Yes. The sound quality was so promising I have played around with a few different permutations. Cheap DACs do not improve it. But the cheapest fix that really improved the sound was to put a Jensen Transformer between the audio outputs and my amplifier. The improvement was pretty startling. I have now decided I will upgrade my PC, and put my old one in the basement. The basement PC will have large disk storage holding all my CDs at full resolution, running the Slimserver 24/7, so that I can use the Squeezebox anytime I want.
I rip the CDs at full resolution and then use FLAC to compress the files without any loss of resolution. I started out using wifi but have switched over to a wired lan for greater reliability and much reduced jitter.
The convenience of selecting any of my music with a remote from my seating position is amazing. A much bigger jump in convenience than moving from vinyl to CDs - it is totally compelling.
I am so impressed, my mission is to get the reliability and sound quality up to a level where I no longer need my CD player. What I find stunning is that a USD199 box sounds so good without tweaking. One of the reasons is probably the lower jitter of reading off a magnetic disk rather than an optical one, but it is still better than say a Rega Planet CD player (though that is not saying much). With the Jensen Transformer it is much better again. Ideally it would be paired with a good DAC, but have not had the chance to try any good DACs with it yet.
Great to hear of your positive experience. it fits with mine. I'm running my Squeezebox into a Genesis Digital Lens and then into an Apogee Big Ben. Then I'm using a TacT RCS 2.0s and dCS Purcell and Delius. The sound of the squeezebox in this manner is nearly as good as CD sound from a modified Wadia 270se.
There are still some minor bugs that the SlimDevices folks are trying to work out. For example, sometimes my channels reverse for no good reason.
I also use a Squeezebox driving an external DAC (conrad johnson DA2-B) and the sound I get is most certainly cleaner and more resolving than with any of the transports I've tried. The digital PCM output is excellent quality and drives the DAC beautifully. The analog output is reasonable, but isn't really up to par with the current offering of mid-priced CD players on the market. For $200 however, its quite a value as a CDP replacement in a low to midrange system, and an astonomical value when compared to the price of a quality transport.
For reference, all of my music was extracted from CD using Exact Audio Copy
and then encoded into FLAC format for storage. The combination provides a perfect copy of the CD audio and uses about half the space of the raw WAV or AIFF files.
Finally put a decent DAC on the Squeezebox, a Northstar Model 192 DAC. I am thinking of perhaps putting a MSB Network card in the Squeezebox next. The MSB netwok card upsamples and reclocks inside the transport and then has an I2S output via RJ45 and ethernet cable. Similarly the Northstar Model 192 has an I2S input via RJ45 connector. I am selling my CD player and modifying a TEAC VRDS transport and then it will be 'game on' between the Squeezebox and the TEAC. It should be fun. The Northstar is sounding better and better every day as it runs in.
I haven't any idea what an AIFF file is Harry, so I will look it up. Any reason why you use it? Is it an equivalent to FLAC?
I am TOTALLY sold on the Squeezebox. The convenience makes a big difference to my music listening. Perhaps the biggest thing is that it results in me listening to a lot bigger range of music in my collection - simply because I do not have to go over to my CD rack and figure out what to play next. Staying in the listening seat, listening to the current track and wandering around 10,000 tracks to cue up what I will listen to next is just magic. Adding three of four albums into a playlist and then shuffling them up and hitting play is great too.
Squeezebox is AMAZING!! AIFF is a totally uncompressed format supported by iTunes and Squeezebox similar to a .wav file. You probably won't be able to tell the difference between AIFF and FLAC, although to my ear...I liked AIFF better.
I'm running my squeezebox through a digital lens and apogee big ben....and then to a dCS purcell upsampler...and a dCS delius dac. Overkill you say?? You should hear the sound. It rivals my modified Wadia 270se.
There are still a few minor bugs wth the squeezebox. I occasionally notice that the channels are reversed. They are working on this.
It will be interesting to see how the new Apple Airport Express...with it's digital output and direct wireless link to iTunes compares. We'll see if it is sonically infereior.
