When Slimdevices released its third iteration of the Squeezebox network media player in 2005, we instantly fell in love with it. It managed to be both the simplest and most effective device we'd seen at the time. So when the news came that Logitech was going to be taking over the Squeezebox, we couldn't help but feel a little worried. Fortunately, Logitech has not only managed to maintain the elegant functionality of the original, but has also added its own developments.
The basic concept of the Squeezebox remains the same - it's unbelievably simple. We were listening to Internet radio literally within five minutes of opening the box. Fifteen minutes later we had downloaded and installed the SlimServer software and began to stream our music straight to the player. The ease of use on this thing really is incredible; you can control it from either the back-end through SlimServer, or the internet-based SlimNetwork, or you can just use the remote control. Just plug it in to your current speakers, enter the details for your wired or wireless network, and you're ready to go.
This simplicity, however, doesn't mean that the Squeezebox is basic. It can play back a wide range file types, including rarer formats such as Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, and Apple and WMA lossless formats. The only major omission we discovered was the inability to play DRM (Digital Rights Management) encoded tracks downloaded from the Apple iTunes store. In the current environment of online music downloads, an area in which the iTunes store is immensely popular, this is a fairly large disadvantage for the Squeezebox, as iTunes store patrons won't be able to play music they've downloaded.
Apart from this, the Squeezebox is still the streaming powerhouse we remember. Sound quality is great, and we didn't notice any distortion or degradation whilst streaming music, although ultimately this will depend a lot on individual speakers, network setups and file types. One of the best features of the Squeezebox is SqueezeNetwork, which is a collection of online services that you can access, as long as your Squeezebox is hooked up to an Internet connection. SqueezeNetwork includes thousands of radio stations, the ability to control your Squeezebox online, and a nifty service called MP3 locker. For a small fee, you can upload as many MP3 files as you want to your locker, and stream then straight to your Squeezebox. This is probably one of the coolest features of SqueezeNetwork - you don't need to be connected to a computer. You can just connect the Squeezebox to a router with an Internet connection and play all your files that way. Never mind the convenience, the power-saving alone makes this a great feature.
Logitech has also taken the time to give the Squeezebox a quick design overhaul, with a new black case. Connection options on the back include optical, coaxial, analogue two-channel audio, and Ethernet. Our only complaint is that the front-panel screen is a little small, comprising of only a single line. This can be bothersome when scanning through the thousands of radio stations available online. Although you can jump to the first letter of the station name with the remote, you'll still need to cycle through over a hundred stations, at times, to find the one you want. Still, it's a very attractive unit, and should suit most audio systems very nicely.
Overall, Logitech's Squeezebox is a highly impressive product, retaining the excellent simplicity and power of the originals. While the inability to play iTunes store-bought music and the regional incompatibility of a few radio services are a bit more of a drawback these days, it nevertheless comes highly recommended for any music lover out there.