The new Chromecast Audio?
The Wiim Mini has popularly acquired an image as the new Chromecast Audio - the insanely cheap dongle streamer that entered the arena in 2015 like a somewhat inexplicable bolt from the blue, disrupting an exclusive market for HighEnd streamers. And which disappeared almost as inexplicably in 2019 to the despair of many, a disappearance that has led to Chromecast Audio being sold on the second-hand market for prices that often far exceed the original new price. That's how market works.
Defining the Wiim Mini as the new Chromecast Audio is in many ways an understandable hit, since it is both about the most affordable streamer on the market, and it has a form factor that can give strong associations to CA. And at the same time it is a complete miss, as it is everything that CA was not, and vice versa. Chromecast Audio can probably only do one thing, and that is to "cast" sound via Google Cast. And that is probably the only protocol NOT supported by Wiim Audio. But apart from that, most everything is supported onm Wiim Mini, including Airplay 2 and Bluetooth 5.2, which is the latest version, with the codecs SBC and AAC. Both this about Airplay 2 and AAC actually give iPhone users an advantage over Android, since AAC is known for better results on iPhone than on most Android mobiles.
The manufacturer behind the Wiim Mini is called Wiim Audio, and then there is an organization called Linkplay that appears as the manufacturer of the ecosystem that the Wiim Mini is a part of. I have not been able to find out whether Linkplay has any ownership relationship with Wiim Audio, but they are at least a developer of an App concept that is more or less common to a number of manufacturers, but which is still not completely identical. I have previously made acquaintance with two other apps where the same products appear as available objects when the App is fired up. This applies to Audio Pro and Triangle AIO. These apps are almost identical and compatible, but at the same time they are not completely identical, and bugs can easily occur if you try to mix. But that doesn't stop me from successfully setting up a multi-room setup with the Wiim Mini paired with the Audio Pro C10 MkII,
But it is still important to note that there are individual adaptations of the apps for each manufacturer, and here I have the impression that Wiim Audio is right at the top, well ahead of most others. They have frequent updates, and in the coming weeks and months, both forward and backward in time, there will be updates to the app and/or software in the Wiim Mini approx. twice a month. It testifies to a company that is very aggressive and has a good development in its system.
The hunting ground for streamers with digital output in this price segment is really quite slim. In 2021 I reviewed a streamer from Triangle which was very interesting. It costs only a couple of hundred NOK more than the Wiim Mini, and has an exclusive case that looks like it costs ten times as much. And it rigged really well as… ehhh… topping on my Topping headphone rig with the D50S and A50. And had it not been for some issues regarding Gapless playback and a limitation in the digital output, which at the time of the test was limited upwards to 16/44.1, it would almost certainly have been refused an exit after the test.
iEAST also has some streamers at the reasonable end of the price scale, and these could perhaps be an alternative? Without having tested any of them, there is a bit of speculation. If we move up a bit in price, it is natural to look towards Yamaha's MusicCast devices, and we reviewed the WXC-50 last autumn with very good results. But this one costs around four thousand NOK.
Bluesound Node are also good and interesting streamers at the higher end of the budget class. Or perhaps it is more correct to define it as belonging to the lower middle class, with a price tag of well over six thousand for the latest version (4th gen – N130)? And then it cannot be denied that you get some extra functionality with both a WXC-50 and a Node, including HDMI-ARC and the possibility of using it as a digital preamplifier.
Wiim Mini is a small puck with a diameter of 69 mm, and a maximum thickness of 24 mm, where the top curves slightly up in the middle in what appears to be a high-gloss minimalist control panel with a volume + and -, and an arrow that acts as start/stop. There is also a small LED on top that gives indications during setup. On the bottom there is a practical wide ring in a rubbery material that prevents the Wiim Mini from sliding too easily.
There are four physical inputs and outputs on the side, placed quite together. There is respectively a USB-C for power supply via a 5 watt charger of a typical mobile charger nature. Otherwise, there is an optical output and a 3.5mm analogue output. In addition, there is a 3.5mm analog input, where you can connect analog sources that can be transmitted via the streamer via an integrated AD converter.
The box comes with a generous number of cables of apparently good physical quality. Already here it can be suspected that a significant part of the budget has been burned - kinda relief that no money has also been spent on an accompanying power supply.
The app I mentioned at the beginning has been prepared for both iOS and Android. I could also wish for a Windows App, but there are several far more expensive systems that don't deliver either, so it's easy to forgive Wiim Audio on that point.
