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If one Squeezebox player is good, possibly two are even better!

You'll find the system becomes very habit forming, encouraging you to add multiple units all around your house.

 
 
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Using and Extending the Squeezebox Network Music System

Enjoy a huge wealth of free internet music everywhere in your house
 

The Squeezebox Boom is another unit in the family of compatible Squeezebox players and could be added to your Duet to extend your system into a second room/area if you wished.

Part two of a two part series on the Logitech Squeezebox Network Music System; see also :

1.  An Introduction to the Logitech Squeezebox Network Music System
2.  Using and extending the Logitech System

 

 

The ability to have music 'on tap' everywhere in your house used to require expensive equipment, special wiring, and be limited to simply relaying a radio station or else requiring you to be changing records/CDs/tapes all the time.

The Logitech Squeezebox system changes all that.  It is affordable, easy to use, and massively open ended in terms of the range of music and the ways you can choose it and play it around your house.

The Wealth of Internet Music Choices

As part of the continually evolving and improving phenomenon that is the internet, there has been a massive growth in the availability of online music sources - places that will stream music to your computer, or to dedicated 'internet radio' units, or to devices such as this Logitech Squeezebox Network Music System.

Originally internet music sounded awful and was unreliable, because the music was necessarily overly compressed and the data lines sometimes would slow down too much.  But nowadays, the enormous increases in internet data speeds have allowed both the music broadcasters to increase the bandwidth they use to send better quality music, and also have meant that for us as listeners, we get a more reliable as well as better quality signal.  Internet radio is now a viable service, and with thousands of different internet radio stations broadcasting on the internet, from all around the world, you're no longer limited to listening only to local radio stations on your normal radio.

Internet radio stations are either simply internet copies of regular radio stations, or they may be 'extensions' of a regular radio station (perhaps a regular station might broadcast a couple of internet station derivatives with slightly different formats).  In addition, there are entirely new broadcasters who have no regular radio station presence, but just an internet presence.  There are currently (Oct 09) estimated to be about 11,000 internet radio stations for people to choose from.  That's a staggeringly huge number of choices - there's something there for every possible interest.

Sirius/XM radio - the satellite radio company - also broadcasts most of its channels over the internet, providing a great source of selective programming, mainly advertising free.

More recently, we've seen the evolution of much more sophisticated internet music services.  Services such as Pandora and last.fm will create your own unique music channel, based on the music you like and dislike, and it learns from your reaction to the music it sends, fine-tuning its selections, and ending up with an amazingly accurate selection of tunes being sent to you, without requiring you to actually do any programming or music selection per se.  For more on these amazing services, see our three part series all about personalized internet music services here.

There are also services where you do choose the music you want to hear, track by track, tune by tune.  These are also very convenient, but require a bit more involvement on your part.  Often I find I just want to listen to music that I know I'll like, but I don't want the hassle of having to choose it myself, and so I'll either select one of my favorite internet radio stations or else go to a place such as last.fm and let them choose the music for me.

Free services will probably have some advertising, and for not a lot of money you can also get advertising free internet music broadcast services.

So, the bottom line is there is such an extraordinary variety of music programming now available on the internet that you might never need to turn to your CD collection any more.  But if you want to be able to play your CDs anywhere in the house, that it possible, too - see the next section.

Playing Your CDs

To play your CDs anywhere in the house through the Squeezebox system, you simply 'rip' them (ie convert them) and save them on your computer, and then have the Squeezebox controller select that music to play.

See our article on 'Making MP3 Sound Recordings' for detailed information on how to do this - and note that although we've written an article on the subject, it is very easy and quick to do this, and requires no extra software over and above that already provided by Microsoft on your PC.

There is one very nice feature for you when you're playing music off your own CDs.  Unlike some MP3 players (most notably Apple) which force you into only using their way of organizing your music, you can also manage your music by directory structuring.  This is an essential feature for classical music lovers, because the music organization structure forced on you by Apple is completely useless for classical music.

