It’s time for an overview. We have already written a lot about streaming. Types of streamers, apps, servers, services, networks… We’ll list everything we know for you. In short: it’s time for the ultimate Streaming Audio Guide. All in one place! Have fun reading!
Just a little disclaimer. This is not an article where we’re going to tell you what to buy. Nor is it an article in which we go into the smallest details. We place links where necessary to help you further in that area. If you have any questions, you can always contact us via the contact form.
What is streaming audio
Most readers of Alpha will know what streaming audio means. Streaming means nothing more than that the (audio) data comes in via the network. This can be the Internet if online services are used, but also via the local network if a NAS – Network Attached Storage – is used. USB audio – e.g. from a PC to an external sound card – does not in principle fall under streaming.
A little history
Now we see streaming audio as modern and new. However, it’s about twenty years old… at least. Not to mention pure internet radio. Who doesn’t know ShoutCast Radio (1998)? Usually combined in WinAmp. Or YouTube (2005)?
But back to streaming audio as we know it.
Yamaha attempted a complete system around 2000, but failed. They were just too early. The infrastructure wasn’t ready. Slimdevices launched the SliMP3 network player in 2001. This player was quite rudimentary, but offers a piece of convenience that people didn’t yet know yet. A few years later, before being taken over by Logitech, the company launched the Squeezebox. And most people will know that. This player could play more than just mp3s. It played almost all formats and had a decent server, so the music collection was arranged in a pleasant way.
Of course Sonos also played a serious role by that time. Around 2006, the company from California also started to sell considerable numbers in the Netherlands. Especially because they offer a lot of convenience compared to the competition. Both in terms of installation and operation: with a few presses of a button, people could install the zone (player). No server software was needed and there was a nice app. Revolutionary at the time.
Before we move on to the explosion of streaming audio, it might be nice to mention that some high-end manufacturers are already producting devices for streaming. Think of Linn who around that time no longer manufactured CD players, but purely went for streaming with the Klimax streamer. Naim was also busy building up their ND-series. And brands like Auralic and dCS were already working on network players.
Between 2010 and 2015, many brands will be joining the movement. Think of Bluesound introducing its ecosystem in 2013. HEOS will introduce the line-up in the Netherlands in 2014. Around that time, almost all large parties introduced an ecosystem. Yamaha, Samsung, Harman, LG… they’re all in on it. We’ve reviewed them in our multitest (Dutch). We also see brands such as Lumin and Aurender entering the market. Streaming Audio is officially a serious source.
What is a striking trend is that until about 2015 htpc’s still found their way to the living room. And these quiet, energy-efficient, mostly compact PCs were also modified into music players. There are even still companies that manufacture players based on PCs. Think of the EVO432 players. We’ve written another three-part guide to the ultimate PC for audio. And although this PC reaches a very high level, that market has completely collapsed. Partly due to the arrival of much easier to install players that cost less and often sound better.