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Squeezebox Touch announced

Now that Logitech has officially announced the squeezebox touch I can talk about it. I'm a beta tester for this new box so hopefully I can give some insight into it and answer questions you may have about it. The usual disclaimers, I'm not a Logitech employee, I have no financial stake in it, they don't pay us to be beta testers etc.

A lot of the details can be had at the official squeezebox site so I won't go into all the details, just primarily cover things that might be of interest here.

First off is that this is a fairly radical change from previous products. It is running a 500MHz Arm processor which gives it way more compute power than previous incarnations. Its running real linux with alsa etc. You CAN SSH into it if you want and have at the underlying linux if you feel so inclined. This gives the possibility of software modifications that were not possible with previous devices.

There are two logical devices in the box, a separate controller and a player that just happen to be running in the same box. The controller can control any squeezebox device (real or virtual) and the player can be controlled from any squeezebox control mechanism (duet controller, web interface, native apps on various computers, iPhone, PDA, cell phone etc). The duet controller actually started this with a player that talks to the headphone jack that was separate from the controller. They CAN cross control each other: the touch controller controlling the controller player and the controller controller controlling the touch player (whew, we need better names for this!) So its perfectly capable of controlling a SB3 from the touch. There is lots of flexibility here.

The touch supports 24/96 both on the analog outs and the S/PDIF outs. This works great on the wired network connections but can be a problem on WiFi if you have a lot of other wireless networks in your vicinity. So if you are planning on playing 24/96 you might want to be prepared for connecting with a wire if wireless does not work reliably. Some people have no problem and some do have a problem. Carefully looking at the hardware (I HAD to open it up!) leads me to believe that the hardware could do 192. I asked a hardware designer about this and he agreed that it probably could do 192 but it was not supported in the software. So there is at least a possibility that sometime in the future it might support 192, but don't hold your breath!

The touch has a USB port and a SD card slot. This is for connecting storage direct to the box rather than getting data ove the network. In order to support this the touch comes with a slimmed down server to stream the local files. Its just another component running on the same box so the local player or any other player can connect to this server just as they would any other server (they changed the name again to squeezebox server) With this you can put together a system with out requiring an external computer running the server. In addition if someone comes over with some music files on a USB stick you can plug it right in and play those files.

Now to my impressions on sound quality. This is on my system, my tastes etc, YMMV. The only direct comparison I can do right now is with an SB3, I don't have a transporter or duet. The analog out sound a little better than on the SB3, but not by a lot. The S/PDIF OTOH is much better than on the SB3. The digital out to a really good external DAC can be great sounding.

Now to the fun stuff, making it do things Logitech won't tell you about. Number one is the USB port. Its running linux so I had to try plugging in a USB DAC. Right out of the box it doesn't do anything. Alsa recognizes the DAC and loads the right driver, but the player doesn't have any mechanism to point at the external DAC. So I played around with the alsa config file and came up with a way to send the same stream going to the other outputs to the external DAC, it works! I tried it at up to 24/96 and it works great (as long as the USB DAC supports 24/96). It also supports asynchronous DACs so you should be able to plug in a Wavelength or Ayre DAC. Having an extra DAC playing the music didn't seem to cause any glitches. There is a problem though: once you change the alsa config you can't get any music out of it at all if the USB DAC is not plugged in. Alsa goes crazy looking for the USB DAC and doesn't do anything. To really make this ultimately flexible someone needs to write some fancy udev code to handle USB hotplugging etc.

It IS a linux box, you can run all kinds of things on it (as long as you compile them for Arm). For example I've had another music player running on the touch, sending its output to the USB DAC, while the regular touch player was sending data to the S/PDIF and analog outs. It worked fine, no clicks, pops etc. If you really wanted to you could comment out the launch of the squeeze software and run MPD on the box, it works fine. You could deliberately have different content going to different outputs. I'm not sure if there is enough horsepower in the touch to run room DSP or a digital crossover.

So that's a little preview of some of the more unusual features. I'll be glad to try and answer any questions you may have.

John S.

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Topic - Squeezebox Touch announced - John Swenson 23:52:12 09/03/09 (38)


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