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Squeezing the music from the Squeezebox

A glimpse into the future of Audio.

If you were ever wondering what is the future of hifi - this is it. Thats how we will listen to the music in the first half of 21st century.

The modifications prescribed below have been very strongly modified on May 25th 2010.

Enter the Squeezebox.

This system is not from Levinson, not from Jadis, not from Cello, not from Sonic Fronteers. This is from the people who make PC mouse. This is LOGITECH !!!

Apparently Logitech is the company which identified best the real needs of audiophiles Anno Domini 2008. They did the HOMEWORK.  This is called the Voice of Customer . Squeezebox is a device which bridges the computer world and audio world. It can be considered a virtual transport. It has a super cool remote which is one of the most sexy toys for boys I ever saw. It operates in wifi domain, not infrared, so it can be taken around the house. It has a display which is able to show the cover of the album !!!  And it blends seamlessly the internet music radio stations, network music servers and our own computer with music. It also blends seamlessly the MP3 world and wav  slash aiff slash flack or ape worlds.

The squeezebox frees us from the TRANSPORT problem, and allows the full digitalization of all music we have on CDs onto hard drive, without any compromise in quality. No need to compress to MP-3 our collection - we can use lossless files and preserve all the beauty of 16-bit 44 kHz audio.

AND we can have a shadow copy of all that we own - on MP3 for portable use.
No more laser problems, no more skipping discs. No more dropping the jewel box on the floor which means broken hinges.

Stolen from Logitech site

A side note: I consider the CD jewel box a serious contender to the award of WORST ENGINEERING EVER.
Other contenders are:
RCA plug/socket combo which makes MAKE of the signal before the grounds are equalized. WHO IN THE WORLD invented this crap ??? If it is called RCA, why does a huge reputable company endorse something, which deserves 100 whips at the whipping post ? The RCA name stuck to this stupid plug forever. While all it takes to make it perfect is to shorten the center pin by 4 mm.

Another contender is PERPENDICULAR PARKING. 90 % of parking lots in Poland , even these designed from scratch without space constraints - use 90 degrees parking bays. Moreover, there are street curbside parking bays which are surrounded by half foot curb AND PERPENDICULAR at the same time. Entering or exiting such parking spot requires a maneuver across three lanes of traffic. All it takes to make a perfect parking bay is to skew it by 45 degrees which costs absolutely the same .

Three other genius  designs on my list are: toilet flushing button located centrally on the flushing reservoir, around the middle of human spine area,  requiring a super-unnatural twist of spine when we are the least in the mood for yoga. As if that location was deliberately selected to be totally unreachable unless we stand up and turn around mid you know what.
Another one is a set of schampoo/conditioner, in two identical bottles, with huge company logo on them (font 36) , much smaller descriptor of whatever biological ingrediends were used (almond, jojoba, honey, aloe, lemongrass, green tea, parsley, garlic and pine resin) - in font 12,  but the words: shampoo and  conditioner are written with font number 6 when we stand in the shower without glasses and with foam in the eyes, trying in vain to tell which is which.
According to Woody Allen, the winner of all that contest is of course ... aluminium siding.

Back to squeezebox - it means we never have to look for the ONE CD which we want to listen to and someone just placed it under different letter of alphabet on the shelve, or even worse - our kids just lent it to their buddies to copy at home.
If somenone needs a copy - the squeezebox owners can just press the BURN button and have a freshly burned ROM within minutes, or even going next step forward - we can share with friends the entire collection by a simple diskcopy function.  Maybe not really legal - but technically doable.

There are many squeezeboxes there: the most simple is the monophonic kitchen radio called just that - Squeezebox Radio. Internally it is stereophonic and it has stereo phones output plus own amplifier and very nice monophonic two way loudspeaker. It has all the functionality of the squeezebox remote, with nice color display etc.  It is lacking the SPDIF output so we cant use it as a transport. At least one hour of sniffing around the PCB with a scope did not allow me to find the SPDIF. It is harder to find than a G-spot.  But maybe - who knows - it is somewhere there.
A notch above is a stereo radio called Boombox. This one I do not know.

The Duet which I portrait here is a neat solution - the CD transport and remote. There is also a very similar classic - which has own display on the box and a blind cheap remote.
Considering the absolutely overwhelming amount of information about the songs and artists and albums - the one line display of the Classic is for mi inadequate. I would be lost.
Believe me - in the end - the COMPUTER SCREEN is the only practical way of accessing the database.  I have over 50 000 songs on my drive, and for example - some of the Pat Metheny albums are listed as Pat Metheny, some as P. Metheny, some as Pat Metheny Group, some as Pat Metheny Trio, and some - under T letter - as The Pat Metheny Group. Try to find the right song with one line alphanumeric display.  IMPOSSIBLE.

