Slim Devices has announced the Transporter, a network digital audio player with a decidedly high-end bent. Unlike the diminutive $300 Squeezebox, the Transporter is a full-size audio component (3 inches high by 17 wide by 12.25 deep) that will retail for $2,000 when it becomes available on September 18. Targeted squarely at the enthusiast audiophile market, the Transporter offers quite a few bells and whistles that separate it from the garden variety network audio streamer. The front panel houses dual vacuum fluorescent displays (one for song information, the other for animated spectrum analyzers) and a centered TransNav knob that can be used to control volume and navigate remote music collections. Not just an ordinary spinner, the "smart knob" is said to offer tactile feedback based on the size of the menus through which you're scrolling. On the back panel, you'll find such niceties as balanced (XLR) analog and digital outputs for connecting the Transporter to compatible pro-level audio gear, a world clock input for hyperaccurate time syncs, inputs and outputs for IR connectors, and the obligatory RS-232 port for home-integration applications. Of course, all of the standard connections are also present: both analog and digital (coaxial and optical) outputs to enable connecting the Transporter to any A/V receiver, Ethernet and dual external 802.11g antenna connections for wired or wireless network access, and a set of digital inputs so you can connect an external audio device, such as a CD player.
Like the Squeezebox, the Transporter will handle a wide variety of uncompressed and compressed audio formats, including WAV, AIFF, and FLAC, in addition to WMA and MP3. It will also support playback of premium content from Pandora. The Transporter also shares some of the feature shortcomings of its entry-level predecessor: there's no support for content purchased from online music stores--copy-protected PlaysForSure WMAs and iTunes AACs will be a no-go. It's also worth specifying that the Transporter isn't a standalone jukebox--instead of an internal hard drive, it's streaming music straight from a PC, network attached storage device (NAS drive), or the Internet.and
The high-end digital audio market is a small but passionate segment of the marketplace. The Transporter will be competing with the likes of the Olive Musica and the Escient Fireball E2, both of which also offer built-in hard-drive storage and CD playing/ripping capabilities, as well as the multiroom-friendly . We'll let you know how the Transporter stacks up to that elite group of digital music players as soon as we get our hands on a review sample.