“Good news! We released the firmware with PEQ and Squeezelite today so you don’t have to work with a beta version of it 😊 ”
That’s Linkplay’s Linda Kim informing me of the fresh functionality added to the just-arrived WiiM Pro Plus streaming DAC (pictured above). The Pro Plus is fairly pedestrian-looking plastic box that – as we will soon see – packs quite the functional punch for its US$219 asking price (see product intro here).
As per Kim’s email, the WiiM box’s new firmware had auto-installed overnight. PEQ is shorthand for the Parametric EQ which now sits next to the graphic equalizer inside the WiiM Home control app, which also integrates Qobuz, Amazon Music, Deezer, Soundcloud, Tidal and UPnP.
I tend to only click into the WiiM Home app in order to change device or system settings. If you’re using the Pro Plus as a DAC for your TV, I recommend enabling “Auto-sensing of Optical in”. It dispenses with any app fumbling when you want to switch to a wired source after a few hours of music streaming. (Yeah, I’m looking at you, BluOS). The WiiM’s front panel LED turns green once a TOSLINK signal lock has been made. From my initial testing with a 2022 Samsung ‘The Frame’, it seems that WiiM’s software team has resolved the input lag on the Pro and Pro Plus’s TOSLINK input to put as close-as-dammit video lip-sync back in play.
Locating or browsing music is, for me, most thoroughly and elegantly handled by Roon. No other third-party streaming app can match Roon’s UX, its power features and its support for out-of-house listening via Roon ARC. Plex cousin Plexamp also lets us stream from a hard-drive back at home when we’re not there but next to Roon, Plex’s interface looks primitive. Plexamp less so.
Back on the couch, if Roon Readiness weren’t already on the WiiM Pro Plus’s roadmap, I’d probably put a fresh install of Squeezebox Server onto an old MacBook to ensure I had access to my 3TB library of FLAC files. Squeezebox streaming is what I used before the advent of Roon and Squeezebox streaming is what I’d go back to if Roon ever folded. I just don’t do UPnP because, again, no UPnP app can match Roon’s interface elegance and gapless playback with UPnP implementations is a crapshoot.
The Squeezelite support that Kim spoke of in her email means that the WiiM Pro (Plus) will now behave as a Squeezebox. That means it can natively handle streams dispatched from a Squeezebox server — no additional plugins (for AirPlay or Google Chromecast) are required.
How do I use Roon when the WiiM Pro Plus isn’t yet certified Roon Ready? Easy! We have a choice between the WiiM’s Apple AirPlay 2 input, its Google Chromecast input or its Squeezelite input. Any one will suffice. Note: Chromecast requires a one-time activation during WiiM’s setup procedure. I choose to run Roon along Chromecast rails. If Chromecast weren’t present, I’d go with Squeezlite. AirPlay would always come last because AirPlay is my least favourite streaming system outside of Roon.
If we don’t wish to use Roon’s own Tidal integration, we can avail ourselves of the WiiM Pro (Plus)’s Tidal Connect input which works in (almost) exactly the same manner as Spotify Connect. Spotify Connect is also supported by the WiiM device. Qobuz’s Connect service is still in the works (and that’s as much as I know about it).
I like Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect because they allow us to stay within their respective native apps. In the case of Spotify, that means one-click access to its “Release Radar” and “Discover Weekly” playlists. Native app usage is also one of the main advantages of Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast, despite neither system being without its own flaws.
Apple AirPlay 2 is sometimes lossy. I don’t mean “not bit-perfect”, I mean lossy. Google it. And AirPlay always routes the stream through the smartphone or tablet instigating the stream. Neither Tidal Connect nor Spotify Connect do this. Chromecast doesn’t suffer lossy transcoding and it allows supporting devices to stream directly from the cloud but its playback isn’t gapless (outside of Roon). And yes, Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect both support gapless playback.
AirPlay streaming isn’t possible on an Android phone (because it’s Apple only) so I use the Chromecast button embedded in SoundCloud’s own app to send streams to the WiiM Pro Plus. The gaps between tracks are a non-issue as I mostly use it to stream ‘one piece’ DJ mixes and live sets from SoundCloud and Mixcloud. This week I have been digging into Kangding Ray at Parallel Festival 2022 and The Future Sound of London mixed by Fort Romeau.
That leaves my use of Apple AirPlay as very occasional — mostly when I wish to stream Apple Cambridge Audio’s Made by Music podcast or MKBHD’s Waveform podcast from an iPhone 13 Mini to the IKEA/Sonos Symfornisk frame hanging on the wall in my kitchen.
So that’s how I stream at home in 2023. What about you?
Last week, I polled the Darko.Audio YouTube channel’s subscriber base with this very question. As YouTube polls only allow for a maximum of five possible answers, I bundled AirPlay and Chromecast (because they are more similar than different). The two Connect services – Tidal and Spotify – were also combined. Getting their own slots were Roon, UPnP/DLNA and Plex. A whopping 12,000 people responded as follows:
I’ll admit it: I thought Plex would rank higher than 3%. That’s likely to change with Lumin adopting Plexamp support and Audiolab soon to use Lumin software in its ToTL streamer. And for all the noise made by UPnP users online, I thought it would rank higher than a lowly 5%. Especially as it has been around so darn long and it is supported by the majority of network streamers coming to market. Roon has been around for fewer years than both UPnP and Plex and already commands greater usage among the Darko.Audience than both combined.
Also surprising is seeing AirPlay/Chromecast with more votes than Roon. And I would love to know how the Connect responses were split between Tidal and Spotify, which took out the number one spot with more than twice the number of votes for AirPlay/Chromecast. Perhaps knowing matters not when the results tell us that over three-quarters of poll respondents prefer to use native streaming apps over third-party intermediaries. Perhaps this is because (and I am guessing) Connect-type services allow us to continue our listening outside of the house with a pair of headphones without ever needing to exit the Tidal or Spotify app that we were using at home.
Right now, I am listening to the new Minor Science album using the Wiim Pro Plus’s Tidal Connect input but if I soon decide to head on up the road to grab a coffee, I can re-route the music into a pair of T+A Solitaire T Bluetooth headphones with only two clicks inside the Tidal app.
Further information: WiiM