With Neil Young’s hi-res PonoPlayer tearing up the charts on Kickstarter, already eclipsing its original $800,000 goal more than five times over, the moment appears ripe for hi-fi sound solutions. Right on cue to take advantage of this growing audiophilic trend is another Kickstarter creation, the new Streamz wireless headphones. Blending Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connection, up to 36 GBs of on-board file storage, and a host of other features, the Streamz represent a whole new take on the ubiquitous headphone genre.
A rather understated looking pair of cans apart from the snazzy blue and silver band, the Streamz aim to bring hi-fidelity audio to listeners in an uber-convenient wireless package. They’re specifically designed to function totally autonomously from a playback device. To accomplish that feat, the Streamz are jam-packed with hardware, including an Android-based 1.6GHz Dual Core processor, a rechargeable battery, an onboard DAC (digital analog converter), an amplifier with EQ control, and built-in storage with a choice of 4GB, 20GB, and 36 GB versions.
Looking to further cash in on the Pono bandwagon, the Streamz also tout the ability to download tracks directly from the Pono Music store, as well as via their own proprietary service, Streamz Music. High resolution file compatibility includes WAV, FLAC and ALAC lossless files, as well as basic MP3 files, though the headphones do max out just above CD-quality sound at 48khz/16-bit file resolution.
Apart from their built in storage capacity, the Streamz are also designed to, well, stream content over your LAN from the music stored on your PC or Mac, as well as accessing music files from the cloud via Google Drive. And for use on the go, the headphones can be hardwired into any music player or smartphone via a stereo analog input, as well as connecting over Bluetooth, though, with only Bluetooth version 2.1, we’re not holding out much hope for high-fidelity sound from that source.
As commented upon in a recent DT article, compatibility with high res files doesn’t mean much if the device doesn’t utilize a high-grade piece of hardware for the most important point in the music’s signal path: the conversion from the digital realm of 1’s and 0’s to analog sound. That job is undertaken by the DAC, which can make all the difference when it comes to providing gorgeous sound. In its official press release, Streamz denounces the “sub-par” DACs found in most smartphones and music players, but doesn’t specifically mention its own hardware, which could be a deciding factor as to whether these ‘phones fly or flop.
Another deciding factor will likely be the interface that controls all those music files the Streamz can access. We’ve found autonomous headphones in the past to be extremely complicated and counter-intuitive to use. To leap that hurdle, the Streamz incorporate a three-pronged solution, including an on-board keypad, an iOS and Android compatible app, and, most intriguingly, a built-in microphone to utilize Google Voice for voice activated search, playback, volume control, and even navigation of streaming apps such as Pandora and Spotify.
We’ll have to put the Streamz into action to see if their impressively diverse interface operates as advertised, but if it does, that could be a huge coup for these ‘phones.
Taking things even further, Streamz is also releasing its own “Maui” software development kit to Kickstarter pledgers, hoping to spawn custom music app creation.
As for the price, the Streamz certainly won’t be cheap if they make it off of their Kickstarter page, with an expected MSRP of $499 for the 4GB model, $649 for the 20GB, and a shocking $849 for the 36GB version. However, you can get them for a relative bargain if you jump aboard early, priced at $299, $349, and $549 respectively. At the time of publishing this article, the Streamz have reached just under $2,200 of their $50,000 goal, with 29 days to go.
While the Streamz look like an extremely intriguing new way to play, the question as to whether or not they’ll prove worthy of their regal price is, at this point, any one’s guess. That said, with so many features and a promise of premium sound with no strings attached, we’re pulling for them.