You might not need a shiny, rounded and elegant touchscreen network music player that connects to the world via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. But once you lay your hands on the Squeezebox Touch, you'll probably want one. Like an upscale Chumby, this gorgeous device sits on your nightstand or next to your stereo, bringing you music from any computer in your house, or tunes originating at radio stations or via music apps from anywhere in the world.
Logitech has done a great job with the Squeezebox Touch. Its best attribute is its 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen, every bit as good as the near-perfect gold-standard screen of the iPhone and iPad. Once we extinguished the Squeezebox's annoying sound effects, its responsiveness was a delight. The user interface is not quite so polished, though, particularly inside the individual apps. For instance, we downloaded the Pandora app, and found it perplexing at first to find the menu entry that allows you to change stations.
Pandora is just the beginning, though. Logitech introduced Squeezebox Apps, so far offering dozens of ways to get music and other stuff from The Cloud to your ears. The usual suspects are there, including Rhapsody, Shoutcast, Sirius Internet Radio (subscription required), and Napster. There's even a Facebook app in there. Let's hope this aggregation grows to something much bigger.
Squeezebox Touch aims to please with its touchy-feelyness, giving you a sophisticated alarm clock that lets you designate different days and multiple alarms, along with a variety of sounds to go with them. We like the capability of adjusting the volume of the crescendo alarm. Our only complaint is that it won't allow us to wake up to Pandora, as the Chumby does.
But the Squeezebox goes way beyond Chumby when it comes to outputs. You can plug a couple of RCA jacks into the back and connect it to your stereo system, or you hook it up using the optical or coaxial audio ports. Most of the time, we connected its headphone jack to a pair of powered speakers and subwoofer. Even though it was playing Internet radio most the time, the resulting sound was superb.
Squeezebox doesn't stop just at Internet radio. Install a small applet on your PC, and it dutifully finds all the music there, letting you play your favorite tunes over the network on your Squeezebox. You can also wake up to your chosen playlists. It all works beautifully.
While $300 is a lot to spend on a clock radio, the Squeezebox Touch's convenience and sound quality appeals to novices and maybe even an audiophile or two. Its matching remote makes it fit in well with your home stereo, and its excellent touchscreen makes the Chumby hardware look positively stone-aged. Even with its flaws, we're still delighted with the Squeezebox Touch, and highly recommend it.