I have tested both the iOS and Android app on the iPhone 11 and Samsung S10 respectively. These two apps are quite similar, but there are some small differences that are not significant. Apart from a situation that makes it always more comfortable to browse streaming apps on an Android mobile, at least that's how I've configured my S10. And it is that you can go back a step by dragging your thumb from the right edge to the left.
At the bottom of the front page in the menu, there are four main tabs - "Browse", "Device", "Search" (which is a search engine across the various streaming services, and a main setup. It is usually under Settings on the device that you will find the most interesting settings . And one of the really good news is one of my fads, which I previously found only on Sonos. Almost all streaming devices have options to set one or more alarms, but it is almost impossible to find one that defines the duration of the alarm. You can do that on Sonos, and you can also do that on Wiim Audio. And the meaning of this is that you can decide in advance how long, for example, the morning radio should last before it switches off automatically. You can also save 6 different presets, which can be anything from a single song, an album or playlist, or a radio station.This is a familiar phenomenon from other systems,and is called "Pins" in Linn's world.
An EQ consists of 22 different presets, and is rather uninteresting for audio enthusiasts. But Wiim Audio has pre-announced that they will come with an update on July 15, where the EQ will also have the option of bass, midrange and treble, plus a 10-band parametric equalizer. Then we are talking...
Under Audio settings, you may choose between "fixed" or "variable" volume, and you can also define the level of the analog output, with the variants 2 Vrms, 1 Vrms, 800 mVrms or 500 mVrms. You can also define the resolution of the optical output, with a choice of sample rate of 48, 96 or 192 kHz, and a bit depth of 16 or 24 bit. You can also set the audio sync to manual or auto, and then you have to manually choose whether to use analogue or optical audio output. Surprisingly, you cannot select both outputs at the same time. This is not a problem except for us geeks who find it a little more cumbersome when we have to make frequent comparisons of the analogue and digital output. But in normal use, you make this choice once and for all. Or at least for a longer period.
One of the most important aspects of a streamer today is which streaming services are supported and how they are implemented. And although the Wiim Mini also supports DLNA and UPnP, it is use with streaming services that is the focus of this test. And we will both have a look at which streaming services are integrated, and how well they are implemented.
Four of the five most important streaming services that are available with a Norwegian passport are integrated into the Wiim Mini, and in addition, Amazon Music is an important investment area for the Wiim Mini at the moment. And then we can only hope that it is not long before Norway becomes an important investment area for Amazon Music. Spotify Connect is integrated, and anything else would really be unthinkable. Far from equally obvious is that TIDAL is also integrated with its Connect-edition, and that is very good news for anyone who wants to use TIDAL's original app. Furthermore, Qobuz is integrated, and the same applies to Deezer. Then we are only missing Apple Music, which is a fairly common phenomenon, and Youtube Music, which was previously called Google Music. The latter two streaming services can still be used via Airplay 2, if you have an iOS device or another device that is compatible with Airplay 2.
We take a small review of how the various streaming services work.
As with all other streamers, this one works by being shown to Spotify's original app. From a purely practical point of view, this is a big advantage, and means that the streaming of the music actually takes place directly from the web to the streamer, and the combined app that you are used to works in exactly the same way as always.
On February 22 last year , Spotify announced that it would be introducing CD-quality Spotify HiFi in 2021. Some of us have been holding back the fireworks in the hope that this could still happen in 2021, but Spotify has canceled this without giving a proper explanation. This is bad style, but of course it's not something we can blame Wiim Audio. So it's still the lossy codec Ogg Vorbis everyone gets from Spotify
TIDAL is the streaming service that, until recently, has been my favorite streaming service. Lately, TIDAL has had to settle for sharing that status with Qobuz, but I still have a very strong relationship with TIDAL. Not least in those cases where the streamer supports TIDAL Connect, a version of TIDAL that was obviously heavily inspired by Spotify's Connect when it was introduced in autumn 2020 . With TIDAL Connct, you choose which device to stream to in the TIDAL app.
But you can also choose to use the TIDAL app that is integrated into WIIM Mini's app. Here, too, you get your favorites easily, and you can fortunately choose sorting criteria for your favorite albums. You can choose between: "Date added" (default), "Alphabetical" "By artist" or "Release date". This is absolutely brilliant.
TIDAL offers albums in lossless CD quality, or MQA, a lossy HighRes format. The Wiim Mini can transmit MQA files via the optical output, but not all MQA-compatible DACs can accept MQA on the optical input, including the Topping E50. But according to WIIM Audio, they plan to upgrade to MQA decoding in the streamer on 7/31.
