What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Wed, 22 Feb 2006, 5:00pm

Slim Devices Squeezebox 3

Tested at £180
100100
5

This is a great product for sending music from computer to hi-fi

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For

  • Plays just about every file format
  • sounds wonderful in the right system
  • upgrade option via an off-board DAC
  • easy to use and set up

Against

  • It helps to be fairly network-savvy to set it up
  • you’ll need to be a bit crafty to play tracks downloaded from the iTunes store

The Squeezebox 3 is Slim Devices's third contribution to the murky world where computing meets hi-fi, the network music player.

In a nutshell, it allows you to search and play music stored on your computer through your hi-fi, even if they're in different rooms. You can connect it to your computer via an Ethernet-type computer cable or, more usefully, via your wireless home network.

Easy to use, small, light and attractive
The unit is small and light, and has a polished feel to it. There's a black and white version, too, as well as the black and silver one pictured. Set-up menus and music playlists are accessed using the remote and a clear LED display.

The sockets are around the back, and there you'll find a pair of phono outs, plus coaxial and optical digital sockets for connecting to your hi-fi. There's a headphone output, too.

All models come with an Ethernet port for connecting to a wired network, while the model we tested also came with a built-in wireless capability for connecting to a standard wi-fi network. The Ethernet-only version costs £170. 

To get the unit running you download a piece of software from the Slim Devices website and install it on your PC or Mac, which must be running iTunes (or similar jukebox software). Next, you connect the Squeezebox 3 to your network, and wait for it to find your music.

Each process is fairly simple if you're even slightly network savvy. If not, you might have to put in some time with technical support.

Good quality highly flexible kit
To play your music the Squeezebox 3 uses a good-quality 24-bit Burr-Brown digital-to-analogue converter, and it shows.

Through a Denon micro, songs sound pretty good, but channel it through a £1000 amp/speaker combo and you light the blue touch-paper: Johnny Cash's voice on his version of Nine Inch Nail's Hurt is heart-rending, while the Amélie soundtrack carries you away to the cobbled streets of Montmartre; Leftfield's Space Shanty will have you hopping around the room like it's 1995 all over again.

The Squeezebox 3 can play just about any file format, though if you want to play tracks downloaded from the iTunes store you'll need to burn them to CD, and then re-rip them.

Overall, it's a highly flexible piece of kit, meaning it might just be the thing to free your music from the confines of your PC.