Streaming Device Reviews

Sort By: Post DateTitle Publish Date
Al Griffin  |  Aug 07, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Integrated Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great value
Tidal, Spotify, and TuneIn streaming
Digital and analog inputs accommodate multiple sources
Minus
Subwoofer output
Treble-forward sound with some music
Coarse volume steps
No USB-DAC input

THE VERDICT
OSD Audio’s compact, component-based system is a great value and offers a high-er-performance alternative to many all-in-one wireless speakers.

OSD Audio is a company that seems to make everything— everything audio-related, that is. When I stopped by the company's booth at the CEDIA trade show in 2018, CEO Dave Chai took me on a guided tour of the vast array of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, outdoor speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, accessories, and cables on display, thoroughly impressing me with his ability to speak about each product in detail. While much of OSD Audio's catalog is aimed at custom installation pros, two new consumer-oriented categories for the company are bookshelf speakers and integrated amplifiers with wireless streaming capability.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jul 30, 2019  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-quality DAC
Alexa voice control
Includes headphone amp
Minus
Cumbersome input selection
No aptX Bluetooth
No hardware remote control

THE VERDICT
The Amazon Echo Link Amp offers an easy way to connect music streaming services to your existing stereo speakers.

With the new Amazon Echo Link Amp ($299), Amazon is sending Alexa off into unchartered territory. The goal: get music out of the phone and into the home, where it can be shared with family and friends. Such a warm, fuzzy idea! Good thing the Link Amp's sound is crisp, clear, and not fuzzy at all.

Al Griffin  |  Mar 06, 2019  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound quality
Strong feature set
Good ergonomics and control app
Minus
Pricey

THE VERDICT
Simaudio's Moon 390 is a high-res stream machine that combines high-end sound with an extensive feature set and solid ergonomics.

Canada's Simaudio has been designing and manufacturing audio electronic components from its home base in Quebec for almost four decades. While the company's product lineup clearly skews toward the high end—a pair of its flagship Moon 888 monoblock amplifiers will run you around $120,000—the company also makes a wide range of other components with more approachable price tags. A number of these, such as the Moon 390 preamplifier ($5,300) we have under review here, feature the MiND 2 streaming module, a built-in network player that lets you stream audio from services like Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer, along with files stored on a NAS or USB drive or computer.

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 23, 2019  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive versatility
Easy integration
Designed for shelf or rack mounting
Minus
EQ limited to bass and treble adjustments
Noticeably bright sound with some speakers

THE VERDICT
The new Sonos Amp is a marvel of simplicity and versatility that will enhance and expand any Sonos multiroom audio system in ways that are worth far more than its $599 price tag.

“All good things,” goes the proverb, “must come to an end.” As if to prove the veracity of that old saying, Sonos announced in early 2018 that the company was pulling the plug on a piece of gear that's been in its lineup for so long that most Sonos employees probably thought it was (metaphorically speaking) part of the building.

John Sciacca  |  Mar 01, 2017  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,499 ($4,477 as reviewed)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fast setup/programming
Supports modern and legacy sources
Integrates with many third-party systems
AirPlay gives virtually unlimited access
Minus
NAS streaming has quirks
Native app support is fairly limited

THE VERDICT
Russound delivers whole-home audio entertainment in a single, massively expandable chassis, allowing you to enjoy legacy analog/digital sources or modern streaming.

Streaming and app-based control may be all the rage for music listening, but they ignore the fact that many people still have older, legacy gear they want to enjoy around their homes. Sometimes, whether it’s a CD player, turntable, or cable/satellite set-top box, “stream it from the cloud” isn’t a workable solution. Also, most modern wireless streaming music systems, such as Sonos and Play-Fi, eschew any type of wall-based control, relying solely on a smartphone or tablet interface.