Qobuz is one of my two favorite streaming services, not least because of the sound quality. Along with Apple Music, this is one of two streaming services that deliver high-resolution files in lossless quality, and in Wiim Audio it can go all the way up to 24 bit 192 kHz. And all the files that surpass CD quality with 16/44.1 are clearly marked with the "Hi-RES" logo. It is still a bit annoying that a very large proportion of the Hi-RES albums have what I would call silly Hi-RES, with a resolution on 24/44.1. The good news is that the resolution is clearly marked, but you have to go all the way into the Now Playing window before you get that info.
Despite a very good selection of music, Qobuz has large gaps in the back catalog of some Norwegian record companies, e.g. KKV. And then it can also be a bit annoying that Qobuz lists hits on both EPs and singles together with albums in e.g. the original app, but this does not actually apply in the Wiim app. There will be a star in the margin
Qobuz is also the only streaming service that has a well-functioning Label search. Admittedly, it is not available on either the Wiim app or other mobile apps, but you can perform a Label search via the Windows app or in a browser before saving the catch as favorites and playing it through the Wiim.
Deezer is the last of the four major streaming services available in Norway, which is integrated into the Wiim app. I don't think the Deezer app in the Wiim is as well designed as the Qobuz app, but it works well enough. Deezer has a resolution limited to lossless CD quality
If you're one of those people who have signed up for an Apple Music subscription, chances are you also have an iPhone. And then everything is ready to stream to the Wiim Mini via Airplay 2 from the original app, and that's also the only option with Apple Music, if you don't use Bluetooth via SBC or AAC. This is of course bad news for those who have Apple Music as their only streaming service, but it's a setback the Wiim shares with a major part of other ecosystems for streamers. Apple Music is also a streaming service that offers lossless HighRes, and also Dolby Atmos on compatible devices.
This is actually a rather half-hearted streaming service, which was carried over from Google Music. But some of us have that streaming service automatically since we have a Premium Youtube subscription. And it's undeniably good to be able to stream unique concert videos even if you only have sound. Here, too, you must use AirPlay 2 or Bluetooth if you want to reproduce it in the Wiim Mini.
Roon is a platform many swear to, and I am one of them. It's tempting to say that there are three different availability levels for streamers, with Roon Ready being the highest level, and which also ensures RAAT. Here we find, among other things, Bluesound's NODE streamers. The next level is Roon Tested , and this applies to my Linn Akurate DS streamer, among others. The lowest level is the category which in the Roon overview is listed as " Other network devices " and which it is tempting to call Roon Available . Here we find pretty much everything that exists among streamers, and the music is delivered either via Chromecast or via Airplay 2.
And in my newly named category Roon Available we also find Wiim Mini. And that's fine - the music is streamed via Airplay 2, and there is access to Roon's parametric equalizers, and also volume control if you have set up the Mini with variable output in the setup menu.
Wiim Audio has also signaled that they are working on full Roon compatibility, but without these plans being time-bound.
Gapless playback means that small breaks are not added between each track, and is primarily important for live releases and some other releases, in contrast to most studio recordings where there are small breaks between each track anyway.
Wiim Mini has a track-record where the streamer has not always served gapless playback. But this has changed with one or more software updates, and today the starting point is that they are stated to provide gapless playback. And then a little uncertainty has also been introduced, among other things, in a video by John Darko, where he claims on the one hand not to have a subscription to Deezer and is therefore not allowed to test with Deezer, after which he claims in the same video that Deezer does not delivers completely gapless playback, but has small micro-pauses between each track, which according to the description can be reminiscent of what I experienced in the review of the Marantz MODEL 40n when I played music from Deeer with the third-party app Heos Remote as opposed to with the original Heos app.
For the same reason, I undertook an exceptionally thorough investigation of the phenomenon of gapless playback on the Wiim Mini, with a voraciousness that can surpass the enthusiasm of an overzealous state-authorized controller who must examine the travel bills and commuter accommodation of parliamentarians, in the hope of being able to provoke examples of microscopic gaps between the tracks in playback of Litte Feat's Waiting for Colombus, and Dark Side of the Moon with Pink Floyd. And I tried all available streaming services, and with all available apps including both TIDAL Connect and the TIDAL app integrated into Wiim apps. I even tried via the near-compatible apps of Triangle and Audio Pro, as well as a couple of other apps in the same category.
But the result was always the same – always a completely seamless transition between the first two tracks on the said album. Wiim Mini always serves perfect Gapless Playback on all streaming services available in Norway!
