Music storage may have an interesting and varied past (see here for our plotted history) but it now seems certain that its future lies in the digital domain, with music files being held either within a home computer network or on an internet music site, then streamed from there to our Hi-Fi. There are many advantages to streaming, but its main attraction is that it does away with the need to house bulky storage media (eg CDs or LPs) and integrates with the computer network now found in so many homes. Wired or wireless home computer networks interface superbly with the latest generation of Hi-Fi products, giving instant access to countless musical opportunities, both from within the network (via music stored on hard drives or NAS drives) and also from the internet (via music sites such as Spotify, plus over 5000 internet radio stations). Computer networks, smartphones and tablets also offer a ready made solution to Hi-Fi system control and the perfect springboard to pipe music into different rooms in the house.
Most audio manufacturers now offer products that have streaming capabilities, which can make for a very confusing market-place. It is important to remember that not all methods of streaming are the same - some produce results that are way below the quality you've become used to from CD, whilst other systems sound as good (or in some cases better) than CD. Converting your treasured music collection into music files is something that you will only do once (particularly if you sell the CDs afterwards!) so it is important that you get it absolutely right. It is our job to advise you, to ensure that when you make the transition into the world of streaming, you don't 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. We have therefore put together the 'question and answer' piece you see below, in an effort to help you machete your way through the technical jungle and get to the musical paradise on the other side!
In a nutshell, what is streaming?
Streaming means different things to different people, but we are primarily concerned with music, so, for the purpose of this piece, we would define streaming as the transfer of digitally encoded audio files from one place to another, either via the internet, or via a home computer network, or via a transmission system unique to a specific manufacturer. Let's take a brief look at each in turn:
Internet streaming - Music streaming websites like Spotify, Tidal and Deezer store just about every piece of music ever recorded, and will stream to your Hi-Fi (via your computer or smartphone / tablet) for a monthly fee. In addition, internet radio gives consumers access to thousands of world-wide radio stations, that can be streamed to a compatible Hi-Fi / Home Cinema system (via a computer / smartphone / tablet) free of charge. So, if you move from one area of the country (or world!) to another and wish you could still listen to the radio station from where you used to live - you can!
Streaming via a home computer network - many houses now have wireless or wired computer networks. Music can be steamed from the internet, or 'ripped' (ie copied) from CDs, then stored on the hard drive of a computer (or on a NAS drive / server) then streamed to any room in the house that is on the network. If a Hi-Fi in any room connects with this network (either using wires or wirelessly) it can utilize any of the music stored in this fashion. Many modern Hi-Fis / Home Cinema systems can do this.
Unique streaming solutions - some manufacturers (eg Sonos, Apple, Denon and Yamaha) have developed products with their own network capability, which taps into a household computer network, but then uses its own transmission system to spread music around the house. Other manufacturers have developed products (eg stand alone DACs or CD players with onboard DACs) that simply enhance the sound quality of music when it is streamed to them from a computer, using a USB lead.
All of the above methods can be used alone or in conjunction with each other to stream music into one or several rooms in your home. It may sound complicated, but it isn't - and the results can be sensational!
What are the benefits of streaming?
The benefits are many and varied - here are just a few of them:
It does away with the need to store bulky storage media (eg CDs or LPs).
It gives instant access to just about every piece of music ever recorded, plus thousands of radio podcasts.
It allows you to access thousands of radio stations all over the world.
It allows you to play a sequence of tracks that could last for hours - with just one click of the mouse.
It offers an easy way to pipe music to every room of the house.
It allows you to sample different musical genres, without having to commit to purchasing a whole album.
It allows you purchase music without moving from your armchair.
It allows you to access music that is of much higher quality than CD.
How do I get started with streaming?
As we detailed above, there are lots of different ways to stream. In order to carry out the most popular form, you need 3 things:
You need a music source - this can be internet radio (free), a music streaming site like Spotify or Tidal (from £5 per month), music you have on your computer hard drive (ranging in quality from iTunes to WAV / FLAC files), or music you already have on your iPod / smartphone / tablet.
You need broadband and a home computer network system with a wired / wireless router - most homes now have this.
