The primary strength of the Dock Air is the sheer size of its sound. For such a small dock it produces genuinely 'big' sound (no doubt Audyssey's experience with IMAX Cinemas is a factor) and projects audio far and wide to create an hugely impressive room filling experience. Audyssey has gone for a noticeably warm sound signature on the Dock Air too and it delivers bags of bass and plenty of midrange depth which will appeal to the mass market. On dance and hip hop tracks this creates some window shaking moments and in our testing caused a nearby pen to roll off the desk!
Against this is reduced response in higher frequencies, surprising given it shares the same tweeters as the South of Market, but there remains plenty of detail. Despite its warmth the Dock Air is also no big beats homer and is equally comfortable with acoustic, classical and jazz though it sounds particularly happy with blues. Overall it is hair raising stuff.
That said we do have some grumbles and these stem from AirPlay. Implementations of AirPlay up to now have been hit and miss in the docks we've tested from the exceptionally smooth Libratone Live to stuttering and delays of up to 25 seconds to begin playback in the case of the Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air. The Dock Air's AirPlay sits somewhere in the middle of these extremes with a circa five second delay from hitting play on any AirPlay enabled device to it coming out of the speaker. This delay is always present and can be frustrating when scanning though or skipping tracks.
In addition there were times when stream broke down. Admittedly these were few and far between, but once the Dock Air began to stutter we found it continued to do so and the quickest remedy was to hit pause the play. Audyssey has equipped the Dock Air with a USB firmware port on the bottom and we hope future updates can smooth this out.
All of which brings us to price. Officially the Dock Air has the same £299 RRP as the South of Market and the latter holds a sonic edge while packing in Bluetooth and VoIP compatibility and doubling up as a PC speaker. In this regard South of Market is the better buy, but for those with their heart set on AirPlay (a significant premium in general) the Dock Air is one of the best priced models around. It easily bests the audio performance of the similarly priced Logitech UE Air, does the same to the £429 Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air and stands up to the £500 B&W Zeppelin Air which is starting to show its age against newer generations. In this context the Dock Air is a bargain, an eyebrow raising, power-packed mighty mouse of a bargain.
Don't be fooled by its diminutive size, the oddly named Audyssey Lower East Side Audio Dock Air packs a huge punch. Rich, warm sound with a thumping bass is the Dock Air's trademark and it will surprise and delight in equal measure. It isn't flawless with some AirPlay streaming glitches that will hopefully be ironed out with firmware updates and AirPlay itself adds a significant premium, but against its AirPlay-equipped contemporaries it is currently the best buy of the lot.