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A network music player provides access to a multitude of audio services available across a number of platforms. Whether you’re listening to a collection of CDs ripped to a computer, streaming Amazon Music from a phone or tablet, or listening to a favorite internet radio or streaming service, a network music player is your hub for centralized listening.
The term network refers to a “home network” or WiFi system through which all the components are connected. These systems integrate through the user’s home WiFi to let you stream through a variety of player options.
There are multiple types of network music players available in the market place and we’ve rounded up some of our favorites. The best network music players from Sonos and Bose are simply a speaker and app setup – think Sonos Play:1 or Bose Wave SoundTouch. Then there are more hard drive-type units meant for collecting audio from multiple sources and playing it through a home theater setup – think set-ups like the Sonos Connect, to portable versions meant to stream outside the home. The latest network music players are easy to set-up and intuitive to use, with convenient features and settings that you can control via each player’s app and, in some cases, through your Alexa voice assistant.
A network music player is a wonderful addition to any home theater setup, or as a stand alone unit – great for use in the kitchen, bedroom or a home office. The ability to stream music from a variety of sources makes it a no-brainer for both casual listeners and audiophiles alike.
1. Bose Wave SoundTouch
The Bose Wave SoundTouch is a wonderful network music player for individualized use in a particular room. With access to a plethora of streaming services via the Bose App, as well as an incorporated CD player and AM/FM radio, the Wave SoundTouch easily fills any room with high-quality sound.
The company says its “proprietary Bose technologies automatically perform many of the adjustments needed for high-performance audio.” This means that whether you’re streaming a mixtape from 10 years ago, or a dinner playlist from Spotify, Bose has engineered the Wave SoundTouch to enhance the audio experience to its highest form. With easy connection to WiFi as well as Bluetooth connectivity, the Wave SoundTouch can play media from multiple sources.
PROS: Rich, clean, precise, concert hall-quality Bose sound. Can be combined with an Alexa unit to control your music and settings using just your voice.
CONS: A bit bulky design-wise, but with quality like this, does it really matter?
2. Sonos Connect
Sonos systems are great for the casual listener and the elite audiophile alike. The Sonos Connect is a quick addition to an existing home theater setup. By adding the Connect unit, you can add streaming services throughout your already-built HiFi system.
The Connect seamlessly integrates into nearly any system and adds network capabilities for audio services, as well as for additional Sonos speakers in the future. With Sonos, there’s no need to start building a new system from scratch; their products add new functionality to existing setups.
PROS: The ability to increase functionality of an existing system as well as the ability to add other components such as a turntable or other speakers, makes this a truly powerful unit.
CONS: Amazing functionality, but can definitely take a bit more tech savvy to get the system setup properly.
3. Sangean Network Music Player
The Sangean WFR-28 is great for those looking for an all-in-one unit. The WFR-28 works wonderfully as a table top radio and is great for job sites, use in the garage, or in the backyard. With multiple EQ settings as well as independent audio tuning capabilities, the WFR-28 has unique sound customization potential compared to some of its competitors.
It’s not just for radio either – stream music from your computer, your Spotify app, or connect devices like your iPod, phone or MP3 player to the auxiliary input.
PROS: Portability. Ditch the cord for rechargeable batteries and take your unit to go.
CONS: Some users have reported the app is a bit tricky to use and there are only a handful of presets available for programming.