Those who love music cannot ignore Spotify and associates. This is a dilemma for owners of a traditional music installation. Replace with a complete audio system with network function or prefer to listen to CDs only? Fortunately, you do not have to choose, because with the right affordable equipment you put Spotify on your audio system.
If you purchase a recent music system, chances are that a (wireless) network function is present. An advantage, because this gives you access to the huge music libraries of Spotify, Deezer, and Tidal. The operation usually takes place via an app where you simply select the desired playlist. The audio system then records the right music streams via the internet. A network function also has the advantage that you can stream your own songs from music servers, such as a nas or pc. Depending on the equipment used, you can even play audio files in studio quality in this way.
There are plenty of suitable devices. For example, modern receivers from Denon, Onkyo, Harman Kardon, Yamaha, and Marantz usually have a (wireless) network connection. You can also consider wireless speakers with an integrated power amplifier. With a speaker from Sonos, Blue sound or HEOS by Denon, for example, you do not need any separate equipment at all. But do not you feel a little bit to get out of your high-quality but ‘stupid’ audio system? Do not worry, fortunately, that is not necessary at all. You simply make a traditional music installation ‘smart’, without paying the main price for it.
01 Smart TV
Often it is not necessary to purchase additional equipment for making your audio system smart. Perhaps you already have the right stuff at home! This is the case, for example, when you own a smart TV. Depending on the brand and type of device you have, apps from music services are available. Unfortunately, Spotify is no longer accessible on many smart TVs. For example, the Swedish music service has ended the support for LG, Philips and Sony devices. With Deezer, fortunately, there is a good alternative music service available for these brands. Spotify does intend to introduce an app for LG televisions in the future. Spotify is available on new Samsung models, as well as televisions equipped with the Android TV operating system.
Although Spotify has reduced the support for smart TVs last summer, it is still possible to use Spotify on many televisions. The reason for this is that more and more models contain a built-in Chromecast function. From a smartphone or tablet, you can easily connect to the smart TV. From the Spotify app, you then indicate that you want to play music via the smart TV. Your TV can now retrieve the correct audio streams from the Internet via the built-in Chromecast.
02 Connect Smart TV
Of course, you want to play the sound from the smart TV via the receiver and connected speakers. The music is of course much better than with the built-in speakers of smart TVs. If the receiver is not that crazy, an HDMI cable from this audio device probably already runs to the television. In this way, the images from a TV decoder, media player or Blu-ray player are transmitted to the television. When both the smart TV and receiver support the arc (audio return channel) function, you can directly send the sound that the smart TV generates back to the receiver. It is then not necessary to connect a separate audio cable. In the settings of the smart TV and the receiver, you also have to activate the arc function. Is there no HDMI connection in combination with arc available? In that case, connect the receiver via an optical / pdif cable or analog cable to the television.
03 Firmware upgrades
Did you buy your receiver around three or four years ago? Spotify Connect was introduced around this time, with audio systems independently able to retrieve music from the Spotify servers. The smartphone or tablet functions as a remote control. Many receivers and other audio systems from 2013/2014 were not yet provided with Spotify Connect. Manufacturers such as Pioneer, NAD, Onkyo, and Yamaha later added this function en masse via firmware upgrades. Perhaps you never updated, so you miss new (network) functionality. So, make sure that your audio equipment is equipped with the latest firmware, who knows if you still have access to Spotify. Usually, you perform the update by choosing network settings somewhere on the menu. Owners of NAD audio equipment may be able to physically (let) install a network function via optional MDC modules. Many amplifiers and receivers are modular in construction. This is pretty pricey.
04 Game consoles
If a game console is connected to your audio system, you may have direct access to Spotify. This music service can be found on a PlayStation 3/4 and Xbox One. With the game consoles mentioned, use the Spotify app on your smartphone or tablet to select favorite songs. You can also designate the desired playlist via your TV screen. It is nice that the music continues to play when you switch off the television. Spotify also works during gaming, though this function is not available on a PlayStation 3. On an Xbox One, you have to install the Spotify app yourself. In the PlayStation interface, the music service is already integrated as standard.
Spotify is available free of charge, but if you use this music service more often, it is not that attractive. There is regular advertising in the picture and you also hear a spoken advertisement after a few tracks. Furthermore, the Spotify Connect feature is only available to paid subscribers on most devices. Who wants to play Spotify via a receiver or multiroom system, needs a Premium subscription? It is also advantageous that you also store songs offline on a mobile device so that you can enjoy the music effortlessly in places without internet. Are you in doubt? You can try Spotify Premium for the first 30 days without any obligation. Then you pay 9.99 euros per month.
05 Bluetooth adapters
If you are unable to physically connect the smartphone (in one of the previous ways) to the music system, consider purchasing a Bluetooth adapter. This is a compact device that you connect to an analog or digital input of the receiver. From a smartphone or tablet, you connect to the receiver within a radius of about ten meters. You can easily give music from Spotify or local playlists to the receiver. You can use the Logitech Bluetooth Audio Adapter (39.99 euros) for this. This square box has two tulip outputs and a 3.5 mm sound output, so you can transmit the sound analog to the receiver. Conveniently, you can pair two Bluetooth devices with this receiver. With more expensive Bluetooth receivers there is often also a digital s/pdif output (optical or coaxial). Does your receiver have a USB connection? There are also Bluetooth receivers that resemble a USB stick. You pin directly into the USB port, after which you connect directly. Finally, there are also compact Bluetooth receivers with a 3.5 mm plug.
