Perhaps the most enjoyable part of reviewing technology is finding a product which confounds your expectations. The Audyssey 'Lower East Side Audio Dock Air' is the crazily named follow up to the equally bonkers South of Market Audio Dock. It has reduced functionality and downgraded speakers yet costs just as much because Audyssey has added AirPlay. Our style over substance argument was readied… but we were wrong.
Out the box the Dock Air looks nothing like its bigger brother. Audyssey has ditched its gentle curves for a more rectangular design and significantly cut down the dimensions. At just 22.6 x 21.1 x 12 cm and weighing 2.3Kg is it the most compact AirPlay dock we have seen. The design may be minimal, but it is also attractive. Unlike show-offs such as the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air which aim to catch your attention, the strength of the Dock Air is its subtlety to blend into a room. You won't notice it until it is switched on and with its small size it will fit just about anywhere.
Happily where the Dock Air does tie closely with its older sibling is build quality. The materials have changed - Audyssey has opted for fabric speaker grills not metal and a matt plastic band which stretches around the whole unit - but it is painstakingly put together. The band in particular has an aluminium core which makes it feel extremely robust. One area we do take issue with is the volume dial on the top which is a little fragile, though it does cleverly double up as a mute button when pressed.
Aside from the wheel, interaction with the Dock Air is minimal. Two small green LED status lights behind it indicate AirPlay status and respond to input from any connected device (there is no remote control), a headphone input is positioned at the front and at the rear is power, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack and a pairing button to initiate the AirPlay connection. As for AirPlay itself it has earned a reputation for excellent audio quality (it transmits lossless with ease), but a less than intuitive setup.
For a debut AirPlay device, Audyssey has overcome this latter problem well. Pairing starts the Dock Air's own WiFi connection and connect any AirPlay compatible device to this network, go to the device's web browser, type in the dock's web address and from the settings page that loads point it at your own WiFi network and supply the password. The settings page also allows you to change the name of the Dock, but all in all you will be up and running in less than five minutes.
Which brings us to the primary source of our confounded expectations: sound quality. The South of Market dock is a 200W beast with two .75in tweeters, two 4in woofers and four discrete amplifiers. The Dock Air uses the same tweeters, but scales back to two 3in woofers and replaces the amplifiers with two 4in passive bass radiators. In its favour the Dock Air angles its speakers at 45 degrees to widen stereo separation like the South of Market and it also crams in the company's proprietary BassXT technology which helps to produce more accurate lows. David doesn't slay Goliath, but he gives it a darn good go…