Keep in touch.
I found the hardwired connection to be better than the WiFi - it sounded like less jitter
If you are using a laptop try streaming to the squeezebox on battery power. Also Apple lossless files sound very good and less prone to dropouts in my wireless network.
Haven't tried Apple Lossless files yet...but will. I'm running my squeezebox off of the 5V output of a B&K Linear power supply. I think I hear improvement, but haven't done careful blind testing yet.
Anybody out there modified their squeezebox yet??
"Jitter" as a concept does not apply to digital bitstream read from a hard disk file. It was something that applied to Audio CDs but once you rip the file to a wav or FLAC it's "frozen in time." Every time you play it back in a pure digital passthrough mode from your computer, as it leaves the pc it is an exact duplication of the bitstream read from your CD at the time you read it.
That's not to say that this has no jitter, it just has the exact jitter at the time of the rip, ever time. This is assuming you have a clean digital line to your outboard DAC / Pre-pro / Receiver / whatever.
Sonance...I posted your response in another forum and Tonycdk replied in the following manner;
"Having a correct bit stream is not the problem . Almost all
players derive the correct bit stream (except for read errors that
may occur from really bad CDs).
Accurate digital reproduction requires that the original sampling
of the analog waveform from the microphone occurs at exactly
equal time increments, and then is converted back from digital at
exactly equal timing increments. If there is any slight variation in
the timing, either in the recording process or the reproduction
process (the two are independent of each other) the reproduced
waveform will not be exactly the same as the original.
It is basically more or less impossible to build hardware to
provide absolutely perfect timing. The slight scatter in the actual
length of the timing ( it is usually in the hundreds of pico second
range) results in what we call "jitter" and a slightly imperfect
In any digital recording there is absolutely nothing we can do
about 'jitter' introduced by timing spread in the recording
equipment. This effect is encoded on the recording and can not
be removed. Fortunately most recording gear seems to be
reasonably good these days - although that may not be the case
for some early digital recordings.
Mostly, what we hear as 'jitter' results from the accuracy of the
timing in our gear. Having a perfect bit stream does not affect
the timing. This is why we put so much emphasis on accurate
clocking of the data stream - for example, why so many of us use
the Big Ben for re-clocking.
The short answer to your question is that having an accurate bit
stream is good, but is unrelated to the jitter issue."
This is why reclocking the signal pertains to the squeezebox even though the data stream originates from a hard drive!!!
That fits with my understanding of the issue, I think. Jitter can occur at any point in the chain but can be put back in its right place by clocking it right - which is the purpose of the Big Ben (I want one!), but of course jitter in the recording process cannot be fixed in the playback process or vice versa. The added jitter I thought I experienced with WiFi was possibly power supply issues when using WiFi causing the crystal clock in the Squeezebox to operate less effectively.
Just on this jitter issue - I am no engineer, and what I am about to say will probably anger anyone who is, but my playing with stuff is unbounded, and I think there are possibly other issues than just hitter at play in digital cables etc. I suspect that digital cables pick up EMI and RF to different degrees and therefore induce more or less noise into the analogue parts of any audio system. The reason I think that is that I have done blind tests where me and a couple of buddies have been able to pick which digital cable was which based on how those two same cables sounded when used as analogue interconnects!!! Wierd I know, but some of the characteristics of the cables when used as analogue interconnect cables, could be heard when the same cables were used as digital cables.
Therefore the Big Ben, or Benchmark DAC or whatever reclocking you use, does not necessarily mean you do not need to play around with 'flavours' of digital interconnect - and implies some things about use of decent fiber cables instead.
Redkiwi and others:
Here's something you might be interested in. I haven't tried it but it looks like a possible squeezebox alternative:http://www.xitel.com/product_phfl.htm
Here is a link to various DAR's (digital audio receivers) on the market:
I have fooled around with different ones over the years and found very few satisfactory. For some unknown reason few have digital outs (duh!!) and even few support lossless formats other than WAV.
