<img src="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/files/bcc.jpg" style="padding: 7pt 10pt 7pt 8pt;" align="left">Does your Logitech Squeezebox Duet go to eleven? Mine does! As some of you know I'm not a big fan of Squeezeboxes. I consider them a convenient mid-fi product that serves a purpose but doesn't sound very good. Recently I was contacted by the Bolder Cable Company about its modified Squeezebox Duet. After numerous hours and listening sessions I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the modified Duet versus the stock Duet. The Bolder Cable Company has managed to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the Squeezebox Duet. [PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]
Squeezeboxes are not on my list of audiophile must-haves. Of course this is only one opinion. I'm sure Logitech has millions of happy customers who'd attemp to change my mind given the chance. But, as I always say, if it sounds good to you then it is good. Plus now you have a way to go from good to great.
The Bolder Cable Company offers a number of modifications to the Squeezebox Duet and a very nice upgraded power supply that makes the stock PSU look like a toy. Along with a stock SB Duet Bolder sent me for comparison I received a unit with both the digital and analog modifications and the upgrded linear power supply. Customers can chose either one of the options or they can just get it all done by going with the Duet Full Mod. The Full Mod includes the following overhaul.
<i>"This mod replaces the reservoir power supply capacitor with one of higher quality. The output coupling capacitors are replaced by a blend of BlackGate and Sonicap Gen2 caps. Upgrades are available using Sonicap Platinum or V-caps. The output connectors are replaced with Cardas RCA with the option for WBT NextGen RCAs."
"We also remove everything in the digital signal path and run a 75 ohm coax direct to a WBT NextGen RCA. The mods will improve the dynamics, lower background "noise" levels and extend both the low and high frequencies with more detail."</i>
The Linear power Supply upgrade looks like this:
<i>"We replace the noisy, switching power supply with a large, linear power supply. It is housed in the same case we use for out Ultimate PS. I uses a LARGE E-core power transformer. There is a total of over 60,000 uF of Nichicon Muse filter and reservoir capacitors used. Sonicap Gen2 and BlackGates are also involved. A discreet, full wave bridge is used to rectify the AC current. The power supply is fully regulated."</i>
Putting its best foot forward The Bolder Cable Company sent me a fully modded Duet with the Linear Power Supply upgrade. Going in to this review I was highly skeptical that Bolder Cable could really produce something from <del>nothing</del> very little. I connected the stock SB Duet and the Bolder Cable modified SB Duet to my system via coax digital out from the SB Duets into a Benchmark DAC1 PRE. Using my MacBook Pro music server I served nothing but uncompressed AIFFs to the two boxes. I did connect the modified Duet to a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC briefly to insure bit perfect digital output. It was nice to get visual confirmation, that the stream was bit perfect, by illuminating the HDCD indicator on the Alpha DAC whenever I played an HDCD track. Then it was back to reality and a more "normal" setup through the DAC1 PRE. After the first few listening sessons with the modded Duet I wasn't all that thrilled. I was only getting about a 5% improvement over the stock Duet at the time. I even sent an email to Jeff Dorgay the Publisher of TONE Audio Magazine to ask him if he had any experience with Squeezebox modifications. Before I received a reply the tide started to turn ever so slightly. I listened to some tracks that set the modified Duet apart from the stock Duet. Stanley Clarke's Bad Asses from his newest album The Toys of Men is a fabulous song loaded with bass solos. The modded Duet had slightly tighter bass than the stock Duet on this track. I followed Stanley Clarke with Steely Dan's "Decade" Ultimate Master Disc, ripped to uncompressed AIFFs. The highs on the stock Duet were far too harsh for listening any longer than necessary. The Bolder modified Duet really smoothed out the rough edges and made the album much more palatable. While certainly not a reference component by any means, the modified Duet did improve the sound of the Duet's digital output.
What really set the Bolder Duet apart from the stock Duet was its analog performance. I must clarify this statement by noting the digital output through a good DAC is far better than the analog output. But the difference betwen the stock and modded Duet is less pronounced when listening via the digital outputs. Along with plenty of other albums, I punched up the same Stanley Clarke and Steely Dan tunes to playback through the internal DAC of both squeezeboxes. The difference between the two SB Duets certainly wasn't night & day, but I will say the the Bolder modifications and Linear Power Supply squeeze an extra 25% worth of sound quality from the Duet. The Bolder Duet's better performance is more evident in the highs and lows just as it was via the digital output. But, the difference in performance between the Duets is much more pronounced through the analog outputs.
Current satisfied Duet owners will likely increase their satisfaction of the unit through a Bolder Cable modifcation. If you're not a big Squeezebox fan the modification certainly is not going to make you love the product or do wonders for your system. The stock Duet is a convient niche product with decent mid-fi sound. The Bolder Cable modifications take that sound up a notch or two by squeezing every ounce of performance possible from the device. Simply put, if you like the Duet now you'll like it even more with the Bolder mods. Infact the Duet with Bolder Cable Company modifications may rival the more expensive Logitech Transporter.
Full details, pictures, and pricing available from the <a href="http://www.boldercables.com">Bolder Cable Company website</a>.