Credits: Tom Fine | Stereophile.com

Life is not for Goldilocks. “Just right” is elusive. Every day, we face countless situations where our choices are either too many to navigate or too few to find satisfaction. Behavioral scientists call those dissatisfying alternatives “choice overload” and “choice deprivation,” respectively (footnote 1).

I think choice overload may scare some audiophiles away from the glorious world of streaming, where the bulk and finite scope of a physical music-media collection can be traded for (or augmented by) many more listening choices. If you’re willing to explore and choose, you can hear as deep and wide as most musical rabbit holes are likely to go, and then return to your favorite songs with a couple of finger-pecks on your phone.

For some people, all that choice is intimidating, paralyzing, overwhelming, highly stressful. That’s no way to enjoy music! I sympathize. I’m not ready to leave physical media behind. But I am very happy in the streaming present. In fact, I urge the hesitant: Cast aside your fears and trepidations, sign up for a free month of Qobuz, Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, you decide—then take it slow. At first, avoid browsing—just search for the music you want to hear. Try something new each day. Over time, you’ll adjust to the overwhelming abundance. By the end of the month, especially with a full-resolution service like Qobuz, Tidal, or Apple Music+HD, you may not want to give it up. The future-present beckons loudly.

Which brings me to the subject of this review, the WiiM Amp (footnote 2). This is modernity: A company (LinkPlay, which is based in California) put a lot of thought and care into designing a neat-looking amplifier-gadget and the accompanying app, both branded WiiM, offering music fans the wide world of streaming. It can access digital files on your NAS server and connect to the interwebs by Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable. It was recently certified Roon Ready. For your other sources, there are optical and HDMI-ARC digital inputs, a USB flash drive port—even an analog-in connection.

What sets the WiiM Amp above most other similar-cost streaming options is that it doesn’t need any external electronics and it doesn’t have its own little speakers. Rather, it has an amplifier powerful enough (60Wpc into 8 ohms, 120Wpc into 4 ohms) to drive all but difficult passive loudspeaker loads—just add speakers and wires. The package even includes an Alexa-based voice-activated remote control, though the best way to run it is from the robust app, available for Apple and Android. The app includes many tone-shaping (DSP) options including graphic and parametric virtual equalizers plus 23 EQ presets. You can even use the WiiM Amp as an alarm clock, waking up to whatever music or internet radio station you want. And it transmits its streams over Bluetooth and AirPlay in case you want to listen on wireless headphones or on a wireless smart speaker in another room.

It sells for $299(USD).

How is this possible? It comes down to clever design in-house, a good manufacturing partner in China, selling through Amazon, and the use of high-quality, commodity-priced parts.

What’s it made of?
Housed in a 7.5″ × 7.5″ × 3″ aluminum box with a plastic bottom, with rounded corners and a Mac mini look, the WiiM Amp is a multi-function gadget run by an ARM Cortex-A53 quad-core computer with 512MB of DRAM and another 512MB of flash memory. That’s the brains of the operation. There is a volume/power/play/pause switch-knob on the front, plus, as mentioned, a remote control, which (setting aside voice control) is useful for turning the volume up and down, turning the unit on and off, and not much else.

At the amplifier’s audio-conversion core is an ESS Sabre DAC 9018 K2 “Hyperstream” chip. At the amplification core is a Texas Instruments TPA 3255 class-D amplifier. Also inside the “shell,” as WiiM calls it, are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth transceivers.

Having a real computer means that DSP functions can be modified and added, plus the firmware/OS can be updated over the interwebs. During the time I had the WiiM Amp in my systems, there were four firmware updates, the last of which finalized Roon Ready certification. That may add extra appeal for a current or aspiring multiroom Roon user desiring a second or third system for the bedroom, office, kitchen, or den.

On the back, you’ll find what you’d expect: binding posts that work with spades, bananas, or wire; RCA jacks for the line-level analog input; a USB jack for adding storage; and TosLink and HDMI-ARC digital inputs. There is also an RCA output for a powered subwoofer, switchable on and off from the app. When a subwoofer is plugged in, the app allows a crossover point to be set anywhere in the range of 30–200Hz.

