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You’ll want to make sure that the network music player you buy is compatible with the way you stream and play digital music. So check for compatibility with your preferred streaming service. If you play music stored on your computer or network-attached storage (NAS) drive on your local Wi-Fi network, check for compatibility with the music file formats (WAV, MP3, etc.) you use.
You can also get streaming capability in some integrated amps, stereo and home theater receivers, and powered speakers. Looking for multi-room wireless music streaming? Lots of streamers can be part of a multi-room system like Sonos, Bluesound, HEOS, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and others.
Check out our list of best network music players to see some of our favorites.
Network streamers allow you to wirelessly stream from online music services like TIDAL, Spotify, Pandora, and many others, or from network-attached storage (NAS) drives connected to your local Wi-Fi network.
As long as your smartphone, tablet, or whatever device you're playing music from is connected to the internet, you can control your network streamer(s). Bluetooth, on the other hand, has a limited control range. You can also stream at higher audio resolution with Wi-Fi than you can over Bluetooth.
Ethernet is more stable than Wi-Fi for connecting to your home network. You also get higher audio resolution with Ethernet (up to 32-bit/384kHz) versus Wi-fi (up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution).
Some streamers have onboard control. But even for the ones that do, the most common way to control them is via app on your smartphone, tablet, or other device. There are different apps for different streamers. Some streamers also have remote control options. Some even have voice control but require a Google or Alexa enabled device.
All digital audio has to go through a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) to produce sound. Most streamers have onboard DACs. Any streamer with a built in DAC will have analog outputs. Streamers that don't have an analog output require an outboard DAC.
In addition to standalone network streamers, you can also get streaming capability in some integrated amps, stereo and home theater receivers, and powered speakers.
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