And of course - the coolest one is Squeezebox Transporter - the ultimate toy for 2500 Bucks.
But we can modify the Duet to be as good or better than the Transporter with just a handful of caps.


Squeezecenter is a web application which runs on the computer and manages the song database. It will scan the HDD and automatically retrieve all the data, songs, albums, artists, metatags, cover art etc. It can read iTunes database and share it.

Squeezebox Duet

The squeezebox  Duet - is a small box which is a LAN / WIFI router which pulls the data from whatever storage (PC, MAC or RAID)  - and converts it to Audio (analog RCA or digital SP/DIF)

Theoretical modell is then a silent computer (like iMAC for example, or ATOM based silent PC, or the fileserver like Q-nap or Vortex box,) plus large HDD drive (1TB or larger)  and the system becomes a TRANSPORT and music file server. Connect it to the high-end DAC and then to amps and you have a system replacing the traditional CD player. by using a Lampizator with the squeezebox own internal DAC we can get away without the external DAC. The Wolfson should do just fine.

Squeezebox has an onboard simple cheap Wolfson DAC which I tried and I confirm that it is good. Not top of the line but good enough. I added 6H6P tubes tapping to the analog outputs of this DAC and I was very satisfied.

It is gonna take some time before we will put all our CDs on hard drive - months perhaps. Bu we do it once in a lifetime. I found it to be the best pocketmoney job for the kids.

I listened once to the basic Squeezebox at audiophile friend's Richard W and it was connected to Audionote DAC3,1 and sounded absolutely fantastic so I konw it is possible. I have no knowledge if his squeezebox was tweaked or stock. I assume it was stock. There was absolutely not a trace of sonic compromise compared to CD transport. The dog on Roger Waters' Amused to Death still barked behind my head.

THE big question is - will my S-B play halfway decent music? Can we sacrifice our precious CD players ?

Can we live with Squeezebox AND be able to look into the mirror in the morning ????

The Squeezebox is small cheap and simple, but it uses premium parts. Chips are first rate, PCB is neatly soldered, everything looks OK except the wall-wart power supply which is a low budget one. I suggest to use a 20 VA transformer with 12 VAC secondary, put a bridge,  and add a regulator like LM3XX or 7809 with two good electrolytes  and start from there:

The remote belongs to a different world. It looks better than any CD remote I ever saw, definitely not in LOGITECH class. As if the main box - The Duet and the remote were separated by worlds in the quality class. I guess the remote represents 80 % of the product cost. And rightly so because that is the human interface which we touch, and the box - well - disappears under our DAC and amps.

Modification recipe for squeezebox a'la Fikus

Lets closely analyze belof picture:

On the picture you see the whole inside of squeezebox, with two antennas for wifi. Very nice.
1. Upper left red ring:
this is input of power. My suggestion is to install a good cap (oscon 220/10V or Tantalum or blackgate - any size between 100 uF and 3300 uF by 10 V or more)
You install it in the two small golden holes which are above the J1 mark. This takes care about the raw 9V DC supply.

2. Lower left red ring:
there is a three legged regulator chip. It is very important.
I suggest to add two small caps like 47 uF or more by 6,3 V or more. Left upper leg is GND. Solder both cap's minus legs to the GND (which is everywhere under the green lacquer like a ground plane)
Solder one cap plus to middle leg, second cap plus to the lowest leg, like in this circle.  I used Tantalums 100/10V

3. Upper red right side circle: this is another important regulator. Install a good cap in the two golden holes  under the mark C22 (marked 5V and GND) . Try 47 uF or more by 6,3 V or more. I used Os-con 220/10.
Add another such cap - minus leg to the other cap's GND, and plus leg to the lower point of the smd L2 inductor (third leg of the regulator U2.

4. Middle red circle shows the real source of S/PDIF signal.
Just gently desolder R102 attached to pin 3 of the XILINX. Solder a capacitor - one leg to the lower soldering pad left after removal of R102. It will be directly connected to Pin 3 of the Xilinx.
The other leg of that cap (any foil type like MKP, MKT, MKS, or even a ceramic, size between 10 nF and 220 nF, ) connects to a 200 Ohm resistor. The other end of this resistor connects to the center pin of the RCA with SPDIF. First - cut off the RCA center pin from the pcb and float it.
Last point: solder across the RCA - between center and GND surrounding golden frame - a resistor 75 Ohms. (or 58 Ohms if you want to be close to real RCA and coax impedance).

