Audiocircle Squeezebox Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ serves the Audiocircle forum with answers to common questions regarding the Slimdevices Squeezebox.


Table of Contents
1 Introduction
2 Squeezebox Hardware
3 Squeezebox Software
4 PC Hardware
5 Storage
6 Networking
7 Ripping and Encoding

Chapter 1 Introduction

When referring to the Squeezebox in a general context, the abbreviation SB will be used. When the version number is important, the version number will be appended as in SB2 or SB3.

1.1. Why does this FAQ exist?
1.2. Why do people choose the Squeezebox?

1.1. Why does this FAQ exist?

This FAQ exists to help people enter the world of PC-based audio. Many long-time audiophiles may know a lot about audio but may not be computer savvy. This document is a collection of information to help the computer wizard and neophyte alike. The idea is to avoid the same questions being asked again and again on Audiocircle.

1.2. Why do people choose the Squeezebox?

Some people choose the SB purely for high fidelity. The elimination of a physical transport and potential elimination of a preamp appeals to them. Others choose the SB for the convenience of having their entire musical collection at their fingertips from an easy-to-use remote control. Others like the idea of eliminating the physical space taken by a large CD collection. All of these reasons are valid.


Chapter 2 Squeezebox Hardware

2.1. Are there any sonic differences between the SB2 and SB3?
2.2. What aftermarket modifications are available?
2.3. Is the stock power supply adequate?
2.4. What is the output impedance of the SB?
2.5. What is the output voltage of the SB?

2.1. Are there any sonic differences between the SB2 and SB3?

No, they use the same underlying hardware.

2.2. What aftermarket modifications are available?

The Bolder Cable Company and Red Wine Audio offer aftermarket modifications to the SB unit as well as alternate power supplies.

2.3. Is the stock power supply adequate?

The stock power supply is non-linear. There is general consensus that a linear power supply sounds better on high end systems. In addition to the vendors listed previously, this thread has sources for 3rd party power supplies.

2.4. What is the output impedance of the SB?

220 ohms (reference).

2.5. What is the output voltage of the SB?

2.12 VRMS without aftermarket modifications (reference).


Chapter 3 Squeezebox Software

3.1. Which firmware sounds the best?

3.1. Which firmware sounds the best?

There is general consensus that firmware 15 from Slimserver 6.1.x is sonically superior to later versions of the firmware in Slimserver 6.2.x. The technique is to install Slimserver and replace later versions of the firmware with version 15. Slimdevices does not condone this procedure, but it works.

Note: There is a known bug in firmware 15 that can cause connectivity problems in some cases. The symptom is an Ethernet MAC address for the Squeezebox that does not match the one printed on its case. A workaround exists.

The following procedure is for a FreeBSD UNIX system, but the concepts apply to any other operating system that runs Slimserver. The idea is to trick slimserver 6.2.x into using the previous firmware by copying the firmware to its directory and telling it that the firmware version is 15 instead of 26 (for example).

  1. assume your slimserver 6.1.1 directory is /usr/local/slimserver

  2. stop slimserver 6.1.1

  3. rename the slimserver directory to slimserver.6.1.1

  4. install slimserver 6.2.0 to /usr/local/slimserver

  5. copy slimserver.6.1.1/Firmware/squeezebox2_15.bin to slimserver/Firmware/

  6. cd slimserver/Firmware/

  7. copy squeezebox2.version to squeezebox2.version.26

  8. edit squeezebox2.version and replace all instances of 26 with 15

  9. start slimserver 6.2.0 and verify via the web interface "player settings" link that the Squeezebox is running firmware version 15


Chapter 4 PC Hardware

4.1. What are the PC hardware requirements?
4.2. Do I need a dedicated music server?
4.3. Does PC hardware affect sonics?

4.1. What are the PC hardware requirements?

Slimserver has modest hardware requirements. The minimum is listed as a Pentium 733 Mhz with 256 MB of RAM. Any reasonable PC you have lying around will probably work.

