How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (2023)

A music streamer is a device that takes audio from one location and directs it to be played from another. If you’re into streaming, and you want to boost the sound of your system, then a good music streamer is absolutely essential. In this article, we’ve broken down the key steps to choosing a music streamer, from sources and file size to amps, DACs, and storage. For a look at our top picks, see our article on the best music streamers.

1. Music Sources

The most important advice we can give to anyone looking to buy music streamer is this: always buy for your listening style. Think about what kind of music sources you typically listen to and choose a streamer that supports them.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (1)

If you listen to strictly digital streaming audio, like that from Tidal or Spotify, then all you need in your music streamer is a Wi-Fi connection. If you also listen to music files you have stored on a hard drive, then you want to make sure that your streamer has the ability to connect to the drive. If you, like us, still occasionally listen to CDs, then it may be worth investing in a streamer with a CD player (they do exist). Those streamers may also give you the ability to rip files off a CD and store them on an internal hard drive. But the main point here is this: if you don’t listen to a particular music source, and don’t plan to in the future, then there’s no point in choosing a streamer that can handle it. Save your money and spend it on features you actually need.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (2)

(Video) 2022's BEST VALUE Spotify & Apple Music streamer?

2. Streamers With Included Amps

When music streamers were first introduced, they were simply boxes that acted as air traffic controllers. They told audio where to go, sending it to a separate DAC or amp. However, manufacturers quickly caught onto the fact that listeners like single box systems, so they started incorporating streaming technology into their amps. What this means is that you can have a single box that handles your music streaming, your file conversion, and your amplification. All you need to do is plug it in, connect speakers to it, and start streaming.

It can be a fun and straightforward way to manage hi-fi system, but there are a couple of things worth bearing in mind. Firstly, music streamers with included amps are typically more expensive – if you look at the streamers on our list of the best of this year, you’ll quickly see that those with amps cost quite a bit more. Secondly, the included amplification is not always as good as it could be. As an example, the Sonos Amp (full review here) is an excellent streamer, and offers good sound, but suffers in comparison to dedicated amps.

In our opinion, if you can, you should always purchase a dedicated amplifier and connect your music streamer to it. This is the best way to guarantee high quality sound. To be clear, you certainly won’t be shortchanged if you go for a streamer with amp capabilities – just ask anybody who has heard the outstanding Naim Uniti Atom (full review here). But if at all possible, we recommend having a separate amplifier.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (3)

3. DACs

Digital-to-Analog Converters, which turn your digital music into an audible electrical signal, are typically included within music streamers. There are very few that don’t have some sort of DAC chip, and even if they don’t have an amp included, they usually have some form of analog output. What this means is that you don’t necessarily have to think too hard about whether or not a streamer can convert your digital files to an analog signal – chances are, it will be able to do this quite easily.

Where this distinction becomes important is if you already own a DAC. If you do, and you like it, then there’s absolutely no point in paying for a music streamer with an included DAC. All you need is a simple streamer with digital outputs that can handle your source, like the Audiolab 6000N Play. We will say that your options here might be a bit limited, so it’s perfectly fine to have a streamer with an included DAC, as long as you have the ability to bypass it.

(Video) PiDAL: the Raspberry Pi as a TIDAL CONNECT streamer

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (4)

4. Storage and NAS Drives

Streaming music may be king, but we aren’t that far removed from the days of digital downloads. It’s entirely possible that you may have a huge archive of songs that you want to listen to, stored on a hard drive somewhere. You may even have a bunch of CDs you’d like to digitize. If that’s the case, it may be worth looking at a streamer that includes internal storage.

The downside is that these are relatively rare and expensive. We can only think of one off the top of our heads: the $5,500 Aurender A10, which has 4TB of internal storage. Fortunately, there’s a workaround for those who don’t want to spend a small fortune on the A10. It’s quite easy to buy what’s known as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive. This is essentially a large hard drive that acts as a media server. Your chosen music streamer will connect to it through a process called uPNP (Universal Plug 'N Play). This method gives you the benefits of storage without having to spring for a streamer with an internal hard drive.

The best part about this is that it’s cost-effective. Our favorite NAS drive is the WD My Cloud Personal. It costs less than $200, and coincidentally, also has 4TB of internal storage. We believe that an inexpensive streamer with a separate NAS drive is the ideal solution for those with digital files. This is true even if you have CDs, which can be ripped to your computer, transferred to the NAS drive, and played directly. It’s possible to get streamers with CD players, but like those with included storage, they tend to be quite expensive.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (5)

5. Roon

You can’t hang around the world of music streamers for long without hearing about Roon. A while back, a man named Enno Vandermeer looked at the world of music streamers and thought: what if we had a single piece of software to pull multiple music sources together into a single interface? One that would allow you to stream music, listen to your digital music collection, and even stream Internet radio. Then Roon was born and changed the game.

