Published on May 10th, 2006 | by Erich Becker0
Squeezebox 3 Streaming Audio Player
Summary: This small, powerful box expands your music library throughout the entire house
In an age where the living room is fast becoming an all digital hub and music and movies are more apt to be released via direct distribution rather than physical media consumers have only a few choices when attempting to bring these formats into the living room. Previously you had the ability to create a “media PC” capable of viewing and recording TV shows, playing streaming music, and watching DVDs, but this is both a costly endeavor and can be bulky if not constructed and cooled correctly. But there is hope in the form of Slim Devices Squeezebox V3, an audio-dedicated streaming device that brings all your audio files into the living room is a small, sleek package.
The device, slightly smaller than a DVD case on its side and about three times a thick comes in two varieties, wired LAN and wireless, and two colors black and white, and is the easiest and cheapest way to play your iTunes or favorite internet radio station throughout the house. Featuring standard outputs for composite audio, digital coax, digital optical, and headphones, the ultra portable device is easy to carry from room to room, or add to your burgeoning media center.
Initial setup of the provided software went well the first time, but not perfect. After downloading the server software and installing it, it simply wouldn’t start up. One stop to the support forums indicated that this is a problem on some initial installations and a simple reinstall booted up the web-based server (compatible with both IE and Firefox) and the wireless connection to my Squeezebox. The server software has the ability to read your entire iTunes library (sans DRM-protected files) including cover art and playlists, this is an added bonus as files never hard to find.
While not large by any means, the server software does take up about 60MB of memory while running, which doesn’t put a damper in any system running 1GB or more of RAM, or dedicated to only streaming your music. On the CPU cycle side, while running and streaming music the program only used between 02-05% which is comparable, if not slightly lower than Apple’s iTunes or Nullsoft’s Winamp.
The Squeezebox itself was easy to install, even on my protected wireless network. Through half-a-dozen set up steps you’ll enter the type of encryption, the key needed, and the IP address of the computer running the server software. Auto-detection of the Squeezebox on the server side then allows you to begin constructing a custom playlist, using one you’ve already created, or choose from a vast selection of internet radio stations. Even if your favorite station isn’t included, you need to only enter the URL or IP of the stream and the software begins playing almost immediately.
Offering a favorites option gives you one touch access (from the Squeezebox via the provided remote) to build a list of your favorite tunes. Finding music to add to that list is easy as well allowing you to search via artist, album, year, or even cover art.
The styling of the product is in line with the new wave of slick, silver devices focusing on creating a versatile conversation piece. While playing, music information is displayed via a two row display, with the bottom row about twice the height of the top. The background works as a graphic equalizer display and can be customized from a number of different options, as can the display allowing you to choose the tags on the music file (such as artist, track number, etc.) that you want to see.
Adding to an already complete package is the remote which allows all of us to embrace our American heritage of sitting on the couch and manipulating things with one finger. The remote provides access to nearly all the Squeezebox’s functions without having to get up and bother with the server software. Even the little things like alarm clock settings which wake you up to a specified song bring a smile to your face when you think of the possibilities.
There’s such a plethora of options associated with the Squeezebox it’s nearly impossible to go through them all in a timely, entertaining manner. Let it be know that those looking to bring their digital music collection into the living room without the budget or technical know how of building a media PC, the Squeezebox offers a user-friendly, beautiful looking alternative that is a must purchase for anyone looking to stay on top of the technological curve.
This little streaming box that could is a definite recommendation for anyone.