Enjoy high-quality music streaming without breaking the bank! Check out our top 5 picks for the best music streamers under $500.
As a music lover, you know that sound quality is crucial. The right music streamer can make all the difference in your listening experience. However, the high-end audio equipment that delivers audiophile sound can be expensive. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy high-quality sound. In this article, we will explore the top five music streamers under $500 that will give you an exceptional listening experience.
Best Music Streamers: What is Audiophile Sound?
Audiophile sound is a term used to describe high-quality sound free from distortion and noise. Audiophiles are music enthusiasts who demand the best sound quality possible. Therefore, they are willing to invest in high-end audio equipment to achieve the best listening experience. Audiophile sound is characterized by its clarity, detail, and dynamic range. It allows you to hear every note, every instrument, and every nuance of the music.
Best Music Streamers: Benefits of Music Streamers
Music streamers allow you to stream digital music files from your computer, smartphone, or tablet to your home audio system. They are convenient and easy to use, and they offer several benefits:
- They allow you to access a vast music library from various streaming services.
- They provide high-quality sound that is free from noise and distortion.
- They are easy to set up and use, even for non-tech-savvy users.
- They offer versatile connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet.
Best Music Streamers: Factors to Consider When Choosing a Music Streamer
When choosing a music streamer, there are several factors to consider:
- Sound Quality: The most critical factor is sound quality. Look for a device that delivers high-quality sound free from distortion and noise.
- Connectivity: Look for a device that offers the necessary connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Ethernet.
- Compatibility: Ensure the device is compatible with your audio system and streaming services.
- Ease of Use: Look for a device that is easy to set up and use, even for non-tech-savvy users.
- Price: Finally, consider your budget. Music streamers are available at different price points, so choose one that fits your budget.
5 Best Music Streamers Under $500:
The Most Affordable Streamer: WiiM Mini ($89)
The WiiM Mini is an extremely affordable music streaming device that offers a wide variety of connection options, such as Apple AirPlay 2, DLNA, Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Alexa, and Multiroom Audio. In addition, it allows you to transform your current stereo system into a smart one, enabling you to play your preferred music from your native music app, the WiiM App, or through voice commands using Alexa or Siri. It also does MQA decoding, which is great for fans of Tidal Masters, and has a Burr-Brown DAC for clear, crisp sound.
Connectivity: Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz and 5GHz network, Bluetooth 5.0, 1 X 3.5mm Analog Aux output, 1 x Digital Optical (SPDIF) output/1 x 3.5mm Analog Aux input
Compatibility: AirPlay 2, DLNA, Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Works with Alexa, Tidal MQA
The Most Affordable Streamer With Ethernet: Andover Audio Songbird ($99)
If you need a wired networking connection on your streamer, the Andover Audio Songbird is a great option. It offers high-quality audio streaming at an affordable price, delivering exceptional sound clarity and detail. It supports internet streaming and file resolutions of up to 24bit/192kHz.
Songbird has access to many music platforms, including Qobuz, Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Napster, I-Heart Radio, and Tune-In, natively and through the app. In addition, Songbird can play music files from any DNLA or AirPlay-compatible device on your home network.
It’s easy to connect to any audio or powered speaker system with an analog or optical digital input and has its own analog and digital inputs. Songbird’s optical input can provide digital input to a vintage system that doesn’t have one.
Connectivity: 3.5mm Analog In/Out, Digital Optical In/Out, Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Compatibility: DLNA, Tidal, Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, Airplay
The Best Affordable Full-Featured Streamer: WiiM Pro ($149)
The WiiM Pro is an insanely affordable music streamer designed for audiophiles. It offers many connection options, including AirPlay 2, Chromecast, DLNA, Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Multiroom audio, and Alexa.
With the WiiM Pro, users can listen to their favorite music from their favorite music app, WiiM App, or voice commands using Alexa, Google Voice, or Siri. An MQA decoder is also on board for Tidal Masters compatibility.
In addition, with its high-precision, low-jitter Burr-Brown PCM5121 DAC, music is played with the highest possible sound quality. It also has a full complement of connections on the rear panel, including RCA Line out/Line In, digital Coaxial Out, digital Optical SPDIF Out, and digital Optical SPDIF In.
Connectivity: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi, BT 5.1, Ethernet (100M), RCA Line out/Line In, digital Coaxial Out, digital Optical SPDIF Out, and digital Optical SPDIF In
Compatibility: AirPlay 2, Chromecast Audio, DLNA, Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Amazon Music Casting
The Best Affordable Streamer Without a DAC: iFi Zen Stream Network Audio Transport ($399)
If you have an excellent DAC and only need a hassle-free digital “transport” to stream music, then the iFi ZEN Stream costing $399 is a perfect choice. This stream has several digital outputs to ensure seamless integration into your system. In addition, it offers several options to get music into your hi-fi, including Spotify & TIDAL connect, DLNA, and Roon. Above all, it provides exceptional sound quality!
Connectivity: Inputs: Ethernet/Wi-Fi/USB – Outputs: USB/SPDIF (Coax)
Compatibility: TIDAL, Spotify, Qobuz, YouTube Music, QQ Music, Apple Airplay, DLNA
The Best Affordable Bluetooth Streamer: iFi Zen Blue V2 ($199)
The original ZEN Blue Bluetooth DAC received positive reviews for its clear audio quality and affordable price. However, the newer Ifi Audio ZEN Blue V2 version is now considered an even better bargain! That’s due to its larger antenna, which provides a 70-80% Bluetooth range improvement, and an upgraded low-jitter crystal clock that reduces phase noise.
Additionally, the V2 release has improved firmware that enhances sound quality when using the LDAC codec, the highest bandwidth Bluetooth streaming method. It also has a top-notch ESS DAC chip for crisp sound. The ZEN Blue V2 is also user-friendly and compatible with all BT Codecs, making it the top-performing Bluetooth DAC without a screen or USB input. Its audio depth and separation capabilities are exceptional for a Bluetooth device.
Connectivity: Outputs – Optical/Coaxial Digital/ 4.4 Balanced
Compatibility: Supports Bluetooth 5.1 with AAC, SBC, aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, HWA Codecs
How to Set Up Your Music Streamer
Setting up your music streamer is easy. Most music streamers come with clear instructions and straightforward setup processes. First, connect your music streamer to your home audio system. Then, connect the device to your Wi-Fi network or Ethernet cable. Finally, download the app for your music streamer and follow the instructions to set up your streaming services.
Additional Features to Consider
Some music streamers offer additional features that can enhance your listening experience. For example, some devices offer multi-room audio, which allows you to stream music to multiple rooms simultaneously. Other devices offer voice control, enabling you to control your music using your voice. Some devices also offer smart home integration, which allows you to control your music using your smart home devices.
Best Music Streamers: Conclusion and Final Thoughts
In conclusion, you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy audiophile sound. There are many affordable music streamers available that deliver high-quality sound. When choosing a music streamer, consider factors like sound quality, connectivity, compatibility, ease of use, and price. The top five music streamers under $500 are the WiiM Mini ($89), Andover Audio Songbird ($99), WiiM Pro ($149), iFi Zen Stream Network Audio Transport ($399), and iFi Zen Blue V2 ($199). Each device offers unique features and benefits, so choose one that fits your needs and budget. Set up your music streamer following the instructions provided, and enjoy your favorite tunes in high-quality sound.
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