The market is flooded with numerous streaming products to suit just about any system and budget. Most share a similar feature set. The majority are capable of streaming internet radio handling DLNA servers on the local network and streaming from services like Spotify, tidal et al. It’s not uncommon to see inbuilt Bluetooth and/or a USB socket or two for local storage, and some even implement CD ripping functionality. In general, however, the principle of a streaming product is thus; take a digital stream, be it from local storage or over the network, and provide a means to play it back.
And while Bluetooth streaming boards are plenty on the DIY market, fully-fledged network streaming products are few and far between. The reason for this is complexity. Bluetooth chipsets are readily available from several manufacturers and it costs pennies to design a module with a basic user interface. Streaming products, however, require dedicated software; not just firmware for the streamer itself, but also a companion app or web interface for control. Given the time, expertise and costs involved in such an undertaking, manufacturers rarely see fit to develop a solution for the DIY market as commercial products will see a much quicker return on investment and are easier to support.
Enter Arylic and their Up2Stream platform. Formed as a collaboration between experienced experts in the home audio and lifestyle technology sectors, Arylic’s products were a decade in production and encompass a range of streaming solutions. These not only include ready-made streaming amplifiers and preamplifiers but also a range of DIY boards. Arylic kindly supplied both the Up2Stream Amp 2.0 and Up2Stream Pro for review.
Common to the platform is the 4Stream application for iOS and Android, which serves as the primary controlling interface. Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay, DLNA and UPNP protocols are supported along with Tidal, Qobuz, TuneIn, iHeart Radio, Napster and Deezer. All modules are equipped with 10/100 Ethernet, USB for external storage, 3.5 mm analogue line-in jacks and 802.11A/B/G/N wifi at 2.4GHZ, with all besides the Up2Stream Mini equipped with Bluetooth 5.0. All feature onboard 24/192 digital to analogue conversion hardware though Up2Stream Pro and Up2Stream Mini can output to a better DAC via I2S.
FLAC, MP3, AAC, AAC+, ALAC, APE AND WAV audio formats are supported. The system supports stereo pairing and multi-zone streaming for synced multi-room playback. The system uses the NEC infrared protocol for which Arylic sell a remote control, but there is also the possibility to use existing controls or even control the modules via an Arduino if so desired.
The Up2Stream Amp 2.0 pairs the Up2Stream platform and 24/192 digital decoding with a Texas Instruments TI3116 class D amplifier onto a 110 x 80 mm board. Power output is 50W x2 into a 4Ω load when a 21V power supply is used, with supplies between 12 and 26V supported. Output at 24V is 2X 30W into an 8Ω load, halving to 2X 15W at 15V. Distortion at 24V, 2X50W 4Ω is 0.03% at 1kHz.
Distortion appears to be in part limited by the onboard digital to analogue conversion, as all modules quote identical distortion figures and a 91dB signal to noise ratio. These figures are perfectly acceptable however and are close to what the amplifier itself will achieve so you aren’t sacrificing much if any performance.
The Up2Stream Pro is essentially the same module sans amplification hardware, with the addition of a 3.5 mm line out jack on the rear. Four-pin line out is also available via an onboard header, as is an onboard line in header and I2S output. Notably absent too are an LED and IR sensor, though these can be wired via the onboard headers. Power supply is via micro USB or a terminal header.
Setting up the boards is a simple process. Once powered, voice prompts guide you through the setup process along with instructions in the 4Stream application. The devices broadcast their own WiFi SSID to which you manually connect your device. Once a connection is established, 4Stream will show a list of local WiFi access points and allow you to connect the board to the desired network. Voice prompts are also spoken during firmware updates and a “connected to your WiFi network” when a device is powered up. These prompts can be disabled via a windows application but not via the settings within the app.
Once connected you are asked to choose a room name (or enter a custom name if you wish), and the setup is complete.
I was immediately prompted to update the software on both boards. The update process was quick and hassle-free, handled entirely within 4Stream.
The interface here is simple regardless of whether or not you’ve used a streaming product before. The first screen lists available devices. Devices are known as ‘rooms’. Up2Stream has full multi-room capability including music syncing and the ability to create stereo pairs from multiple devices.
Currently playing sources are also indicated.
Room settings give you the ability to Rename the room and access to speaker info, EQ, content reset and a sleep timer.
The sleep timer can be set to 10, 20, 30, 60 or 90 minutes and shows a countdown when enabled.
The EQ offers simple bass and treble controls, though no balance or mid.
Back at the home screen. Tapping a room brings up the source list.
Sources can be edited at will to remove unwanted sources or add from a list of supported services.
The interface for USB playback is somewhat rudimentary, presenting a list of the files on the drive with their filetype.
Once a track is playing, the now playing screen gives access to basic transport controls as you would expect, along with the duration and elapsed time.
The app supports DLNA shares too along with the ability to stream content from your local device. There is no native Apple Music support, for which you must use AirPlay or Bluetooth instead.
Internet radio comes courtesy of VTuner. Here the interface is a vast improvement with plenty of sorting options. You can browse by Location, Genre, New, Popular, recent, favourites or ‘best of what’s on now’. Both VTuner and TuneIn allow you to store favourites for later recall.
The local station browsing is a nice touch.
There are plenty of worldwide locations to choose from. The screenshot below shows only a small selection.
With a location selected you can further refine results. In the case of the UK by BBC, popular, largest cities, all stations, or by genre.
4Stream’s TuneIn radio implementation is also excellent. The main screen lets you find local stations or filter stations by music, news, sports, talk, podcasts, by language or by location
These can be further filtered by featured stations and (for music stations at least) top genres.
This is a brief delve into the features and functions of the 4Stream app and Up2Stream platform. I have been using the Up2Stream platform for several months and have been hugely impressed. It is a great alternative to the usual streaming suspects and is in active development with new features and improvements added all the time. It’s equally suited to first-timers and those looking for a more modular, integrated streaming solution without the hassle of deploying custom software and hardware.
It is also versatile with plenty of options for DIY implementation and multi-room installations, along with more traditional integrated amplifiers and streaming preamplifiers. I hope to feature more of the product range here in the not too distant future.