Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 2: Networking

Multimedia - Audio

The picture is much brighter for networked audio players. A few products have managed to bypass DRM issues by running an application on a Windows PC that intercepts the music stream after DRM decrypting. Mike Baggaley liked Logitech's Wireless DJ which was able to wirelessly stream DRM'd and unlocked MP3, AAC, and WMA files with ease using a self-configuring Bluetooth network.

Logitech Wireless DJ

A perennial favorite is SlimDevices' Squeezebox, which combines good looks and wide format support (MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, WAV and Ogg Vorbis) with the ability to access content directly from streaming servers. But the only DRM format it supports is Rhapsody's subscription-based service. Infrant and SlimDevices (which is now part of Logitech) are jointly offering an NV / Squeezebox bundle for whole-house systems (pictured below) if your year-end budget range is above $1000.

Infrant NV, SlimDevices Squeezebox bundle

But if you're going to spend that much for a whole-house audio system, a better choice would be Sonos' Digital Music System. While it also can't play DRM-protected files, its wireless remote and multiple room capabilities provide a slicker user experience. You can choose from the original ZP100 ZonePlayer with built-in 50 W amplifier, or newer ZP80 which omits the amplifier for a smaller footprint and price.

Sonos ZP80 ZonePlayer 80