What do I need to stream Good Quality Audio

twistzilla

Standard Member
Hi

I want to upgrade my alexa's / echo in a kitchen / dining room to something with a better sound quality and not really sure where to start.

By Better sound quality I want something that will fill the space (~6meter x 7 meter) and sound as good or better than a CD played through my old denon RCD-M38.

I would quite like to still be able to ask alexa to play a song and it just work. But would consider something with a very easy interface.

I have an amazon prime account so get some music streaming that way and was considering getting the Amazon Music subcription to unlock HD sounds. but I'm not locked into that yet, could get something else.

An all in one device solution would be nice, Like the amazon studio HD thingy but I'm not sure what the quality is like, and its only 1 speaker.

I do have a "spare" pair of Wharfedale diamond 9.1 speakers that would be nice to bring back into use.



I think my ideal solution would be a supercharged echo dot with banana-plug ports on the back, but there's no such thing so suggestions would be gratefully received!
 

Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
Hello!

Do you have a rough budget in mind? There are of course many suggestions and knowing the size of the room is a good start :)

Are you looking for an "all in one" unit or are you looking for speaker and amp combinations?
 

twistzilla

Standard Member
Hi I hadn't really set myself a budget as such, I was hoping to find out what do I need / what do I need to spend in order to get something that can stream with a sound quality comparable to my 10yr old denon all-in-one playing CD's through those same wharfdale speakers I mentioned.

Ideally, I would prefer a single box solution either a smart speaker or something I could plug my own speakers into.
 

Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
You either go for a set of active speakers that can accept an array of source devices (e.g. your phone / computer / tablet and CD player) which removes the need for speakers and an amp or you get an amplifier with built in streaming capability built into it.

You don't have to spend big on this - a nice little amplifier with either bluetooth or internet streaming to get you up and running with lots of other capability is ultimately all you need.

Some examples of both:

Q Acoustics M20 HD wireless system (bluetooth + other inputs):

Klipsch R-51PM active speakers:

Streaming amplifiers:

Bluesound Powernode streaming amplifier (connects to wifi, great interface, many inputs - just add speakers):

Pro-Ject Audio integrated amp with bluetooth (and many other inputs). More traditional - i.e. isn't a smart device that connects to the internet, just connects to your devices and plays locally.

audiolab 6000A Play - integrated amplifier and streamer (connects to the internet, supports spotify, amazon etc)

If you were looking for something smaller / cheaper, you could look at the Bluesound Flex 2i.
It's a small form factor unit that connects to the internet and utilises the same software as the Powernode above to stream hi-res music from. Doesn't have any speaker outputs - it's simply a small all in one with a great interface :)

 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
Personally I’d go for one of the Dynaudio Music series.

Lots to choose from and a few colours too.

But mostly they are Dynaudios and include room correction, and are loved everywhere.


 

jamieu

Well-known Member
If simplicity, well designed apps and ease of use are primary goals and you don't mind paying for that, then the BlueSound (BlueOS) PowerNode (suggested above) or a Sonos Amp would likely tick your boxes for a well-designed/easy to setup streaming amp you can use with your Wharfedales.

For Alexa voice control still need to have your Echo Dot connected to your network, but rather than it playing music itself you'd simply use it to control playback on the Sonos or BlueOS device.

If you wanted to do away with any external boxes at all and have a totally wireless setup (other than mains power) then then a pair of Sonos Five's as a stereo pair might be an option, although not cheap.

Bear in mind that BlueOS (BlueSound) and Sonos products (and almost any other multiroom audio platform) will only work in a multi-room setup with other devices from that manufacturer/platform. So if you’re planning to buy other standalone smart speakers in future, that may be a key consideration for going with one platform over the other. If you're planning to use the streamers own apps (rather than the streaming services native apps) then it's worth noting that the BlueOS and Sonos mobile/desktop apps are a notch above the competition in many regards.

There are however so many ways you can go with this kind of setup. If you’re not looking for the last drop of audio fidelity you could simply connect the Echo Dot up to a regular stereo amp with a 3.5mm to stereo RCA cable and be done. If you’re not wedded to Amazon Music (unfortunately one of the more poorly supported music streaming platforms) there’s an even wider choice of devices. For example, if using Spotify, you could simply use the native Spotify mobile/desktop App with a Spotify Connect supporting device, which may work out a lot cheaper than a full-blown streamer with it’s own apps and interfaces. Likewise, if you mainly use Apple devices you may find it easier to just use Apple’s Airplay to send whatever is playing on your phone or laptop to your audio system via Apple AirPlay, in which case an AirPlay supporting device would be all you need. There are also fairly low cost (<£50) ways to add both AirPlay or Spotify Support to a standard 2 channel stereo amp, but that does means more cables, boxes and wall-warts and neither of those last two routes would work well with Alexa.
 
