Have been lusting after a SliMP3 home stereo MP3 component for nearly a year, and finally ordered one during MacWorld. Couldn’t resist the show discount, which left it costing almost exactly what I earned for my PHP/MySQL appearance. A fair trade. We’ve been playing it pretty much constantly for the past few days. Read on for impressions so far.
SliMP3 in a nutshell:
– Hardware MP3 decoder, ethernet jack, vacuum flourescent display, RCA jacks, and a bit of logic on a board, packaged behind a smoke tinted faceplate.
– No storage – assumes you already have a home network and an always-available hard drive on one of your home computers, stuffed with MP3s.
– Open source server software (available for virtually any platform) runs on the host machine, broadcasts to the player over the home network. For OS X users, the server reads your iTunes database (joy of XML), so you can still manage your collection from one place.
– Controllable via remote control or through a web interface.
– No fans, no humming, no storing music on the unit. Totally transparent usage.
– No-stone-unturned details at Tom’s Hardware.
So far so good. I’ve been consistently encoding at 192kbps or better all along, so my source material is pretty good … playing through the living room rig rather than through the Cambridge Soundworks in the office — the difference is night and day. In fact I’ll go out on a limb and say it sounds terrific, although I’d still like to hear a version with digital outputs I could run through my DAC (word is a new version with digital outs is now imminent). I hope they take the opportunity to give the unit a bit more design – Apple has me spoiled for putting form on a level with function, and utilitarian gear like this seems so… utilitarian.
Took about 20 minutes to set up on a static IP, upgrade the firmware over the network, install the server software, and start navigating from the web UI. Another 20 minutes to explore the finer points of navigating the collection from the remote control (yep, you can browse by genre, artist, album, and even search by those criteria, all from the remote with the VFD – pretty incredible). Took another half an hour later that night to tweak a style sheet to my liking — the web UI is fully skinnable.
I’ve hit a few snags – it failed to pick up some albums from the iTunes database that had ambiguous metadata (?), and I miss an option to just random play the whole collection (you can randomize lists, but not the entire database). Have already heard from a developer that a fix is on the way – all this and updates at open source speed to boot. The web UI also revealed a Safari bug I hadn’t seen before – reported that.
Amy has spent more time with it at this point than I have. 30 seconds of lessons and she was off and running. When I came home yesterday she and Miles had been listening to it all day, and she had already made playlists just for Miles.
Already feeling like this (or some device like it) will be a part of our home media rig from now on. Hooked.