capsule review

Logitech Squeezebox Duet

At a Glance
  • Logitech Squeezebox Duet

    TechHive Rating

    A cheaper alternative to the Sonos music system that lets you play digital music in multiple rooms simultaneously.

Few digital music streaming devices have caught on. Sure, such devices let you stream music over a wireless network, but they've either been inexpensive and clunky--with complicated setups to connect to your network and tiny, text-only screens--or they've been more graceful but pricey. The one truly successful system, from Sonos, falls in the latter category: It runs about $1000 for a two-room setup.

The new Squeezebox Duet, from Logitech division Slim Devices, tries--and mostly succeeds--at splitting the difference between those two extremes. At $400 for a one-room setup and $550 for a two-room system, the Duet costs about half the price of the Sonos system. (Of course, the $1000 bundle from Sonos includes one player with a built-in amplifier, something the Duet system doesn't offer.) And the Duet shares some of the features of its more expensive competition, including an elegant remote control with a color LCD.

Getting up and running with the Duet is easier than with most other streaming devices I've tried. The Duet detected the networks in my area, and let me choose which one to join.

The receiver portion of the Duet is a basic black box with just one button in the front (you push it to prompt the box to connect to your wireless network). It has RCA, optical, and digital coax outputs for connecting to a stereo, boom box, or powered speakers.

If you have two Duet receivers (an extra receiver is $150), Slim Devices says you can either play different music in two rooms or synchronize the two receivers and have the same music playing in both rooms. The company supplied only one receiver, so I couldn't test how well that feature works.

Once you have the Duet configured to work with your network, you have lots of musical playback choices. The Duet handles most audio formats that you can think of, including standard fare such as MP3, AAC, and Ogg Vorbis; lossless formats such as FLAC and Apple Lossless; and uncompressed formats such as .wav and AIFF. The Duet's one gaping hole: It won't play files with any sort of digital rights management protection.

In addition to streaming music from your PC, the Duet will also connect with numerous online music sources, including services such as Rhapsody, Pandora, and Slacker, plus Internet radio stations. If you don't already have accounts, you can sign up for premium services through squeezenetwork.com, a site associated with your Duet.

The Web service still has some kinks to work out. The squeezenetwork.com site had some bugs when I used it, for example. I attempted to sign up for Pandora, filling out all the required boxes, and when I clicked submit I received an error message that said, literally, "BLAH BLAH." Not exceptionally helpful. I successfully signed up for Last.fm, but once I did so, I couldn't find any way to play the service through the Duet.

Using the Duet's controller to navigate the playback options is mostly a pleasure. The navigation makes sense, and the 2.4-inch color screen gives you lots of room to see your choices. Once you decide on an album to play, you can view the album's cover art. The display features crystal-clear text, though you do get what you pay for (the screen is neither as large nor as bright and luxurious as the screen on the Sonos controller).

I have a few gripes about the Duet, which came up in the course of my testing. While playback was often faultless, at times the Duet would fail to play a song or cut out in the middle of a song. The system would report that it was still connected to my wireless network, but it would be unable to play a song on my PC, even though it may have played the same song a few minutes before.

In addition, the scroll wheel on the controller is not as responsive as those you'll find on an iPod: Getting to the exact menu item I was interested in was frequently frustrating. I also experienced long lag times between pressing a button and seeing a result. Some of the delays occurred when the system was dealing with resources on the Web, and so the lag may be attributed to latency on the Net. Other times, however, something as simple as changing the volume took a few seconds to kick in.

Overall, this is an elegant system that's simple to set up and use, and it offers a reasonably priced alternative to high-end products such as the Sonos Digital Music System. But its habit of cutting out or failing to play a song can be extremely annoying.

--Edward N. Albro

This story, "Logitech Squeezebox Duet" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    A cheaper alternative to the Sonos music system that lets you play digital music in multiple rooms simultaneously.

    Pros

    • Logical navigation
    • Simple setup

    Cons

    • Playback occasionally fails
    • Imprecise scroll wheel
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