Media 'Casting on the Rise
Do you still use little shiny discs? It's time to fast forward to the 21st century - these days music fans are syncing up to streaming media. Slim Devices SqueezeBox has finally made it affordable to let Wi-Fi go Hi-Fi.
Media streamers are media players that that connect to your household network. They play back a variety of media file formats receiving the data stream from your wireless network. Until not so long ago these were cost prohibitive for the mainstream.
Slim Devices was a little company that's been making network devices for streaming music since '01 with its SlimP3. They have been wildly successful especially since the release of Squeezebox, Wi-Fi media streamer. The company has been so successful they caught the note of Logitech. Always on the lookout for companies backed by sound technology Logitech acquired SlimDevices soon after buying Sling Media, makers of web media-casting device known as Slingbox.
The idea is simple. Squeezebox like other "media streamers" is essentially a wi-fi receiver that pipes your media to your home audio system from your home computer. It's an alternative to having your PC connected directly to your Home Theater. It can obtain an IP from your wi-fi hotspot and begin streaming media from your own collection or it can play one of literally thousands of Internet radio stations like Chronix.
The audio quality from Squeezebox is quite reasonable. Even if you're using the built in DACs you're benefiting from Burr-Brown quality sound which is as good as an average CD player. For uncompromising sound quality you can use the units digital outputs and let your home audio receiver perform the digital to analog conversion. Generally speaking when using compressed media files the hi-fi performance bottleneck won't be the device that's doing playback or even the DACs, it's generally the source. For best results use a lossless format. Squeezebox is compatible with practically all of them. The list of supported media files is impressive. It doesn't just stop at mp3 / wma / AAC but extends to many lossless formats including Flac, Ogg, Apple Lossless and Microsoft's WMA Lossless.
One caveat to the Squeezebox is to stream your MP3 collection you'll need the service running on a computer. This means your computer has to be on and running for any streaming to take place. A network storage device is not sufficient unless of course you have a very slick one that is capable of running a service and they do exist. Check Slim Devices FAQ for details.