Al Griffin  |  Feb 17, 2017  |  13 comments
Google’s Chromecast Audio media streamer represents perhaps the least expensive way to add wireless streaming to legacy speakers and audio systems. But is it the best option for everyone?
Darryl Wilkinson  |  Aug 31, 2016  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $15/month

AT A GLANCE
Plus
16 built-in tuners
Supports Netflix 4K UHD content
Minus
Non-backlit remote

THE VERDICT
In one simple-to-operate device, the Hopper 3 combines the best of satellite TV—including 4K support—with the most compelling aspects of internet streaming. When you also consider its extensive multiroom distribution capabilities, there’s not another home entertainment device that can match the category-bending Hopper 3.

If the new satellite receiver/DVR from Dish, the Hopper 3, were indeed merely a new satellite receiver/DVR, the chances of us reviewing it would be between slim and you’ve got to be kidding me. After all, this is the age of internet streaming and cord cutting—and linear TV is just soooo last century. Since this is actually a genuine review of the Hopper 3, I guess it’s not a spoiler to say that there’s more to this third-generation, whole-home satellite DVR from Dish than time-shifting network broadcasts.

Michael Antonoff  |  Apr 01, 2016  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE Free (App); $5 to $20 per hour

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Eliminates airfare, hotel, and dry-cleaning bills
Diffuses “line rage” caused by waiting in too many lines for too long
Lets you bypass prickly security checks
Minus
Vertically held camera phones result in narrow, picket-fence-like view on widescreen
Surge pricing and data overage charges passed onto consumer quickly add up
Lacks 4K video and 7.1- channel audio support

THE VERDICT
Mob Cam VR will appeal to the weary, the non-ambulatory, or anyone so disgusted with the idea of returning to a massive trade show that they’d do anything to opt out.

Mimicking business plans pioneered by Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit in which anyone with a car, room, or broom can offer transportation, a bed, or cleaning service to strangers, the Lirpa Labs Mob Cam VR is a new app that empowers smartphone owners everywhere to work as on-location cameramen for one or more distant viewers willing to pay for a live video feed.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Nov 04, 2015  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $130

AT A GLANCE
Plus
4K streaming to UHDTV
Agnostic search finds titles in multiple services
Notifications when specific movies become available

Minus
Remote mic is inaccurate
Search can’t find specific episodes of specific seasons

THE VERDICT
If you own a 4K TV, this is a slam-dunk. If not, the advances in hardware are still enough to step up from a Roku 2.

One must wonder if Roku waited to release its fourth-generation media streamer until the aptly named Roku 4 was capable of streaming 4K content. The newest Roku box can connect to compatible UHDTVs to stream 4K movies, TV shows, and videos from Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, M-Go, and a growing number of 4K streaming sources. And though 4K streaming is the Roku 4’s main appeal, improvements in hardware and the software interface make it the best Roku box yet.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Aug 07, 2015  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics

PRICE $130

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Three bands with automatic switching for greater dedicated bandwidth to individual devices
Fast, reliable streaming throughout home network
Two USB ports make hard drives accessible within home and remotely
Minus
Dashboard makes it hard to customize some settings
Automated band switching and QoS remove options to change settings to suit your needs
No backup or media management software

THE VERDICT
A speedy, reliable router that’s great if you accept its automatic settings.

As I’ve taken to streaming as much 4K video as I can from Netflix and Amazon, it was important to get the fastest router. Perhaps there’s something psychological about the candy-apple red glossy exterior that reminds me of a cross between a drag racer and a spaceship, or perhaps it was its impressive specs, but either way, I was inspired to try out D-Link’s DIR890L/R top-of-the-line tri-band router.

Leslie Shapiro  |  Jun 01, 2015  |  2 comments
While I like to think that every single product in my home should be beyond audiophile quality, the reality is that in some places, I want a product that sounds okay but more importantly, does its job very well. Sure, I could set up the most amazing home theater to use as an alarm clock, but the reality is that I just need a really good alarm clock at my bedside. Thankfully, the JBL Horizon Bluetooth clock radio just showed up at my house. I’m not saying that I’m a gear snob, but I would much rather wake up to a JBL logo than a Timex logo. Just sayin’.