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Roon is a piece of software, and it is brilliantly simple. It operates off your laptop or PC or NAS drive, and is the hub through which all your music travels through. Once you’ve hooked up your various services, Roon pulls them all in, displaying them in a single interface. You can also access it with your phone and tablet, as long as they are on the same Wi-Fi network. It then tells the information where to go, sending it to your music streamer. It’s become so ubiquitous in the world of music streamers that many of them frequently advertise themselves as Roon Ready, which means they will be directly selectable from the Roon interface. Here’s more on how the software works.

If you have multiple music sources, then Roon is a must-have. It’s brilliantly designed, and even displays well-written biographies for artists, turning the software into somewhat of a digital magazine. The downside is that it’s expensive: at $119 a year or $699 for lifetime membership, Roon’s price is on par with most actual music streamers!

In our opinion, Roon is wonderful and we use it every day, but you absolutely don’t need it to enjoy your music streamer. Very obviously, Roon Ready streamers are a touch more expensive, so don't be afraid to ignore this if you don’t want to spend the money. There are also workable alternatives, such as JRiver and Audirvana, but they don’t look quite as good or work quite as well as Roon.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (6)

6. Audio Formats and File Types

Digital audio, either streamed wirelessly or from a hard drive, has a few key parameters you need to be aware of. The two big ones are sample rate and bit depth, which both refer to the amount of information a particular music file holds. The sample rate reflects how many times the original sound in the studio was recorded, or sampled, per second. This value is measured in Hertz (Hz). So, a sample rate of 768kHz translates to 768,000 Hertz, which is stupendously high. Bit rate is the amount of information encoded in each sample. Just like sample rate, the higher the numbers, the better. You can get a much more detailed explanation of how this all works here.

You also need to know what type of files you listen to. This is less important for streaming audio, where the file type is largely determined by the streaming service, but if you have a hankering to listen to the highest quality audio possible, then you may want to check that your streamer can handle a couple of specific file types. The first is MQA, a high resolution file format unique to the Tidal streaming service. The second is DSD, which is a file type with an exceptionally high sample rate (even up to two million Hertz). Not every streamer will be able to translate these two files. So, if you know you’re going to be hunting down the highest quality audio possible, it may be worth investing in something like the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge, which is known for MQA support.

(Video) wiim mini audio streamer unbox and set up

One other thing to bear in mind is that certain inputs and outputs restrict file size but will still play them in a lower resolution. For example, optical inputs typically don’t take anything over 96kHz in size, and any audio larger than that will be scaled down to a compatible size.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (7)

7. Music Streamers vs. Music Servers

When you’re in the market for a music streamer, you will frequently come across products labelled music servers. If you’re interested in streaming audio wirelessly, then you do not want to buy music server. It’s essentially a dedicated hard drive - usually with the CD ripper attached - and typically doesn’t have the ability to stream wireless audio. You are far better off going for something specifically labelled music streamer. Note that you also see music streamers labelled as streaming amps, streaming DACs, or network streamers. They are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing.

8. Wireless Speakers vs. Music Streamers

By now, a quite logical question has probably occurred to you. If the point of getting a music streamer is to have a convenient, single box way to pull audio in from somewhere else, then why not go one step further? Why not attach a speaker to it? Why not, in other words, buy a wireless speaker?

It’s true that wireless speakers could technically be counted as music streamers, in the sense that they play audio wirelessly from a separate source. However, we consider them different beasts. Remember, the advantage of paying for a dedicated music streamer is that its internal components will be specifically dedicated to streaming music, not playing it. There’s nothing wrong with a good wireless speaker, but its design and electronics will essentially be pulling off two roles. A dedicated music streamer will not have to worry about drivers, amp power, or audio fidelity from a speaker. If you do want a good wireless speaker, we’ve got a list of the best available right here.

How to Choose a Music Streamer | The Master Switch (8)

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9. How Much Do Music Streamers Cost?

The downside of music streamers is that they are frequently more expensive than other types of audio equipment. This is because they’re considered to be highly technical, and require quite a bit of proprietary electronics to accomplish their tasks. Having said that, it’s very possible to get a good music streamer for under $200, but not very far under. The Yamaha WXAD-10, for example, can be had for $160.