Based on my experiences, I think that’s the WiiM’s sweet spot: It’s perfectly matched to a system with relatively sensitive standmount speakers and a powered subwoofer. With most music, if you can match the system so that the crossover point is on the higher end of the range—120Hz or higher—you won’t run out of amplifier power before ear-bleeding SPLs.

I would not use this amplifier with hard-to-drive speakers; that’s asking too much of it. But we’ll see what JA’s measurements show.

All the things it does
The key to this gadget is the app, called WiiM Home. Understand the app, and you’ll know what the WiiM Amp can do. It goes layers deep, with a wealth of parameters and choices, allowing full control of the listening experience. Yes, it could trigger decision paralysis! It’s well thought out, though, and one need not absorb all its functionality at once. I introduced myself to the WiiM Amp by unpacking it, hooking it up to a pair of Behringer Truth 2031P passive studio monitors, pushing the control knob/switch until lights started blinking, then pairing it by Bluetooth to my iPhone 15. In seconds, I was streaming music from Qobuz and Spotify’s native apps.

Then I downloaded the WiiM app and read the quick-start instructions. I went through the setup process and paired it to my Wi-Fi network and to its remote control (which operates over Bluetooth), all using the phone. Then it bogged down during a firmware update. When it restarted, it couldn’t find the Wi-Fi network.

When it comes to balky gadgets, this wasn’t my first rodeo. The WiiM Amp remained paired to my phone via Bluetooth. So using the app, I shut it down. Outside the app, I unplugged it from the wall and let it cool its heels as I ate dinner.

I returned to it that evening and plugged it in. It found the network and began communicating with my phone over Wi-Fi. From then on, I was able to stream Qobuz through the WiiM app. (I had to sign onto Qobuz from within the app; the same would be true of the many other services available that stream directly.) Like other streaming gadgets, the WiiM Amp uses Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect to access those services. You control the music through the service’s app, but it’s the WiiM computer that’s interacting with the service’s servers, via technologies known as UPnP and DLNA; the app on your tablet or phone is merely the director.

I was up and running. I pushed the Browse button at the bottom of the app, and all my music, streamed and local, was at my fingertips. Want to choose a different input? Scroll to the bottom to select. At the top of the menu you’ll see your home NAS server and its music library, plus the USB drive if you have plugged one in.

About that USB drive: It can be formatted as VFAT, NTFS, or EXT4. The USB socket can provide up to 650mA of current, enough to drive any thumb drive and many external SSDs but not enough to power mechanical hard drives that lack their own power supply.

To find music, select Artists, Albums, or Songs and search at the top of the screen. Go back to the Browse screen and scroll down to see the various streaming-service options, including the usual radio suspects: various BBC feeds, iHeartRadio, something called Calm Radio, Napster (which I thought was long dead).

After several hours playing with the WiiM app’s functions, spread over several days, the firmware update that added Roon Readiness happened. To start using Roon, you must set up the server on your local network (if it isn’t set up already), go to Settings > Audio on the Roon server, and Enable the WiiM Amp as a Device (endpoint). It had been a while since I used Roon, so I had to sign in again, on the computer and on my phone. All that done, I could operate the WiiM Amp from Roon on the computer or through the Roon app.

Things went as expected. I suspect that some potential buyers will use the WiiM app minimally, just for setup, then mostly use Roon to play music. Others will take advantage of the WiiM Home app’s wide and deep functionality. More choices. Please remain calm.


Footnote 1: Here is one among many articles on modern life and choices: tinyurl.com/mr3pry2k.

Footnote 2: See wiimhome.com/wiimamp/overview.

How does it sound?
The design is neat and tidy; the app is well done; the build feels solid. Yet I had serious doubts that the WiiM Amp would sound good enough to deserve a mention in Stereophile.

How could they pack all that functionality and good sound into something this cheap in price yet not in look and feel? You’re reading this in the pages of Stereophile, so you know my doubts were unfounded. It sounds pretty darn good! It’s peppy but not thin, not the fastest amp ever made but plenty dynamic. And those DSP tone-shaping controls allow you to pair it with speakers in a way that accents any system’s strengths.

