WiiM Pro Plus Audio Streamer Review
Simon Lucas samples this compact, versatile and affordable new hi-fi streamer…
Pro Plus Music Streamer
There aren't many products that are as useful to those dipping a toe into the world of music streaming as those building a complete whole-home wireless streaming system, but this caters for both types of buyers. The WiiM Pro Plus is a generously specified music streamer designed to bring digital audio modernity to legacy audio systems or to form the basis of a serious multi-room streaming system.
If you judge value in terms of how much stuff you get for your money, then it isn't particularly special. Being fairly small and light (42x140x140mm, 400g), the Pro Plus has little in the way of kit rack presence. Nor does the plastic from which it's almost entirely made feel anything special, and that's equally true of the remote control handset that accompanies it.
Where functionality is concerned, however, it's a different story. The rear panel gives a good indication of what a useful little device this is. Along with a USB-C socket for power, it features an Ethernet socket, a digital optical input and output, a digital coaxial output and stereo RCA line-level ins and outs. It's worth noting that the RCAs are quite close together and slightly recessed into the casework, which means it's a struggle to fit expensive analogue interconnects with their fancy big-barrelled plugs. WiiM kindly provides a pair of more prosaic and slimmer RCAs in the packaging.
Wireless connectivity is handled by Bluetooth 5.1 (with SBC and AAC codec compatibility) and Wi-Fi. Chromecast is built-in, Apple AirPlay 2 is available, and the (logical, stable) 'WiiM Home' control app that's free for iOS and Android includes Spotify Connect, TIDAL Connect, Qobuz, Deezer, Amazon Music, Pandora, TuneIn – plus plenty more besides. It's notoriously tricky to come up with a clean, usable and reliable control app without spending the equivalent of the gross domestic product of a small developing nation, so WiiM is to be congratulated for its effort here.
Control is also available from some capacitive touch-points on the fascia ('play/pause', 'volume up/down', 'setup', 'Bluetooth pairing' and 'assign preset', for which there are a dozen slots available) or the bundled remote control handset. As well as all the obvious functions like volume control and input selection, the remote also has a 'mic' button for use with Amazon Alexa voice control. It's a cut or two above those clicky-membrane credit card-sized handsets that often accompany products like this, but that's not the same as saying it's particularly pleasant to use.
On the inside, the majority of business is taken care of by a highly capable AKM 4493SEQ digital-to-analogue converter chip. It's able to handle digital audio files of every popular type (as well as quite a few unpopular alternatives) at a resolution of up to 32-bit, 768kHz and DSD512. For those 'group one' prospective customers I mentioned – the folks who want to bring some streaming smarts to their existing system – be assured that this DAC is entirely fit for purpose in any realistic scenario. Just connect the WiiM's line-level output to one of your amplifier's line-level inputs, and you're good to go. Even prospective purchasers with a decent DAC already in their set-up are advised to compare the Pro Plus with what they're currently using.
Analogue-to-digital conversion circuitry courtesy of Burr Brown's PCM1861 chipset is provided. This means you can connect an analogue source to your WiiM and then wirelessly stream it to other WiiM units (such as the slightly less well-specified WiiM Pro) you may have around your home. It's a really handy feature, as multi-room audio doesn't really get any more straightforward or convenient.
It goes without saying that you'll get the best results from a product like this by using the highest quality, most information-rich digital audio files possible. But one of the most notable things about the WiiM Pro Plus is how agnostic it is when it comes to the music source it is dealing with. In every circumstance, it's an open and organised listen, attentive to even the finest details and perhaps just slightly reticent when it comes to dynamic expression.
With a nice chunky file of Brian Eno's Burning Airlines Give You So Much More streaming via TIDAL Connect, the Pro Plus sets up a spacious, well-defined soundstage with more than enough elbow-room available to each individual strand of the recording. Detail levels are high across the board, and this is especially apparent in the midrange, where Eno's committed but rather approximate singing is delivered with all of its character intact. The generous dimensions of the recorded acoustic mean that he has plenty of room in which to operate, but this is not at the expense of integration. The WiiM presents the recording as a neatly unified whole, rather than as a collection of discrete occurrences.
An equally sizeable file of Spiritualized's Come Together gives the Pro+ the opportunity to demonstrate its impressive low-frequency extension and control. Bass sounds are deep and taut, with decent definition to leading edges and convincing rhythmic expression as a consequence. Despite the dense and hazy nature of the recording, there's plenty of detail regarding texture revealed, and a gratifying sensation of being in full possession of the facts as a result. The same tune makes the WiiM's facility with high frequencies apparent, too – there is bite and shine to the top end, generous levels of detail, and more than enough attack.
Overall, tonality is just slightly on the cool side of neutral. It's the audio equivalent of slightly too much emphasis on blue in your television picture, but it's far from fatal. The frequency range is smoothly integrated, with no area overstated or underplayed, and the sensation of togetherness, of a collection of musicians – a very large collection in the case of Spiritualized – bearing down on a piece of music with a commonality of purpose, is made pretty plain.
A listen to Ljósið by Ólafur Arnalds lets the WiiM illustrate its fine facility with tonality and space – this is a recording that's almost entirely solo piano, and the silences between notes are given just as much emphasis as the notes themselves. The absences here are dark and quiet, and the harmonic variations apparent from key-strike to key-strike are reported on almost fanatically. This facility with low-level dynamics means the Pro Plus is a vivid and engaging listen even – or perhaps especially – when next-to nothing is happening in a recording.
This is all unalloyed good news, of course, yet little in life is perfect, and there are areas where the WiiM gives a less than virtuoso account of itself. A listen to PJ Harvey's fulminating Rid of Me, for example, confirms that this music streamer just doesn't have quite the necessary headroom when it comes to the broad dynamics of 'extremely quiet' to 'bloody loud'. The visceral Steve Albini recording – because it's nothing as bougie as 'production', oh dear me no – switches from 'malevolent near-silence' to 'everything-louder-than-everything-else' attack and back again several times. Yet the Pro Plus doesn't quite breathe deeply enough to give these enormous changes in intensity sufficient expression. This is a borderline-terrifying recording, you understand, but not as unhinged or abandoned as it can be when dealt with by a streamer that's barrel-chested enough to cope.
Should you decide that the WiiM's onboard DAC isn't quite up to the job and prefer to use it simply as a preamplifier or a bridge for other WiiM receivers around your home, the Pro Plus gets completely out of the way of your analogue sources. Feeding my vinyl copy of Billie Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? into it via a phono stage and then out again to a power amplifier – leaving the Pro Plus in charge of nothing except volume control – is an interesting test. The recording doesn't change character in the slightest, which is the best you can hope for. Inevitably the A-to-D conversion, wireless transmission and D-to-A conversion that the music undergoes to be streamed to another zone, impacts detail, definition and soundstage depth – yet not catastrophically so. If you want to hear your records all around your home without investing in more than one turntable, you could do much worse.
The WiiM Pro Plus music streamer has a lot to recommend it. As a way to bring proper high-resolution digital audio streaming smarts to an existing system, it's without peer at the price. True, other brands can do a similar job, sometimes in even greater style, but inevitably there's a higher outlay required. Add in a control app that's a sight better than any number of its market rivals, and this little bit of kit looks and sounds like the real deal.
Simon was editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine and website and has since written for Wired, Metro, the Guardian and Stuff, among many others. Should he find himself with a spare moment, Simon likes publishing and then quickly deleting tweets about the state of the nation (in general), the state of Aston Villa (in particular) and the state of his partner’s cat.
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