Let me get some superlatives out of the way.  I’m a radio geek, a careful, thoughtful observer of the ins and outs of the radio (and other) products I evaluate.  This is far and away the finest radio I’ve ever tested.  It just happens to be an Internet radio, and, it’s a bargain.  This is the Dyson, the Apple, the TiVo, the Godiva of radios, like none before it and a huge target for every other radio maker.  It is beyond amazing!

Are these guys nuts?  The developers at Slim Devices, the company now owned by Logitech, have redesigned radio from a clean sheet of paper.  The result is the remarkable Logitech Squeezebox Boom, with a list price, a bargain price of only $300.

Let’s get started.

This radio relies on joining your existing wireless or wired high-speed Internet connection at home or in the office. In a few steps, you’re there.  It is NOT, in the traditional sense, a radio, but, rather, it is a computer without acting or looking like a computer. It uses its Internet connection to bring in traditional radio stations that are available online (and interference free!) from anywhere in the world as well as most of the stations that are in your local area.  And that is just where it begins.

As the computer that it is, the software inside drives it.  Because it is software that gives it its capabilities, it is software that allows it the endless variety of setting choices you will read about.  I did not cover it all by any means!  It is advances and upgrades to that software that will allow future capabilities.  Those engineers sit around and think about what else they can do with this product.  They read what others write and ask for in the forums dedicated to the products and take in all the suggestions.  They ask themselves, “Can we do that?” if the answer is yes, they are free to go ahead and make the changes, transparently to the user.  Try that with any other product except your computer.  Now, you can see the power and the potential this product offers.  It’s already great.  Potential means it might become even better!

Through affiliations with numerous services, users can also get podcasts, music concerts, music from any genre from as many as 150 countries, lots of old time radio from comedy to mystery to westerns, sci-fi, horror and many others.  Listen to comedy from contemporary masters of blue and clean humor to classic routines.

If you leave your computer on and it has lots of music loaded, such as in iTunes or other organizational software, listen to ALL your unprotected (no digital rights management) music through the Squeezebox Boom.  It can play all the popular audio formats, too, from mp3 to AAC and virtually all the others.

It’s equally at home in a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, workshop, office or dorm.

It’s a 7-day multi-alarm clock radio capable of gently waking the user to Internet radio stations, built-in nature sounds and sound effects or even to music on other networked computers.  It starts out at low volume and ramps up to make sure to awaken you. It’s smart enough to know that even though there may be headphones or a pillow speaker plugged into the external audio (headphone) jack, it should send alarm sound out through the speakers.  Smart, very smart.

Also on the topic of the alarms, users can select individual days and whether to repeat any of the alarms or not.

All volume and display brightness settings are user customizable, too, or leave the brightness to its automatic settings.  It’s user’s choice!

There is a 15-, 30-, 45- 60- and 90-minute sleep timer setting, too.

The sound!  Well, the sound is outstanding, owing to the engineers’ attention to detail, providing high-quality woofers and tweeters and powerful, clean amplification for sweet room-filling sound.  Did you know that Logitech is the world’s largest speaker maker?  They are capable of excellent work in this area.  I believe it is the best sounding device of its kind with the only possible exception being a Bose Wave Radio and Bose has nothing to compete with this.

Set-up is simplified though superb design of the user interface AND the availability of Mac and Windows software that mimics the radio on the computer.  Then, all the settings can be made on the computer and remembered on the radio itself.  Even the six “station” preset buttons can be set either on the radio or on the computer.  Software is also provided allowing all functionality to be duplicated for use on the computer independent of the radio.

So versatile is the setting capability that this radio can become highly personalized and that is what I have done with mine.  There is a Favorites setting, for example, that can be populated with all manner of favorite selections.  Think of it as the one click access to what you like, no waiting.  I’ve loaded it with mine, in the order I want to encounter them as I go through the list, grouping things in my perception of their logical placement.  I scroll through that long and growing list of favorites and land on just what I want, then click to go there.

I have set my radio to display the time, day and date while ON and after showing what’s currently playing.  I could just have well set it to scroll through feeds of the latest news headlines!  In the off position, the display shows the correct time, always exact and accurate because it is set via the Internet.

All the radio’s controls are easily accessed from the front of the unit.  A big, multipurpose clickable wheel dominates the front of the radio. So as not to confuse the user, when the radio is OFF, only the Power button is backlit, easily directing the user to it even in a dark room.

All this brings me to the best part of all, I think.  It has a remote to beat all others, too.  You can plainly see it in the photo above.  Small in size, with just 10 buttons, its design is just about perfect, smart and ultimately logical in the placement of controls.  It’s easy to use in the dark because the buttons are so easily accessed and placed so logically.  I find it so easy to power it up, navigate to my favorites and to access them as well as to push the dedicated button that activates the sleep timer.  There’s icing on this delicious cake – the remote magically, magnetically stays put in its own spot atop the radio.

I mentioned earlier that one of its positives is the relationship the manufacturer has with content partners, some of which provide content for free and others that have paid content.  The free services require online signup and the opportunity to customize interests that are transferred to the account as it is accessed through the Squeezebox Boom.  Each of the services listed below offer much more than what I have written.  Be sure to hit the links to the services and look at what they do.  Sign up for all you like exclusive of the Squeezebox Boom and start taking advantage of the range of capabilities you will discover.  But be careful, it is addictive and so much fun!

