenty of scope for upgrade fun too.

Read the full review: Linn Selekt DSM

Best music streamers 2021: Linn Klimax DSM AV

(Image credit: Linn)

17. Linn Klimax DSM AV

Linn’s Klimax DSM sets new standards for high-end streamers

Specifications
Audio formats: FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, DSD (64/128/256), MP3, WMA (except lossless), AIFF, AAC, OGG
Bluetooth : 4.2
Inputs : Toslink x1, SPDIF x2, balanced XLR x1, RCA phono x2 pairs, USB Type B x1, HDM I x4 (AV only), eARC x1 (via HDMI output)
Outputs: Balanced XLR x1, RCA phono x1, HDMI x1 (AV only)
Resolution: Up to 24-bit 384kHz
Integrated services: Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify Connect, Airplay, Roon, TuneIn, Calm Radio
Dimensions (hwd) : 12.6 x 35 x 35 cm
Weight: 16.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Exceptional transparency and detail+Impressive dynamics+Excellent organisation and control
Reasons to avoid
-Price puts it out of the reach of most-Analogue inputs could sound better

The Linn Klimax DSM AV has a price tag that puts it out of reach for most people, and with that ultra high end cost comes a huge amount of expectation. But Linn's latest range topper not only has an immaculate design but also offers so much sonic insight, clarity and dynamic expression, that it's second to none. 

There are three variants of the Klimax DSM, the AV version here has four HDMI 2.0 sockets and a single e-ARC-equipped output to that already extensive features list. Specify the optional surround sound module for an extra £1200 ($1,560/AU$2395) and it can decode all the current movie sound formats bar Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However if you do want to go down the surround sound route you’ll have to invest heavily into Linn's ecosystem, using either a complete 7.1 active set-up employing  the DSM’s stereo analogue outputs and Exakt connections for a hybrid passive/active set up. 

It can access music across your home network from a NAS unit or stream using TidalQobuz or Spotify Connect. There’s also Bluetooth (version 4.2),  AirPlay connectivity and it can work as a Roon endpoint.

Rather than being a mere streamer, the DSM is more of a streaming preamplifier. As well as the raft of HDMI inputs it has USB Type B, optical and a pair of coaxials (in BNC form) and analogue equivalents in Balanced XLR and single-ended RCA (x2) form. 

The big technology highlight is the introduction of the Organik digital-to-analogue circuitry, Linn’s first in-house DAC design that has been developed from first principles using the company’s three-decades' worth of digital experience. 

The result? An exceptional product that sets new standards for the streamer category as a whole. If you’re lucky enough to contemplate spending this much on a streamer, we say dive right in.

Read the full review Linn Klimax DSM AV

Best music streamers 2021: Technics SL-G700

(Image credit: Technics)

18. Technics SL-G700

A high quality streamer and CD player in one.

Specifications
Outputs: Coaxial, optical, 6.3mm headphones, RCA, XLR
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: 2 x USB
Features: Spotify Connect, Chromecast, Tidal, AirPlay, DLNA, MQA, Internet radio
CD player: CD & SACD
Dimensions: 19.8 x 43 x 40.7 cm
Weight: 12.2kg
Reasons to buy
+Excellent sound with disc and streaming+Impressive connectivity+Lovely build and finish
Reasons to avoid
-Can be clunky in use-Streaming app could be slicker-Headphone output not as good

CDs, SACDs, Bluetooth and music streamed over a network - this is a player for the 21st century. It's both Chromecast and AirPlay-enabled for easy connectivity and goes high quality on the wireless, too, thanks to MQA support.

Ergonomically, you can't argue with it. The precision controls and the silky smooth disc drawer feel top-notch, even if it's a little squished up to one side for aesthetics. Likewise, the software for the streaming control isn't the best we've seen, but it definitely gets the job done.

Fortunately, the functionality is rock solid, whether from a disc or over the air, and its sound is superb. It's nuanced enough to deliver the full emotional impact of vocals and strings and comes with enough weight in the bass to keep your tracks feeling big.

