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Friday, August 21, 2009

Review: Squeezebox Duet

Short summary: DO NOT BUY. STAY AWAY

When I first bought a nice stereo system, someone recommended that I try a Squeezebox. I didn't bother because in the apartment, my computer was so close to the stereo I could just plug it in, so why bother.

Well, now I have a house, and the office with the equipment closet (NAS, wireless router, cable modem, and the EEE PC running Skype) is far away from the living room, so something like the Squeezebox makes sense. I ordered one and got it on Thursday, hoping that if it worked out, Lisa wouldn't have to deal with CDs while I was in Japan.

The box contains 3 items: a charging cradle for the controller, the receiver, and the controller. The first sign that the product was sub-par in quality was that the cradle was too big for the controller. What this meant was that when you put the controller in the cradle, the controller wouldn't charge! I had to resort to tearing up little pieces of paper and wedging them into the cradle so that the controller would have a good contact with the cradle's charging posts. This felt very silly, since if Logitech couldn't get their manufacturing act together, they should have used a simple, mini-USB port on the thing, skip the cradle, and everyone would be happier.

OK, then I had to install the SqueezeCenter software on either the EEE PC or my NAS. I installed it on both just to see which one would give me a good experience. Both installations went very smoothly --- products that rely on servers are usually nightmares, but this phase of the install went really well and I started looking forward to it.

I then connected the controller (which runs over WiFi, not infra-red) to my WPA network, started playing music, and all was well. Well, all was well for about 15 minutes. I showed the controller to Lisa and she loved it. Then midway through one of the songs on our playlist, the controller said, "Music stopped." That's it. An attempt to play got us nothing. The SqueezeCenter also would do the same thing. I rebooted the controller, and it got stuck at "connecting to Music source". I let it sit overnight, and woke up the next day to find all was well again.

For all of 15 minutes, then the controller started dropping out of WiFi. This time, though, controlling the receiver from the SqueezeCenter software worked. But the whole point of the deal was to be able to run music from the controller! My guess is that Logitech cheaped out on the Wifi Antenna for the controller (which is insane, given the price, but companies have been known to do insane things). I did a quick web-search and discovered that indeed, this was a common problem, and not isolated to just my house (which has great WiFi coverage everywhere, as you might expect --- it's just not that big!).

Well, at that point, I quickly packed everything backed into the box, printed an Amazon return label, and shipped it back. Logitech made way too many poor decisions in this product.

The standard system for this kind of stuff, according to people who would know, is Sonos. But at $1000 for a basic system, that's insane! I could buy another EEE PC, have it connect to the Firefly server, and dedicate to playing music, and still have enough money to buy a round trip ticket to Zurich for that! (Sure, the EEE PC won't have a remote, but I think I can write code to allow anyone to control the EEE PC from another PC)

I think my next step (to be done after I get back from Japan) is to try the Roku Soundbridge. It won't have as nice a remote controller, but it also won't break the bank either. If anyone has experience with this, let me know.

10 comments:

Unknown said...

Did you post your review on Amazon.com?

Piaw Na said...

I don't post reviews on Amazon.com. The restrictions (can't use links, etc) are just too annoying to me.

Nelson said...

I had earlier versions of the Squeezebox, from before the Logitech acquisition. They were great for what they did. WiFi is the devil, though, and it's very hard to diagnose what may have gone wrong.

I now have a Sonos system. It makes no sense if you only want one player, but it's great if you want a multi-zone system. It's also WiFi but it's an entirely separate private network. Very nice plug and play.

Piaw Na said...

If the SONOS wasn't priced like an Apple product, I'd buy it, but $1000 is too much. I think I can design my own system around a netbook for that much.

Brent Vincent said...

I tried Squeezebox and was similarly disappointed. FWIW my current solution (which I'm quite happy with) is a cheap media pc running Linux/Boxee, using my iPhone as a remote.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

I've just bought the Duet after having a Roku Soundbridge for a few years. There is nothing wrong with the Roku other then the menus can be a bit awkward. Good when you got used to it, easy to set up, and very reliable. The remote is a bit boring too. The Duet on the other hand has just been a nightmare, can't see the music server, network problems and a cheap overall finish. Very poor as the Sqeezebox Classic is a much nicer piece of kit for less money. Try the Roku, I like it.

Piaw Na said...

I just ordered a Soundbridge and it will get here tonight. Will post a review after I get experience.

ovidiu said...

I have 3 squeezeboxes in my house, all connected to a crappy Via Linux machine to which I regularly sync the iTunes collections from 3 computers. Two of the squeezeboxes (version 2 and version 3) are connected via Ethernet to their own amplifiers. The third one is a Boom and it's wirelessly connected to the server.

The setup works flawlessly, and I'm very happy with it. Maybe your problem is related to the WiFi network, I don't know. My wireless Boom works just fine in my house.

What I love about the SqueezeCenter software is that it allows for many possible configurations. I don't use the iTunes setup, because I want to have the music from 3 different computers available to the server. I setup the SqueezeCenter to rescan the music library at 2am, after the iTunes libraries have been rsync'ed to the Linux box.

Piaw Na said...

The Boom is not the same as the duet. It doesn't have the WiFi controller, for instance. The WiFi controller has known issues. For those with a single set-up room setup, the WiFi controller is a big feature --- if it worked.

As it is, I'm delighted with the Roku Soundbridge, and like it enough that I'll buy a second one for the bedroom.

admin said...

I've had a squeezebox duet for a bit over a year now and will admit that it can be quirky. When it works it really works and I find I listen to internet radio almost exclusively. My personal music collection (which lives on a NAS) is almost never accessed which is fortunate because the process of moving from NAS to mysqueezebox.com as a source is one of the buggier experiences following their recent firmware update. Anyway, thanks for your review, its good to know the experiences of others. If you're interested I documented some of my own here: http://www.chilligansisland.com/squeezebox-duet-review/