At first glance, the Squeezebox 3 Network Music Player has a sturdy, elegant appearance—brushed aluminum and black finish, with a bright blue dot matrix LED display—and fits in nicely with a home stereo system. The installation of networked audio devices like this used to be a chore, but once you download and install the SlimServer software, the setup here is a breeze. Using the remote, you simply scroll through a series of screens, and within minutes you’re up and streaming music from PC to Squeezebox to home stereo. The LED is easily viewable from 8-10 feet away, and you use the remote to browse music by album, artist, or genre—and it even lets you search.Alternately, you can use the software on your PC to manage the music, or better yet, a wireless device with a Web browser.
One big advantage for those of you with large and varied compressed audio collections is that Squeezebox supports a bevy of file formats—MP3, AAC, WMA, Ogg—as well as lossless formats such as FLAC, WMA, and AAC lossless. It’s worth noting that the Roku Soundbridge, the most similar device on the market, does not support FLAC and other lossless formats. The Squeezebox also supports WEP and WPA encryption, so you can keep the clamps on your WiFi network while you use Squeezebox.
In terms of connections, the Squeezebox has RCA outputs and a 3.5mm headphone jack, and the sound quality is surprisingly good using these, in part due to the Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC. Using a Logitech iPod speaker, I compared the sound quality of the very same tracks on my iPod, and then the Squeezebox, and noticed no difference. For even better sound, though, you can utilize the digital outputs, namely TosLink optical and coaxial digital S/PDIF.
If you are looking for a versatile, inexpensive system for playing high-quality digital audio throughout the house, the Squeezebox presents an elegant and powerful solution. Moreover, Slim Devices recently announced a big brother to the Squeezebox, an audiophile-grade box dubbed the Transporter, which is due out in September. TPV