I bought a SLIMP3 (previous version of the squeezebox) but ultimitley exchanged it for an Audiotron; the resaons are many, esoteric and probably irrelevant, although in the end i just found the audiotron more reliable. I also hated what the SLIMP3 looked like, ecspecially next to my other gear. I even went as far to to fashion a custom case for it (major dork) http://www.geekmods.com/neilslimp3/case.htm
The squeeze box looks like a vast improvement over it's predessors. However I personally think that the Audio DAR is a dead end, rather spend your money on a custom HTPC (proabably put one together for around $1400) have video capability as well, support for endless format, the DAC that you want and a cast the is outright gorgeous.....
this is my next project http://www.ahanix.com/dvine5.html
For what its worth, my Squeezebox, with 25 metres of ethernet cable, through a router down to my computer in the basement is outperforming my now run-in TEAC VRDS transport, except for slightly better extension at the extremes from the TEAC. The Squeezebox is more precise and more musical. I am going to modify both over the next month and see how the order of preference changes. Unlike Harry, neither is benefitting from an intermediate devide, they are both going into a Northstar Model 192 DAC.
I picked up the Xitel Pro-HiFi link for $99 at a local CompUSA today. Very impressive indeed. It can play all my file types (AIFF, WAV, etc.). It also has both toslink and digital coax output. I simply plugged a USB cable into my computer and into the small silver interface box. From there, I plugged a glass toslink into my Genesis Digital Lens. For sake of completeness, the full path is as follows:
Computer via USB -> Xitel Pro-HiFi Link -> Genesis Lens -> ApogeeBB -> TacT RCS 2.0 -> Apogee BB -> dCS Purcell -> dCS Delius -> Placette Dual Mono Preamp -> Innersound ESL Monoblocks ->Martin Logan CLS II z's + 2 Vandersteen 2wq subs.
The Xitel Link is hooked to the Lens via Toslink and the Squeezebox is hooked to the Lens via digital coax. Otherwise the paths are identical except that the computer streams to the squeezebox via WiFi and the Xitel is hard wired via USB.
Bottom line is that both the Xitel and Squeezebox are both sonically excellent, but I must say that I prefer the Xitel so far. The advantage is that there are absolutely no dropouts or sonic glitches as I was occasionally seeing with the squeezebox. Additionally, I can use iTunes or anything else as my interface with the Xitel. With the Squeezebox, one is limited to the SlimDevices server software as an interface. With the Xitel, I simply went into system preference and set the audio output to the USB port. The Xitel worked immediately without a single glitch or dropout.
Sonically, I can currently say that the Xitel is at least as good as the Squeezebox, and possibly better.
So here are some advantages of xitel:
(1) Hard USB connection is more reliable than WiFi.
(2) Hard USB connection doesn't slow down family network and internet connection.
(3) Xitel allows use of any interface including iTunes. Any sound from any software can be directed to the USB port and out to the Xitel. Squeezebox requires proprietary SlimDevices server software
(4) Sonically at least as good as squeezebox, possibly superior.
(5) No drop outs, freeze ups, skips, noises, channel reversals etc. In all fairness, slimdevices is working hard to correct current problems.
(6) Xitel requires no firmware updates or server updates. It simply converts the USB output to PCM (or DD/DTS). It is MUCH simpler to use.
Here are the disadvantages of the Xitel:
(1) Requires wired USB connection. Less portability.
(2) No remote. All access is through the computer.
(3) There is no display on the box.
In summary, these devices are somewhat different in that one is simply an interface between the usb port of the computer and the stereo.....whereas the other is a more ambitious, but less reliable server based solution with WiFi potential and a remote.
For me the decision is a no brainer. With the squeezebox...I always had my computer in front of me for control anyway, and I felt that the WiFi aspect, while somewhat convenient, also led to lots of problems.
I'll be using the Xitel from now on...although I'll hang on to my squeezebox for now.
If anybody has any questions about this thing...drop me a line.