Supported Music Formats

Most digital music was formerly recorded in MP3 format, but these days there are a number of other formats that are also found.  AAC and WMA are the other two formats that are now in common usage.

The Squeezebox Player can decode and play music in all three of these formats, plus other less common formats too.  In total, it supports the following formats :

  • MP3 (CBR and VBR)

  • AAC (.M4A)

  • WMA (CBR, VBR and lossless)

  • OGG

  • FLAC

  • Apple Lossless

  • WAV

  • AIFF

  • APE

  • MPC

  • WavPack

The player software will also recognize playlists that you've created with programs such as iTunes, Windows Media Player and WinAMP.

Using the Player with Apple iTunes

If you have iTunes managing your music, the Squeezebox software will recognize and work with the music and playlists on your hard drive.  But it will not play any of the copy-protected digital-rights-controlled music that you have purchased through the Apple iStore, although the new uncopy- protected tunes will work perfectly.

This is due to the copy restrictions Apple earlier imposed on the music you buy from them.

Adding to Your Squeezebox Duet System

If you're like me, you'll quickly decide that you want to add additional music players for other rooms in your house.  Maybe there will be one in each bedroom, one in the living room, one in the kitchen, and one in the den.  Perhaps another one in the garage, too.

In addition to adding more players, you might decide you want to add another controller or two as well.  Maybe one for upstairs, one for downstairs.  Or one for the children, and one for you.

This is all possible, and very easy to implement.

Additional receiver/player units cost about $150 each.  Additional controllers cost about $200 each.  If you want to buy both another player and another controller, it is slightly cheaper to simply buy another complete Duet package, which has one of each in it.  This costs about $325 each (discount pricing as per Amazon's current pricing.

An Alternative to the Squeezebox Controller

If you are considering buying another controller, consider instead buying the iPeng software to run on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

If you already have an iPhone or iPod Touch, it will cost you only $9.99 to add this application to your unit, and it gives you at least as good and in my opinion a much better solution for controlling your receiver(s) as does the dedicated Squeezebox controller.  The interface is better, it is easier to move through choices than with the wheel on a Squeezebox controller, the battery life is less of a continual issue, and whereas I often find my Squeezebox controller is in another room, my iPhone is always with me.

Plus there's something tremendously 'cool' about controlling one's music playing via one's cell phone or MP3 player!

If you don't already have an iPhone or iPod Touch, perhaps this is the reason you've been needing to get one.

A Squeezebox controller costs about $200.  Why not buy an iPod Touch (priced at $199) and so for the same price as a controller which does little more than control your Squeezebox, you have a fully featured state of the art music/video player and access to (as of Oct 09) some 85,000 different extra programs that can be added to the iPod Touch, making it an extraordinarily useful multi-purpose device.

Alternatively, and even better, if you're thinking about getting a new cell phone, this is yet one more reason (should you still be needing more reasons) to get an iPhone.

Synchronizing multiple players

Sometimes you'll want to have different music playing in different parts of your house.  For example, your teenage son may wish something to be played in his bedroom that is quite different to what you wish playing in your living room.  This can readily be done, with each different player able to play totally different music choices.

More complicated is getting players to all play the same music simultaneously.  You might want to have the same music playing throughout the house, or at least in two or three different locations.  In such a case you want it to be playing in synchronization with each other player with no delays or echo type effects.

Happily, the Logitech Squeezebox system does allow you to synchronize multiple players.

How Many Units Can You Add?

There is no theoretical limit to the number of players and controllers you can add to your system, but there are some practical limitations that will restrict most of us to perhaps ten or so players, and as many controllers as we wish.

The following blue subheadings consider in exhaustive detail the limitations on the number of units you can add to your network.  You might perhaps choose to page down past this to the next major heading if it is of no interest or relevance.

