One by one, all the big audio players are starting to reveal their first Airplay efforts. And now it’s Altec Lansing’s turn. The inAir 5000 is a bold move for the iPhone dock veteran, being higher-end – and much more expensive – than most of its products. Does it have what it takes to go up against the B&W Zeppelin Air and Arcam rCube? We got a hands-on at IFA 2011 to find out.
We’ve reviewed Altec Lansing’s wireless inAir products in the past, and have been impressed. But the upcoming inAir 5000 is a different proposition. Although the spokesperson guiding us through our hands-on with the dock couldn’t give us a price, he intimated that it was on the market to do battle with the big boys – the docks in the £400-600 market. That includes several highly-impressive devices.
Your very first impressions suggest that Altec Lansing is on the right track. The top of the unit is finished with a thick layer of brushed metal, and the design is altogether more stylish than something like the Octiv 650 – which, after all, is no cheapie at almost £200.
The second positive signpost is the remote. Where plenty of expensive docks make do with nasty little credit card-sized flat affairs with little buttons that look like the diddy domes of bubble wrap, the inAir 5000 features a proper remote. It’s simple, offering just a smattering of playback buttons, but has thick brushed metal armour and proper, separate, clicky buttons. For once, the remote isn’t an afterthought.
Altec Lansing talked us through the conundrum every Airplay dock has to face – to add an extra iOS dock socket or not? Opting for a “best of both worlds” approach, the front of the InAir 5000 is kept dock socket-free, but there’s a full-size USB socket on the back to let you plug your device into to charge.
The next clear design choice of the Airplay speaker is the teardrop body design. It’s not something you’ll notice in-situ, as it relates to the side (well, its whole body, just not the visible front area) of the inAir 5000, but Altec Lansing claims it’s more than just an aesthetic choice. The spokesperson said it’s to avoid unsightly – in the audio sense – sonic reflection off walls, as it angles the drivers upwards.
We think it’d come in handy more to angle the sound up to listeners’ heads, but we’ll give it the full going-over once we get a unit in to review.
The last design hurrah is the LED on the bottom of the device. It’ll apparently act as part of the interface, telling you when the device is seeking a connection and so on, while also acting as a nice bit ‘o visual bling. And no, it doesn’t look remotely like the LED lighting of some teenager’s battered Nova. We rather like its cool glow.
Although it’s not as striking as the B&W Zeppelin Air, and doesn’t have the conspicuously-luxurious materials of the Philips Fidelio DS9000, the inAir 5000 definitely represents a step up from the Altec Lansing norm. Let’s just hope it m