The Logitech/Slim Devices Transporter is the Grand Pooh-Bah of the Squeezebox line. Slim Devices claims it’s “designed to appeal to the most discerning audiophiles and music lovers…as a no-compromise attitude to component selection and electronic design.”
One major advantage the Transporter has over other Squeezeboxes as well as Apple TV and Sonos is that it can handle any digital signal up to and including 96kHz/24-bit. The Transporter is the first true high-definition digital music server available for under $2000. If you want to play high-definition digital music anywhere in your home, the Transporter is the box for you.
Where will a Transporter transport you? Like other Squeezebox units it gives you access to your own music library through Logitech’s SqueezeCenter software. The Transporter can also connect with Logitech’s SqueezeNetwork via an Internet connection. This opens up a plethora of music services including Rhapsody, Pandora, Last FM, Slacker, Deezer, Live Music Archive, and, of course, all of Internet Radio. You can also buy and download CDs from Amazon’s music store through your personal SqueezeNetwork account.
The Transporter certainly has the high-end look. With its pro-style mini-rack handles, big and bright simulated VU meters that go to +3 (the audiophile equivalent of going to 11 à la Spinal Tap), the choice of a silver or black front faceplate, and a centrally located big black knob, the Transporter has all the visual presence of a real top-shelf audio component. But as we all know, looks aren’t everything. It’s what’s inside that counts.
The Transporter utilizes three separate power supplies based on a Walter Jung design—one for the positive analog, one for the negative analog, and one for the digital circuitry. Although the Transporter uses an AKM AK4396 multi-bit Sigma-Delta reference DAC, the Transporter’s carefully configured parts-integration techniques results in 8dB quieter measurements than a stock AKM. Special attention was put into the design of the digital circuitry so it can deliver maximum clock-signal integrity. To handle different clock rates the Transporter employs multiple crystal clocks so it doesn’t resort to re-sampling or PLL devices. The Transporter’s digital circuit also re-clocks all incoming signals to reduce jitter.
Because the Transporter is more than just a networked music player it has inputs for “legacy” digital sources. It has one TosLink, one coaxial S/PDIF, one BNC S/PDIF, and one balanced AES/EBU as well as a digital word-clock input. The only thing it lacks is a USB input.
For outputs the Transporter sports one pair of unbalanced single-ended analog RCA outputs, one pair of balanced XLR analog connections, and matching digital outputs for each of its digital inputs. These digital outputs are not “pass-through” connectors because they are only active if you are using the Transporter as a source. So the Transporter is not a digital switcher, but a DAC that accepts multiple sources. The rear panel also has two WiFi antenna connectors, an Ethernet connector, a RS232 serial connector, and a standard IEC AC jack.
The Transporter’s front panel features a big bright vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) on the right side that can be configured to show VU meters, EQ volume bars, song title information, or nothing at all. The left half of the front panel has another VFD that keeps track of what’s playing when you’re not navigating through the Transporter’s many menus. In the center of the Transporter’s front panel is a large circular knob. In addition to serving as a volume control, it’s also a navigation knob that moves you from one menu choice to another. If you use the remote to operate the Transporter, you’ll never touch the front panel except to clean off accumulated dust.
The remote that comes with the Transporter is almost the same remote that you get with the basic model Squeezebox. The only difference is that the Transporter’s remote lights up when you push any of its buttons. However it doesn’t supply any feedback about whether your keypunch selection has had the desired effect. You have to look at the Transporter’s front-panel display to ascertain the remote’s efficacy. For the added cost of $299 you can buy the Logitech Duet’s remote and use it with the Transporter. The Duet remote does all the things a good remote control should do—lights up, has a color display, and, most importantly, tells you where you are in the Transporter’s multi-tiered menu system. Frankly I’m disappointed that the Transporter lacks the far superior Duet remote, but since the Transporter came to market over a year before the Duet, it’s not surprising that it doesn’t. Fortunately many Logitech dealers will sell you a Transporter bundled with the Duet remote if you wish.