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The Squeezebox Squares Off Against The High End, Cont.

My immediate impression of what poured forth from the expensively garnished Squeezebox was, hey, this sounds good! FLAC is just so superior to any mp3 scheme.  The Squeezebox hardware and SlimServer software worked flawlessly, as did the Belkin wireless connection.  I was impressed. 

Still, some things were noticeably AWOL. The FLAC soundstage was somewhat compressed, the high and lows were not all there, and generally, music dynamics suffered. I then did a back-to-back FLAC/WAV comparison of a great recording by the extraordinary Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes, entitled "Bele Bele en la Habana” (Blue Note; 7 2438-23082-2). If you have never heard Chucho and like jazz piano, run, don’t walk, and get this fabulous Cuban artist--Presuming the amnesty paranoids in Washington don’t also ban south of the border music from entering the country.

Santo mierda! The uncompressed WAV file restored most everything that was missing in the FLAC version. How and why this should be so as FLAC output is bit-for-bit identical to what went into the encoder I will leave for others to fight about. All that mattered is I was hearing glorious uncompressed sound that compared very favorably to CD players costing upwards of $1,000. With disc drives costing so little, and gigabytes soon becoming terabytes, why compress music at all? Make a master reference WAV file that will accommodate any new format that comes along without having to re-munge compressed files into new formats. If you run out of hard drive space for your albums, simply point a shortcut path to a free disc, or to one on the home network.

SlimServer Interface

Running SlimServer on various machines, whether Macs or PC’s, went flawlessly.  It was a snap to create custom playlists and save them using the SlimServer browser interface, which can also be customized using downloaded skins. SlimServer can also use your iTunes music library and playlists. However, things are not always SlimServer simple with MacOS X, as the nature of this OS beast mandates a symbolic link, not an alias, if you use a network disk.  You can do this in MacOS X in one of several ways.

According to Slim Devices, you can either 1) use the ln command in the MacOS X Terminal program. Or 2) obtain (from http://www.versiontracker.com) the freeware program Symbolic Linker that lets one create links by a contextual menu. Or 3) obtain the shareware program Cocktail, which has a lot of powerful MacOS X maintenance features, including the ability to create symbolic links. I used Cocktail to set up a MacOS X link to a Network Attached Storage device that contained my ripped music and this arrangement worked perfectly with SlimServer.

When you change SlimServer machines you have to manually change the settings on the Squeezebox to match the source SlimServer.  I found it easier to designate one machine as the default SlimServer host and point other machines’ web browsers to that computer’s IP address. For example, I was able to use my MacOS X Safari browser to access and control a SlimServer on a Windows XP machine, and I could also do this in the reverse.

 

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

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