Logitech's Squeezebox family has enjoyed some success, providing an affordable route to streaming your music around your house. The Squeezebox Radio, as the name suggests, presents a host of streaming music options, pulling in sources over the Internet and your network for your listening pleasure. Sound good? Read on.
The Squeezebox Radio is a compact unit which comes in red or black. It looks like a traditional radio, with dials and controls set on the front next to a forward-facing speaker and a 2.3-inch colour display. It measures 130 x 220 x 85mm so is compact enough to sit on a shelf in your kitchen or bedroom, but lacks the oomph to really be a party piece.
The controls on the front are clearly labelled and simple to use. Once set-up the Squeezebox Radio is intuitive enough to use, but you will have to make sure that you have the device connected to your internet connection and the right software installed on your computer, or you'll find it won't do much at all.
Surprisingly it doesn't actually feature a standard FM or DAB tuner, so when it says "radio", it means internet radio only. This might be something of a stumbling block for some people, as it means the Squeezebox Radio is dependent on an internet connection to deliver your morning fix of Smashie and Nicey.
All you have to do is connect to your network - either using Wi-Fi or the Ethernet connection on the back - and you'll be set to tune in to internet radio stations. Moving through lists and selecting options uses the big knob on the front to scroll and click, with a back button completing the basic navigation functions.
You can search radio stations, or they are sorted by category, genre and location, which makes it easy to find those local stations that you regularly listen to, or more obscure stations if you wish. There are six preset buttons which can be assigned to your favourites, be they radio stations, artists, albums, tracks, so you can easily jump around between your latest album, or whatever you like.
Of course one of the attractive propositions of the Squeezebox family is streaming your media from a PC or Mac. Rather than using the more common UPnP networking protocol, it uses its own, in the form of Squeezebox Server. This does give you a single interface to manage your Squeezebox(es) (including controlling the radio from your PC, if you want), but for some a conventional UPnP device, like the Monitor Audio Airstream 10 or Philips Streamium NP2900, will provide a quicker route to your music.
However, the Squeezebox Server will draw information out of iTunes (if you use it) including finding remote collections on network drives and pulling out your playlists and so on. The downside of relying on your PC-based server software, is when your PC isn't on, you'll find that you can't get to your music.
You can set-up the Squeezebox Radio to connect to internet music sources without the need for a PC using a mysqueezebox.com account, which does at least mean it can function as a standalone unit if it needs too. You'll be prompted to switch source on the device if it can't find your Squeezebox Server account.
Navigation of your music collection provides all the normal options, letting you skip around your collection using that big clicky knob. Additional pause, back/forward and play controls give you closer control over your music, with a volume knob also offering a mute function.
You also get alarm functions, which are a breeze to set and letting you select what you want to wake-up listening too. When in standby the Squeezebox Radio shows the time and date on the display - it isn't red like a standard clock radio, but it looks neat enough. If you try to set an alarm and your server PC is off, it will simply ask you to connect to mysqueezebox.com to give you your radio stations.
So far it all sounds fairly common for a connected radio, but the addition of widgets expands the range of opportunities for the Squeezebox Radio. Some of these - like podcast, Deezer, Last.fm and Napster - fit perfectly and make sense. It would be great to see something like Spotify on the Squeezebox and there is the promise of developments in those services offered. Of course the services you can access depend on where you are geographically. You'll also need to configure some services via the Squeezebox Server and some will require a separate account.
Some services like Facebook add token value and it looks good on paper, but try as we might, we couldn't figure out how a Facebook stream on a radio was really that useful, especially considering that you'll probably have both a phone and a computer that will do just as good a job, if not better. But, if you need to look at your ex's photos whilst listening to The Cure, you'll be able to do it here.
Format support is also good, giving you MP3, FLAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, AAC and Apple Lossless format support. It won't play DRM'd content, but if you're a savvy digital music collector, you've probably ensured that your collection is DRM free.
So the Squeezebox Radio provides a rich offering of services and is simple enough to use, but all would be lost if it didn't sound great. Overall we were impressed with the quality of music quality. It doesn't compete with a fully-fledged stereo unit and we don't think it sounds as good as the Monitor Audio Airstream 10, but as far as radios go, it sounds great.
There is no remote control included, but you will be able to buy an IR remote and rechargeable battery pack accessory kit as extra. The Radio has a 3.5mm headphone socket as well as an input, with the 3.5mm cable supplied.
The Squeezebox Radio offers a good rounded package at a price that is reasonable value for money. We would have preferred to see a FM or DAB tuner to give the Radio some offline functions and, whilst we like the options that the Squeezebox Server brings, for some Windows users and those with a network media drive, you might decide you'd rather take the simple approach through UPnP. For those with a Mac music collection, it's nice to see decent Mac integration from Logitech.
Overall there isn't much to dislike about the Squeezebox Radio. We've picked at a few points, but when it comes to the crunch, it’s a simple device, with oodles of potential, that sounds great.