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twistzilla

Standard Member
Thanks for the suggestions, I will have a look at those as a starting point.

I like the idea of just having speakers but my experience with cheaper Bluetooth 2 speakers hasn't been great - the audio quality hasn't been great and when I get a text on my phone it pings out of the speaker.

Do you think those will give me the "CD player" quality I'm after? Also how much of that is dependent on the device sending the stream - Is the DAC in the speakers or the phone?
 

twistzilla

Standard Member
Thanks Jamiue The sonos also looks like a good option. Also the echo dot idea - for the price of a cable I could try that out. At the very least it would help me establish a baseline and check the wifi on the shelf I have in mind :)

Our family is on Android so I don't think apple and airplay will be right for us although I bet It has a very good / very easy interface.
 

jamieu

Well-known Member
Thanks for the suggestions, I will have a look at those as a starting point.

I like the idea of just having speakers but my experience with cheaper Bluetooth 2 speakers hasn't been great - the audio quality hasn't been great and when I get a text on my phone it pings out of the speaker.

Yes, AirPlay also suffers from this too (I agree it's annoying!) and it's it's a key reason for using the streamers own apps, or using a Spotify Connect type device where the streamer is the device pulling down the stream and the streaming services native app is just the controller.

The higher quality (stereo pair) WiFi speakers like the Sonos 5 and KEF Wireless tend to be mains powered and use WiFi rather than BlueTooth, with drivers and cabinet sizes similar to traditional HiFi speakers — so similar performance. But they do come at a price and having all your technology in the speaker cabinet means you are largely stuck with the supplied software — not really an issue if it does what you want and gets regular updates. Most also have traditional analog and digital inputs to prevent total obsolesce down the line and Sonos at least has been applying regular updates to their speakers for years now which normally add rather than remove services/features. If going for expensive all-in-one speakers I'd stay with the well-known (and hence likely to still be around supplying updates in 5 years time) manufactures.

Do you think those will give me the "CD player" quality I'm after? Also how much of that is dependent on the device sending the stream - Is the DAC in the speakers or the phone?

Your speakers (and room) make the biggest difference by a mile over anything else.

But if you're playing back a really low quality stream then garbage in, garbage out. That said even Spotify's 320kbps Ogg stream (one of the lowest rates of the major streaming platforms) is very far from what I would call 'low quality'. I expect most people would struggle to tell the difference between 320kbps Ogg and lossless 16bit/44.1 (CD Quality) FLAC if they weren't aware of it. In fact the BBC actually tested this recently and found most people couldn't tell any difference even when listening out for a difference — that's not to say there isn't an audible difference, just that the difference is extremely small.

Even when playing low(ish) quality streams (for example most online radio stations use 64kbs or 128kbs MP3 streams) you will likely see more of an improvement from better speakers than you would from a slightly higher stream rate. The jump from lossless CD Quality 16bit/44.1Khz to anything higher is even smaller if audible at all.

Focus on your speakers (and ease of use/software), that is where you'll notice the biggest difference regardless of anything else. In a room that size, if wanting to keep your speakers reasonably small, then it may be worth thinking about adding a subwoofer. That will bring a far more noticeable affect to your overall sound than the difference between DAC A and DAC B or a 16bit vs 24bit sample rate. Think of those minor upgrades as changing the tyres on your car rather than the car itself, in much the same was as you wouldn't expect to see any significant improvement by putting fancy tires on a 15 year old runaround.
 
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Khazul

Well-known Member
^ Agree with above mostly. A good amp and speakers well setup in a room might not be able to recover the detail lost to low rate mp3, but they can still provide an enjoyable and engaging sound with such content whereas switching to CD or hi-res or MQA will not make that difference and just yield more detail on a system capable of resolving it.

I would add that while speaker and room combined are certainly the most significant factors (and in general, how balanced the sound is, how damped the environment is etc), the difference between an OK sound and an engaging sound can be the amp as well with larger / more difficult to drive speakers if bass matters. This is why many people prefer proper HiFi amps over common AVRs as a more extreme example.

Having got your speakers, room, listening position and amp all working well together, then improving content quality, DACs etc are all steps to revealing more little details.
 

killiefan

Active Member
NAD M10?

Sevenoaks have ex-dem bargains of the first gen model.
 

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