“Slim Devices offers excellent support with their software and installation, and the documentation is terrific.”
- Good value; attractive design; open source software; minimal latency
- Does not support DRM protected iTunes songs; device plugs are too close to the stand
If you’re like many others progressing with technology in the 21st century, you probably have a great deal of music on your computer. However, because our computers don’t always tend to be portable or aesthetically pleasing, we usually tend to not have them near our home stereo system. We’re then presented with the problem of having our music stuck in one place when it really should be in another. Enter the latest version of Squeezebox, the V3; Squeezebox V3 is a wired and wireless digital music solution for the home that allows you to easily stream music from your computer to your stereo. With features such as track listing, multiple OS support, and built-in 802.11g wireless, you’ll be sure to get some great use out of this little box from Slim Devices.
Features and Design
Opening the Squeezebox was an enjoyable experience. The device came packaged in a rather small box with almost no clutter inside. The contents consist of audio cables for your stereo, a remote with batteries, a power cord, an Ethernet cable, manuals, and the SlimServer software on a CD.
Slim Devices are by no means newcomers to the game of streaming home audio. They’ve been around for a while now and the Squeezebox is not a new product at all. However, this latest version of the Squeezebox could justifiably be called a new product. This is an audio solution that is not only stylish and done right, but also affordable for most. Not everyone can go out and splurge one grand on a SONOS digital music system, so Squeezebox is an excellent alternative.
The box itself is a long and thin enclosure with a bar to help it stand up like a picture frame. The top half is a large, high-resolution vacuum fluorescent display that does an excellent job of showing track titles, artists, and menus. Color could have worked here and might have been nice with an LCD display, but that would have made the price higher; besides, it isn’t necessary, to be quite honest. The bottom half of the device has a sleek metallic finish designed to make the device look nice. Some buttons down here would have been a welcome feature, but again, the included remote control makes up for it.
Flipping the device around to the back, you’ll find the ports and plugs of the Squeezebox. Starting from the left and working your way right, you’ll have access to: a headphone mini-jack port, RCA cable (red and white) outputs, digital optical output, digital coax output (orange), an Ethernet port, and a plug for the AC adaptor. A problem lies very close to these plugs, however, in the form of a stand; the stand works great and keeps the device upright at all times, but comes within millimeters too close to some of the outlets. A good example is when I had to plug the power adaptor in and it practically rubbed up against the bar. Slim Devices could have positioned the ports a bit higher up to fix this problem; hopefully they will do that in the future.
Image Courtesy of Slim Devices
The remote that came with Squeezebox is a simple black device with playback buttons, an “Add” button for adding songs to your playlists, volume control, power, a range of option buttons such as “Shuffle” and “Brightness,” a D-pad, and a numeric keypad. The numeric keypad also works like a cell phone so that you can tap a number a certain amount of times to enter a letter on the Squeezebox.
In addition to having an excellent piece of hardware, Slim Devices’ software, SlimServer, is open source and works very nicely. It can be installed under any operating system that is compatible with Perl, so for the 1% of you out there using Solaris or BSD as your multimedia computer, you’re in luck. SlimServer works through your web browser and allows you to control playback, change volume, create playlists, and more–all without the need for software. The GUI is easy to use and is pretty straightforward. You can get it in Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux RPM packages, as well as Perl Source Code.
Image Courtesy of Slim Devices
Setup and Use
After unpacking everything, I decided I should probably visit the company website and download the latest version of the SlimServer software. Sure enough, version 6.2.1 was the latest, and within minutes I was setting it up. It was incredibly easy to install for Mac OS X and only took a few minutes to complete it. Slim Devices is very helpful with guiding you in the right direction, which is something you usually won’t find with most companies.
Once installed, SlimServer wanted to find where my music was located. Either I could choose a folder and let it scan away or I could import my existing iTunes library; I chose the latter, since I use iTunes for all my music needs. Within a minute or two, my entire library was indexed and ready for playback. I still had to install the actual Squeezebox, though, before I could crank any tunes out. The problem is that any tracks bought off the Tunes Music Store can’t be played due to DRM restrictions. So, until Apple fixes this for third parties, you’ll either have to go without your music or burn it to a CD and re-rip it into MP3 format.
Upstairs where my home stereo system is, I connected the Squeezebox to my receiver with RCA cables and hooked it up to my router via Ethernet. After plugging the box in and going through a very easy and quick setup, I was ready to stream music. Anyone with even the slightest grasp on technology will be able to set up the Squeezebox and get music streaming in no time.
Squeezebox also has built-in 802.11g wireless capabilities that allow you to easily join your existing home network and stream music wirelessly so you don’t have to run cables everywhere. You just use the remote to select your network, enter in the WEP key (if it isn’t provided for you), and you’re connected. It’s very easy to use and a great feature, which really makes the Squeezebox worth the money.
When using SlimServer through your web browser, you’ll need to create a playlist for use with your Squeezebox. You cannot play songs without adding them to a playlist first, which was a minor annoyance in the beginning, but I got used to it quickly. You can easily browse through your artists, albums, and genres to get to your favorite tracks. It works in a tier-based sequence, so if you want to add an entire album or artist you can easily do so just by clicking the “Add to Playlist” button.
Click for a larger image
The screen is split into your music collection on the left and your current playlist and controls on the right. Clicking a song on the right will play that song through the Squeezebox in crisp, hi-fi sound through your stereo. You can remove songs from the playlist, move song order, and control volume with the click of a mouse. Being able to control volume remotely is a very nice feature; it means I don’t have to run upstairs to my stereo every time my girlfriend yells at me that my prog rock is playing too loud. I can just stay on my iMac downstairs, lower the volume from a 10 to a 3, and be done with it. As a tribute to “Spinal Tap” fans, you do have the ability to crank the volume up to 11. No joke. The volume ranges from 1 to 11. You can even power off the device if you’re not using it and don’t want to jack up your electricity bill.
When using both Ethernet and Wireless with Squeezebox, never once did quality or latency become an issue. You’ll never need to worry about your music getting interrupted unless your dog trips over the power cord to your computer (or something of that nature). This is what makes Squeezebox a great product and better than a cheaper, shoddier solution that isn’t dedicated solely to music, such as a Media Center PC. If you want a no-nonsense, hassle-free music experience, this is the way to go.
Compared with other systems, you have to realize what you’re getting. For $249.99, you can get the Squeezebox without wireless, or for $50 more, you can get the version with 802.11g built in. For someone looking to stream music to his or her home theater system wirelessly, you cannot find a better deal than the $299.99 version of Squeezebox. It does the job it’s supposed to do, it does it well, and it has zero latency. You don’t need much more than that. If you demand more, step up to a SONOS digital music system, but be prepared to spend upwards of $1000 to make it work throughout your entire home.
Image Courtesy of Squeezebox
Slim Devices’ latest version of the Squeezebox is a hit. Great features, open-source software, wireless compatibility, and a remote make it worth your time and money. The price is affordable for those who are looking for a wireless music solution but don’t want to break the bank or give up their savings. Slim Devices offers excellent support with their software and installation, and the documentation is terrific. The player has a few design flaws that can be overlooked by most and is very easy to set up. Do yourself a favor: if you’ve been using your computer to listen to music for the past year, get out of that habit and get into Squeezebox. You’ll appreciate your music freely flowing through the crisp speakers of a stereo system, as opposed to being confined to a chair and listening to your music through built-in speakers.
- Open-source software
- Excellent price
- No latency or interference with music on both wired and wireless connections
- Sleek design
- No playback for songs bought using the iTunes Music Store
- Device plugs are too close to the stand
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