It took me over a year to decide to buy a SliMP3 player. I am not normally that indecisive but I just couldn’t figure out why it cost so much. I mean, what does it do? It streams MP3 music across an Ethernet network and connects to the phono sockets on your hi-fi system. How hard can that be? There must be something cheaper or better than the Slim Devices machine! It took me all that time to research the subject and come to the conclusion that there wasn’t. I still think it’s a lot of money for what it does, but I also still think that it’s pretty much unique.

Out of the box

The pictures show a small, black box with a bright florescent display on the front, but, still, it wasn’t exactly as I was expecting. It’s actually smaller than I thought it would be, not that this should be construed as a bad thing. Close up the smoked plastic front and the tiny box have an amateurish, home electronics project feel to them. It does look fine from a distance and the display is, as advertised, very bright, clear and a major selling point for the device as a whole.

SliMP3The package is rounded off by a fairly compact power adaptor and a decent remote control. The buttons are all big enough to press without having to be too careful and some of the important ones are colour coded. The cursor keys are laid out in a convenient and intuitive plus shape but some of the other buttons seem to be placed in the gaps rather than genuinely useful locations.

Setting it up was a doddle. The Perl-based software installed on my iBook with no trouble and on Linux with a well documented change (RedHat misses out an important Perl module in its default install). I have not tried the Windows installer, but the same, simple process apparently works.

With the server software installed, you fire up a web-browser, type in “http://localhost:9000” and point the server at your music collection. That’s pretty much it!

The hardware is, if anything, even simpler to set up. You plug the SliMP3 into a handy Ethernet port, add mains power and connect it to the phono ports on your stereo. When switched on it, by default, goes out to a DHCP server to get its IP address and then by some mysterious broadcast method (I’m guessing) finds your local music server.

That’s a long way of saying that I just plugged the hardware in and it worked first time.

In use

I’m no hi-fi expert. If you want to know whether the SliMP3 is the last word in digital audio I’m afraid I can’t help you. What I can say is that, to my ear, the sound is clear and sharp and any problems I’ve experienced have generally been because of the source MP3 rather than the hardware.

I have nearly 4000 songs encoded currently — a number that’s gradually increasing as I rip more and more of my CD’s — mostly converted using iTunes at 160bps. At this level the interface is still very usable, especially if you know what you’re looking for. For browsing you begin to see the beauty of the iPod’s scroll wheel, but the SliMP3 also has its web interface for when you’re feeling indecisive.

I have had a few problems with music skipping or stopping entirely, but this has almost always been when using my Linux box. That machine is not exactly state of the art any more and the wireless networking is still very flaky so I suspect that these problems are nothing to do with the SliMP3. However, I mention it here just to point out that you do need a reliable network and a reasonable machine for the job.


After using it quite heavily for a couple of months now, I think my initial impressions were not far off the mark. I think it’s a very impressive, easy to use and well thought out machine. It sounds good and the screen means its usable anywhere in the same room. Most of the competition force you to switch on your TV to edit playlists so I consider this to be very important.

On the other hand, I still think it’s expensive for what it is. The bottom level iPod costs just slightly more but that comes with a 15GB hard-disk!

Overall, I still believe that the SliMP3 is the best product of its type currently available. If you listen to a lot of MP3’s and are sick of headphone or small, powered speakers this is the machine for you.

Addendum: Since I wrote this article, in fact just months after buying the hardware, Slimdevices upgraded the SliMP3 and renamed it the Squeezebox. From what I can tell looking at the pictures, the main difference is a newer (more professional looking) case and wireless networking as well as Ethernet. Of course, all this is currently available at less than I paid for my old model! Such is progress with anything computer related…