Our past two run ins with Audyssey products have been pleasurable to say the least. The original Audio Dock was an impressive looking and sounding iPhone dock and the Lower East Side Media Speakers were a set of small but highly capable speakers. While the Media Speakers had an optical input that would allow connection to an Apple TV for AirPlay streaming, the latest addition to the Audyssey family has built in AirPlay capabilities for high quality audio streaming. Is it a worthy addition to the lineup?
- Flawless Sound Over the Air
- Apple AirPlay Wireless Streaming
- Any Music in Any and Every Room
- Perfected by Hardware and Software Collaborations
- Audyssey BassXT for True Bass Lovers
The Audyssey Audio Dock Air comes in a cube shaped cardboard box with a handle for easy transport. Inside, you’ll find the dock, a power brick, power cable, and an audio cable. We found it odd and inconvenient that a remote is not included but we suppose this decision was made to highlight the dock’s AirPlay capabilities.
The first thing we noticed about the Audio Dock Air was its physical size. The Air is completely dwarfed by the original South of Market Audio Dock, which was in fact, rather large. We even thought for a second that this model was portable (unfortunately, it isn’t). The main factor that allows for the size decrease is the inclusion of an external power supply as opposed to the built in one in the predecessor. Just as with the power brick found with laptops, the heat from powering the dock can be dissipated externally to avoid heating up. The one thing we found the be particularly annoying is that there is no standby mode or even power button on this dock. There is actually no way to turn off the Audio Dock Air aside from yanking the power plug. This would have been somewhat acceptable from a simplicity standpoint had there been some sort of power saving mode but that is simply not the case. The two LEDs on top continuously indicate “on” and the dock just keeps drawing power.
Despite some major design changes and a smaller footprint, the Audio Dock Air still sports the same vertically oriented design of the previous Audio Dock. Beyond that, not much is the same. Instead of a curvy, exotic looking dock, you’re left with a rounded off rectangle. Rather than using the same metal mesh to cover the drivers, the Air opts for cloth on both sides of the dock. We didn’t find there to be any real benefit with this design change; in fact, the cloth makes the Air a little less durable than its big brother. The material used to manufacture the central plastic band around the dock is similar to the original but there are no fancy light tricks or capacitive buttons this time around. On the front of the dock, you’ll find an IR sensor and 3.5 mm headphone jack. No 30 pin dock connector is to be found at this party - it’s all about AirPlay. An infinitely rotating volume dial is positioned on top. While connected via AirPlay, adjusting the volume using the dial will change the volume accordingly on your iOS device and vice versa. If you plug in via the 3.5 jack, both the controls on your player and the dock will change the volume. Adjacent to the dial are two LED indicator lights that flash green, orange, or red. The rear of the dock features a 3.5 mm input jack, A/C adapter plug, and pairing button. Fans of the original Audio Dock’s speakerphone function will be disappointed to learn that the Audio Dock Air does not have a microphone of any sort.
Using the Audio Dock Air for the first time requires a little more work than simply docking your iPod in the 30 pin connector. Since this dock features AirPlay, you’re going to have to set that up first. What this involves is holding the pairing button on the rear of the dock, decrypting the various colors of blinking LEDs, connecting to a temporary network from your iDevice to enable WiFi on the dock, decrypting another series of lights, and then connecting to the dock via a little button in the multitasking tray on your device. What we’re trying to say is that it’s a lot harder than it sounds and than it should be. It took us a couple of very frustrating tries to get the dock to function and we followed the instructions to the T. We’re not faulting Audyssey but rather Apple for such a procedure, especially with the premium that you pay for an AirPlay product. Once you get the Audio Dock Air setup, playing tunes over your home WiFi network is simple enough.
Sound Quality and AirPlay
Despite the size of the Audio Dock Air, we’re pretty happy with the results it outputs. Sound reproduction is very clear and the lows are boomy in typical Audyssey fashion. We think the original Audio Dock is still the better dock in terms of overall audio quality but there’s no doubt size factors greatly into this aspect (the two .75” tweeters are the same size as the Audio Dock Air but the woofers measure 3” instead of the 4” in the Audio Dock). Even with the new diminutive form factor, the Audio Dock Air is capable of filling the room with sound … at half volume. We’re guessing the vertical design and two passive bass radiators have something to do with it. There is minimal distortion even at high volumes. While the Audio Dock Air’s sound probably isn’t the most accurate out there, it’s loads of fun to listen to.
AirPlay isn’t as perfect as it’s made out to be. There’s a delay of a couple of seconds from when you hit the play button to when music starts playing. The same lag is present when switching tracks, but only slightly so when adjusting the volume. A stable Internet connection is required at all times to stream music. At certain points, our dock would cut out and even just stop playing music, probably due to the Internet connection. The setup process is way more complicated than it should be, as mentioned earlier in the review. Issues aside, it is still pretty convenient to be able to beam music at a decently high quality from anywhere in the house via your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod.
We can’t help but think Audyssey would be better off had they refreshed the South of Market Audio Dock with AirPlay rather than completely redesigning it. While the smaller footprint and AirPlay are big pluses, audio quality is slightly better on the original and there are a couple of rather annoying design choices with the Air. The Audio Dock Air is one of the better sounding AirPlay docks that is also at a relatively reasonable price point. If AirPlay is what you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with the new Air. Otherwise, the original Audio Dock offers a better bang for the buck, earning it the higher rating.
- great, bassy sound
- loud, without distortion
- compact form factor
- no power button
- AirPlay is buggy
Where to buy
Audyssey — MSRP: $399.99