Internet radio and music services are a great way to enjoy your types of music, discover new music related to your favorites, and even customize your own stations with specific styles and performers (see previous post). And you can listen on any connected computer, and on the go on portable devices and cell phones.
But what about listening in other areas of the house, like the bedroom or porch or even the backyard? You don't want to have a computer in each room, or lug around a laptop just to listen to music -- and you want to be listening on some good speakers anyway.
One answer is the Logitech Squeezebox Boom, a portable boombox radio for $299 that connects to your network to play Internet radio stations and other online music services.
The Squeezebox Boom is an all-in-one network music player, with an integrated amplifier and high-performance speakers. There's no antenna, no AM and FM broadcast stations. Instead you connect it to a wireless (or wired) network and "tune" by selecting the music source (i.e., Internet radio station or online music service) and options under that source, and then listen to the streaming audio from that source.
To set up the Squeezebox Boom, you need to go on the Web to Logitech SqueezeNetwork site in order to register your device's ID. You then can access thousands of Internet radio stations, by genre or location, or based on staff picks or listener popularity. And you can sign up for free music services including Pandora and Slacker, and set up trial subscriptions for services including Last.fm, Live365, MP3tunes, Radio IO, RadioTime, Rhapsody, and SIRIUS.
The setup process tries to simplify this process by automatically generating logins for you at these sites, but this obviously is a bit more complicated then using an AM radio. For example, the default setup process failed for me (I already had a login for one site, and another objected to my zip code). As a result, the radio displayed terse error messages when I tried to access these services.
You also can download the Logitech SqueezeCenter music server software to install on your home computer so the radio to access you own personal music collection and playlists (in addition to the online stations and services).
The Squeezebox Boom features a 30-watt amplifier with two 3/4-inch, high-definition, soft-dome tweeters, and two 3-inch, high-power, long-throw woofers. The back connectors are Line-in for listening to other music players, and headphone out that also can be used for a subwoofer.
The interface works though a several-line menu on the front display. The box also has six preset buttons (as well as a Favorites menu), works as a clock and 7-day alarm clock, and includes a small remote control.
The bottom line: Once you've configured your network connections and online services, the Squeezebox Boom provides a turn-key way to enjoy streaming music from a variety of sources.
Just be aware that this is not a simple radio, and requires a certain amount of technical knowledge and resilience to get it configured and working with the different sources. For example, it's a bit surprising when you first see a radio turn on and immediately display an "Obtaining and IP address" message.
Also, the device was very unhappy when used on a weak network connection, failing to resolve with the DHCP server, stuttering and restarting when trying to play (with rebuffering error messages cut off on the display), and then becoming unresponsive and even resetting itself back to the setup configuration process.
But once set up cleanly, the Squeezebox Boom was easy listening.
See my Home Networked Media Gallery for more on the Squeezebox line and related networked media products for the home.
Find the Logitech Squeezebox Boom on Amazon.com