Give us enough time and equipment and we’ll put a speaker on anything. Seriously, a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. Cars, televisions, wrist watches — just about every gadget is made better with extraneous sound. So, when we’d heard that Logitech was releasing a hybrid of the music-streaming Squeezebox Duet and a boom box, we were all ears.
Ironically enough, they call it the Squeezebox Boom.
Put simply, the Boom is an all-in-one take on the Squeezebox Duet. By adding three-inch woofers (and some tiny tweeters) the Boom is the first of the Squeezeboxes capable of both streaming and playback. Like the incredibly awesome Duet, the Boom grants access to all the network accessible (and non-DRMed) music stored on your computer. In addition to supporting a number of formats for your private stash (Apple Lossless anyone?), the Boom also provides easy access to streaming content from Sirius, Slacker, Pandora, Last.fm and Rhapsody. As a device it’s not quite enough to cause Sonos to break a sweat, but for a single room music streaming experience Logitech seems to have adequately covered its bases.
Like the other Squeezeboxes, the Boom is easy to sync up with the office 802.11 due in no small part to the included PC/Mac/Linux-compatible software. However, little device tweaks via Logitech’s desktop hub (dubbed the SqueezeCenter) isn’t exactly a delight. Try: slow and plodding. The SqueezeCenter isn’t a complete waste of time though. As open source software (with a surprisingly large, dedicated and active community) we were able to dig up a ton of third-party plug-ins to further customize the unit. Of course, strictly vanilla users needn’t spazz. The Boom will stream your music library just fine without the bells and whistles.
But here’s the real question: Is the Boom capable of living up to its namesake? In short, yes. Even with its dual woofers, tweeters and amplifiers, the unassuming 13 x 5 x 3-inch unit doesn’t compare to a full-fledged stereo system. The saving grace? Great clarity, clean mids and a pleasing amount of bass given its class. For what the Boom is designed for — namely, streaming digital audio throughout a house or office — it’s more than adequately powered. And the fact that we got excellent audio quality at high volumes was another impressive feat for such a small system.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make it the end-all be-all for streaming music setups. Although bright and informative, the monochrome screen (most often used for displaying track info) on the front of the unit feels lazy and uninspired. Also, Squeezebox perks like the Duet’s fancy remote have been sidestepped in favor of a much more drab and utilitarian design. Between these details and the Boom’s lack of audio outputs, the device seems to occupy this awkward space between fuller featured streaming systems like the Duet or Sonos, and … well … a ‘blah’ desktop radio/alarm clock. That’s not to say that the Boom doesn’t excel in that limited niche, but after the Duet we were expecting Logitech to ‘squeeze’ a little more pizazz and a lot more flexibility out of the Boom.