Streaming Device Reviews

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Barb Gonzalez  |  Jan 24, 2024  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Power to push most speakers with clarity at all sound levels.
Wi-Fi connection supports up to 192kHz/24- bit high-resolution audio.
Plays from a wide variety of streaming and physical music sources.
Clean design with easy-to-read front display.

Minus
The DTS Play-Fi app is clunky, buggy, and hard to use.
There is no equalizer to make sound adjustments.

THE VERDICT
With the Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase, streaming music has become a sit-down-and-listen experience rather than just background music. It has excellent sound quality for a reasonable price. It’s a great addition to include quality stereo music streaming, even if you already have a sound system.

For anyone who has been waiting for streaming music to be a high-quality sit-and-listen experience, the SVS Prime Wireless Pro SoundBase streaming integrated amp fits the bill. It’s the second-generation S VS wireless smart integrated amplifier.

Not only can it play just about any high-resolution audio file you send to it, but this 300-watt class D amplifier powers your speakers easily for outstanding sound. Connect it to standard speakers, and it becomes a DTS Play-Fi zone with reference sound (i.e. uncompressed) quality that can stream from numerous music services like Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music, and others.

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 17, 2024  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4300 (UD-701N), $3800 (AP-701B)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Faultless sound quality
Superb headphone amp
Outstanding build, finish quality
Minus
Less-than elegant app, interface
Expensive

THE VERDICT
Jewel-like stereo separates deliver definitive stereo audio performance.

Rob Sabin  |  Jul 12, 2023  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,471

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding full-dome Atmos movie effects
Superb spatial audio music reproduction
Plays loud without distortion
Minus
Expensive
No spatial audio streaming from the Sonos Tidal app

THE VERDICT
Sonos has scored a knockout with the Era 300 spatial audio surround speaker, which finally brings the full promise of Dolby Atmos to their flagship soundbar.

Back in 2020 I reviewed the then-new Sonos Arc soundbar for Sound & Vision, and it never left my family room. It’s been swapped out multiple times while I reviewed other Atmos-compliant soundbars, and some of these were mighty impressive.

Rob Sabin  |  May 10, 2023  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $449

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent stereo and spatial audio
Works as a standalone, in stereo pair
Use as rear surrounds with Sonos soundbars
Good "smarts" with Alexa, Sonos Voice
Bluetooth compatible
Impressive industrial design

Minus
No compatibility with Atmos tracks on Tidal
Does not work with Sony 360 Reality on Amazon
Sensitive to speaker placement

THE VERDICT
The Sonos Era 300 successfully brings high quality spatial audio to life in a compact, standalone package.

The Sonos Era 300 is the latest in a new generation of Atmos-compliant "spatial audio" speakers that bring a more immersive listening experience without the hardware and installation grief inherent with discrete surround systems. At $449 (in black or white), it costs more than its competition though, in typical Sonos fashion, it is engineered to a fare-thee-well and represents a considerable achievement.

David Vaughn  |  Apr 25, 2023  |  3 comments
For eight months, I've had a Kaleidescape Strato-C and 48TB Terra server in my system and the user experience has been outstanding. At the time my initial review posted many readers argued that the system offered poor value compared to ripping discs onto local storage solutions and playing them through an Nvidia Shield or similar front-end device.
Leslie Shapiro  |  Feb 02, 2023  |  27 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $800

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy streaming to Sonos
Automatically turns on
Included Ortofon 2M Red cartridge

Minus
App is finicky
Lacks phono output
Dust cover feels cheap
Complex music can overwhelm codec
Expensive

THE VERDICT
The Victrola Stream Carbon Turntable is a fun, convenient, albeit expensive way to stream directly from vinyl into the Sonos ecosystem. With RCA line outputs, it's also a simple, solid turntable for a traditional analog system.

If you've wandered by some iterations of Victrola turntables on the shelves in Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, or Crate & Barrel, you wouldn't set high expectations for the sound quality of those suitcase record players. However, in a bold move, Victrola hit the market with the Stream Carbon Turntable VPT-3000 (MSRP $799), designed for the serious vinyl enthusiast who also craves the convenience of streaming into their existing Sonos ecosystem.

Mark Henninger  |  Jan 31, 2023  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clear and detailed sound
Easy to set up and use
Supports Dolby Atmos, eARC
Pair two with an Apple TV 4K for a complete system
Minus
Needs an iOS device for setup
No optional subwoofer
Limited maximum volume

THE VERDICT
Apple's attractive and intelligent HomePod speaker arrives just in time to ride the spatial audio wave. It's a technologically advanced, high-fidelity, hyper-smart speaker that transforms into a full-blown surround-sound system when you add a second one.

The moment I first heard a pair of the new Apple HomePod speakers play spatial audio, I could not get one thought out of my mind: This is going to be more than good enough for 90+ percent of listeners. Of course there will still be a place in this world for large, powerful, multi-speaker systems.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Jan 28, 2023  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE A50+ $199, S50+ Pro $219

AT A GLANCE
Plus
A50+
Multiple music sources include streaming music services
Multiroom streaming or stream separately
EQ adjustment buttons on remote
Presets to favorite playlists
Stream legacy devices like turntables or CD players

S50+ Pro
Pairable with A50+ for synchronized listening throughout the home
Optical input and output
Decodes high-resolution audio
Remote control with EQ direct buttons
Presets to switch to favorite playlists from a variety of services
Stream legacy devices like turntables or CD players

Minus (A50+ and S50+ Pro)
The 4STREAM app is confusing and incomplete
Can’t create a play queue
Amazon Music has bugs (doesn’t play when switching from another app)
Output is compressed CD quality, not high-resolution audio
Doesn’t have AirPlay2
Doesn’t work with Alexa, Google, directly with Siri

THE VERDICT
The Arylic A50+ wireless multiroom full digital hi-fi amplifier and the S50+ Pro wireless streaming preamplifier are reasonably priced streaming solutions for specific needs. These aren’t devices for the average user looking for a whole home music system. Instead, the Acrylic amp and preamp are better suited for DIYers or users who are comfortable piecing together a system.

