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This review first appeared in the September 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review of the Logitech SqueezeBox Classic, RipNAS Server and Sumoh TinyAmp S30 in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of - Ed.

Reviewer: Jochen Reinecke
Sources: Marantz SA 7001 CD/SACD, Yamaha CD-S 1000, Pro-Ject Xpression III with Ortofon OM 30 Super
Amplification: Harman Kardon HK670, Yamaha A-S2000, Yarland FV-34C III, Miniwatt M1
Loudspeakers: Triangle Altea EX, DIY TL /single-driver F120A Fostex, Teufel M80 M-800
Cables: AVI Deep Blue interconnects, Kimber 4 VS LS speaker cables
Review component retails: €199 Sumoh Tiny Amp S30; €1.195 RipNAS Server S1000; €239 Logitech Squeezebox Classic

I generally tend to celebrate music listening. As is, I’m in front of the PC for hours daily and don’t really want anything else to do with the sauding ('pig thing' as my grandma refers to computers and anything electrical more complex than a clothes iron) when it comes to diving into musical waters. I enjoy to resolutely power down the PC, turn off the lights, watch the solid drawer of my SACD player slide open, insert a CD and admire the glimmer of valves in the amplifier in the PC-free zone while juicy sounds fill the space. Heavy wear media—-LPs—are also very satisfying. Who the heck needs a PC then?

On the other hand, even audiophile circles no longer deny that fully digital sources have certain advantages. It’s fitting then to deal with music servers, streaming technologies and proper CD rips to not miss the boat on present developments. Hence I agreed to a kind of idiot test—the other fairaudio colleagues have rather more experience here— when accepting for review the combo of RipNAS server, a Logitech Squeezebox and ‘digital’ Sumoh TinyAmp S30. If these descriptions seem alien, no worries. I was thrown for a loop too at first. Let’s look more closely then.

More than a few folks today store rather considerable music collections on their PCs. The majority of those files likely lives in the iTunes folder, others on USB sticks or external hard drives, stragglers in the e-mail inbox. These files are then piped through sound cards with questionably DACs, response curves more serpentine than Mafia connections and terrifying S/N ratios to be fully slaughtered by squawky PC speakers. And that’s sad. Fundamentally, nothing speaks against losslessly ripped files played back in a mature—i.e. quality—hardware environment. What’s missing is a proper D/A converter to replace the onboard sound card; and a wife-compatible (cable-free) means to send these data into the listening room where the serious system is. A fringe benefit of such a setup becomes that the listening space remains free of mechanical noises like needle scrape, spinner chirping and similar. It’s this gap that today’s combo slips into.

Handling: Logitech’s Squeezebox eliminates the cable salad. Immaculately designed—well, today everything sports piano lacquers of course but never mind—it’s a mixture of remote-controllable WLAN client and DAC. This device properly taps into the wireless home network, receives/steers the music which the PC in the office streams and offers it up via two analog outputs or Toslink/RCA digital-out for further digital-to-analog processing. If need be, it also runs off Ethernet cabling but this of course defeats the entire wireless convenience.

The Sumoh amp is from Denmark, runs TI chips, was strategically created to work with the Squeezebox and is a pure power DAC in class D guise. The sole input is digital via S/PDIF coax, outputs are bananas only. There are also switchable 5/9V sockets to run the Squeezebox sans wall wart straight off the Sumoh.  The RipNAS server is a stripped-down PC packed to the hilt with storage, its remaining PC functionality theoretically redundant but in practice very practical because it adds a high-quality CD drive to properly import discs to hard drive and catalogue them. More on that later.

To make this all work requires no higher diploma nor the hire of expensive but nerdy network specialists. We’ll start with the Squeezebox and amp, the RipNAS server will huddle up later. First we’d download the current version of the Squeezebox driver from the Internet. This is an essential addition to the domestic PC, manages all your currently loaded music files and connects you to Internet radio and podcasts. It also creates a bidirectional WLAN connection with the Squeezebox. The download takes mere minutes, installation is a breeze and while the program gets busy indexing the music files it finds, one might as well pop a cork or unscrew a top (damn, even the Australians have begun this silliness) to focus on setting up the hardware. Unpack Squeezebox, power up, finesse the batteries into the remote, connect Squeezebox to Sumoh amp via digital cable, connect speakers to amp – done.

After this first installation, it’s possible that the Squeezebox contacts headquarters for a firmware update but in my experience, this—including flash writing and reboot—takes less than a minute. A bit later the entire music collection is at your beck and call. Via remote and as we are all used to from iTunes & Co., you scroll through titles, performers or albums, select desired cuts or play lists and hit play. With the Squeezebox Classic, an integral matrix display shows the selected title, the Duet model adds a color display on the actual remote plus a touch wheel to feel like a slightly engorged iPod, quite trick. Crack knuckles, kick back and enjoy. You already could but we’ll be busy bees to loop the RipNas server into the act. This becomes the logical conclusion of today's proposition.