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The Squeezebox Squares Off Against The High End
Who Won?

By Francis Vale

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The day of high-end reckoning had arrived, as I stared at a leaning tower of CD’s. This was a now or never moment.  Would I finally be free of these plastic platters and could entrust my digital music bits to computer hard drives and wireless networking?  Or would maddening musical results plunge me back into a 1980’s CD funk?

As a card carrying high-end audio crazy, I had long waited for this pivotal moment. I had already experimented with various mp3 devices and schemes to bring ripped digital music to palpable life on my big stereo rig. But sonic results were dismal, forcing me into tactical, if not strategic stereo defeat.  Then again, my stereo system is a highly audible judge and gleeful executioner of sub-par components. It consists of a pair of mighty MBL 101D full range speakers, hand made in Germany by fanatical craftsmen. These musical wunderkinds marshal massive 20 Hz thunder, as well as belt out crystalline highs that shatter the Baccarat.

Wiring the MBL’s together is an equally astonishing set of high-end technologies, Nordost Valhalla speaker cables, whose musical prowess awes high-enders far and wide. Powering up the whole affair is a pair of Sunfire Signature solid-state amps, each amp dedicated to one stereo channel.  These happy transistor monsters feed 2400 watts per 4 ohm channel into the, oh, so very, very power hungry MBL’s. With 4800 watts on tap, my stereo totally terrifies my high-rise apartment neighbors. A terrific Sunfire Classic tube preamp serves as the front end. Nordost Valhalla interconnects wire the amps and preamp together.  (A word about Sunfire products:  This outfit is run by a renegade genius by the name of Bob Carver.  His technical designs are incredibly innovative and yield immensely satisfying products that readily outperform high-end gear costing many times more, much to his competitors’ chagrin.)

The sound that emanates from this MBL-Nordost-Sunfire rig is staggering. It is also in the ruthlessly revealing category. Any change, and I mean anything, will cause a detectable change in sound quality, from amps, to source components, to cables; absolutely nothing escapes the merciless notice of this system. This is why it is such a great reviewer’s tool, as well as a source of musical delight—if you can get everything right.  So it’s probably no wonder I encountered so many dismal failures trying to feed miserable mp3 technologies to this mighty MBL beast, which simply chewed up and spit out their constricted musical marrow. And now daring to face down this musical leviathan was a diminutive piece of black plastic and shiny metal called a Squeezebox 3, which is made by an outfit called Slim Devices.  Its electrical guts were likely convulsed in terror, and if it could, it would have shit little Energizers.

 

The Squeezebox from Slim Devices

 

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