But how does the Wiim Mini sound?
Until now, it has mostly been about trivialities and functionality, and now time is up to unveil some musical experiences. And here it must be admitted that my primary agenda in this test is to investigate how it behaves with an external DAC via the optical output. But it is of course also interesting to find out whether the built-in DAC can be used for critical- or casual listening, whatever that entails.
I have also had a round in my usual test track where I have compared the signal from the optical output in the Wiim Mini with the corresponding signal from the Bluesound Node 2i. Here I was not able to detect definite differences that cannot be attributed to random inaccuracies in listening impressions.
In the listening session on the gradually customary test track, where by the way this time I have chosen the Qobuz version, three parallel playbacks were taken:
- Wiim Mini together with a Topping E50 via optical out
- Wiim Mini with the built-in DAC
- Linn Akurate DS
The choice of the Linn Akurate DS as a third listening impression on each track is because I have received a couple of suggestions about testing the Wiim Mini against a HighEnd streamer.
Linn Akurate DS as HighEnd reference
Wiim Audio's frequent software updates give associations to the company where I acquired my first streamer around 15 years ago, the high-end model Linn Akurate DS. Linn was probably the first company to launch streamers in the HighEnd segment, and the sample I tested and then bought what was perhaps one of the first copies of Akurate DS in Norway, there has been an incredible development with perhaps a three-digit number of software updates of both streamers and apps. But the hardware is still the same as it was 15 years ago, and at the time it had a new price of around NOK 42,000. And after a couple of requests, I have also included this HighEnd model as one of several comparisons on sound reproduction.
Akurate DS is still a very good streamer, and which I recently brought from Oslo to Sommerhuset in Fredrikstad, which for the past year or two has become my main base for HiFi testing. Akurate DS has both balanced XLR outputs and single-ended RCA outputs. But as a small curiosity, it is not equipped with digital inputs or outputs, so it can only be used with the built-in DAC. It is equipped with a Wolfson Audio WM8741, which is incidentally the same DAC chip that is in the current model of the LUMIN D2.
Here I have primarily compared playback with a connected external DAC and playback with the built-in DAC. In order to get a not too large time gap between the two playbacks, I have chosen to play 10 tracks one after the other with the respective DACs. It might have been ideal with playback of each track with switching DACs immediately, but since we have to go into the setup menu in the streamer to change the output it would have been too cumbersome and time consuming.
- Wiim Mini streamer
- Topping E50 DAC
- Parasound NC 2100 preamplifier
- Linn Chakra 6100 6-channel power amplifier with active divider filters
- Linn Ninka speakers powered by active triamping.
Alternative Playback Setup:
- Wiim Mini streamer with internal DAC used
- Parasound NC 2100 preamplifier
- Linn Chakra 6100 6-channel power amplifier with active divider filters
- Linn Ninka speakers powered by active triamping.
The third Playback setup:
- Linn Accurate DS streamer
- Parasound NC 2100 preamplifier
- Linn Chakra 6100 6-channel power amplifier with active divider filters
- Linn Ninka speakers powered by active triamping.
- Øyvind Kristiansen, Jonas Kilmork Vemoy. Forsaken – Hymns of Compassion. 24/96
Topping E50: Very distinct vocals and bass. Great instrument separation.
Internal DAC: About the same degree of sibilance. Experience that the detailing is somewhat weaker than with the E50.
Akurate DS: Here, too, there is sibilance in Beate Lech's vocals. Otherwise, a noticeably clear vocal, and separation of vocals from strings and other instruments. Very great and musical total experience, with a main emphasis on the vocals. A total experience that clearly surpasses Wiim/Topping.
- Odin Staveland. Parade – Sillajass. 24/44.1
Topping E50: A bit hard sounding, as I'm used to. Very high precision
Internal DAC: Slightly more rounded at the edges.
Akurate DS : Very distinct, but not harsh. Quite similar to Topping
- Erik Friedlander. Bohemia After Dark – Oscalypso. 16/44.1
Topping E50 : Again very distinct and clearly rhythmic. High instrument separation
Internal DAC: Still a very good reproduction overall. But still experience slightly less precision
Akurate DS: Very distinct and at the same time musical with good rhythmic drive. Perceived as slightly greater clarity than Topping
- Nigel Kennedy. Vivaldi: The New Four Seasons: Summer: 8 Fear – Vivldi: The New Four Seasons. 16/44.1
Topping E50: The classic string passages are somewhat clinical, while the Kennedy parts sound hard and with a twist, as they should. But Topping E 50 does not embellish the experience.
