Sat 17 May 2008
This is the second part of my review of of the Squeezebox Duet, though all of this part focuses on the Controller part of the package. Part 1 is here.
In part 1 it was too soon to talk about battery life. Now I have used the Controller for a couple of weeks I can comment on how long the battery lasts in normal use.
My first couple of charges lasted only 5 hours, which I was a little bit disappointed by. I’m not the only one either, there have been quite a few new users on the SlimDevices forum complaining that their first charge only lasted a few hours.
I don’t believe it is a problem with the Controller though. The initial low battery life was down to one thing, the fact that I was using it a lot in those first couple of days. I was picking it up and playing with it all the time, trying out all the features, installing new plugins and testing those, skipping up and down my music library. As such the first couple of charges were under non-typical use.
As soon as I settled down battery life shot up. If I use the Controller “normally”, queuing up music throughout the day, it makes it through a full day and into the next day without a charge. If I don’t use the controller for a couple of days it survives quite happily and still has some charge when I come back to it.
The Controller has a series of power modes that it uses. Monitors the buttons, scroll wheel and its accelerometer to know whether it is being used or not. By default as soon as it has not been use for a few seconds it starts to dim the screen and slows down its CPU. If it stays unused it later turns off the backlight on the screen completely. It then moves on to turn the screen off and then later turns off the wifi connection. At any point if you pick the Controller up it will very quickly wake up and turn everything back on. If it has got to the point that it has turned wifi off then it takes a few seconds to reconnect, otherwise it is available to use straight away.
If you leave it unused long enough or if the battery reaches a low level then the Controller will turn itself off completely. At that point you have to wake it by pressing the power button.
I’m not going to explain what Pandora is here. What I am going to talk about the Squeezebox Controller’s interface for accessing Pandora.
You access Pandora under the Music Services menu on the Controller. When you do you get the options:
- Your Stations
- Create a New Station
- Account Settings
You access you existing Pandora stations via the first option. The second option lets you create a new station by entering an artist name to search for. The final option lets you turn on the “Explicit content filter” and change the order you stations are sorted by.
When you open the “Your Stations” menu you are presented with a list of all of your Pandora stations. You can then open a station you can: play the station, add another artist to the station and rename/delete the station.
When you play a station it starts playing within a couple of seconds and the details of the current track are displayed in the “Now Playing” screen just as if you had played a track from your local music library. The “Now Playing” screen shows all the normal things: artist, track title, album title and the cover art.
If you press the select button on the “Now Playing” screen you get a list of actions connected with the current track. The actions are:
- I like this song
- I don’t like this song
- Don’t play this song for a month
- Bookmark (song or artist)
- Why did you play this song ?
- Create new station from artist
- Create new station from song
For those of you who use Pandora I’m sure you’ll recognise those actions and they work just the same way here as they would if you were using the Pandora website. This is just a brilliant way to use Pandora.
Things that don’t work
The software that the Squeezeboxes use is under constant development and improvement. That is one of great things about buying a product where the developers care about the customers, they are constantly adding new features and fixing things that don’t work.
However, that said there are some things that don’t work properly with the Controller even when running the latest software. The most obvious and serious of these is fast forwarding and rewinding.
Fast forwarding and rewinding just does not work on the Controller at the moment. If you try to skip forwards or backwards through a track the audio breaks up and starts to play seemingly random snippets of the track. You can get back to listening to the track again by pausing and unpausing.
So at the moment the only way to skip within a track with a Duet setup is to use the SqueezeCenter web interface, which works fine. The good news is that there is a fix on its way in the next major version of the software, which will of course be available for free to all Squeezebox users.
I honestly can’t think of any other significant issues that I have found with either the Receiver or the Controller, they work very well.
Nothing has changed in my conclusion since part 1, the Squeezebox Duet is excellent, it is a long time since I have loved a product quite so much.
There is loads of functionality in the Duet that I haven’t even mentioned:
- An RSS feed reader (perfect for checking the BBC News, weather and the Radio 4 schedule)
- Random music mixes with genre filtering
- Music services including Rhapsody, Slacker, MP3Tunes, Live Music Archive (and Napster/Last.FM soon)
- Internet radio including Radio IO, Radio Time, Live 365, Shoutcast
- Alarm clock functions
- Synchronised playback between multiple players
- Lots and lots of third party plugins that add all sorts of new functionality (and more plugins being created all the time)
- Optional crossfading between tracks (including a plugin that turns on cross fading only when you are playing random music selections
- Automatic software updates
- Automatic volume adjustment
If you want a network music player, buy a Squeezebox Duet. I will be buying another couple more Squeezebox Receivers soon.