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

gordinho

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Cheap cloned fanless Beelink miniPCs here.
Free quality DSP from MathAudio: Each endpoint has it's own custom RoomEQ, tailored to the actual room via a quick set-up with UMIK-1.
Great budget option. Doubt you can do do this with WiiM. Or much else for that matter.
This is an interesting but what do you have in each room as a DAC?
 

gordinho

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Streaming audio can be both cheap and useful. If you're comfortable with some command line stuff a Raspberry Pi setup with a DAC HAT or external DAC can give you great, measurably great, sound for well under $100. As Amir's review shows, a WIIM Mini using the Toslink output running into a DAC can give you monstrously good audio at under $100 with no computer command line knowledge required. Like DACs, streamers don't need to cost much to give better measurable performance than you can hear. I've been doing a trial of Amazon Unlimited Music (great value if you already have Prime) and am mostly pleased with the audio. I'm tempted to try Qobuz because it has more of the niche music I like.
I totally agree on the Mini! I got ZA3 from a fellow that threw in a wiim mini for cheap and initially I was very disappointed with the RCA out.. hooked up my usbpre 2 and all of sudden this is now an amazing setup. Very easy to stream from Spotify from everyone in the house and I can also play my niche music streaming from my home server running gerbera.
 

Barrelhouse Solly

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Strange. What happens when you select a track?

When I select a track, it clears the queue and plays. (As opposed to adding a track to the queue obviously.)

We are kinda off topic here...Maybe you could ask the dev on the Hifi cast forum. He's very helpful. It is certainly not something I experience.
Sorry I can't be more help.
The track gets appended to a queue that includes as many of the tracks available on the NAS up to whatever the max queue size is. This has gone on forever, i. e. more than 5 years.
 

ajramirez

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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?
I can tell you why I did it. For a couple of years, I used a MacBook Pro running Audirvana, outputting to a DAC vía USB. For convenience purposes, the computer was always hooked up to its power supply, which resulted in two swollen batteries in less than 3 years. Unplugging the computer after each use was very much a hassle. In addition, the USB connection to the DAC made it impossible to stream music while actually doing some work on the computer (Cable not long enough).

After the second battery replacement, I purchased a Cambridge Audio MXN10 based on brand reputation and online reviews, but mainly because of the StreamMagic app. The app works extremely well, is completely stable and glitch free. Setting up the streamer was as easy as plugging in the Ethernet cable, entering my login information for streaming services, and downloading StreamMagic to my iPad. I also have easy access to internet radio stations all over the globe, as well as to files in an external hard drive.

The MXN10 cost $500 which, while not cheap, is reasonable for the quality of the unit. It’s small and discreet, requires no booting up upon turning it on, and allows me to liberate my laptop for other uses. Made perfect sense to me.

Cheers,

Antonio
 

Prana Ferox

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It's always worth remembering that a LOT of people are not technically savvy, and by that I mean that just understanding tech to the point you can find and comment on this website is putting you in a minority. When people say "Just use a Raspberry Pi" or even repurpose an old laptop, it's like telling someone complaining about traffic to just fly your own helicopter.

The baffling array of different analog / digital cables is already a struggle, so being able to pull a device out of a box, plop it down on a counter, maybe wave a QR code at your phone for app and config, is really appealing to a lot of people. This is also, basically, how you end up with Sonos speakers or soundbars instead of a real stereo system.

Since you're already marketing to low information consumers, looks and brand name can be used to drive up the cost, and if that isn't enough, throw in audiophool mumbo-jumbo.
 

dufferdan

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To a degree, since the audiophile in the family is not necessarily the only one that likes to listen to music, and those others don’t want something where they have to hunt and peck for the correct appliances to be turned on, making it as close to foolproof is important for usability.

My first streamer was a Roku networked to the main Mac computer int he house and the iTunes library, which when it worked was fine. but in those days, networking being what it was, Mac towers going to sleep, wake on lan not always working, the usability fo Ruth Ernest of the family was low. The Squeezebox Touch and LMS was better, but still clunky at times. Then the iPAd streaming my Apple Music library , through camera adapter, Topping DAC and receiver to house, well the DAC settings would switch and wife couldn’t navigate back without a phone call. It just needs to work. Not to mention that the iPad would occasionally hiccup.

Hopping this last attempt is the magic bullet!
 
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charlielaub

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It's always worth remembering that a LOT of people are not technically savvy, and by that I mean that just understanding tech to the point you can find and comment on this website is putting you in a minority. When people say "Just use a Raspberry Pi" or even repurpose an old laptop, it's like telling someone complaining about traffic to just fly your own helicopter.

