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Home > Hardware Reviews > Mobiles

Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Squeezebox Slim Devices

1. Introduction

logoOnce or twice a year I get to review something that is truly groundbreaking - almost revolutionary in what it can do. Last year, that product was the Slingbox which has gone on to capture virtually every major award for innovation (and you saw one of the first reviews right here!!)

Placeshifting - taking our media from one locale and moving to another within our wireless homes has become all the buzz. Apple just introduced iTV and Sling Media is preparing the Sling Catcher. All this is well and good for our video and TV content - but what about our music?

This, my friends, is where the Squeezebox comes in. My prediction is that the Squeezebox will do for music what the Slingbox has done for TV. The Squeezebox takes your music from your computer and de-compresses it and plays it through your home audio system. iPod playlists, MP3's and Internet radio, Pandora, Rhapsody and more. This is one amazing product. Check your bank account, make sure you have enough money and then read on for my full review.

The Squeezebox comes from Slim Devices. I like everything about this company - their Web site is easy to navigate, they have open source development allowing users to create all sorts of add ons, their instruction manuals are wonderfully put together and their product is top notch - here is what they say about themselves on their web site:

About Slim Devices

Our sole goal is to provide everyone access to their digital music collection, from any room in the home. We deliver pure digital sound without the hassle of shuffling through CDs.

It sounds like a simple goal, but it requires the combination of skills rarely integrated even in large companies.

  • Audio & Industrial Design—Our engineers and designers research the whys and wherefores of how and where people listen to music to make optimal decisions throughout the design process.
  • Server Software—Our open source software, SlimServer, does not limit the user experience to one defined by mainstream media servers.
  • Network—Our custom protocols and player firmware ensure easy set-up and maximum security.

Squeezebox will revolutionize the way you listen by freeing you and your music. Its convenient and stylish form makes it ideal for placing in any room, whether connected to an existing hifi system or simply powered speakers. By utilizing true 802.11g wireless networking and dual internal antennas, your listening is no longer restricted by cables and connectors.

Squeezebox offers you the widest choice of listening options beyond your music collection. The product includes a directory of thousands of internet radio stations and features Pandora's personalized music service and Rhapsody's 2 million song collection. All internet streaming services are even available when your computer is turned off.

Here are the Technical Specs of the Squeezebox:

Audio Outputs

Audio outputs (general)

  • Digital and analog outputs
  • All RCA connectors are gold-plated
  • Volume control is provided for all outputs
  • Multiple outputs may be used at the same time

Analog RCA outputs

  • High fidelity Burr-Brown™ 24-bit DAC
  • Two dedicated linear power regulators for DAC and line-out stages
  • Full 6.0Vpp line-level signals
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: over 100dB
  • Total harmonic distortion: less than -93.5dB (0.002%)

Digital S/PDIF outputs

  • Optical and coax digital connections
  • Dedicated high-precision crystal oscillators (no PLL, no resampling)
  • Standard IEC-958 (S/PDIF) encoding
  • Optical connector: TOSLINK 660nm
  • Coax connector: RCA, 500mVpp into 75 ohms
  • Sample rates: 44.1Khz, 48Khz
  • Audio format: linear PCM, 16 or 24 bits per sample
  • Intrinsic jitter: less than 50ps (standard deviation)

Headphone output

  • Standard 1/8" jack also functions as an IR blaster
  • Minimum headphone impedance: 16 ohms
  • Total harmonic distortion: less than 0.03%
  • Left/right crosstalk attenuation: 92dB
Audio Formats

Audio formats

  • Lossless Formats (Apple Lossless, FLAC, WMA Lossless)
    • "Bit-perfect" CD audio streaming, with reduced storage and bandwidth usage.
    • Approximately 2:1 compression ratio
  • Uncompressed formats (AIFF, WAV, PCM)
    • Supports raw pass-through of uncompressed PCM audio formats
    • Digital passthrough to S/PDIF for DTS
  • Compressed formats (MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, MP2, MusePack, WMA)
    • MPEG decoding uses MAD software, widely regarded as the most accurate, most compatible MP3 decoder.
    • High accuracy 24-bit synthesis
    • Supports all MP3 data rates and sample rates, including VBR
    • May be streamed in PCM (raw), MP3 (transcoded), or FLAC (transcoded) formats
    • Sound Check and Replay Gain support for automatic volume control.
    • Some formats may require additional software installation (e.g. Quicktime), depending on platform.

Internet Radio

  • "Always-on" Internet Radio, powered by SqueezeNetwork, lets you tune in to Internet Radio streams even when the home PC is switched off.
  • Quick selection from hundreds of Internet Radio streams offered by Slim Devices' partners.
  • Internet Radio favorites can be saved in a playlist for easy access.
  • Displays song title information during playback
  • Support for MP3, Ogg Vorbis, and WMA formatted Internet Radio streams

Tech Notes

Firmware

  • Flash upgradeable firmware
  • Network settings are stored in non-volatile memory
  • Auto-configuration for most networks
  • Easy setup for wireless networks

Architecture

  • 250 MHz 8-way multithreaded RISC processor
  • "Pure software" SlimDSP™ architecture
  • Field-upgradeable Xilinx CPLD
  • 64Mb high-speed RAM
  • 16Mb program flash
  • Low-power design, all solid-state, fanless

Network

Wireless Interface

  • True 802.11g wireless networking
  • Bridging capability allows Ethernet devices to connect to the network through Squeezebox Wireless
  • Throughput up to 54Mbps, high speed PCI interface to radio module
  • Dual antennas for improved range and throughput
  • Supports all 802.11b and 802.11g access points
  • Internal antennas: planar inverted-F antenna
  • Automatically detects available networks for quick setup
  • Supports both WPA Personal, WPA2-AES and 64/128-bit WEP encryption

Ethernet Interface

  • True 100Mbps throughput
  • Shielded CAT5 RJ-45 connector
  • Connects to any 100Mbps or 10Mbps network
  • Auto-detects full duplex and half duplex modes
  • Automatic receive polarity correction
  • Maximum cable length: 100 meters (328 feet)

Power

Power input

  • 5.0V DC, regulated
  • Center positive, sleeve ground
  • Connector: 2.5mm ID, 5.5mm OD, 11mm long
  • Min supply rating: 1000mA

Power supply

  • Switching power supply included
  • Input voltage range and plug style specific to shipping destination
  • Power supplies are small, efficient, and do not get hot
  • One of four styles is included depending on country




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