A simple box which brings Yamaha’s MusicCast streaming and multiroom platform to your existing system.
The first five streamers in our round-up are each part of a particular company’s streaming multiroom platform — in this case Yamaha’s MusicCast. So by plugging the box into a spare input on an existing hi-fi or wireless speaker, you gain both the ability to stream from online music services and the possibility of playing music in many rooms at once by having other equipment from the same ecosystem linked via your home Wi-Fi.
Yamaha has clearly gone for minimal pricing here by putting their MusicCast module inside a simple box, so it’s nothing much to look at — not ugly, just fairly plain, and curiously with a few connection buttons positioned on the bottom, but no other external controls needed because you’ll be operating it via Yamaha’s MusicCast app, while the unit itself can be sitting away in a corner next to your hi-fi, blinking quietly to itself, attached to the inputs of your hi-fi from one of its two analogue outputs — one on minijack, one on RCA phono sockets (see below). And as with all MusicCast devices, you can also send its output via Bluetooth to any Bluetooth speaker or headphones.
To deliver its streaming wonders it connects to your network via either Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and then presto — everything that MusicCast offers is under app control from your smart device of choice. There are a couple of ways to play music stored on a phone or tablet — you can stream your own music or the output of any app via Bluetooth and AirPlay to the Yamaha unit (the second yields better quality for the Apple devices which support it), but the MusicCast app also offers a third way, by including direct access to songs stored on the device itself.
Then there’s streaming music. Internet radio for free is included in the app for a world of streaming radio plus podcasts; you can access Tidal or Deezer subscriptions within the MusicCast app itself, while for Spotify Connect the Spotify app opens and you simply select the WXAD-10 as your output device (it used to be paid subscriptions only, but we found we could play Spotify Free to MusicCast via AirPlay). The ‘Server’ option in the MusicCast app finds shared folders on your network, which you browse via the usual slightly tedious DLNA folder access, but capable of playing files up to high-res levels (WAV, FLAC and AIFF in 24-bit/192 kHz, Apple Lossless up to 24-bit/96kHz.
And as noted this unit can work together with any other MusicCast devices in your home to create an effective multiroom system under app control.
Sound quality is remarkable from one so small: there’s a Burr-Brown DAC within, and Yamaha’s Original Network Module with high precision low-jitter clock. For more, including useful digital outputs and front-panel controls, see page 48 of this magazine for Yamaha’s hi-fi width NP-S303; if you’re running into a good hi-fi, it’s well worth considering that model.
But for convenient streaming in a box, you can enjoy the full suite of MusicCast streaming and multiroom abilities in this able and versatile little MusicCast streamer, at a still remarkably affordable price.