We’ve long been fans of Slim Devices’ audio-streaming boxes, having praised both the Squeezebox 1 and 2 with Kick Ass awards. So we won’t keep you in suspense: We can find no reason not to do the same for the Squeezebox 3.
The guts are basically the same as the previous-generation box, but they’re packaged in an elegant brushed-aluminum and black-plastic housing. The gray lens over the 320x32 vacuum fluorescent display renders the text an attractive aqua color, which is even more legible than the Squeezebox 2’s green text. And both antennas on the 802.11g wireless version we reviewed are discretely hidden inside the case. Both the wired and wireless models are equipped with 100Mb/s Ethernet ports; and the wireless model can operate as a bridge, enabling Wi-Fi access for other non-wireless Ethernet devices.
On the software front, Slim Devices has added Pandora to its SqueezeNetwork. Pandora’s interactive online music service analyzes the artists you like and then automatically plays other music that exhibits similar characteristics. When we told Pandora to create a radio station based on folk singer Guy Clark, for instance, it offered up songs from Clark contemporaries Doc Watson and Townes Van Zandt. No surprises there, but we had to give a thumbs-down to its recommendations of mainstream country crooners Clint Black and Randy Travis. Pandora then responded by streaming songs from Son Volt, Caroline Herring, and several other acts we weren’t familiar with, but that we really enjoyed—widening our musical horizons in the process. (Pandora is free for 90 days; a one-year subscription costs $36.)
The Squeezebox 3 uses the same sweet-sounding 24-bit Brown-Burr DAC as the Squeezebox 2, and it offers both analog (RCA) and digital (optical and coax) outputs. Support for WPA Personal and WPA2-AES encryption sets it apart from most competing products, which limit your wireless network to the less-secure WEP. We’d like the Squeezebox 3 even more if it supported subscription music services like Rhapsody natively (there’s a third-party plugin, but it hasn’t worked in a year), but it offers so many other features and it sounds so delicious that its one major shortcoming ends up being pretty minor.
Note: Slim Devices released a beta version of its SlimServer software on June 7, 2006 that does include support for Rhapsody. Interested Squeezebox users should download Vers. 6.3.0 or later from here.