HOW TO ADD A STREAMER TO YOUR HI-FI SYSTEM
What Hi-Fi Sound and Vision|November 2021
Upgrade your system to 21st century status. It's about complementing, rather than replacing, your existing kit

It feels as though we've now accepted streaming and welcomed it into the hi-fi community. Fears were real, and often founded, that it would replace physical media to detrimental effect, offering up inferior performance in return for perceived convenience.

In many ways, though, it has helped us fall in love again with those cumbersome old discs; being able to throw music from your palm to your speakers can be wonderful, but our desire to fall for an album's cover and actually hold our music has far from been quelled.

That speaks for vinyl more than CD, of course, with the latter's sales dropping dramatically over recent years. But that doesn't have to make for wholly miserable reading more likely it is the rise and ubiquity of CD-quality streaming, not to mention the ever-increasing range of hi-res options, that mean you don't actually need the silver disc any more for comparable sound. But how and why cassette tapes have risen again in popularity we're still struggling to fathom.

So yes, you can have it all. That's why this piece is titled 'How to add a streamer to your existing hi-fi system', and not 'How to replace it' or 'How to get the best price for your CD player on eBay.

There's a short answer, of course, which would be to read some of our music streamer reviews around your budget, make a choice and plug in. But, as ever, there are more important things than money when it comes to getting the best sound and feature set for you.

What do we mean by a music streamer? Well, a streamer is any component that allows you to play music wirelessly - using a streaming-service app and/or network storage device - to your hi-fi system.

Many of them work with Bluetooth as well, but that's not really what we're talking about here, we want this device to use our home network rather than sending music directly from a smartphone, tablet or computer. This way we have the potential for even better sound and greater flexibility.

BETTER THAN BLUETOOTH

If multi-room is your bag, whether you have a system or not, then there are also plenty of ways to bring a traditional hi-fi set-up into your house-wide system. The big hitters usually have a solution, and that includes our two Award-winning multi-room families in the shape of Audio Pro and Sonos.

This is where we'd point anyone already with a hi-fi system but yet to invite a wireless family into their home.

Audio Pro is the cheaper of these two favourites, and in terms of its standalone speakers will offer the best sound quality elsewhere around the house. The conduit for tethering it to your offline system, and streaming music through it, is called the Link 1. It's a fairly basic proposition, similar to the now discontinued Google Chromecast Audio in terms of features, but it sounds about as good as you're going to get from a budget streamer.

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