- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 12 January 2009
The Duet consists of a receiver, which is about the size of a book (seen in the photo above), and a hand-held controller, i.e., a handset. In their earlier model, there was only one piece of hardware (the receiver) and it had an LED readout panel to access menus, including your list of albums. With the Duet, all information is displayed on the handset, shown below.
The handset has an LCD panel at the top, and the controls are at the bottom. You move your thumb around the wheel, just like an iPod, to move up and down in the LCD menus. The small house-shaped icon at the bottom right corner of the wheel is used to turn on the handset. You can also adjust the volume, pause the music, and move forward or backward in the list of music tracks, as you would with a CD player. The small arrows next to the wheel let you move forward or backward in the various menus.
The latest handset version has a 1/8" stereo jack on the top that you can plug in a set of earphones and set the menu option to play the music from the receiver to the handset. In this case, obviously, you would not need to turn on your hifi system. Only the receiver and handset would need to be powered on. Communication between the handset and receiver is by RF, not infra-red, so the handset doed not have to be pointed at the receiver to work. There is limited range however. The receiver was on the second floor in my living room near the two-channel hifi setup, and I had difficulty using the handset on the bottom floor, even though it was only about 10 feet from the receiver, so the RF was not penetrating the floor sufficiently to communicate with the receiver.
Apparently, you can control the receiver with an iPhone or iPod Touch, but it requires some Perl script. Script has been written, but you may need to browse the various Mac forums to locate it.
The interface on the handset is necessarily limited because of its small screen and relatively small amount of RAM, compared to a dedicated server which can hold as much RAM as any conventional computer. As a result, by comparison, dedicated servers have much more sophisticated user interfaces, often with touch screens that let you drag and drop albums and tracks from one place to another. And, it is such powerful user interfaces that you are really paying for with these dedicated servers.
The receiver is shown below.
After you have installed the Squeezebox software, called SqueezeCenter (latest version is 7.3.1), by downloading it from the Slimdevices website, you will be able to access all the albums stored on your PC.
The first menu on the handset controller is shown below. The first thing to do is scroll down to the bottom of this menu and turn on the Squeezebox receiver (that option is out of the range of view on this screen). Then, select Music Library as shown in the photo. (You press the center button in the center of the wheel on the controller to select options. It is essentially the "Enter" button like on your PC.
That takes you to the next menu, where you select Albums.
Now you will see the list of all the albums stored on your computer. In my case, I ripped them using Windows Media Player with it configured for Windows Medial Audio Lossless (WMA). This reduces the file size by about half, but the quality is the same as the original CD, compared to MP3, where there is "lossy" compression, and the quality of the sound is not as good as the CD itself. Hard drives with huge storage capabilties are so inexpensive these days, there is no reason to store them in a lossy format to reduce the file size even further. If your computer is an old one with low storage capability, just add a new drive (I would suggest a drive with a terabyte of storage) just to store your music. In fact, add two drives, because you will need to back up all your music files on a different drive.
So, in the case of the photo below, I highlighted a John Williams album.
Pressing the Enter button takes you to the list of tracks, shown below. "Play All" is highlighted, and you press Enter to begin playing the album. You can scroll down the list and play certain tracks if you wish.
There are other menus where you can connect to the Internet, including SqueezeNetwork, and subscribe to music services, as well as download the latest firmware for the receiver.