Published on June 10th, 2012 | by Greg0
Audyssey Audio Dock Air: Loud, Brash, Wireless
Have a recent iOS device and a wireless router? If you’re reading this, chances are that you do- whether it’s an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. And most everyone uses their devices for music at some point or another- at a party or on the go, but perhaps less rarely at home. Do you use iTunes on your Mac or PC? Then you’re also ready for Airplay- Apple’s streaming audio technology that allows you to take your music and share it across your house.
One of the newer Airplay systems is the Audyssey Audio Dock Air. We’ve seen several of their other audio products before- like their pretty nifty computer speakers- and this system fits into their design philosophy- urban, sleek, a bit on the expensive side, but offering pretty sophisticated digital processing technology.
We’ll start with the highlights: the compact size and impressive power, for starters. The fairly monolithic unit is on fairly heavy, which isn’t a bad thing- this means that you’re getting some real power. Some Airplay docks sacrifice sound for portability; Audyssey has opted to require AC power and skip the batteries, which leads to volume and frequency responses that surprised us. The design is a bit odd- two tweeters, dual midrange woofers, and a pair of passive (not active) bass radiators point to the sides, which means that your room will certainly fill with sound but audiophiles will be a bit frustrated with trying to optimize placement. Setup is also unusual, but in a good way- instead of requiring an ethernet cable or the like, the system broadcasts its own wireless network and once connected to it, you re-configure it with a web browser.
Bluetooth audio devices can suffer from their own connection issues; we’ve definitely experienced some problems with Airplay, even in other high-end docks like the Zeppelin Air. The same issues held true here- some drop-outs and an occasional required power cycle that seemed to clear things up for a while. We tested on a variety of iOS devices, primarily running iOS 5.0.1 and 5.1.1 or iTunes 10.6.1, and running through two different 802.11n routers to attempt and remove that factor (routers can in fact be the culprit for some Airplay issues it appears). One definite oddity here is that the “dock” doesn’t actually offer a dock of any kind- pretty unusual. Airplay does offer greater range than Bluetooth, and in our opinion, better overall audio performance as well- plus, you can use multiple speakers at a time, connecting up to four of these docks together in different rooms or areas.
There were no major problems, but the occasional streaming troubles, combined with audio quality that was less than stellar, meant we weren’t blown away. Sound just wasn’t precise or warm, and lost some of the depth we want on a fairly expensive piece of gear- tracks like Novocaine for the Soul by The Eels, for instance, lost quite a bit and seemed flat. Some of the features feel like afterthoughts: who is likely to use a headphone jack? We liked the inclusion of the standard 3.5mm input for those who don’t have iOS devices, but there is unfortunately no remote. Overall, the Audyssey Audio Dock Air is a bit expensive- at press time, prices online were in around $350, which didn’t quite feel worth it for the system.