Do you regularly use online music streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music? Do you have a decent stereo hi-fi but perhaps don’t use it so much because you no longer buy CDs? In this article I show you how to stream wirelessly to your stereo hi-fi.
Stream wirelessly to stereo hi-fi
Perhaps you don’t want the hassle of using cables to connect your phone to your hi-fi. Or maybe your old hi-fi doesn’t have Bluetooth or Airplay? Many people have started to drift away from hi-fi because their listening habits have changed; their hi-fi has become less convenient. Don’t leave your hi-f to gather dust or rely upon the crappy headphones that came supplied with your phone. Here at Dynamic Headroom we believe that life is too short for bad sound.
Fortunately the technology exists so you can stream wirelessly to stereo hi-fi. In fact, there are two such technologies: Bluetooth and Airplay.
Bluetooth or Airplay?
Apple products such as the iPhone or iPad support standard Bluetooth and Airplay. Non-apple products such as those based on Android will offer only Bluetooth. Android devices offer something called apt-X Bluetooth which is a higher quality version of Bluetooth that transmits sound at CD quality.
If you are an Apple user you will get better sound quality using Airplay. Non-Apple users are better off going for Bluetooth.
At this point you have choices about how you want this all to work…
Option 1: Voice activated wireless music
My first choice here would be to go for an Amazon Echo Dot. For £50 (often discounted) you get a device that has built in support for Amazon Music & Spotify, can act as a Bluetooth receiver (i.e. you can send audio from your phone/tablet to the Echo Dot), can connect to your existing stereo hi-fi and has the amazing Alexa voice control system.
You can listen to music from Spotify or Amazon Music through a decent stereo and control it all with your voice. Very cool! The Bluetooth capability means you can also play music from other services such as Tidal, Apple Music or Youtube from your phone. The world is your oyster.
To connect the Echo Dot to your hi-fi you need a cable that has a 3.5mm jack on one end and a pair of RCA red/white phono connectors on the other end. Your hi-fi needs a spare input in order to connect the cable from the Echo Dot. Then all you need to do is select the right input on your hi-fi and you are good to go. Please note that the full size Echo lacks the audio output so you must use the Dot.
There are some catches to this approach.
- The Echo Dot has a small built in speaker which is used to hear Alexa’s voice but this is disabled when the headphone socket is used. That means your hi-fi must be on and have the Echo Dot’s input selected in order for you to hear Alexa.
- You now have two volume controls in the chain: the Echo Dot and your hi-fi. You will need to experiment with the volume setting on the Dot to get it right.
- The sound quality is not the best as you are reliant upon the cheap DAC inside the Echo Dot to perform the digital to analogue conversion. This is not the end of the world unless you are a high end hi-fi user.
So this “cool” but perhaps not “audiophile”.
Option 2: Wireless receiver with digital output
If you don’t want to use a voice activated system like Alexa or are put off by the limitations I outlined above, then you should look towards a regular wireless audio receiver. To get the best possible sound quality from Bluetooth and Airplay you should use the best DAC you can. Therefore look for bluetooth receivers which have a digital audio output such as the Neet.
The Neet device provides apt-X Bluetooth and a toslink optical digital out connection. This means you can use a toslink optical audio cable to connect the Neet to the DAC in your hi-fi. This is a cost effective and neat (geddit?) way to add wireless streaming to your hi-fi.
If you would rather use Airplay over Bluetooth (remember for Apple devices Airplay gives better sound quality than Bluetooth) then you have a couple of options. You could use an Apple Airport Express which has a digital audio out connection and also doubles up as a Wifi router / repeater. You need a specific cable for this because the Airport Express has a combo socket that doubles up as both a headphone jack and digital out.
The Airport Express is a little bit pricey though – so for a non-Apple product which is a pure Airplay receiver (i.e. no Wifi router capability) than look no further than this other Neet device. With this you can connect to it via Airplay and in turn it connects to your hi-fi using a digital audio connection for this best sound quality.
Option 3: Wireless receiver without digital output
Perhaps your hi-fi does not include a DAC or your amplifier does not have a digital audio connection? In that case you need a Bluetooth audio receiver with a built in DAC that has analogue outputs. This dinky little box from Amazon does just that. The audio output uses a headphone jack socket so you will need the appropriate cable to connect to your hi-fi.
You can see just how easy it is to stream wirelessly to stereo hi-fi that you already have for no more than £50. There is no need to replace your existing system or to compromise with a small, portable bluetooth speaker. This opens up the world of convenience and choice without compromising on sound quality.