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WiiM’s Mini and Pro are the Chromecast Audio’s true successors

WiiM’s Mini and Pro are the Chromecast Audio’s true successors


A simple, affordable, multiroom audio streamer should not be this hard to find. But the WiiM Mini fills a Chromecast Audio shape in my heart.

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An illustration of many different streaming devices and a person’s head looking at them.
All I wanted was affordable multiroom audio. Instead, I got an ordeal.
Illustration by Samar Haddad / The Verge

About a year or so ago, I decided to network all my speakers together to be able to do multiroom audio. I gave myself a set of simple parameters. Namely:

  • It must be able to work with my own speakers.
  • It must be able to work synchronized in multiple rooms.
  • It should be relatively affordable.
  • It should be easy for house guests to understand.
  • It should not lock me exclusively into a proprietary system.
  • It should allow me to listen to a podcast or music in multiple rooms from my phone.
  • It should (ideally) allow me to stream music from my NAS.

It turns out that this very specific combination of parameters is a recipe for going mad, but one that led me to a little company called WiiM, which makes a perfect little device that just works, is affordable, and is being aggressively updated to add new functionality constantly. If you want a solution that just works, skip ahead. But first, let’s start with what did not work and why this entire process was so needlessly difficult.

Tech companies don’t want you to have nice things

Okay, so Sonos. I know some people that swear by Sonos, and I get it, but I’m in no way doing that. Aside from the basic cost issue, I’m just not comfortable being locked into its ecosystem. What I basically needed was a puck or box, maybe one with an optical audio out or DAC, that works with my existing audio stuff.

Here’s the problem: big tech companies are completely uninterested in giving you a solution that simple. Or, rather, they are no longer interested in it. If you are the kind of person that uses Chromecast, you may remember the Chromecast Audio, a tiny affordable audio-only puck produced and then discontinued by Google. Those little guys are great: they worked well, they were affordable, and Google decided to kill them one day.

People still hoard these things to this day.
People still hoard these things to this day.
Photo: Google

The Chromecast Audio works so well that people continue to hoard them to this day, sort of like how people used to hoard Apple’s old AirPlay-enabled AirPort Express. Apple, like Google, also seems uninterested in giving nerds like me what we want, and until recently, a simple, cheap AirPlay 2 streamer was hard to come by (again, more on that later on!). There are also diehards who still use open-source variants of the Logitech Media Server software and SqueezeBoxes, a line of network streamers that have had a very prolific life well after being discontinued. I respect those people like troops.

A picture of the back of an Airport Express Gen 2 router.
Like the Chromecast, I have known people that have hoarded old Airplay Express models for its Airplay 2 support.
Photo: Apple

Having ruled out Sonos and Chromecast Audio, my attention turned to the last bastion of the desperate nerd with specific needs: cobbling something together out of Raspberry Pis. And this is where things get really complicated.

Raspberry Pi audio, a tale of woe

Audiophiles love the Raspberry Pi because it does exactly what you tell it to do, it can be expanded easily, and it is theoretically cheap. If you’ve never used a Pi, it’s a tiny credit card-sized computer that you can expand with tiny “hats.” Several companies make affordable DAC and Amp solutions for the Pi, including one called HiFiberry, and so I decided to try my luck with that. Worst-case scenario, I have a bunch of leftover Pis. (Keep in mind I embarked on this endeavor before the Great Raspberry Pi Drought of the past couple of years.)

HiFiBerry and other companies make these nice DAC Hats to turn a Pi into a network streamer
HiFiBerry and other companies make these nice DAC Hats to turn a Pi into a network streamer
Photo: HiFiBerry

There’s a number of different ways to use a Pi and various music players you can add to it. I know many people that swear by Volumio, but I personally prefer MoOde because it lets you do very granular room correction (testing with mics to correct for the limitations of a speaker in a space) using a program called CamillaDSP. A lot of modern speakers like the HomePod and Sonos’ Trueplay use an automated version of this process, but doing it professionally allows you to get precise and granular. I connected them to my speakers. They worked! And now that I had a way to pipe music into my speakers, I figured some nerd must have devised a robust solution to have them talk to each other.

