The squeezebox classic has been something I drooled over for many years. I always considered it to expensive to buy and because I mostly had my old mac mini running constantly with mpd so no real need for it.
But the squeezebox classic is EOL (end of line) now, the price dropped. For € 149 you now get the Classic with wifi. I also stopped running a machine constantly so I always had to wake up my mac/main pc, turn on the monitor just to play music.
I tried to solve this problem by using a BeagleBoard as low power mpd server, but this turned out to be very unreliable.
So with the price off the squeezebox dropping, I decided it was a good solution.
(note for gmpc users, no I am not going to abandon gmpc)
The squeezebox consists of 2 parts.
- The player (the squeezebox classic in my case).
- The server.
The first thing you need todo is install the server (SBC: squeezebox server). SBC runs on osX, windows and linux. Installing it was very easy, add the debian repository, apt-get update and apt-get install squeezeboxserver. So in just a few minutes you can login to the server (http://ip:9000) configure it and let it scan your music.
Next it was time to setup the player, this also was very easy. Power + network cable , follow on-screen instruction, let it update it firmware and done.
This process is done in just a few minutes. So far so good.
(Importing my full music collection took 45 minutes on my low powered server).
First impression of the setup is very good:
The player itself is especially nice; It has a very readable screen, even from a distance . This type of display was for me the biggest selling point, and a reason not to get the (more expensive) squeezebox touch with high resolution screen.
The interface is fast and fairly intuitive, so you can start using it out of the box. When reading some guides on the Internet you discover a lot of ‘hidden’ things (like keeping the button on the remote pressed for several seconds) that are very pleasant to use.
The PSU does not make funny noises, like the charger from my nokia phone, or my laptop.
The remote control is comfortable to use, the width is just right so you can effortless hit all the buttons. You never have to press twice because you did not hit the button right or the player did not pick it up. It feels pretty solid and heavy (compared to other remotes that size).
The server webinterface is a bit slow. I have been playing with the player most of the time, so until now it did not seem a problem.
The specifications from logitech indicate it has a Burr-Brown™ 24-bit DAC with an SNR of 100dB and a THD of -93.5 dB.
The sound quality is good, I did not have scientific equipment to test it, but I did a comparing to the edirol UA1EX soundcard I had and it sounded equal to a slightly bit better. (Test done with a NAD C320BEE amplifier and Beyerdynamic DT990 headphones).
I also compared it, using the same setup, against my Marantz CD50001 cd player, I could spot the difference for some music (setup a script to randomly select the one or the other via a IR blaster) but I could not objectively say what was better, feeling indicates the CD player was slightly better.
All in all the sound quality is good enough for me.
You can find a lot of tips on the internet on how to improve the output of the squeezebox classic, it seems you can get a decent improvement by replacing the PSU by a linear one. There are also several DIY modifications on the hardware itself.
This is where things are fun. The server (and so the player) can be extended using plugins. Plugins can be easily installed and updating using the plugin manager in SBC.
One of the first things I installed was the custom search plugin. Normally if you search on f.e. Clapton you would have to press “222 555 2 7 8 666 66″ (like the old system to sms), with this plugin pressing only the number the character is under is sufficient. So you only need to press 2 5 2 7 6 6 for Clapton.
Another nice plugin is the IR Blaster plugin. You add an IR blaster to the headphone output off the squeezebox, you then (using SBC) can tell the blaster to send certain IR codes when powering on/off and changing volume. You can easily learn codes by pointing any remote at the player and pressing the buttons. Very nice. (better then messing around with lirc) I use this plugin to turn on my amplifier, switch to the right input and redirect volume control.
There are tons of more plugins available. You can add rss feeds to your player display, re-organize the menu structure. Show weather forcasts and a lot more.
Ipod Touch as remote control
Installing iPeng on my ipod touch made that a perfect remote control for the squeezebox. It has cover art a nice playlist, and shows the same menu structure as on the squeezebox classic.
Impression after using it for a few months.
The player itself is still great, I have no problems with it. I did some testing on the build in wifi and it manages to out performce my laptop and ipod touch easily. Where my laptop looses connection I can still play flac files without any re-buffering or delays. The only negative thing is that it is a dust magnet.
The server is another story though. The webinterface is to slow to do any serious browsing through your music collection. You are constantly waiting for the page to update and fully drawn. I tried to improve this by tips I found on the community forum, but no real gain came from it (see here for me ranting). The performance issue is so big, it would be a reason for me to stop using it and sell the squeezebox classic. Creating a larger playlist (say a few thousand songs) is fatal, search is slow and updating the playlist on the webpage can easily take 30 seconds.
I hope with future releases (they intent to move to sqlite instead of running there own mysql) improves this. I know the hardware the server runs on is not the fastest, but this should not be needed. (It is a via esther @ 1.5 ghz with 1 gig of memory running Debian).
Because off the large difference in experience between the server software and the player it is very hard to say. The player is very hard to top and if your goal is to have easy access to your music sitting behind your stereo, I would strongly advice it. If you mostly play music sitting behind your computer (and so use the webui) you are better off with MPD + a nice client. MPD is faster on every account, scanning the db, searching the db and creating large playlists. In mpd I can add 22000 items to my playlist with no noticable delay, with SBC I can easily get a cup of coffee while waiting it to be done.