Siruis satellite radio subscribers can access their online account content and listen to it on the Squeezebox as they would through a computer.

Pandora allows users to create a profile with favorite artists, then plays music of that artist and similar artists.  All you have to do is select the “station” desired at that moment and the then Pandora serves up the music – FREE, online or through the Squeezebox Boom.

Rhapsody is a paid online music subscription service also available through the Squeezebox with plans starting at $12.99 per month.  For that fee and for as long as the user pays that monthly fee, there is unlimited access to streaming content online and, of course, through this marvelous radio as well as on other compatible devices.  None of the content is free.

Last.fm is what the company calls a social music revolution.  Ad-supported, it offers a seemingly unlimited variety of music in genres, plus (on computer only) music videos.  Users choose according to their likes, recommending to others. Through their use, users can connect to others with similar music interests and learn about more music, more bands, and more everything music.  This is just the tip.  And all this music is available, you guessed it, through the Squeezebox, for FREE, of course.

Slacker Personal Radio, another group offering virtual radio stations through the Internet is free and also part of what can be had through Squeezebox.

Mind boggling, isn’t it?  And we’re not finished yet!

MP3 Tunes offers free and paid services.  Users have a “locker” into which they can load their own music for access online from anywhere, through a variety of devices including Squeezebox.

Radio Time offers FREE talk and music radio online, and, of course, on your Squeezebox.  Users establish a free account and then choose available stations by zip code or city, as well as by country. According to the company, they’re got access to more than 100,00 stations.  That should keep you busy for a while!  I found all my locals, plus favorites from all the cities I visit plus stations from many overseas countries.  Many of the stations not working on ALL my other Internet radios work through Radio Time online and, of course, through my Squeezebox!  And they are all only a few clicks away on my Squeezebox.  Browse by location, all music, all talk or all sports.  Remember, it’s all set up ahead of time online and then the choices accessed online AND on the Squeezebox.

Radio IO is a creation of individual streams or channels or call them stations by hosts who play what you want because you choose that channel for listening. And it’s free.  Listen online AND on the Squeezebox.

Last but by no means least, there is Live365, one of the best of the best at what it does.  With a mix of free content as well as paid content, the service provides a place where anyone can create his or her own radio station/channel.  Many are free and many are only to paid subscribers.  The differences?  It depends upon what it is you want and like.  Explore!  Revenue is shared with premium channel creators.  Live365 is worth exploring even without Squeezebox and they deserve our support.  I am enjoying loads of premium content played online and on my Squeezebox.  VIP memberships with total access are as low as $5.95 per month, a real bargain among paid services.

So, you can easily see that the choices are quite literally endless, though well defined.  Truly something for everyone, for every taste and interest.  And all available though the product’s sophisticated and beautifully designed interface. No AM, no FM, but with access to it all though the Internet, and then so much more.

Owning one of these can easily be a new hobby for the fortunate owner of this gem of a device.  I am enjoying mine the way I enjoy few other products.  With so much to explore, the fun is in the exploration of new and different, be it new music from who-knows-who and who-knows-where to familiar music grouped in new and interesting ways.  I particularly enjoy listening to old time radio – I started my broadcasting career in radio and I am old enough to remember it from the 1950s when I was a wee lad.  It’s so much fun to listen to all of that again, with the same old commercials – for cigarettes said to be good for you and recommended by doctors.  What a hoot!

Though it is easy to use for everyone, it is also a geek’s delight. Using open source technology, there is a not-so-underground community of enthusiasts who have developed add-ons and plug-in enhancements and tweaks to enhance the user experience for those who want their Squeezebox product to do even more.  Have a look!

Finally, in discussion of this product’s capabilities is the fact that Logitech can and will continue to refine the software behind the scenes, adding features, tweaking capabilities, just the same as computer and software makers do when they issue operating system updates.  It should all be transparent to the user.  However, I would imagine that in order to learn of what is new, the company would have to send email to registered users informing them of the enhancements.  I am looking forward to growing with my Squeezebox in much the same way as I have enjoyed all the improvements and enhancements TiVo makes to its products already in the hands of its users, and all for no added charge.  My TiVo never crashes, just like a Macintosh computer. With its open source software underpinnings, I would expect that my Squeezebox will not crash, either.  That is the mark of greatness.

This is simply a product without peer, as no other Internet radio or conventional radio has its combination of innovation, quality, variety and capabilities, and with such obvious attention to quality and detail at every turn.  It is difficult to explain quickly due to its wealth of useful features and benefits, all unusual for any product.  That it is different does not make it worthwhile. It is the outstanding experience while using this product that makes it great.  It is the fact that it will likely never become boring to explore its capabilities (first online) that makes it worthwhile and suggests its great value over time.  This is not like some products whose appeal wanes over time.  I see the Logitech Squeezebox Boom as a product that will hold its appeal for many, many years and what better value can there be?

For the right recipient, this is a perfect gift that will keep on giving.  More information is at www.logitech.com or call 1-800-231-7717.

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