Here’s the thing about multiroom audio standards: it’s like the wild west out there. There are various implementations, and a lot of it is just some flavor of DLNA / Universal Plug and Play, but actually getting something that just works can drive you up the wall. At first, I tried Snapcast (open source! There’s a Volumio plugin!), but that never worked just out of the gate. I eventually tried setting it up with AirPlay 1, and that took days to set up, worked intermittently, and didn’t allow me to have the granular control I wanted. In a sane world, there would just be an open-source, agreed-upon standard that everyone can use, something akin to Matter for audio, but again, huge tech companies don’t make money making you happy. The upcoming Matter TV spec update can technically encompass audio, but I’ll believe that when I hear it pumping uncompressed FLACs into five different speaker systems.

There is one solution for Raspberry Pi that absolutely works like clockwork, and that is Roon. If you are an audio sicko, Roon is the gold standard. It’s a subscription service that takes your existing music library, meticulously organizes all your files with gorgeous art, then makes them easily accessible and streaming in the highest fidelity possible, both multiroom locally and over the cloud. This is all supported by RAAT (Roon Advanced Audio Transport) and is basically AirPlay for guys who own $20,000 JBL Speakers from the 1960s. It’s like if PlexAmp was good, and it even works with Raspberry Pis! The problem is that while I have immense respect for Roon Labs, under no circumstances am I paying for a service that just plays my own FLACs.

A photo of a caseless Raspberry Pi 4b with a HifiBerry DAC hat on top.
A Pi with a hat like this one from HiFiBerry does a great job provided you can find a Raspberry Pi.
Photo: Christopher Person

So, Roon was out of the running, and Snapcast with AirPlay 1 didn’t work, but new developments had transpired. AirPlay on Raspberry Pi is interesting because, as you may have guessed, it’s not on there with the blessing of Apple, diligent programmers reverse-engineered it to work. This originally started as Shairport and then was forked eventually as Shairport-Sync by Mike Brady. A while back, someone cracked the code for AirPlay 2, and when I was doing this project, a creaky, experimental development branch appeared that supported it. AirPlay 2 supports multiroom audio, works with any iPhone (this covers most people who want to come over), and while it has several limitations from an audiophile perspective, it got me personally most of the way there. And also it works with the HomePod Mini, which I bought on sale at Costco and have found to be the least offensive smart speaker to throw in a kitchen.

The process of installing the dev branch of Shairport-Sync was fairly convoluted and involved SSHing into the Pis and doing various Linux commands that I do not want to discuss in polite company, but it worked. I was ecstatic. This is exactly how the engineers at NASA must have felt during the moon landing, and frankly, it was just as important to me. It got me most of the way there, and recently, the devs finally moved the AirPlay 2 functionality into the main branch of Shairport-Sync, so if you install MoOde or any other player that uses Shairport, it’ll just be on there, and setup is a breeze.

And then came the WiiM Mini and WiiM Pro

The WiiM Mini started popping up on my radar after being mentioned on Audio Science Review, as well by various audio YouTubers I follow. It’s a really simple device, just a little Wi-Fi puck with a simple Texas Instruments DAC, an optical audio out, a USB port for power, and a couple of aux ports. In the months since I had mostly defeated my audio problem, Raspberry Pis had become impossible to find and therefore worth their weight in gold in the secondary market, so I decided to buy a WiiM Mini just to see if I could free a few of them up.