Interesting. I would still prefer the Squeezebox. My server computer is in the basement, running full-time. I never need to go down there because I manage it remotely using VNC from another computer when required. I don't want a computer running in the same room as the stereo if I can help it, and do not see the need to have a full screen open to access the music. I find the little Squeezebox client to be just fine for accessing the music. Where I think we also differ, is that I have a wired ethernet connection from my PC to the Squeezebox client - I found the WiFi painful with drop-outs and clearly inferior sound, particularly with full resolution wav files.
Since you are happy to run wired connection to the Xitel and then to the stereo Harry, why not try an ethernet cross-over cable from your PC to the Squeezebox and see how the sound/performance is then?
That's the next step....i'll try wired Squeezebox. But I still have the issue of the squeezebox eating up a fair bit of bandwith on our network. I'll give it a try though.
Anybody listening to Internet radio?
My only issue is the squeezebox can't play live365.com subscriber access which has higher bitrate streams and no commercials but require the live365 player.
Re dropouts it can be a problem but Apple lossless files dramatically reduce/eliminate drop outs in my wifi network compared to wav files and sound identical. Also the ethernet crossover cable that comes with the squeezebox will run directly from a pc to the squeezebox without impacting the network.
Yes...i forgot to mention this. The squeezebox also could not play streaming radio from Sirius because they have their own "player" interface...and the squeezbox server couldn't pick it up.
With the Xitel, I'm able to play the Sirius streams through my stereo. Incidentally, the streaming algorithms are improving and internet radio is becoming very tolerable from a sonic standpoint.
This stuff is going to get better and better!!!
I'm currently looking for something like that, but I'm really concerned with the quality of the unit: it's role is to receive, to buffer, and then to clock the signal into SPDIF out. But in order to do it with acceptable level of jitter it must have audiophile-grade circuitry: power supply, crystall, etc. - why people modify digital sections of their DACs and CDPs? I just don't get how this $200 device can produce anything good?
Dmitrydr: You really should try a squeezebox. From a sonic perspective, it is truly outstanding. The only modification I have done is that I am running mine from the 5V output of a B&K Linear power supply instead of from the one supplied. I also am running the output through a Genesis Digtial Lens and an Apogee Big Ben.
My problems with the Big Ben have been two fold. First, it eats a fair amount of bandwidth, so my home network gets much slower while it is in use. Second, as with all new products there have been some bugs that can lead to occasional dropouts, channel reversal etc.
For this reason I've also been using a wired solution. So far, I tried a Xitel Pro Hi Fi Link. This also sounds pretty darn good, but the cheap chipset upconverts everything to 48k instead of leaving it in native 44.1k. I have a problem with this because it can add artifact above the noise floor and I think it has.
Soooo....yesterday I ordered a Wavetermina U24 which is, according to many sources, bit-accurate and sonically outstanding. Of course, this is a USB wired solution as opposed to wireless.
I'll report on this here.
Dmitrydr: Have a look at the squeezebox site. The squeezebox was apparently developed in consultation with an audiophile club of some sort.
Harry is right that you can get good sound out of it if hard wired. The latest software and firmware upgrade has helped eliminate the bugs. I have it working now at a level of quality and reliability so that my modified TEAC VRDS transport doesn't get any use, and just gathers dust.
You need to add a decent DAC. Replacing the cheap switch-mode power supply with a stiffly regulated one is good. But better is opening it up and putting Black Gate caps wherever possible.
The main thing is, if you are a music lover you will love being liberated from having to waste time on those silly bits of aluminium and plastic, not to mention their horrible little cases, and just sit back and select the music you want with a push of a button. I am as anal an audiophile as most, but the functionality of the squeezebox has yielded the biggest boost to my music enjoyment of any purchase for many years.
i agree with everything you have said regarding the freedom of using ones computer as a soundserver. It just makes listening so much easier. Is the sound as good as my modified Wadia 270se?? No. But the convenience makes listening to tunes incredibly easy and enjoyable.
While I think the squeezebox is an excellent product, i think the wired USB solution with the Ego Systems Waveterminal U24 is better for me. The wireless aspect is unimportant to me, and I love the reliability, lack of dropouts or other problems, and the ability to use iTunes as my interface instead of the Slimdevices server.
