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Squeezebox or Airport Express?


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OK Guys - I considering picking up a squeezebox and/or Airport Express to test some things out. Who's got one and how does it sound. Are you connecting an external DAC to it? (I think I will).

 

Why did you chose one over the other? I am skeptical of the SB because of the terrible software interface.

 

Help me out here.

 

 

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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i have a friend that deals in jbl equipment and he used the SB as his digital front end. i didn't like the interface of the SB and i felt that the SB was the weak point in his system. he was waiting to replace it with the transporter. i went with using all airport express units in my home, wired or wireless. they interface easily with my mac/itunes server, no dropouts in wireless mode, easy to setup, and pretty cheap.

in 2 hookups, i use a jitter device to cut down on the jitter and these devices feed an external dac. in 1 setup, i come out of the AE directly into a receiver for non-critical listening in my family room and for my outside speakers. since some of the jitter devices can be found fairly cheap, in time i will use a jitter device between the AE and the receiver using the internal dacs in the receiver.

 

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I have a couple of squeezeboxes. I use a mac mini with Airport Express Extreme wireless and a couple of 750G drives.

 

I never use the squeezebox remote. I have programmed a few of the commands into my Pronto - basically play, pause, skip... Most of the time I use the web based interface to navigate my music library. I run it either on the mini with my plasma as display (not very good) or on a seperate laptop.

 

The web interface is at best adequate. As a psychologist/software engineer with over 40 years building human interfaces, I find quite a few issues with how it works and the available templates. Browsing is available by a variety of keys - artist, record, song, music genre... but the interface in crap (i.e. select a starting point and page forward).

Searching is even worse. The interface needs a text access field similar to a search engine so you can search/browse easily using text. As an old fart, the displays leave lots to be desired. A descent interface would allow quick zooming in and out on portions of the display making it easier to see and select for desired functions. Also, I believe that all computer based software should allow quick tabing to web pages associated with an artist, record, song.

 

I like the randow play and play lists - very much like shuffle - but you may not branch from the list to explore a record/artist/song more fully by inserting entries and then return to the original list.

 

In general adding/moving/deleting entries in lists is a real pain.

 

A better interface would also allow userer specific tagging.

 

It would be great if the software also produced a dynamic display of currently playing artist/record/song that wouldn't cause burn-in on a plasma display. For example, it could behave like a slide show moving through displays of the cover, some quotes/lyrics/articles/liner notes and photographs.

 

I believe that we will probably see a few developers building interfaces that will "drive" Itunes, Squeezeboxes, etc and we will purchase these interfaces seperately from the software player and hardware interface.

 

As for the sound, I use the digital out into an Audiomeca DAC for my main rig and the sound is almost as good as from my Audiomeca transport. It sounds better to me than the sound from the Mac mini via TSO from Itunes. On my second rig, I use the analog out and sounds like a fairly descent CD player.

 

Edward

 

 

 

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Hi Chris,

 

I have two Squeezezboxes and love the things.

 

The one on my main system is connected to my DAC via the optical output. It sounds just a tad better than my CD player used as a transport, in that "better digital" sort of way - quieter, more detail, but defined bass, less glare - that sort of thing. No big difference, just a tad better than the digital out on the CD player.

 

In the den, the Squeezebox drives a DAC and ultimately a headphone amp via a long-ish S/PIDF cable with fine results. The analog outputs of that Squeezebox also go to my AV receiver (Marantz SR5600). I was a little surprised to find that the SB's DAC significantly outperformed the Marantz' own DAC. It's the same digital "more better", but it's a quite significant improvement in this case.

 

I don't quite understand the concerns about the Squeezebox interface. It's basically like an iPod, except you don't have the scroll through all your artists - you punch in the first letter or two like you do on a cellphone. I can't imagine hassling with a computer or having to turn on my monitor to play music. (in the living room, I don't even have a monitor actually.) I like the little IR remote, but everybody's mileage varies.

 

There is now a new Squeezebox remote that uses WiFi to connect and drive the players from the server side. It's got a little screen and shows album art, a la the big built-in multiroom systems. The have head-less Squeezebox with no interface of its own to go with it (kinda like AirPort Express), although I rather like the big fluorescent display that shows what's playing. Frankly, I don't have much interest in the fancier remote. The IR one is just fine for me.

 

The big advantage I see to the Squeezebox (or Transporter, if you want a good built in DAC and the ability to play high res files) is that there's a real server behind it. The Slim Devices server (they call it SquuezeCenter nowadays) is a robust MySQL based affair. It's all Open Source (That makes me a fan right there. you've got to love a company that does socially responsible software and has audiophile leanings, too.) It's stable. It should scale well enough that no sane person's music collection would put a strain on. It's got a web based configuration interface, which means you can run it headless in a NAS box, or from a laptop in your listening room or whatever. And yes, you can use the server configuration pages to remotely control players. I can't quite see wanting to, but it's sort of interesting.

 

Because the server's Open Source, a pretty robust community of users has grown up and users have written plugins for everything from little functionality tweaks, to displaying artist bio information on the player display, to a remote control application that will run on Palmtops, cellphones or computers. All that gives me a warm and fuzzy that slaving players together peer to peer just doesn't. The SD server "just works" out of the box on Fedora, Windows and Mac. You can run it on any Linux distribution of other Unix-like OS with some fiddling. I have Mandriva, so for me, it took some fiddling.

 

There is a server that serves the iTunes protocol, by the way. I think it's called MT-DAAP. It has no interface at all, just a config file. I tried it on a virtual machine and it ran fine. It turned out to be a solution to a problem I didn't have, so I haven't pursued it. (My wife uses iTunes a lot on her PC desktop. iTunes for Windows will connect to its data store via SMB. For some reason, iTunes for Mac won't and I wanted something that would serve the music files to her PowerBook. But she only ever wants to play music on the PowerBook when she's out and about, so a server on our home network wouldn't do any good anyway.) Oh, that reminds me. You can share the data directories between Slimserver, iTunes and whatever. Slimserver will mount or import an iTunes database. But I haven't had any desire to go there.

 

At the end of the day, I've been happy as a clam with the player, the company and their community. My only qualm is that the little Squeezbox can only do 48KHz by 24 bits. For higher res, you have to buy the Transporter. I have perfectly fine DACs, so I can't see the Transporter right now. Maybe somebody will write a software player for Slimserver that would let me stream high res files from the server through a laptop to my DAC. I think that would do until I have a whole lot more high res files in my collection. (Anybody out there really good in Perl or Java? :-)

 

Cheers,

 

-Carl

 

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Wow, very cool Carl. That's a very good detailed description of your very positive experience with the SB.

 

Now you have me thinking real positive about the SB and I can't make up my mind. I'm talking here like the products are $10,000. Heck, maybe I'll just grab both and call it a day.

 

Thanks Carl!

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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.. try them both and send back the one that doesn't make the cut.

 

Most Internet merchants have really accommodating return policies.

 

Of course, that can be a hazard, too. (Cautionary consumer tale follows.)

 

When I wanted a new pair of headphones, I couldn't find anywhere to listen to the Sennheiser HD 650s or the AGK K-701s. The incredibly nice people at Headroom suggested I take them both and send back the one I didn't like. It was like: "No, Come on. I mean I'll have to break them both in to make any kind of comparison." (HUNDREDS of hours, in the case of the AKGs, BTW). Their salesman said, "Really. No problem. Take them for a month, break them both in and just send us back the one you don't like.". I'm still awestruck by this. But back to the story.... you can guess what happened. The two sets of cans hang side by side in my den. They both have snazzy Moon Audio cables now. Some days I like one and some days, the other.

 

-Carl

 

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