Best music streamers 2022: upgrade to a wireless system

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.

Even stubborn enthusiasts of physical formats have to admit that online streaming has become inescapable and for music lovers, it most likely plays a significant part in daily listening habits. 

But if it's important to you that your music sounds the best it possibly can, no matter how you choose to listen, then a dedicated music 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. 

How to choose the best music streamer for you

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Music streamers come in many forms. They can be built into wireless speakers or single-box systems with amplification or simply be a stand-alone component of a dedicated hi-fi set-up. 

But while other hi-fi separates such as a turntable or CD player just have a simple job to do, a music streamer has to manage many different wireless sources as well as be able to play music files from local storage on your network. 

Most of the selections below support the vast majority of hi-res music formats though the upper limit can vary between 24-bit/96kHz PCM files for more basic products up to 32-bit/768kHz for those that aim to push the boundary. We wouldn’t get too hung up on the numbers, though, as the vast majority of music isn’t available in those more extreme file types. CD quality is 16-bit/44.1kHz, and a capability of 24-bit/192kHz should be more than enough to meet the needs of most audiophiles. 

Connectivity-wise, streamers can boast AirPlay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, UPnP compatibility, and USB ports. Regardless of the model, you’ll be able to play music files from an attached NAS drive and play thousands of internet radio stations. You'll also be able to play from your favourite music streaming services – at least Spotify and quite probably higher quality alternatives such as Tidal or Qobuz are built-in.

Bluetooth is almost always included, and if it’s the more capable aptX HD form, then all the better. Most streamers will also have digital inputs, so alongside playing music files from a USB, you’ll usually be able to feed in optical and coax digital feeds too, making the streamer something of a digital hub for your system.  

To get the best user experience, you’ll really need a smartphone or tablet to control your streamer. Using such devices and your streamer's app is the best way to navigate large music libraries and the quickest way of making playlists. If that doesn't appeal, you may want to look for models with a display and traditional remote control.

Since we’re talking about practicalities, it’s worth mentioning that the first thing any music streamer needs is a stable home internet network, and you need to decide whether to connect the steamer directly with an Ethernet cable or go wireless. Going wire-free is appealing, as it makes things easier and tidier, and provided your network is stable, should work fine for many people. If you can, though, stick with wired because it gives a more stable connection, making everything go more smoothly over long-term use.

Price wise, as with all things hi-fi, streamers can vary hugely, and how much you can expect to pay depends on the rest of your set-up. We would suggest that spending broadly the same as your amplifier would be a decent place to start, though it always pays to be flexible to get the right one. 

Whatever your budget, music streamers are a great way to upgrade your sonic experience from a simple wireless speaker. If you love the convenience but want better sound and have the room and budget to accommodate a stereo system, a hi-fi streamer is the way to go.

Almost regardless of which music streamer you buy, you will gain access to an astonishing range of music – but pick with care, and it will make listening to that music all the more enjoyable.

Best music streamer - Bluesound Node (2021)

You won't find a better streamer that's as entertaining and well-featured for this budget price. (Image credit: Bluesound)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. 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
Playback : Bluetooth aptX HD, AirPlay 2
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 (a step up from the second-gen 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 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 - Arcam ST60

Arcam's first go at a music streamer is a success: the ST60 is an excellent addition to your hi-fi system. (Image credit: Arcam)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. 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.

Read the full review: Arcam ST60

Cambridge Audio CXN (V2)

Combining superb sound, sleek design and evolving features, the CXN (V2) is a firm favourite. (Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. The CXN (V2) is the best music streamer out there at this price point.

Specifications

Inputs : USB type A x2, USB type B, optical, coaxial
Outputs: XLR and RCA analogue, digital coaxial and optical
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
Streaming features: UPnP, AirPlay, internet radio, Spotify Connect, Chromecast built-in, Roon
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

-
Not a significant improvement on its V1 predecessor

If you want a stylish way to stream your music wirelessly, then the Cambridge Audio CXN (V2) 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, Spotify Connect and Roon support. 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 it 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 - Naim ND5 XS 2

A sterling piece of hi-fi kit, delivering an extraordinary performance for the money.
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. 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
Audio inputs: 1 x RCA pair, 1 x 5-pin DIN
Streaming features : Chromecast, Apple AirPlay, Tidal, Spotify Connect Bluetooth aptX HD
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz
Storage: 2 x USB
Weight: 6.6kg
Dimensions : 7 x 43 x 30 cm hwd

Reasons to buy

+
Extracts loads of detail
+
Awesome timing and dynamic
+
Wide range of features/connections

Reasons to avoid

-
No display

Although the 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

Hi-fi system: Technics SA-C600

A supremely talented streaming all-in-one player that also has vinyl and CD playback. (Image credit: Future)
A truly compact just-add-speakers system that shines.