For a few days, I used the WiiM Amp driving those Behringer passive monitors as my TV sound system. I connected my ancient Sony Wega digital CRT TV’s analog outputs to the WiiM Amp’s RCA inputs. Via cable from a TiVo box and streaming from a Roku, the sound was as expected. Some channels and services sound better than others. This system was far more revealing than TV speakers. I’m finding that with television, the better the audio system, the more I dislike the sound quality of many programs.

Next, I connected a newer TV via TosLink—same speakers. Much TV sound is a pig. The WiiM Amp’s DSP EQ can be used to apply some lipstick. Sometimes, it’s hopeless.

During the time it was hooked up to the Behringer speakers, I tested the various streaming and file-playing options. Everything worked. The WiiM-Behringer combo sounded fine with any kind of music. I also spent some time listening on a pair of vintage Klipsch Heresys, which have nice, wide imaging but are notoriously light in the low end. I added a KRK subwoofer, and after some adjusting of the subwoofer level and crossover points, I very much liked that setup. The efficient Klipsch speakers posed no challenge to the WiiM Amp, and the subwoofer passthrough worked as expected. I enjoyed streaming some recent LP needle drops from my NAS library, especially of the new Rhino High Fidelity AAA remaster of the Cars’ second album, Candy-O (Rhino Records RHF1 507). Its dry, popping, 1980s sound came through in spades, as did the tight low end and vocals, more confident and better-recorded here than on the group’s first album. Another listening “trip” I enjoyed was Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn (24/192, Pink Floyd Records/Qobuz). The WiiM-Klipsch-KRK system sounded appropriately psychedelic-trippy, not harsh, not mellow. I closed my eyes and let the odd mind of Syd Barrett pull me into a musical dreamstate.

Back to the present. I moved the WiiM Amp into my office and connected it to a pair of Amphion One18’s, which are relatively easy to drive and can produce quite a bit of bass from their small boxes. They are quite revealing in the midrange and treble, especially nearfield, which is how I have them set up. I listened carefully for realistic sound of midrange instruments and whether, eg, loud female voices crackled or fuzzed or otherwise distorted. I heard no such things. Playing with the BBC feeds in the WiiM Amp Home app, I selected Radio Manchester and stumbled into a great hour of 1970s and ’80s dance music. I reflexively cranked up the volume and heard crisp beats and pumping bass. The speakers didn’t overtax the WiiM Amp; the WiiM Amp met the challenge. The sound was what I’ll call modern—punchy and somewhat sharp-edged—more so than the sound produced with the speakers’ usual driver, a circa-2000 McIntosh MA6500 integrated. With certain kinds of music, the McIntosh’s warmer, deeper sound is preferable. On any music, it’s an unfair comparison.

Compared to what?
For an even more unfair comparison, I took the WiiM Amp up to the living room and plugged it into my B&W 808 full-range speakers. The bass was noticeably flabby, to the point that it sounded exaggerated. The strong bass-instrument tonality I’m accustomed to went missing in the 50th Anniversary remaster of “Concrete Jungle” on Bob Marley’s Catch A Fire (24/96 FLAC, Universal/Qobuz). Plenty of floor shaking, but not enough note-shaping. The same was true of Phil Lesh’s bass in the live version of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” on Grateful Dead (aka Skull and Roses) (24/96 FLAC, Warner/Qobuz). With the best power amps, the front edge of each note is clearly defined; the sounds of both the bass instrument and the amplifier color the satisfying tonality. With the WiiM amp, it could have been a bass keyboard, with plenty of oomph but not a sharp representation of the whole sound.

With the big speakers, I also noticed that the stereo image was flatter and more confined than I’m used to. The location and directionality cues were there, but the image didn’t extend behind, in front of, or above the speakers as much as I am used to. And there was a slight “class-D glaze” to the upper midrange, not enough to ruin my listening pleasure—probably not even noticeable if you haven’t listened to a lot of class-D and class-AB amplifiers playing the same music at the same SPLs through the same speakers. When I reconnected the B&Ws to my reference streaming system—dCS BartókBenchmark LA-4 line preamp, and AHB2 power amplifier—things sounded right again. Comparing this system to the WiiM Amp is beyond unfair, but checking in with the reference system from time to time is essential in any review. No one will be surprised to learn that I preferred my reference system’s sound for careful listening.