You need a Hi-Fi or Home Cinema system that is able to connect to a computer network - Typically, this will have to be a brand new unit (bought from us of course!) with an ethernet port on it, or wireless capability. Sounds expensive, but it isn't - over 50% of what we sell now has an ethernet port on it. Failing that, you can simply adapt your existing Hi-Fi for streaming, by purchasing an add on streamer like the Denon HEOS Link
Wireless or Wired?
Most modern Home Cinema amps and many Stereo systems already have a wired or wireless network capability. The best and most reliable performance comes from wired, particularly if you intend to stream high definition audio. A wired network can be achieved easily in any house, thanks to Ethernet mains extenders (click here for details). Wireless can work well in some houses, providing the music file sizes are relatively small and the distance between router and Hi-Fi is not too large.
Multi-room or single-room?
The answer is, it's up to you! We would suggest that you start out streaming just to one room - perhaps via a new Hi-Fi or Home Cinema amp in your lounge. Then, you can either leave things as they are or expand into other rooms, as and when you require. If your aim is ultimately to develop a multi-room system, capable of filling your house with music, we would suggest that you take a look at products that are designed to integrate from the outset (eg products with Apple Airplay or Denon HEOS on board) so that you are safe in the future.
How do I get / store music for streaming?
Here are some of the ways of getting music into your PC / Mac:
Simply load a CD into your computer and let a music program (eg Windows media, iTunes or Dbpoweramp) 'rip' it to your hard drive. It is important to bear in mind that the final sound quality of this music will be entirely dependent upon
the type of files that you create. If you rip your CDs to standard mp3 or use basic iTunes software, you will get a lot of songs onto your hard drive very quickly and the quality will be reasonable. However, if you rip your CDs using Apple lossless or (best of all) convert your CDs into high quality FLAC or WAV files (using software like Dbpoweramp) the files will take up more space on your hard drive, but the sound quality will be MILES better!
Buy music from the Apple iTunes Store - good for exploring new music, but not as good quality as CDs ripped to FLAC or WAV and more expensive than streaming.
Buy music from a High Definition music site - specialist companies (eg Naim) now sell music
for download that is actually far higher quality than CD.
Join a music streaming site, like Spotify or Napster (from £5 per month). You are not allowed to keep the music you stream, but some sites allow a small number of free music downloads each month, which you can keep, arguably paying for the subscription.
If you have a lot of music that you want to put onto your PC / Mac, buy an external hard drive or NAS drive. This stores your music collection well away from your computer hard drive, which is safer in the event of your computer crashing. Again, the type of files created is crucial - NAS drives are very compact, easy to use and relatively inexpensive, yet they have a huge storage capacity, so it makes sense to store music on them in larger (high quality) files - eg FLAC or WAV.
Don't store music on your computer at all - buy a dedicated piece of Hi-Fi equipment, with a built-in ripper and hard drive (eg Naim Core). These custom designed units are more expensive than computer-based systems, but offer the very best in sound quality.
How do I control streaming?
Because most streaming solutions interface with the existing household computer, the control system is already there! Using your computer, you can select which track you want to play next, or even assemble playlists based on specific music types, which will play sequentially for hours - at the click of a mouse.
In addition, many modern Apple or Android smartphones / tablets now have free Apps for certain streaming functions, as well as basic Hi-Fi system control. This is fast becoming the most popular control for audio systems, because many people now carry smartphones around with them all the time. If you have an apple phone / tablet and your Hi-Fi supports Apple AirPlay (see below), you will also be able to stream music straight from your phone into your Hi-Fi - wirelessly! You can do the same thing, if both your phone / tablet and your Hi-Fi support Bluetooth.
How good does streamed music sound?
This is where it all gets a bit controversial and audiophiles get hot under the collar! The truth of the matter is that streamed audio can sound as good as you want to make it sound - right from 'adequate' to 'sensational' (ie better than CD). The reason for this huge range in potential sound quality stems from the fact that when streaming was first conceived, hard drive storage space was relatively expensive and broadband speeds were relatively low. The result was that in order to achieve successful streaming, a large amount of compression (shrinking) of the audio files was necessary, to the extent where a CD disk of 700mb was being shrunk down to around 100mb - a loss of over 85% of the original data. This is absolute heresy to an audiophile, who would argue that regardless of the clever mathematical algorithms used, there is absolutely no way that a piece of music can maintain ALL of its original musical integrity if it has suffered such a massive data loss. The audiophile would further argue that whilst the discrepancy in performance doesn't show up through a simple portable device and headphones, it is blatantly obvious when played through a top class audio system.
