Gadget report (II) — PC-to-stereo device “Squeezebox”

We just bought the most useful piece of home electronics gear ever—Slim Devices Squeezebox, which lets you play all your ripped MP3s on your home stereo system.

I guarantee this box will change your music life. You’ll listen to lots more music because it’s so painless. You’ll listen to more different kinds of music. You’ll have more fun listening to music.

I love this product. It works perfectly. It keeps surprising me with cool things it does. Like yesterday I found out it can stream Internet radio stations to the stereo.

Here’s the basic way it works. There’s a small box which you attach to your stereo. It talks via WiFi to a piece of software called SlimServer, which runs on any computer you’d like. Which it can do more easily since its interface is through a web browser—a brilliant, if obvous design approach which means you can control the player from any device that has a browser, including your Palm. The server scans your music collection and provides a competent juke-box like interface.

I especially like the feature that multiple people can access the server and all add their own favorites to the current playlist!

This ultra-clean architecture also allows the server to communicate with multiple Squeezeboxes. So you can play one song in the bedroom and another in the living room off the same MP3 collection. And since you can hook a Squeezebox up to powered speakers directly, you can put a full-fledged jukebox stereo system in your bedroom for the price of the speakers and the Squeezebox.

Some vendors say they try to make their devices look like the other black boxes in your stack of stereo equipment; not SlimDevices, whose product is a little rounded unit with a nice display showing the current tune. You can also control it with a handy remote control device, which provides surprisingly rich functionality including the ability to search your entire music library.

The installation took about three minutes; the only minor glitch was figuring out that the wireless network name was case-sensitive. Beware—WMA is not supported, no great loss there. Don’t worry Scott, it does support AAC, through server-side transcoding.

I’d love to see what other products this company is going to come out with to really make home convergence happen. Picture albums on the TV is an obvious one that they could do easily.

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