Browsing Tag
streaming audio

As seen with constant talk of home theater PCs (HTPCs) and dedicated streaming devices like the previously reviewed Slim Devices Squeezebox 3, the innovation extending to the living room is clearly establishing a new battlefield for superiority. Roku enters the ring with their SoundBridge M1000 streaming media player which provides yet another worthy addition to the battle with the ability to play your vast collection without the need for any special software, in most cases.

The cylindrical shaped SoundBridge M1000 provides a means of streaming your music collection, in virtually any format, to the living room via wired or wireless connections. The reviewed unit came with both capabilities, and while the hardwire connection may be the most reliable; the wireless is the most convenient. The wired connection was ready right out of the box either on your home network or a cross-over connection to a PC acting as a media server. The wireless connection, however, was a bit troublesome to get working correctly.

The unit detected a generic local IP after being connected to my desktop and all I needed to do was open iTunes and the unit immediately saw my collection, loaded my playlists, and I was ready to go.

Setting up the wireless took a bit more head scratching as why the device wouldn’t connect to my standard Linksys Wireless Router. For starters the device doesn’t support WPA encryption, but this isn’t a major drawback if you use WEP in combination with MAC address filtering. After adding the MAC address of the unit to my router the device still wouldn’t connect. It took a Google search for previous reviews and information to locate the problem: the device runs on the 802.11b protocol rather than the faster 802.11g. Be as it may, my router was set for G-Only devices and a simple change to allow both b and g devices proved the culprit. A quick glance of the manual and packaging shows it to be “compatible with all wireless-b and wireless-g networks” but never explicitly stating the unit uses the slower protocol.

Since my collection is comprised almost entirely of unprotected AAC files and MP3s there was no compatibility problems. All in all the number of formats accepted is impressive including AAC, MP3, WAV, AIFF, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, and WMA (DRM-protected). The last one is particularly impressive and gives a slight leg up to Windows Media services since the device cannot play protected AAC files from the iTunes Music Store. To play your tunes you can use a variety of music servers including Windows Media Connect, iTunes, Rhapsody, Musicmatch Jukebox, and SlimServer which is not supported by Roku but will work.

Testing the unit with iTunes proved to be easy even with a vast collection of music. Booting up the unit (which can only display two lines of text), you’d think it would be hard to sift through thousands of music files but an ingenious navigation system helps to eliminate the monotony of constantly scrolling through items. When a list of items is presented you’re able to push left or right on the provided remote control to cycle through the letters of the alphabet and jumping the scrolling to the particular letter. This allows for quick selections and easy access to even the largest collections of music.

The device itself is small, slightly longer than a DVD case on its side and about the diameter of a can of tennis balls. The display, although smaller than you would expect, provides enough information and the aforementioned scrolling enhancements limit the real estate needed to gain the similar functions of streaming music players with larger screens. The two tone color scheme (silver and black) is pretty standard for most electronic devices in this day and age as is the green colored display.

You connect to your stereo with either the provided RCA-to-mini cable or the optional SPDIF digital or optical SPDIF digital cables. The plugs are clustered, along with the AC adapter input, on the rear of the unit on the left side with the wired Ethernet connection residing on the opposite end. Also located on the back are two screw holes for use with the optional mounting unit which is not included in the standard package.

Finally, the M1000 includes a basic web interface which allows you to see the current music track that is playing, control your music with basic controls (next track, previous track, play, pause, etc.) as well as adjust volume and preset internet radio stations. Surprisingly you cannot create playlists and queues with this interface which is slightly disappointing, even if it does interface directly with media programs that allow this.

While the Roku SoundBridge M1000 doesn’t offer the larger display of its larger sibling product, the innovative scrolling ability makes it easy to locate and play music. The out-of-the-box wired connection availability is impressive and since iTunes is a standard program on many PCs the lack of dedicated software is an impressive addition to allow novices to get the device working correctly. The wireless connection experienced can be chocked up to just a manual omission rather than a problem with the unit because installation when incredibly smooth after the problem was discovered.

The SoundBridge M1000 offers the right amount of features for its relatively low list price of $199.99 for the wireless compatible version and offers anyone the ability to extend their music collection to all corners of their home. The M1000 comes highly recommended as a very compact and impressive streaming music device sure to please everyone from techie to newbie.


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.