The Audio Dock Air (opens in new tab), then. It’s not just that this is a loud speaker - and it most definitely is - it’s also that the bass is girder-rattlingly strong.
Bass is always a battleground for speakers and headphones. Most mid-range speakers - sets that cost anything from around £80 to the mid-hundreds - have bass that is perfectly capable, if not especially moving, and we’re so used to hearing them that when a speaker like this comes along that belts out great thwacks of bass, our first reaction is to recoil.
It sounds weird. It sounds wrong. It sounds thick and oppressive.
But no - give it a moment. The bass, which makes analogue tracks sound warm and sumptuous, and dance tracks sound just astonishingly exciting, almost adds a new dimension to tracks you thought you knew. And while it’s syrupy, it’s not badly-behaved; what control it lacks over precision seems like a conscious decision rather than a flaw.
We know what you’re thinking: bass is all well and good, but if rest of the spectrum is neglected or overwhelmed, this is a toy. Happily, this there’s reasonable balance here.
The very high-end is the least accomplished; it’s fine, but there is just a little muddiness in sharp percussion and straining strings. The mid-range, though, is terrific for vocals; they have tremendous presence, and sit on top of the rest of the track in a way that lends live tracks especially a genuine concert-hall sense of reality and drama. Some of the rest of what should be mid-range gets shoved down into the bass, but whether or not you like this is subjective.
The strength of the bass, though, might not suit everyone. For one thing, while the mid-range and high-end can hold their own, the thuddy bass can feel unnatural in some tracks - and for another, it really does travel through walls distressingly well. It is, at least, easy to tame it with a simple bass reducer EQ, and frankly the overall sound signature still feels plenty meaty, if a little less thrilling, a little less... naughty.
Clear the area
Positioning the drivers on either side of the speaker has obvious and welcome benefits for the stereo soundstage, but it can mean a slightly confused sound if there are objects in the way.
This is an AirPlay speaker; there’s no dock connector or even USB port. There is a 3.5mm input jack, but that’s inelegant. We did have a few drop-outs and stutters with this on our test network where models from other manufacturers fared better, but we didn’t have time to isolate the problem with Audyssey’s help.
Setup is slightly fiddly but worked fine, and the build quality is good. One irritation: there’s no off switch other than the mains, both wasteful and inconvenient.
This isn’t a speaker for everyone, and not just because of the price. The big, bombastic sound it produces, slathering your music in signal processing to create an experience that prizes spectacle above fidelity, is hugely exciting - but to really let it shine, you do need to live in one of the bare-brick converted factory apartments that Audyssey uses for its lifestyle shots - or just not care what your neighbours think.
- Works with: iPhone, iPod, iPad
- Price: £280
- Manufacturer: Audyssey (opens in new tab)
- Dimensions: 120x226x211mm
- Weight: 2.3kg
This review originally featured in Tap! Magazine issue Sept/Oct.