Typically, however, you will find that your choices grow exponentially once you get above $500. It’s also very possible to spend a lot of money on a music streamer; we’ve seen models that cost upwards of $6,000, from the likes of Linn and Naim. Beyond that point, improvements are likely to be very small. You will struggle to find music streamers in retail stores – even some specialist audio stores don’t have them. You’ll have a far better time if you go online, as sites like Amazon have hundreds of models available.

See Our Top Music Streamer Picks


How do I choose a music streamer? ›

Think about what kind of music sources you typically listen to and choose a streamer that supports them. If you listen to strictly digital streaming audio, like that from Tidal or Spotify, then all you need in your music streamer is a Wi-Fi connection.

How do I match my speakers to my receiver? ›

The second rule of thumb of this matching amplifier to speakers guide: Match your speaker's ohms to the ohms that your amplifier can handle. Now, amplifiers are generally designed to work with 4, 8, and 16-ohms speakers. But it is very important to know exactly what your amplifier can handle.

Are music streamers worth it? ›

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.

What is the best device for streaming music? ›

The Best Digital Music Streamers for Your Home
  • Naim Uniti Atom. $3,799 AT AMAZON. Read More. $3,799 AT AMAZON.
  • Bluesound Node Bluesound. $499 AT AMAZON. Read More. ...
  • Audiolab 6000N Play. $672 AT AMAZON. Read More. ...
  • Cambridge Audio CXN V2. $1,099 AT MUSICDIRECT.COM. Read More. ...
  • Cambridge Audio Evo 75. $2,499 AT AMAZON. Read More.
Nov 8, 2022

What should a beginner streamer have? ›

You'll need a camera, mic or microphone, lighting, and a stable internet connection. You'll also need to get your (digital) hands on some live streaming software. More on that in a bit.

What is the most popular music streamer? ›

Spotify. Spotify is a great all-around music streaming service with an intuitive interface, slick social features and a large selection of music and podcasts. Spotify is the most popular streaming platform in the world, with 350 million users and 150 million subscribers.

Do Bigger speakers mean better sound? ›

Most people tend to think that bigger speakers are better because they're louder. Big speakers can easily reach high volumes that simply aren't possible with a small speaker. If you need your speakers to be loud, then size will certainly matter, but louder audio doesn't mean better audio.

Is it better to have speakers higher or lower? ›

Whether you have your speakers on stands, on a shelf or wall-mounted, remember that speakers are generally designed so that they sound best when they are level with your ears when you are listening to them.

Does more watts mean better sound? ›

Yes, it's true that the higher the power (watts), the louder and cleaner the speakers will play. Small differences in power, however, don't make much of an audible change. In order to perceptively hear a difference (a 3dB increase), the power would have to double.

How much does 1k streams pay? ›

As for how much Spotify pays per stream, they pay roughly $0.04 per 10 streams. So, 1000 streams would be around $4, and 100,000 streams would be $400. Remember, this result may be lower based on certain factors such as if only half of your song was listened to.

How much does a 1k streamer make? ›

How much money can you make on Twitch?
# of viewersEstimated income
50 average viewers per stream$500-$750 per month
100 average viewers per stream$1,000-$1,500 per month
1,000 average viewers per stream$5,000 per month
5,000 average viewers per stream$13,000 per month
4 more rows
Jun 2, 2022

How much do 100 streamer viewers make? ›

According to CNBC, a Twitch streamer with about a 100-viewer average makes roughly $250 per 100 subscribers from ad revenue. Of course, in order to make that much, you've got to build up a somewhat large following which is no easy task.

What are the top 3 streaming devices? ›

The best streaming devices you can find today
  1. Roku Streaming Stick 4K. Best streaming device overall. ...
  2. Roku Express 4K Plus. The best streaming device under $40. ...
  3. Chromecast with Google TV 4K. ...
  4. Nvidia Shield TV (2019) ...
  5. Apple TV 4K (2022) ...
  6. Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max. ...
  7. Chromecast with Google TV HD. ...
  8. Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus.
Dec 1, 2022

What do big streamers use for music? ›

This is the option commonly used by reputable streamers is Epidemic Sound. It is a royalty-free music library with more than 300,000 tracks, which increases weekly. It is also possible to use its music effects without problems when monetizing your streams.

Is WiFi or Bluetooth better for streaming music? ›

You can probably imagine how the different methods you use to connect to your phone can affect the quality of the sound. And they certainly do. Simply put, a Wifi connection gives you the best sound. This is because it has much greater bandwidth.