Specifications

Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz, DSD256
Streaming: Wi-fi, ethernet, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Bluetooth
Inputs: RCA, MM phono, USB Type A, USB Type B, optical, coax
Outputs: 3.5mm headphone, subwoofer
Dimensions (hwd): 9.4 x 34 x 34cm
Weight: 4.8kg

Reasons to buy

+
Entertaining sound
+
Expressive and punchy dynamics
+
Well equipped
+
Good MM phono stage

Reasons to avoid

-
Setting up without the app is a bit clumsy
-
Line-level input could sound better

The Technics SA-C600 is an elegant all-in-one system to which you simply add speakers. It has a CD player, built-in phono stage and a raft of analogue and digital connections, but it's as a music streamer where this Technics shines.

Hi-res files up to 32-bit/384kHz are supported over wi-fi or wired network, as are Spotify ConnectTidalDeezer and Amazon Music streaming services. You also have a choice of Bluetooth, Chromecast and AirPlay 2 to stream from devices. The app is a must-have, as it makes setting up a breeze.

The SA-C600 proves an admirably consistent performer across the board, producing musically compelling results with CD as well as high-res files across our network. 

It’s an expressive and punchy performer that builds its performance around a solid framework of surefooted rhythmic drive and expressive dynamics. Details levels are good, but it is the confident way this unit organises that information into a cohesive and musical whole that really impresses.

Usually, such systems are all about looks and features but Technics has shown that it is possible to add great sound into the mix. The SA-C600 is a really well-conceived streamer that we can highly recommend.

Read the full review: Technics SA-C600 review

Best music streamers - Audiolab 6000N Play

Audiolab's first streamer is another great option if you're on a tight budget. (Image credit: Audiolab)
Proof that great sounding streaming solutions needn’t cost a lot.

Specifications

Outputs: Optical, coaxial, RCA
Hi-res support: 24-bit/192kHz
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 - Cambridge Audio Evo 75

A brilliant system with strong streaming powers – it's a very charming and modern piece of hi-fi. (Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
This entertaining just-add-speakers streaming system is a beauty.

Specifications

Inputs: Coaxial, optical, RCA, USB, HDMI ARC, ethernet
Outputs: 3.5mm, preamp, sub
Hi-res support: 32-bit / 384kHz (PCM)
File formats: Most, including MQA, Tidal Masters
Streaming features: AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Roon Ready, apX HD Bluetooth, Spotify Connect
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 Audio 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 - NAD C 658

NAD delivers an intuitive, well-specced streamer with a wonderfully transparent and expressive sound. (Image credit: NAD)
Ticks most of the boxes that a good music streamer should.

Specifications

Inputs: 2* optical, 2* coaxials, 2*RCA, 1* USB and 1*MM
Outputs: Unbalanced and balanced RCA outputs
Hi-res support: 32-bit/192kHz
Streaming Features: Spotify Connect, Bluetooth aptX HD, MQA and Apple AirPlay 2.
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 the C 658 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 - Naim ND 555/555 PS DR

This Naim is our hi-fi test room's reference streamer - we can't praise it any higher. (Image credit: Naim)
It’s expensive, but this music streamer sets new sonic standards.

Specifications

Inputs: 2 x optical, 2 x BNC, 2 x USB
Outputs: 1 x RCA pair, 1 x 5-pin DIN
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz and DSD128 streams
File formats: Most
Streaming feautures: BluOS, AirPlay2, Bluetooth aptX HD
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 - Cambridge Audio Edge NQ

Cambridge sets standards high with this gorgeous high-end streamer.
A truly fantastic streaming preamp.

Specifications

Inputs: USB, optical, XLR, RCA, HDMI, Ethernet
Outputs: 2 x XLR, 2 x RCA
Hi-res support: up to 32-bit 384kHz PCM/DSD256
File formats: Most
Streaming : Bluetooth, Chromecast, Spotify Connect
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 - Bluesound Powernode (2021)

Bluesounds packs in an astonishing amount of features – and engaging sound – into this sleek, compact box. (Image credit: Bluesound)
Putting power behind the Node makes for a superb streaming system.

