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Best network music players for 2022

Our top picks, from simple to more full-featured streamers

In this article: I’ll look at some of our favorite network music streaming devices for 2022.

  1. Best budget streamer — Andover Audio Songbird
  2. Best value preamplifier with network streaming — Yamaha WXC-50
  3. Best for high-res streaming — Bluesound NODE
  4. Best powered multi-room streamer — Sonos Amp
  5. Best CD player/streamer — Marantz ND8006
  6. Best audiophile component streamer — Cambridge CXN(V2)
  7. Best integrated amplifier with built-in streaming — NAD C 700
  8. Most user-friendly streaming interface — HiFi Rose RS250
  9. Best audiophile integrated amplifier with Chromecast built-in — Primare I35 Prisma

Before we get down to it, I’ll talk about some general features all network players have in common.

M

ost of us are familiar with streaming services like Spotify. A whole generation has grown up streaming music on their phones, but not everyone has integrated network streaming into their home audio setup. What does a network streamer do that your phone can’t?

A streamer’s DAC (digital-to-analog converter) will generally decode higher resolution digital music. And a streamer will do it with less distortion and electrical interference than your phone or even your computer. In most cases it will also connect to your existing audio system without adapters or dongles.

They also let you access popular streaming services and free internet radio stations from across the globe. But it’s not only about streaming services. A network streamer lets you play your drive-stored music via Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB connections.

Easy app control

App control is the way to play, and different streamer brands use proprietary technology, but all the major players have the same basic features. They allow you to stream from a variety of music services like Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and others.

App showing how to control different rooms

Streamer apps like MusicCast let you connect with and control like devices throughout your home.

You can also use your streamer's app to play music stored on your local hard drives. And in many cases it will let you add additional streamers and control them independently or together, so you can have music playing throughout your home.

Which streaming service do you use?

It’s definitely worth checking which streaming services are compatible with any network streamer you’re considering. It might make your decision for you. All streamers will operate at least at CD quality, and some can even play high-res files. We expect that most will evolve toward working with the maximum number of music services, at the maximum resolution available.

But it makes sense to find a streamer that works with what you’ve got — and what you want — in the present. Here at Crutchfield, opinions are split as to which platform is best. We’ll cover a few below.

The best music streamer for you

It took me a while to realize that I wanted a component network music player. I love filling in the gaps and finding new music on Tidal and Qobuz. I’ve tried streaming via Bluetooth through my hi-fi systems, with mixed results. After some experience testing a few different streamers with Wi-Fi, I’m in the market. And I’m still figuring out which one — or ones — I prefer.

Room located in house called spaceship

The Sonos Amp has a small footprint and enormous flexibility, but here in "the spaceship" it's connected only to a pair of floor-standing MartinLogan speakers.

Do you want to stream music in different rooms? I know that after I get one streamer connected to the hi-fi system in my living room, I’ll want to be able to connect to our other system, in the room we call "the spaceship.”

Many of the streamers on this list have the ability to connect with like devices and stream music throughout your home. If user-friendly multi-room connectivity is at the top of your wish list, some models will give you a better experience than others. If your goal is to get high-quality streaming audio in your main listening space, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Here are my top picks for different users.

Andover Audio Songbird

Best budget streamer — Andover Audio Songbird

The Andover Audio Songbird is remarkably flexible for its very small size. It can stream high-res audio and has digital and analog inputs and it literally fits in the palm of your hand, so you can place it pretty much anywhere — when I tested one, I put it on the rack shelf behind my integrated amp.

Getting the Songbird up and running took me just a few hassle-free minutes. Once you plug it in and connect it to your system, a gentle voice talks you through the rest of the setup. Off the bat you can choose it as the output for Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Amazon Music, and more. Or just use AirPlay if you’re an Apple person like me.

The free Songbird Control app is streamlined and easy to use if you want to organize multiple music services, play music files you have stored locally, and/or control one or two sources connected to the Songbird.

You could put together a great-sounding, low-profile setup with just the Songbird and a nice pair of powered speakers. Connect a turntable with a phono preamp to the analog input and a CD player to the Toslink optical input and the world is your oyster.

