Help me understand the mystical Wi-Fi Music Player of which you speak.
August 23, 2010 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Help me understand what I need to set up a Squeezebox system in my house.

This is making me crazy and also making me feel like a complete idiot. I've talked to the guy at the electronics store, read the Logitech Squeezebox website, and tried emailing with a friend who has a system and I still don't get it! seriously, I feel like Grandpa Simpson. We have a box of CDs and one set of reasonably nice amplified speakers in the basement. We own no other stereo equipment. It was recommended to me by several people that we look into the Squeezebox (or Roku) systems, but my follow-up questions just led to frustration. Looking at the Squeezebox and Roku sites--as well as CNet and some A/V forums, some gadget forums--just left me feeling even less like I understood the products. So I'm turning to Ask.Me. For simplicity, I'm confining the question to Squeezebox.

I would like to be able to listen to our music collection (which has been ripped to MP3 format) and to the radio in the basement, the living room, the kitchen and at least one other room upstairs, without having to carry some sort of player from room to room. And I don't want to listen to it through computer speakers. It's my understanding that--with the help of a central server (Squeezebox says any computer will do; a friend recommends a ReadyNAS Duo. Guy knows exactly what a ReadyNAS Duo is and thinks we would need a new machine to act as server, given the limitations of our existing machines)--Squeezebox can accomplish this. What I can't understand--and what no-one I've asked can tell me--is what pieces do I need to buy to accomplish this?

It seems that the SqueezeboxBoom will accomplish this in one room: wirelessly (or wired, for that matter), stream our MP3s and various radio stations from the server to the Boom's own speakers. Do I have to put a Boom in every room I want music in? If I don't want to buy 5 individual Booms, what options do I have?

The SqueezeboxDuet gives us "one controller" and "one receiver" but I cannot figure out from that page what either of those things does. Does the "receiver" connect one existing stereo/amplified speakers to the music server and the "controller" then control it? So the Duet would only get music into *one* room in my house?

If I correct that the Duet only hooks up my server to an existing stereo system and the Duet won't let me play anything in any room of my house that has no stereo equipment in it, how advanced or extensive need the existing stereo system be? Are amplified speakers sufficient? If the Duet is hooked up to one set of speakers/one existing stereo system, and we add a Boom, how does the controller come into play?

Having typed this all out, this is what I think I need to accomplish my goal of music all over the house: a server and three Booms (for the three upstairs rooms) and one Duet for the basement where we have speakers, but that seems excessive.
posted by crush-onastick to Technology (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I have an old school squeezebox receiver. I plug that into my tivoli audio radio (with the optional extra speaker and woofer). The server is my desktop PC. In the past the PC was Windows; now it's linux. The squeezbox server works the same on both.

I can't answer your question about your amplifier and speakers, although I assume the anser is yes; have you asked at logitech's squeezebox forums?

I can't answer your duet controller question, either. My assumption is the answer is yes -- one duet controller will control them all (in fact, you can buy additional receivers without additional controllers).

Either way, since the server UI is your internet browser, you can control your system from any device that can run a browser (including the android phone I'm typing this on).

I'm awfully happy with my squeezebox and I'm hoping to add a Boom soon. Why not get started with a Boom and go from there?
posted by notyou at 7:49 PM on August 23, 2010

I also have an old-school Squeezebox. No, you don't need anything fancier than an amplified speaker system and a standard desktop PC to make it work. Audio goes out from the Squeezebox and in to the amp. Any old amp will do - I hooked mine up to the "phono" input, to give you an idea of the vintage of the stereo system.

In any case - a Squeezebox cannot function in a room without speakers. But if you have speakers in a room that are wired to your pre-existing amp, then you will not need to have another Squeezebox receiver. Perhaps the duet just refers to the range of the control - it is powerful enough to change the music even though it is rooms away from the receiver.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:18 PM on August 23, 2010

I have a tiny server (with a big disk) running firefly to talk to two Soundbridges. One Soundbridge goes into the basement stereo. The other goes into a rather nice pair of amplified computer speakers. Both are awesome.
posted by scruss at 8:37 PM on August 23, 2010

I have a Squeezebox system with multiple players and love it. I am also a bitter and cynical professional IT person who hates fighting with technology and wants things like music players to just plain work. With that background, I would be happy to try and fill you in.

Servers: you will need a computer (or NAS) to run the Squeezebox Server. This is similar to using iTunes running on a computer as a music source. For starters, you can (and should) use any computer you have now (so long as it resembles modern). It should be a machine you can leave on 24/7 and it should have access to all of the music. In the long run I would recommend some type of NAS type device as they will be about as low of power as you can get for running all day. I can't make a recommendation on a specific NAS, but can if we get you that far.

Players; you will need something that will connect to the Squeezebox Server and actually play the music. Some of these players, The Radio and Boom, combine the player bit and the speakers. These require nothing else. I use the Radio as a bedside alarm clock and music player, While not amazing, it does the job to provide music while reading or getting dressed or whatnot. I understand the Boom to be noticeably better for audio quality. I've not heard it. The Duet (which is comprised of the Controller and Receiver) and the Touch put out un-amplified audio which would require some sort of amplifier and speakers.

Speakers;Don't knock "computer speakers". Pretty much all amplified speakers sold for consumer use will be labeled as computer speakers and some of them are very good. AudioEngine is commonly discussed as great self amplified speakers for example (I'm not recommending them personally as I haven't heard them). If you don't go with this type of speaker, you would need an amplifier.

Amplifiers; If your speakers aren't self amplified, you will need something to turn the un-amplified (line level) audio signal to something the speakers can use. The Touch and the Duet both can change the volume, so your amp could be just an amp and nothing more.