In summary, the sound differences between the WiiM Amp and my favorite amps, driving my B&W 808’s, weren’t so great that I wanted to ban the WiiM from my living room. Still, they were quite audible, to my ears.

What’s an audiophile to do?
A note to makers of high-end streamers and streamer-DACs: Please study the WiiM app. It has a better user interface and an app-wide search function, combining streaming services with local NAS libraries. An excellent app for phones or tablets is part of the price-value proposition with a streaming device, even for a company whose main focus is on sound. By that measure, WiiM scores high.

For someone used to a highly detailed and resolving system, the WiiM Amp probably isn’t the best choice as a reference. Presumably, it’s not intended to be. Where then? In my view, it belongs in a simple entry-level system. It’s a great way to start out with inexpensive or hand-me-down speakers before moving up the food chain. Or maybe it’s for TV sound or a system in a room where you want casual music but don’t expect to listen closely—although it’s better than it needs to be for that application. Roon Readiness and Wi-Fi mean it will work well in a multiroom system. Consider it akin to the 1970s silver-faced 45Wpc receiver but consider that the price of one of those—about $300 in 1977 dollars—is equivalent to more than $1500 today.

For a young audiophile or someone on a limited budget who decides the “smart speaker” or TV soundbar isn’t getting it done, the WiiM Amp is almost a no-brainer. I say “almost” because there are also speaker-gadgets out there that do most of the same functions and have everything built into loudspeakers that sound good. For some, that may be the best solution, especially if living space is tight. If you already own speakers, or if you think you might want to upgrade from a soundbar or “smart” speakers, the WiiM Amp would be a good choice.

For more established audiophiles, I think the WiiM Amp deserves serious consideration as the heart of a second system built around a pair of smaller, midline speakers, or for a TV system that will occasionally be used for music-listening or radio-over-internet streaming. It may disappoint if connected to the best full-range speakers, but why would anyone but a Stereophile reviewer do that?

Check it out. You might like it. And if you don’t, Amazon has a good return policy.

WiiM Amp streaming D/A integrated amplifier Specifications

Sidebar 1: Specifications

Description: Solid state, class-D stereo streamer/integrated amplifier outputting up to 60Wpc into 8 ohms, 120Wpc into 4 ohms (both equivalent to 17.8dBW). S/N Ratio: 98dB. THD+N: 0.002% (–92dB). Analog inputs: 1 single-ended on RCA. Digital inputs: 1 TosLink, 1 HDMI-ARC, 1 USB-C. Streaming inputs: Ethernet (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/ac Dual band, 10/100Mbps LAN), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (BT 5.1 A2DP Sink and Source, AVRCP BLE HID). Analog outputs: loudspeaker via banana/screw-terminal binding posts; mono line-level subwoofer via RCA (autodetecting cable insert, user-adjustable 30–200Hz crossover). Supported digital formats: MP3, AAC, ALAC, APE, FLAC, AIFF, WAV, WMA, OGG. Supported streaming protocols: AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Alexa Cast, DLNA. Digital EQ: 10-band Graphic EQ, 4-band parametric EQ, multiple presets via WiiM Home app. Roon Ready. Included accessories: Bluetooth, voice-controlled remote (Alexa compatible), power cable, 4K HDMI cable, RCA signal cable, TosLink cable.
Dimensions: 7.48″ (190mm) W × 2.48″ (63mm) H × 7.48″ (190mm) D. Weight: 4.1lb (1.84kg).
Finish: Silver or “Space Gray.”
Serial number of unit reviewed: P1TF240413458. Designed in California, manufactured in China.


Audacity Australia is an official Australian distributor of WiiM Streaming products. If you’re looking to add the fantastic range of WiiM products to your business don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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