Note: This is a combined review of both the Logitech Squeezebox Duet and the Logitech Transporter, however the ratings and price are for the Squeezebox Duet alone.
Digital media streaming is, in theory, the ultimate way to manage your music collection. Wherever your music is stored – on one PC, a bunch of PCs, a hard drive – as long as all those devices are connected to your unit, your digital music streamer can just pull down audio as you require it.
Enter Logitech with its Squeezebox family. From the everyday Squeezebox – a simple thin client that pipes your music to a regular set of speakers or modest AV rack – up to the audiophile-grade Transporter which, Logitech claims, has the cojones to give the very best CD players a run for their money.
Since all these products work together and can be managed via the Controller (which looks like a universal remote crossed with an iPod), we’ve decided to set them all up on one network and review them together.
Firstly, despite Logitech’s boast that Squeezebox unleashes your music and makes digital streaming simple enough for everyone, that only really includes people who: a) know their AV gear, b) know their PC and c) really know their wireless network.
These are not simple devices, by any stretch of the imagination. In the couple of weeks we had with them, they were much like owning an Alfa Romeo sports car: when they worked, they were sublime, fantastic, the ultimate. But at least once a week – sometimes once a day – the whole system fell down, not because of a bug or crash, but because these products are so complex you need to think of at least half a dozen things every time you turn one on.
Don’t be scared: Squeezebox is cool enough to be worth getting a degree in network management to be able to operate. Here’s how it works.
You install software on your PC called SqueezeCenter. This software runs in the background and looks for all audio files on the computer. It even has a special ability to watch your iTunes library and update itself every time you load new music onto your iPod.
Meanwhile, in the lounge room, the Transporter is plugged into your component-style AV rack. As the ‘daddy’ of the Squeezebox family, it offers audiophiles a long list of features that they look for when purchasing, say, a high-end CD player. Even down to a word-clock controller, for folks to whom that means something. (It helps synchronise the signal from digital audio devices.)
While the family audiophile is fiddling with XLR ports and whatever in the lounge, the Squeezebox client – a simple black box with a single button on the front – is connected to the consumer-grade all-in-one stereo system in the family room (or bedroom, or study or kitchen), via either an optical-out or ordinary RCAs. You can even run all five areas simultaneously, with each one receiving a different audio stream. In fact, Logitech claims that up to 55 clients can perform at once, although real-world results will be limited by your network.
Then, the music master of the house wanders around with the Controller, variously sending an uncompressed FLAC recording of a Beethoven symphony to the Transporter, while at the same time dialling in internet radio or perhaps an MP3 album onto the Squeezebox.
In short, different audio streams, to different players, in different rooms, at the same time. The only thing you have to fight about now is who gets to use the Controller.
The theory of Squeezebox sounds great, and a simple configuration of one PC, one Controller, and one Squeezebox client works perfectly. But when you start pushing the capabilities of this system, that’s when things get difficult.
Here’s what Squeeze Box setup looks like on paper: unpack your Squeezebox, install SqueezeCenter on your PC, plug the Squeezebox into your AV rack, push the button on the front, use the Controller to select your wireless network, and you’re away!