Update: Logitech has released a new streaming brand, UE, which has the UE
Smart Radio device that is much like the Radio described here. Read more in this post.
This review compares Squeezebox with Sonos for a multi-room music solution
with 3 zones. With the goal of finding the best priced multi-room solution that
is good enough.
I have installed Sonos for friends and I really like it. Everything from the
minimalistic design, the easy setup and the smooth operating of different zones.
Handling Spotify and radio stations on the Sonos app works like a charm. It has
everything I want in a multi-room installation. However, the price tag is high.
I mean, 1100$ for three zones. It really is a premium price for playing music.
So this factor has to be considered.
Personally I already have computers in many rooms, an Android phone,
HIFI-systems and then various computer speakers (with toy subwoofers). Maybe
even the XBOX 360 could do it, if I cared to try. But they all connect lousy
with each other and a unified remoting system for all that actually works seems
very far away. It’s mostly Spotify that has made me want a unified listening
system. Building one for just playing from the home server and the occasional
web radio station previously hasn’t seem worth the effort.
What i really like about Spotify in this setting is that it allows you to
multi stream different songs at the same time, which can’t be done on a PC in
combination with another PC/iPhone or Android phone. Both Squeezebox and Sonos
has multi streaming enabled.
Before I possibly give in and buy a Sonos solution, I’m going to review in
depth the only other option i know of for wireless music, Logitechs Squeezebox
touch and radio. This is how I see them compare with Sonos:
- Squeezebox touch VS Sonos Connect (ZP90) and Sonos Connect:AMP
- Squeezebox radio VS Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 (Previously S5)
- Squeezebox remoting apps for Android and iPhone VS Sonos remoting apps for
Android and iPhone.
- There is not much difference in price between Squeezebox touch and Sonos
Connect. About 50$. So regarding pricing they are almost equal. The important
thing is to get the music into the receiver and that they both do. The touch
screen is a minor pro for Squeezebox.
- The difference in price is huge between Squeezebox radio and Sonos Play:5,
about 250$. The difference to Play:3 is about 200$. I know the Play:5 sounds
good and I will soon hear the radio. So the jury is still out on whether the
price difference is justified or not.
- I don’t know of any Squeezebox remote solution that can handle Spotify
with the same ease as Sonos solutions do. I will examine the remote options
for Squeezebox the coming days. For Sonos, they have their own app and there
is also Andronos, which is free.
One theoretical way to press the Squeezebox price tag down would to use radio
instead of touch connected to receivers. Sure it does not have SPDIF (digital
via optical or RCA) or analog RCA with left and right stereo. But it does seem
to have a headphone out and that could possibly be used to connect a 3.5mm to
stereo cable, which i do have at home. I have not seen this solution anywhere on
the web, so maybe it does not work, but I’m going to give it a try.
I’m going to borrow a Squeezebox radio to examine the options within the
coming days. Will it give me a taste for more of Squeezebox or will it be the
final tipping point towards getting a Sonos solution?
2 days later.. I have a Radio to test and one thing that immediately strikes
me as a bonus against the Play:3 & Play:5 is the ability to control the
Radio on the device itself, with the various buttons and the screen. So no need
for a remote all the time. The sound quality of the Radios speaker is great for
its size. There is a distinct bass which gives the songs weight. The Sonos
Play:5 has better sound with its five built in speakers. But the Radio has about
the same quality as the Sonos Play:3, which is good enough for me.
So the Radio has good sound through its built in speaker, but how about
connecting it to a receiver? Well, the Squeezebox Radio has one audio out and it
is intended for headphones, but there is no law against connecting that out into
a receiver instead of a headphone is there? I connected a 3.5mm out and
stereo RCA into the receiver and it worked fine. The sound is actually quite
good. The analog output makes the sound slightly less crisp than audio from a
digital source and the sound level is slightly lower, which is easily fixed with
the receiver remote. Again, good enough. So I needed to examine remoting and
Spotify multi streaming.
Squeezebox Radio can’t run Squeezebox server on it, which the Touch can.
Remoting apps depend on a Squeezebox Server, local or remote. So I installed
Squeezebox Server on my Windows Home Server. Other options are Squeezebox Touch,
a PC or using mysqueezebox.com which is a free service from Logitech (only missing the ability to play local network music). This is a good example
of how Squeezebox is slightly more demanding for the user. Sonos hides this
complexity for the user. You could say that Sonos has the equivalent to
Squeezebox server in all their units.
For remoting I found the Android app Squeeze Commander. It automatically found the server and the Radio client which is great. Worth a few dollars. Squeezebox also has its own
Android remote app, Logitech Squeezebox Controller. It works with Spotify and
has other basic features. It can’t play the same song synced in all zones, which
the Commander can.
Spotify installed easy on the Radio. Squeeze Commander handles Spotify
playlists, search and so on. Because the setup seemed to work fine, i bought a
second Radio to try dual remoting and Spotify streaming. It also worked fine.
Playing one Spotify song on Radio one and another Spotify song on Radio two.
Both remoted with the Commander.
So case closed! I have a good enough multi room solution based on Squeezebox
Radios, connected to receivers and stand alone. They play Spotify great and can
be remoted by a good Android app. It gives me similar functionality as a Sonos
system to a fraction of the cost. My system will initially consist of three
Radios. Two connected to receivers and one mobile.
Update after 8 months: So do i recommend this setup for everybody after i
have been using it for a while? Well, it depends on if you are willing to trade
a substantially lower price for a little higher complexity and slightly less
sound quality. The setup runs fine, most of the time, with the occasional system
fit (hiccups, firmware upgrades, out of sync remotes, random need to reboot).
But if you just want everything to work flawlessly with an easy install and can
pay a premium price, buy a Sonos setup and save yourself a little trouble.
Update april 2012. The stability has been improved for the Squeezeboxes and
they feel even more mature now.
* Spotify premium is required
* Spotify installs easy on Squeezebox Radio through the application
* The Squeezebox server needs to be upgraded to a nightly build of
version 7.5.3 or later to get Spotify compatibility.