Barb Gonzalez  |  May 01, 2015  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $39

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy installation in any HDMI port
Straightforward, simple menus
ASAP technology loads full resolution videos instantly
Plenty of free content for Amazon Prime members
Minus
Missing some major apps including Vudu and M-Go
Global search favors Amazon results
Remote app is inconsistent and voice search may not work

THE VERDICT
A great streaming choice for Amazon Prime members, particularly those who travel.

In case the 3-inch-square Fire TV was too big for you, Amazon has released its follow-up to that high-performing streaming media player. Along with reducing size to fit on an HDMI dongle, Amazon has also reduced the price—to $39, versus $99 for the full-size Fire TV. While the Stick comes without the original’s built-in remote control microphone for voice search (a mic remote is an option) and uses a dual-core processor rather than a quad-core processor, the differences are hardly noticeable in use. Both Fire TVs make it easy for Amazon Prime members to stream over 40,000 free movies and millions of songs as well as access an unlimited number of personal photos stored in the Amazon Cloud. And the Stick’s small size and weight should make it perfect for tossing in your luggage for streaming in hotel rooms while traveling (assuming, of course, suitable Wi-Fi access).

Darryl Wilkinson  |  Jan 23, 2015  |  2 comments

Denon HEOS 7 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Denon HEOS 5 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value

Denon HEOS 3 Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,148 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar audio performance
Simple, intuitive app
Minus
No desktop controller
Fewer streaming services than Sonos

THE VERDICT
It’s not the first wireless multiroom sound system, but it certainly ranks among the best.

When I asked the folks at Denon why they felt the need to develop a multiroom, streaming music system, this was the answer they gave: “Probably for similar reasons why we developed the LP turntable and didn’t continue to manufacture gramophones.” That wasn’t quite the answer I was looking for, but it was an interesting way of putting a tangible perspective on the past 100-plus years that Denon has been involved in the audio industry.

In this day and age, it’s the rare person who sits at home enjoying selections from his or her collection of bulky spinning cylinders; streaming songs is what’s popular now. In fact, our collective propensity for listening to audio from the Internet or music stored on NAS drives and computers has resulted in wireless speakers of various kinds becoming the product du jour of nearly every audio manufacturer on the planet. So the question I really should have asked was how Denon thought they could build a system that would rise above the flood of streaming music speakers and systems on the market—and, specifically, how in the world Denon thought they could compete head to head with the Goliath of streaming music systems, Sonos.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Oct 16, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $90

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Well-designed remote app with mirroring mode
Uses phone’s accelerometer to control games
Multiple users can control same BiggiFi
Minus
Touchscreen remote mode takes practice
Slight lag time when using screenshot remote mode

THE VERDICT
A versatile streamer that’s fun for playing games.

Before the official Android TVs come on the market, several small companies have been making Android-streaming devices that connect to a TV. BiggiFi is the newest Android-on-a-dongle that connects to a TV’s HDMI port. Other than its strange name, and obvious English-as-a-second-language notifications, this smartphone-controlled device might be a good streaming stick choice for users who like to play smartphone apps on the big screen.

Barb Gonzalez  |  Aug 29, 2014  |  First Published: Aug 28, 2014  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
PRICE $50

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Direct HDMI connection to most TVs
Extensive content options
Suggested videos and apps on home screen
Remote with direct access to Netflix, M-Go, Amazon Instant Video, and Blockbuster

Minus
Music stops when navigating away from channel
Long start-up time
No option to group channels by category

THE VERDICT
The great features of a Roku box in a stick for half the price.

The second Roku Streaming Stick (HDMI version) is a fit-in-your-pocket HDMI dongle that is basically a Roku box on a stick. Where the previous Roku Streaming stick worked only with TVs that have an MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) HDMI port, the new Roku is compatible with most TVs’ standard HDMI connections. As with its predecessors, the Roku HDMI is easy to use and offers more than 1,700 channels (that is, apps). Notably, these now include apps that stream from pretty much any video source you can think of—the usual online streaming services, plus your home network media libraries, or live TV and recorded DVR recorded content using Simple.tv or a Slingplayer channel.

Pages

X