Most of the time the PC will be streaming encoded data to the network, which is not very CPU intensive. The CPU will be taxed during encoding, importing, and transcoding. Transcoding occurs when converting from one encoding format to another. An example of transcoding is when slimserver converts a lossless format like FLAC into mp3 when you stream music from a dedicated music server to another computer.

4.2. Do I need a dedicated music server?

Most people use a PC to store their music and run slimserver. Whether you use a dedicated PC or your general-purpose computer is a personal decision.

On the high end, some Network Attached Storage devices will run slimserver natively. This means a disk enclosure connected to the network is all you need (reference).

4.3. Does PC hardware affect sonics?

No. The encoded audio data travels digitally from the hard drive to the DAC. Traditional problems like interference from the power supply within the case and jitter from the CD-ROM drive are eliminated.


Chapter 5 Storage

5.1. How much disk space do I need?
5.2. Can I buy a dedicated hard drive for music?
5.3. Should I use internal or external drives?
5.4. What bus should I use with an external disk? USB 1.1? USB 2.0? Firewire?
5.5. What about network drives?
5.6. What is RAID? What is mirroring?
5.7. How long do disk drives last?
5.8. How can I backup my data?
5.9. What if I have a gigantic CD collection?
5.10. What about 5400 rpm versus 7200 rpm drives? Cache sizes?
5.11. Where can I find good deals on hard disks?

5.1. How much disk space do I need?

100 GB holds approximately 300 CDs encoded with FLAC. The slimserver database for such an installation is approximately 38 MB.

5.2. Can I buy a dedicated hard drive for music?

Yes. Your operating system can remain on your existing hard drive, and the new drive can be dedicated to holding music. If your PC case has an empty bay to hold the additional drive and your PC power supply has available 12V plugs, you are in business.

5.3. Should I use internal or external drives?

Each has its strengths.

Interior drives are cheaper, generate less noise, are easier to cool, and do not require additional wall power plugs.

Exterior drives are mobile which means they are good for holding backups of your data. If you are not computer savvy, exterior drives offer simpler installation than opening your computer and messing with its internals.

5.4. What bus should I use with an external disk? USB 1.1? USB 2.0? Firewire?

Firewire 800 is faster than USB 2.0, and USB 2.0 is faster than USB 1.1. Some users have reported slow slimserver import performance using USB 1.1. If you have an older laptop and want to use USB with an external drive, PCMCIA USB 2.0 cards are inexpensive.

5.5. What about network drives?

Network Attached Storage (NAS) is a drive enclosure that is connected to the network instead of a specific PC. These devices usually have built in RAID and a web interface. Examples include Buffalo Terastation, Infrant ReadyNAS, and Netgear Storage Central (reference).

Today these devices use wired Ethernet connections to reduce costs. You can take a wired model and buy a wireless bridge device to connect it to your wireless network.

5.6. What is RAID? What is mirroring?

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. RAID has different levels which provide concatenation of disks and fault tolerance. The data is written across more than one disk drive so that if one of the drives fails, the remaining drives can still function while the failed drive is replaced.

Mirroring is the same thing as RAID level 1 and consists of two physical drives that are updated with the same read/write operations. If one drive fails, there is an identical drive that can keep going until the faulty drive is replaced.

RAID can be implemented in many ways: your computer's motherboard, a separate card that plugs into a slot in your computer, an exterior drive enclosure, or even in software using your operating system. When you implement RAID in hardware, the RAID controller must initialize the disks before writing data to the array. That usually means the disks are reformatted. The moral of the story is to setup your RAID array before putting your music collection on disk.

Fault tolerance is not the same thing as a backing up your data. For example, if you accidentally erase an album from your music collection, the data will be dutifully erased from every drive in the fault-tolerant drive array. It pays to backup your data to a separate device.

5.7. How long do disk drives last?

Long enough for them to fail. It is not a question of if they will fail, it is a question of when. You can do your best to provide good cooling and surge suppression, but eventually the drives will fail. There is no hard and fast rule, but you can expect them to fail sometime between now and 6 years.

