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Why do streaming audio players seem to be useless and overpriced bling to me?

charlielaub

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I can't wrap my head around why anyone would buy a streamer. A streamer box seems to be some sort of hardware based interface for streaming audio services plus a DAC or other output interface. Maybe you can also use it as the front end for a NAS device. Am I missing something?

To me it seems that you can get all of the same access to streaming services, files, etc. and more using a laptop and a DAC, but would end up spending much, much less and not be constrained to using a teeny tiny screen. I play streaming audio all the time via a computer. I cannot think of any streaming audio services that are NOT available on a computer. And said computer does not need to be "fast" or expensive by any means.

Why are audio components for accessing streaming services costing several thousands of dollars seemingly popular?
 

MaxwellsEq

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Sometimes the house layout doesn't suit having a laptop permanently wired into the HiFi. Sometimes households include people who can't stand seeing computers permanently on display.
 

Apesbrain

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A streamer box seems to be some sort of hardware based interface for streaming audio services plus a DAC or other output interface.
A "streamer box" is a low-powered computer packaged to remove the moving parts (drives, fans) that for some people create unacceptable noise levels in their listening room. A competent streamer can cost under $200.

If instead you wish to use a laptop or desktop PC -- or a tablet or a phone -- for this purpose, that's fine. It really doesn't not make a difference.

Inexpensive streamers also easily enable the creation of separate listening zones in your household. The PC that you currently use for audio playback can also run a server that will make your music library accessible to any number of remote streamers in other rooms. Typically, these zones can be sync'd to one another or independently controlled so that different programs are playing in other zones. Control over program selection and volume is usually managed via mobile device or browser.
 
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Jimbob54

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Why are audio components for accessing streaming services costing several thousands of dollars seemingly popular?
Because:

a) people love to spend money on their systems and many believe that £000 spent at any point in a system (especially on a nice shiny box) must bring with it some audible benefits
b) Sometimes a PC hardwired to a DAC is not convenient or achievable. I personally have a loud (fan) laptop that I can run into my DAC but its constantly blowing, must be consuming lots of power and I can instead use a Wiim Mini straight into my DAC which is far more convenient and energy efficient. And a far nicer interface overall.

I would agree that full size expensive streamers are unnecessary for many in this day and age but there is very much a place for lower cost mini streamers.
 

TheWalkman

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For $50 - $60 all in, I have a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W based streamer running Volumio that holds my entire CD library, allows me to effortlessly connect to ~50 of my favorite radio stations, Spotify, Pandora, etc. and is accessible through a web browser from anywhere in my house. I can also create playslists of my favorite songs/ genres as well.

Why wouldn't you want to do this?
 
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Balle Clorin

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To me it seems that you can get all of the same access to streaming services, files, etc. and more using a laptop and a DAC, but would end up spending much, much less and not be constrained to using a teeny tiny screen. I play streaming audio all the time via a computer.
After spending 8hours at work with a PC I do not want to touch it again when I want to relax with music . I prefer to run Tidal to Chromecast audio Toslink into the DAC/ Preamp/Roon receiver or Roon to the same , via IPad.. The Tidal/Roon to Chromecast solution is very cheap but works perfectly. I do not know what a PC or Streamer would do better. But a streamer box is a convenient solution for people like me who find operating a PC irritating. Streamers be found both cheaply and silly expensive…
 

HoweSound

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I built a silent pc based on a mini-itx motherboard running Linux, hooked to a TV with a wireless keyboard with spdif or toslink to my DAC and stereo. I can stream or play my stored flac music collection, but I must have the TV on and keyboard handy. My DAC is an older relic. I also have a Raspberry Pi running Volumio using my phone as the interface. The onboard Raspberry Pi DAC isn't the greatest and I refuse to pay for a Volumio subscription so Volumio features are limited. I replaced all of the above with the Eversolo DMP A6. The Eversolo DAC is excellent. It's silent and has balanced connections to my pre-amp. The user interface to my Android phone does what I need and the Eversolo touch screen is great. My music collection is stored on the internal SSD and Qobuz streams natively. The PC and Raspberry Pi are now relegated to a shelf in the closet.
 

GaryY

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People may understand or not, but I would like to have display on streamer. While moving to foreign area, I didn't bring all of my CD and LPs and now I came back to listening music. Eversolo shows the album jacket from Tidal on display which reminds me the time when I bought that album. Yes, it could be excessive option in many cases, but I love it and that's one of reason I selected Eversolo instead of miniDSP. :)
 

popej

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To me it seems that you can get all of the same access to streaming services, files, etc. and more using a laptop and a DAC, but would end up spending much, much less and not be constrained to using a teeny tiny screen.
Why do you spend so much for laptop, when you can access streaming services, files, etc with a smartphone?
 
