Logitech Squeezebox Touch network music player
First, I tried the Meridian Sooloos system and loved it. But at that time the Sooloos didn't play nicely with sources other than ripped CDs. I then borrowed a Sonos WiFi Music System, which worked well enough for streaming audio from the Internet, but I had no personal music libraries back then. Finally, I installed in my office an HRT Music Streamer+ USB D/A converter, and became addicted to streaming Internet radio stations on my PC as an antidote to the limitations and mediocrity of local FM broadcasts.
So when I read about Logitech's new Squeezebox Touch ($299.99), I was really primed: It could play 24-bit/96kHz files, and could access both Internet radio and stored music files. It sounded simple enough to operate that I wouldn't be frustrated or need to call on others for help. It was small. It was cheap. I was just ready to order it when John Atkinson offered to send me one to review. A good omen.
Love at first sight
The small box contains the sleek Squeezebox Touch, a wall-wart power supply, a remote control, and the sparsest of user manuals (though it proved entirely sufficient). I connected the Touch to the Meridian F80 in my office via TosLink, inserted batteries in the remote control, powered up the Touch, and was greeted with a simple setup screen. After I'd selected English as my language, it advised me to select a wireless or Ethernet network; I chose the latter to start with, as the F80 is less than 6' from my router. I then downloaded and installed the Squeezebox Server software from mysqueezebox.com, the fount of all information and support for the Touch.
All that done, I navigated intuitively to Internet radio and, like nothing, was streaming lovely music from Radio Bartók in Budapest! I also played a few high-definition downloads from flash drives, which I plugged into the Touch's USB port. I know that the Touch will do a lot more (see later), but the delight and satisfaction such immediate gratification gave me made me hunger for more, and made it easier to drum up the patience I needed to resolve some minor problems that cropped up later.
Of course, I could have streamed Radio Bartók from my PC to the F80 with the HRT Music Streamer+, but the Touch gave me a platform to start setting up my listening. This included setting up a Pandora account, downloading dozens of albums with resolutions of from 16-bits/44.1kHz to 24/192, and sifting through many pages of stations and musical genres to establish a list of favorite Internet radio sites. This was made easier by the use of Logitech's Squeezebox Web Server program, which I accessed via FireFox on my PC. The application lets you perform most tasks permitted by the Touch's 4.3" display, as well as many others, but it's easier to do when sitting comfortably in front of a 22" PC screen.
I downloaded standard-resolution music from iTunes, Passionato, and PlayMPE (Universal's music service for reviewers), and hi-def files from HDtracks, Linn Records, 2L, and others. I placed all of these files in a single directory on my hard disk, and created a playlist with Squeezebox Server through which I could access them by title, album, artist, genre, and date of release. The creation of custom playlists is also supported. Note that downloads from each source can be filed in separate subdirectories (including iTunes) and be in different formats, but Squeezebox Server has no problem accessing and organizing all of them.
I was now prepared to set the Squeezebox Touch to task.
In the main room
I moved the Squeezebox Touch to my main listening room, and connected it to the Meridian Reference 861 pre/pro by digital coax. With little pause, it found my home network, connected to the Squeezebox Server running on the computer, and provided access to all services. I selected a downloaded, 24/88.2 FLAC file of Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony's recording of Grainger's Lincolnshire Posy, which I had always enjoyed on CD (Reference Recordings/HDtracks RR-117). Immediately, the 861's display indicated a sample rate of 88.2kHz, and truly magnificent two-channel sound poured forth from my B&W 802Ds. The low-level detail, wide and balanced frequency response, and seemingly unbridled dynamics that are characteristic of high-quality playback systems were all being mediated by an inexpensive little plastic box!