The audiophile would be right, but his argument is less relevant now than it was in the past, for two reasons. Firstly, broadband speeds have increased dramatically over the last couple of years and secondly hard drive space has dropped massively in price. Put the two together and you've got a recipe for the storage and transmission of much bigger (ie higher quality) files. You can now buy a 1 Terabyte hard drive (ie 1000Gb) for under £50 - that's big enough to hold around 1200 uncompressed CDs, at audiophile quality levels. High definition music websites also now exist, from which you can download music at a quality level significantly above that of CD.
So the tools exist to rip and store CDs at higher quality levels than ever before and to access higher definition music than has ever been on sale before - it is up to customers how far they go. We are audiophiles and would promote the highest quality streaming possible, to extract the maximum enjoyment from any musical piece. However, even we would have to accept that here (as in most other areas of life!) it's 'horses for courses'. Enthusiasts will rip CDs as high definition WAV or FLAC files, whilst the mass market will focus on iTunes. Both will produce results that will delight their users. There is no absolute right or wrong, but we would say that customers who 'aim high' with their music ripping and streaming are more likely to be satified long term.
Is there a pure audiophile streaming solution?
Combined audiophile CD Ripper and Hard Disk Server.
This astonishing unit is less than 1 foot wide, yet houses a top quality CD Ripper and space for a hard drive (up to 4TB).
You can use it to rip your CDs and store them on either an internal hard drive or external NAS drive.
Simply pop a CD into the UnitiCore and it will rip the music onto its hard drive, whilst simultaneously downloading the CD's title, tracklist, artist, genre etc from the internet (via the UnitiCore wired Ethernet port).
The Uniti Core outputs its music digitally, so it needs to be connected to either an amplifier with a digital input (e.g. Uniti Atom) or an external DAC (e.g. Arcam or Naim) from where it could be fed into any conventional Hi-Fi.
Display and control is achieved via the internet, an iPhone or Android App.
Combined Amp / DAC / Internet radio / Streamer - with Spotify and Tidal
The 21st century hub for just about all your music needs.
Simply plug in your existing CD player (or a Naim Uniti Core) plus a decent pair of speakers and you have a compact, modern Hi-Fi that sounds fabulous with all types of music - however you choose to source it!
Most types of music files, stored on a PC, or an associated NAS drive can be sent to the Uniti Atom, along with something like 5000 internet radio stations.
So if you live in the Shetland Islands, have broadband and fancy listening to radio London - no problem!
If you plug an iPod or iPhone into the Uniti Atom's front USB port, using Apple's standard lead, your iPhone will send music digitally to the Naim's internal DAC, resulting in a dramatic improvement in sound quality.
Apple iPhone - stores your iTunes library, but can also act as a remote control for both Uniti Atom and Uniti Core.
The iPhone can also be used as a control device by downloading the Naim App from the iTunes store.
Your PC's router is the hub for your house PC network and also for your future Hi-Fi system.
Just like the other PCs in your house, the Naim Uniti Core and Uniti Atom plug into your Router. Both the Uniti Core and Uniti Atom have both wired and wireless capability, providing your router is wireless, of course!
Simply plug your USB stick into the Uniti Atom's front USB socket to access its music content.
The Uniti Atom has enough grunt to drive most sub-£1000 speakers.
It sounds great even with budget loudspeakers, but if you spend more, things get even better!
Yes, and as you might expect if you know the audio world, it is British companies like Naim Audio, Arcam and Cyrus that are leading the way. We've been selling products from these companies for nearly 30 years and would rate them as second to none. Everything they do is conceived and executed with absolute integrity and clarity of purpose - to make the best sounding, most reliable products possible.