Punchy and tuneful, feature-packed and fun: if you’re looking to buy a high-quality digital source that covers all bases, the Technics SL-G700 is a brilliant option.

Read the full review: Technics SL-G700

Best music streamers 2021:Pioneer N-70AE

19. Pioneer N-70AE

This capable music streamer ticks almost all of the right boxes.

Specifications
Outputs: Optical, coaxial, 2 x analogue, headphones
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: 2 x USB
Features: Spotify Connect, Chromecast, AirPlay, DLNA, Internet radio
Dimensions: 12 x 44 x 36 cm
Weight: 11.4kg
Reasons to buy
+Solid, spacious, detailed sound+Well equipped+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Better sounding rivals-Teething issues in app

This Pioneer is a well-specified, high-performance music streamer that ticks a lot of the streaming world’s many boxes. Everything on its spec-sheet suggests it is more than up to meeting the (very stiff) competition.

The Tidal, Deezer and TuneIn streaming services are all accessible from Pioneer's Remote app on your smartphone, while Google Chromecast support extends that invitation to Google Play Music. Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay come built-in, and you can play tunes over DLNA from your laptop or NAS drive.

It's not choosy when it comes to playing file types, either. Its Sabre32 Ultra32 DACs can handle PCM files (such as FLAC, WAV and AIFF) up to 24bit/192kHz, as well as 11.2MHz DSD files. And using the USB type B input, PCM file support is expanded to include 32bit/384kHz.

Fire it up, and it doesn't disappoint. Its sound is big and spacious, yet precise at the same time, with an impressive level of detail. It might not quite scale some of the heights of pricier rivals, but it’s still among the most complete streamers we’ve seen at this price.

Read the full review: Pioneer N-70AE

Best music streamers 2021: Naim NAC-N 272

20. Naim NAC-N 272

Top-class sound and extensive features makes for an outstanding streamer.

Specifications
Outputs: Optical and two coaxial
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 59 x 50 x 20 cm
Weight: 10.3kg
Reasons to buy
+Terrific streamer-cum-preamp+Feature count+Insightful, organised sound
Reasons to avoid
-Nothing

The Naim NAC-N 272 delivers on two fronts - it's a feature-packed streaming preamp and it sounds superb. 

Connectivity options include digital inputs, optical and coaxial connections along with Bluetooth for offline streaming. There's also 24-bit/192kHz support with all the main file formats covered, from FLAC to AIFF to Apple Lossless, with native support for Tidal and Spotify Connect. And if you're a fan of old-fashioned radio, there's an optional DAB/DAB+/FM module available too.

Build quality is suitably solid, while sound quality is stunning at the money. We're huge fans of the Naim's communicative, balanced sound and it's a master of dynamics. And its preamp section is as good as any rival we've heard in this price range.

Naim has taken precautions to ensure that the 272's range of connections doesn't count against it: the digital and analogue sections communicate through optical isolation chips to minimise any interference. And it shows - this is a well-made, great-sounding unit that will do you proud.

Read the full review: Naim NAC-N 272

Best music streamers 2021:Moon Neo MiND

21. Moon Neo MiND

Class leading audio performance at this price.

Specifications
Outputs: Digital coaxial, optical, AES/EBU
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
File formats: Most
Spotify Connect: Yes
Dimensions: 17.8 x 7.6 x 28.0 cm
Weight: 3.1kg
Reasons to buy
+Instruments well organised+Great timing and dynamics+Musical delivery
Reasons to avoid
-No built-in DAC

MiND stands for ‘MOON intelligent Network Device’. This basically means it does everything you would expect from a streamer, drawing from all your mobile devices, NAS drives and streaming services via its control app to collate one whopping great music library.

It offers a stunningly musical and brilliantly balanced sound, whether you're streaming from a NAS drive or a streaming service. It also supports 24-bit/192kHz files, which is useful for compatible services like Tidal.