That's all as far as good spdif is concerned.
It should play BETTER than any CD transport you ever heard or you did something wrong.
In my system it beats the 5000 dollar CEC TL1X so badly that it isn't even funny. It literally trashes it !


This above is the stock form SP/DIF trace. Nice but with slight overshoot.

This is the trace after all mods. Still good but overshoot is much smaller. It will disappear after the digital cable is connected - its capacitance will remove the overshoot

Good Chips inside Squeezebox

Realtek RTL8201cp

This chip is responsible for translating the LAN data into our audio digital data. It is first class chip from Taiwanese specialist.

(from their website)
The RTL8201CP is a single-chip/single-port PHYceiver with an MII (Media Independent Interface)/SNI
(Serial Network Interface). It implements all 10/100M Ethernet Physical-layer functions including the
Physical Coding Sublayer (PCS), Physical Medium Attachment (PMA), Twisted Pair Physical Medium
Dependent Sublayer (TP-PMD), with an auto crossover detection function, 10Base-Tx Encoder/Decoder,
and Twisted Pair Media Access Unit (TPMAU).
A PECL (Pseudo Emitter Coupled Logic) interface is supported to connect with an external 100Base-FX
fiber optical transceiver. The chip utilizes an advanced CMOS process to meet low voltage and low
power requirements. With on-chip DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology, the chip provides
excellent performance under all operating conditions.

There is not much to upgrade in LAN chip but a good supply cap will never hurt:
Below you see the pins of power to the Realtek.

take two good caps like Tantalum or Oscon  (minimum 10 uFtill 100uF  by 6,3 VDC and connect like this:
between pins 35 (GND)  and 36 (positive supply 3,3 VDC)

The same between pins 11 or 17 or 45  (GND)  and 14 or 48  (positive supply 3,3 VDC)
Of course do not attempt to solder the chip pins directly - they are too small - solder the next available parts on the trace.
Digital Ground should be connected to a larger GND plane.
I did not perform this job due to too small pins and lack of skills in such microsurgery.

S/PDIF generator

In the Duet the S/PDIF is put out by the 74HCU04D.

But - after getting some help from a pen-pal I can confirm that  the real origin of SP/DIF is Xilinx chip - namely the pin number 3 which leads to resistor R102. Gently lift the R102 and solder your wire to the point of R2 connected to chip pin3.  This way we tap to Pin 3 without soldering such thin fragile chip leg directly. R102 is removed - so rest of the circuit is not affecting our PURE CLEAN SPDIF!.

The old way by 74HCU chip is inferior.
This is a standard Philips chip (from NXP - remember - the same lab which brought us the TDA1541 !)  performing data output formation for SP/DIF. If we add better power capacitor we can marginally improve the output response perhaps.
SP/DIF signal is present on leg 2 (and 4)
Power 3,3 V DC or 5 V DC is on pin 14th.

Below - for reference - is the 74HC chip with the old way of signal tapping, before I was introduced to the XILINX pin 3 scenario.

The SP/DIF on the buffering 74HC chip can be stolen at the source - leg 2nd and wired to output RCA directly (first-  float the RCA-HOT pin  please)

To steal clean SP-DIF signal, lift or remove R38 and solder to the cap end C42 on the side closer to pin2 of the chip.
(buzz it first)

When soldering - always put a fresh drop of solder on the PCB where you perform soldering because as it is ROHS compliant PCB it has lead free solder and does not hold to additional parts. The old-school, leaded solder must blend with the RoHS solder to hold well.

Wolfson Microelectronics WM8501

Well well well, look who is here. A wolfson - the younger and poorer brother of one of the best DACS in the mankind history - the WM8740 which I was drooling about so many times before. Maybe a company as reputable as Scottish Wolfson did preserve most of the beauty of their highend chip in this one ? It is still 24/192 chip with all the features except balanced outputs. 
The chip has built-in output stage with some digital and analog filtering, so the direct signal is already almost perfect without need of filtration or amplification.

I tried many scenarios of lampization of this DAC and finally - to avoid many problems - I came up with this proposal:


Lampizator Squeezebox

Above: I used all leftover caps from my drawer - and in one vicious orgy of gluing I mounted a monstrous power supply in the wooden box. Why wood ? to enable the wifi to go through.
I have regulated 9V DC for the squeezebox, 200 V for the tube anodes, 6,3 V for tube heaters, Later I added 10 V for the superclock.

