Once the Touch was set up in my room system, the fun really began. Since both the TosLink and coaxial digital outputs are active, it was easy to try different digital connection schemes and compare the results. At first I set up the Touch so it ran through my Meridian 518 digital-processing device before the signal went into my Meridian 568.2 controller. With this hook-up method, the sonic differences between the Squeezebox Touch and Duet were nil. Going back and forth using the same 44.1/16 digital file source I couldn’t reliably tell one from the other. But once I hooked both units directly into the Meridian 568.2 via their RCA coaxial outputs, the differences between the units were more pronounced. I noticed the Touch had a more three-dimensional soundstage with a better sense of depth. Also dimensional cues and subtle low-level details were more apparent through the Touch. When I tried streaming Internet radio sources, I couldn’t discern any sonic differences between the Touch and the Duet. MP3 files through the two units were also essentially identical. My conclusion was that to hear the Touch’s sonic improvements over the Duet you have to use at least a lossless 44.1/16 file for your listening tests.
Next I compared the Touch to a Meridian 598 DP DVD/CD transport with the original CD in the Meridian and its matching digital file on the Touch. Overall, I’d call this comparison a sonic dead heat. The 598 was a bit more harmonically lush, but this lushness came at the expense of dynamic contrast and inner detail. The Touch was more matter-of-fact with greater dynamic ease. Both displayed riveting levels of inner detail and musical texture, but the Meridian emphasized the source’s musicality while the Touch brought the music’s dynamism to the forefront.
The best sonic results from the Touch came when it was playing higher-resolution files. I listened to a slew of my own 96/24 recordings through the Touch and it never failed to produce outstanding results. I was especially impressed by the Touch’s ability to reproduce spatial information. I have a recording I made of a live concert from the bluegrass band Long Way Home. The recording was done in a small one-room wooden schoolhouse west of Boulder, CO. The band was recorded with one stereo pair of Schoeps Collette microphones connected to a Grace Lunatec V-3 microphone preamp in M/S mode. Through the Touch it was easy to place each instrument in the soundstage and hear the wall and floor reflections. Even very subtle dimensional cues were obvious, such as the way the acoustic bass’s notes bloomed and expanded as they interacted with the room.
Economically speaking, a $300 device is not high end. But high-end audio isn’t only about economics. Performance matters. Judged strictly by that yardstick the Logitech Squeezebox Touch qualifies as a legitimate high-end component. Alone, the Touch produces musical and detailed sonics and can deliver 96/24 music files to your eager ears. Coupled with a top-echelon DAC the Touch can take you well past the first scrum in high-end sonics into the center of the playing field.
If you haven’t dipped your toes into the ocean of wireless and computer audio, the Logitech Squeezebox Touch would be an excellent craft for your maiden voyage. For less than the cost of a pair of top-quality one-meter interconnects, you can enjoy your digital music files, even 96/24 files, anywhere in your home. Let’s face it: Early adopters aren’t usually thought of as thrifty types, but considering its price and capabilities, purchasing a Squeezebox Touch may be the most parsimonious audiophile purchase you’ll ever make. Recommended? Oh, yes!
System requirements: For access to music on your computer, use Squeezebox software with the minimum system requirements: 256MB RAM and 100MB of available hard disk space. With any of the following operating systems—Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.3 or later; Windows: 733MHz Pentium running Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 7, or Windows Vista; Linux/BSD/Solaris/Other; Perl 5.8.3 or later. Broadband Internet connection required for Internet radio and music services. Stereo system or powered speakers. Ethernet or 802.11 b/g wireless home network
Audio formats: MP3, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, HE-AACv2, HD-AAC, Apple Lossless, WMA Lossless, APE, MPC and WavPack supported through transcoding (some formats may require additional software installation, depending on platform)
Internet radio: Support for MP3, Ogg Vorbis, HE-AACv2 and WMA formatted Internet Radio streams
Wireless interface: True 802.11g wireless networking; support for 802.11b and 802.11g routers and access points; throughput up to 54Mbps, high speed PCI interface to radio module
Ethernet interface: Shielded CAT5 RJ-45 connector, connects to any 100Mbps or 10Mbps network (with Auto MDX)
General: USB host connector for accessing music and photos via USB drive or USB key; SD card slot for music and photos; supports sampling rates up to 24 bit / 96 kHz; stereo analog (RCA), digital optical, and digital coax output; 4.3** (11cm) 24-bit color LCD with capacitive touchscreen; ambient light sensor to adjust display brightness according to environment; infrared proximity sensor to detect presence and wake from sleep mode