Logitech's Squeezebox Duet does more than just stream music from your computer to your stereo. It also lets you tune into thousands of Internet radio stations and tap into online services like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Slacker--no PC required. With a low-profile receiver and compact handheld controller with a built-in color screen, the Duet can also be extended with additional receivers to serve as a multi-room audio solution. The Duet isn't the first system of its kind, nor is it the fastest or easiest to set up, but there's still plenty to like about it.
Squeezebox Duet Design
The glossy black wireless receiver fit easily on top of our home stereo system, thanks to its small 6.1 x 4.3 x 1.0-inch profile. Outputs include gold-plated RCA connectors, digital optical and coaxial ports, and an Ethernet port for hard-wiring the receiver to your network. The receiver also has built-in 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and a single backlit button on the front indicates the unit's wireless status.
The Duet controller is roughly the size of a traditional TV remote. The 2.4-inch color LCD is just roomy enough for reading text and viewing album art. It has a mechanical scroll wheel similar to that of first-generation iPods, as well as Playback, Volume, Power, and navigation buttons. There's also a dedicated button for adding songs or artists to the Now Playing list. Disappointingly, both the one-eighth-inch jack on the top of the remote and the infrared emitter don't do anything yet; Logitech says these will be used for as-yet undetermined features.
Scrolling through long lists of artists and tracks on the remote was very smooth, aided by alphanumeric search and power-scroll functions. Switching between Internet radio, stored MP3s, and online music services is also simple, and the support for RSS feeds from major news sources is an interesting extra. And since the controller is essentially a Linux-based computer, it is eminently hackable, so you can customize it to your heart's content. The remote's battery lasted through a couple days of moderate use.
(Mostly) Simple Setup
For most users, setup is simple: Plug the receiver and the charging cradle into outlets, and connect the receiver to your stereo system. Then, use your PC to register a SqueezeNetwork account at www.squeezenetwork.com and follow the on-screen setup instructions; this gets you set up for playing music from the Internet. To listen to music on your networked computer, download and install SqueezeCenter (which works with Macs, PCs, and Linux systems) and follow the instructions in the software's Web-based interface.
If you have a software firewall running, however, you'll need to open TCP ports 9000 and 3483 and UDP port 3483 manually. Fortunately, though there's no on-device help feature, specific instructions for doing this for various operating systems is available in the online documentation (www.slimdevices.com/su_documentation.html). There is also an active Squeezebox forum community, where you can get help from other users.
The Duet's Debut
Once we got everything up and running, the system was very easy to use. Although the interface lagged occasionally (often when the device makes initial communication with online services such as Rhapsody), it was generally well organized and intuitive, and the controls are responsive. The Duet also works with Live Music Archive, MP3tunes, Pandora, and Slacker, and Internet radio providers Live365, Radio IO, RadioTime, and Shoutcast.
Simply access your SqueezeNetwork account and enter your login information for music services to which you subscribe, and you never have to enter your info again to access your different accounts. The Duet easily connected to our Pandora and Slacker accounts, giving us all the customization and song-rating features of the Web-based clients, and it was very convenient to switch among these services.
The Duet plays MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WMA Lossless, and WAV music files, suiting even picky audiophiles. It doesn't handle any type of DRMed files, though. On our midrange home stereo system, we couldn't hear any difference between Apple Lossless-encoded versions of John Coltrane's "Blue Train" and Pink Floyd's "Run Like Hell" streamed to our stereo from our computer via the Duet's optical output and the original CD (also using an optical connection).
Duet vs. Sonos
The system uses 802.11b/g, so it has a wireless range of about 100 to 125 feet. When you add more receivers ($149 each), the Duet becomes a multi-room audio system capable of controlling multiple music streams independently. Unfortunately, because it uses your home network, the Squeezebox Duet will slow down your network more than competing systems from companies such as Sonos, which use proprietary mesh networks alongside your existing one. The Duet also may require a bit more technical savvy on the part of the user during setup than Sonos' solution, though both companies offer excellent customer support.
We like the Logitech Squeezebox Duet for its ease of use (after initial setup) and excellent audio fidelity. The controller gives you quick access to a bevy of music sources in the palm of your hand. Its limitations and setup hassles are fairly minor compared with the system's convenience and tight integration with so many online music services. If you're working with multiple rooms in a larger home, Sonos, whose multi-room bundles start at $999, provides the more robust solution.
But if wireless music streaming in one or two rooms in a small home is your primary goal, the Duet is definitely worth the money.