Slim Devices Transporter high-end digital audio player
Audiophile device transports music to a new level?
Exclusive Preview Mountain View, California is the home of start-ups. Turn any corner and it's likely there'll be a name you recognise. Some have grown into huge companies, and some, like Netscape, have disappeared, recalled only by the boards that used to display their logos. Turning down what looks like a residential street, there's a small building that turns out to be the home of Slim Devices, best known as a maker of consumer-friendly music streamers. But now it's chasing the big time with a device for the audiophile arena...
Slim Devices' players have constantly been improved over time, with the latest incarnation being the Squeezebox 3 - you can read Reg Hardware's full review here. As a sub-$300 unit, the Squeezebox pretty well dominates its market and it does a very good job. However, there have been criticisms, the main one being that it's not an audiophile product.
Enter the Transporter, announced in July as Slim Devices' foray into the very high-end market. It's not cheap - expect to pay around $2,000 when it launches later this year. Availability is anticipated for mid to late September.
Slim Devices has a clever approach to music streaming: put the intelligence into the music server software - it's called SlimServer - so the hardware only needs to decode music streams and drive the displays. That's not to say the player lacks brains. There is some intelligence in the player and that's where Slim Devices does its magic - and maintains its secrets. This code is tightly controlled by Slim Devices.
Other companies wouldn't dream of pre-announcing a product so early. But Slim Devices is in strange position: it has to. While the core functionality delivered by SlimServer are driven by Slim Devices, the code's open source so much of the development work is carried out by the community who make the client do interesting things apart from just stream music. In order to support the new features of Transporter, the server needs to be updated, and to do that the software development community needs to know about the new hardware well in advance of it actually shipping.
Even the internals of the Transporter have been influenced by dedicated members of the community. Some have been hired to implement various pieces of hardware or the software.
Hell, I thought it said Slim Devices Trainspotter! Here I was all set to configure one with my webcam feeds from Weymouth and Barnetby! Anyone know if the Slim Server can be hacked to provide image recognition and logging?
They really are hifi
The SqueezeBox 3 was reviewed in the latest issue of Stereophile and got excellent marks. The editor bought it for his use. For the average person, ripping a CD and replaying it via SlimServer will probably yield better results (a lot less jitter, for example) than playing it on a less than state-of-the-art CD player.
I tried comparing FLAC with the WinAmp alt-preset-standard MP3 encoding and can hear little if any difference, so I decided a factor of 4 compression versus 2 is worth it for my 20,000 classical tracks.
The SqueezeBox is a truly great product, and I use it also to listen to internet streams (like the BBC Proms concerts).
"CD transports...guess at bits if they can't read them quick enough"
Of course CD players have error correction and interpolation, which may be what you're meaning with your rather strange comment. But whether you're playing through the CD player's DAC itself or this device will make no difference - any uncorrected errors will still be there. And whether you replay an MP3 file through a £20 Chinese player or this device will also make no difference - these sort of bit errors will not be there. So I don't understand the point you are trying to make.
"Sounded very good"?
"All I can say is I did see it working, it was playing lossless stuff and sounded very good."
...because you were bamboozled by all the shiny things and flashing lights and spectrum analyser displays. As has been mentioned before, a double blind test (using different sources, but the same material, amplifiers and loudspeakers, to keep them out of the equation) is the ONLY way to compare things like this. Otherwise, you simply have no reference point, and if you know what you're listening to, the brain will play so many tricks on you. Please try to be a little bit scientific, and avoid descending into the sort of self-serving drivel that is spouted by the hifi comics.
Lavry DA10 also a contender
While this box definitely has functionality to spare, there are other products which may do better at D/A conversion for serious listeners. Among those is the Lavry DA10:
I mention this specifically because in at least one head-to-head with the DAC1, which you mention above, it won in terms of audio quality:
Anyways, one of the interesting comments in the shootout linked above is that it takes some time for a real evaluation of the pros and cons of a new toy in the audio chain to be determined. For this particular review the reviewer spent a number of months with both the DAC1 and the DA10 before drawing conclusions. That's probably not a possibility for most reviewers, but it's something to consider when reading product reviews.