Review: Networked Audio Players

These systems can tap vast libraries of music and the spoken word

4 min read
Play5: Sonos
Play5: Sonos

Increasingly, the music we listen to is stored on our computers or streamed from distantservers. As a result it’s now jumbled in with news, talk radio, and podcasts. Fortunately, a new generation of media hardware is bringing this sonic bounty to us. Here is a look at three very different networked audio players geared toward different needs, at different price levels and with varying degrees of complexity.

If you’re looking for something simple, Logitech’s UE Smart Radio (US $180) is designed to be a stand-alone replacement for the traditional kitchen or desk radio. Its old-school front panel features a single speaker on the left and controls—including what looks like a large tuning knob—on the right. If not for the sharp 2.4-inch color screen and a few extra buttons, it could pass for a standard AM/FM radio.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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