Back in the day, the easiest way to listen to your PC-based digital music collection on your home stereo was to drag the two into the same room, and hook up the stereo to the PC's headphone output--easy with a laptop, a bit harder with a desktop. Over the past few years, a variety of network audio streamers have made that process considerably easier and less disruptive. These products connect directly to your home stereo (or minisystem, boombox, whatever--anything with speakers and an auxiliary input), and access a variety of digital audio selections via your home network--all the MP3s on your PC's hard drive, Internet radio, podcasts, and many Internet music services (some free, some paid).
A quick perusal of CNET's list of best network music players shows that the three top dogs in the category are the Logitech Squeezebox Duet, the Sonos, and the Apple TV. But that hierarchy doesn't quite tell the whole story. Finding the best streamer for you involves a bit more research. All three of these products are excellent overall, and each of them offer an option for perusing your music collection from a screened remote (that is, a handheld remote control with a nice color screen, so you can pull up songs, artists, playlists, and Internet radio stations from the palm of your hand). Of course, each of them has varying strengths and weaknesses, different price points, and may involve purchasing additional accessories to get the full experience. To that end, we've gone beyond the in-depth reviews on all three products to highlight the pluses and minuses of each. … Read more