5.8. How can I backup my data?

You can backup to magnetic tape.

You can backup to a lot of DVDs.

You can backup to a separate drive.

You can mirror the drives and remember not to infect your PC with malware, accidentally delete anything, and hope your house never floods, burns down, or becomes burglarized.

5.9. What if I have a gigantic CD collection?

You have many things to consider: storage, backup, heat, and power. The bigger your collection, the more you won't want to re-rip your CDs if a drive fails, so tape backup starts to make sense.

As an example, a RAID 5 array with four 500 GB drives would yield:

3/4 * (4 * 500 GB) = 1500 GB effective storage

That is approximately 4200 CDs. It would take slimserver a long time to catalog a collection that size, let alone the time it would take you to rip that many CDs.

Most normal people can live happily with RAID 1. The economics are cheaper with reasonably sized CD collections.

5.10. What about 5400 rpm versus 7200 rpm drives? Cache sizes?

5400 rpm drives generate less noise and heat than 7200 rpm drives, but 5400 rpm is dying out in the marketplace.

Practically speaking, there is no performance difference between 2 MB and 8 MB cache sizes when used in a consumer RAID application.

5.11. Where can I find good deals on hard disks?

This document does not endorse any specific vendor. Here is a list of vendors people have used: newegg.com, buy.com, compusa.com, outpost.com, bestbuy.com, staples.com, driveguys.com, techbargains.com, fatwallet.com.


Chapter 6 Networking

6.1. Wired or wireless?
6.2. Can I use 802.11b wireless?
6.3. What is an access point? What is a wireless router?
6.4. What wireless routers are known to work well with the SB?
6.5. Any suggestions on setting up my wireless router?
6.6. What are some pitfalls with wireless networking?
6.7. Does wireless signal strength affect sonics?
6.8. What about wireless security?
6.9. Why does my SB power off unexpectedly?

6.1. Wired or wireless?

The SB comes in a wired-only model and wired+wireless model. It is generally more convenient to use wireless Ethernet and locate the server PC away from the listening area to eliminate fan and drive noise.

6.2. Can I use 802.11b wireless?

You might be able to use 802.11b. 802.11g is preferred since it has 5 times the network bandwidth as 802.11b. Some people have reported latency problems using 802.11b and FLAC while others have not. If you have an existing 802.11b network, it is worth an attempt to see if works. If you will be buying new hardware anyway to create your wireless network, 802.11g is a no-brainer.

6.3. What is an access point? What is a wireless router?

A wireless access point provides wireless connectivity to wireless clients such as the SB. A wireless router encompasses an access point while routing traffic between wired and wireless network segments. A wireless router usually handles the network connection to your Internet Service Provider as well.

6.4. What wireless routers are known to work well with the SB?

  • Linksys WRT54G Ver.4 and below

    Warning: Do not use the Linksys WRT54G Ver.5. It is flaky.

  • Netgear 614

  • Netgear MIMO

  • SMC Barricade

  • D-Link DGL-4300 Wireless Gaming Router

    Warning: Do not use the D-Link DI-624 Rev.C. It is very flaky.

6.5. Any suggestions on setting up my wireless router?

Use a static IP address for your squeezebox and slimserver versus DHCP.

Put the wireless router as high as possible in your home (not in the basement).

6.6. What are some pitfalls with wireless networking?

You and your neighbor could be sharing the same wireless frequency (channel), causing interference and poor connectivity. Use Netstumbler or Macstumbler to detect neighboring networks and adjust the channel on your wireless router to avoid the conflict.

2.4 GHz cordless phones can interfere with 802.11 networks. Channel 11 reportedly conflicts with 2.4 GHz phones less often. Do not place the base station near your wireless router. Consider using 900 MHz phones. Newer 5.8 GHz phones still use the 2.4 GHz frequency for signaling, so they are not a panacea.