Duet; The Duet is made of two things, a Receiver (which would be physically connected to your speakers and actually plays the audio, and is the size of a trade paperback) and a Controller (which is a remote control (that uses wifi to connect to the Receiver) to control what is played back on the Receiver). You used to be able to buy those components separately but seemingly can only but them together as the Duet right now. Logitech has claimed in their forums that it is just a supply issue and it will be worked out.
posted by fief at 9:13 PM on August 23, 2010

An actual recommendation now;

Go grab Squeezebox Server, and get Squeezeplay. Do this on the computer you are at now. This will let you play with the system without putting any money down.

SqueezePlay is a software version of the Touch/Controller/Radio interface (the Boom has the previous interface and I can't really say anything about it as I haven't used it). Note, Squeezeplay is not officially supported and mostly meant as a development aid. Warning; if you are excited by the audio syncing between players, you can't do that with SqueezePlay.

If the general system is still to your liking after toying with the free stuff, get a Duet for the basement, a Radio, and a Boom. The Radio has an accessory pack which includes a battery if you are interested in moving it around on occasion. Compare the Boom an Radio and see if there is a strong reason for one or the other before buying more; for example, while the Boom has an older interface, it has better sound than the Radio. The Radio however is smaller, has a newer interface, and can take a battery.
posted by fief at 9:21 PM on August 23, 2010

And some random tidbits;

Any player can control any other player. The Controller is the obvious thing to use for such control, but you can really do it with any of the players.

The web interface is nice for creating complex playlists for parties and such. This interface can control any connected player.

Audio syncing between players is wonderful for parties.

There is a great program called "iPeng" for ios devices that provides an interface to control any player from the itouch/iphone. This is my primary interface to my Duet.

The Controller has a dock that charges it. I find the controller will drain it's batteries in a day or three if left off the controller. I have not extensively experimented with this as I use an iTouch and iphones for control. The forums seem to confirm that my experience is normal.

The old forums are better than the new forums for the advice of hardcore users. The official new forums are however where tech support actually hangs out.
posted by fief at 9:27 PM on August 23, 2010

We have a Squeezebox Boom. Our setup is pretty vanilla: A Vista desktop runs the SqueezeCenter software and stores the music library. The Boom connects to our router via WiFi. The Vista machine is configured to use Wake-On-LAN (WOL) so it doesn't need to be on all the time.

When I cobble together the cash I hope to move to a dedicated NAS though. We've been using that machine for non-music purposes less and less, and it's a bit of a beast. I'd also like to move the box upstairs to my office and get a real stereo with a Squeezebox receiver as it's not quite powerful enough for where it's located anyway. Also, a pony.
posted by rouftop at 10:39 PM on August 23, 2010

When you say you want to be able to listen to the radio, do you mean terrestrial AM/FM radio, or internet "radio" stations? Because I don't think any of the Squeezebox devices have terrestrial radio tuners. For that, you're either going to need a whole-house speaker system connected to a central receiver/tuner, or something in every room which has a radio tuner, amp, speakers, and an input for whatever network audio player you end up going with. If you mean radio stations which have internet streams, or services like, carry on.
posted by hades at 12:39 AM on August 24, 2010

FWIW, multiple players is a relatively new feature for SqueezeBox. If you're shopping around give Sonos a look for multiroom MP3 audio. It's expensive but does a really terrific job. It also has the option of amplified players which may make life easier for you.

In the Sonos system you need a ZonePlayer for every room with music (ZP90 is unamplified, ZP120 includes a decent amplifier). ZonePlayers are mostly wireless, but one of them needs to be plugged into a wired network with access to the Internet and to a file server with your MP3s. You also need at least one controller: you can buy theirs or use your iPhone. Note there's no real server software, it just uses filesharing to load the MP3s from your network.
posted by Nelson at 7:59 AM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, folks, thanks. Some really useful information above.

More info for anyone else with helpful advice:

(1) we do not and will not use iTunes/iPods/iPhones with the system (or at all, really) so it's not relevant. If it's necessary for the system (which it appears is a big NO), then it's a dealbreaker.

(2) by "radio", I mean streams from,, That kind of thing.

Nelson, most of the stuff I saw on Sonos said the significant bump in price from Squeezebox to Sonos did not bring corresponding benefits to most users who did not have very high-end speakers. Would you say the scaleability of the system is significantly better (in terms of cost only) for Sonos? It looks like $200-$300 dollars per unit for a Squeeze system.

posted by crush-onastick at 9:03 AM on August 24, 2010

The Sonos is definitely expensive. It works beautifully well, the software and user interface are great. I used to use a Squeezebox and liked it but it always felt like a bit of a hack; Sonos by contrast is really nicely designed. But I have no experience with the later Squeezebox devices that support multiple music zones, etc. The deciding factor for Sonos for me at the time was that it had amplifiers built in.
posted by Nelson at 9:41 AM on August 24, 2010

(1) itunes/ipods/iphones etc are not necessary.

(2) Radio: All the squeezeboxes can stream internet radio (and podcasts and etc). They'll reach out through your router; IOW, the server doesn't even need to be on to listen to internet radio.
posted by notyou at 1:53 PM on August 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for the input. We picked up a vortexbox, a Squeezebox Boom and a Squeezebox Radio. We had some issues getting the vortexbox up and running, but nothing tech support couldn't talk us (read: my very patient guy) through. I'm impressed with the bass that comes out of the Boom and the relative ease of using either unit. Having some small issues getting KEXP to play and I haven't yet figured out all the presets, but I'm very happy with it so far.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:56 PM on September 23, 2010

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