Posted on Sat, 10 Jan, 2015
Posted by Peter


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So, streaming. You’re probably aware of it by now. To say that it has taken the hi-fi world by storm in recent years would be a significant under statement. It’s convenient, it’s cool – and thanks to recent advances in technology, the sound quality has improved exponentially. There really isn’t much of an excuse not to jump aboard the stream train – unless money and space are contributing factors. A dedicated streaming unit takes up space and can be a little pricey. But let’s back up a bit, on the off-chance that you are new to the streaming thing.

A streamer is a device which acts as a source for your digital music collection. It is usually a multi-channel device, which allows for the files on your computer or NAS drive to be played – quite seamlessly – through your existing system from one place. A streamer also acts as an effective way of streaming wirelessly directly from your smartphone, tablet or MP3 player via Bluetooth. Many of them also have internet radio and compatibility with HD streaming websites such as Spotify built in too. It’s a very clever bit of kit that brings both your own music, and the music of the world – together in one place, to be played through your system as though it were a CD or a vinyl that never needs the tray opening or the needle lifting.

But… there is a way of accessing the key benefits of a streaming unit without the footprint, or the price tag. Most dedicated streamers can be operated by a remote control and a screen on the unit itself, and the vast majority of the higher-end ones will have apps too. But with the products below, the mobile device in the main port of control. Once upon a time, streaming wirelessly from any mobile device would have been considered a poor choice for anyone who valued sound quality, but since the arrival of Bluetooth AptX – all that has changed. High definition wireless sound is not just a possibility, but a reality, and choosing an AptX wireless adapter/receiver over a dedicated unit is a cheap and smart alternative.

So, if you think you can benefit from hi-fidelity streaming, without the price tag, look no further than these adorable little devices. They don’t look like much, but they are life changers!

1. Pro-Ject Bluetooth Box E – £69

Pro-Ject-Bluetooth-Box-EFirst up, we have the funky little Box E from Pro-Ject. This is a budget option, but it does support both standard SBC Standard as well as AptX, so a small spend can mean both of your bases are covered. Not only that, but this unassuming little device can remember up to eight corresponding devices at one time, so switching between your mobile, your tablet and your laptop – or any other device – need not cause any extra faffing about. Oh and it has a surprisingly big sound too, with impressive levels of detail. Not at all bad for under £70!

What do we like it?
It’s a nice little tester. You’re curious about streaming, but you’re a bit unsure and don’t want to open your wallet too widely, this is a good way of reassuring yourself that wireless streaming is as good as they say it is. This

2. Arcam miniBlink Bluetooth Receiver – £90

miniblinkWhat’s round(ed) shiny and shaped like a pebble? Why, it’s Arcam’s miniBlink! It’s the second in this list due to price – but if that wasn’t our current format, this would be at the top of our list. Hugely popular with pretty much everyone who lays their hands on it, this little device is a life-changer, and an excellent way of bringing a world of music into your life while barely spending anything. Arcam have really outdone themselves – and the cost is incredibly low.

Why do we like it?
It’s popular for a very good reason. It works – and it works well. It transforms your hi-fi system into a wireless system instantly, and is incredibly easy to control. It’s won plenty of awards -including What Hi-Fi’s Product of the Year 2014 – and we’re not at all surprised.

Why do they like it?
‘It’s impressive that Arcam have been able to squeeze such a sense of refinement and quality from a device like this. Like many of Arcam’s hi-fi separates, there’s a real sense of rhythm and fluidity to music.’ (What Hi-Fi? Magazine)

3. QED uPlay Plus Bluetooth Receiver – £99.95

QED uPlay Plus

If the miniBlink isn’t quite to your taste (maybe you don’t like pebbles. Who are we to judge?) then QED’s uPlay Plus is a very fair bet. Boasting balanced sound, ease of use. and that all important AptX, the uPlay Plus is pretty far beyond most wireless adapters in its price range. What makes it a little different is the fact that it can be used alongside a DAC, owed to its analogue connection. So you can enjoy great quality audio from all of your sources – all in one place. Magic!

Why do we like it?
The DAC compatibility is a very nice feature – analogue still does have a slight edge (we won’t deny that).

Why do they like it?
‘It’s the handiest, most paradigm-shifting device I’ve ever added to my stereo system and in conjunction with my phone; it sure has changed my audio experience for the better.’ (WitchDoctor)

4. QED uPlay Stream Wireless Adapter – £149.95
QED uPlay Stream

Taking a slight step up from the uPlay Plus is it’s big brother, the uPlay Stream. Shapred like a clam shell, it’s a pretty striking looking device, and will be more easily physically integrated/concealed than its sibling. What else makes it different? Well, the sound is markedly better. While the uPlay Plus was considered to be slightly lacking in the power and the detail, the uPlay Stream has both in leaps and bounds. What else? Up to 8 uPlay Streams can be used in unison, creating a multi-room system throughout your space. It’s a pretty clever clam.

Why do we like it?
It’s a pretty device, and its sound is an improvement on the uPlay. A very affordable and fun way of bringing the world of wireless streaming to the palm of your hand – a hard habit to break.

Why do they like it?
‘Making music streaming possible at a much lower price than ever before, this handy little device boasts a decent sound and good features’ (What Hi-Fi Magazine)

5. Jamo WK200 Wireless Adapter Kit – £169

Jamo WK200

And now for what is quite possibly the most convenient of all the streamers. It’s so good we use one in our store. Because music makes us work better. Fact. Aside from perfect hi-fiedlity sound, what makes the super discreet WK200 stand out is can be plugged directly into your computer via USB. This means that it can transmit wirelessly to any wireless enabled speaker – anywhere within its range. And its beautiful handling of AptX means CD quality sound, every time, in any room with a powered speaker. And with both  Both 3.5mm analogue and optical digital inputs – it can be used in just the same way as any other wireless adaptor too.

Why do we like it?
An incredibly versatile streaming device with multiroom capability, and still at an incredibly affordable price. Yes, this is our favourite. If we didn’t already have one, we’d want one.

We’re not going to pretend that the Bluetooth powered wireless adapter/receiver is the better option over separate units in terms of overall quality of sound – because it isn’t. But, it’s getting better, and it’s certainly at the best its ever been. Even the most discerning audiophile will be impressed with their quality of sound, especially considering how tiny they are. A clever little purchase and an excellent introduction into the wild and vast world of network streaming without breaking the bank. Your smartphone will love it, and you’ll never go back.