The baffling array of different analog / digital cables is already a struggle, so being able to pull a device out of a box, plop it down on a counter, maybe wave a QR code at your phone for app and config, is really appealing to a lot of people. This is also, basically, how you end up with Sonos speakers or soundbars instead of a real stereo system.

Since you're already marketing to low information consumers, looks and brand name can be used to drive up the cost, and if that isn't enough, throw in audiophool mumbo-jumbo.

I think this post above captures the source of my disconnect from the "streamer" paradigm very well. I probably should have noted that I am a passionate DIYer, not an "audiophile" (fool?) with an unlimited budget that is looking for the best components available that provide the best performance. I build my own loudspeakers and enjoy working on niche and esoteric types that provide some interesting benefits as well as many technical challenges. Early on I wanted to build a "wireless DSP based loudspeaker". To do that I needed to come up with some functionality both to get the audio to the loudspeaker wirelessly, and to perform all the DSP functions required for the crossover. This lead me to brew my own solutions, and these crystallized a few years ago into the system I use today that is built using Gstreamer. Since it runs in software on small and inexpensive computers, I naturally use one of these as the source for my playback system. By connecting a USB pro audio interface I am able to bring audio into the computer from analog sources, and can access and play digital sources and streams using the computer itself. Then the audio is sent over my WiFi system to various loudspeakers I have built or bought and that exist within my home. At one time I had six or seven such projects connected to the system. Playback is tightly synchronized to within a few tens of microseconds.

When I started this thread it was from the point of someone who already had all of the functionality of a streamer component (and more). But I totally failed to see the perspective of the audiophile who does not actually build anything themselves, and who would just like to enjoy some streaming audio with minimal setup and with high playback quality. So apologies to those who fall into this category - you are stuck with whatever commercial gear is available.

At the same time it is interesting to see the spectrum of replies to this thread from people who have taken some steps towards a DIY solution, even if it is just installing and running some programs on an old laptop or computer. Audio for me is a hobby not only to listen to music but also to create things related to that, and to enjoy the challenges and learning about the technology behind many aspects of audio reproduction. But everyone is different and interacts with audio in a different way, and what makes sense to one person may make no sense to the next one. If a streamer makes sense to you, by all means enjoy it! :)
 

gordinho

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Audio for me is a hobby not only to listen to music but also to create things related to that, and to enjoy the challenges and learning about the technology behind many aspects of audio reproduction.
It would have been better to start off outlining your your point of view and what your world is like. This thread unfolded the way you did because you made sweeping comments that don't make sense except for someone that sees home audio as DIY hobby. Many of us have been down that road but then other priorities took over like quality time with family or even other hobbies.

For a DIYer no commercial solutions make sense but that's a foolish argument against the existence of commercial solutions...
 
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charlielaub

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It would have been better to start off outlining your your point of view and what your world is like. This thread unfolded the way you did because you made sweeping comments that don't make sense except for someone that sees home audio as DIY hobby. Many of us have been down that road but then other priorities took over like quality time with family or even other hobbies.

For a DIYer no commercial solutions make sense but that's a foolish argument against the existence of commercial solutions...
It would have been better for me to mention my DIY basis from the get-go, for sure. But I have revealed that now, so better late than never I guess.

Also, not everything has a viable (for my needs) "commercial solution", or some aspects of it are lacking. I think in the forefront was the difference between the commercial streaming component's display, and the display real estate that you get on a laptop or monitor. It's not even close, and this really impacts the usability aspect of the component (in my opinion). I do not see how anyone would really like using a "stream player" regardless of how affordable it may be. Thus my OP.
 

gordinho

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It would have been better for me to mention my DIY basis from the get-go, for sure. But I have revealed that now, so better late than never I guess.

Also, not everything has a viable (for my needs) "commercial solution", or some aspects of it are lacking. I think in the forefront was the difference between the commercial streaming component's display, and the display real estate that you get on a laptop or monitor. It's not even close, and this really impacts the usability aspect of the component (in my opinion). I do not see how anyone would really like using a "stream player" regardless of how affordable it may be. Thus my OP.
This idea that your UI is ideal is another big disconnect in your world view.. the last thing many of us want is a big screen when listening to audio. I go on my phone and pick what I want to listen and that is my preferred UI experience: minimal. The last thing I want in the world is a laptop or a computer screen managing my audio listening experience.

For me, a perfect commercial solution would be a wiim mini alike with the ability to plug a umik-1 to do a decent job to mitigate some room modes. It's perfect: small, non intrusive and full of functionality to stream from all different sources.
 
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charlielaub

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This idea that your UI is ideal is another big disconnect in your world view.. the last thing many of us want is a big screen when listening to audio. I go on my phone and pick what I want to listen and that is my preferred UI experience: minimal. The last thing I want in the world is a laptop or a computer screen managing my audio listening experience.

