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Portable Wireless Streaming Music Player: Logitech's Squeezebox Boom
What Can This Little Box Do?
January 23, 2009
Logitech Squeezebox Boom
For several years now, the Logitech Squeezebox (formerly from Slim Devices) has been a great way to stream digital audio, over a home Wi-Fi network, to a room without a PC. But the catch, if you could call it that, is the Squeezebox's lack of a built-in amplifier or speakers, because without those components placement is limited to rooms with existing A/V equipment���that is unless you're willing to deal with the added expense and clutter of a separate set of amplified speakers.
Logitech's newest $299 Squeeze Boom solves that dilemma--it maintains everything that made the original Squeezebox great, while adding that missing amp and speakers so you put the unit pretty much anywhere you want.
Physical design and features
Although not nearly as svelte as its progenitor, the five-pound Boom measures approximately 13��� x 5��� x 4��� (WHD), which is compact enough to fit in all but the tightest spaces. The Boom's stereo speakers are 3-inch woofers and ��-inch tweeters, covered by metal instead of cloth mesh and powered by a 30-watt amplifier. The Boom's power adapter is external and extremely large, so much so that it will take up the space of two or even three outlets on many power strips; putting the brick mid-cable rather than at the plug end would have been preferable.
A large rotary knob that's reminiscent of the volume dial on most A/V receivers dominates the controls beneath the Boom's display. On the Boom, however, the knob is used to navigate menus while pushbuttons handle volume and other basic functions, such as play, pause, presets, etc. On the back of the Boom you'll find a line-in jack for connecting an external source like an iPod, another for headphones or a subwoofer (neither is included), and a good old-fashioned Ethernet jack you can use in lieu of Wi-Fi.
The Boom comes with a tiny (3 ��-inch long) remote that replicates most of the controls found on the front of the device. An internal magnet lets you conveniently affix the remote to objects, such as the refrigerator or a bedside lamp, as well as to an indentation atop the Boom itself. We also like the fact that the control slides open easily for replacement of the small watch-style battery���no tools, fingernails, or extraordinary effort required.
Getting the Squeezebox connected to a wireless network was extremely easy. You proceed through a network setup wizard by pressing and turning the aforementioned control knob. Using the knob to scroll through characters actually makes entering a long wireless encryption key relatively painless, if not exactly quick.
The Squeezebox is a native 802.11g device that supports WPA and WPA2 encryption; we had no difficulty connecting it to a Netgear 802.11n router configured for WPA2-PSK. Once the Squeezebox was online, it automatically downloaded the most recent firmware on its own.
Once you've got the Boom up and running, you can connect it to one of two sources for audio material.
The first is Logitech's SqueezeNetwork, which lets you access a host of Internet-delivered content. You can visit www.squeezenetwork.com to setup a free account (using a PIN code provided by the Boom). The SqueezeNetwork Web site is a one-stop shop for finding online content to stream to the Boom���you can select from an exhaustive list of Internet radio stations, plus podcasts and free music services, such as Pandora and Slacker.
When you find stuff you like, you can add it to a playlist or assign it to one of six ���favorites��� slots that correspond with the preset buttons on the Boom's front panel. If you want to listen to something that's not on the SqueezeNetwork menu, you can make it a favorite by providing the URL.
The SqueezeNetwork will also let you set up the Boom to stream music from paid services, such as Rhapsody and Sirius. Although you need to be a subscriber to access the paid services, you can sign up for free 30-day trials from the SqueezeNetwork.
When connected to SqueezeNetwork, the Boom operates completely independent of a PC. If you also want the option of streaming your own personal music collection through the Boom, you can do it with Logitech's SqueezeCenter media server software (formerly known as SlimServer). SqueezeCenter can be downloaded for free from the SqueezeNetwork site, and is available in Windows, Mac, or Linux versions.
When we installed SqueezeCenter on a Vista PC, it detected iTunes on the system and integrated with it, so the music library was accessible from the Boom. The Boom supports virtually every audio file format of consequence, including MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis (inlcluding Apple and WMA lossless formats). Like pretty much all streaming devices, the Boom can't play songs that are burdened with copy protection whether they were purchased from iTunes or other music stores. Similarly, any playlists containing copy-protected songs aren't accessible via the Boom. (This makes us appreciate the DRM-free Amazon MP3 and iTunes Plus tracks in our library all the more.)
Although the SqueezeCenter software runs on your PC, like the SqueezeNetwork, it's configured via a Web browser. From the SqueezeCenter UI, you can browse and search your music library, set up playlists, and directly manipulate the Boom to change what's currently playing, adjust volume, etc.