Internal DAC: Here, too, a bit rounder at the edges, and the Vivaldi parts are perhaps rendered a bit warmer?
Akurate DS : Good warmth in the classic string passages, and in rather large contrast to Topping. While the distorted Kennedy passages feel quite similar to Wiim/Topping's rendition - perhaps a bit kinder.
- Louis Armstrong. St. James Infirmary - Satchmo Plays King Oliver. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Enormously good Expression of details and small nuances. Very present vocals from Armstrong
Internal DAC: Still very good, but some of the presence and precision has been reduced.
Akurate DS: Very good presence. Both more warmth and body, and combined with a detailing that does not hold back for Wiim/Topping. The E50 doesn't sound quite as musical as the akurate
- Arild Andersen. Patch of Light – Hyperborean. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Very good shading of the strings. The sound is neutral, without the extra warmth that some setups can have.
Internal DAC: Alos here there is a touch more warmth in the sound, while the detailing is a notch poorer
Akurate DS: Very good warmth and body in the strings, combined with great clarity and precision in perspective. Wiim/Topping clearly more analytical
- Arild Andersen. Hyperborean – Hyperborean. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Arild Andersen's bass is very well reproduced. Paolo Vinaccia's fables are reproduced in detail and airy
Internal DAC: Great bass, which nevertheless loses a bit of precision
Akurate DS: Arild Andersen's bass sends chills down the spine, and Paolo Vinaccia appears very clearly in his subtle fables.
- Frank Zappa. Rubber Shirt - Sheik Yerbouti. 24/192
Topping E50: Very good dynamics and musical bass.
Internal DAC: Still good dynamics, and a musical bass
Akurate DS: Quite similar to Wiim/Topping. Good dynamics and with a musical bass. Akurate DS is perceived as slightly more precise.
- Frank Zappa. The Purple Lagoon - Zappa In New York. 24/96
Topping E50: Rhythmic reproduction with good detail.
Internal DAC: This gets a little nicer with the internal DAC
Akurate DS: This sounds incredibly good, and a little more distinct than Wiim/Topping.
- Helene Grimaud. Silvestrov: Bagatelles I – XIII: Bagatelle I – Memory. 24/96
Topping E50: Very airy reproduction with good detail and rich room information
Internal DAC: The good detail and the large room are not quite as convincing with the internal DAC
Akurate DS: Huge room reproduction, and great ending in the piano tones. Distinguishes reflected sound from direct sound better than Topping.
- Jan Garbarek. Mission: To Be Where I Am – It's OK To Listen TO The Gray Voice. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Very distinct and detailed reproduction where the precision in the sound image is very good
Internal DAC: A bit rounder, but it sounds very musical
Akurate DS: Very melodic presentation, and a sea of air between Garbarek and bass in the intro. Wiim/Topping feels a bit more technical in comparison.
- Jethro Tull. My God - Nothing is Easy. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Very good detailed guitar from Ian Anderson in the intro. At the same time, it is not embellished with a moderately good recording
Internal DAC: We do not get quite the same close-up of the acoustic guitar strings of Ian Anderson.
Akurate DS: Ian Anderson's guitar is even more dissolved than on Wiim/Topping. But also here it sounds hard in the beats.
- Jimi Hendrix. Red House – Hendrix In The West. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Although the recording has some weaknesses, great presence and a very good micro-dynamics are conveyed here
Internal DAC: a very thin additional curtain between the music and me compared to the E50 DAC. But Jimi still plays the guitar imaginatively, and that is conveyed in a good way.
Akurate DS: Close-up of Hendrix's guitar strings, rendered with high micro-dynamics. But alos here it is clear that the recording has its dose of distortion.
- John Abercrombie. Red And Orange – Timeless. 24/192
Topping E50: Good dynamics and Jan Hammer's bass synth is well reproduced
Internal DAC: This track is perhaps just as well reproduced with the internal DAC.
Accurate DS: The bass synth is both punchy and has good musicality.
