Wireless speakers from brands like Sonos, Apple, and others make it incredibly easy to stream music using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other protocols. But if you have an existing hi-fi system that uses wired speakers, making wireless music magic happen can be an expensive upgrade, with many dedicated streaming components can cost thousands.
Vinyl LPs and compact discs continue to be viable media formats, but the best music streaming services can match them quality-wise, with Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, and Qobuz offering high-res audio along with lossless CD-quality offerings. Any music aficionado would understandably want to add that capability to their system, and with the new WiiM Pro music streamer, they can now do so at a very affordable $149 (around £122 / AU$225) cost.
How low is that price? To put things in perspective, it’s considerably less than what you’ll pay for step-up options such as the Bluesound Node ($600 / £549 / AU$999) or its sister company’s less-expensive sibling, the NAD CS1 Endpoint Network Streamer ($349 / £299 / around AU$522).
With support for up to 24-bit/192kHz audio, the WiiM Pro is ready to handle just about any high-res track available on streaming services. You can use it to stream over both Wi-Fi and wired Ethernet network connections, and it also handles AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Alexa Casting, Spotify Connect, and Tidal Connect. Along with an analog stereo output for hooking up to your receiver or integrated amplifier’s input, both optical and coaxial digital outputs are provided, and there are also analog stereo and optical and coaxial digital inputs.
That last feature is worth commenting upon, because it means you can connect other sources such as a CD player or turntable to the WiiM Pro for streaming to other systems or speakers in a multiroom setup. The WiiM Pro app steps you through grouping multiple WiiM Pros for whole-house playback, and you can also use it to wirelessly group Nest, Echo, and Apple HomePod speakers for streaming. It works with Alexa, Hey Google, and Siri, so you’ll have your choice of assistant for voice commands and control.
Music services that can be configured in the WiiM Pro app include Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music Unlimited, Pandora, Deezer, TuneIn radio and more.
Analysis: The WiiM Pro brings high-res audio streaming to the masses
At $149 (around £122 / AU$225), the WiiM Pro is the least expensive option I know of for adding wireless high-res audio streaming to an existing stereo system. I’ve been looking for a streamer like this one, both for myself and to recommend to friends who want to finally stop having to connect their laptop to their stereo for streaming – something that was regularly done when music services first launched, but now is an archaic practice.
The block to making that upgrade previously for many has been cost. At $349 / £299 / around AU$522, the NAD CS1 is an affordable option, but it omits the HDMI eARC port, analog stereo input, and, most important, app-based multiroom control that the more expensive Bluesound Node offers. That last feature is one you’ll find throughout the Sonos speaker family, and it makes grouping various speakers for whole-home music playback, as well as playback of different music sources in different zones, a snap.
The interesting thing about the new WiiM Pro is that it offers app-based multiroom playback in a $149 (around £122 / AU$225) streamer, and it also supports the big three voice assistants for controlling things like playback, music selection, and volume level. (The company says it will soon be launching a remote accessory that will provide a more traditional hardware control option.)
Is there anything that the WiiM Pro isn’t giving you for its $149 (around £122 / AU$225) cost? There’s no built-in Apple Music support in the control app for one, and that means Apple Music subscribers will instead have to use AirPlay 2 to wirelessly cast tracks from that service to the WiiM Pro. The downside there is that you won’t be able to listen to music in high-res format (AirPlay 2 doesn’t support high-res audio) and there’s also no support for Apple Music Spatial Audio – a feature that Sonos has announced for its new Era 300 speaker, as well as its current Arc and Beam (Gen 2) soundbars.
Even with that limitation, the WiiM Pro looks to be an excellent deal, and a great way for listeners to inexpensively dive into the world of high-res audio streaming. It’s something we hope to get our hands on in the near future, so keep an eye out for a review.
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Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine.
When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.