RIP Squeezebox (Viva Squeezebox!)

Almost exactly ten years ago, I made the single best consumer electronics purchase of my life: a SlimDevices Squeezebox 3. For the past decade, it’s been the anchor of my music streaming system, and it’s given me untold hours of listening pleasure.

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, it suddenly started to crash and restart when playing music. I tried replacing the power supply and removing the wifi card (two known sources of trouble); no dice. It’s probably aging/dying capacitors on the device’s circuit board, which in theory are replaceable, and I’ll try that eventually (with some help from my brother-in-law, who is good with a soldering iron).

In the meantime, though, I needed a replacement. I considered buying a used Squeezebox, but it is likely to suffer from similar issues. If the Squeezebox ecosystem was a typical consumer electronics product, I’d be SOL. But fortunately, the folks at SlimDevices had the foresight to make their software open source, and even though the company has long since been purchased by Logitech and the hardware is largely discontinued, the magic has always been mainly in the software, and the ecosystem lives on.

In the last ten years, there have been a few amazing revolutions: lightweight and powerful ARM processors led to the Raspberry Pi, a low-power yet powerful miniature computer-on-a-card. Smartphones give us a high-resolution screens-in-a-pocket, perfect for a remote control. All the ingredients I needed to build a brand new Squeezebox out of off-the-shelf parts! Here’s how I did it.

Total price tag: under $100

The other key ingredient is the software. Fortunately, the amazing Squeezebox community has already done the heavy lifting here, and put together PiCorePlayer — a ready-to-go version of the Squeezebox player software combined with an ARM Linux kernel for the Raspberry Pi.

I assembled everything (took about 15 minutes), dropped the PiCorePlayer image onto the SD card, plugged it in and booted it up (it takes about 10 seconds). With my web browser, I hit the settings page to configure the wireless adapter and select the PI-DAC+ as the audio output. One quick reboot and the player was live and connected to my Squeezebox server. Rock on!

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I couldn’t be more thrilled. Now, about those capacitors…

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