Streaming Device Reviews

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Howard Kneller  |  Apr 27, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,548 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar performance
Powerful internal amplifier
Modular design accommodates updates and additional features
Minus
Modestly built chassis
Small front-panel display
Uninspired remote control

THE VERDICT
The C 399 delivers great performance, impressive features and flexibility, and high value in a modest, yet handsome package.

While waiting on the arrival of NAD's C 399 integrated amplifier for review, I checked it out on the company's website. What I saw there was a minimally adorned exemplar of the black-box design school, with steel chassis panels of ordinary fabrication and a small display showing mostly monochrome text. Yawn. Well, a funny thing happened when the C 399 finally arrived, and I unboxed it. I took a shine to its no-frills, understatedly handsome looks. Sure, there are more striking-looking components out there with more robust build quality, but they'll cost you.

Kris Deering  |  Dec 29, 2021  |  5 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $10,995 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compact form factor—fits in standard-width rack space with Strato C player
Significantly boosts movie download speed
Minus
Pricey
Kaleidescape Store immersive audio support still spotty

THE VERDICT
Kaleidescape new compact Terra Movie Server delivers an improved user experience and greater flexibility over the company’s standard Strato system.

Kaleidescape sure has been busy since I reviewed its Strato S 4K Ultra HD Movie Player late last year (October/ November 2020 issue). The company added three new servers to its Terra lineup: the compact 6TB ($5,995), 12TB ($7,995), 18TB ($9,995) options, and a 72TB monster ($23,995) for those who want massive storage without having to string multiple Terra units together. For this review, I was sent the 12TB Terra, along with a Strato C 4K Movie Player (recently reduced in price to $2,995) to test it with. I'll focus first on the 12TB Terra and then give an update on my overall Kaleidescape experience after living with a system for over a year (I purchased my Strato S review unit).

Al Griffin  |  Dec 08, 2021  |  4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Powerful, easy to use control app
Multiple input and output connections
Roon Ready and AirPlay 2-compatible
Affordable price
Minus
Hardware remote not included

THE VERDICT
Bluesound’s feature-packed DAC brings the world of high-res audio, including multiroom streaming, to existing systems at an affordable price.

Streaming DACs provide a quick and easy way to upgrade an existing hi-fi rig and make it compatible with all the advanced services available to a 21st century music enthusiast. Even someone owning a circa-1972 receiver could suddenly find themselves streaming 24-bit/192kHz high-res tracks from Qobuz, as well as "tuning in" an insane assortment of internet radio stations from around the globe. And while streaming DACs can be pricey—the Simaudio Moon 280D we recently reviewed, for example, lists for $3,000—there are also affordable options like Bluesound's $599 Node.

Howard Kneller  |  Jul 07, 2021  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding performance and build quality
Wireless multiroom streaming-capable
Roon Ready and AirPlay 2-compatible
Minus
Lacks front panel display
No HDMI input

THE VERDICT
Simaudio's Moon 280D is a bit light on features when compared with its wireless network music streamer/DAC competition, but it offers exceptional build quality and audiophile-grade sound.

Simaudio, an audio manufacturer located in Quebec, Canada is well-known for both the build quality of its products and the whopping ten-year warranty it offers. Many of the company's wares are decidedly high-end—the 230-pound Moon 888 monoblock amplifier ($118,888 per pair), which is rated to output a massive 888 watts at 8 ohms and double that down to 1,776 watts at 4 ohms, for example.

Howard Kneller  |  Mar 17, 2021  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,835

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great sound quality
Multiple HDMI inputs (w/ARC)
Effective Space Optimisation room correction
Built-in phono stage
Minus
Dealer setup recommended
Small speaker terminals

THE VERDICT
Linn's all-in-one wireless streamer/amplifier/DAC offers impressive sound, sleek looks, and plentiful connectivity options.

According to the corporate lore of Scottish audio manufacturer Linn, in 1973 a newly married engineer named Ivor Tiefenbrun went shopping at his wife's direction to buy home furnishings. To his wife's chagrin, the story goes, he instead returned with a stereo system. After setting it up, Ivor was disappointed with the sound, but soon discovered that moving the turntable from his listening room into an adjoining room improved the system's performance since the speakers' output no longer interacted with the turntable and distorted the audio signal.

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-quality power and D-to-A conversion
Excellent on-board phono section
Onboard Dirac Live room correction
Minus
Coarse “app” volume control steps
No USB type-B port for computer connection
Occasionally wonky AirPlay 2 streaming

THE VERDICT
The M33 combines state-of-the- art sound, power, and broad functionality in an elegantly conceived package.

Boy, has NAD come a long way. Back in 1978, the Canadian/ American/Euro multinational's first product was an unassuming but great-sounding little 20-watt integrated amplifier in a plain gray sheetmetal box, with controls that had all the sophisticated feel of a Kenner Easy-Bake Oven.

David Vaughn  |  Mar 04, 2020  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 + service fees (varies by plan)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Supports 4K/HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
Voice-activated search
Terrific program guide
Minus
High up-front cost
No Disney+ or Apple TV+ support
TiVo+ Network is a work in progress

THE VERDICT
TiVo's next-gen DVR is a timely update that adds support for Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound, along with a more sophisticated voice search feature.

When TiVo burst on the scene in 1999, it changed the way millions of people watched TV. Gone were the days of manually setting up a recording on your VCR and then having to wait for a program to finish. Now, by using TiVo's DVR, you could not just record but pause Live TV in order to answer a phone call or take a bathroom break.

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  |  3 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.

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