Under The Covers
This is the part of the review where I normally take the device apart and show some pictures of the internals, but in this case, I couldn't get into it. The Squeezebox uses some of those special star-shaped screws and I didn't have anything that would fit them. So I'll have to rely on public documentation.
Slim Devices has put an emphasis on high fidelity, where you don't normally see the typical consumer networking product manufacturers of similar devices advertising similar specifications. I'm no audiophile, so some of this may be lost on me, but Slim Devices plays up the "High fidelity Burr-Brown 24-bit DAC" (digital to analog converter) and two dedicated power regulators for the DAC and line-out stages used in Squeezebox. The signal-to-noise ratio is also advertised as being over 100 dB. The upshot of all this is quality sound, which will probably be more evident when using one of the supported lossless codecs, such as FLAC.
I also failed to uncover anything that would tell me what operating system the device ran. A port-scan of the Squeezebox trying to ID the operating system turned up inconclusive, and I didn't have a firmware image to dissect. But there is still a lot that's known about what's going on with the Squeezebox. Slim Devices openly documents the protocol used to talk to the device and encourages third parties to develop for it.
As a result, there are many free third-party plugins. Want to use the box as an email reader? Done. How about keeping track of TV listings while listening to music? Done. Weather reports? Done. Caller ID? Done. Or maybe you just want to display your own message on the display. Very easily done by entering a simple URL with a message in your browser. (Figure 9). There are a lot of fun customizations you can do with the box.
Figure 9:Do-It-Yourself Display
One thing I didn't see was any support for the standard UPnP protocol that many home audio/video devices use. This would have been a nice feature that would allow interoperability with other manufacture's devices. But since the protocol used is open, maybe someone will take up the challenge and develop a UPnP plug-in.
If you'd like to try your own hand at writing plug-ins for the box, Slim Devices has a code-repository where you can see the source code of many of the components. It appears to me that Slim Devices made the right decision when they opted to open up the protocols for anyone to use. There are a lot of creative people out there and many of them have contributed interesting plug-ins. This is an area where the Squeezebox pulls away from the Sonos system. You won't find the same rich library of plug-ins extending the capabilities of the Sonos system. It's much more of a closed system where the only functionality you get is what Sonos delivers.