Music Streaming for the Hi-Fi Set

Slim Devices Transporter Networked Music Player

Slim Devices has set out to build a hifi version of its successful Squeezebox with components that meet audiophile standards. The result is the Transporter, a stylish component that sets a new standard for design and sound quality among wireless music players.

One of the slickest parts of the Transporter design is right up front: dual vacuum fluorescent displays, with VU meters that light up to show levels for the left and right channels. The center knob works as a volume control, and buttons across the front are used to manage track selection, browsing, and playback (the IR remote also can be used). Slim Devices added a high-end DAC, power regulators, and balanced and unbalanced signals for its analog and digital interfaces. On the back, you’ll find optical, BNC, coax, and XLR digital inputs and outputs. If you have music that was sampled at bit rates higher than CD—96kHz is often used in live recordings, for example—the Transporter can handle those data streams as well.

To get up and running, download the software that scans your PC drives and enables streaming over Ethernet or WiFi to the player. If you have firewalls on your PC, or in the network, you may need some help getting set up, and fortunately Slim Devices has excellent tech support. You can plug the transporter into a traditional stereo, or even amplified speakers, and it supports just about every audio file format under the sun. (Apple’s DRM-restricted iTunes tracks are not playable, however.)

I used the Transporter on a wireless network, over Ethernet, and plugged into a high-end stereo system. The sound quality was noticeably better than the Squeezebox with clean, bright midrange and highs, and tight bass response. The overall sound quality was also better than most of the media servers we reviewed recently, which had price tags ranging from $1500 to $5000. If you have a hi-fi system and music encoded in lossless and uncompressed formats, the Transporter is definitely worth checking out. TPV

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