As I have mentioned, I bought a Squeezebox last year, and it has proved to be money well spent. The reason I got it was because I can access my Rhapsody playlists on it, and play them in any room of the house without having to have my computer on.
Rhapsody is an internet music service that allows you to listen to music over the internet — You can listen to anything in their huge catalog, as much as you want, as often as you want, whenever you want without having to buy it. You “rent” it for $10 a month. You can access a single account with up to three devices — in my case, a computer, an mp3 player, and my Squeezebox. (Rhapsody also has “aps” for the iPhone, iPad Touch, and Android enabled devices, so one of your three devices could be a mobile phone.) You can also buy music you hear on Rhapsody and burn it to CD if you want to, but in terms of cost, you can “rent” a huge amount of music for less money than it would cost to buy one new CD a month. Rhapsody also has genre specific feeds of “canned” music you can listen to in lieu of your own playlists — Jazz, classical, celtic, ambient, etc. I think, but I’m not certain, that you can also access these feeds through the Squeezebox. I have only listen to them rarely, so I haven’t tried to access them through the Squeezebox.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a musicoholic. I love music, all kinds of music. As for the kind of music I like, that’s easy: Whatever I like when I hear it. Jazz, new age, trance, classical, world beat, celtic, country, blue grass, opera — you name it. And it was heaven being able to sit at my computer and listen to music while I work, and to have my playlists available on my mp3 player for when I went out. But if I wanted to listen to Rhapsody and I was not on my computer, my only other choice was to listen to those playlists I had downloaded to my mp3 player. I was looking for a combination clock and CD player on Amazon.com when I ran across the Squeezebox. As I say, the only reason I bought it was so that I could listen to Rhapsody without being tied to my computer. At the time I bought it, I didn’t know from internet radio.
The Squeezebox works by WiFi –wireless internet access. If you have a laptop computer you can use anywhere in your house, then you have wireless internet access and you can use a Squeezebox. You can also use the Squeezebox to access music you have stored on your computer, but I haven’t tried that out for the simple reason that I don’t have any music stored on my computer. I did have, but that computer’s hard drive cratered in August of 2011, and any music that I had on that computer that I didn’t also have on CD or Rhapsody is gone. (That’s another selling point for Rhapsody, BTW. When I got my new computer, all I had to do was sign in to my Rhapsody account on my new computer. All my playlists were still there, because it’s all on their servers.)
It wasn’t until I got the Squeezebox that I discovered internet radio, because in addition to accessing internet music services such as Rhapsody, Napster, and Pandora, it can also access internet radio. Several “preprogrammed” internet radio aps are available from Squeezebox and you can enable them when you are setting up the Squeezebox. Now I will say that I did have quite a hassle getting my Squeezebox to access my wireless network, but that was not the fault of the Squeezebox, but of ATT-Uverse, my internet service provider (ISP). After a call to Squeezebox, a call to ATT’s techistanis and a second call to ATT’s techistanis (if it’s not on their script, they’re clueless), I finally got transfered to an American tech who was able to adjust the settings on my ATT-Uverse modem so that I was able to connect. After that, it was smooth sailing.
The Squeezebox can operate on batteries, or plugged into a wall outlet. For extra, you can get a remote controller, but I didn’t get one. It even has a little “finger hole” on the back that enables you to pick it up easily so you can take it from room to room, which is what I do. Most of the time it is plugged into the wall in my bedroom, but it’s a simple matter to unplug it, carry it into the kitchen dining area, and plug it in there.
As I mentioned earlier, the Squeezebox has several preprogrammed aps for accessing internet radio. You do not have to have a Squeezebox to access internet radio. It was set up to be accessed by computer, and I do access it that way when I’m at my computer. However, not all internet radio is commercial free, or even free.
One of the Squeezebox’s preprogrammed aps was for SomaFM, which comes out of San Francisco. It is listener supported, so the only commercial you get is them requesting donations but they only do that about once an hour. It has multiple “channels” — streams that feature a specific genre or style of music. I have a feeling that age-wise I am way out of their target demographic, but because I like the “way out” stuff — trance, electronica, trip-hop, club, ambient, dub and “cutting edge” jazz, they have several channels I favor: Drone Zone (“atmospheric textures with minimal beats”), Space Station Soma (“spaced-out ambient and mid-tempo electronica”), and Sonic Universe (“avant garde jazz, euro jazz and nu jazz”). You can listen to SomaFM through their in-browser player or, if you don’t want to have your browser open all the time, you can listen using Windows Media Player (what I use), iTunes 10 (for Macs), or Winamp. There’s also a Linux compatible player, and there are aps for iPhone, Blackberry, and other such mobile devices. I would say I listen to SomaFM about as much as I listen to Rhapsody.
Another internet radio station I listen to is SKY.FM which comes out of London. It has an in-browser player, but if you sign in for a free account, you can use Windows Media Player, iTunes, Winamp, or Real player. It does have commercials, but usually only about one an hour, and periodically the “SKY.FM lady” does a station identification and plugs their subscriber service ($4.99 a month for a completely commercial free stream). They have a much wider selection of genres — 43 different channels to choose from — everything from classical, to Latin, to Reggae, to pop, to jazz, to new age, to big band, etc.
Soma FM and SKY.FM are the two most listenable stations I’ve run across so far in terms of commercial interruptions per hour. SKY.FM has the most channels and covers a very wide range of genres. It does have commercials — but only 1 an hour, which is bearable. It has an in-browser player; but if you want to use another player like Windows Media Player, or iTunes, or one of its mobile aps, you have to sign up for a free account. SomaFM has no commercials, and only one donation request an hour, has an in-browser player, and you don’t have to sign up for anything to access it by other means such as Windows Media Player or iTunes, or from a mobile ap. However, it has a very narrow range of genres and is more indie/club oriented. Both have preprogrammed Squeezebox aps. I might also add that if you subscribe to Siriusxm, Squeezebox has an ap for that as well.
I wanted to mention another commercial free internet radio station, Radio Paradise, which I think comes out of Arizona, Nevada or California. It is a station founded by Bill and Rebecca Goldsmith. It is listener supported and has an in-browser player. But it is also accessible through a wide range of other types of players including Windows Media Player, iTunes, Winamp and several mobile aps. They feature an eclectic mix of music: “modern and classic rock, world music, electronica, even a bit of classical and jazz.” Their selling point is that they provide a “blend of many styles and genres of music, carefully selected and mixed by two real human beings.” You can subscribe to it and get a commercial free stream.
So, all told, musically, I am a pretty happy camper right now. I’ve got plenty of choices, and I like that. I can get the music I want, when and pretty much where I want it. It’s taken a long time for technology to get to this point, but I’ve finally got my music my way.