Specifications

Inputs: Mini TOSLINK/3.5mm combo x 2, HDMI eARC, USB
Outputs: 3.5mm, subwoofer
Streaming features : Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD, r AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect.
Power: 80W per channel
Dimentions: 11 x 30 x 30 cm hwd

Reasons to buy

+
Punchy, musical performer
+
BluOS a treat to operate
+
Inconspicuous design

Reasons to avoid

-
Could be more direct 

The Bluesound Powernode is, by nature, conveniently designed to be two-thirds of your system – your source and your amplifier. Add the third and final compulsory element, stereo speakers, and your system doesn’t need to be more than three boxes. It can be more, of course; the Powernode’s USB socket and twin mini Toslink/3.5mm combo inputs provide the option to add a music-filled USB drive, while an HDMI eARC socket can accommodate your TV set-up if you so wish, though If you want to connect a turntable, you’ll need to add a phono stage to the equation, 

But as a streamer, the Powernode is generous with its sources. Its wi-fi and Ethernet port, built-in streamer (based on BluOS software), and the companion BluOS Controller app together offer entry to tens of music streaming services – including but not limited to Apple MusicTidalSpotifyDeezer and Qobuz – thanks to good integration as well as support for AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect. Or you can stick to accessing and playing music (up to 24-bit/192kHz, MQA-inclusive) stored locally on your device or your network.

Sonically the Powernode is an engagingly musical performer – dynamically fluid and punchy, with plenty of energy to bestow on tracks that warrant it. While Bluesound products have aligned themselves with a rich tonal balance in the past, the latest generation of Node and Powernode have veered away from this slightly. They’re now more neutral-sounding in the way they deliver music while also making gains in clarity and insight across the frequency range.

Read the full review:  Bluesound Powernode 

Best music streamers - Cambridge Audio Evo 150

A premium streaming system – with added phono stage – that marries modern convenience with fantastic sound. (Image credit: Cambridge Audio)
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
Streaming Features : Bluetooth aptX HD, Airplay 2, Chromecast, MQA
Dimensions : 9 x 32 x 35cm (hwd)

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 system. 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 (opens in new tab)

Best music streamers - Naim NDX 2

A premium standalone streamer for a serious hi-fi system.
Another superb music streamer from Naim.

Specifications

Outputs: Coaxial, RCA, DIN
Inputs: 2 x Optical, 2 x coaxial, USB
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 - Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition

A niche, headphones-specific version of Naim's Award-winning Uniti Atom streamer (Image credit: Naim)
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
Streaming features : Bluetooth aptX HD, Airplay 2, Chromecast
Dimensions (hwd) : 9.5 x 24.5 x 26.5cm

Reasons to buy

+
Several headphone outputs
+
Excellent detail levels
+
Innately musical

Reasons to avoid

-
No support for MQA (Masters Quality Authenticated) technology

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 - Linn Selekt DSM

Linn offers an unusual modular music streamer that impresses with design and performance. (Image credit: Future)
A modular approach to high quality sound.

Specifications

Outputs: SPDIF, Exakt Link, RCA, Balanced XLR
Inputs: 2 x RCA, 2 x MM, 2 x MC, USB, 2x coax, 2x optical, HDMI
Hi-res support: 24-bit/1924kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: USB
Streaming 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 - Technics SL-G700

A fantastic digital music streamer that also gives some much-needed love to your CD collection. (Image credit: Technics)
A high quality streamer and CD player in one.

Specifications

Outputs: Coaxial, optical, 6.3mm headphones, RCA, XLR
Inputs: Coaxial, optical, 2x USB-A
Hi-res support: 32-bit/384kHz
File formats: Most
Storage: 2 x USB
Streaming 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 - Linn Klimax DSM AV

An extremely high-end streamer that sets a whole new benchmark – worth it (if you can afford it). (Image credit: Linn)
Linn’s Klimax DSM sets new standards for high-end streamers.

Specifications

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
Streaming features: Blue tooth 4.2, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify Connect, Airplay, Roon, TuneIn, Calm Radio
File formats: FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, DSD (64/128/256), MP3, WMA (except lossless), AIFF, AAC, OGG
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

How we test music streamers

Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year, from TVs to speakers, headphones to hi-fi systems. We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all our in-house testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency. 

What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we listen to every music streamer we review against the current leader in its field to gauge how it compares to the best-in-class competition. 

We always ensure we spend plenty of time with a music streamer, making sure they are thoughtfully run in before we begin testing and trying them with different speakers, file formats, streaming services and music genres. 

All review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than a single reviewer, helping to ensure consistency and avoid individual subjectivity. That's why our reviews are trusted by retailers and manufacturers as well as consumers.

From all of our reviews, we choose the top products to feature in our Best Buys, such as this one. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can rest assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi?-approved product.

You can read more about how we test and review products on What Hi-Fi? here.

MORE:

Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music – what's the best music streaming service for you?

MP3, AAC, WAV, FLAC: all the audio file formats explained

Here's a list of our best test tracks to trial your hi-fi system

Mary is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and has over a decade of experience working as a sound engineer mixing live events, music and theatre. Her mixing credits include productions at The National Theatre and in the West End, as well as original musicals composed by Mark Knopfler, Tori Amos, Guy Chambers, Howard Goodall and Dan Gillespie Sells. 

  • 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