Other than vinyl, which is an outlier in the world of today’s home entertainment, physical media sales have been on the decline for several years. Symbolizing the slowing sales of physical media, the national retail chain Best Buy recently announced that it was going to no longer sell DVDs and Blu-ray discs.
This news was no surprise to anyone who follows the consumer electronics industry. In a Yahoo report on the news from Best Buy, the story cites data from the Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) that states that U.S. physical media revenue for the first half of 2023 fell from $1.05 billion in 2022 to just $754 million during the same period.
Meanwhile, streaming media services boast millions of subscribers. Some of the largest subscription video streaming services according to USA Today include Netflix with more than 232 million subscribers, followed by Amazon Prime with 200 million, Disney+ with nearly 158 million, Max with just over 96 million, and Paramount+ with more than 77 million subscribers.
Over on the music side of the home entertainment world, the numbers are similar. The website Insider Monkey reports the top global subscription music services are Spotify with 515 million users, NetEase Cloud Music with 189 million users, Apple Music with over 88 million, Amazon Music with more than 82 million, and Tencent Music with just over 80 million subscribers.
Underscoring the growth of the subscription streaming media music market, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) points out in its 2023 Mid-Year Revenue Report, the total revenues grew by more than 9% in 2023 to an all-time high of $8.4 billion. Of these revenues, paid subscriptions were the strongest driver through an increase of more than $550 million and averaging almost 96 million subscriptions during this period.
Moreover, the RIAA says streaming service revenue made up 84% of total recorded music revenues growing by more than 10% to reach the $7 billion plateau.
Streaming Media Players Come in Variety of Flavors
Today it is safe to say that many people are satisfied with the user experience they receive from their TVs’ smart services. Modern TVs offer streaming media from operating systems that include Android TV, Roku, and a host of proprietary solutions.
Not everyone, however, is satisfied with the streaming capabilities their TVs provide. Additionally, there are many people who want to stream their music through their stereos or whole-house AV systems.
Providing homeowners that want a higher performing streaming media experience for either their music, video or both video and music, there are a growing array of product choices available. For a sampling, here are 20 streaming media solutions that address music, video, and whole-house AV applications:
Amazon Fire TV Cube
The $140 Amazon streaming media product supports 4K video, as well as Dolby Vision HDR, and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. The streamer also includes Wi-Fi 6E, Alexa Voice Remote options, and it provides a choice of streaming services such as Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Peacock.
Apple TV 4K
Prices for Apple’s popular Apple TV 4K start at $129. Powered by the company’s A15 Bionic chip, the Apple TV 4K supports today’s popular video streaming services, including the company’s Apple TV+ subscription service. The streamer also supports 4K video, HDR and Dolby Atmos immersive audio. Additionally, Apple Music subscribers can also stream their music through this device.
Autonomic eSeries 3 Music Streamer
Autonomic has served custom electronics professionals for many years with its whole-house audio solutions. The Autonomic eSeries product delivers as many as three audio streams and it supports 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio. The company also points out the unit features its eAudioCast technologies, and an array of analog, coaxial digital and USB outputs.
Bluesound Node X Streamer
The $749 Node X offers multiroom audio capabilities, as well as features such as Apple AirPlay, Roon Ready certification, high-resolution audio capability, MQA compatibility, TIDAL and Spotify streaming options. Bluesound emphasizes the streamer incorporates a Quad-Core Arm Cortex A53 processor, and an ESS Sabre HiFi DAC.
CasaTunes 8×8 Music Server
The CasaTunes product is a high-performance whole-house audio device that delivers eight streams of audio to eight zones (rooms). The 8×8 music server with a built-in matrix switch provides professional integrators and homeowners with a 12-volt trigger, and 500 GBs of internal storage. The CasaTunes product allows homeowners to stream content from their Sonos products, as well as music stored on the hard drive, streaming content, and content from Apple products via AirPlay.
Chromecast with Google TV (4K)
The $50 Chromecast with Google TV product is a small, easily hideable device that runs on the Android TV platform. Through this popular streaming media operating system users can stream services such as Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, and Spotify. The unit also supports 4K video and Bluetooth headphone compatibility.
Control4 Wireless Music Bridge
A simple way to integrate music into a Control4 smart home system, the Wireless Music Bridge enables users to wirelessly connect their music libraries and streaming services to play music throughout their homes. The unit incorporates Apple AirPlay, DLNA and Bluetooth.
