Further to the earlier Yamaha mention that sounds quite dismal...I can confirm Yamaha music cast products can be made to work reliably with smart choices. The caveats most likely apply to other product (brands) that are available as they come down to transmission methods. The software, for me, hasn't had a hissyfit for a long old time so I would suggest it is reliable at this juncture. It was however almost unusable before I sorted out my network (i.e. don't try with WiFi)...which is why I can confirm Yamaha's support is pretty bad (as has been suggested)
I will start with the caveats and follow up with a lessons learned and opinion section (how to make it reliable)
* the biggest caveat is avoid using wifi if you can. It's an unreliable tech and the more devices you have the worse the problems gets.
- Newer Wifi tech N etc.. just makes connections less reliable.
- Higher throughput is traded for more susceptibility to noise (dect phones, fridges, washing machines, other wifi networks)
- Signal power drops off faster over distance on higher frequencies/throughput
- higher frequencies travels less well through walls etc..
which all means you might want to try and stick it on a slower network in an attempt to get a more stable link...even if it's still a little unreliable because that's the the nature of wifi.
* use streaming technologies, don't use analogue sources. Even if you're on a gigabit wired LAN you will still get delays when using Analogue sources (this includes playback via HDMI).
This is normal as the analogue signal is converted on the fly and sent out over the network...which will mean conversion delays + transmission delays.
* Digital output wise :
- the media monkey DNLA server works...but searching is clunky from most dnla clients
- "cast to" from media monkey works although I have experienced dropouts that require manual intervention (making a stable [non wifi] network a must)
- setting media monkey player to use a streaming output (player settings page) works
- bluetooth from a phone works (but blootooth is more restrictive and less reliable than wifi)
* Pretty much all their AV kit supports MusicCast (bottom of the line will be wifi only).
* They have "just speaker" options.
- WX-010 is wifi only so I would chose to avoid this one
- WX-030 is a stereo option with a wired lan connection. But with both speakers next to each other I would argue it's not a very good stereo output
- I think there's also a "powered monitor speaker", i forget the details
* They also have a variety of powered stereo amp options
As a rule I find most of the options too expensive for what they give you (same way I find sonos kit stupidly expensive) so I've plumbed for a number of AV receivers as they tended to get much bigger discounts in previous years when you buy them after the new models come out. That said they are significantly larger than some of the above options...but come with numerous speaker outputs and video processing (all mine are attached to TV's or computers), some also support a record deck. Additionally, with receivers many come with "a second zone" so out of the box without looking into networking you can run speaker cables to a second set of speakers that you have in a different room
....Unfortunately you may have missed the boat this year (heavy discount wise) as new models come out some time around march.
* compatibility. The firmware on products seems to be reliably updated for new versions of their Musiccast app (which you use to link speakers and select sources). My oldest receiver just received an update 2 days ago so longevity of support seems to an absolute minimum of 4 years, but it may well be much longer.
* the music cast app itself allows you to link devices (and zones) in any configuration you like...but they all have to be on the same network (can't go through a router). Additionally this app allows you to start playback on your digital sources. Like bluetooth, USB, DNLA servers, NET radio, napster, spotify, juke , airplay (I read complaints about reliability on this after the last update, but luckily for me I hate apple so wouldn't dream of using airplay). You can also select analogue inputs like HDMI1-N, Radio, AV1-N, Aux in but as mentioned expect delays in playback between rooms with analogue.
* to get round your wifi dependency without ripping your house apart to route fat network cables, buy flat gigabit cables and route them under the carpet, you'd hardly notice them underfoot especially if you have underlay. Also buy a second router (I still have one receiver connecting via Wifi on a slower 2.5GHz speed). connect all your normal devices to your broadband routers network and audio devices to the new wifi network...because every device runs at it's own speed and the slowest limits your routers performance
...and devices can also cause instability so even with mumimo one badly behaving device can cause a drop out (with any product, not just yamaha musiccast).
* when you have wifi connected devices make sure the network is set to allow them to see wired devices (another reason why you don't want general devices, and guests, to use the music streaming network)
* defo limit Wifi musiccast connections and keep distances short. In analogue mode you will experience significant delays for long distances (as throughput drops)...and a bit of dropouts and jumping.
* With digital over an unreliable wifi network you will get breaks in music as individual devices catch up. The delays will however be synchronised (everything stops) and it will resume from the same point. You will also have more chance of a terminal failure which translates to restarting playback because your player has stopped playback and/or sending new tracks.
* If you hook up an AV to a PC and initiate the musiccast function you no longer have access to your desktop...so setting Media Monkey to "cast to" in any way shape or form means you can't control your music from windows!
* An amazon Fire HD8 may do bluetooth linking flawlessly when an Amazon Fire HD10 tablet performs badly...until it gets an OS update...so don't bank on bluetooth being useful as you can't control how well your device will perform at any given time
***!!!*** the best option I've found so far (for playing your music) is having Auto playlists shared on the MMW DNLA server. I've avoided using the DNLA server as I find DNLA clients in general too restrictive and clunky but I've had the best results in practicality so far this way....but only because I've spent an age rating tracks and cleaning up their genre's etc.. so I can now pick say a "funk" or "Techno" or any other playlist and it will randomly play just tracks I like. And the playlist will grow automatically as long as I maintain my metadata.
* At some stage I will get round my last hurdle (searching for tracks being an absolute paint using DNLA) but until I have had time to find a no niggle solution where you don't lose apps and such offscreen (having a second monitor direct to the TV on a different channel has been tried) this is my best suggestion....lots of auto playlists for your different "moods" and "scenarios".
~ I have not tried a HDMI splitter (most are limited to 4K or 1080p and and I have an odd resolution
~ If you have two HDMI outputs (this is what I will try next) you can set multiscreen on the PC and have it "mirror" the output. I will update this post when I've had time to try this
* If you get an AV, unless you want to rely heavily on subwoofers, don't buy a "speaker package". The speakers are often limited on frequency ranges, and have very disappointing bass responses (and often limit your cable choices to 15-16 guage or above)....only buy stereo speakers (preferably with terminal posts if you want to give it some welly). Because of the number of speakers you can attach to an AV receiver I've plumbed for wharfedale diamond 9's because they are front ported, give reasonable bass/volume for there size...and more importantly (in the UK) richer sounds keep sticking these on reduced price deals (I've seen them go as low as £40 several times)
* Yamaha's Alexa skills barely work and are pretty clunky so don't get excited if you see mention of this
Hopefully this is more than enough info for you, and anyone else who might be interested, to avoid many of my hard learned lessons (whatever you chose in the end as some of this is generic info)...