The Short Form
|$399; additional receiver, $149; additional controller, $299 / LOGITECH.COM / 510-795-8500|
|The new Squeezebox's visually striking Wi-Fi controller and audio receiver make for a blissful musical duet|
|• No computer needed for everyday use
• Color screen puts album art and menus in the palm of your hand
• Wi-Fi remote doesn't require line of sight to receiver
• Scroll wheel enables reasonably quick text entry
|• Won't play protected music from a computer
• SqueezeCenter software is incompatible with popular McAfee anti-virus program
|• Streams music from a home-networked computer
• Can stream Internet radio and subscription music services
• Additional receivers and controllers can be added for multiroom music distribution
• Outputs: coaxial and optical digital audio, stereo (RCA)
• Other jacks: Ethernet
• 6.2 x 0.9 x 4.3 in (receiver); 6.2 x 0.7 x 2 in (controller)
Ever since the first digital media receiver delivered music from a computer to a stereo system over a home network, it's been a challenge to figure out where to put an interface to control that process. You could put it in a small display on the front of the receiver, as the original Dell Digital Audio Receiver and the first Slim Devices Squeezebox did. But that likely meant having to get up to read the display if you were seated in your home theater. You could put it on a TV's screen, as Apple does with its Apple TV receiver. But commandeering a TV for music listening has always seemed at odds with the medium.
Along comes Logitech in its first renovation of the Squeezebox since acquiring it from Slim Devices. The company has spruced up the original device by giving it a thin controller with a 2.4-inch color screen that displays text and album art. And because the remote and the receiver - the two halves of the Squeezebox Duet - are both connected wirelessly through your home Wi-Fi network, you needn't be in the same room to raise the volume, skip to the next track, or switch genres.
Once you get past the excessive packaging, you'll notice that the controller's 6.2-inch length is exactly the same as the receiver's width. You pop the rechargeable lithium-ion battery into the controller, then park the remote vertically in the AC charger. Additionally, you get a two-meter stereo cable with gold-plated connectors. I connected the Squeezebox receiver's coaxial digital audio output to the input on my home theater's A/V receiver. Later, I moved the Squeezebox to the bedroom and attached it to the auxiliary stereo inputs of my Bose Wave Radio.
Upon charging (which takes up to 4 hours), the controller found both my Wi-Fi network and the Squeezebox receiver. A pin number appeared on the screen, and I was prompted to enter it at squeezenetwork.com from a computer in order to connect to my account. (This may be the only time you need to use a computer.) Next, I pressed the center button on the controller, and I was ready to stream music from the Squeeze Network, Logitech's remote server.
You don't need a computer to be running on your home network in order to stream music. The computer is only necessary if you want to stream music from the PC's hard drive. But to do that, you must first download and install the SqueezeCenter software for Windows 2000, XP, or Vista; Macintosh OS X (10.3.5 or later); or Linux. Each time I tried to launch the software, my computer wouldn't respond, forcing me to reboot. A phone-support person identified the problem as incompatibility with the McAfee Security Center software I run. He advised me to remove the virus-protection program from my computer, download SqueezeCenter again, install it, and then download McAfee from scratch. I considered this "solution" too disruptive, so instead I used a different computer - one not protected by McAfee. (Clearly, my workaround won't work for everyone.) Once SqueezeCenter was installed, it scanned the computer's hard drive for music files, and they were subsequently listed on the controller.
Most of the time, waking up the Duet was as simple as lifting the controller from the charging station, pressing the home key (depicted as an icon with slanted-roof and chimney), and choosing Turn On Squeezebox from the home menu. I could then start music streaming almost instantly from stations on the Internet or files stored on my network. At other times, though, the controller failed to find the receiver, and I had to repeat steps supposedly completed during setup.
The menu options on the controller screen are mainly self-explanatory. Now Playing picks up the stream that was playing when you last used Squeezebox; Favorites is an unlimited list of stations you've designated; Music Services includes both subscription-based ones like Rhapsody, MP3tunes, Pandora, and Sirius Internet Radio and free ones like Slacker and Live Music Archive; and Music Library plays music files from your home computer or network-attached storage device.
I was impressed by the breadth and depth of streamed broadcast and Internet-only radio stations available from all over the world, any one of which I could switch to relatively quickly from the palm of my hand. Given the thousands available, a friendly interface seemed critical. The Squeezebox Duet lets you easily browse stations by giving you the ability to search by genre, city, or Webcaster, or by simply entering the call letters. (Staff Picks is another option.) Forgoing a keyboard or keypad, the controller has a scroll wheel for selecting letters and digits. Unfortunately, search capabilities are buried several layers deep and overlap among several station aggregators. (The services Live365, radioio, RadioTime, and Shoutcast collectively provide thousands of radio streams, but you have to pick one of them off the menu first before drilling down to find a station you hope it carries.) A Logitech spokesman acknowledged the confusion and said the company hoped to aggregate the aggregators with the ability to search from the home menu, perhaps in a future release.