Logitech Squeezebox Touch REVIEW 
Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers
Written by Andre Marc   
Thursday, 30 June 2011

Logitech has long been known as a maker of spiffy computer peripherals, communication devices, and entertainment products. The company decided they wanted to expand their market beyond computer speakers, mice, keyboards, webcams, and other items into high quality audio products. A few years ago they made a clever acquisition, buying up Slim Devices, a maker of networked, streaming audio players. Their best known product, the Squeezebox, allowed users to access music stored on hard drives attached to computers anywhere in the house, listen to internet radio, and set up multi room systems via Ethernet or WiFi. 

I purchased a Squeezebox three years ago on whim, as I had just moved into a new house with freshly installed Cat5 jacks in every room.  I also was a serious live music collector, having downloaded and traded almost 2 TB of live classic rock, jazz, blues, alternative, and world music in lossless FLAC format.  The only way I had to listen to this collection was on my computer via low quality speakers, or to burn CD-Rs. I had read about the Squeezebox on various internet forums and decided to give it it a go.

Though it was probably the best $300 I have spent in audio, there were some limitations.  First, the analog outputs of the device were of middling quality, necessitating the use of an outboard DAC via either optical or coaxial connection for high quality sound. Secondly, sampling rates were limited to 48 Khz.  But none the less, just about every file format was supported, and set up and installation was a snap. It worked just as well with Windows and Mac, and was a pleasure to use in every way.

The only glitches I experienced, about two years in, was problems with Ethernet connectivity due to some bugs in the SqueezeCenter server software that crept in for a brief period, until the Logitech engineers were worked around the clock to finally fix it.  For that short time, I switched over to WiFi, which gave me an opportunity to come away impressed yet again. Digital media players that don’t offer flexibility and multiple methods of connectivity are DOA in my opinion.

The folks at Logitech obviously decided to redesign the Squeezebox to improve upon an already proven platform, but also to make it more cutting edge, and offer even more options and set up choices. Some of the obvious changes are the ability to decode 96 Khz material, the inclusion of both USB and SD Card slots, and the touch screen interface.  You can now view photos and album artwork on the screen, as well as navigate all the menus via touch.

The Squeezebox Touch has so many features, it would be impossible to list them. Some of the most basic features are compatibility with just about every lossless and lossy audio codec, including WAV, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, Mp3, and more. It is now compatible with sampling rates of 96 Khz.  As before you can create playlists, but you can also control other Squeezeboxes as well as program the Touch to turn on or off at specific times.

The Touch comes with two digital outputs, one TosLink, and one coaxial. There is a set of analog outputs, and SD card slot, a USB slot, and an Ethernet Jack. It also comes with a Wal Wart power supply. My only ergonomic complaint is that the digital outputs and the USB slot are rather close together, and connecting and disconnecting cables requires having nimble fingers.

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!



During the review period, I also received a Bryston BDA-1 DAC to review and moved the Touch into my main room. I connected the Touch via both optical and coaxial DH Labs digital cables, also in for review, to the Bryston to compare.  Both connection types were so close, but in the end I decided on Coax.  With the Touch set up in my main room, the Touch functioned as a high end digital streamer and file player, exactly what I suspected from listening in my smaller system, but now had confirmed.  I will have a lot more to say about the Bryston in the future, but let me say that it was superb match with the Touch.

Logitech Squeezebox Touch and Remote

I streamed more live music and FLAC rips with even more of the same result. Huge soundstaging, superb imaging, and real presence. When i called up a U2 soundboard from Salt Lake City, 2001, it was colossal. CD rips sounded fantastic. Specifically for this review I ripped around 60 GB of Redbook CDs and converted to FLAC.  All tracks played back flawlessly in both systems.

The final piece of the puzzle is testing the Touch with higher resolution music. As noted, it does 24 bit and 96 Khz material.  I called up some sample FLAC tracks I had downloaded from various web sites, my 96/24 recordings, and two of my first purchases from HDTracks.com, the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration, Raising Sand, and Alison Krauss & Union Station’ new Paper Airplanes.  It is safe to say I was pretty amazed at what I heard. The HDTracks FLACs were superior to their CD counterparts in subtle ways.  But buyer beware, choose your high resolution material carefully when shopping, not all of it is created equally. There is a mine field of upsampled material of questionable lineage. But the reputable online shops should be safe bets.