Naim and Cyrus' early entry into this marketplace has put these two specialist British companies well ahead of the pack, resulting in an award-winning range of world-acclaimed current streaming solutions, like the Mu-so, Mu-so Qb and Uniti from Naim, and the Stream X, Stream Xa, Stream XP and Lyric from Cyrus models that outperform everything else by a country mile. These top products are not cheap - but then the best never is! However, there are also several less expensive add on streaming products like the Denon HEOS Link and Arcam rPlay, which will enable ANY existing Hi-Fi to be able to stream music from a computer / phone / tablet, plus give the capability to access the likes of Spotify, Tidal and Quobuz. We are specialists in all these areas, so if you want to know more, simply give us a ring.
What is Apple AirPlay?
Any piece of equipment that has Apple AirPlay onboard and is connected to a home computer network can receive music stored on an iPhone, an iPod Touch or an iPad wirelessly, and can send that music to other AirPlay enabled Hi-Fis around the house, so that they all play the same music at the same time (if required). The wonderful thing about AirPlay is that it is a world standard, so even equipment from different manufacturers can 'talk' to each other as long as they are all AirPlay enabled, to create a very cost effective multi-room system. For example, you could have a Yamaha Home Cinema system in the lounge, which would 'talk to' a Denon Hi-Fi in a kitchen and a Marantz Hi-Fi in the bedroom. As long as every unit has Apple Airplay onboard and they are all connected to your router (either wirelessly, wired or via Ethernet mains extenders) then that is all that is required to automatically give you Apple Airplay multi-room! Units with AirPlay on board cost no more than their predecessors that didn't have AirPlay, but they give you a built-in multi-room capability 'for free' - not bad when you consider that integrated multi-room systems used to cost many thousands of pounds only a few years ago.
I keep hearing about Sonos equipment - what is it?
Sonos was one of the very first companies to address the world of streaming and multi-room, by producing a range of relatively inexpensive, compact products that would dovetail in perfectly with an existing Hi-Fi and computer network, to produce a fully integrated solution. The beauty of Sonos is that it relativity inexpensive and pipes music wirelessly around the house. The drawback (in our opinion) is that the stand-alone Sonos products do not sound as good as even our most basic Hi-Fi systems, so there is very definitely a trade-off in performance to get convenience. Sonos has been very popular in the past, but is now facing stiff competition from multi-room systems using 'conventional' Hi-Fis / Home Cinema units that come equipped with multi-room solutions like Apple Airplay or Denon HEOS, 'straight from the box'. Many modern Hi-Fi and Home Cinema amps have these multi-room solutions on board, but even if your system doesn't you can buy a simple add on unit like the Denon HEOS Link, which will instantly give your existing system multi-room capability (as well as Tidal / Spotify streaming and Bluetooth!). In any instance, we would say that the resulting sound will almost certainly outperform Sonos and the cost involved will be very similar.
So to conclude, we would say that, in the past you would have had no choice but to buy Sonos if you wanted multiroom streaming, whereas these days, there are much higher quality solutions available for the same sort of money as Sonos, thanks to the likes of Apple Airplay and Denon HEOS.
What about file sharing sites?
File sharing sites have hit the press recently, thanks to some high profile court cases. Everybody likes 'something for nothing' but we'd say there are several good reasons why you should treat file sharing with extreme caution.
If you're downloading copyrighted music (or video) without paying for it, you are technically breaking the law.
Because of the potential illegality of content, file sharing sites are prime targets for criminals, who use them as a vehicle to get malicious software into your computer. If you unwittingly download something that wipes out your whole computer, you will lose all of your files, including your precious music. And of course you can't complain to anyone, because what you were doing is technically illegal - it would be like complaining to the police that the drugs you just bought were of poor quality!
Music files on file sharing sites tend to be of low sound quality.
I don't understand all the terminology
Understanding the terminology used in streaming is like trying to get to grips with a whole new language, so we thought it might be useful to give an introduction to some of the most frequently used terms.
iTunes- Released in 2001, iTunes is Apple's world conquering digital media player application, used for playing and organizing digital music and/or video files. Once you have downloaded iTunes onto your computer, you can rip CDs into your iTunes library and /or buy songs from Apple's iTunes Store. Over 10 billion tracks have been downloaded from the iTunes Store, making iTunes far and away the most popular recent digital storage application. iTunes has been incredibly successful in the past because it is well known, safe, easy to use, and compatible with all of Apple's many products, but it hails from a time when broadband speeds were slow and PC memory was expensive, so it is based on heavy compression, leaving a big question mark over its absolute sound quality. So, although iTunes performs reasonably well on the devices it is most commonly used with (e.g. portables) it is important to remember that even recordings produced with Apple's highest 'lossless' version of iTunes do not sound anywhere as good as WAV or FLAC files, when played through a good quality Hi-Fi. For that reason, iTunes is not normally the choice of audiophiles.
Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Quobuz, Napster, Amazon Music and Last FM - These are all internet music streaming sites which will (for a fee) allow you to stream just about any music track ever recorded into your home, plus create playlists etc - all at the click of a mouse, or the prod of your smartphone / tablet. It's an absolute no brainer - all you have to do is choose which company to subscribe to, then marvel at just how incredibly convenient and enjoyable the whole experience is. If you get your choice right (ie choose a site that streams in high quality) you may never play a CD disc again. When choosing a site, it is worth remembering that even the most expensive subscription is still only the equivalent of buying a couple of CD discs a month. Our advice is 'do it right, do it once' ie aim high, then you won't need to change.
Spotify is probably the best known streaming site, but it is Tidal that arguably provides the best quality service available today, offering 16bit, 44.1kHz FLAC files with a bitrate of 1411kbps - miles better than the usual MP3 standard streaming offered by most music sites and even outperforming Spotify's premium 320 kbps service by a country mile. Put simply, if you subscribe to Tidal, you will have access to CD quality level playback of around 25 million music tracks and 850,000 music videos to enjoy on your phone, PC, in your car (bluetoothed from your smartphone to your car) or (best of all) via any streaming Hi-Fi / Home Cinema unit that accepts the system.
At the time of writing, all Naim's mu-so and Uniti products, plus the company's stand alone streamers and two of it preamps accept Tidal streaming, as well as all Cyrus' streaming products, plus all Denon's HEOS products. Most of those companies currently offer a free 30 day Tidal trial period, when you buy one of their streaming products. After that initial trial period, Tidal offers two levels of service - Tidal Premium (£8.49 per month, if you pay for 6 months in advance - limited to streaming High Quality AAC 320kbps files - just like Spotify Premium) or Tidal HiFi (£16.99 per month, if you pay for 6 months in advance - 16bit, 44.1kHz FLAC files with a bitrate of 1411kbps - the bees knees of music streaming). In other words, with Tidal Hi-Fi, you get access to 25 million music tracks, in CD quality for the cost of a couple of CD discs a month. Better still, some would say, Tidal is owned by musicians, so artists get a fair cut of royalties, which theoretically should be 'a good thing' for the music industry, in the face of rampant music piracy.
At the time of writing, some new products and most old Hi-Fi systems are not automatically compatible with the likes of Spotify and Tidal, 'straight out of the box'. The solution to that dilemma is to simply buy an inexpensive 'work-around', add on unit like Denon's excellent HEOS Link or Arcam's superb rPlay to make streaming possible. Any Hi-Fi / Home Cinema system with a spare line level input (eg an AUX input) can be adapted in this way, giving all the advantages of '21st Century' streaming, at very little cost.
Internet radio - Just about every radio station you can think of is now available via the internet, giving music lovers an unprecedented amount of programme material to choose from. The possibilities are endless, including: the ability to track down stations that only play one particular type of music (e.g. Nashville if you're into country), the ability to listen to overseas stations in order to brush up on your linguistic skills, or even the ability to continue listening to a radio station you particularly like, even if you move away from that geographic area. Because no aerial is involved, reception is crystal clear and because internet radio it accessed via your home network, it can be piped to other networked rooms of the house, if desired. Virtually all streaming products are compatible with internet radio.
Ethernet - The standard connection for household computer networks.
ISP - Internet Service Provider - those nice people who give you your broadband every month, or (allegedly) shop you to the police if you're naughty.
NAS drive - NAS stands for Network-Attached Storage. In the audio world a NAS drive is rather like an external hard drive that connects to your router, via an ethernet cable. The chief benefit of a NAS drive is that it is entirely separate from the internal hard drive of a computer, so it is possible to keep one particular type of storage requirement (eg music) entirely separate from the other files on the computer. This makes it easier to back up, more resistant to computer crashes and also means that if the NAS drive is corrupted or crashes, it won't take down your computer with it. The other benefit of a NAS drive is that because it is independent from the other computers in the network it can be accessed without them having to be turned on.