I think both the Squeezebox and the Waveterminal will see a fair amount of action in my system.
I do have a question for you Redkiwi. When you speak of modifying the squeezebox with Black Gates...is this primarily for people using the analog outputs....or do you think this will have an impact for those of us who are using the digital output to a dac?
The principal reason I raise the Black Gates point is that I had a local guy who is pretty experienced with CDP mods look at the squeezebox and his opinion was replacing a few caps with Black Gates and improving the diodes was going to be more beneficial than replacing the external power supply. In the end I decided to do both. The context for that was only to upgrade the digital out performance and not the analogue section. In total the sound became faster, more extended at the extremes and there was better stage depth, presumably as a result of better detail retrieval.
I am tempted to try the Waveterminal. The only thing that keeps me wedded to the Squeezebox is that devices like the Waveterminal require me to have a monitor going somewhere close if I am going to select music from the listening chair.
I'm addicted to having my powerbook on my lap at all times, so the monitor is a non-issue to me!!!
lol - i often do the same in front of the stereo i must admit - usually buying something on a'gon
Guys, I'm happy to know that you're happy with the Squeezebox, and sometimes I'm going to tty it. I just wondering (and I really want to understand) how is it possible to have perfect quality product in this price range, and why, if so, don't we have most DACs there?
While I'm happy with the Squeezebox which has the advantage of being wireless....I'm actually a LOT more happy with the ESI Waveterminal U24.
All right, Harry, the same question goes for U24: it's still $250... I'm not trying to tell that quality is always pro rata to a price, but the price gap between more-less seriuos DAC and these devices is surprisingly big, and usually it doesn't happen with no reason...
Agree with you on this. Not always, but often the quality of internal components correlates with price. By the way, I'm not using the internal dac in ANY of thes units. I'm simply running USB in and digital out. The digital signal then hits a Genesis Lens, Apogee Big Ben, TacT RCS 2.0s, another Big Ben, dCS Purcell, dCS Delius and then off to the rest of my system.
I have been running my SqueezeBox on my ethernet network for a month or so. I am using a Bolder Modified Art D/IO I bought here on the 'Gon. I am using the Apple Lossless compression scheme, and am carefully cleaning each CD using various mixes of the popular cleaners =)
I find the sound quite extraordinary, (B&K and Von Schweikerts with most of the usual tweaks). The convenience is beyond killer and certainly way, way beyond what any mechanical CD changer can do. Plus as a dedicated Mac guy it thrills me to have all this very kewl software for free. My CD Player is a Cal Audio Labs 2500 and it isn't seeing a lot of duty in the CD world.
I totally second Dmitrydr: The news here to the old school (which includes everybody but us) is beep beep move over, major paradigm shift coming through.
But all is not perfect - three major beefs I've mailed them about:
#1 - The output jacks suck. Talking physical stuff - they literally do not protrude far enough for me to get my Cardas Lightning to even stay on it (this has an RCA that is huge, plus its a stiff cable)- Harry put it quite delicately - "the quality of the internal components correlates with price."
My thought is to send my new unit (o Wayne at Bolder to put some nice Cardas jacks in it plus do whatever else he can to the digital path. He has asked me, and I have asked the factory several times for schematics but so far no soap - but I got some great tips here.
BTW If one of you is a EE empath I'll give you or your buddy the business instead. Just let me know ASAP
#2 - I get these really nasty pops - can't quite tell if this is at fade up or fade down but its always in the clear between songs. Anyone else experience this? don't know if its the overloaded state of my Mac, the big files or what - a reboot seems to cure it.
#3 - There is no doubt that the server appreciably slows down our network. And the software is very grabby with IP addresses. We are all really lucky that those guys aren't hackers =)
I am also concerned that I am slowing my own machine (not as dramatic as the network slowdown but still) and that worse I am hammering my main drive. I have been seriously considering getting a LaCie Ethernet Disk and putting it in my printer closet. Not cheap but it works with all OS'es. Anyone have an opinion as to whether or not this will help - we both work at home and notice the drag on big up and downloads (DSL)
I have got to say that I have not heard of the Waveterminal before tonight. Sounds like a fine approach and one that I will look into. While the SLIM software is a very cool open source thing, from a day to day perspective it doesn't have anything on iTunes. And since I am already loading all the CDs in though iTunes...
