When you see a color display on a music-streamer’s remote control, it’s natural to assume that the manufacturer is going after the vaunted Sonos Digital Music System. But after thoroughly testing the Squeezebox Duet—Slim Devices’s first new product since being acquired by Logitech—we’ve concluded that Sonos has little to worry about.
But the Squeezebox Duet isn’t a failure—in fact, it’s the best Squeezebox yet—but it’s aimed at an entirely different audience than the Sonos. Where the Sonos is closed, proprietary, and relatively static, the Squeezebox operates on open-source software that encourages tinkering, third-party development, and evolution. You’ll find a host of plugins for the SlimServer software (now called SqueezeCenter) that all Squeezeboxes run on, and if you can’t find one for your task, you can roll your own.
But sound is the most important criterion for measuring an audio streamer’s performance, and the Duet’s design forced Logitech to drop the 24-bit Burr-Brown DAC that lent previous Squeezebox models their sweet disposition. We’re happy to report, however, that the 24-bit Wolfson WM8501 DAC that replaced it is very much its equal. Rather use outboard gear? The Duet is outfitted with optical and coaxial digital outputs, as well as analog stereo. The device supports every important file format, including AIFF, FLAC, MP3, OGG VORBIS, WMA, and WAV natively; and AAC, APE, Apple Lossless, MPC, and WMA Lossless transcoded.
The new Squeezebox receiver is smaller than the Squeezebox 2 and can be tucked away in your entertainment center—just make sure it can reach your wireless access point. The receiver is equipped with a 10/100 Ethernet port, but in the ideal installation, the remote will communicate with the receiver (and control other Squeezeboxes) over your 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network. In the absence of a wireless network, the remote will establish a wireless connection with the closest receiver, but your range will be limited because the devices will operate in ad hoc (as opposed to infrastructure) mode.
The Squeezebox controller displays album art, artist and song information, playlists, and other information on its 2.4-inch backlit LCD (the buttons are backlit, too). The remote is easy to master: A mechanical scroll wheel lets you move up and down through lists, and you press the center button to open menus or select items. Four buttons arranged around the perimeter of the wheel let you add songs to your playlist, play a selection, move back through menus, and move to the top-level menu, respectively. The remaining five buttons control volume up/down, track forward/back, and pause. The controller isn’t nearly as elegant as what Sonos has to offer, but it’s a huge leap forward from previous Squeezebox remotes.
The Sonos Digital Music System remains the product to beat in terms of elegance and effortless setup, especially for multi-room configurations, but Sonos can’t touch the Squeezebox’s programmability and sheer flexibility. The Squeezebox Duet is much cheaper, too. –michael brown
Terrific remote control, inexpensive, open source.
Piggybacks on your Wi-Fi network, compatible only with 802.11b/g.