Compression - The process of 'shrinking' a file, ie encoding information using fewer bits than the original representation had. Compression is useful because it helps reduce the amount of hard disk space required to store a file, or transmission bandwidth when streaming over the internet. However, to be used, a compressed file must first be decompressed. It is the compression and decompression of files that results in the loss of information and introduction of noise. If absolute fidelity of audio is to be maintained, compression should be minimized by recording files as FLAC, or avoided altogether by recording the files as WAV.
Rip - Computer code script for transferring digital audio or video to a computer hard disk. Now used generically as a slang term for the act of transferring digital data from one storage medium to another (eg from a CD to a NAS drive, using software like Dbpoweramp).
MP3 - This widespread digital audio encoding format uses a form of lossy data compression for the transfer and playback of music. The theory is that MP3 faithfully reproduces the original, by reducing the accuracy of certain parts of the sound that are considered to be beyond the hearing range of humans. Whilst this may be true when listening through a portable device with headphones, better quality Hi-Fis can show up the inadequacies of low bit rate MP3, which is why audiophiles always try to use higher bit rates MP3s, or abandon MP3 altogether in favour of WAV or FLAC, for serious listening.
FLAC - Free Lossless Audio Codec is an audio encoding format that claims to use a lossless data compression algorithm. The theory is that a digital audio recording compressed by FLAC can be decompressed into an identical copy of the original, even though the FLAC file size is typically 50% smaller than the original. FLAC is fast and FLAC is free, which makes it one of the most popular encoding systems used by audiophiles.
WAV - Waveform Audio File Format (shortened to WAV because of its filename extension), this is a Microsoft/IBM file format standard for recording audio bitstream. It stores raw, uncompressed files which take up more space on a hard drive than any system involving compression. WAV arguably yields the very best in sound quality, which is why Naim use it in their products.
Bit rate - The number of bits of data (computer ones and zeros) that are transferred per second - the higher the bit rate, the better the sound. For example 192 kbit/second is the highest level supported by MP3, 256 kbit/second is used for DAB radio, up to 1411 kbit/second is used in FLAC and 1411 kbit/second is used for Compact Disc.
Sampling rate - This is the number of times per second that the original music is sampled (measured) to generate the digital data. The more times the music is sampled, the better the resultant digital file will sound, so systems with higher sampling rates tend to sound better. For example 44.1 kHz is the sampling rate used on Compact Discs, whereas some high definition music sites sell downloads of music that has been recorded with a sampling rate of 192 kHz.
Recording resolution - The higher the resolution of the music when it was originally recorded, the better the sound quality will be when it is played through a Hi-Fi. Music that is recorded on CD is 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, whereas music sold on high definition audio sites can be as high as 24 bit / 192 kHz. It may be that the streaming of high definition audio represents the future of music for the audiophile, in which case it makes sense to buy a Hi-Fi with a DAC capable of resolving that level of detail. The irony is that master tapes originally recorded in 16 bit for CD have theoretically reached their limit, whereas the original master tapes of earlier music that were recorded in analogue, can be re-recorded at higher resolutions. I always did like Elton John!
DAC - Digital to Analogue Converter. These days, most music is stored as a digital binary code. DACs convert this digital code into an analogue signal, which can then be amplified through a pair of loudspeakers, to produce the soundwaves our brain understands. The performance of a DAC is dependent upon the quality of its 'digital engine' and the analogue circuitry that follows it. Many digital products have in-built DACs, but these are almost always of much lower specification than the external DACs produced by specialist companies such as Arcam, Audiolab and Naim, which have digital engines capable of resolving up to 24 bit / 192 kHz and superb analogue circuitry. Therefore, one way of greatly improving the audio quality of digital products such as a CD players, audio streamers (eg Sonos), PCs / Macs / laptops (via USB) or iPods is to take their raw digital output and feed it into a specialist DAC, then on into your Hi-Fi. The results are often astonishing!
UPnP - Universal Plug and Play - a set of network protocols that allows network devices to discover each others presence on a network and establish functionality.
