While there are many high quality Bluetooth speakers on the market, speakers using Apple’s AirPlay technology are somewhat less common. Logitech has just released their very first AirPlay speaker, the Logitech UE Air ($399, link), which promises to offer exceptional sound, simple setup, and great design. We aim to find out whether the Air Speaker lives up to those promises.
The very first thing that popped out at me when unboxing the Air Speaker was its design. Simply put, the Air Speaker is beautiful. The speaker ends up looking something like a bowtie, made from glossy black plastic with a black fabric grille, and featuring a very simple, straightforward, and minimal design. The speaker looks great from all angles, and can blend in to almost any sort of room.
Even though the Air Speaker is made from plastic, it both looks and feels extremely durable. Unlike many AirPlay speakers, it also features a pop-out dock for connecting your iOS device – this is particularly useful when it comes to setting up the device. It also charges your iOS device while you use the speaker.
For those who own devices that aren’t AirPlay compatible (such as pre-iOS iPods, namely the iPod classic), the Air Speaker also features a 3.55mm jack in the back, which will let you connect to virtually any device. It’s also worth noting that the Air Speaker is not designed to be portable, and requires a wall adapter for use.
The only aspect of the design that I take some issue with is the volume knob – it is loose rather than rigid, so you can crank the volume until your wrist falls off. There’s no tactile feedback or visual cue to tell you when you are near minimum or maximum volume.
The Air Speaker is shockingly easy to set up, requiring no technical know-how of any kind. Simply plug in the speaker, insert your iOS device into the pop-out dock, download and run the free app once prompted, choose your network (and enter the password if required), and you’re done! The entire process took me less than two minutes. The app even features a basic equalizer and volume controls for adjusting the speaker.
Setting the Air Speaker up using a computer is slightly more complicated. The Air Speaker creates an ad hoc wireless network. Just connect to this network with your Mac or PC, navigate to “http://192.168.1.12” in your browser of choice, and follow the on-screen instructions. The Air Speaker can also be set up using an ethernet connection. All of these methods are very simple and hassle-free, and take 5 minutes or less.
The setup experience for the Air Speaker provides one of the simplest and most seamless out-of-box experiences I have ever seen.
The most important aspect of any audio device, of course, it how well it sounds. Performance is everything. And for the most part, the Air Speaker does not disappoint. Overall, I found the Air Speaker to have very acceptable audio performance with nearly any type of music. The default sound settings provide exceptional balance, so much so that it’s almost not worth adjusting the bass and treble levels.
While the Air Speaker offers great general performance, however, it doesn’t have deep, thumping bass, although it is certainly capable of adding some decent punch to bass-heavy music. Even so, fans of deep, thumping bass are unlikely to be satisfied.
Mid tones and trebles, on the other hand, sounded extremely good, although the audio did tend to get less clear when the volume approached the speaker’s maximum. It’s worth noting at this point that this speaker can get very, very loud – it’s difficult for me to envision a home-use scenario when you’d want to have the volume cranked all the way to the top.
Overall, I was very satisfied with the audio quality of the Air Speaker, although with a retail cost of $400, I might have hoped for more bass response, and clearer audio even with the volume maxed out. In fairness, the Air Speaker offers far better sound quality than most all-in-one docks.
One of the things I appreciated most about the Air Speaker was it’s incredible responsiveness. The speaker puts itself to sleep when not in use, yet is able to wake up and start cranking out music in less than two seconds once I hit the play button on my iPhone or iPad, or through iTunes on my Mac.
Also, and this is admittedly a credit to AirPlay more than the Air Speaker itself, I found myself delighted with the range of this speaker. I could not find a single location in my home at any distance that caused the speaker to disconnect, or the audio quality to deteriorate. The same cannot be said of Bluetooth speakers.
I’m admittedly not an audiophile by any measure, but I felt that the Air Speaker provided very good overall audio quality – better than any other wireless speaker system I have used so far (although I haven’t tried devices like the $600 Zeppelin Air).
The build quality of the Air Speaker is above average, and its design is both classy and appealing. Just as important, the Air Speaker provides an exceptional user experience, from its lightning-fast out-of-box setup to its impressive response time.
Even so, it must be said that the Air Speaker falls short of the ideal – the audio quality may be acceptable for most uses, but it’s certainly not the best speaker I have ever heard. It could definitely use more bass response, and improved sound structure at peak volume.
Rating & Information [rating:4]
All things considered, I award the Air Speaker a 4 out of 5. It’s a beautiful and well-designed speaker that will be adequate for most users, although those who are serious about audio may find themselves less than completely satisfied.
- Beautiful look in any room
- Extremely fast and simple setup
- Decent overall sound quality
- Extremely responsive, very fast wake times
- Includes a dock for charging your iOS device
- $400 price tag makes it inaccessible to many
- Could use more bass response
- Sound quality deteriorates near maximum and minimum volume