- Joni Mitchell. Overture / Cotton Avenue – Don Juan`s Reckless Daughter. 24/192
Topping E50: Joni Mitchell's guitar can sound a bit sharp. Jaco's bass has an easy-flowing authority in this set-up. And inside Cotton Avenue, Joni's vocals also tend to be a bit analytical
Internal DAC: A bit of rounding is well tolerated on the intro to this track. Maybe a little less detail, but a good overall. Jaco's bass cannot be shaken by a DAC, and it alternately sings and goes extremely deep. Joni's vocals work just as well with the integrated DAC, although it is perhaps more detailed with the Topping
Akurate DS: Not ideal reproduction of the guitar in the intro. This is a demanding track. Jaco's bass is incredibly distinct
- Kari Bremnes. Kanskje - Det vi har. 24/48
Topping E50: Good precision in the bass, and Kari's vocals work well.
Internal DAC: Not quite as high precision in detail
Akurate DS: Sounds quite similar to the E50, but Kari's vocals have more body.
- Kari Bremnes. Like før dagen går ned - Og så kom resten av livet. 24/48
Topping E50: This setup reproduces this track better than most I've heard it on. A combination of good rhythmic drive and Kari's vocals, which are reproduced well.
Internal DAC: Even with the internal DAC, this track works very well on the whole setup.
Akurate DS: Nice rendering, with good rhythmic drive.
- Keith Jarrett. For Miles – Bye Bye Blackbird. 16/44.1
Topping E50: This is extremely good, and is enhanced by very good precision and detailing. And a very good microdynamics. It's almost like DeJohnette has entered the living room
Internal DAC: Not as much air around Jack DeJohnette with the integrated DAC. But still very good.
Akurate DS: Even more resolved than with the E50, combined with good fullness and musical reproduction
- Ketil Bjørnstad. Moren – Sunrise. 24/96
Topping E50: This is a very good detail reproduction. Also an extremely good reproduction of Kari Bremnes' vocals
Internal DAC: Here the gaze is lifted slightly from the details, so that one can catch a glimpse of the drama unfolding in the stairwell depicted by Edvard Munch. Fine and detailed rendering
Akurate DS: Linn offers both great detailing and musical presentation of the stairwell drama. Extremely good reproduction of Kari's vocals
- Ketil Bjørnstad. Sylveline's House – Berget Det Blå. 16/44.1
Topping E50: The Topping DAC does not exactly embellish the slim sound balance. But the detailing is a joy
Internal DAC: Here I was a bit excited about whether the internal DAC could tame the overzealous bright sound in the recording, but actually it's more that I lose some insight into the recording that dominates
Akurate DS: This sounds slim. And very distinct.
- Leonard Cohen. Happens To The Heart – Thanks For The Dance. 24/44.1
Topping E50: Practical reproduction, with a close-up of Cohen's vocal cords
Internal DAC: Ok, maybe a little kinder, and a meter greater distance to the vocal cords. But still very good. And actually somewhat melody-focused.
Akurate DS: Magic reproduction of Cohen's deep and raspy vocals. It feels as if he is standing in the room.
- Lynni Treekrem. Sjalu Type – Storm. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Magnificent, dynamic and raw
Internal DAC: Also here the internal DAC is a bit kinder. But don't be confused with toothless, because this is still good.
Akurate DS: Close-up of Lynni, and with extreme micro-dynamics
- Beyonce. DONT HURT YOURSELF - LEMONADE. 24/44.1
Topping E50: Raw and dynamic
Internal DAC: Still raw and dynamic
Akurate DS: Extreme dynamics and good detailing.
- Radka Toneff. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress – Fairyytails. 16/44.1
Topping E50: A very nice rendition of a legendary track. Radka's vocals have just the right body, and are rendered with good perspective and with a lot of air around them.
Internal DAC: Beautiful, but maybe a little less air around Radka's vocals
Akurate DS: Very good reproduction.
- Erlend Apnaseth Trio. Vake – Lokk. 24/48
Topping E50: Actually a demanding track, but reproduced great on this setup
Internal DAC: Still great, but with a little less precision in the demanding bass area of this track?
Akurate DS: Very deep bass that is reproduced well.
- Maria Joao – Mario laginha. Horn Please – Cor. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Very good reproduction with good presence
Internal DAC: Beautiful!
Akurate DS: Good perspective
- Billie Eilish. Your Power – Happier Than Ever. 24/44.1
Topping E50: Insightful reproduction
Internal DAC: A touch more sluggish bass?
Akurate DS: Good warmth in Billie Eilish's vocals, combined with precise details
- Irmin Schmidt. Klavierstuck I – 5 Klavierstucke. 24/44.1
Topping E50: Fascinating music with great reproduction
Internal DAC: Still a great reproduction
Akurate DS: Fascinating reproduction of a piano that sometimes challenges the register in the deepest octaves.