Is it hard to grow as a streamer? ›

Growing your Twitch channel can be a challenge but it's not an impossible task. Although it might take some time, as long as you stay consistent and focus on your goals, you'll be gaining subscribers in no time.

How old should a streamer be? ›

People who are 13 or older but under the age of majority where they reside (varies based on legal residence, but is 18 in most U.S. states) may only use Twitch under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian who agrees to be bound by Twitch's Terms of Service. Children under 13 may not use Twitch.

Who are the top 4 streamers? ›

1NinjaTyler Blevins
2auronplayRaúl Álvarez
3RubiusRubén Doblas
4ibaiIbai Llanos
46 more rows

Who is the number 1 streamed artist? ›

Since 2013, Spotify has published a yearly list of its most-streamed artists, which has been topped by Drake and Bad Bunny a record three times, with Bad Bunny being the only artist to do so on consecutive years (2020, 2021 and 2022).

What makes a speaker high end? ›

The cost of a speaker comes from more than the electronic components themselves. High-End speakers can be more expensive due to the design of the speakers, the quality of materials, the durability and weight, and even the branding. These elements are often much more important than people realize.

How do you know if a speaker is powerful? ›

The higher the sensitivity rating, the louder your speaker is. An average speaker comes with a sensitivity of around 87 dB to 88 dB. A speaker with a sensitivity rating over 90 dB is considered excellent.

What makes a speaker sound better? ›

Every speaker produces certain frequencies that are louder or softer than others. Assuming that your ultimate goal is accurate audio reproduction, the less variation in loudness between frequencies—in other words, the flatter the frequency response chart is—the better the speaker quality.

Can small speakers sound as good as large? ›

Small speakers are not able to produce a clear sound in all situations simply due to their size. It limits them in terms of the power they can produce. These speakers have difficulty with large sounds, like explosions in a movie, as well as sounds that are too low in pitch.

Is 2 way or 4 way speakers better? ›

A 2 way speaker has 2 components, a tweeter for high frequency and a mid-range. The 4 way speaker has a bass and a mid-range component as well as 2 tweeters, so it's a bit better for high range sound, but overall not much higher in quality than the 2 way.

How many speakers do you need for good sound? ›

A 5.1 sound system will be the most common setup for speakers. It uses a combination of 6 speakers to provide the minimum for a full surround sound experience.

How many watts is a good sound system? ›

Much depends on your listening habits and your speaker's efficiency. If you like loud uncompressed music and your speakers are 90dB efficient, 200 Watts is likely plenty of power for you. If you only listen to light classical, jazz and don't expect them to rock the house, 50 Watts is adequate.

How loud is 100 watt speaker? ›

One watt=90 dB. One hundred watts, or 100X more power=110 dB.

Which is better high or low watts? ›

Lower wattage means lower energy bills – and less carbon emissions. Better for your wallet and better for the environment. The more energy efficient the light bulb technology, the less electricity (Watts) a bulb uses.

How much money is 1m streams? ›

Spotify pays between $0.001 and $0.008 per stream to artists. This means that if your song is streamed one million times on Spotify, you can expect to earn between $1,000 and $8,000. The average fee for streaming on Spotify in the US is $0.004.

How do small streamers make money? ›

A streamer never earns a fixed monthly salary, as their revenue is directly proportional to their popularity and the amount of monetary support they receive from their audience. A “small” streamer on Twitch earns between $50 and $1,500 a month. The more subscribers and donations they have, the bigger their earnings.

How much does 10k viewers make Twitch? ›

Streamers in the top 100 on the platform make a minimum of $32,850 USD per month on Twitch via subs, bit donations, and ads alone. Streamers in the top 1000 on the platform made a minimum of $7,063 USD per month. Streamers in the top 10,000 on the platform make a minimum of $904 USD per month.

How much money does a streamer make off 500 followers? ›

The most popular streamers can receive up to 70% of the payment for a subscription. Here's how much you can earn per month with paid subscriptions: 100 subscribers – $250. 500 subscribers – $1,250.

Is being a streamer profitable? ›

Affiliate streamers playing 40 hours per week can make $3,000 to $5,000 per month. Bits: Once you're an affiliate, your followers can tip you with virtual “Bits.” They currently convert into roughly one cent per Bit.

How many views do you need to get paid on Twitch? ›

Twitch Partner: Becoming a Partner requires a significant jump in your 30-day metrics: 25 hours streamed over at least 12 days with an average of 75 concurrent viewers. Once you've reached these numbers, you can submit a Partner application.