06 Bluetooth receivers with aptX
Do you have a little more money for good sound? Then choose a Bluetooth receiver with support for the aptX codec. Thanks to this Bluetooth technique you stream music in CD quality to the audio system. Of course, it is a condition that the mobile device also supports aptX, although that is no problem for modern Android devices. Owners of an iPhone or iPad are unlucky because Apple refuses so far to add aptX support. More luxurious products often have an NFC chip in-house. Useful if you want to make a smooth connection with a mobile device. An example of an affordable Bluetooth receiver with aptX support is the Philips AEA2700 / 12. The suggested retail price of this product is 54.99 euros.
06 The Philips AEA2700 / 12 has two digital outputs in addition to a 3.5 mm sound output.
The aptX codec already offers a huge improvement compared to previous Bluetooth profiles. Recently, there has been an improved version again, namely aptX ad. In short, it means that music lovers can transmit songs in 24bit / 48kHz to the integrated Bluetooth receiver. The aptX HD codec has been in the pipeline for some time, so several manufacturers have already integrated this improved Bluetooth technology into their products. Examples include the better network players from Naim Audio and certain recent smartphones with Android. Furthermore, Inateck has developed a suitable Bluetooth receiver for connection to traditional music systems, with a suggested retail price of 44.99 dollars (about 38.50 euros).
The Inateck BR1006 is one of the first Bluetooth receivers with support for the aptx HD codec.
07 Music streamers
A music streamer (or network player) is a great way to make your audio system smart. This box connects directly to your receiver. Check beforehand which connection you want to connect to, for example, hdmi, s/pdif (optical or coaxial) or analog tulip cables. Because this music streamer is connected to the Internet, you have access to online music services and libraries that are stored elsewhere in the network. The cheapest solution is the purchase of an Android-based media player. They are already available from a few dozen euros. You install on this Spotify box or another music service and then listen via your audio system to your own playlists. As an alternative, there are also specialized music streams for sale from hi-fi brands such as HEOS by Denon, Blue sound, Marantz, NAD, Cambridge Audio, Sonos, Bose, and Yamaha. Many brands develop their own app or have built-in Spotify Connect support. In the latter case, select the desired song within the Spotify app, after which the music streamer picks up the audio stream. Brands that develop their own app also support other online music services in addition to Spotify. Denon, for example, offers broad support in its HEOS app.
07 The HEOS Link HS2 is a specialized music streamer with support for Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Napster, and Soundcloud.
Digital / analog converter
Specialized music streamers are often more expensive than Android-based media players. The reason for this is that renowned audio brands now incorporate a high-quality digital / analogue converter into their products. These convert high-resolution digital audio files into an analogue signal, for example 24-bit music files. In short, enjoy music in studio quality! Logically, you only have something to do when you have music in a high resolution. Specialized web stores such as HD tracks sell so-called high-res music. Furthermore, the online music services Tidal and Qobuz offer audio streams in a high resolution.
08 Chromecast Audio
An ideal device with which you can make any audio system smart is the Chromecast Audio from Google. For an amount of 39 euros you can make your traditional audio system smart in one go. This device contains an integrated WiFi adapter. Because the Chromecast Audio lets you control from a smartphone or tablet, you play music from various streaming services on your receiver and connected speakers. Connecting is easy. Connect the yellow cable to the 3.5 mm audio input of your receiver. If this input is not available, you need an adapter cable with two RCA plugs. Google requests 19 euros in its webshop for this, but you can easily use a cheaper one. Furthermore, connect the supplied power cable to the Chromecast Audio and plug the plug into the socket.08 The Chromecast Audio is a small but affordable device that is suitable for any audio system.
09 Google Home
Control the Chromecast Audio with the Google Home app. On your mobile device, open the App Store or Play Store and install the application. After you start the app, log in with your Google Account. If it’s ok, Google Home will automatically recognize the Chromecast Audio. Choose Set and the Google device will sound a short test sound. Then enter the correct location, for example Living room or Large bedroom. The location determination is particularly useful if you want to combine several Chromecast Audio devices in a multiroom system Via Next select the correct Wi-Fi network and enter the corresponding password. After you tap Next and Complete Setup a few times, the Chromecast Audio is ready for use! It is possible that new firmware is installed on the device first. A training session appears on screen with which you can learn to ‘cast’. Fortunately, that is not difficult. All you need is a music app with Chromecast support. Spotify is the best-known example of this. As soon as you play a song on a smartphone or tablet, tap the Devices Available section. Choose at Google Cast for example Living room or Large bedroom (depending on what you have indicated) to start the audio playback on your music system. In addition to Spotify, Deezer and TuneIn Radio support the Chromecast Audio.
10 WiFi module
Are you looking for a cheap solution to connect your ‘old’ music system to your home network? Buying a WiFi module is a price-friendly option. You connect this adapter directly as a source, for example via regular tulip pegs or s / pdif. An example of a suitable WiFi module for music systems is the Eminent EM7415. Thanks to dlna support it is possible to stream music via your home network to this device. Think, for example, of music libraries stored on a nas or pc. However, it is important to share these music libraries via a music server. Furthermore, it also works with smartphones and tablets. The EM7415 can be operated via all kinds of dlna apps, for example EZCast. A nice extra is that users can connect a USB stick and micro SD card with music files. There is support for the audio formats aac, mp3, wav and flac. Those looking for good, find this wifi module for 19.95 euros on the internet.10 The EM7415 effortlessly connects your audio system to your wireless home network.
Wireless or wired?
Do you have the choice to stream music via ethernet or via a wireless connection? Always choose a wired connection! A wireless signal is, in fact, sensitive to interference, for example, due to (domestic) equipment and neighboring networks that use the same radio frequencies. If you want to play audio files in a high resolution via the home network, you will benefit even more from a wired connection. Many uncompressed streams require a bandwidth of 9.2 Mbit / s and that gives rise to problems when wireless. Incidentally, you do not usually have to invest in gigabit ethernet for audio purposes, because a 100Mbit / s network is fine.
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