Slim Devices today announced its new Squeezebox2, a $249 digital music player with numerous features for audiophiles, optional 802.11g networking with built-in Internet bridging, a high-resolution grayscale display featuring animated music visualizers, and a larger audio cache. The company said it expects the new product to begin shipping to customers by the end of the month.
Like its predecessors, the Squeezebox and SLIMP3, Squeezebox2 connects to your music library via a wired or wireless network and plays your music via connected speakers. Users navigate a series of menus on the Squeezebox2’s vacuum-fluorescent display via an infrared remote, or alternatively use a Web-browser interface. The Squeezebox requires the company’s free Slim Server software, which runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.
Although the new player looks the same as the company’s original Squeezebox (it’s available in the same two colors, too — silver and black), the internal components of the Squeezebox2 are almost entirely new. Slim Devices executives gave Playlist an exclusive first look inside the Squeezebox2 case, which features numerous small improvements that will please audiophiles and longtime Squeezebox users alike.
Audio Improvements. Squeezebox2 features Burr-Brown DAC processors, for improved analog output, as well as multiple crystal clock oscillators to improve precision of audio output. Squeezebox2 offers the same audio-out options as the Squeezebox: analog RCA, headphone jack, Toslink, and coaxial. Unlike the Squeezebox, which could only play MP3 and WAV/AIFF files natively (other formats are transcoded by Slim Server before being sent to the Squeezebox), Squeezebox2 plays FLAC natively. All lossless file formats are transcoded into FLAC before being sent to Squeezebox, reducing network bandwidth while retaining pristine audio quality. (Like all other non-Apple external music players, Squeezebox2 can not play protected music purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store.)
Networking Boosts. The $299 wireless version of Squeezebox2 supports 802.11g networking, and both versions support 100BASET Ethernet, both improvements on all previous Slim Devices music players. An extremely large amount of buffer memory means that the player should be able to weather brief network drop-outs caused by server hiccups or wireless interference. The Squeezebox2 also sports two wireless antennas, one internal and one external, to improve reception and transmission rates. In addition, the wireless version of Squeezebox2 offers built-in Ethernet bridging. This means that when the Squeezebox2 is connected wirelessly, any device connected to its Ethernet port (such as Internet-enabled game consoles or TiVos) can share Squeezebox2’s Internet connection.
Better Display. The Squeezebox2’s bright two-bit display offers more than twice the resolution of the Squeezebox and the addition of grayscale support. The result is a notably more readable display which can display a grayscale graphic “visualizer” of music output, even right underneath the text, at a high frame rate.
New Network Services. Squeezebox2 takes advantage of another new Slim Devices announcement, SqueezeNetwork, an online service that Squeezebox2 players can connect to even if the computer that’s running Slim Server is turned off, or there’s no Slim Server computer around at all. Via SqueezeNetwork, Squeezebox2 users can find and connect to Internet radio stations, view RSS news feeds, as well as chose from a collection of “environmental sounds or musical segments” to use as wake-up sounds for Squeezebox2’s built-in clock-radio/alarm features.
Improved Slim Server. According to Slim Devices, Squeezebox2 requires the company’s new Slim Server 6.0 software, a free open-source server which is currently in alpha testing. This new version features an improved, SQL-based music database for quick and easy library searching, and uses Predixis’ Music Magic technology to build “instant mixes” by scanning and analyzing the contents of your music library.