Logitech Squeezebox Touch network music player Page 3

Our Connecticut house is of wood-frame construction and far from any major source of RF and EMI contamination, so it was no surprise that our long-resident Belkin F5D8233-4 wireless router did just fine. In Manhattan, however, we live in a steel-and-concrete building, and in a soup of electrical signals so rich it pains me to think about it. Here it was necessary to upgrade to Belkin's latest wireless router, the Play Max N+N300, which provided clear, glitch-free play of HD files via the Touch in almost all situations. In more remote rooms of our apartment, Internet and CD-resolution streaming were fine, but playback from HD sources was subject to occasional interruption. For this, and to use the Touch's USB port as an output (see below), my fallback was an AC power-line connection (Gigabit Powerline HD F5D4076). Connect one power-line module to the router and the other to the Squeezebox Touch, each with an Ethernet cable, and plug both modules into a local AC outlet. Communication by this AC link was absolutely reliable, and functionally as fast as a direct wire connection.

Mods, apps, and tweaks
There is a growing groundswell of enthusiasm for the Squeezebox Touch and new tweaks and apps are already available. Speaking of apps, with iPeng, an iPod Touch or iPhone can replace the Touch's remote control, to permit control and monitoring from a comfortable position. However, running iPeng on the iPad also supplants the Touch's 4.3" screen with the iPad's 9.7" display, which shows more information, and bigger and better graphics.

Other mods and tweaks have also appeared, some more invasive of the operation of the Touch than others. For example, because the Touch's AC supply is a switching wall wart, which are well known to be electrically noisy, several companies now offer linear power supplies to replace it. I couldn't discern any significant change in the Touch's performance with such a supply that I had built some years before, but I felt happier without another switching module in close proximity to the rest of my audio equipment.

There are many other ways to relieve the Touch processor of unnecessary tasks; for example, by having the Squeezebox Server on the host convert FLAC to PCM, disabling the analog outputs if you're using the digital (or vice versa), shutting down extraneous functions, and using Ethernet rather than WiFi where possible. The first three require unofficial firmware patches; the last, of course, increases the data load on the transmission, which might be an issue for some WLANs, particularly if you have many other WiFi networks active in your environment. I tried only the first and the last, but both made incremental improvements in clarity and detail. Needless to say, the computer-audio community is already teeming with ideas for adding features to the Touch; you'll find lots of comments, advice, and links at www.computeraudiophile.com.

In fact, it was there that I learned that John Swenson, also a contributor to both the Audio Asylum and the Logitech Squeezebox forum, had modified the Touch to allow its USB port, nominally only an input, to output audio. This greatly intrigued me; I had just taken delivery of Ayre Acoustics' new DX-5 universal player, which has DACs and an asynchronous USB input similar to their QB-9 USB DAC, which thrilled Wes Phillips and was Stereophile's 2009 Product of the Year. After tracking down Swenson, I asked him to send me a copy of the instructions for altering changing the Touch's configuration file, which he did, along with a few caveats, warnings, and denials. The tweak is unofficial, and not quite ready for prime time: It defeats all of the Touch's other outputs and recognizes only the specific USB source for which you've configured it. Fortunately, it's reversible by repatching or with a reset of the Touch to factory condition (easily performed with a rear-panel rest button). I forged ahead because . . . well, heck, it was a review sample (footnote 2).

In my opinion, this is the killer app for audiophiles. I'll have more to say about the Ayre DX-5 in a future issue (as will Michael Fremer), but this is relevant to Logitech Squeezebox Touch: it can be part of a state-of-the-art music system. With downloaded hi-def files sent from my PC via the network to the Squeezebox Touch, then to the Ayre DX-5's USB input, I enjoyed two-channel sound that, in my experience, was unsurpassed. It is rumored that the Touch's hardware might even be able to stream 24/176.4 and 24/192 files via USB without downsampling. Although that's a pipe dream, it suggests that the Touch has yet to reveal its full potential. Dare I dream of multichannel?

By now you'll little doubt of my enthusiasm for the Logitech Squeezebox Touch. Streaming music from the Internet is great for an unlimited supply of background music, but high-definition downloads can be brought to your stereo system by the Touch. with ease and excellent sound. How you connect the Touch is up to you—its analog outputs are more than serviceable, even for HD, and its digital outputs into your choice of DAC or processor are better than CD ever was. The Touch's USB output was a surprise, and offered remarkable performance. And a rising tide of modifications offers the promise of further improvements.

The Touch has transformed my listening habits; I cannot see living without it. Take to heart the words of John Marks in his "As We See It" in the August 2010 issue and accept that downloads are the future of high-definition music distribution. But don't stop there—take to heart as well this advice: Get a Squeezebox Touch right now. You'll never look back.

Footnote 2: Another source for Squeezebox Touch modifications can be found hereEd.
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1. Can I use a NAS as both a backup for photos and a source for audio?
2. Can I use a NAS as a source for the streamer without connecting to the modem/www? If I do want/need to connect this rig to the www, can I do it via wireless signal (dotted line) from router 1 to router 2? (My sole modem jack is on the other side of the room from the streamer and I can’t run wire across the room.)
3. Where do I connect the NAS—to router 2 or the streamer?