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Product Reviews
The Slim Devices Squeezebox3

The Hardware con't.

The capabilities of this display simply cannot be here are three videos to show you what it is capable of! The first video shows the amazing "analog" VU meter screensaver that's fully functional:

Analog VU meter

The second video shows the full-width spectrum analyzer screensaver. The left output reads from the centre to the left while the right output reads from the centre to the right. High frequencies are in the centre, lower ones are on the edges of the display:

Spectrum Analyzer

This final video shows the "Now Playing" screen. This bold, large text is easily readable from twenty feet away or more.

"Now Playing" screen

The back of the unit is quite simple.

Rear Connections
Fig. 3    Rear Connections (Click Image to Enlarge)

From left to right is the headphone connection, the right and left analog outputs, the optical digital output which I'm using, the coaxial digital output, the Ethernet port and the power jack for the tiny "wall wart" power supply, not much bigger than an ice cube. Note that BOTH optical digital and coaxial digital outputs are included. Slim Devices offers the Squeezebox in wireless and lower-cost wired versions. In the wireless version, the unit can operate in either wired or wireless modes. If it's operating in wireless mode, plugging a PC into the Ethernet port can turn the device into a wireless bridge. The unit will operate as a wireless bridge and as a normal Squeezebox simultaneously. How cool is that?

There really isn't as much dust on top of the unit as it appears! The housing is so glossy that the overhead room lighting made it very apparent. This photo was even taken after cleaning with the included microfibre cloth.

A small and fairly mundane 3rd party remote is included, which is white for the white units:

Remote Control
Fig. 4    Remote Control

Internally, the unit contains an 802.11g wireless receiver with a large 40 Mbit (5 MB) audio buffer to avoid dropouts in adverse wireless networking conditions. This ensures playback for several minutes after the unit has lost a signal. To avoid marring the unit's looks yet have good wireless reception, there are two internal antennas.

Wireless security is through WPA or WEP, although no encryption is supported as well. WPA2+AES is coming soon. The unit can support non-broadcast SSIDs and it can use a DHCP-assigned IP address or a static IP address.

Slim Devices lavished a lot of attention on the audio circuitry to ensure high-quality playback. Two separate linear power supplies are used for the DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) and line-out stages. The device uses a 24-bit Burr-Brown DAC for its analogue output. This is better than most CD players and at least as good or better than the DACs found in most audio/video receivers. The digital audio circuits also get special treatment. Rather than use cheaper PLL-based timers, it uses dual high-precision crystal oscillators. Unlike soundcards and A/V receivers, there is no conventional digital signal processor, or DSP, used to process the sound. Instead the code sits in the unit's flash memory and portions of it are retrieved as needed. The unit's 250 MHz RISC CPU then does all the decoding work rather than a dedicated DSP chip which would not be nearly as powerful. This also means new decoding formats and performance enhancements can be added very easily. For example, the latest firmware update added native hardware WMA decoding capability.

What do all these audio terms mean, you ask? It means that Slim Devices has spared no expense to bring you the highest quality audio possible. You will have to pay careful attention to your source material as the Squeezebox can easily reveal any compromises you have made in CD ripping. It is far more accurate than a consumer-level CD player.

Oh and to tempt us, the headphone output is not merely a headphone output, it is a multi-functional "geek connector" that can enable advanced control. Currently it only supports an IR blaster that can remotely control other devices besides the Squeezebox, but other applications are possible.