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The Squeezebox Squares Off Against The High End, Cont.

The Squeezebox is a snap to setup, even for the technically retarded.  Enter your wireless network identifier, your network encryption password (you do encrypt your wireless network, don’t you, Bunky?), and the rest is pretty much automatic. BTW, make sure you enable the SlimServer port in your MacOS X firewall in System Preferences; ditto, with Windows firewall program preferences. Otherwise you will go batty wondering where all the sound went.

I use a Belkin Pre-N Wireless router that can zoom up to over 100 megabits/sec, and the Squeezebox had no problems locking into the Belkin’s high-speed .11g signal from many feet away. Powerful, stable, fast, and glitch free, this Belkin router is a great product and highly recommended for any home media network. Handy to know, as you can broadcast the same music or independent streams to 2, 10 or even 20 rooms by adding Squeezebox players to stereos in each location.

So on to the next step—ripping. I used a Windows-only program called Exact Audio Copy to accurately error check all ripped recordings; which takes extra time but I figured it was well worth it. (Note that iTunes has a check box you can tick off for error correcting when doing Apple lossless encoding.) If you don’t care about exacting error checking, you might want to consider another good Windows WAV/mp3 ripper, FreeRIP.  EAC provides numerous options for ripping and compressing.  But there would be no mp3 nonsense this time around, so I opted for FLAC. Like mp3, FLAC is an audio compression scheme. But FLAC is lossless, meaning that audio compressed in FLAC suffers no loss in quality, as it does not remove any information from the audio stream. Or so they say….

For ripping duties, I used a Plextor 712A, a high-speed optical drive that does 48X CD-R writing, 24X CD-RW rewriting, and 48X max CD-reading. It’s also a very zippy DVD+R DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, and DVD-reader drive. The Plextor worked flawlessly and really sped along the ripping process.  Still, if you have a sizeable collection expect to spend many hours ripping all your CD’s. But you could opt for CD Ripping, a premium service offered by SlimDevices that converts your entire CD collection into digital music files--MP3, AAC, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, WMA Lossless or FLAC Lossless. It will cost you $229 to convert up to 200 CDs into an MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, or AAC library, with a 20% surcharge to convert to FLAC, or WMA Lossless formats.  As for me, I did it all myself.

I first saved everything in uncompressed WAV audio format, and then FLAC’d a few ripped recordings to hear WAV vs. FLAC results. As I also wanted to hear the true sonic signature of the Squeezebox I didn’t use an external DAC.

Nordost Valhalla Interconnects

Instead, I plugged a pair of Nordost Valhalla interconnects into the Squeezebox’s RCA outputs, and then straight into the Sunfire preamp.  This may strike some as totally insane, as the Valhalla’s cost $3300/m pair, or more than eleven times the $299.00 price of the Squeezebox. But this is high-end crazy land, after all.

If you are a high-ender, you already know about the incredible Nordost Valhalla’s. These wires, through some magic completely beyond my ken, completely unlock the sonic capabilities of your components, as does the $10,000/4m pair Valhalla speaker cables. You may think high-enders are certifiable when it comes to outlandishly expensive wires, but unless you’ve been there, you have no idea what you are missing. (Nordost also makes excellent wires and cables that cost considerably less, and can be easily matched to your system capabilities and budget.)

 

 

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21st, The VXM Network, http://www.vxm.com

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