Details:

  • Wi-Fi music streamer with Bluetooth
  • adds streaming capabilities to your existing system
  • free Songbird Control App lets you control up to 5 Songbird streamers on the same network
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz
  • maximum resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: FLAC, ALAC, APE, WAV
  • analog and digital output connections to your amplifier, receiver, or powered speakers
  • works with Apple AirPlay, and DLNA to stream files stored locally on your network
Yamaha WXC-50

Best value preamplifier with network streaming — Yamaha WXC-50

Yamaha's WXC-50 preamplifier is a great choice if you've already got an amplifier or set of powered speakers you love and want to add wireless streaming.

With compact, sturdy metal construction designed to stand horizontally or vertically, it fits and looks great wherever you place it. It's got digital and analog inputs for connecting all kinds of sources - from a turntable with a phono preamp to an external USB drive packed with high-res music files.

Yamaha’s MusicCast app gives you great control over the receiver and your music sources, and you can seamlessly connect to other MusicCast devices. It’s pretty cool that you can use your own photos to identify each room that contains a connected device.

It's also got built-in two-way Bluetooth, so you can stream to it that way as well as transmit its output to a Bluetooth speaker or set of headphones/earbuds. There's even an output for connecting a powered subwoofer.

Details:

  • network stereo preamplifier
  • free Yamaha MusicCast app lets you control up to 32 MusicCast devices
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Pandora, and TIDAL
  • maximum resolution 24-bit/192kHz
  • plays high-resolution digital music files via USB storage device or a networked computer
  • supported high-res music formats: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, and DSD
  • works with AirPlay and DLNA
  • voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant (sold separately)
Bluesound Node 2i

Best for high-res streaming — Bluesound NODE

The Bluesound NODE packs a lot of features into a component about the size of a trade paperback book. Connect it to your receiver or powered speakers and voilà, you can stream from most popular music services, play high-res files, and get music from drives via USB. Stream wirelessly using either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or use a hardwired Ethernet connection.

You can even stream your TV's audio using the HDMI eARC input that is new in this version. It also has an upgraded DAC with even highter resolution decoding than its predecessor.

Bountiful output choices include RCA, optical and coaxial digital. There’s also an RCA subwoofer out and a 3.5 stereo headphone output. You can connect to other Bluesound devices wirelessly, or via hardwire. Bluesound is the brand of choice for many critical listeners looking for multi-room streaming. The app is easy to navigate and gives you flexible control when you’re working with connected rooms.

I had a chance to test the previous version, the extremely popular NODE 2i, on our living room hi-fi system, powered by a PS Audio Sprout 100 integrated amp through a pair of vintage Dynaco A-25s. Unboxing is a minimalist, design-oriented experience, and setup is simple. The BluOS controller app is flexible and user-friendly, and I was up and listening in about five minutes.

It was easy to pick out the Gibb brothers’ different voices in the deliciously syrupy production of Trafalgar, and the emphatic timpani really rang out. It also handled the trashy production on the proto-black-metal band Venom’s Welcome to Hell with aplomb — intelligible vocals and articulate riffs that from a lesser source often sound muddled.

Details:

  • streaming music player with analog and digital output connection to your amplifier, receiver, or powered speakers
  • free BluOS app lets you control up to 16 wirelessly connected Bluesound devices, and up to 64 hardwired
  • compatible streaming services include Amazon Prime Music, Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, and HiResAudio
  • maximum resolution: 32-bit/384kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF and MQA
  • works with Apple AirPlay2, Roon, and 3rd-party smart home control systems including Control4, Crestron, Lutron, ELAN, and RTI
  • voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (sold separately)
Sonos amp placed on a desk

Best powered multi-room streamer — Sonos Amp

A Sonos Amp and a set of passive speakers makes a great standalone streaming stereo system. It’s small, but sounds big. And you can connect a turntable with a built-in or outboard phono preamp, or a CD player — or whatever component you choose — using the rear-panel line-level stereo RCA input. That’s pretty cool — to be able stream vinyl via your home network. There’s also an HDMI input port for playing your TV’s audio.

You can connect to your network using Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa for voice control. Sonos and Apple work really well together. You can play music with Apple AirPlay2 from any Apple device, and if you subscribe to Apple Music, you can use Siri to tell the Amp what selection or playlist to play.