Crestron DM-NAX-4ZSA-50 4+1 Streaming Zone Amplifier
Designed to integrate into Crestron’s smart home platform Crestron Home, the NAX-4ZSA-50 incorporates GaN amp technologies that enables the product to produce 50-watts per channel to power four stereo zones of audio. The unit supports Amazon Alexa voice control, as well as casting services such as Spotify Connect and Apple AirPlay 2. The unit also offers a wealth of streaming services, including Pandora, SiriusXM, Deezer, Qobuz, and TIDAL.
Denon DNP-2000NE High-Resolution Audio Streamer with Built-in HEOS
The $1,599 DNP-2000NE features the Masimo company’s proprietary HEOS wireless multiroom audio streaming platform. HEOS supports services that include TIDAL, Spotify Connect and Amazon Music. Integrators can also connect digital sources to the Denon DNP-2000NE, and they can also connect network attached storage solutions. Internally the unit employs Sabre ESS DACs, and it also offers AirPlay 2.
JBL MP350 Classic
JBL is one of the most famous names in the field of home audio and its $799 MP350 Classic connects to a home network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, as well as through the unit’s companion app. The MP350 Classic provides a choice of analog RCA and digital outputs, and it also includes a USB type-A input to support the connection of local storage devices. In addition, the unit runs Roon Core for audiophile functionality, and it incorporates Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast.
Juke Audio Juke-6
The 12-channel/6-stereo zone Juke-6 incorporates Class D amplification to run coolly and efficiently. Juke’s whole-house audio solution utilizes a web-based approach to control to eliminate the need to download a control app. The Juke-6 also allows users to stream content from their favorite apps, including Spotify and Apple Music, and it allows for as many as four independent simultaneous music streams.
NAD CI 580 v2 4-Zone Stereo Network Streamer
The BluOS-based whole-house audio solution from NAD Electronics streams services such as TIDAL, iHeart Radio and Spotify, and it also supports the playback of high-resolution audio content. The unit includes both USB Type A and Type B connections for the use of network or local disc drives, and users can control the $1,599 solution via the unit’s companion app, which is available from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
NVIDIA Shield Android TV Pro
This $199 retail product from the popular provider of computer components, delivers 4K video and a choice of streaming service that includes Google Play Movies, Prime Video, Netflix, and YouTube. The streamer also provides music services such as Spotify, and Google Play Music. Providing smart home functionality, NVIDIA adds the unit includes voice control options with the inclusion of Google Assistant.
Roku Express 4K+
Roku is one of the most popular streaming media product manufacturers in the market and its $40 Roku Express 4K+ is an affordable solution that includes a voice control remote. The small-footprint streaming product delivers 4K video, along with HDR compatibility, and it runs the company’s Roku OS, which includes an easy-to-navigate user interface.
Russound is a N.H.-based company that manufactures whole-house audio systems and audio accessories. The MBX-Pre can be used as a single-room solution or as part of a whole-house audio system. The unit can be expanded into a system to deliver 48 zones of audio, and the UPnP compatible MBX-Pre offers a wealth of streaming sources. Additionally, the component also includes a USB input to support the connection of a USB hard drives.
Savant Smart Audio
The family of Savant Smart Audio solutions offer access to popular streaming services providers. Savant also offers complete integration with Apple Music across the entire Smart Audio lineup, enabling users to enjoy a seamless experience searching for songs, radio stations; accessing personalized libraries, and more from the Savant App. Savant offers access to streaming from a variety of devices, including the Smart Audio wireless sound bar that the company says lets users experience excellent sound quality including a wide soundstage and clear dialogue—plus the technology to control their home built in.
The $449 Sonos integrates into traditional stereo systems, as well as whole-house audio systems to offer users a choice of all of today’s popular streaming services, including Apple Music, TIDAL and Spotify. The product also supports audiobooks, podcasts, and other media sources. Sonos points out the Port offers Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility, and control options that include an app and voice control.
Tablo OTA DVR & Streaming Player
While not a traditional streaming product, the Tablo (4th gen) allows users to record OTA (over the air) broadcast content, as well as free streaming channels. The $110 unit works with Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple, and Google TV. The Tablo also serves as a DVR, and it comes with ability to store up to 50 hours of content.
Wiim CI MOD S4 from Origin Acoustics
Wiim is a new streaming media product company that offers retail and custom installation solutions that are available through Origin Acoustics. Among the custom products available from Origin Acoustics include the four-zone CI MOD S4, which utilizes internal ESS Sabre DACs and a rack-mountable form factor.
Carrying a retail price of about $450, the WXC-50 from Yamaha incorporates the company’s proprietary MusicCAST streaming media platform. The DLNA certified unit also provides Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, and a choice of streaming services that includes Napster, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, Deezer and TIDAL. In addition, Yamaha supports the WXC-50 with an app for Android or Apple iOS, and it provides Amazon Alexa voice control options.
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