Its design is a little no-frills, but we quite like that - it's understated and shows a confidence sadly lacking from some of its flashier rivals. Its confidence is deserved, as it delivers on the sound front, too: audio quality is fantastic with near-perfect dynamics, timings and musicality. Quality isn't even lost when you stream over Bluetooth. 

You will need to factor in the cost of an external DAC, though. Can't stretch to that? Never MiND.

Read the full review: Moon Neo MiND

Best music streamers 2021: Amazon Echo Input

22. Amazon Echo Input

A great way to bring streaming and Alexa voice control to your existing speakers.

Specifications
Outputs: Bluetooth
Inputs: Micro USB and 3.5mm
Hi-res support: n/a
File formats: Most
Dimensions: 1.4 x 8 x 8 cm
Weight: 79g
Reasons to buy
+Sensitive microphones+Low cost+Solid sound quality
Reasons to avoid
-No phono or optical connectors

Something different from the hi-fi products on this list, the Echo Input is effectively an Echo Dot without the speaker, letting you try out digital living via a smart assistant for less money. 

A Bluetooth speaker seems the most likely pairing, and the Input connects to one much like a phone. This is done through the Alexa app, which is a stand-in for the visual interface an Input lacks. This being Amazon, it's a doddle to connect, and the connection stays stable throughout testing.

There's also a 3.5mm input. This wired connection places responsibility for sound quality onto the Input's DAC, and other than slightly low volume output, we have no complaints about audio quality, considering the price. That makes it an attractive prospect and the most affordable way to try out Alexa or multi-room music streaming. Give it a whirl - what have you got to lose?

Read the full review: Amazon Echo Input

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


Read more about how we test

  • londonguy
    the prices of streamers are ridiculous. Logitech did it brilliantly at a fraction of the prices these are going for.
    Reply
  • Dan Sung
    I think the Audiolab at the top of this list is a very reasonable price for what is a really solid piece of hi-fi kit.
    Reply
  • LeighHughes
    londonguy said:
    the prices of streamers are ridiculous. Logitech did it brilliantly at a fraction of the prices these are going for.
    Seven grand for a mandatory power supply is simply taking your customers for a ride. It's a lump of iron, wrapped in copper winding, together with other not overly sophisticated componentry, in a plain box. Ridiculous indeed, Naim!
    Reply
  • Mr HiFi
    What! No Linn Streamers. Have the What HiFi reviewers gone deaf or fallen out with Linn? Surely the Selekt, Akurate or Klimax deserves a place in this list. I have a Majik DSi Network Streamer. It is at least as good if not better than half the ones on this list and it has a superb power amplifier built in, for free!
    Reply
  • Sverker
    Mr HiFi said:
    What! No Linn Streamers.
    Since the heading says ”wireless streamers”, I think only Selekt (and the brand new Majik DSM/4) qualifies. But I totally agree re your verdict on the Majik DS-I. It's great!
    Reply
  • theo23rd
    londonguy said:
    the prices of streamers are ridiculous. Logitech did it brilliantly at a fraction of the prices these are going for.
    What product by Logitech are you referring to?
    Reply
  • theo23rd
    Mr HiFi said:
    What! No Linn Streamers. Have the What HiFi reviewers gone deaf or fallen out with Linn? Surely the Selekt, Akurate or Klimax deserves a place in this list. I have a Majik DSi Network Streamer. It is at least as good if not better than half the ones on this list and it has a superb power amplifier built in, for free!
    The list I see includes the Selekt.
    Reply
  • danielbower
    Does anyone know (or is it possible to update the post) which of these streamers are compatible with Tidal Connect?

    I am in the market for a streamer, but keen to keep using the Tidal app as the controller.

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • danielbower
    I meant Tidal Connect specifically. Apologies for the initial typo.
    Reply
  • londonguy
    theo23rd said:
    What product by Logitech are you referring to?
    Squeezebox touch for example
    Reply