Review: Logitech Squeezebox Boom

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Quick Version: The Logitech Squeezebox Boom is a free-standing network device that can be used to play your complete music library. The setup is surprisingly easy, even if you are connecting it to a wireless network that uses 128-bit encryption. When it comes time to enter your key, simply turn the wheel and click it to enter the digit. My network was found immediately, and Squeezebox obtained an IP address within seconds of me entering the key.

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After obtaining an IP, the first message I received was “No SqueezeCenter Found”. “SqueezeCenter” is not one of the more common words I use, so I had to look this one up to find out what they expected of me. What I found was that you have the option of signing up for a SqueezeNetwork account. I decided to try moving forward without doing this, figuring that since I had connected to my network, I should be able to listen to my own stuff. I clicked the dial and my firmware was immediately updated.

After that was done, I was presented with a Player Pin. Sensing this could be important, I wrote it down. Some scrolling text told me to go to http://www.squeezenetwork.com to register. At this point, I decided to go ahead and get it done.

Signing up was simple, and on the first screen, they were already asking for the Player Pin I had received from my Squeezebox. The next page offered a couple of free services such as Pandora and Slacker, and trials for a few others, like Sirius. I selected the Pandora option, after which I was sent a validation e-mail and downloaded the SqueezeCenter software.

Interestingly, before I received the validation e-mail, I happened to glance at the Squeezebox and noticed the scrolling message was now welcoming me to SqueezeNetwork, and that I was registered. Smart. I clicked the dial once more, and was presented with one of nine main options. These included Music Library, Internet Radio, Music Services, Settings, etc. I hadn’t yet opened the SqueezeCenter software, so chose Internet Radio.

There are almost too many options to choose from here, and one small gripe I have is that the services that are offered as trials are available in the menu. There doesn’t appear to be a way to hide these, so you can’t just scroll through everything that is actually available to you. Again, a small gripe, but as a new user trying to find my way around, it didn’t help.

The safest sub-menu option was RadioTime, which includes a LocalRadio option. Most of my radio stations were available, and with the exception of two or three, they connected and worked fine. The clarity was excellent, and rivaled a standard antenna.

Now it was time to get to the most important part, for me; getting my massive library of MP3s associated with the Squeezebox and seeing how well (if at all) it organized, categorized, and made selecting the music I wanted to listen to as easy as possible.

When I opened the installed software, Internet Explorer came up and asked me to sign in. I was given three options, to use Local music, my iTunes library, or MusicIP. The first two were the most likely, but did I need both? I decided to go with both, since they were both checked by default. On the next page, I selected my music folder, then the playlist folder.

It was at this point that I figured I could count on a long wait. At the bottom of the page, I was informed that it was scanning my Music Library of 4598 items. It seemed to scan about 130 items every 10 seconds, and it was done within 6-7 minutes. I then got to see the playlist it had created, which was a fairly well-organized menu that could be sorted by artist, album, genre, year…..just about anything you would expect from a music player.

Initially, however, I was unable to play any tracks from the software on my PC. I turned back to the Squeezebox, selected Music Library, and was able to play my music. I listened for a bit, then went back to my PC’s library, and this time when I clicked Play, it played the song from the Squeezebox.

Aside from a few new-user frustrations, I was very impressed with the setup process. From connecting to your network (which you can also do via Ethernet cable), installing the software and signing up to their music service is about as easy as you can get. But how does it sound?

In a word, fantastic. For a little box that measures maybe 14 inches across (though it’s surprisingly heavy for its size), it puts out a strong sound. I put this in my living room where I have 5.1 Surround speakers that I usually listen to my music on through my Xbox 360. I expected the lack of surround (and subwoofer, for that matter) to be to noticeable to ignore. And, okay, if you must listen to your tunes on no less than six speakers, you’ll miss it. But aside from that, the Squeezebox was nearly up to the task of matching up to my main setup.

The sound is crisp and full. I put on some AC/DC and put the volume at 70 and it filled the room adequately enough. There is also a subwoofer/headphone jack in the back, so if you have a subwoofer with a 3.5mm jack, you can, and probably should, use it. You can also plug in an MP3 player, portable CD player, or other music device directly to the Line In input.

This may very well become a permanent feature in my living room. The fact that I can listen to the radio and access additional content via whatever subscription services I select along with my regular library is a huge plus.

Another couple of notes about the software. You have a selection of skins you can slap on. You can add a wide variety of plug-ins, set up Podcast, and the Status tab offers a nifty look at some detailed statistics on your songs and setup. And not only can you play songs on your Squeezebox directly from your PC, but if the software is running and you are playing tracks from the device, you’ll see the playlist and track come up in the software. One sore spot is that when you pause the device using the remote and then hit play, the song starts from the beginning instead of where it had been paused. This can be aggravating.

The remote is very handy as well. It’s very easy to navigate through the menus, and there is even a Sleep option that you can set at 15-minute intervals, so it will stop playing when you want it to.

Overall, this is a great device to use for all your music needs. The quality of the sound is solid, it’s easy to use, and the services offered make this a good deal.

The device is $299 online and in stores.

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