- Jeff Reily and Peter Anthony Togni. Ave Verum – Blackwood. 16/44.1
Topping E50: Breathtaking, with a bass clarinet, deep bass and an extreme amount of air
Internal DAC: Fantastic reproduction of this track
Akurate DS: This is reproduced wonderfully, and with a superb ending
- Chiaroscuro Quartet. String Quartet No. 1 - Allegro – Beethoven: String Quartets. 24/96
Topping E50: Here we get a lot of detailed information, and with good instrument separation, and a precise perspective
Internal DAC: This is probably the track where the integrated DAC fails the most. But still, this is great, but clearly less precise and detailed.
Akurate DS : Very good and precise description together with a nice warmth in the strings.
- Johannes Moser. Party: Fratres – Alone Together. 16/44.1
Topping E50: A breathtaking rendition of one of my favorite compositions by Arvo Part. Here we get both a very detailed reproduction and a great and dynamic bass in these dramatic beats that appear at regular intervals.
Internal DAC: This is still very beautiful, and perhaps a bit more melody-focused than with the Topping
Akurate DS: So far, best rating on this very latest track in the test track. A fervor in the Cello rendering.
Summary of listening impressions
The most important part of the listening experience is registering how the Wiim Mini sounds coupled with an external DAC. And then it is naturally the characteristic of the DAC that is the most important. I have four Topping DACs in my stable – the now discontinued D30, a D50S, an E30 and an E50. D50S and E50 are located in Sommerhuset in Fredrikstad, while D30 and E30 are each in their own setup in Oslo.
The choice of DAC for the main part of the head was the fairly new E50, and initially the listening impression via this was compared with the listening impression from the analogue output, where it is the internal DAC that takes care of the DA conversion.
And finally, these impressions are compared with the listening impressions from the integrated streamer Linn Akurate DS.
The sound with Topping E50
In the combination Wiim Mini and Topping E50, the main impression is that an exceptionally good and detailed reproduction is delivered. And it is especially the detail reproduction that impresses, and leaves an impression of a combination that is exceptionally well-played in relation to a modest amount that this combo after all amounts to. With a sum of around NOK 3,990,- (present boudle price) we are more than a couple of thousand NOK below the Buesound Node, and it is extra nice for WiiM/Topping that they surpass the sound from the predecessor Node 2i as a combo that gives greater insight into the music to my ears. And this is a result that emphasizes that both the Wiim Mini and the Topping E50 are exceptionally good buys that deliver very good sound for the money. And then I can't give any description compared to the latest Node (N130), since I haven't tested it. It is conceivable to give a different result.
The only kind of reservation that some people might have is that the Wiim Mini + Topping E50 can be experienced by some as overly analytical due to the large amount of detail conveyed by the E50. In that case, my experience is that the E50's kid brother, the E30, is a tiny bit rounder at the edges. And then it's tempting to guess that exactly that might be related to the fact that the E30 has an AKM 4493 DAC chip on board, while the E50 has an ES9068AS from ESS Sabre. Or it may have to do with completely different conditions. What do I know - I just listen to music...
In any case, the experience and the matching of this may be a little dependent on the rest of the set-up, and the good news if you choose to combine the Wiim Mini with a Topping E 30 is of course that the sum will be even lower - below three thousand NOK (2.750,- at the moment).
Wii Mini alone
Ok, not completely alone of course, but without an external DAC. Initially, this use has been toned down a bit in various reviews, and I have also noted that it has received fairly moderate measurements of both internal DAC and ADC by our friend Amir in ASR. And again, I just have to maintain that I usually don't listen to SINAD that much, but try to concentrate more on the music. And then it is interesting to assess what these slightly moderate measurement results mean for sound reproduction in practice. Can the Wiim Mini be used meaningfully without an external DAC?
The review in the test track reveals that it is not the ultimate reproduction with the built-in DAC. My experience is consistently that we are presented with music that is rounder at the edges than what we get with both the E50 and E30 connected. Clearly less detail-focused, and also with a bit more warmth. And that in itself is not a description that needs deterring. But you also undeniably lose some quality in the reproduction at the same time. And I would definitely recommend combining the Wiim Mini with a reasonable external DAC, such as e.g. Topping E30. Or maybe an iFi Zen DAC is a good match if you're looking for something even less analytical?
But the point is at the same time that it is perfectly possible to use a Wiim Mini alone, especially if this is not the primary streamer in the home, but for example an element in a multi-room setup. And if the need arises, you can upgrade with an external DAC over time.
