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Product Reviews
The Slim Devices Squeezebox3

Introduction

Special thanks to Sean, Dean and Patrick at Slim Devices for loaning a Squeezebox3 for this review. I had originally intended to review the Squeezebox2 that I had purchased for myself, but they suggested I review their latest product and graciously provided one to me for review purposes. They have spent a lot of time and probably a lot of money on this new design and would like to show it off.

What if you could have a device that could play MP3s from your PC? Hardly innovative, right? Well, what if it could interface with your PC wirelessly? A bonus, certainly, but still no big deal. But what if the player could be controlled from any PC on your network? What if it could play dozens of compressed, uncompressed and lossless file types? What if it could interface with the Internet directly without the PC for playing Internet radio streams? What if it could be used as a wireless bridge? What if its features greatly expanded as the PC software evolved? And what if the device was built with very high-end audio components for superior sound? Would you be interested?

That device is the Slim Devices Squeezebox.

History

While you may never have heard of Slim Devices, this small start-up originated the networked audio player market back in 2001. The concept behind the company was to produce a slim device, minimalistic on the player client side and powered mostly by the server. The theory behind this is that adding functionality and features to the player client is complex and expensive. CPU and firmware resources are at a premium. However, providing the computing horsepower and features on the server side is much easier and cheaper. It also makes implementing radical changes trivial by comparison.

The Slim Devices Squeezebox3, now referred to again as the Squeezebox, is the company's 4th generation product. The company's first product was the SLIMP3, a 10 Mbps Ethernet-only, MP3-playback-only device. The first Squeezebox added 802.11b wireless capability with WEP security, a larger buffer, a larger screen and many more playback formats. A Squeezebox update was the addition of a graphical display, which could be installed by the user in earlier Squeezeboxes. The Squeezebox2 updated the Squeezebox hardware with 802.11g wireless networking, WPA security, a very large buffer, an even larger display, improved audio circuitry and support for more audio formats. The latest Squeezebox product, which just started shipping November 1st, shares its hardware with the Squeezebox2 but uses an entirely new housing, a filter to change the screen colour to aqua and a new power supply that emits less radio interference. Support for native WMA decoding was introduced, which also updated the Squeezebox2. The company's thinking is that the external looks finally match the unit's internal sophistication.

The Hardware

The Squeezebox's housing is a brand new look for the company. It is composed of brushed aluminum, an aqua-coloured display and gloss black finish around the sides and back; white is also available. It looks extremely stylish - almost Mac-like.

Squeezebox
Fig. 1    Squeezebox (Click Image to Enlarge)

It's sitting on top of my Energy C-5 right speaker, which seems to have been made for it!

This is a radical design change for the company, which housed the first Squeezebox and the Squezebox2 in an angular, boxy housing with a prominent external antenna:

Squeezebox2
Fig. 2    Squeezebox2 (Click to Enlarge)

The most eye-catching part of the Squeezebox design is the gorgeous 320 X 32 X 2-line graphical vacuum fluorescent display that's really a sight to behold. These sorts of graphical displays are usually only used in commercial and industrial devices as they are simply too expensive for consumer-level devices. Consumer manufacturers have moved on to LCD displays instead. But Slim devices, in a decision which gives you an idea about the philosophy of this company, found backlit LCDs too dim to be read from across a room and decided not to sacrifice quality to save cost.