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In Use

The Boom is a delight to use (and I don't say that about most of the products that come across the ol' SNB test bench). I stopped pretending to be an audiophile many years ago. But I have to say that the Boom's sound quality was surprisingly good, especially considering its compact size. There's plenty of bass for my taste. But if you like yours at bowel-loosening levels, the Line Out can be set to a mono subwoofer mode and you can have at it.

And speaking of levels, there is plenty of clean, undistorted volume to fill a good-sized room. Logitech is rightfully proud of the design, which they detail in this white paper that also provides excellent detail about the rest of the Boom's internals.

I'll confess that I didn't use the little IR remote (Figure 15) that comes with the Boom and can nestle magnetically-secured in a niche on top of it. I started out using the Boom's control panel (Figure 15), which combined with the 160x32 grayscale vacuum fluorescent display, allowed me to explore the Boom's extensive menu tree. (It sure would be helpful for the documentation to show a copy of that tree, by the way.)

SB IR remote

Figure 15: SB IR remote

Navigation using the wheel and Back buttons generally worked intuitively, although I found myself usually pressing the wheel to start playing a song instead of using the Play button and reaching for it to control volume instead of using the dedicated Volume buttons. However, I was able to satisfy my volume knob-twiddling tendency once I found the Screensaver delay time in seconds setting in the SqueezeCenter Player tab. Resetting this from the default 10 to 3 seconds kicked in the knob's volume control mode (when the Now Playing screen is shown) quickly enough to make it more useful.

SB IR remote

Figure 15: SB IR remote

The Preset system is definitely a plus and can be used like car radio buttons to take you quickly to favorite content sources. But the push-and-hold a button to add a currently-playing item didn't seem to work for library content; only for Internet Radio content.

My main complaints are that without a map, you're flying blind through the menu systems and that I would have liked a Home button to bring me back to a known starting point when I got lost deep in the menu tree. Dedicated tone controls, or at least some presets would also be nice.

But the real fun began when I downloaded iPeng from the iTunes store onto my Touch and connected the Boom to my entertainment system. Going from using the Boom's controls and display to an iPhone/Touch iTunes-like display that I could operate from anywhere in my home was like going from DOS to Mac OS X.

As I noted earlier, even though both the Touch and Boom were connected via 802.11g, response times were very good. Changing tunes, browsing the library and even exploring new music via Slacker and Pandora's artist "stations" was fast and reliable, with only occasional hiccups. I had to slow down a bit when adjusting volume, however, or I would find myself in an overshoot / undershoot loop.

The most confusing thing about iPeng is the Playback Mode, which adopts SqueezeCenter's playlist orientation. You can read more about it here (scroll down to Browse Menu Concepts). It took me awhile to reach the conclusion that it was best to leave the Playback Mode set to the default Play mode. This mode most emulates an iPod in that it clears the Current Playlist, replaces it with your current selection and starts playing that selection.

Closing Thoughts

You might be able to tell by now that I really liked the combination of these products. The Boom is a top-notch networked music player with a built-in audio system that delivers satisfying sound (and plenty of it) and is easy to use on its own. Logitech may be trying to tell us something since the Boom and SB Classic both carry a $299 list price and have similar online pricing.

To my mind, this makes the Boom a much better buy, since even if you use nothing else, the set of controls right on the front of the Boom will come in handy when you need to quickly pause or turn down the volume and you can't find the remote. And I'll bet that once you have the Boom, you'll end up trying it out on your deck or patio and liking it.

I'll admit that the combination of a Boom ($266 online) and first gen, 8 GB refurbished Touch for $179 ain't exactly cheap at $445, particularly when compared to $319 for a Squeezebox Duet. But the combo is definitely more flexible, both together and individually, in more ways than the Duet could ever hope to be.

Sometimes the best things are unplanned and that's the way I feel about the Boom and iPeng. What started out as a review of the Squeezebox Duet, serendipitously turned into the discovery of a networked music system that I suspect I'll enjoy for years to come. Because the best complement that I can give to a product is that I bought one for myself.

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