How do I find the right reel for music? ›

When creating a Reel in the Instagram App, you can tap on the music icon to add audio from Instagram's own library. This will bring up a screen with audio recommendations tailored specifically for you, as well as a search bar where you can look for music or sounds. You can also access your saved audio from this menu.

How do I choose a music distributor? ›

To help you make a more informed decision, here are six important things you should consider when choosing a digital distributor as an independent musician.
  1. Pricing Structure. ...
  2. Selection of Digital Outlets Offered. ...
  3. Customer Support Quality. ...
  4. Company Values. ...
  5. Reporting and Metrics. ...
  6. Growth Opportunities for Artists.
Jun 17, 2020

What is the difference between a music server and a music streamer? ›

What we're talking about when we say music streamer is an audio device that's specifically designed and optimized for streaming music. This could be a device with or without a DAC (digital-to-analog converter), and with or without storage. With storage, it's called a streaming server.

What is the point of a music streamer? ›

And what do we mean by a music streamer? It's any component that allows you to play music wirelessly – using a streaming service app and/or network storage device – to your hi-fi system.

What music is trending on Reels? ›

Instagram Reels - Top Trending 2022
  • Miss You - Sped Up VersionOliver Tree, sped up nightcore.
  • Unholy (feat. ...
  • Bones (From "The Boys Season 3 Trailer")Geek Music.
  • SNAPRosa Linn.
  • Tell MeTarek.S.
  • Until I Found You (Sped Up) - Heaven When I Held You Again How Could We Ever Just Be FriendsHiko.
  • Anti-HeroTaylor Swift.

What music is trending on Reels 2022? ›

Instagram Reels Songs 2022 | Trending Reels Music
  • A Sky Full of StarsColdplay.
  • CUFF ITBeyoncé
  • I'm Good (Blue)David Guetta, Bebe Rexha.
  • Cool for the Summer - Sped Up (Nightcore)Demi Lovato, Speed Radio.
  • The Ballet GirlAden Foyer.
  • On My OwnTydem, Cut Engine.
  • OMGBroiler, Sofiloud.
  • 10:35Tiësto, Tate McRae.

How many views do Reels get? ›

If we put on our analytical glasses and look at the numbers, here's what Instagram Reels insights are revealed: while regular videos have a view rate of 1.74% on average, Instagram Reels record an average view rate of 2.54%.

Who is the best distributor for music? ›

The Best Music Distribution Companies in 2022
  • United Masters. ...
  • Distrokid. ...
  • Amuse. ...
  • ONErpm. ...
  • Horus Music. ...
  • Landr. ...
  • EmuBands. ...
  • Symphonic. Distributing with Symphonic requires artists to apply and get 'accepted' before you can start releasing unlimited music to 200+ online stores.
May 1, 2022

What is the most popular music distribution? ›

Which are the top 10 music distribution companies?
  • Distrokid.
  • CD Baby.
  • ReverbNation.
  • LANDR.
  • Tunecore.
  • RouteNote.
  • OneRPM.
  • Ditto Music.
Sep 13, 2022

What distributor do famous artists use? ›

What distributor do famous artists use? Famous artists typically use major label distributors, which include INgrooves, The Orchard, and Caroline International, among others. These distribution companies are most oftentimes owned by the record label.

Does a streamer improve sound quality? ›

Streamers usually produce a more relaxed sound than CD and their ability to use higher resolution formats gives them a further advantage in this respect.

Do all music streamers sound the same? ›

The sound should be exactly the same (unless the streamer is modifying data packets en route - which it shouldn't).

Do you need a DAC with a music streamer? ›

A DAC is essential for listening to digital music, since you need something that will convert the digital signals back to analog. But if you already own a DAC that you like, then there's no need to purchase a streamer with a DAC. Here are some options for high-quality streamers that don't include DACs.

Who is the best streamer of all time? ›

1NinjaTyler Blevins
2auronplayRaúl Álvarez
3RubiusRubén Doblas
4ibaiIbai Llanos
46 more rows

What happens if a streamer plays copyrighted music? ›

For certain egregious uses of these rights holders' copyrighted works, Twitch will issue a warning to creators for their first offense, and issue penalties for subsequent offenses. Twitch may also suspend livestreams and/or delete recorded videos that include copyrighted music in a prohibited way.

Why is music streaming so successful? ›

Streaming subscriptions are allowing music fans to listen to more music than ever before, and, in most cases, are more affordable than purchasing full albums (the average paid streaming service subscription costs about $10 per month, and many offer free, ad-supported versions of their service).


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