Internet radio stations and podcasts offer endless variety of music and informative listening, so you may wonder how to match the content of the Internet with the great sound of a home stereo. There are a variety of options for connecting the two, from simple adapters, to wireless interfaces and even entirely new products that harness the spirit of traditional home stereos with digital streaming capability.
Plug It In
The simplest way to stream music over a conventional stereo that pre-dates streaming technologies is by way of an adapter cable with RCA-style connectors which you plug into an auxiliary jack on your stereo amplifier or receiver, and an appropriate plug for your streaming device, usually a 1/8-inch stereo phone plug. The device can be a computer, laptop, cell phone or other device that receives streaming music. The drawback of this method is that the device must be close to the receiver.
From Stream to Stereo
You can break free of the cable connection with a number of devices that still use your conventional stereo gear by plugging in an intermediate receiver unit with wireless connection to your cell phone or computer. Bluetooth interfaces, such as Belkin's SongStream HD music receiver, and direct Wi-Fi devices, such as Beep, serve as wireless connections between your music device or Wi-Fi stream. The base unit connects to your receiver or powered speakers with a conventional cable.
Phoning It In
Beep is a hybrid system that incorporates the use of your Android or iPhone as a controller for connection and programming. Apple's AirPlay system is similar, with the advantage of partnering with stereo manufacturers. Companies such as Denon, Marantz and JBL make speakers, receivers and stereo systems that incorporate AirPlay support. Apple devices such as iPhones, iPod Touch and iPad can all operate as the source for streaming music that connects to AirPlay devices to play streaming music in a wireless setting.
There are devices that take the concept of the conventional home stereo and marry it with streaming music connectivity to create a hybrid, all-in-one device that becomes your de facto home stereo. Sonos and Jawbone are two companies providing a range of products that interface with your streaming sources without docks, cables or connectors, receiving, amplifying and playing your streamed music directly. Some devices use Bluetooth technology to connect, while others use dedicated Wi-Fi interfaces with your wireless router. Units are compatible in size with bookshelf-style stereos.