DLNA - Digital Living Network Alliance - a collaborative trade organisation whose members agree to produce their products to an agreed specification, making it easier for consumers to use.
Android - Owned by Google, Android is the world's best selling smartphone platform and can be viewed as a direct rival to Apple's iPhone platform. Many non-Apple phones use Android, which now boasts over 250,000 Apps. Most of the manufacturers who supply our Hi-Fis now have free Android and Apple control Apps available for their products.
App - Application software designed to help the user perform a particular function - most commonly on a mobile phone or tablet. Many manufacturers now have free Android and apple Apps that turn your smartphone / tablet into a remote control, to control the functions of the Hi-Fi, in the same way that the unit's own stick remote control normally would.
Bluetooth - A wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances, invented by Eriksson in 1994. Bluetooth is probably best known in modern cars, where it allows 'hands free' use of mobile phones. However, it is also found on many modern Hi-Fi / Home Cinema units, allowing music to be streamed from other compatible Bluetooth-enabled products into the system. In other words, if you have a Bluetooth phone / tablet full of music, you can stream it wirelessly into a Bluetooth enabled Hi-Fi or Home Cinema.
Bluetooth apt-X - A more advanced version of Bluetooth, using complex algorithms to give much higher audio quality than standard Bluetooth. It is therefore favoured by audiophiles.
YouTube - Best known for viral video clips, YouTube is also increasingly being used by 'the youth of today' as a music library. Many bands are now happy to have their proportional video shown on the site, which means you (obviously) get the sound to go with it! This can then be streamed wirelessly from your phone via Bluetooth into your car's audio system or house Hi-Fi. Great fun for catching up with the hits of the past, or exploring new music, but do bear in mind that the music is heavily compressed, so it won't sound anywhere near as good as a CD disc or what is available from the likes of Spotify and Tidal.
The Cloud - Instead of storing your files (music, video, photos etc) on a hard drive that you physically own, you store everything on a remote server, accessed via the internet - i.e. in 'the cloud'. Because 'the cloud' can be reached from any PC or smartphone, you can access your files no matter where you are.
Algorithm - If you're currently doing a maths degree, this is where the money is! An Algorithm is a finite list of well defined instructions for calculating a specific function. Algorithms are essential to the way that computers process data and are therefore found in just about every area of our digital world. The way Google works, the way Amazon works, the way photos, video and audio are compressed - it's all down to algorithms, driven by some very clever maths.
What are your favourite streaming products?
There's a lot of equipment out there - here's some of the best! Click on the green links down the left hand side of the page for details.
The R-N602 network stereo receiver is an amazing piece of kit, because it does so many things - and all of them brilliantly well! Excellent 2 x 115 watt amplifier, very good DAC, USB socket on the front that will take iPod / iPhone. Stream music from your NAS drive / PC at up to 24bit / 192kHz. Internet radio, FM / AM radio, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth,Yamaha MusicCast.
Award–winning British specialists, Cyrus have recently entered the streaming arena with three exciting new products. The Streamline v2 is their all–in-one solution, including built in amplification; the Stream XP v2 QX is a top quality preamp with streaming and the Stream X Signature is a purist audiophile streamer with digital output. Each product is housed in the familiar Cyrus half box case and delivers class-leading audio performance. For a fabulous all-in-one streaming solution, check out the amazing, award-winning Cyrus Lyric 09 - it's an audiophile streamer / CD player / DAB radio / 170 watt amp with iPod USB input, a superb headphone amp and Bluetooth apt-X!
Award-winning, half-box design from top-drawer British audiophile company Naim. No onboard CD (use one you already have, or just stream music) but you do get a superb integrated amplifier with both digital and analogue inputs, an excellent DAB / FM radio, a brilliant 5-input DAC, a USB socket with direct iPod playback, wireless + wired networking (including Spotify Connect and Tidal) and the fabulous sound quality that has made Naim famous throughout the world.
UnitiLite takes the feature set of the award-winning NaimUniti, including high-resolution music streaming (up to 32bit 192kHz), CD playback, internet radio, Spotify Connect, Tidal and iPod/iPhone/MP3 playback and distils it into an elegant, sleek enclosure. All you need to add is a pair of speakers to create an accessible all-in-one system that can put music at the centre of your life.
