Logitech’s Squeezebox Touch – A Touch Of Genius

11/24/2013 9:37:07 AM

The price is certainly right, but how does Logitech’s Squeezebox Touch compare to more costly rivals?

The arrival of the very competitively priced Squeezebox Touch caused something of a paradigm shift in the music streaming world, where there were already a few high-quality streaming systems on the market; the multi-room Sonos system being one example. So can this $402 streamer really cut it in the hi-fi market where streamers at that time were at least twice if not three times the price? In one sense the pricing is not dissimilar to a separate SACD/CD multi-player and at a price that makes dipping a toe into the streaming world a genuine possibility, so how does it compare?

One of the great attractions is that the Touch offers a way of bridging the world of Hi-Fi and iTunes and the perennial hunt for a particular CD. In a word it offers convenience; to allow accessibility to the music collection on the Hi-Fi system, iPods and in other rooms in the house.

Description: Did the Touch with its small desktop footprint help to shape the market?

Did the Touch with its small desktop footprint help to shape the market?

 Logitech products have always had a reputation for straightforward installation and the Touch is no different, the first step being to install the Squeezebox software on your PC or NAS drive depending on where you plan to store your music. In a multi-room system, the always-on NAS solution has significant benefits as it doesn’t rely on the PC being permanently on. The other benefit of the NAS option is that the hard drives will operate at a lower temperature, hence increasing their reliability, and can have the added security of mirrored RAID drives. The PC installation simply involves loading the supplied CD into your PC and following the install instructions. Once completed, the software needs to be pointed to your ripped or downloaded music. For a NAS such as the Synology DS211J it’s simply a case of downloading the Squeezebox application from Synology’s website onto the NAS drive and loading your music onto it.

I typically use Exact Audio Copy and Foobar 2000 to do the ripping to FLAC files and tagging them before transferring them to the NAS. For the most robust streaming performance, either Ethernet or Powerline LAN connections are recommended over Wi-Fi to connect to the local LAN.

One of the major enemies of low noise audio is digital noise; this is where dedicated streamers like the Touch have an advantage streaming music over Ethernet instead of USB. This is because the Ethernet standard mandates ground isolation, which helps reduce the amount of noise from the source being transferred to the streamer. Upgrading the Touch’s power supply to one from Channel Island Audio or Welborne Labs will reduce the supply noise from the original switching supply.

Multi-room environment operation is simple with the Touch able to play independently or to synchronize to any other Touch or other Squeezebox streamer in the house. The infra-red remote is a small one with no display. Other options include using Android or Apple smartphone apps or the Duet wireless remote.

Sound quality

Description: Sound quality is surprisingly good from the analog outs, and will scale well with outboard digital converters.

Sound quality is surprisingly good from the analog outs, and will scale well with outboard digital converters.

A nice feature is that the analogue and digital outputs can be configured for fixed or variable output, which allows the option of feeding a pre-amp or directly driving a power amp for shortest signal path. Initial listening is done through the pre-amp, with first impressions being a clear and neutral presentation. The hybrid SACD album of the Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East has very good ambience clues and I find it very revealing for soundstage width and depth. The rendition of a FLAC rip of the PCM layer is extremely close to the playback from the Sony SCD-XB770 player, with similar balance and soundstage dimensions. Comparison with the DSD stereo layer demonstrates that the SACD player has the edge in terms of overall soundstage size, smoothness and natural portrayal of this live performance. Switching to the Rolling Stones’ Midnight Rambler off the Hot Rocks SACD, it’s a similar story with the Touch putting in a very close performance to the CD PCM playback. The slightly unfair comparison with the DSD layers may have more to do with the differences in different layers’ mixes, but DSD playback has slightly more air and subtly increased bass definition. One possibility is that if the DSD was natively processed from the analogue masters there would be small differences between the DSD processing in FPGAs and the PCM processing in fixed-point DSPs.

Rather than just making the comparison on re-mastered high definition rock material, the playback of a FLAC rip of Telarc’s Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring shows that the Touch can deliver a very convincing performance, with good bass extension to the orchestral drums particularly in Part II, Le Sacrifice.

Switching the Touch to directly drive the power amp, the main thing that is noticeable is the small improvement in bass definition on the kettle drums and a slight increase in imaging focus.


Description: The Touch: a game changer at a decent price

The Touch: a game changer at a decent price

The Touch represents an excellent entry point into streamed audio while providing an extremely creditable performance at such a great price. With its excellent multi-room support and ease of use, the only real alternatives at the time of release, were priced at two if not three times the cost – which becomes significant if you want to do a multi-room install over three, four or more rooms. Today, with Logitech discontinuing the Squeezebox line with the exception of the SB Radio, the obvious alternatives would be Sonos, the Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6, Cyrus’ Stream X2 or the Naim UnitiQute 2. All of which represent a significant increase in cost over the Touch, although I did see a new one available on Amazon priced at over $1124 recently!

The irony is that apart from the Sonos, most of these smaller streamers have arrived since the diminutive Touch was launched. Did the Touch with its small desktop footprint help to shape the market for smaller streamers that could be used in multiple rooms?

Technical specs

·         Music player with WiFi & Ethernet inputs

·         4.3" color touchscreen

·         Outputs: stereo analog (RCA), digital coaxial (RCA), TosLink, Headphone on 3.5mm stereo jack

·         Music formats supported: MP3, FLAC, WMA standard & Lossless (by internal conversion), WAV, AIFF, Ogg Vorbis, AAC/HE-AACv2, HD-AAC, Apple Lossless, Monkey's Audio (by internal conversion)

·         Internet radio support for MP3, Ogg Vorbis, AAC/HE-AACv2, WMA

·         USB & SD card ports for picture and music files

·         Maximum audio resolution: 24-bit/96kHz

·         Remote control included

·         System requirements (when used with a host PC): 256MB RAM, 100MB hard-disk space; Mac OSX10.4 or later; 733MHz PC running Windows 2000, XP, 7, or Vista; Linux, BSD, Solaris, Perl 5.8.3 or later

·         Internet connection

·         Ethernet connection and/or 802.11 b/g network connection.

·         Dimensions: 6" (155mm) W by 4.6" (120mm) H by 3.25" (83mm) D. Weight: 1 lb (0.4kg)


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