Basic front panel controls and an optional remote work fine, but for optimum control, it’s still all about the app.

Sonos arguably makes multi-room audio easier than any other platform. You can connect other Sonos devices via Wi-Fi, and their line includes a wide variety of products that work together seamlessly — standalone and portable speakers, subwoofers, sound bars, network hubs, component streamers. If you decide to go Sonos, it will be really easy to connect your whole home.

My hands-on experience started with a pleasant unboxing — Sonos has taken an Apple-like approach. Easy-peasy setup and in minutes I was streaming some golden-age punk rock through the Amp in “the spaceship”— the Damned’s and Devo’s first albums.

Both of these records love to be played loud, and the Sonos amp is definitely up to the task, delivering lively and detailed audio that made me want to bounce around the house. Which would be even more fun if I had another connected Amp in the living room.

Details:

  • amplified streaming music system
  • 125 watts x 2
  • free Sonos “S2” app lets you control up to 32 Sonos devices
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Tidal, and Qobuz
  • maximum resolution: 24-bit/48kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: FLAC, ALAC, WAV and AIFF
  • works with Apple AirPlay2
  • voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant enabled devices, including the Sonos One and Sonos Beam (sold separately)
Marantz ND8006

Best CD player/streamer — Marantz ND8006

If you’ve already got an amp or receiver that you love, the Marantz ND8006 will make your digital sources sound fantastic. It’s a network streamer controlled by the HEOS app. It also features a great CD transport. Build quality is substantial, with a heavy curved aluminum faceplate, powerful toroidal transformer and shielded construction inside the chassis.

HEOS app control puts you in the Denon/Marantz family of multi-room streaming, and there are several components and standalone speakers you can get to expand. Setup and connection were easy for me, and the app has the features you’d expect from the best multi-room platforms — stream from your favorite service, create and control groups, play the same or different music in separate rooms, and more.

It has a particularly great-sounding DAC — worth using its optical or coaxial digital inputs to convert other outboard digital sources to analog. There’s a fixed stereo RCA output for sending a signal on to a receiver, powered speakers or other component with volume control, and a variable stereo RCA output if you’re using it as a preamp and connecting directly to an amplifier.

It’s a great option if high-res music is your thing, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet streaming at 24 bit/192kHz. The front-panel USB port allows you to connect and stream from a computer or thumb drive at up to 32-bit/384kHz.

When I listened the ‘8006 running through my living room system, the sound was detailed and muscular. Rush’s “Cygnus X-1 Book 2” had satisfying punch and richness. And Glyn Johns’ production on Joan Armatrading’s self-titled third album sounded stunning, with a spacious 3D soundstage.

Details:

  • CD player/streamer
  • analog and digital output connections to your amplifier, receiver, or powered speakers
  • free HEOS app lets you control up to 32 HEOS devices
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, and Tidal
  • maximum resolution: 32-bit/384kHz (using front-panel USB input)
  • supported high-res music formats: FLAC, ALAC, and WAV, plus DSD and PCM via USB input
  • works with Apple AirPlay2, DLNA, and Roon
  • voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (sold separately)
Cambridge system on top of furniture

Best audiophile component streamer — Cambridge CXN (V2)

Attention to detail is what sets Cambridge components apart, and the CXN (V2) is no exception. Balanced XLR — and unbalanced RCA — outputs and twin Wolfson 24-bit DACs deliver audiophile-quality stereo imaging with high-res for all incoming digital sources. And your digital input options include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, optical and coaxial digital, USB and Ethernet.

Other details like full-metal construction, toroidal power transformer, isolated componentry, and a detachable power cable work to keep output distortion-free. The dimmable, full-color screen that displays album art and track information is icing on the cake.

If you’re looking at the CXN, you might be less interested in multi-room, and more into focused listening. You might even like to use the music aggregator platform Roon to sort, annotate and play your streaming music. You will be rewarded with textured and musical sound.

Like my friend Jack, who got a CXN for Christmas. “I plugged it in,” he says, “stuck an Ethernet cable into it, turned it on, and it said, ‘Hey, want me to play your music? I found Roon.’ Off-the-charts user-friendly. Anyone can figure it out. I’ve never had to reboot.”

