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A multi-room audio system used to be a massive investment, with hard-wiring required throughout the house. Nowadays though, everything is wireless via Bluetooth and WiFi, so you can enjoy audio in every area of your home.
What Is a Multi-Room Audio Streaming System?
As its name suggests, the best multi-room streaming systems let you sync up your music from a device like a phone, tablet, even stereo receiver, and have uninterrupted sound as you move from room to room. You’ve also got the option of playing different audio in different rooms too, creating set zones, which are perfect for parties or if multiple people want different music.
How Does a Multi-Room Streaming System Work for Music?
The latest multi-room streaming systems come in a lot of shapes, sizes and capabilities, so we’ve put together this guide to help navigate the process before making a big purchase.
Sound Quality: While these all have the ability to cast music and sound, the quality level can vary. It may be something that only audiophiles notice, but it’s worth taking a look at during your search. High-res audio, around 24bit/192KHz, is a safe bet for great sound particularly if you’re playing from FLAC files.
Source: Where will your music be playing from? If it’s just your phone, most of these will do just fine. But if you’ve got multiple sources you want to connect up, make sure the unit is capable of handling things like a USB drive, line-in, and AirPlay for Apple devices, as well as more than one source simultaneously.
Remote: A remote should go beyond the bare minimum of power and volume, doing things like equalizing speakers and switching between inputs. A remote is sometimes vital too if the unit is lacking any controls on it and has limited functionality in the app, so be careful not to misplace it if other options are limited.
Screen: A screen isn’t just a flashy feature, though most of them look great and add to the aesthetic of the unit. It’s practical to have some basic controls so you’re not always relying on the app or a remote, plus some of these screens have gorgeous colors and user-interfaces that you’ll just want to mess with whenever you walk by, or can see from across the room to know what volume, input or track you’re at. Not all multi-room streamers have screens though, as some use color-coated lights or a voice to tell you what’s going on, which can actually help keep the overall cost low.
What Are the Best Multi-Room Streaming Devices?
Whereas the best multi-room audio devices used to only be available at high-end brick-and-mortar stores, you can now find some top-rated multi-room streaming devices online. Here are some of the best streamers to get.
1. Cambridge Audio CXN V2 Streamer
The sound quality on this Cambridge Audio unit is absolutely phenomenal, using two Wolfson WM8740 converters to upscale your digital music to 24bit/384kHz, bringing out the deepest details along with rich mids and shining highs.
The CXN’s design is sleek and timeless, fitting flawlessly into any audio setup. The display is crisp and colorful, even showing you the album cover art of what’s playing, and the control dial is simple, smooth and fun to use.
Bluetooth, USB, WiFi, and Ethernet are supported, as is streaming like Spotify Connect and Tidal.
The unit has a strong build quality (at almost 15 pounds), and has inputs for digital optical, coaxial, and USB too.
2. Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra
Pro-Ject’s powerful Streambox Ultra streamer can handle up to six devices, with the result being a smooth sound that’s instantly noticeable to any ear.
Two USB and one HDMI (along with Ethernet, DAC, and a bypass) provide ports for small to mid-size setups, and this also acts as a network bridge, cutting unwanted noise way down when converting.
Controlling it via smart setups, or even a regular web browser, is swift, as is connecting up audio streaming services with pristine upscaled audio, and internet radio from all over the world via Shoutcast.
For best results, pair this up with Pro-Ject’s Pre Box preamp and Amp Box S2.
3. Bluesound Node Wireless Multi-Room Streamer
Bluesound’s hi-res, wireless music streamer works well with Spotify, and sounded especially awesome through their Pulse Mini 2i wireless speaker.
This streams at 24bit/192kHz, and features plenty of ports: HDMI eARC, optical, coaxial, USB and analog. There’s no remote, but there is voice and touch control with proximity sensing, plus it’s controllable through the app.
Setup is easy, and the improvement in sound quality is instantly noticeable, setting a large soundstage with clean instrument separation.
4. Arylic WiFi Bluetooth Home Amplifier
This streamer sets up fast, and delivers great sounding audio from multiple sources and apps with an A50 amp inside.
Music can be played over WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay, and control is responsive via the included remote as well as the 4stream app. You’ll also be able to set different EQ for various genres of music (and even for individual speakers).
FLAC files are supported, and can be played directly from devices like USB storage drives too.