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Today’s Show:

Logitech Squeezebox Touch Review

Sure it’s the HDTV and Home Theater Podcast, but we like to dabble a little in the peripheral edges of home theater from time to time.  One such area is whole house audio.  Braden has a whole house system based on Logitech Squeezebox devices and their Squeezbox Server software.  Logitech recently released a new Squeezebox Touch player, so of course, we wanted to try it out.

Background

Long time fans of the show will no doubt remember the original Squeezbox players.  We originally reviewed them years ago when they were made by a company called Slim Devices, before Logitech bought them.  The device was cool, and it can still rock, but by modern standards it’s a bit dated.  The Touch really feels like a 2010 update of that classic player.

Specs

Size wise, it’s almost identical to the original player.  It is about 6″ wide by roughly 4″ tall.  It will connect to your home network via WiFi (802.11) or wired Ethernet (100 Mbps) and has three audio output options: Stereo analog (RCA), digital optical, and digital coax.  It has a USB port to connect a storage device (more on that later) and an SD card slot as well.

Setup

In our review of the Squeezbox Radio on Episode 397, we went into a little more detail on how Braden has his Squeezboxes deployed.  Today we’ll focus on the Touch, but no matter what, you’ll want a server to house all your music and control multiple players so you can have a whole house system.  That’s where Squeezebox Server comes in.  It’s a free piece of software that ties it all together.  For the iTunes lovers out there, it will import your iTunes library.

Since we had the benefit of adding the Touch to an existing system, it took less than 3 minutes to pull it out of the box, plug it into the wall and get it connected to the Squeezebox Server software.  Another minute or so later and it was blasting out tunes synchronized with every other zone in the house.  You should budget about 15 to 20 minutes if you need to get the server software up and running first – longer if you have a lot of music to index.

The good

The Squeezebox music system is incredibly easy to setup and use.  Multiple zones can play in sync, or each zone can play its own music.  You can use any zone to control any other zone, or pretty much any device with a web browser on it.  And it isn’t just a local music player, it can connect to Internet radio stations, Pandora, and a bunch of other audio sources like Podcasts.

The Touch interface is very easy to use and responsive.  The screen is bright and vibrant.  When not in use, the Touch can display a few different clock options, making it a great alarm clock for your bedroom.  Yes, it can set alarms and you can even snooze them.  It has an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust display brightness according to the environment and an infrared proximity sensor to detect presence and automatically wake it from sleep mode.

If you don’t want to use it as an alarm clock or a clock radio, you can use the USB or SD slots to turn it into a digital photo frame when it isn’t in use.  That’s one of the coolest features of the Touch.  You typically want to have music in every room, but you don’t want some big eyesore sitting on a table or a shelf.  With the Touch, you have a bunch of little picture frames around the house that also happen to be your whole house audio zones.

The not-so-good

While the touch screen on the unit is very bright, responsive and easy to use, it does leave some room for improvement in the navigation area. There are very few dedicated buttons always present on the screen.  Those lacking most noticeably are a power button and a home button.  If you want to turn it off quickly, you have to navigate all the way back to the home screen, which could be quite a few clicks of the back button, before the power button appears.

That pretty much illustrates why you need a dedicated home button as well. To be fair, the remote that comes with it does include those buttons, but in our case, since it’s a touch device, we’d really rather put the remote in a drawer and control the whole unit from the screen.  After all, isn’t it called the ‘Touch’?  Hopefully a firmware update will come out to address this issue.

The touch has three audio output methods, but doesn’t include a built in speaker.  In many cases, this is fine, you run it into a home receiver, an amplifier or a pair of powered speakers and you’re all set.  But in some cases you just want the unit itself to play the music.  You don’t want the hassle or unsightliness of speakers and wiring.  This is really more of something we thought we should point out.  If you want a unit with built in speakers, check out the Squeezbox Radio or the Squeezebox Boom.

Cost

And then there’s the cost.  We’ve long been fans of the Squeezebox audio system because it represented an inexpensive way to get your whole house rockin’ with music.  But at $299 for the player, not including speakers, is that still the case?  It’s certainly still less expensive than some alternatives, and has actually stayed pretty steady.  The classic Squeezebox v3 had the exact same MSRP, $299, back in April of 2006.  So 4 years later you’re getting a much better product for exactly the same price.  Not bad.

Conclusion

The Squeezebox Touch is an elegant, inexpensive way to add music to any room in your home.  It can disappear as a digital clock or a digital photo frame and actually enhance the aesthetic of a room.  For $299, it’s absolutely worth taking a look at.

Download Episode #421


Posted by The HT Guys, April 16, 2010 12:08 AM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.