Network music players have become truly ubiquitous. The market has a vast variety of network music players to choose from and many of the newer surround processors now have the ability to stream music across a computer network. The majority of these network music players focus on playing a variety of files, yet unfortunately many ignore the issue of sound quality. The Transporter's focus on exceptional audio performance makes it stand out in this crowded field, especially at its price.
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The Transporter's $1,999 price tag is significant, but it also hints at the Transporter's audiophile roots. Like other Squeezebox products in the Logitech line, the Transporter can connect to your home network via an Ethernet or WiFi connection and utilizes Logitech's SqueezeCenter software to organize and stream music files. Unlike the other products in the Logitech Squeezebox line, the Transporter's physical format is the same as a traditional audio component. The large front panel has flush buttons along the bottom, with user-configurable vacuum fluorescent displays along the top. A peek at the back panel hints at the unit's audiophile capabilities, with balanced and single-ended analog outputs, TOSLINK, Coax S/PDIF, BNC S/PDIF and AES/EBU Balanced digital inputs and outputs, and a word clock input. Custom installers will be happy to see IR input and outputs and an RS-232 jack. The Transporter's guts are also impressive, with audiophile-grade AKM AK4396 Multi-bit delta-sigma DACs, along with sophisticated power supplies to insure superior audio performance. The Transporter is compatible with a large number of music file types, but greatly benefits from high-quality file formats like AIFF, WAV, PCM and FLAC.
In addition to playing network music, the Transporter can also function as a high-quality DAC Internet music player and is compatible with Internet music services, such as MP3Tunes.com, Pandora, Rhapsody and LastFM. Like most other network music servers, the Transporter receives music files streamed from a local computer network or Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. Logitech makes several versions of its SqueezeCenter software that will run on most computers and many NAS devices. A relatively recent service that is compatible with the Transporter will let you play your music without a local computer or NAS. MP3Tunes.com will let you store your music files on their website, so that you can access them with the Transporter.
Using the Transporter is straightforward. The SqueezeCenter software has a large user base and is updated often. Those with basic computer familiarity should have no problems downloading and configuring the software. Once the software is set up, using the Transporter is intuitive. The menu structure is simple. At the top level, one selects from a local music library, digital input or music service. Searching the music library will be simple for anyone who has used an iPod. The SqueezeCenter software provides many organizational options to tailor the experience to the end user. The sound quality of the Transporter is extremely good with high-quality audio files or as a DAC. While using the Transporter as a DAC or with lossless audio files, its performance is amazingly comparable to CD players as high-end as those selling for $5,000. When I A/B tested the Transporter against my reference Classe CDP-202 ($6,500), I found the three-times-as-expensive Classe to do a better job at retrieving the inner details that add ambience and provide precision soundstage presence; if it didn't, the Classe wouldn't be in my reference system. At a certain point, the high end takes over in terms of overall performance.
Read The High Points, The Low Points and the Conclusion on Page 2