For me, a perfect commercial solution would be a wiim mini alike with the ability to plug a umik-1 to do a decent job to mitigate some room modes. It's perfect: small, non intrusive and full of functionality to stream from all different sources.
Well, good luck with that.
 

MaxwellsEq

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I think this post above captures the source of my disconnect from the "streamer" paradigm very well. I probably should have noted that I am a passionate DIYer, not an "audiophile" (fool?) with an unlimited budget that is looking for the best components available that provide the best performance. I build my own loudspeakers and enjoy working on niche and esoteric types that provide some interesting benefits as well as many technical challenges. Early on I wanted to build a "wireless DSP based loudspeaker". To do that I needed to come up with some functionality both to get the audio to the loudspeaker wirelessly, and to perform all the DSP functions required for the crossover. This lead me to brew my own solutions, and these crystallized a few years ago into the system I use today that is built using Gstreamer. Since it runs in software on small and inexpensive computers, I naturally use one of these as the source for my playback system. By connecting a USB pro audio interface I am able to bring audio into the computer from analog sources, and can access and play digital sources and streams using the computer itself. Then the audio is sent over my WiFi system to various loudspeakers I have built or bought and that exist within my home. At one time I had six or seven such projects connected to the system. Playback is tightly synchronized to within a few tens of microseconds.

When I started this thread it was from the point of someone who already had all of the functionality of a streamer component (and more). But I totally failed to see the perspective of the audiophile who does not actually build anything themselves, and who would just like to enjoy some streaming audio with minimal setup and with high playback quality. So apologies to those who fall into this category - you are stuck with whatever commercial gear is available.

At the same time it is interesting to see the spectrum of replies to this thread from people who have taken some steps towards a DIY solution, even if it is just installing and running some programs on an old laptop or computer. Audio for me is a hobby not only to listen to music but also to create things related to that, and to enjoy the challenges and learning about the technology behind many aspects of audio reproduction. But everyone is different and interacts with audio in a different way, and what makes sense to one person may make no sense to the next one. If a streamer makes sense to you, by all means enjoy it! :)
I'm an engineer and have built professional audio devices and installations. But my main audio system is in a family room. I can get away with it "looking like a project" for short periods, but eventually it needs to look tidy again. Tidy does not include have a computer screen and keyboard on show!
 

ajramirez

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I think in the forefront was the difference between the commercial streaming component's display, and the display real estate that you get on a laptop or monitor. It's not even close, and this really impacts the usability aspect of the component (in my opinion). I do not see how anyone would really like using a "stream player" regardless of how affordable it may be. Thus my OP.
The MXN10 I use does not even have a display. All the information I need, including cover art, is neatly displayed in the iPad I use to control the streamer.
 
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charlielaub

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I'm an engineer and have built professional audio devices and installations. But my main audio system is in a family room. I can get away with it "looking like a project" for short periods, but eventually it needs to look tidy again. Tidy does not include have a computer screen and keyboard on show!
My playback system IS a computer. There are no other visible components because all my amps are next to the speakers, none of which are near the main playback "center" for our home. The source is the computer. The preamp is the computer. There is a CD player but it is inside a closed cabinet and never used. The computer itself is also inside the cabinet and I used a wireless keyboard and mouse. All you see is the cabinetry, a countertop with a keyboard, and a display above that.

I dumped the old "stereo system" paradigm decades ago - the rack of components prominently and proudly displayed for all to see. It's totally different from the home theater system or the man cave type rack(s) full of gear type setup. Might not work in your home, but this is how we listen to music here.
 

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Kal Rubinson

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My playback system IS a computer. There are no other visible components because all my amps are next to the speakers, none of which are near the main playback "center" for our home. The source is the computer. The preamp is the computer. There is a CD player but it is inside a closed cabinet and never used. The computer itself is also inside the cabinet and I used a wireless keyboard and mouse. All you see is the cabinetry, a countertop with a keyboard, and a display above that.

I dumped the old "stereo system" paradigm decades ago - the rack of components prominently and proudly displayed for all to see. It's totally different from the home theater system or the man cave type rack(s) full of gear type setup. Might not work in your home, but this is how we listen to music here.
Same here. I do have a rack but it is under the counter where the keyboard, mouse and 2 monitors sit. The rack contains a universal player (can play into the "network" but is used mostly for ripping, a 16channel DAC and supporting power/networking components. I even cut my rack in half, going from a double-wide Salamander Synergy to a single-wide.
 

MaxBuck

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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?
Because I don't want to disconnect my computer and relocate it to my listening room every time I want to stream music through my hifi system.
 

Chr1

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Let's face it : with streaming, like with most aspects of our audio hobby, there's no right or wrong really...

Just lot's of different best case useage scenarios...
Some folks prioritise simplicity over functionality. Others vice versa.
 
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