Slim Devices Squeezebox 3 network music player
Computer-to-stereo music streaming goes mainstream
All this suggests a strong link to a host computer, but Squeezebox 3 doesn't become redundant if you turn your Mac off or you leave your PC at work. The box can talk to Slim Devices' own SqueezeNetwork servers, using them to relay internet radio streams to your Squeezebox. There's a lag, of course, but unless you're using the station to check the time, that shouldn't matter. In any case, the Squeezebox itself can tell you the hour and the date. There's even an alarm clock.
The upshot is a system you can use all the time, though you still have to use your computer to set up SqueezeNetwork. This is the easiest way to add specific stations' stream URLs to the player, but you can enter them usng the web interface. Slim Devices has added a small selection of suggested stations to get you started.
Squeezebox separate Internet Radio and SqueezeNetwork menu items, which is unnecessary and confusing - which do you use? Slim Devices needs to integrate these near-identical options. Recursion lovers will be interested to know the Internet Radio menu is duplicated within the SqueezeNetwork menu.
Squeezebox has always been focused on music, and it's refreshing that there's been no attempt to shoehorn video in, just for the sake of it, though I'm sure its time will come. While the original model was aimed at the MP3 user, the latest version has support for AAC - made popular in the intervening time by Apple's iTunes - and it's gain the ability to decode compressed formats like Apple Lossless, FLAC, Ogg and WMA, all without the need to do a software decode then stream uncompressed audio across the network. Alas, there's still no DRM support, but on the Apple side at least, that's not Slim Devices' fault.
Squeezebox 2 introduced a new audio processing system centred on a 24-bit Texas Instruments Burr-Brown digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) that's said to be one of the best in the business. Both the DAC and the line-out amplification stages have their own linear power regulators, and the Squeezebox generates a full 6V line-out signal. The result: a signal to noise ratio of over 100dB and a total harmonic distortion of under -93.5dB (0.002 per cent).
That's the audiophile-friendly numbers out of the way - for the rest of us, it means the sound quality is as good as it gets. You're limited by the fidelity of the compressed source material and, of course, whatever audio equipment you connect your Squeezebox output ports to. Streaming over MP3 tracks and Radio Paradise internet radio streams to my separates system was a joy. Smooth transmission and excellent audio reproduction made it a real pleasure to use.
Ditto the set-up, which apart from the aforementioned indexing period, was entirely smooth. Choose your WLAN - or LAN, of course - enter your access passphrase and you're away. The box will scan the network for running SlimServers, and connect accordingly.