Arylic's A50+ and S50+ are small music streamers that work with most music sources...

Barb Gonzalez  |  Jan 22, 2023  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $140

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Super Resolution Upscaling to 4K improves HD and SD content
Hands-free control of the Fire TV Cube and Smart Home Devices
Fast navigation and loading of content
Connect thumb drive or external drive to view/listen to media
Connect webcam for video calling
Minus
Sponsored apps, ads, and Amazon’s FreeVee monopolize home screen and search
Set-top box integration didn’t work with DISH Hopper

THE VERDICT
If you have Amazon Prime, cable or satellite, and smart home devices, definitely consider upgrading to the Fire TV Cube 3rd generation.

The 3rd generation Fire TV Cube has several new features that may make it worth upgrading from your current Fire TV. One of these features is HDMI pass-through, which allows for easy integration with set-top boxes. Additionally, the cube has a more powerful processor that improves picture quality. As the top-of-the-line Fire TV model, the cube combines the functionality of a smart Echo speaker and a streaming Amazon Fire TV.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Dec 01, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $29.99

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Quick and easy setup
Excellent picture quality when upscaled on a 4K TV
Connects to TV USB for power
Voice control, private listening, and hidden control with mobile app
Minus
It only supports up to 1080p high-definition resolution
Is not Dolby or DTS enabled, requires pass-through
It cannot be hidden behind the TV
No volume buttons, microphone, or TV control on remote

THE VERDICT
With its Roku OS simplicity and surprisingly good performance for an HD streamer, it’s an excellent choice for anyone looking for a budget device to go with a second TV.

Considering its low price, it wouldn't be fair to compare the entry-level Roku Express with higher-end 4K models. This 1080p streamer isn't trying to be the best in the market, but it does an excellent job for what it is—a value-priced HD player. When the Roku Express goes on sale, it's an easy choice as a gift or to go with that legacy TV in the second room.

Howard Kneller  |  Nov 30, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar performance
Full feature package
Small physical footprint
Killer price
Minus
Small, monochrome display
Modest power rating

THE VERDICT
A small, but technology and feature-rich all-in-one component that delivers large and impressive sound at a fraction of its expected price.

Like many, I've embraced music streaming, but refuse to give up my CDs and LPs. As a result, my stereo system contains multiple components and a thicket of wires. For people who won't tolerate such complexity, Panasonic's Technics has thankfully introduced the SA-C600 streaming CD receiver ($999). This impressively small component features an integrated amplifier, a streamer, a CD player, a phono stage, an FM tuner, and a headphone output.

Mark Henninger  |  Nov 23, 2022  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $660

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High fidelity sound
Components sold separately
Easy setup
Built-in Roku 4K streaming
Cordless private listening mode
Minus
No Dolby Atmos support
Weak bass without the subwoofer

THE VERDICT
The top-of-the-line soundbar system from Roku is full of cool features and gives you a surround-sound listening experience that is better than competing systems of similar cost. But it lacks support for 3D immersive sound like Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, and the Streambar Pro on its own is not nearly as impressive sounding as when it's part of a complete 5.1 system.

Soundbars have evolved from simple standalone add-on speakers for TVs into fully self-contained home entertainment systems able to deliver cinematic, immersive listening experiences. The catch is today's soundbar systems can get quite costly, often exceeding the price of the TV they might be connected to. With Roku's Streambar Pro, the cost of entry is only $179.99 for the soundbar itself, and you can expand the system from there. Granted, tricking it out with a subwoofer and four add-on wireless is almost four times the cost, but what you get is a very nice surround-sound solution that's easy to install, easy to use, and outperforms many similarly priced soundbars.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Nov 03, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $129 (64GB) / $149 (128GB)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Lower price than any recent Apple TVs
Excellent sound and picture quality
Now supports HDR10+
Agnostic "Watch Next" suggestions
Supports Dolby Atmos for movies and music
Minus
Scrub fast-forward and rewind can be squirrelly
Limited Siri Commands
Netflix integration remains minimal

THE VERDICT
The Apple TV 4K 3rd generation is a must-have for anyone with an iPhone or other Apple device. It still has great sound and picture quality, but the processor is faster and it supports HDR 10+. If you are invested in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple TV 4K should be the streamer you use. Also, if you have a Samsung TV that supports HDR10+, you might want to think about getting the new model.

The latest Apple TV 4K is the company's most compelling and feature-rich streaming box yet. It performs better and has more features than its predecessors while costing less...

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 02, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $900/pair

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive low-end extension and dynamics
Good array of inputs including HDMI/eARC for TV sound
Subwoofer output lends expandability
Minus
The active speaker must be the right channel
Low-end balance may prove a bit strong for near-wall placement in some rooms
No systemic EQ
No file format data display

THE VERDICT
Outstanding sound quality in a compact, wireless-streaming speaker pair.

I haven't yet decided what to call the new genus of streaming-on-board powered stereo speakers. Streakers? Speamers? Whatever you call them, active DSP speakers, with amps, digital converters and crossovers, and of course, streaming capabilities built right in, are officially now a thing.

Mark Henninger  |  Sep 22, 2022  |  2 comments
Roon is an impressive software music playback system that runs as a core (i.e. server) on a dedicated PC in your home, which you can access from various playback devices. It allows you to merge streaming through Tidal or Qobuz with local music files to provide a seamless listening experience. However, until now Roon only worked in the home.

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