IP address availability

You can add as many extra devices (any combination of controllers and players) as you have available IP addresses in your LAN.  Most of us have a router that creates a 'Class C' network of just over 250 IP addresses, so after deducting a few IP addresses for a couple of computers and perhaps a cell phone or two, you'll end up being able to add almost 250 extra Logitech devices.

Actually, you could add still more by upgrading your router to a Class B network (with about 65,000 addresses)

LAN bandwidth

Most of us operate either an 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi network, with maximum bandwidth of either 11 or 54 Mbits/sec, and actual effective bandwidth much lower than that.

If we have wired cabling, that is probably running at either 10 or 100 Mbits/sec, and has effective bandwidth of slightly more than half the maximum bandwidth.

Music data streams will vary in bandwidth, with some internet radio streams only requiring 48 kbits/sec, many commercial music downloads being 128 kbits/sec, and personally ripped music being whatever we chose, but hopefully 192 kbits/sec which is an ideal compromise.

So the number of music streams that can play through our home network from a bandwidth perspective can vary enormously, from potentially as few as perhaps 10 in a slow 802.11b environment with high bandwidth streams to as many as 500 or more in a wired 100 Mbit ethernet environment.

External WAN bandwidth (ie internet connection speed)

If some of the music you are playing is being streamed off the internet, this provides another possible constraint.  The extent of this constraint of course depends on the speed of your data line and what else you might be doing with your line at the same time.  Just to take a for-instance, if you have a 1 Mbit/sec data line, then you could expect to have perhaps 12 internet radio feeds simultaneously playing, each with a 64 kbit bandwidth.

Computer data rates and processing power

If you are playing music off your computer, clearly your computer has to be adequate to the task of serving the music streams you are requesting.

Fortunately, most reasonably modern computers and their hard drives are capable of streaming data at a rate considerably greater than even a 100 Mbit/sec LAN (they can maybe reach 300 Mbit/sec, sometimes more) so this is least likely to become a limiting factor.

Practical 'large' sized networks

Few of us will want to have as many as even ten players in their home.  Besides which, it will be very rare to have every different player all playing music at the same time, because most of the time we'll only want players working in the rooms we're actually in at the time.

So, for those of us with maybe 5 - 10 players max, and only ever with two or three of those players operating at any given time, we're never going to encounter any problems or limitations.

Other Logitech Network Music Player Devices

Logitech make a range of other network music player devices, all under the general name of 'Squeezebox'.  The Duet system referred to here is fully compatible with the other units, and the name 'Duet' simply refers to the fact that you're getting two units in the package - a controller and a player.

Some of their other units are 'standalone' - that is, they can work completely by themselves, with built in controls, and some (eg their Squeezebox Boom) even contain speakers too.

In addition to whatever controls are on the units themselves, they can all be controlled by the Controller that comes as part of the two piece Duet system.

So don't limit your expansion choices to only additional receivers.  The extra convenience of a unit that comes complete with its own controls and speakers might be of definite value, and each of the several other hardware choices also answers some niche need in the market.

Summary

Logitech's Squeezebox Network Music System, and in particular their Duet product, is very well thought out, easy to operate, and massively featured.

It opens up the entire universe of internet music, and takes it away from your computer and allows you to enjoy all the music on the internet (and all the music on your computer) anywhere you choose to plug in a Logitech player, and to conveniently control it from anywhere you have a Logitech controller.

It can grow to be a sophisticated multi-room system, but never becomes too complicated to understand and use.

Available from Amazon and other sources, and priced from about $325 for a Duet system, the product is priced way below its main competitor (Sonos) while offering comparable or perhaps even superior functionality.

As an attractive alternative, consider buying the receiver alone (no controller) and use the iPeng controller software on an iPhone or iPod Touch instead of the Squeezebox controller.

Recommended.

Part two of a two part series on the Logitech Squeezebox Network Music System; see also :

1.  An Introduction to the Logitech Squeezebox Network Music System
2.  Using and extending the Logitech System

 

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Originally published 5 June 2009, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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