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Set up for what is seemingly an incredibly diverse and cutting edge product was as simple as can be. I plugged into the same spot that was reserved for my Squeezebox 3 for three years, connecting the Ethernet cable, and to start, a pair of Kimber analog interconnects. It immediately identified and connected to my network when I asked it to, and found the music library on my Mac Mini. I also signed into Pandora.
When I pulled up a music folder, selected a track, and hit play, my first reaction was quite unexpected. The previous generation of Squeezebox was pretty mediocre sounding when connected via the analog outputs. The payoff came when running a digital cable into an outboard DAC, which to my mind offered really high class sound. Well, it seems Logitech decided to pour a lot of resources into improving the analog output, because I was pretty stunned at how good it was. I would sum it up by saying it was at least as good as a mid priced CD player, and possibly better. This was not the dull, veiled sound I had experienced with the Squeezebox 3.
I then ran a Kimber Opti-1 optical digital cable from the Touch to my CIA VDA-2 24 bit DAC. The improvement was immediate in just about every category, but it was closer than I expected. The sound was more refined, a bit more detailed, and clearly more organic sounding, but I will repeat, those analog outputs are not to be dismissed. I streamed a bunch of my dimeadozen downloads, including a recent Coldplay FM recording, a beautiful performance by Portuguese vocalist Cesaria Evora, and a Boston Symphony Orchestra film score show case conducted by the great John Williams. Without exception, and throughout every genre and I threw at it, the Touch resolved complex musical passages, and conveyed a sense of scale and space I am used to hearing from only the upper echelon of digital gear.
I then loaded up CDs ripped to FLAC on both a Western Digital hard drive and on a SD Card to compare direct and network streamed playback. When you attach a USB device or an SD Card, the unit runs a scaled down version of SqueezeCenter, then indexes the device. The process is pretty quick, maybe taking around a minute. The sound from files being played back via direct connection was just as excellent. I was able to scroll through CD rips quickly and playback tracks by either touching the screen or using the remote. I also used my wife’s iPod (also a "Touch") on occasion, using the free remote app. A web interface is also available, which I did not try. This type of flexibility for so little money is just astonishing.
I also tuned into various internet radio stations and called up my Pandora account. I have become a Pandora convert. It is an excellent service for discovering new music and sounds pretty good for casual listening. I also used the Touch to wake me up for an early morning meeting one day. You can use preloaded sounds, any track in your music collection, or internet radio. Just make sure you don’t set the volume too loud!