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charlielaub

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Inexpensive streamers also easily enable the creation of separate listening zones in your household. The PC that you currently use for audio playback can also run a server that will make your music library accessible to any number of remote streamers in other rooms. Typically, these zones can be sync'd to one another or independently controlled so that different programs are playing in other zones. Control over program selection and volume is usually managed via mobile device or browser.

A few years ago as a DIY project I created a multi-room, synchronized streaming system that is also a DSP platform (for DIY loudspeaker crossovers) and this is integrated in the computer I used for playing streaming audio. Apart from effort from me to create it (and it did take some effort and knowledge, etc) everything except the hardware (computer, DACs) was free software. I can control everything both locally (on the computer itself) or via a remote desktop session, and even control simple function like volume and turning various playback endpoints on and off using a text terminal over SSH.

When I first moved into my home, there was a sprawling Crestron system with tablet type interfaces and a huge rack of components in the basement. It was probably over $100k new to install. I tore it all out within a month and rebuilt it using my own platform that runs over WiFi. This was after the local home audio installer came over and tried to convince me to install remote control for all the light switches, telling me I would have the power to say "Goodnight home" to Alexa or something and everything would turn off automatically. No thanks! This sort of glitzy automation does not make home life any better...
 
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charlielaub

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Why do you spend so much for laptop, when you can access streaming services, files, etc with a smartphone?

Um, maybe because the last I looked a smart phone costs more than the sort of laptop that is required! I can also use a $200 miniPC and a $150 monitor. But, yes, you could use a smartphone to stream content as long as you can stream it to a playback endpoint that is connected to your system(s).
 

Rednaxela

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When it comes to audio, almost anything computer based will not be used by the rest of my household.

This is not a complaint - to me it is one of the most exciting challenges in my hobby. To set up something that meets my interests and serves my needs without it becoming exclusively my thing.
 

kemmler3D

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They seem like overpriced bling to you (compared to a laptop) because you value functionality and price over form factor / decor, simplicity of interface, and I/O options. Sort of like why would anyone pay for a computer monitor when you can get much bigger TV screens for cheaper? From one point of view, no reason. From other points of view, many reasons.
 

Joe Smith

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For my main workroom system (through the day music), I use PC to DAC to amp for streaming. Downstairs, where I don't have a easy way to use a screen, I use a Wiim Mini and my iPhone as controller/selector. The DAC in the Wiim Mini is perfectly fine for my needs. The reason I got the Wiim was that streaming was more efficient for my iPhone's battery than using a Bluetooth connection. The Mini really does everything I need a streamer to do for my basic purposes. In the dining room and upstairs bedroom, I still use bluetooth connections for the occasional streaming I do there.
 

617

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Um, maybe because the last I looked a smart phone costs more than the sort of laptop that is required! I can also use a $200 miniPC and a $150 monitor. But, yes, you could use a smartphone to stream content as long as you can stream it to a playback endpoint that is connected to your system(s).
Are you the Charlie Laub who worked with Jeff B on all those useful excel spreadsheets?
 

popej

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I can also use a $200 miniPC and a $150 monitor.
I guess for $100 one can buy 10 inch tablet + perfect USB dongle DAC and left them permanently attached to audio system.

Actually my my cheapest solution for streaming was about $30, which was moOde working on RPi Zero. Power supply from USB socket on AVR and HDMI as digital output. OK, you still need phone or PC to control it ;)
 
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jooc

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I can't wrap my head around why anyone would buy a streamer. A streamer box seems to be some sort of hardware based interface for streaming audio services plus a DAC or other output interface. Maybe you can also use it as the front end for a NAS device. Am I missing something?

To me it seems that you can get all of the same access to streaming services, files, etc. and more using a laptop and a DAC, but would end up spending much, much less and not be constrained to using a teeny tiny screen. I play streaming audio all the time via a computer. I cannot think of any streaming audio services that are NOT available on a computer. And said computer does not need to be "fast" or expensive by any means.

Why are audio components for accessing streaming services costing several thousands of dollars seemingly popular?

With the WiiM mini, I bought 4 streamers for my house for less than half what an inexpensive laptop costs.

Once I did I moved from streaming from my laptop in home office to using a WiiM mini right next to it, because that allows me to stream Spotify for example synced on any or all of those 4 devices at once using a couple taps on my phone.

If I were only listening in/from one spot it wouldn't make as much sense to use a separate streaming device, computer would be just fine to an external dac.
 

Multicore

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I also have a WiiM. It doesn't seem overpriced, or at all bling, or to have a screen. Cost a lot less than my MacBook and, in terms of bling, the Apple is way more precious than I am comfortable with, which is why it's covered in college and community radio stickers.
 
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