Truth is that little display is cute but with the amount of material I already have here (55Gb of ripped music -remember that is Apple Lossles) for me navigating through the display is useless for anything but set up and genre selection. Whether I do that via Ethernet, USB or WiFi is neither here nor there to me.
Happy to have found this threat and look forward to seeing you all again.
I'm still loving my waveterminal. I was working through all of the network issues, pop and click issues, network slowdown issues, build quality issues.......and....well, I'm happy as a lark with my Waveterminal. If you don't mind a wired solution, all of these problems will disappear. The waveterminal works perfectly. And I haven't even started up the Waveterminal upgrade path yet.
If you continue with Squeezebox, you probably should find a way to use an external linear 5V power supply as oppossed to the the supplied wall wart. I ran my Sqeezebox of an external B&K Linear that I'm using to power other gear...and there was a definite improvement.
Incidentally, I copied my iTunes music folder to an external 250GB Lacie drive. Works great and saves your primary harddrive.
Don't know how long they will last but I found a unit for $139 this morning which is about $100 under everyone else on the net
ordered mine already
You better check to make sure it is a U24. It says U2A even though the picture is the U24. Make sure it's not an older discontinued model. If it is a U24 that is one AWESOME deal.
It looks like the real deal to me. But sadly they will not ship internationally (unless you count Canada), so I miss out.
Ckorody emailed me and informed me that the company that had the great price on the U24 was totally bogus. First of all, it was a U2A which has been discontinued. Second, they don't even sell that one either. Deals that are too good to be true...are generally false!!!
Hi All -
Found the unit for $199.99 at B&H which is about as reliable as they come in my experience. It is already here - have not hooked it up yet.
I am on Mac OS 10.3.4 and the software they send is for Classic and the Windows machines. However it seems that the audio manager in Apps/Utilities will do what is necessary. Will let you know after a test drive, meanwhile the Squeezebox plays on.
I'm using 10.3.4 also. Mine worked immediately, and also included an OS 10 version of the control software, although it is unnecessary.
Is anybody using lossless WMA with their Squeezeboxes? I've been ripping my CD collection with Windows Media Player 10 using this format because it's just so convenient -- one stop shopping in Windows Media Player, and it even downloads the album cover art. But I've only done about 30 CDs so it's not too late to switch if there's a reason.
Anyway, I don't yet have a D2A converter (until now, I just had my vintage Sony 707ESD CD player hooked directly to my amp) and was disappointed but not surprised by the lo-fi sound quality of the Squeezebox's analog outs. Springing for a separate A2D converter just for the Squeezebox doesn't really interest me, but I could kill two birds with one stone: is anyone running the Squeezebox's output into a HT pre/pro or a HT receiver like the Sony STR-DA9000ES?
Also, I'm curious but haven't been able to find out: does the SlimServer software on the PC decode/decompress the sound file (MP3, AIFF, WMA, etc.) and send PCM over TCP/IP to the Squeezebox itself or is the decoding/decompression function peformed in the Squeezebox? Supporting all those different formats in the Squeezebox seems a little counter-intuitive to me.
Is a DAC necessary? Or can one connect a Sqeezebox right to a power amp? Is the sound that bad without a DAC?
DAC is not necessary. Difficult to answer on the sound quality question. It depends on many variables. If you are just streaming 128kbps mp3, then it matter little. If the wireless network is slow, it will sound bad irregardless.
Assume all the computer side business is well implemented, it sounds ok for a $200 device. Don't expect it to sound like a newest Wadia DAC or even a Benchmark DAC-1.
Thanks Ejliu. I'm not going to rip my entire cd collection, just do a bit of streaming. As long as it sounds as good as fm radio, I'll give it a try. Wiley