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View Full Version : Transporter vs. SB3 - my experience



mcb
2008-01-07, 23:06
My observations on comparing the Transporter and SB3.

For the longest time I was interested in a quality computer-based music server, but I successfully dithered (joke) long enough for Slim Devices to provide a solution in the form of the SqueezeBox 3.

I subscribe to Stereophile, so I was very interested in the Transporter review - but while the prospect of better sound was attractive, I wasn't sure I really needed another piece of expensive audio gear. Last month Slim had its open house; I visited and came home with the Transporter (special price of $1500 for the open house). Today, I returned it.

Here's the reasoning for my decision:

1. For my system (Transporter or SB3 into Krell KAV-300i into Thiel 2.3 via Synergistic interconnects and speaker cable) in my home with my music, the Transporter was subtly better sounding (less congestion, richer upper-bass, darker background, and greater dynamics) than the SB3 - but you know what? The SB3, wall-wart and all, sounds pretty dang good! I didn't use the balanced outputs and I used the provided power cable for the Transporter, so that may be a consideration.

2. The Transporter was *much* flakier than the SB3: random pausing, one or two random reboots, hanging on too many inputs too quickly (annoying when adjusting the volume), display getting bright for no reason, etc. It doesn't seem like a finished product. While I believe it will get better (I develop software, so I understand), I expect better for the price point.

3. I find the SB3 more attractive than the Transporter. The SB3 looks like a real designer designed it (even if it has an overt Apple flavoring). The Transporter has a 1980's "Hi-Fi" look to it - the undifferentiated row of buttons, and faux rack mount handles. But then again, rarely do I find audio equipment beautiful.

The front panel controls were useful to synchronize the Transporter with the SB3 for my A/B comparison, but ordinarily I would expect to exclusively use the nicer-than-my-cheesy-SB3-but-still-plasticky remote. I find the haptic feedback to be unconvincing in this application. Why pay for silly buttons and knobs that go unused?

I described these impressions to the Slim staff at the open house - little did I know that my dream configuration was about to be announced (the Duet - although I would like a higher-end option).

My last observation was about some troubling distortion shared by both the Transporter and SB3. While comparing the two, I listened to Stereophile's Test Disc 3. On a flac encoding of track 3 (Empire Brass Quintet - Sibley Sanctus Lyndian), I heard pronounced distortion from the right channel. I didn't hear this from the CD or my computer (Headroom Total Bithead + AKG 701). I thought the issue might be due to the spatial encoding for this track, but I also heard problems in track 5 (Sara K - History Repeats Itself). The encoding log file reports no errors - when I get a chance, I'll try ripping the tracks to wav format to compare.

I will also say the 30-day return policy is great. There's no way to really evaluated a piece of audio equipment unless you have at home in your system. I'm still a Slim Devices customer and I eagerly await their future offerings.

amcluesent
2008-01-08, 02:12
>The Transporter was subtly better sounding...<

In the world hi-fi, the law of diminishing returns is ever present. At least you heard an improvement...

SuperQ
2008-01-08, 07:23
2. The Transporter was *much* flakier than the SB3: random pausing, one or two random reboots, hanging on too many inputs too quickly (annoying when adjusting the volume), display getting bright for no reason, etc. It doesn't seem like a finished product. While I believe it will get better (I develop software, so I understand), I expect better for the price point.

It sounds like you had a bad Transporter. I have none of these problems on mine (or my SB3 for that matter). It is a finished product and works flawlessly for me.

The software differences between the SB3 and Transporter should be minimal. They both run on the same CPU platform (Transporter having a slightly faster CPU model)

mcb
2008-01-08, 23:32
It sounds like you had a bad Transporter. I have none of these problems on mine (or my SB3 for that matter). It is a finished product and works flawlessly for me.


I am willing to consider that my experience reflected a subpar unit. However, in view of a few others in the forum reporting similar issues, I felt that the risk/reward ratio was not what I was looking for.

I will also say that my experience with every Slim employee I've dealt with has been positive and the forums here provide significant value.

One last design suggestion for the Transporter - consider engineering remote antennas. The "rack mount" form factor of the Transporter is probably sub-optimal for the back panel mounted wireless antennas. First, the rack can serve to shield the antennas from the signal and second, the antennas' height require the rack shelves to be oddly spaced.

JJZolx
2008-01-09, 00:27
It sounds like you had a bad Transporter. I have none of these problems on mine (or my SB3 for that matter). It is a finished product and works flawlessly for me.

There have been many similar reports of Transporter flakiness, no doubt from perfectly healthy units. It depends a lot on how you use the Transporter. If you don't use the knob or the buttons, don't use or switch to and from the digital inputs, then it seems to work just about flawlessly. Once you begin using the features that make it functionally unique from a Squeezebox, then you may see some of the problems.

cliveb
2008-01-09, 01:40
If you don't use the knob or the buttons, don't use or switch to and from the digital inputs, then it seems to work just about flawlessly. Once you begin using the features that make it functionally unique from a Squeezebox, then you may see some of the problems.
I'll just point out that my Transporter has worked pretty much flawlessly since day one (I got it in December 2006), and I *do* switch to & from the digital inputs, although I have probably touched the knob & buttons less than a dozen times in total. (And I use it via wired Ethernet, not wireless - maybe that could be a factor).

NewBuyer
2008-01-09, 03:28
I wish my Transporter was working flawlessly. :(

Some of the various issues I've been finding with it, are mentioned in the "Transporter issues" thread in this General Discussion forum.

For instance, approximately 30 minutes ago, the volume knob completely stopped functioning AGAIN, this time after switching between internet radio and my local music library. About 4 hours ago, the Transporter competely locked up AGAIN and required a power-cycle to regain normal functionality. This time I didn't need to physically unplug the machine to fix it, but you can probably imagine how this is still frustrating/irritating when it happens, repeatedly over time, and especially when you really REALLY want it to work well!

The extra features of the Transporter that distinguish it from the SB3, are very important IMO (especially the front buttons/knob) and conceptually make it a terrific and family-friendly audio device. These extra features are also supposed to be worth about $1700 simoleons more than the SB3. So why can't the end-user be reasonably expected and advised to use them without trouble.

I would even be willing to pay a bit more than this extra premium, if these features would work flawlessly on a (reasonably) consistent basis.

When this Transporter works well, I love the thing!

However when it does NOT work well, which is sadly frequent, I get depressed about needing to reconsider the 30-day return policy.

I am so extremely impressed with SD/L for creating these genius products and software. They are absolutely stunning achievements for everyone involved, especially us end-users.

I guess that I just wish, that I wasn't now needing to think so dang hard about whether I can justify the significant (for me) extra cost for the Transporter. It is obviously such an amazing device, but also currently has these very disturbing quirks that may or may not ever be fixed, if they are even fixable.

I wonder what others can please advise here. What would you do?

Mitch Harding
2008-01-09, 09:22
Have you tried contacting SD support? If you do have a bad unit, they
may swap it out for you.

On Jan 9, 2008 4:28 AM, NewBuyer
<NewBuyer.32wzjz1199874601 (AT) no-mx (DOT) forums.slimdevices.com> wrote:
>
> I wish my Transporter was working flawlessly. :(
....
>
> I wonder what others can please advise here. What would you do?