Microwave ovens use the same unlicensed spectrum as 802.11. Try channels 1 or 2 on your wireless router as they tend to interfere with microwave ovens less often.

Users have reported problems with the SB3 and 802.11g “double speed” technology that purports to transfer data at 108 Mbps. Turn off that option in your router if you are having problems.

6.7. Does wireless signal strength affect sonics?

No. Signal strength affects latency and throughput, not audio quality. If your music is not skipping or stuttering, your SB is getting all the bits.

6.8. What about wireless security?

Use WPA2 to secure your wireless network. WEP is easy to defeat. MAC address filtering and SSID cloaking are not effective against determined crackers. If you use WPA2, the latter two options are moot.

6.9. Why does my SB power off unexpectedly?

It is most likely a networking problem. Ensure slimserver is running and that your server is not under duress. Check your firewall to see if it is blocking the connection. Try using an Ethernet cable instead of wireless to isolate the problem. Do not use homemade Ethernet cables. Check your wireless signal strength using the slimserver HTML interface under "Player Settings".


Chapter 7 Ripping and Encoding

Ripping is the process of extracting raw audio data from an audio CD-ROM. Encoding is the process of converting raw audio data into a format that uses less space. Exact Audio Copy may be abbreviated EAC.

7.1. What ripping software do you recommend?
7.2. How do I setup Exact Audio Copy?
7.3. Does iTunes rip as well as as Exact Audio Copy?
7.4. Can I use iTunes?
7.5. What are lossless codecs?
7.6. How effective is lossless codec compression?
7.7. Is there any sonic difference between a losslessly encoded file and a wav file?
7.8. What are the advantages of using a lossless codec instead of wav files?
7.9. Which is better: FLAC or Apple Lossless?
7.10. If I rip using Apple Lossless, can my iPod use AAC?
7.11. How do I alter FLAC tags?

7.1. What ripping software do you recommend?

The general consensus is that Exact Audio Copy is the the ripping program de jure.

7.2. How do I setup Exact Audio Copy?

This tutorial is the most popular, followed by this one.

7.3. Does iTunes rip as well as as Exact Audio Copy?

Probably not, but it is likely OK. iTunes is a music management program with a single checkbox entitled, “Use error correction when reading Audio Cds”. EAC's sole purpose is to obtain the most error-free rip possible.

7.4. Can I use iTunes?

If you have an iPod and you like the fact that iTunes provides one stop shopping for your ripping, encoding, tagging, and management needs, then go for it.

7.5. What are lossless codecs?

Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) and Apple Lossless compress raw audio data without loss of information.

7.6. How effective is lossless codec compression?

The average compression ratio is approximately 55%. (reference)

7.7. Is there any sonic difference between a losslessly encoded file and a wav file?

No. Any differences you may hear are probably due to Replay Gain if you have enabled it.

7.8. What are the advantages of using a lossless codec instead of wav files?

You will save disk space.

You will save network bandwidth.

Your backups will take less time.

7.9. Which is better: FLAC or Apple Lossless?

FLAC is open source software. It is designed to be easy to implement in hardware so that it can be used royalty-free in many devices. Apple does not support FLAC in iTunes.

Apple Lossless is proprietary. Its encoding is faster than FLAC, but it doesn't matter.

One does not sound “better” than the other. Every lossless codec encodes audio data without loss of information.

The question, “Should I use FLAC or Apple Lossless?” is better asked, “Should I use iTunes or not?” See previous question, “Can I use iTunes?”

7.10. If I rip using Apple Lossless, can my iPod use AAC?

Yes. You can select the iTunes checkbox “Convert higher bit rate songs to 128 kbps AAC for this iPod” when your iPod is connected. This will allow you to rip your music losslessly and transcode to a compressed format for your iPod. You will pay a CPU penalty at sync time, however.

7.11. How do I alter FLAC tags?

You can use Media Monkey.

You can use the command line program metaflac that comes with the FLAC distribution.


Document $Revision: 1.1.1.5 $
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