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Review: Slim Devices Transporter

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by Danny Kaey on December 27 '07

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Conclusion First
The digital revolution marches on! Slim Devices’ $1999 Transporter is a stellar one-box solution that bridges the gap between high-performance audio and the iPod generation. The Transporter is, simply, a beefed-up Squeezebox WIFI networking music device, sending your MP3s (or lossless files) from your computer to your stereo using premium components and construction. Sonically, the Transport fits into the Refined category on the Sonic Circle, offering a tight, dynamic and even sound reproduction that will appeal to a great number of audio fans.

Sonic Circle Sound
When Slim Devices created the Squeezebox 3, they set the audio world on fire by offering a small, simple audio networking device in a convenient package at an affordable price ($299). When the Transporter launched at a healthy $1999, many audiophiles asked how a rather large consumer electronics company could design a true premium high performance network player.

I’m here to say that Slim Devices delivered in spades. After the usual break-in and warm-up period, the Transporter offers an excellent Refined-type presentation. With its smooth, non-fatiguing top end, the Transporter provides the listener with solid bass, excellent dynamics and an overall pleasant sound experience. The sound was neither etched and raw or overly warm, but exactly as a hi-fi Goldilocks would want – just right.

As one can expect, some early (harsh) digital recordings and modern “1db dynamic range loudness wars” productions sound just “ok” through the Transporter. Naturally, I prefer the sound of a well-produced track and do my best to boycott awful sounding CDs. It’s no surprise that good quality classical (try Telarc’s Copland compilation album for stunning, if startling, dynamics), synth pop (Junior Boys) or Dean Martin will sound just right on the Transporter.

System Synergy
The Transporter mated well with all the equipment in my listening den. From the Brinkmann Vollverstärker and superb Luxman MQ88 KT88 tube amp to the monster Threshold T400 and 40 year old Quad II amplifiers, the Transporter mated perfectly. Through each amp, my reference speakers, the Zu Definition Pro 2s, channeled the Transporter’s sound without any fuss or issues.

Two important elements set the Transporter apart from similar digital products. First, a built in volume control allows for a direct connection to your choice of amplifier without the need of a separate pre-amp. Second, the Transporter has a second life as s a full-function DAC. If you have a separate CD transport (player sans DAC), go ahead and plug it into the Transporter’s digital in and take advantage of its Refined-type DAC.

Lifestyle
The Transporter, with its classy aluminum chassis and glowing meters, is a fine piece of hi-fi equipment that will fit the aesthetics of nearly everyone’s systems. The mini chrome handles, while a bit unusual (and almost entirely useless), give the Transporter a unique look that sets the piece apart from most every other DAC on the market.

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Tech Talk
The Transporter features top of the line components all chosen for their premium sonic qualities. From AKM’s latest “Miracle DAC” the AK 4396 to its Walt Jung designed superregulator power supply, the Transporter is a tech geek’s dream come true.

Setup and such was a no-brainer, though your mileage may vary if you have difficulties setting up a wireless or wired network. Thankfully, Slim Devices has a superb online forum and great tech support built into each of the units, so I don’t foresee anyone having issues.

The “geek” factor (ie. do-it-yourself) aspect only becomes notable when you begin ripping your music collection to a hard drive: FLAC? MP3? EAC? Poikosoft? MAX? You will have to evaluate each of these options yourself to get the most out of the system. Suffice is to say, the Transporter is extremely customizable yet rewarding because, once setup, it works seamlessly.

Buying Recommendation
If you already own a Squeezebox or other entry level network music players and wish to upgrade to higher performance, the Transporter is a no-brainer. I have always maintained that buying a CD-only player in 2007/08 is a tough sell due to the immense customization possible with these types of network players. Instant on, instant selection, instant gratification is the name of the game: in 5 years time, a CD will be a collectible niche item much like vinyl is today.

The Transporter is an exceptionally forward-looking and utterly useful piece of audio component that would find its way home in most any system. Those a bit reluctant should give it a shot, if anything you get to try something new and cool. Better yet, Slim Devices (now owned by Logitech) offers a 30 day return period if you’re unsatisfied.

Additional Notes
While reviewing the Transporter, Dan Wright of Modwright fame called me up to say he is now offering the Transporter with his premium signature “Truth” modification. Completely reworked from the ground up, the Truth modification features an all analog tube-based output stage as well as Modwright’s other signature hot-rod tweaks. Take my advice and save up an extra $1596; if past performance is any indicator, Dan’s modification will be well worth the money. Stay tuned for a world’s first review of the Modwright Truth Transporter right here at SonicFlare.

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