But authentic 24 bit 96 Khz material sounds incredible. Once you hear it through the Touch on a resolving system, it can be addicting. But be ready to invest in higher capacity hard drives, as higher bit rates and bit depths will eat up storage space a lot faster than CD quality files.  Lovers of classical music will be in heaven with the Touch, there is an abundance of HiRez material available.

One more feature I will discuss is the ability to synchronize players. You can use one Touch to control multiple players around the house. You can also access a USB device or SD card attached to one Touch, from another simply by going to the Settings menu and selecting “Synchronize Players”, and selecting the host uni. Remarkable. I tried it and was very pleased. What this means is that one can use a single hard drive or SD card to feed multiple Squeezeboxes. Initially I thought I might have to create duplicate drives for each unit. 



Needless to say, I loved everything about the Logitech Squeezebox Touch. So much so that I am adding it to my main system. It is an improvement in every way over the Squeezebox 3 (which I still own, use, and enjoy). Specifically, the Touch's analog outputs are far superior than its predecessor. Adding in the ability to connect USB and SD storage media directly, and the support for higher sampling rates make the Touch an incredible bargain. It is also physically more attractive, and better built then the previous model.  The Touch screen interface is fun, and obviously all the rage.

There are many, way more complicated ways to get into computer audio. But to my mind the Squeezebox Touch does everything right and nothing wrong. No matter what your file format, connection type, or preferred source is, the Touch can accommodate it. To get the most out of
the Squeezebox a home network is required. But even without one, it is a superb digital file player as well via direct connection to a storage device.  Among all the products I have been able to professionally evaluate, the Logitech Squeezebox Touch earns my highest recommendation.


Specifications

Audio formats

  • MP3, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, HE-AACv2, HD-AAC, Apple Lossles
  • WMA Lossless, APE, MPC and WavPack supported through transcoding
  • Some formats may require additional software installation (e.g. QuickTime), depending on platform

Internet radio

  • Support for MP3, Ogg Vorbis, HE-AACv2 and WMA formatted Internet Radio streams
    Wireless interface
  • True 802.11g wireless networking
  • Support for 802.11b and 802.11g routers and access points throughout up to 54 Mbps, high speed PCI interface to radio module
  • One-touch setup (with compatible WPS-supporting routers)
  • Supports WPA Personal, WPA-2AES, and 64/128-bit WEP encryption

Ethernet interface

  • Shielded CAT5 RJ-45 connector
  • Connects to any 100 Mbps or 10 Mbps network (with Auto MDX)

General

  • USB host connector for accessing music and photos via USB drive or USB key
  • SD card slot for music and photos
  • Supports sampling rates up to 24 bit / 96 kHz
  • Stereo analog (RCA), digital optical, and digital coax output
  • 4.3" (11 cm) 24-bit color LCD with capacitive touch screen
  • Ambient light sensor to adjust display brightness according to environment
  • Infrared proximity sensor to detect presence and wake from sleep mod

Company Info



Logitech:
6505 Kaiser Dr.
Fremont, CA 94555 USA
+1 510-795-8500

Review System1

Cd Player: Naim CD5 XS with Flatcap 2X
DAC: Bryston BDA-1
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Belles Soloist 1
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables: DH Labs Revelation (IC), Kimber KCTG (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Element Cable Element Cord, (AC)  Shunyata Venom (AC) Pangea AC-9 (AC) Audience powerChord e.(AC) DH Labs (Digital)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Sound Anchors stands,  Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Salamander rack

Review System 2

:
Cd Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox 3
DAC: CIA VDA-2 with VAC-1 Power Supply
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
Amplifier: Belles Soloist 5, Revox A722
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio, Pangea Audio (AC), RS Cables, Element Cable
Accessories: Sound Anchor stands, Ayre Myrtle Blocks, Standesign rack






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