Published 2023-02-28 - 9:00 am
The benefits of combining streaming with an amplifier are obvious. You have everything in one place, no cable clutter, and one remote control for everything.
Another alternative to a separate music streamer is CD streamers. There aren’t many, but they exist and they’re targeted at people with a CD collection that’s still in use. This way, you can combine an upgrade in sound quality from your old CD player while streaming high-resolution music directly from your mobile.
This allows you to elegantly bypass the limitations of Bluetooth on audio quality and instead play music in lossless or uncompressed quality from the vast library of streaming services such as Tidal, Spotify and Qobuz. It’s the only way to match the sound quality of CDs, and in many cases you can even surpass the PCM quality of the CD format.
At the same time, you can still enjoy your entire CD collection, and some CD streamers can also play SACDs.
For example, the Marantz SACD 30, a CD streamer that also has a good headphone output and built-in DAC with digital inputs for other audio sources. The same goes for the Technics SL-G700M2, which is an updated version of the SL-G700, a CD streamer we tested in 2020.
Another very interesting CD streamer is the Primare CD35 Prisma. It doesn’t play SACDs and it doesn’t have digital inputs or headphone output, but otherwise it does the same as the players from Marantz and Technics.
Since the latter comes in an updated version, and for some inexplicable reason we haven’t tested the Primare player, we think a duel between the two is in order.
The two players have been tested side by side on two systems, with wireless and wired streaming, and of course with CDs. Our aim has been to crown the best CD streamer of the two. This proved to be difficult, as they are so close on sound quality that other criteria must tip the choice in one or the other’s favour.
Guide: Keep this in mind when choosing
When choosing a music streamer, your most important consideration is what sources you’ll need. If you’ll only be using streaming services, the streamer will only need a network connection. However, if you also want to transfer downloaded music, it will also need a hard drive. We recommend an SSD – that way you won’t have to deal with the noise of a spinning hard drive.
You don’t need Roon Ready and high-resolution this and that if you only use Spotify. Likewise, you don’t need the Spotify Connect feature if you only use Tidal or Qobuz in addition to a locally stored high-resolution music collection. However, Bluetooth connectivity can always be an advantage in situations where you want to get the sound from your phone onto the system, regardless of which app you’re playing from. As long as you’re aware of the sonic trade-offs Bluetooth brings.
Music streaming services
Spotify Connect, incidentally, is a way to connect your phone’s Spotify app directly to the music streamer, so you can use your phone as a remote to control the music while the actual playback takes place in the streamer. Tidal has exactly the same feature, which is then called Tidal Connect. The difference is that Tidal has higher sound quality.
If you use Tidal, you may have heard of MQA. It’s a way of packing high-resolution music into smaller files. If your streamer fully supports MQA, it will be able to play your music at much higher resolution than CD quality (up to 24 bit / 384 kHz). If the streamer does not support MQA, it will be able to deliver up to 24 bit / 96 kHz, which is still better than CD (16 bit / 44.1 kHz).
Many streaming boxes are so-called Roon Ready. Roon is an application for PC and Mac that plays music you have stored on your computer and can also stream from Tidal and Qobuz. If a streaming box or network DAC is Roon Ready, this means you can play music through Roon on your PC and transfer the music directly to the streaming box over the network. No USB cable is needed in between. Note, however, that Roon is a subscription service, paid monthly or annually.
Products in this test
Better than ever before
Technics' upgraded SL-G700M2 is a well-performing combination CD player and network player.
Primare CD35 PRISMA
Rock solid CD streamer
Primare CD35 Prisma is a CD player that happens to have superb streaming built in.