Wiim Mini with Topping E50 against Linn Akurate DS
So the interesting question is how does the Wiim Mini stack up against an almost 15-year-old HighEnd streamer that cost exactly 10 times the Wiim/Topping combo, and which now costs even far more, but which today is also a completely different product? Has time run out from Akurate DS, or are the old ones still the best? I have to admit that I was actually a bit excited and a bit nervous about this myself, but in my rig Akurate DS has gained renewed honor and relevance as I have discovered in direct comparison with other streamers that it actually plays unashamedly well, in addition to that it has a very practical Songcast function that allows you to stream all PC audio somewhat in the same spirit as AirPlay 2. And then I know that some people wish that only the streamer part itself is compared, and with the same DAC,
And my clear impression is that the Linn Akurate DS delivers a more musical reproduction than the Wiim/Topping combo, but without significantly compromising the detail reproduction. Some would perhaps use the expression that it sounds more analogue, but I want to steer clear of that. On the other hand, a greater clarity and calmness is experienced in the reproduction, and whether it is "analogue" or not, I am unsure. In a way, it is a bit as if Linn delivers the same details as the E50, but where they are a little more integrated into a musical and melodic whole. That's probably the closest I'll get. And then I am completely at a loss as to whether this experience only has a background in the digital and analogue constructions in the DAC, or whether it is also related to the streamer part itself, clock, jitter and timing. Or that the two departments are combined in one unit? I leave this to the engineers with PhDs or worse to have strong opinions about
Other listening setups
As mentioned earlier, a comparison has been made with the Bluesound Node 2i where this was connected via the coax output to the same topping. This gave no significant difference in the experience from the Wiim Mini played via optical output.
And then there has also been a test round in Oslo with my bedside headphone setup (phew...) consisting of:
- Node 2 (2nd gen.) with coax out to:
- Wiim Mini with optical out to:
- Topping E 30 DAC
- Topping L30 Headphone amplifier
- Primarily Sennheiser HD 650
And another bedside headphone setup in Fredrikstad, consisting of
- Sonos Connect (S1) with optical out to:
- Wiim Mini with optical out to:
- Topping D50S DAc
- Topping A50 headphone amplifier
- Primarily Sennheiser HD 650
The purposes of these rounds were twofold - uncover any differences between the Wiim Mini and the Node 2/Sonos Connect respectively. And here I once again had to state that I could not register a perceived definite difference between the Wiim Mini and the Node 2. But compared to the Connect, I was a little more uncertain - the sound streamed digitally from the Wiim Mini was perceived as a little more precise than that from the Connect, but we are talking about subtle differences.
Another point is of course the matching with the two DACs and the headphone amplifiers. And the Sennheiser HD650 headphones that were used are so warm in sound that the matching against the DACs becomes a completely different story. And furthermore, I could use the balanced cable towards the A50 headphone amplifier using a 2.5 to 4.4mm adapter, while with the E30/L30 I was relegated to unbalanced 6.3mm. And with this headphone I preferred the D50S/A50 combo with the Wiim Mini, but that doesn't really have much to do with the streamer other than they make a nice unit together.
And then we round off the test by trying the analogue 3.5mm input. I connected to the Samsung Galaxy S10, a mobile that was one of the last premium mobiles that still had an analogue output. And at the same time I configured a multi-room setup where the Wiim Mini was combined with the Audio Pro C10 MkII. It worked like a charm and the music I streamed from Qobuz in the S10 was relayed to both devices.
Now it is not ideal with an AD converter, and this sample does not have all the measurement results in the world to show for it in ASR either. But it sounded fine, so as a practical approach this is a valuable addition.
The Wiim Mini isn't quite perfect, but few or no other streamers are either, especially in this segment. But the list of shortcomings is short, and is mostly limited to shortcomings that are also common among competitors.
When playing via the optical digital output, the Wiim Mini delivers a bit-perfect signal with a maximum resolution that can be configured up to 24 bit 192 kHz, and it delivers gapless playback no matter what it streams and from all streaming services available in Norway. This feels as good as what you can get digitally from a Bluesound Node 2i. Add a good and well-developed app, which is constantly being improved. And when you can also send a signal via bluetooth, or from Roon, the analogue output becomes a pure bonus that most people may choose not to use.
And all this for NOK 1,490,- is a bargain, and it still seems as if the manufacturer is signaling that they are just doing the heating. A little giant that keeps growing
Read more about Wiim Mini at the Norwegian importer and retailer Hifisentralen
Read more about Wiim Mini at the manufacturer Wiim Audio