Tuesday, June 06, 2006

JA on the Squeezebox and Digital Files

At the recent HE2006 show in Los Angeles, I had a short hallway chat with Jon Atkinson, editor of Stereophile, about his recent experiences with the Squeezebox. First, he has not tried out any modifications or upgrades, keeping with his editorial preference of first sampling products as originally issued. He did note that the stock walwart switching power supply is undoubtedly limiting the performance of the Squeezebox. I encouraged him to get ahold of modifications or improved power supplies, perhaps this may come in a follow up.

While the sound of the stock unit was quite good in his opinion, JA felt that the only way to use the squeezebox was via a separate stand alone DAC, in his case the Mark Levinson. While I will await his final review, he hinted that he was mightily impressed by the sound of a Squeezebox feeding the Levinson, but that it did not outclass the best of current high end digital.

He had tried several digital file formats but professed not to hear any differences between FLAC, WAV, Apple Lossless and AIFF. He mentioned that his Squeezebox review will be delayed until August.

While JA has his biases as we all do, I have consistently agreed with most of his reviews of gear over the years, and I find his measurements of gear absolutely essential to my own product purchases. This is not because I rely on measurements, but because I want to know objectively how certain gear will interact with mine, and in the case of digital gear, I do tend to lean towards digital gear that measures well, finding that such better measurements have a distinct correlation with better sound, something that cannot be said for, say, low powered SET amps.

I also spoke briefly with Robert Lee, founder of Acoustic Zen, which makes sublime sounding cables and interconnect. I use a 1m pair of MC2, which is a 110 ohm cable. Recent online gurus (Steve Nugent of Emperical Audio among them) have indicated that a 75 ohm cable at least 1.5m in length is always preferred when using the RCA outputs of the Squeezebox. Lee confirmed that the better AZ option is the less expensive Silver Byte, a 75 ohm cable that lists for $200.

Since I am waiting for my house to be finished and my music system is in hibernation, I'll be following up with a comparison.