The award-winning NAC-N 172 XS defines a point at which two audio worlds collide – the traditional world of separate pre / power amplifiers, and the new world of network streaming. It's a conventional Naim preamplifier in every sense, except that it is self-powered, so it doesn't need to get power from a Naim power amp or power supply. It is perfectly at home in a Naim separates environment, partnered by a power amplifier such as the Naim NAP 155 XS, but, could also be used with a non-Naim power amplifier, if desired. In either situation, this pre-amp will reproduce music from CD or vinyl in a way that stirs the soul and quickens the pulse. However, the NAC-N 172 XS also opens the door into a whole new world of high resolution audio, internet radio and streamed music (including Spotify and Tidal). It's a world that has just the same soul stirring potential as conventional audio sources, but is effectively limitless in scope and content.
NAC-N 272 is a high performance preamplifier with extensive streaming capabilities combining the two worlds of digital and analougue audio, paired with a power amplifier such as the Naim NAP 200 It is the perfect combination for those seeking the convenience of a modern streaming system and the performance of traditional hi-fi seperates, the NAC-N 272 opens the door into a whole new world of high resolution audio, internet radio and streamed music (including Spotify and Tidal).
One of our most expensive streaming products, yet also a runaway best seller! The award-winning Naim Uniti has it all, with inbuilt audiophile CD player, DAB radio and DAC, plus wired and wireless network capability (including Spotify Connect and Tidal cabability) and brilliant sounding amplifier. Its front USB socket will take an iPod direct, producing amazing sound quality, thanks to the Naim's superb onboard DAC. What makes the Uniti so special is that it is a real 'one box' 21st century solution, with just about all the connectivity you will ever need, but because it is built by one of the leading audio specialists in the world it has the musical integrity of a dedicated specialist Hi-Fi and simply blows the competition out of the water. If that wasn't enough, the Uniti offers an upgrade pathway because it can be 'turbo-charged' by adding on one of Naim's specialist audiophile power amps, giving it an even more magical performance. It you want the best - this is it!
Sonos is an American-based manufacturer, producing a small range of products that interface with your computer's router, then produce their own wireless network throughout the house, giving an instant multi-room capability. Sonos systems are relatively inexpensive and very flexible, which has made them popular - however they do not suit all tastes. Critics point out that (at the time of writing) Sonos equipment is unable to stream high definition audio tracks and that the typical Sonos system is based on having what is essentially a single speaker solution in every room (something Hi-Fi enthusiasts abandoned in the 1960s). In other words, some might view Sonos as a mass market, low end solution, rather than a true Hi-Fi proposition.
We used to sell quite a lot of Sonos, but that was before competitive solutions like Denon HEOS and Apple AirPlay and Naim Multi-Room and DTS Play-Fi were introduced. Nowadays many customers realise that for the price of a single speaker Sonos system, they can buy a true stereo solution, from a specialist brand, which will have similar flexibility to Sonos (including multi-room capabilty and wireless streaming) but will arguably produce far higher sound quality.
Updated version of the award winning AVR-X2200, with wired or wireless networking, 7 HDMI 2.0a inputs, Twin HDMI outputs, HDCP 2.2, 4K upscaling, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and a clever App that allows you to stream music wirelessly from an iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch / Andriod smart phone!
Updated version of Denons fantastic AVR-X3200, with wired or wireless networking, 7 HDMI 2.0a inputs, Twin HDMI outputs, HDCP 2.2, 4K upscaling, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and a clever App that allows you to stream music wirelessly from an iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch / Andriod smart phone!
Award Winning Home Cinema amp with 8 HDMI 2.0 inputs, twin HDMI outputs, 4K upscaling, wired or wireless networking, Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and Yamaha MusicCast. Class-leading performance. Currently at a great price!
Top flight Yamaha Aventage amp with 8 HDMI 2.0 inputs, twin HDMI outputs, 4K upscaling, Dolby Atmos, Airplay, Spotify and wired or wireless networking currently at a fantastic price - one of our favourite amps!
Flagship Yamaha receiver - huge power, huge performance - and currently available at an amazing price!
We hope we've given you a taste for the exciting new world of streaming - please remember that we are here to help, so if you want to know more simply give us a call on 01743 241924 and we'll do the rest!