The new network music player from Slim Devices approaches perfection - a simple to setup, simple to use device that does exactly what it is designed for.
Whether your music is in the form of files stored on a server (with support for MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WAV, and Ogg Vorbis formats), or you prefer to listen to music streamed from Internet radio stations, this marvellous little box does it all.
The original offering from Slim was the SliMP3, which I reviewed here. I have been using this player for a few years without problems. Although it only shipped with a wired Ethernet interface, I managed to make it wireless as documented here.
The new Squeezebox adds wireless 802.11g capability natively, so there is no need to bridge any longer. In fact, the Squeezebox can act as a bridge for other devices.
Physically, things have moved from "industrial chic" to "sleek modern". The Squeezebox is physically attractive and scores an almost perfect Spousal Acceptance Factor (SAF) of 9.5. The only remaining spouse complaint is that there are still wires for the power supply and audio connections. Unless and until power generation and audio hook ups become wireless, this will have to do.
Setup was a breeze, just like on the original SliMP3, but with the added menu choices for entering the wireless security key. There are also menus for setting a screen saver, and for creating favourites. Internet Radio stations are directly accessible, as are RSS news feeds.which can be scrolled as the screen saver.
One noticeable improvement is the remote control. Unlike the original SliMP3 which shipped with a generic Sony remote, the Squeezebox comes with a proper remote designed for the unit. The keys are clearly marked, and it is easy to navigate and select choices.
The only strange omission is the lack of a STOP key. You can pause, but there is no key for stopping play permanently.
At the other end of the network, there is a piece of software that runs as the server. This software is available in Windows, Apple, and Linux flavours. It is downloaded from the Slim web site, and under Windows, can be installed to start automatically every time you boot your PC.
Administration of the server is done through a normal web browser. There are a whole host of addon programs called plugins that have been developed by other users. These plugins provide functionality ranging from the display of information such as weather, news, and sports scores, to diagnostic displays of network throughput, through blogs, phones books and emails.
Once you realize that the Squeezebox is a network connected display with codecs and outputs, the possibilities are endless.
The audio output connections have improved with the addition of a digital optical output, a digital coax output, and a mini headphone jack. A wired Ethernet port still exists for those times where wireless won't work, or you want to bridge other devices through the Squeezebox.