For about $80, the WiiM Mini works and works well. I was floored. It’s shocking how much simpler it is than the Linux-flavored crucible I had decided to put myself through. The streamer is “bit perfect,” meaning it will pass the audio on at the same sample rate bit depth as the source. So if you already have a DAC (digital-to-analog converter) with a TOSLINK input, you can just connect this bad boy to it, do a minute of minor setup, and you are good to go. The built-in DAC chip is an affordable Texas Instruments PCM5121, which is nothing to call home about but does the job for most people that aren’t huge audiophiles and just wanna plug something into their stereo with a 3.5mm cable.

A promo image of the WiiM Mini audio streamer.
The WiiM Mini, a simple little puck that just... works.
Photo: WiiM Home

The WiiM Mini has AirPlay 2, but its accompanying app also supports a slew of features, including Spotify, Amazon Music, Qobuz, TIDAL, and a bunch of other services I will never use (although not Apple Music). You can use Amazon Alexa or Siri to control it, and it can group to an Echo or other Amazon device. It works with HomeKit, and nerds have already hacked in support for Home Assistant. You can stream up to 24-bit / 192 kHz of gapless audio on it. It lets you automatically sync the timing of your speakers with a built-in mic, and you can even do manual tweaks. Multiple WiiM devices can be easily grouped together for synchronized play. It even has a graphic EQ, and WiiM has stated that a Parametric EQ is on its roadmap. The app is fairly straightforward to use, pairing your devices is incredibly simple. It is exactly what I needed it to be.

A WiiM Mini sitting on a wood credenza next to a turntable.

WiiM Mini

$12537% off

The WiiM Mini makes it easy to wirelessly stream music from your phone, a streaming service, or other local storage to existing speakers you already have. It supports AirPlay 2 and a variety of streaming services.


The WiiM Pro expands upon the Mini’s capabilities with support for Chromecast Audio and other more advanced features.

After launching the Mini, WiiM also introduced the $149 WiiM Pro, which I also bought to test out. The WiiM Pro has a few features that may make it worth splurging on, including Chromecast Audio (the Mini is unfortunately not powerful enough to support it), optical and RCA inputs for routing from another device, and a wired network connection in case you don’t wanna rely on Wi-Fi. What’s more, both devices support streaming from a local server over DLNA, so me and all the Logitech Media Server weirdos can play our depraved FLAC files from a server on our network over multiple speakers in perfect sync.

A photo of the rear of a WiiM Pro unit.
The WiiM Pro has the same DAC but way more options for connectivitiy and Chromecast support.
Photo: Chris Person

The device has weird little hiccups now and again. Between updates, I have had to reset it, and during setup, it confusingly asked for my location, which I will not provide (sorry, dude, nice try). Overall, though, my experience has been positive, and what has impressed me as well as multiple YouTubers, is the aggressive, rapid pace at which WiiM has been updating its core products. The WiiM Mini started out solid and, over the past half year, has been rapidly adding features and implementing bug fixes. People complained about the latency on the Toslink Input of the Pro for TV sources, so the company tightened up the latency (although it is still not perfect). People have asked for PlexAmp support, so WiiM has stated that it is adding it. The WiiM Pro is currently on the way to being a Roon-ready device. If you go on the WiiM forums and ask for a feature, the company will, at the very least, listen to you and possibly even implement it.

So to bring it back:

  • The WiiM Mini works with my own speakers.
  • It can synchronize those speakers in multiple rooms (using multiple WiiM units).
  • It is relatively affordable.
  • It is easy for house guests to understand.
  • It doesn’t lock me exclusively into a proprietary system (in the sense that I can use it with basically everything).
  • I can use it to listen to podcasts or music in multiple rooms from my phone.
  • I have it streaming FLACs from my NAS.

What WiiM has done is impressive, but it is not complicated. After decades of enduring freakish workarounds, murdered products, and cobbled-together DIY solutions, WiiM has created a line of simple, affordable, intuitive audio streamers that I can recommend to anyone, including my aunt. It accomplished this feat by doing something that Apple, Google, and countless other giant companies never thought to do, something so obvious that they should feel deeply embarrassed and ashamed: it listened to enthusiasts and gave them exactly what they wanted.