Details:

  • network audio streamer with analog and digital output connections to your amplifier, receiver, or powered speakers
  • free StreamMagic app lets you control volume and source selection
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz
  • maximum resolution: 24-bit/384kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF, DSD and PCM
  • works with Apple AirPlay2, Chromecast, UPnP, and Roon
  • voice control with Google Assistant (sold separately)
NAD C 700

Best integrated amplifier with built-in streaming — NAD C 700

Maybe it’s silly to want a full-color display that shows you what’s playing on your streamer. That’s what I thought until I got a chance to test out the NAD C 700. I connected my MartinLogan floor-standing speakers and it really makes them sound great.

As I write I’m listening to The Sound of the Johnny Smith Guitar and hearing a beautiful and clear holographic rendering of this natural-sounding recording. It’s only available in CD-quality via Qobuz, but the C 700’s built-in DAC can decode high-res files with dexterity. It revealed fresh detail in Ringo’s drum tracks in the high-res version The Beatles’ “Come Together.”

The C 700’s footprint is small and its understated, elegant design looks great on your shelf. On the back it’s got digital and analog inputs, even eARC HDMI for connecting to your TV. The streamer uses the BluOS platform, so you can connect to other BluOS components throughout your house and let the music follow you from room to room—up to 63.

Details:

  • 80 watts x 2
  • built-in BluOS Wi-Fi music streamer with Bluetooth
  • just add speakers using the five-way binding posts
  • free BluOS Control App lets you control up to 63 BluOS streamers on the same network
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music and Qobuz
  • maximum resolution: 24-bit/192kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: MQA, FLAC, WAV, and AIFF
  • analog and digital input connections, including eARC HDMI
  • works with Apple AirPlay 2 and Roon to stream files stored locally on your network
HiFi Rose RS250

Most user-friendly streaming interface — HiFi Rose RS250

If you get a chance to play with the HiFi Rose RS250’s pleasant touchscreen interface, you may have a hard time going back to knobs and LED readouts. Its onboard customized Android™ OS gives this high-performance streamer/DAC/preamplifier a user-friendliness that will feel like home to the smartphone generation.

It’s a fantastic-sounding preamp with digital and analog inputs. Audiophiles will appreciate its exceptionally smooth and detailed sound, disappearing noise floor, and remarkably low distortion. Its high-res DAC uses a femto clock, which measures time down to the femtosecond — one quadrillionth of a second — for incredibly precise and fluid audio.

You can customize what it displays when you’re playing music — the virtual VU meters look great. I’m also fan of its touchscreen settings adjustments, like the functional virtual back panel for switching inputs and outputs. You can fully control the RS250 using the touchscreen.

Phone and tablet connection is easy, and you’ll find all the same control in the free Rose Connect app. It works with Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz and more, plus your locally stored music. And you can add up to a 4TB SSD drive in the internal storage bay under the unit’s bottom panel.

And here’s something you don’t see on other streamers: 4K video decoding on the touchscreen and via HDMI. The RoseTube app lets you search and play YouTube videos that you can watch on the unit's full color screen or — even better — on your TV via HDMI. And you can connect your TV’s digital audio out into the RS250 for beautiful soundtrack audio.

Details:

  • high-performance preamplifier with network audio and 4K video streaming
  • 8.8-inch-wide high-def, full-color touchscreen
  • free Rose Connect App works with streaming services and local drives
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music and Qobuz
  • maximum resolution: 32-bit/768kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: MQA, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD, PCM
  • analog and digital inputs, including HDMI
  • works with Apple AirPlay 2, Roon, and DLNA to stream files stored locally on your network

Primare i35 prisma

Best audiophile integrated amp with Chromecast built-in — Primare I35 Prisma

First and foremost, the Primare I35 Prisma is a high-performance integrated amplifier. Bountiful and flexible digital and analog inputs let you connect pretty much anything. A pair of balanced analog XLR inputs means that it can be part of a truly audiophile-grade system.

Its flexible streaming options mean it can also be a great “just add speakers” amp. It was a perfect match for my MartinLogan floorstanding speakers, which are on the hungry side. The amp gave them a detailed and palpable soundstage — one of the best I’ve heard coming through them.

