The SlimServer software also allows you to stream music directly to software media players such as Windows Media Player. That means you can stream tracks from your music collection PC to other machines on your network without having to buy another Squeezebox. It also means (if you have a static IP address) that you can access your music from a Wi-Fi connected laptop on the train to work, or a PC in a friend’s house.
And there’s more. Not only is the Squeezebox a well-featured music player, it can also be configured to act simultaneously as a wireless bridge. This means that you can use it to connect devices to your wireless network that would normally require a wired connection (your Xbox or PS2 for example). And along with streaming your music collection, there is of course, a collection of thousands upon thousands of Internet radio stations to tune into. You can also pick from a selection of RSS feeds and see news headlines scroll across the display if you want.
Despite the relatively cheap price SlimDevices hasn’t skimped on the connections, and around the back of the device you’ll find an impressive array of inputs and outputs. For simple systems, there’s a pair of RCA stereo phono outputs and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Sound quality using these is pretty impressive. The Squeezebox has a Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC inside to help things along – a DAC found in many mid-range dedicated CD players. It sounded a bit on the flat side, even when compared to my £200 Denon DVD player, but for most people there’s more than enough punch, rhythm and imaging on offer.
It comes into its own, however, when you use the digital outputs. The Squeezbox offers both Toslink optical and coaxial digital S/PDIF outputs and these can be plumbed directly into any surround sound home theatre system with digital inputs, or preferably a dedicated stereo DAC (digital to analogue converter). Coupled with lossless audio formats, the latter connection is capable of creating superb sound, only limited by how much you want to spend on your DAC circuitry.
And boy does this thing support a wide array of music formats. Not only does the Squeezebox support the usual lossy formats – MP3, WMA, AAC and Ogg Vorbis – but it also support a wide range of lossless file formats, including raw PCM, AIFF, WAV, FLAC, and both Apple and WMA lossless standards.
It won’t be for everyone, but with the Squeezebox Slim Devices has most of the wireless music bases covered. Not only is it good to listen to with the right kit, it is also very easy to use and has a myriad of ingenious features.
Sure it can’t quite match the elegance of design, engineering and sheer desirability of a Sonos system but Slim Devices’ little Squeezebox is a masterpiece of innovation and well worth the money.
Score in detail