It seems curious that, after almost a decade of music streaming, adding a Wi-Fi or Ethernet port to a fairly standard mini hi-fi like the Philips Streamium seems to add a zero to its price tag.
Finally, though, complete streaming systems like the Squeezebox Boom are entering the realms of affordability. At just under £200 the Squeezebox Boom isn't exactly cheap, but it is one of the best value networked players around. It also sounds great, which means it’s very close to being the streamer we've been waiting for.
This small stereo system is packed into an unassuming black box that can blast out music with the best. Plug your portable player to the auxiliary in and tinny MP3s are transformed by the rich, rounded sound quality of the Boom.
There's a 3.5mm port round the back for adding a sub to the system, but most won't really need it. The dual cone speakers throw out enough loud bass without risk of distortion to please most people, yet retain crystal clarity at the high end too.
The Boom plays back tracks from a music stored remotely on a PC, Mac or one of several supported NAS drives via Wi-Fi or ethernet. It’ll even connect – via Logitech's Squeezecenter servers – to streaming radio stations, Last.fm feeds or a free online storage area where you can upload tracks to for when the PC is off.
The only problem is that there's a simple, recognised standards for doing all this, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), which the Squeezebox completely ignores. The crazy maverick.
Thanks to the magic of UPnP an Xbox, PS3, Philips Streamium or even a Sonos set-up can share a local library just by connecting to the same network. Even Windows Media Player is UPnP capable, for Gates’ sake.
With the Squeezebox, you need to register and sign in at the Logitech website, download an extra app and then hope that nothing happens to bug out the connection and make you run through the set up again.
Once you are connected, though, the Squeezebox Boom's large LED display makes navigating libraries or radio stations easy, although using the built-in RSS reader to scan the daily headlines is best left for literary masochists.
There are so many things to like about the Squeezebox Boom that calling it out on the lack of UPnP may seem churlish, but it's an odd oversight that counts against it. Fortunately, it's the only one.