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Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

If you've shunned a CD collection in favour of music stored on a hard drive or a streaming service such as Spotify, Tidal, or Qobuz, then you're going to need a quality streamer or server suited to the task. We've found the best music streamers to take the hassle out of the hunt.

Most of the selections 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. With the cheapest budget model coming in at just £30, the question is: can you really afford not to add streaming to your system? What's more, with Black Friday around the corner, it's a good time to be keeping an eye out for bargains.

Best music streaming services 2019: free streams to hi-res audio

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

(Image credit: Audiolab)

1. 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. It borrows tech and features from both. With the same DAC chip from the amp and the 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.

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. It's 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 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

2. 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, with its brushed metal finish and intuitive menus, could be for you. Sound quality is fantastic with an enthusiastic, driven delivery that combines snappy timing with subtle levels of detail. There's a wide range of features to choose from, including AirPlay, Tidal, Chromecast and Spotify Connect, all controlled through Cambridge's Connect app for iOS and Android.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio CXN (V2)

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

(Image credit: NAD)

3. 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.

As for sound, it's impressively expressive and really involves you in the music, while dynamics have a natural fluidity. All in all, it's one of the most fully furnished, future-proofed and intuitive streamers we’ve come across.

Read the full review: NAD C 658

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

(Image credit: Naim)

4. 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.

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.

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 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

5. 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 £500, you'll be hard pressed to find a wireless music streamer as talented as the Node 2i. 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. 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. 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 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

6. 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.

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 breathe and express themselves. If you want a serious one-box system replacement, look no further.

Read the full review: Cambridge Audio Edge NQ

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

7. 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 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. It's packed with features and functionality to cater for all your streaming needs including, 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.

Read the full review: Naim ND5 XS 2

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

8. 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 delivers an organised, entertaining sound. 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. 

Read the full review: Naim NDX 2

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

9. 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. 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.

Read the full review: Amazon Echo Input

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

10. 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 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. 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.

Read the full review: Cambridge Azur 851N

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

11. 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

A well-specified, high-performance music streamer that ticks a lot of the streaming world’s many boxes. Everything on the Pioneer’s spec-sheet suggests it is capable of doing just that. This well-specified streamer is equipped to meet the intrinsic demands of the streaming world.  While the Pioneer N-70AE may not quite scale some of the heights of pricier rivals, it’s still among the most complete streamers we’ve seen at this price.

Read the full review: Pioneer N-70AE

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

12. 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. 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. 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 it's preamp section is as good as any rival we've heard in the £1000 to £1500 price range.

Read the full review: Naim NAC-N 272

Best music streamers 2019: upgrade to a wireless system

13. 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

The Moon Neo MiND offers a stunningly musical and brilliantly balanced sound. From NAS drives to streaming services, this no-frills machine streams them all wirelessly, supporting 24-bit/192kHz files, useful for the likes of Tidal. The sound 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.

Read the full review: Moon Neo MiND