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Second guide to wireless network problems

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Once you have your Squeezebox connected to the network and the Squeezebox Server (see Beginners guide to wireless network problems), it is time to look at the quality of the connection. Once again, many people have no issues but some people do have problems, and this page discusses how to identify and solve common problems.


Wireless signal strength

You can find the wireless signal strength on the Squeezebox by going to Settings, Information, Player Information, Wireless Signal Strength. It is also available on the Squeezebox Server Web page, at the foot of the main Player Settings page.

However this information is not particularly useful, as a low signal strength may be perfectly satisfactory and a high strength does not guarantee quality. It is still useful to get as high a strength as you can; sometimes moving the Squeezebox or router a small distance may improve strength significantly.

Don't go by what a wireless laptop computer reports. It's using different measurement criteria and its job is very different - intermittent data in bursts rather than a continuous stream.

Buffer fullness

You can enable buffer fullness from the Web interface. Go to Player Settings - Now Playing Information and set "Include buffer fullness in Playing Display Mode list:" to Enabled. Once this is done, repeated presses of the Now Playing button on the remote, which cycles through various views, will display the buffer fullness, which may help with diagnosis.

Network Test and Network Health

A useful diagnostic test is the Network Test, found among the plugins on the Squeezebox. It will report on the quality of reception at various speeds. A quality of 90% at 2000Kbps is ample for playing FLAC files. Of course, for MP3 one needs only look at the quality for much lower speeds, while uncompressed formats (AIFF and WAV) will need good quality at higher speeds.

Even more useful is the Server and Network Health page of the Web interface. The link to this page is in the Help section of the Home page. It provides a lot of information that can help in diagnosing problems.


The biggest problem with wireless use is that many other devices use the 2.4 Ghz frequencies and they may interfere with your network signal and cause drop-outs. Among such devices are microwave ovens and some cordless phones; these need not even be on your own premises. Neighbouring wireless networks can also create interference.

The best way to deal with this is to change the channel on which you network operates. Try the extreme channels; that is channel 1 (all countries), 11 (USA), 13 (UK and others). 6 also does not overlap, but most routers default to channel 6 so the odds are your neighbor is on this frequency as well. The intermediate channels overlap each other, see here. There may also be a setting for "intereference robustness" on you router, but this can reduce the distance at which a signal can be received.

If you have a laptop with wireless networking, install NetStumbler (Windows) or iStumbler (Mac). These utilities let you see all the surrounding wireless networks and what channels they are operating on. You can also continuously graph the signal strength of a network at the Squeezebox's location. If you monitor your own network's signal strength while you change channels it's easy to determine which is the strongest channel.

Antenna positioning

The antennas on most wireless routers can be repositioned. Some wireless routers have two antennas. Experiment around with various positions while graphing the signal strength in NetStumbler/iStumbler. Try 45 degrees and 90 degrees (horizontal). If you have a wireless router with two antennas, try one horizontal and the other vertical.

High-gain antennas

Most router manufacturers sell high-gain antennas that may help. They will increase your signal and your bandwidth. However, high-gain antennas make the signal more directional, usually stronger in a cone in line with the axis of the antenna.

There are also directional antennas that look like little satellite dishes that can "beam" the signal at high strength to one particular location. They are easier to aim than regular antennas and may be better at keeping neighbors out of your wireless network since the signal outside of the beam will be much weaker. Unfortunately this approach makes things harder if you have a wireless laptop that also needs access, unless the wireless laptop is in the same area as the Squeezebox.

Router wireless transmitter power

Some router firmware, most notably 3rd party Linux firmware for the Linksys WRT54G v1-v4 and WRT54GL routers, allows you to increase the wireless transmitter power. This will increase your wireless signal and may increase your bandwidth as well.

This will cause your router wireless module to overheat and at extreme settings will shorten the life of your router.

This works for some people, but theoretically, the noise will also increase so it may not help. In all cases, high-gain antennas are more effective and will not void your router warranty or shorten its life.

If all else fails

If none of these troubleshooting steps have helped and the Network Test plugin is indicating you have less than 100% at 1000 kbps, you will have to limit the bitrate of what you are playing.

Go to Squeezebox Server - Player Settings - Audio - Bitrate Limiting. This uses the Lame MP3 encoder to re-encode your streams at a lower bitrate on-the-fly. Try 320 kbps to start and work your way down if you continue to experience problems.

This is not an optimal solution as it's a lossy encoder and it defeats the purpose of ripping to lossless files, but it may be acceptable for a secondary player or one attached to a low-end sound system that won't reveal any shortcomings with lossy formats.

If you cannot resolve your wireless networking problems, you may wish to consider Ethernet-over-power ("powerline") adapters, or conventional Ethernet wiring.