6H6P of course.

Above: the S/PDIF output with Vishay MKP cap 220n/63V.

Back to Wolfson DAC chip ...


R=pin 6, L=pin 9, 
power +5VDC Analog supply leg 8
3,3VDC digital supply leg 11

To improve caps in this DAC I did not do as on picture above but I found tha main cap which supplies both analog and digital input - the capacitors C10 (3,3V) and C30 (5V) . I put across it a bypass oscon 33uf/16 V which is a perfect size phisically.

Upgrading Analog output of Squeezebox


The analog output is beautifully simple. No opamps, no transistors, no muting, no relays, just decoupling electrolytes (quite bad ones - visible above silver cans C28 and C22 which must be bypassed by a foil cap. Do not attempt to replace them because the solder traces will peel off inevitably. I warned you, didn't I ?)  At the end of the analog path there is a LC filter which I tried to bypass but the lampizator was very noisy so I decided to keep the entire output stage of the Wolfson and go to Lampizator from there.
Above - this is the DAC with surrounding electronics. We must try to improve it - Input power supply and output caps.
The DAC is designed to work into RCA outputs directly - it has internal output op-amp stage and analog filter of noise. It should play well straight into RCA outputs.

Soif you can find a small foil cap like MKT, MKP, MKS, Or paper in oil or simply an oscon or black gate - anything you can find with capacitance between 100nF (0,1 uF) and 10 uF - please put it parallel to the two silver cans - solder directly to their soldering point. - see photo below.


The soldering iron is pointing to the DAC output signal decoupling caps. They have to be bypassed. Use less than 250 degrees temperature in order not to damage fragile PCB traces.

Upgrading power to the Squeezebox

The wall wart provided is just plain HORRIBLE. It belongs in the dustbin immediately.

This is the in-adequate power supply wall wart. Observe that when making your own one - the positive supply PLUS9VDC goes on center pin of the plug.
I suggest a 10 to 20 Watt (VA) transformer with at least 1A output. (Naim Flatcap anybody ?)

Above: The actual connectors only touch the power supply by the means of two spring contacts.

Internally things are no better - the PCB is again touching contacts.

The PCB in its full glory. As we see - thereis no transformer, it is a purely switching unit, and it is a noise generator.

The last look at the power supply before it flew to join the potato peels.


I tested the Squeezebox as an SP/DIF transport source driving the all different DACs that I own, among them AD1865 DAC and all prototypes of the fabulous Lampizator DaC of course. I compared it to the same dac driven by a Sony transport and also the same dac but BUILT IN the beautifully lampized Denon 2560 player. The Squeezebox solution sounds better than any of the above traditional solutions. How come that it sounds better - I dont know. It sounds wider, deeper, with more air, more information, more musical, more enjoyable.

YES FOLKS - to have the convenience of the Squeezebox system we don't need to compromise on sound. We can still look in the mirror in the morning.
The Squeezebox transport s/pdif signal SOUNDS BETTER THAN CD TRANSPORT.  And that is the news of the year for me.

The final checklist and pricelist:

1. HDD Raid server D-Link 323    = 200 Eu
2. Two HDD Western Digital Green Line 1,5 TB = 240 Eu
3. Linksys or D-Link wifi router - 50 Eu  (plus external longer antenna)
4. Squeezebox Duet with wireless color screen remote = 300 Eu (SQB remote (I mention it because it costs 250 Eu)  is optional if if you have the iPod (new generation of the Touch) or iPhone (any generation). The iPod / iPhone must be able to connect to the computer and access the iTunes library files to browse the HDD Server. Then it can become the ultimate remote controller with finger touch CD cover browsing etc.
5. A computer, preferrably iMac, Powerbook, Atom Laptop or any other silent computer because it is silent and can be permanently on in the listening room. Another cool option is HP Touchsmart with screen that does the finger browsing.
6. The high end DAC with Laampizator or simply - a good DAC full stop.
The rest of the system is as usual.
7. As a cool option I would add the Behringer upsammpler, maybe even the one with Ultracurve - the digital equalizer function. It would go between the Squeezebox SPDIF output and the DAC input.

That ladies and gentlemen will be a real 21st century system which will satisfy the most critical audiophiles and finally will allow our significant others and the kids too to participate. Everybody can play whatever s they love - and enjoy great sound - no more daddy shouting DONT TOUCH THE STYLUS !!!


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