Logitech's Squeezebox family of products, originally created by Slim Devices, began life as boxes to get music stored on your computer to play through your existing stereo. Since Logitech took over the Squeezebox reins, the line has expanded to include a few all-in-one products that act not only as receivers for streaming content, but also as speakers to play that content.
The most affordable such option is the Logitech Squeezebox Radio, a compact (130x220x128mm) device that streams audio from your computer, from a network-attached storage (NAS) drive or over the internet, playing that audio through a single built-in speaker that incorporates a 3/4in tweeter and a 3in woofer. On the front is a 2.4in colour LCD screen that display menus, album art and other visual information.
The Logitech Squeezebox Radio comes in your choice of black or red, and can play a bevy of musical formats (including several that iTunes can't): MP3, AAC, WAV, AIFF, WMA, Apple Lossless, FLAC, and Ogg Vorbis. As with other non-Apple devices, however, the Radio can't play older, FairPlay-protected (.m4p) AAC files purchased from the iTunes Store. Newer, or upgraded, iTunes Plus (.m4a, unprotected) files will play just fine.
The Logitech Squeezebox Radio connects to your network via 802.11g wireless or ethernet. Initial setup using the Radio's built-in screen is somewhat of a hassle, since you have to enter text such as your wireless network password using a scroll knob to navigate to and select each letter. But once you're done, you have instant access to all of the songs, albums, artists, genres, playlists, and more on your computer. In our testing, playback mostly worked fine, although with some playlists, the Radio would start playing several seconds into the first track or, in some cases, skip the first track entirely. In addition, one particular album wouldn't play at all, sometimes forcing us to restart the Radio.
The other appealing feature of the Logitech Squeezebox Radio is its capability to connect to the internet to stream content from various sources and to connect to various social media services, including Facebook and Flickr.
The Logitech Squeezebox Radio's small size makes it great for use in a bedroom or kitchen, or for moving from room to room as needed. Built-in alarm features add to the bedroom appeal, although the non-backlit buttons can be difficult to differentiate in dim lighting. You can also use it as part of a whole-house audio system, integrating the Radio with other Squeezebox products.
In general, the Logitech Squeezebox Radio's sound quality is quite good for such a small package, and plenty loud enough to fill a small-to-medium-sized room. Music sounds mostly clear and bright, although the Radio doesn't product much bass. For a fuller sound, and a larger footprint, the Squeezebox Boom is the company's other all-in-one option.
The Radio's biggest weakness, however, is its interface. Using the scroll knob to navigate large lists of items on the Logitech Squeezebox Radio's small screen is frustrating, and the number of button presses required to access different functions can also be a pain (although you can choose to have some of those functions appear on the main Home screen menu).
There's a search function, but it uses the same dial-a-letter approach as entering your wireless password. You can click the scroll knob to select items, but its function is sometimes the same as the play button to its right. And although there are six preset buttons on the front of the Logitech Squeezebox Radio, there's no way to see what's stored in each preset without actually pressing it to see what happens.
Finally, although pressing and holding a preset button while listening to a streaming radio station or a song sets that item as that preset, doing the same while browsing an iTunes playlist doesn't always 'take'. You can, however, add songs or albums to a Favourites list.
Thankfully, there are alternative ways to control the Logitech Squeezebox Radio. You can use a web browser and log into mysqueezebox.com or you can purchase a Squeezebox Controller to act as a remote control.
The Logitech Squeezebox Radio is a nicely designed device for listening to your music from anywhere in the house. As a bonus, it lets you access all sorts of online content, both audio and visual. The Radio is powerful enough to fill a bedroom or office, although it’s lacking in bass. Our biggest complaint is that the system's interface makes it very difficult to deal with large music collections or to access the unit's many options.