And of course, on top of all this, the Transporter is laden with all of the fancy technological garnishes that make the Squeezebox 3 one of the tastiest wireless music streaming devices around. It has a wonderfully clear and bright display that helps you browse through your music collection with ease. It can be used as a wireless bridge so that wired Ethernet-only devices you use in your living room can still interface with your wireless network. You can use it to listen to Internet radio too, while the addition of the Alien BBC plugin gives direct access to the BBC’s DAB stations and listen again services. It’s driven at the PC end by the highly capable SlimServer software, among whose multifarious talents is the ability to stream music to any connected computer. And it’s also compatible with an absolutely huge variety of music files from MP3, AAC, WMA and Ogg Vorbis to lossless file formats such as Apple Lossless, FLAC and WMA Lossless.
As with the Squeezebox 3, the Transporter won’t play DRM encrypted files. However, because the Transporter is principally aimed at those who own systems that will ruthlessly expose the shortcomings of compressed file formats, and those who will principally be listening to their music via lossless formats, it’s not such a big negative.
The feast of features on offer is truly impressive then. But no matter how good the dish looks or how good the ingredients, if it ends up tasting rotten and the service isn’t much cop, you’re going to walk away with a bad taste in your mouth. And in this respect the Transporter hasn’t quite got it right.
Let’s start with the chassis and general build quality. Call me picky, but I think that the Transporter feels a little insubstantial and flimsy for a component that costs a penny shy of £1,300. In fact when the courier first dropped it off, I asked him to wait while I checked the Transporter was inside the box; it just felt too light. And though the display is wonderfully clear, the digital reproduction VU meters, which light up your rack like a Christmas tree, are going to look a touch out of place next to most hi-fi buffs’ minimalist componentry. Luckily, the display can be turned off when it is not required.
Apart from personal preference, though, there is some audio logic to the former complaint. Lighter and more flexible panels tend to vibrate along with the music, and those vibrations can also affect the electronic components inside. Electrolytic capacitors, for instance, used often in the output stages of audio components, are particularly susceptible to vibrations. In fact a popular – and successful – upgrade for CD players is to damp such panels using some kind of heavy material. Lead or bitumen sheeting is often employed in the search for increased performance.