Chromecast built-in and Apple AirPlay make it easy to get streaming fast using pretty much any device once you add the I35 to your home network. That’s great because it means that anyone on my home network can send music to the amp. For me, Chromecast in particular had a fast control reaction time and clearly resolved sound.

If you really want to take advantage of this amp’s fantastic DAC, connect via Ethernet, or even better connect directly via USB. You can use the Prisma app for controlling the music from your local drives. It also lets you play from local drives with UPnP and DLNA — plus it’s a Roon endpoint.

But most of the time I used Chromecast or AirPlay going straight from Qobuz. The I35 did great things for Allen Toussaint’s Southern Nights and Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door. The amp delivers effortlessly spacious and enveloping sound, whatever your source.

Details:

  • 150 watts x 2 into 8 ohms/300 watts x 2 into 4 ohms
  • high-performance integrated amp with network streaming
  • works with Chromecast built-in and Apple AirPlay
  • works with Google Assistant for voice control
  • Free Prisma app works with streaming services and local drives
  • compatible streaming services include Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz
  • maximum resolution: 32-bit/768kHz
  • supported high-res music formats: MQA, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, DSD, PCM
  • analog and digital inputs, including HDMI
  • also works with Roon, UPnP, and DLNA to stream files stored locally on your network

Need more details to figure out which streamer is best for you?

Contact one of our advisors for help choosing which network music streamer will work best for your situation.

Popular questions customers ask

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.

Last updated 2/11/2022
  • Commenter image

    Ned Oldham from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/8/2021

    Kev, there are so many services that we don't have room to list them all in the article, but if you look in the "Details" tab of any particular product on our website, you'll find a more comprehensive list. It's an evolving situation. Sonos, to mention one, does support LiveXLive.

  • C. Ramsey from Dayton

    Posted on 7/8/2021

    It seems that we're entering a new era in music streaming with Amazon & others now offering CD quality or higher audio. I've been disappointed to learn that my 5 yr old Yamaha Aventage does not support Amazon Music on MusicCast.

  • Bob from Cleveland

    Posted on 7/7/2021

    Nice features but underpowered for demanding 4 ohm speakers. Very happy with my NAD M33, yes a bit more expensive but better and higher power Purifi amplification, with next to no heat generated. Perfect for all my streaming and Bluetooth needs.

  • Ole Christensen from Amsterdam

    Posted on 7/7/2021

    I have a Ifi zen blue high fidelity Bluetooth streamer and I love the ease of use, build quality, and ease to connect.

  • James M Ritenour from COVINGTON

    Posted on 7/7/2021

    I understand that your list is personal and and everyone can have favorites. A year ago, give or take, I ordered a Yamaha N-R303 From you and even it was not available i waited...Finally, I gave up and changed my order to a Denon DRA-800H. I cant begin to tell you how thrilled we are with it. My wife and I listen to a ton of music. We stream Sirius, Pandora, IHeart, Amazon and others. We use the Xeos App to list our favorite channels from any source and have a simple press the button to change the source. We also use the Amazon Alexa device to play anything that crosses our mind. We have direct tuning on stations all over the world. The Denon works so well for us, it was the smartest decision we had made in a long time. Thank you Yamaha for being out of stock.

  • Kev from Manassas, VA

    Posted on 7/7/2021

    I'm a long time Slacker subscriber, and I love their service and their features more than any other. Why is it almost none of today's streamers, including these here support LiveXLive (Slacker)? Or do some of them support it but you just neglected to mention? Otherwise, very informative. Thanks.

  • Charlie from SF Bay Area

    Posted on 7/7/2021

    My Audioengine B-Fi has been reliable. Forget the Audioengine app; I use BubbleUpnp on an Android tablet, which pulls streams off the Internet through our router and files off a PC on the home network, then sends them to the B-Fi. The B-Fi optical outlet goes into an amp that has an optical input, while the line output goes into a tube preamp. It all works well, except for the inevitable glitches of wifi in general.

  • Samir from Cherry Hill

    Posted on 5/28/2021

    This a great comparison article. As a cost-effective alternative to the Naim Uniti Atom in the "Best integrated amplifier with built-in streaming", I would suggest the Denon PMA-150H. I've owned one for just over a year, and it offers built-in support for a variety of streaming services (I've primarily used TIDAL HiFi on it), in addition to excellent sound quality.

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