When reviewing products few things are more enjoyable than being impressed by a company you hadn't previously come across. This is only amplified when the product in question is entering one of the most brutal sectors in technology today: audio docks.
The name which doesn't trip off the tongue is Ceratec, a German audio specialist that has previously had little contact with the UK. It has come up with the 'CeraAir Two' and out of the box impressions are immediately positive as the dock is a stunning piece of design.
The tubular form factor (67 x 16 x 16cm) is machined out of anodised aluminium giving it weight (6Kg) and the unmistakable feel of quality. Pressing this point further are polished stainless steel speaker and bass ends while the drivers are covered by punched honeycomb steal with premium fabric finish. Black, white, silver and red are the default colour options, but Ceratec offers a personalisation service where any RAL colour can be chosen for an extra charge. A further nice touch is the base doubles as a bracket allowing it to be easily wall mounted.
The overall effect is better than any speaker dock we have seen and even outdoes the iconic design of the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air. Rivals take note.
Whereas Ceratec has gone to town on the CeraAir Two's styling its functionality is more streamlined. Discretely positioned under the base are just the power socket, a bass adjustment dial and two 3.5mm jacks - one to connect an optional subwoofer, the other for AirPlay. Yes AirPlay. As is often the case with AirPlay docks, the inclusion of Apple's lossless wireless streaming standard is hinted at in the product's name and here the CeraAir Two is no different, but how it is implemented certainly is.
Unlike most AirPlay docks the CeraAir Two's AirPlay is not integrated. Instead Ceratec supplies the dock with Apple's latest AirPort Express peripheral. While this is a bit of a cheat, it does actually work brilliantly. While the bundled AirPort Express unit is the boxed retail version complete with all cables, Ceratec has neatly woven both a 3.5mm optical cable and power cable for the AirPort Express into the dock's main power cable meaning you need just a single socket and cable for both.
Given the AirPort Express can also extend the signal of your WiFi around the home (using its WAN port) and connect a further device via AirPlay (using its Ethernet LAN port) such as a printer, another speaker, PC, etc you are getting bags more functionality than if AirPlay was built in. Since the AirPort Express costs £79 from Apple that is a cost to factor in as well.