Audio docks seem to have put convenience ahead of design — how else to explain the vast numbers of them all shaped with horizontal shapes? The Audyssey Lower East Side Audio Dock Air goes a different route. Because it looks like a vertically standing router; if by router you mean a pebbled finish to the grills covering left/right speakers facing opposite each other. And wrapped overall in a dark gray. As a former NY’er, I get the idea that by “lower east side,” the makers of the Audio Dock Air mean they’ve a funky and playful and clever design working that takes into account art as well as the space issues of Manhattan and stands it on its head. As to that, wait a bit. Oh — forget about a remote control or lots of onboard buttons — the Audyssey Lower East Side Audio Dock Air doesn’t need one since it works via WiFi using Apple’s audio transmission technology with a computer or iOS device.
There’s not much to deal with prior to using the Audio Dock Air. You’ll plug its power cable into the back end (the power brick reminds me of one I had with my old laptop) and ignore the AUX 3.5mm input for now. As well as the “Pair” button above it. On the Audio Dock Air’s top are two LED lights; one indicates when you have full power working by being solid green, while the other blinks until a successful pairing to a wireless home network is enacted. A large inset knob can be rotated to increase/decrease volume — pushing it in or out doesn’t turn the Audio Dock Air on or off, but mutes the sound.
To use AirPlay you’ll do the following. With the Audio Dock Air powered on, press the “Pair” button to start the LED light on top blinking. Then go into your “Network” setting on an iOS device (I”m using an iPhone) and find it listed as a network to choose. Do so. Now go into a web browser (using Safari on the iPhone) and enter the numbers provided in the QuickStart manual. This brings up the menu settings for the Audio Dock Air to use. Now enter the name of the wireless home network and the password being used (better be one, no trust is good policy here) and save these settings. You can now reacquire the wireless home network on the device being used (i.e., changing the network on the iPhone from the Audio Dock Air back to the wireless home network).
You now can stream music from an iOS device or from iTunes on a PC or Mac to the Audio Dock Air. And control the playback as you can imagine. An initial delay of about 10 seconds seems standard, but after that all of the tunes being streamed are in real-time — or as close to real-time as I can gauge using my ears and not some exotic equipment. For the new-to-AirPlay user, you’ll have a small icon at the bottom of the screen, whether an iPod, iPad, iTunes, etc. You select the Audio Dock Air from this. If a power failure occurs, plan on repeating the whole procedure, because the Audio Dock Air doesn’t hold what was done in protected memory. If you ignore AirPlay, you’ve got that AUX input (don’t count on that rubber tab-covered USB socket on the bottom because it’s only for future upgrade use). Spinning the volume knob handles the sound being sent into the AUX port from any audio device. Meanwhile the headphone socket on the front lets you listen in privacy as it auto-controls the audio’s on/off setting, depending on whether the headphone is plugged in or not.
Now as should be obvious, the transmission distance between the audio source streaming the music and the Audyssey Lower East Side Audio Dock Air isn’t important; as long as both are on the same wireless home network receiving a signal, you’re good to go. But what about the audio quality, you ask?
Say “really good” three times fast. Then rinse and repeat. The audio quality of the Audyssey Lower East Side Audio Dock Air seems all out of proportion to its size and in comparison to the other audio docks out there, well there really doesn’t seem to be a comparison to make. The bass is excellent; very deep and well defined but not overpowering. Audyssey says that the passive bass radiators are using a proprietary technology to enable them to perform so well. I say, “Who cares,” as long as it does sound this good. Vocals and subtle instrumentation can be heard without any strain — even with the volume turned way up. The caveat being that a reasonable resolution audio file is being streamed of course. Transmit a lowrez MP3 and it’ll sound okay, but don’t expect anything special.
But if what’s being streamed isn’t junk, it’ll be worth listening to, for sure. I ran through a number of songs from my library via iTunes and the iPhone: Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” for example, had excellent separation between the vocals and guitars, while the raspy voice of John Mellencamp came through exactly like that in “Hurts So Good.” I also played an old TV commercial from The Adventures of Superman, followed by examples of the musical score used for background music (taken off a CD digitally remastered from an LP) for the show from some 60+ years ago. The horns and violins used extensively came through cleanly and displayed subtleties that no one watching the show on a black and white Zenith at the time could ever have heard.
Bottom line: $399 retail might seem a bit pricey for an audio dock that doesn’t actually dock a device. But the Audyssey Lower East Side Audio Dock Air will surprise you. That’s because it sound so blessed good!
- 2 tweeters and woofer and 2 passive bass radiators
- Free-standing, compact design
- No remote control
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.